I take a deep breath and let it out. I’m still holding her in my arms, because I need to be honest with her, but I have to hold her. “Honey, God, I want this. I want this more than you know. But you have to know I’m not a good man.”

She laughs. Literally laughs in my face. “I know we just met, but you do remember saving my daughter, right? In my book, that makes you a good man… the best man.”

I can’t stop the smile on my face, but quickly respond. “But there are things you don’t know about me. I’m a recovering addict…”

“Yeah, that’s been clean for seven years. I know. Sierra told me when she was warning me not to hurt you.” She tries to pull me back down to her.

I can’t resist and lean down to kiss her and then pull away. “She warned you not to hurt me?”

She’s laughing again. “Yeah, I know it’s crazy… like I could hurt you.”

I press her hand to my heart. I know she feels the thud, thud, thud through my shirt. It’s about to explode from my chest. “Honey, you could probably break me.”

“Johhhnnnnyyy! Mommmmy!” Faith yells from the other room.

I kiss Olivia on the cheek and tell her we’ll talk about this later. Pulling away from her, I catch Faith in my arms as she catapults herself to me when she runs into the kitchen.

Chapter 5

Olivia

Hours later, I’m lying in Faith’s bed until she falls asleep. I can’t help but think about Johnny and Faith. He spent the whole afternoon entertaining and playing with her. She is super smart for a six-year-old but these last few weeks have caused her to regress in her behavior, making her extra needy.

By the end of the night, thank goodness, I was seeing more signs of her old self. Johnny was very patient with her and gave her time to get accustomed to her new surroundings before gently pushing her to be more independent. She blossomed under his praise and if possible, I wanted him even more.

“Mom, what are we doing tomorrow?” Faith asks me groggily, interrupting my thoughts.

“I think we are going to the lake for the day. Go to sleep, honey.”

She yawns loudly and lays her head back down on the pillow.

I lie there until I am sure she is asleep and hear her slight snoring. I get up and walk into the adjoining bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I inspect my face and think that I look way older than my twenty-five years. Staring at myself, I can’t help but question the decision I know I’m about to make. I want Johnny. There is no doubt about it. He doesn’t think he’s a good man, but I know the truth. I know only a good man would treat Faith and me the way he is treating us.

Stripping down to my bra and panties, I can’t help but look at my wide hips and heavy breasts, which never perked back up after giving birth. And then there are the marks on my belly. I can’t say I hate them. I don’t like them, but they are there because of Faith, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Walking into my bedroom, I pull a T-shirt out of my suitcase and go into the living room.

Johnny is lying on the couch with the TV on low and his feet up on the table. He doesn’t move, so I assume he’s sleeping. I walk over to him, just because I want a better look. His arms and chest are covered in tattoos. He looks so peaceful. When I get to the couch, I sit down next to him softly. My hand inches across his chest and when I barely touch him, his hand reaches out and grabs mine.

“Honey, are you trying to sneak up on me?” He pulls me until I’m lying across him.

I lay my head down and put a brief kiss on his chest. “No, I was just wanting a better look, that’s all.” I trace one of the letters with my finger.

“You can look all you want. But I think we need to wait on everything else,” he says as he brushes the hair off my face.

I try to pull back from him, but he grips my arms and holds me still. “What are you thinking? Why are you frowning?”

I stubbornly sit up and move away from him. “Nothing. No reason. I thought we uh, well… if you aren’t interested, I’m not going to beg for it.”

He sits up and moves over next to me. “Look at me.” When I don’t respond, he puts a hand under my chin and pulls it his way. “Look at me, honey. I do want you. There’s no doubt about that. I’ve been hard since the first time I saw you. But you have so much going on. I saw you today. You are so worried about losing your daughter… I just don’t want to add to everything else you have going on. That’s all.”

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