Quil and Claire, now twenty-seven, are getting married. The darkest days are past. Perhaps further danger looms, but all on their minds now is the wedding. In the series For Her.
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12. Chapter 12
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“Claire! What’s wrong?”
She didn’t answer, just winced away from me.
“I’m so sorry. Sweetheart, what did I do wrong? What is it? Please, please…”
Please forgive me. I only wanted to make you happy.
She pulled the sheet over herself, turning away. She clutched her knees, hugging her body into a ball, and wept. It had been years since I’d seen her this way.
“Claire? Oh, sweetie, please, say something.”
“I’m so sorry!” It was a howl more than an apology.
“Not sorry. Never sorry, honey. Don’t we have a deal?”
She snuffled and tried to smile. She failed quite miserably.
“Claire, Claire, you can tell me. What did I do?”
“Stop blaming yourself. Please. It’s my fault. I just got scared. I want this too. I’m trying, I’ve been trying for so long, to be so big and brave and grown-up and underneath everything I’m scared.”
It was good. After all this time, that she could finally deal with her feelings and her fear. It was healthy, it was right, it was what had to happen. But it hurt like hell to lie here in bed next to the woman I loved and watch her fall apart.
“I’m scared, not for any real reason. I’m scared because I don’t ever know when or why, but sometimes I’m not myself anymore… I’m the person I was during those years… and you don’t know… oh, Quil, it was so awful. You saved me, from such terrible things, and yet all these years later I can’t be what you need from me…”
“Claire, listen to me. This isn’t about me. Nothing in our relationship is about what I need. I will be exactly what you need. That’s what’s important. Nothing else.”
“I wish you… Quil, I wish this could be my first, too.”
I understood exactly what she meant. “It is. In every way that matters, it is. Now, what exactly did I do wrong?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay.” I moved closer to her. The tears shimmered on her face, only adding to her beauty with the brightness of her eyes and the perfection of her trembling lips.
I kissed her, and her body relaxed. The clenched muscles calmed for a brief instant, and then she pulled me close.
I stroked her face, her shoulder, her chin. She smiled. I stroked her stomach, her cheek, the edge of her hip. She smiled again.
I kissed away the tears on her face. “Claire, I will always love you, and I will never hurt you. Do you believe me?”
That word was all it took. If she trusted me, if she loved me, everything else in the world would work out.
She clung to me, almost desperate, and kissed me again.
We were ready for this. We were ready for everything. No matter what happened, we could do it. From her, I had found the confidence to know I was what she needed.
That, in the end, mattered the most.
I traced the shape of her shoulder and sighed.
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