Beneath the Crown

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Chapter 38

Ash

Right there, in his arms, I finally felt truly at peace. For the first time since I was a child, I felt like nothing and no one could get to me.

Our lips moving together, and his warm, naked chest holding me made my mind spin.

This, right here, is exactly what you needed.

He released my lips and leaned back to look at me. His arms still around me and my palms resting on his chest.

“Why did you stop?” I asked as I looked into his eyes.

“I just wanted to make sure this was real.”

I smiled and lowered my eyes away from him. My gaze fell to his bare chest and I placed a soft kiss on it, “Yes it is.”

I heard him moan as I placed another kiss on his chest, just below the collar bone.

I looked up and saw his eyes closed, but a smile on his face.

My lips pulled at the corners at the sight of him. I placed another gentle kiss on his chest and when I looked up I saw his mouth fall open a little.

I want to be with him. I want to go all the way with him, but not after what just happened.

I rested my head on his chest and let out a breath.

“What is it?” He asked.

“Can we just talk. I just want to stay right here, in your arms, and talk.”

He bent down and placed a long, thoughtful kiss on my head before he took a step back. He took my hand and led me to the bed.

“We can just sit and talk. Nothing more,” He said and lay down.

I climbed onto the bed next to him and lay down next to him, my head on his chest, my fingers running random lines over his skin. He put one arm behind his head, and with the other, he held me to him.

“The first time he hit me,” I began in a quiet voice, “I was nineteen. It was only nine weeks after we were married. I told myself that I was not going to let him get away with it. I packed a bag, called my dad, and when Dave got home I was ready to leave him. But he fell to his knees, crying and begging me to stay. He told me it was just a reaction, that he was drunk and some guy at the bar pissed him off and when he got home, and I got mad at him for staying out all night, he just didn’t know who or what I was. Like an idiot, I believed him.”

“You loved him back then. You never thought that a man that loved you could do something like that out of anger or hate. Anyone would have forgiven him.”

“That doesn’t excuse all the other times. After that first time, he didn’t hit me for a while but rather used his words on me. He told me every day that I am not important enough, or pretty enough to go out, or smart enough to work. He had this way of saying it that it didn’t sound cruel at the time. He made it sound like he was doing me a favor.”

“Words of manipulation are more powerful than anything. They can shape or break a person,” Zas said as his hand around me began to trace lines up and down my arm, “My father was like that. Not with his children, but when it came to negotiations, he had a way with words that made any man submit to his will, and be thankful for it.”

“Your dad sounds pretty amazing,” I said, thankful for the change in topic.

“He was a hard man. Taught Raylon and I a lot of things. But he had unlimited love for us. He always showed us that. We never got to spend a lot of time with him, but when we did, his focus was always with us alone. That is why I try to see my children every day.”

“You are so lucky to have such amazing kids.”

“I want to say something,” he said and shifted to look at me, “But I fear I will upset you.”

“It’s ok,” I said and placed my hand on his cheek, “Don’t be afraid to say anything to me.”

“It’s not too late,” he said and waited.

“Too late for what?”

“For you. . . To have a child.”

I moved my eyes away from his and shrugged out of his hold. I sat on the edge of the bed with my back turned to him.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-”

“I can’t have kids. I told you this before. Why would you say that to me?”

I spun around to him as the tears stung my eyes.

He smiled. “Ash, if we can fix broken ribs in a day, or grow my daughter a new heart every five years, don’t you think we can help you?”

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