Katie couldn’t quite believe she was on her bed with Cash Freaking Buchanan kissing her. She was trying to wrap her mind around it as he slowly pulled back. He stared down into her eyes with a look she had never seen before.
“God, Angel.” Cash rested his forehead against hers. “Hell, I’ve loved you since the minute I saw you standing in the kitchen, basically hiding behind Ruby.” Katie gave an abrupt laugh, trying to figure out what in the hell was happening.
“You love me?” Katie asked incredulously.
“Since the day we met.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” Katie cried out, completely confused. Cash laughed and pulled away a little, but he still kept his hand on her cheek.
“How can it not make sense?” Cash asked, smiling gently at her. “You’re perfect.” Cash smiled at her, but Katie’s face had dropped and she turned her head, causing Cash’s hand to fall to the quilt.
“I’m not perfect,” Katie said woodenly. “There isn’t a single thing about me that’s perfect.”
“What’re you talking about? You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re so sweet and kind to everyone, and you’re goddamn gorgeous!” Cash couldn’t understand how Katie couldn’t see what he saw in her. Katie just shook her head.
“I’m not gorgeous. You wouldn’t be saying that if you could see me.” Cash shook his head in confusion.
“I don’t understand. I’m looking at you right now. I see you just fine!” Katie huffed and jumped off the bed, leaving the quilt behind as she stood in front of Cash.
“I’m talking about this, Cash. All of this.” Katie dropped the robe she was wearing and Cash gasped. She was wearing a sheer, white lingerie set with stockings and a garter belt around her trim waist. She truly did look like an angel, then, with the light behind her creating a halo. Cash had never seen anything more beautiful in his life.
“My god, angel... You look...you look...”
“Hideous? Deformed? Like I should join some 1920s traveling freak show?”
“You look like an angel. My angel,” Cash said with tears in his eyes. Katie just stared at him.
‘Is he making fun of me?’ Katie wondered. ‘No, I know Cash, he would never do that. So why isn’t he running out of here, realizing this is a huge mistake?’ Katie glanced at the full-length mirror in the corner. Once she’d finally worked up the courage to try on one of the lingerie sets earlier that night, she had gone over to the mirror to look at herself. And that’s when she saw them.
Scars. Everywhere. Most had faded into white, but there were still some that were an ugly red. Katie had snapped. She realized her past was literally written all over her body. How could Cash possibly want someone who looked like her? Covered in scars that would never fully disappear, let alone all of the unseen scars she carried. The scars inside her that reminded her constantly she was useless and worthless and ugly. Scars that might never completely heal.
‘What is he seeing that I’m not?’ Katie tried to figure out as she stared at her reflection. ‘How could he possibly love someone who looks like this?’ Cash was watching her expression closely and when he saw her look at herself in the mirror, seemingly unaware she was tracing a scar on her arm up and down, he understood.
Cash stood, upset and angry. Upset that Katie could possibly think those scars made her any less beautiful and angry at the man who had hurt her so badly, she couldn’t even fathom someone looking past them to see how utterly magnificent she was. Cash lightly placed his hands on Katie’s shoulders and forced her to turn around and face him.
“You listen to me, Katie Jones,” Cash said firmly. “If you think I don’t see your scars, you’re wrong. I see ‘em. But that don’t make you ugly, angel. Hell, they make you even more beautiful.” Katie shook her head and looked away, but Cash wasn’t having any of it. He tilted her chin up and looked her straight in the eye.
“You know what those scars tell me? That you’re a survivor. That you went through a hell most people couldn’t imagine, and instead of it turning you angry and cruel, it just turned you kind. Considerate. Empathetic. And loving. I see you, Katie Jones. I’ve seen all of you since you’ve been here and you will always be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Cash leaned down and captured Katie’s lips with his own. He kissed her slowly and gently, as if they were made for each other and had all the time in the world.
“You believe me now?” Cash whispered. Katie laughed as tears fell down her cheeks. Cash wiped them away with his thumbs and smiled down at her.
“Beauchamp,” Katie said quietly.
“Beauchamp. Katherine Beauchamp. That’s my real name.” Cash smiled and leaned down, kissing the tip of her nose.
“Don’t worry, angel. I won’t tell anyone.” Katie smiled and burrowed into his arms. “What do you want?” Cash whispered into her hair. Katie glanced up, confused. “We’re going as slow or as fast as you want, angel. So what do you want?” Katie smiled up a Cash then, a real smile, lighting up the room with her happiness.
“I want you, Cash,” Katie said. “I want you to make love to me. I want to fall asleep with your arms around me and I want to wake up with you right next to me.” Cash couldn’t stop the grin spreading across his face.
“Well, then, angel. That’s exactly what you’re gonna get.” Cash grinned and swung Katie up into his arms, making her laugh in delight. He kissed her again before gently laying her on the bed.
‘I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming, but, god, I don’t even care,’ Katie thought. ‘I’ll carry this dream with me the rest of my life. And this man. This incorrigible, infuriating, beautiful man. I’ll carry him too. A perfect dream.’