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Part Forty One

Dropping beside her, Adam looked at her profile, her brow creased with a frown, her cheeks wet from tears. "I'm sorry Laura."

She shrugged but didn't look at him, and didn't offer a reply.

Reaching out he laid his hand over hers, but she snatched it away as though she was burned, "don't Adam, please, this is what you do. Overwhelm me with your passion...we need to talk and this is not the way to do it."

Adam groaned, "I'm sorry. It's..." He had no answer to that, for the last three days he'd avoided talking, buried himself in his desire for her, that was the ultimate distraction and it took the worries away. But it was cowardly, and selfish. "Don't hate me." Was all he could offer.

Laura turned slowly, "I don't hate you. I hate THIS." She gestured wildly around herself. "You are at war with your father because of ME. And it's NOT right. All I want is everyone to get along, and now you've had your business disrupted, how much will that cost? Thousands? And it's my father? Even if it's not him you too should be friends, the friends you'd become."

Tugging her chin, forcing her to look at him he shook his head, "your father said it wasn't him, and I believe him. Whatever I think of him, I don't think he's a liar, and in my heart of hearts I didn't believe it was him, not really. But he was the easy option, wasn't he?"

"What do you mean?" she studied his face looking for an answer.

His eyes were watching her, but he gave nothing away, "I don't want to lose you Laura, I know that now. But he's the only real threat to that, isn't he? You think about it. Stafford Marshall doesn't want to lose you either. I don't know what lengths he would go to, to secure you back in his world, and I don't know if you'd choose me if you had to. If we both hate him it's all easy for me." He laughed, "but to love you, I have to love and accept him, unless you hate him too."

Laura's heart raced at his admission, and she suddenly felt dizzy with anticipation, "And do you?"

"Accept him? Maybe. Love him...I don't know."

She gasped for fresh air for a moment, "I meant me."

It was a nervous whisper and took Adam by surprise, he found it crazy to think that she doubted how he felt, but the way her teeth bit at her lip betrayed her nervousness. "Do I love you? You have to ask me that?" When that didn't ease her anxiety he laughed, "are you going to make me say the words...here and now."

Her teeth still snagging her lip in that utterly delightful way, she nodded, not daring to breathe.

Adam took a deep breath, then turned to her, her hands in his, "I haven't thought straight since I first saw you on that beach all those months ago. I've become a desperate horny teenager; you have been my only thought! Oh I've had many women in the past, I'd lie if I said otherwise, but I never wanted them the way I want you. I mean I like sex, but it's never felt so vital before. I mean I've been walking around with a permanent erection whenever I'm in your presence! I don't know love Laura, I've never had it, so I didn't recognise it, didn't know how to deal with it. But the thought of never seeing you again, now that I have you here...this all feels fragile and I'm scared of saying and doing the wrong thing, of chasing you away. Every time I make love to you, I'm wondering if it's the last time. And that terrifies me. Laura, I love you. This can't be anything but love. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have you here in my home, to come home to you every night. I know there's a lot to work out, but I truly don't want anything to spoil this."

Laura was swaying, her mind barely able to process his words, the relief that he loved her, that he wanted her as much as she wanted him was better than anything else she could imagine. But he wasn't done, he was continuing, really opening his heart and soul to her, and it was all she could do to hold back the torrent of tears that threatened to fall.

She shook her head attempting to protest, but he silenced her with a finger to his lips. "Don't stop me, not now I'm finally managing this. I didn't have the greatest upbringing, and for years I have dreaded those genes coming out in me...the man I thought was my father was incapable of love, I can see that now, looking back I can see that my parents had a troubled relationship. But to me that was what I presumed I'd become, an unloving beast. No one could love me, so how could I possibly love anyone back? So in my head I was going to be single forever, no one deserved to be snubbed as my father snubbed me." He sighed, "But he wasn't my father. And maybe that's what changed? For a while I felt part of a loving family, and it was wonderful. I wondered if that was all I wanted, all I craved. But I don't think it is."

He sighed, swiping a hand over his face, "I have missed you more than anything, I haven't been able to concentrate on work, on my life...All I know is I can't resist you Laura Marshall. I want you, ALL of you. Forever."

It was more than music to her ears, this was the moment she'd waited all her life for, it was rapturous, enlightening, and everything. And it was so hard to digest, and it meant she had to process this, reply, tell him how she felt. She thought if he was honest with her that it would be easy to be honest back. But she could barely think for the pounding in her ears, her throat was parched.

"You mean that?" she croaked.

Smiling Adam swiped his thumb across her cheek, wiping away a stray tear, "every word! I'm not expecting you to feel the same way Laura, at least not yet, I only hope that you will one day."

Seeing her bewildered face, the tears threatening to fall, Adam misinterpreted her emotions of pleasure, happiness and excitement for fear and anxiety. "Come on, let's talk about this another time, I don't want to pressure you."

As he stood and pulled her to her feet she resisted him, realising she wasn't following his lead, he turned back to look at her sadly, "sorry."

Laura shook her head, "for God's sake Adam! You can't say all this to me and expect me to have an immediate composed answer. I want to say the right thing but it's all wafting around up here." She waved her hands above her head.

"What's the un-composed answer?"

She smiled at the hopefulness in his eyes, the optimism and expectation, then offered, "it sounds perfect to me!" As he grinned, she held up a hand it was too quick to accept their feelings, "we've never discussed the rest of the world. Since I came here we've been enveloped in this house, separate from everyone else, and instead of discussing the future, or even the here and now, we've just made love, lots of it. Whilst I'm not complaining, it's been amazing and I feel as desperate as you, we can't hide behind that. Can't pretend that no one else exists. We have got to deal with my father, YOUR father, ignoring it won't make it go away. I'm never going to be forced to make a choice. You are both important to me, and you've both done and said things that are wrong..." she cupped his cheek tenderly, "him more than you, but he's stubborn. If you feel as you say you do about me, then I'll need you to try."

If he expected her undying devotion, her reciprocation he was disappointed, but then it was her independence, her sassiness and her strength that had attracted her to him so strongly. Nodding he tried his best smile, "you know I will."

Then he turned for the house once more not wanting her to see the disappointment in his eyes.

"Adam!" he'd barely walked half a dozen steps when his name burst from her lips. He was struggling to contain his own emotions, and he was tempted to just keep walking put distance between them, find the time to compose himself. But she must have been wise to that, because almost instantly she skipped into his path, and put out a hand to stop him. "I must seem ungrateful...everything you said...it was everything I've wanted to hear. The last few days..." She grinned, "this is what I want! You! I'll live anywhere to be with you, I'll work out a way of working, and I'll work out a way for us to be friends with my father. Just as long as you keep telling me you love me!"

Suddenly it was like a light coming on, the darkness was drifting and the world was upturning once again, "I can arrange that! I can tell you every day, every hour...every minute if you like." His smile was infectious, and she couldn't help returning it. "As long as you're truthful with how you feel about me as often!"

She swung her arms around his neck and kissed him briefly on the lips, "I love you Adam Purcell. More than I've ever loved anyone else!"

And that was the truth.

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