Chapter 45

Candles, roses, and soft music. When Keesha entered the bedroom, she knew what AJ had planned--a seduction. Tony had already warned AJ that his mental arousal could be stronger than his physical arousal. Her husband seemed to understand. However, that didn't stop him from trying.

"Tonight different," he said, as she closed the door. He removed his robe to reveal a well-toned chest and arms and midnight blue silk boxers. Over the last few weeks, he stopped using his cane and moved with more confidence. Now, Keesha fully understood why.

He took her hands and led her to the center of the room. "Dance, yes."

She allowed him to guide her. Her arms encircled his waist and she rested her head on his shoulder. His skin was smooth and hot against hers. Only the swell of their unborn child prevented the perfect alignment of their bodies.

"This is sweet, AJ, but unnecessary," she murmured. "Tony says it will take time. The more you force it…"

"No force," he said, his lips brushing her forehead. "Just dance close. Love anyway. Want you… Argh." He moved away from her and stormed to the stereo. With a surprisingly agile move, he turned off the music and blew out the candles. Complete darkness claimed them. "I wrong. This comes wrong. Why?"

"Because you're still healing." She felt her way to the bed and sat. Her hand massaged her lower back. "There's no need--"

"I need." His voice was low, yet fierce. "I need you. Be a man. Take care of you and Maya and baby. Not a burden. A man!"

"You are a man!"

"No, Jason a man," he said. "You he want. Hides it. Fights it. But he a man."

"He's not the man I want or love."

His grunt was the sound of disbelief.

"It's true--"

"Kiss him," he cut in. "Before. Kiss him. Want him."

"You remember that?"

She heard his footsteps as he padded across the room. The bed dipped and creaked as he sat. His fingers twined with hers at her lower back. Rubbing her gently, he said in a hoarse whisper, "Yes. No forget."

"You should. It was a mistake that meant nothing."

"No lie, Kee. Please."

"I'm not."

He lowered his head to her shoulder. He spoke so softly she barely heard him. "Need you love me. Wrong or no. Need it. No pretend. No sorry for me."

"I'm not here because I feel sorry for you!" she vehemently denied. She shifted on the bed to face him. But the damned darkness prevented her from seeing his face. She reached out and turned the lamp on. Light flooded the room. She blinked to soothe her stinging eyes.

Then, she cupped his face between her palms. "It's not wrong for you to need or love me anymore than it's wrong for me to need and love you."

"Be family with Maya and Jason. What you want--"

"No! I can't believe you think that."

He buried his face in his hands. "True. Know it. Feel it. He helps."

"I'll tell him not to come back," she said.

"No, I can't. Him better. Him stay."

"Not if it makes you unhappy." She stroked his hair, loving the soft silkiness and hating his turmoil. There'd been so much she took for granted. Assumed AJ didn't know or sense. She'd been a fool. Putting their family at risk. For what? A memory of an unresolved past. God, she'd been such an idiot.

"Want you happy," he said, lowering his head to her lap. He curled around her. His face pressed against her womb. "Need strong man. Lean on. No weak half man. No me."

"Cut it out, AJ Quartermaine! Stop it, right now! You're not weak. You're the strongest man I know. Your recovery speed is legendary and I do need you. Very much." She stroked his back. The hard, sinewy muscles she discovered surprised her. He was strong in so many different ways. Surely, he knew that. "I won't come to your pity party. Some of this is my fault and I accept blame, but there is something you should already know about me. I'm not a martyr. I wouldn't be here if I didn't love you and want to be with you."

"Why?"

Tears stung her eyes then. Tears of sadness and joy. Of clarity and of disbelief. He dared ask her why. It never occurred to her that he wouldn't already know the answer.

"Because…you are my best friend. In the whole entire world, you've been my best friend. I trust you and I'm sorry that I hurt your trust in me. You make me feel safe inside. I look into your eyes and know that I'm truly, deeply loved. Even though I make mistakes, you love me. I've never had that with anyone, not even Jason."

"Me no saint."

She smiled and laughed softly. "No, you're not, but you are the man for me. I've never regretted marrying you. I never will."

He raised his head. Sapphire blue eyes bore into hers, searching and needing. "True?"

"True."

He moved to sit. His hand cupped the back of her head and drew her face to his. He brushed her lips with the sweetest, slowest kiss. As it deepened, Keesha lost herself in wanting him. His tongue grazed hers and she moaned.

Then, suddenly he released her and moved to the nightstand. A frown settled on her brow as she watched him rifle through the drawer. When he faced her again, a smile of triumph illuminated his face. He shoved a business card into her hand.

"Call!"

Keesha read the card. Dr. Judith Hanson, Sex Therapist and Marriage Counselor.

She beamed at her nodding husband. "First thing in the morning."

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