“I didn’t mind.” He pushes a strand of hair out of my face.

I see a scratch on his knuckle, which I’m guessing is from the fight with Owen. I grab it and look it over before bringing it to my mouth and kissing it. I feel like a naïve jerk for meeting up with him. I should have known better. But my need to make everything okay had won out. I didn’t want to upset anything. I merely wanted to try to keep us a secret.

Jasper smiles, and I place more kisses on the scratch. It was something he always did for me.

“Does it hurt?” I run my finger along it, still feeling guilty that he got hurt.

“No, nothing hurts right now. For the first time in a long time, there’s no pain.” I reach out, wanting to touch him. I run my fingers along his cheek, feeling the roughness of his bristles after not shaving for a few days.

“I didn’t know how much it was hurting until now. Until I got a taste of what I was missing. All I was feeling was empty,” I tell him, knowing what he means about the pain. It’s crazy to think all this time we both wanted to be together. That the ache I’d been having was so much deeper than I even knew. “It’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that you’ve wanted me all this time, too.”

“No, it’s not. Let me show you.” He sits up on the bed, taking me with him, and I get my first good look at his bedroom. A giant bed sits in the center, with a nightstand on each side. I look around and see the walls are covered in framed pictures of us. Each wall is decorated with a collage.

From fishing, to riding horses, to cooking in the kitchen together, to family trips. It’s us. Our years together. He grabs my hand, pulling me from the room and down the hall, where he opens another door. I stop short in the doorway.

It’s an office. Well, half of it is. One side has Jasper’s desk and all kinds of mechanical books and a few machine-looking parts sitting on it, along with his laptop. The other side is what has my attention. It looks like the setup I have at Mom and Dad’s house, only with more room. A sewing machine and racks to hang up different aprons. Various fabrics and linens, laid out ready to be used.

“What is all this?” I look at him, and he gives me a look like I’m not getting it. Once again, he pulls me away, past a living room, a dining room, and into a giant kitchen.

“Oh my God!” The kitchen is huge. One wall of cabinets holds two double ovens, and a massive kitchen island with a work area and sink stands in the center of the room. It’s almost twice as big as Mom and Dad’s. I could easily bake ten pies at a time. I don’t think I could keep up with that, even if I tried.

Jasper steps in front of me, picks me up, and places me on the kitchen island. He puts a hand on either side of me, closing the space between us.

“You’re all I ever wanted, Libby. The moment you walked into my life, you filled in places in my heart with a softness I didn’t know I needed. It was always just my dad and me, but you came in with all your sweetness, and I wanted to soak it all up. Never let it go.”

“I don’t think I can let you go, Jasper. It makes me feel selfish.” I grab a hold of his shirt and pull him closer. “I don’t want to hurt our family.”

“But we are hurting it. I didn’t see it at first, but look at us. Fighting this could rip this family in two just as easily. I’ll never get over you. Hell, I thought you didn’t want me and I still built you this house. I came home to it every day thinking what it would be like if you were here each night. Coming home to you making me dinner and one of those cherry pies I love in the oven. You moving around a kitchen I’d built for you, wearing only one of those fucking aprons that drive me nuts.”

His eyes are pleading, and I know he’s thinking I might push him away again, but I can’t. We’ll find a way. We have to. “My aprons drive you nuts?”

He lets out a small laugh.

“You wouldn’t believe all the things I’ve thought about doing to you while you wore one,” he says, making my face warm.

“I’m sorry I ran. I got scared, and I was just trying to fix it. I was—”

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