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In His Keeping


Page 67




She wanted to say it so badly. The words burned on her lips, begging to be set free. Instead she licked them to ease the tingling sensation. Just the thought of offering him those three little words, the most important words in the world-in her world, at least-filled her with gut-wrenching terror. And offering someone your love should never be terrifying. It should be celebrated. Embraced. A memory to savor-and hold close to your heart-forever.
But she was scared. Of rejection. Of seeing discomfort or even dismay flicker in those dark eyes. Or the worst possible reaction of all. Pity.
The very last thing she ever wanted from this man was pity. She wanted his love. His commitment. His protection. She wanted the kind of love her parents shared, and oh but she could see it so clearly with Beau. Never before had she met a man who even made her wonder if he could possibly be a man who'd measure up to her father. That she could share with him all her mother and father shared.
Wistful yearning twisted her chest and brief sadness tugged at her heart, squeezing it gently as she imagined a love like that simply . . . disappearing.
The world was a better place with people like her parents. Everyone should want more-better-should demand it. Her parents were an example to be held up in esteem, an example of the testament of absolute love, loyalty, fidelity and selflessness.
"Okay, Ari, you're starting to worry me," Beau said firmly, reaching up to nudge her chin so her attention was forced to him once more.

"I swear you keep drifting away to God only knows where. I only know you're not here with me."
"But that's exactly where I want to be," she said softly, her palm sliding over the wall of his chest, exploring every hard contour, the ripple of his abdominal muscles. Then she pressed a kiss just above his left nipple, enjoying the brush of her lips over his firm skin and even firmer pectorals.
"You can't possibly want it more than I do," he said, sliding his fingers up the length of her arm that was still flung across his body.
"Do you mean that?" she asked hesitantly, instantly searching his gaze for any sign of the veracity of his words.
He looked confused and then worried. He turned on his side, his hand wrapped around her arm so it stayed anchored around him when he moved. Then he reached to trace a line from her temple to her cheek, sending shivers of sheer contentment coursing through her veins.
"How can you doubt that?" he asked. And then faint alarm registered in his eyes and he stared intently at her, as if doing the exact same thing she'd been doing to him. Trying to see into her thoughts, to understand or discover her thoughts, her feelings. And her fears.
"Ari, do you doubt that I want to be with you? That I want you with me? And not just temporarily. Not days. Not weeks. Not months."
"How long then?" she whispered, dodging his question of whether she doubted his words.
She was much more interested in the last things he'd said.
Hope made her pulse flutter and then speed up. She held her breath for seemingly an eternity as she waited for . . . confirmation? Something more? Commitment?
Love?
Oh God, she couldn't go there. Could not set herself up for devastation. She had to learn to steel herself. Not to take so much to heart. To be able to shrug off the negative things and embrace the good.
His cheeks puffed as he blew out a long breath and his hand slid from her face to capture the arm lying over his chest. He took her hand, lacing their fingers, and then simply placed their joined hands over his heart.
"This is where you are, Ari. Here. And this is where you'll stay. And because you're here," he said, pressing her hand harder against the steady thud of his heartbeat. "That means that I want you here."
He gestured to the bed.
And then swept his arm to encompass the room.
"Everywhere," he said softly. "Everywhere I am is where I want you to be."
He leaned forward, still keeping her hand trapped solidly between their bodies and he fused his mouth to hers in the sweetest of kisses. He was still treating her gently, as though he feared she would break or that he'd somehow cause her more pain.
"Forever," he whispered into her mouth, the word swallowed up as she inhaled the scent, the taste, the feel of him surrounding her. "I want forever."
And that one word, so simple but utterly sincere, gave her contentment such as she'd never known or experienced.
Love finds you when you least expect it. Under seemingly impossible circumstances, but it was there. Young and blooming still. Unwavering and constant.
Love truly did conquer all. Love required trust, unconditional faith in the face of adversity.
Some of the overwhelming fears of losing her family dimmed, because, in this moment, Ari knew without a doubt that Beau would find her parents and that Ari and Beau's love would be as steadfast and true as her mother and father's and that they too would withstand the test of time
TWENTY-THREE
BEAU'S expression blackened and he emitted a soft curse when a firm knock sounded at his bedroom door. He rolled to his back with a groan and slapped his palm to his forehead in a signal of frustration.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me. Now? Someone's going to interrupt us now of all times? Swear to God, the house better be on fire."
Ari smothered a smile and tried to summon irritation equal to his, but he was too funny with his pouty sullen look of a boy who'd just been denied his favorite toy.
When the knock persisted, Beau rolled, sliding his feet to thump on the floor, and then rose to stalk to the door, yanking it open with enough force to rip it from its hinges.






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