Sandra leaned against the wall, banging her forehead against the doorframe. This was NOT happening. It was as if the more she told him to back off, the more he came. It was annoying, irritating, frustrating, to say the very least. Yet there he was, when she’d least expect it, and this time he’d managed to find a way into her apartment.

“What did I do to deserve this?” she asked aloud.

“You’re acting like this is a bad thing.”

Her gaze focused on the person standing directly in front of her, and she scowled. “Maybe it IS a bad thing...”

“I don’t think it is,” he shrugged. “I think you just don’t wanna open your eyes and deal with your reality.”

“And YOU,” she added, “Don’t wanna step out of LaLa Land and be with the rest of us in the real world; if you did, you’d see this very well could be a bad thing more than it could be a good thing.”

“Why are you so pessimistic?!”

“Why are you so persistent?!”

“You’re always looking at the bad in things, even when they don’t exist...”

“And you’re annoying the hell outta me.”

“Someone has to,” Nick shot back. “Because what you’re calling ‘annoying’ is really someone being completely honest and to the point, trying to help you see how wrong you are.”

“There you go with the ‘I’m wrong’ thing again. I am NOT wrong.”

“I know you are,” he argued. “And if you took the time to get your mind out of your past, you’d see you’re wrong, too.”

“Quit throwing my past in my face!!” she shouted finally. “You have NO right! It’s bad enough that it’s with me all the time, I do NOT need you prancing around in front of me reminding me of it more than I already do!”

“Sandra,” Nick sighed. “I’m the last person who’d want to have you keep remembering all that... whatever it was. Believe me.”

She regarded him for a brief moment. “Maybe.. maybe you don’t.. but still.. it happens. I guess it isn’t your fault, really. I’m just now realizing I’m not as strong as I thought I would be after all that.” She took a deep breath before adding, ”I’m sorry.”

“I just wish you could see things my way,” he said softly, knowing he was treading on dangerous territory, but insisting anyway. “I wish I could find a way to reassure you that I’m not... that I’m not capable of hurting you.”

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I just... can’t. If you knew... if you had any idea... maybe you would understand.”

“Try me.”

“No,” she sighed. “I.. it’s hard to talk about. Even harder to bring up all the details for someone else...”

“I understand,” he sighed. “I want you to know I’ll be around, always, if you need to talk... or anything.”

“You don’t have to...”

“I want to,” he said quickly. “If I can’t be around you any other way, I’m happy with just this.”

She felt guilty then, a feeling she really could have done without.

She realized then, that for the first time since they’d met, she was able to see him and not think of anything other than how good a person he really was. She’d begun to understand what was inside him, and that none of it meant her any harm at all. She supposed she’d known that from the beginning, but it never did her any good if she refused to admit it to herself.

When the hell had she begun to soften? What happened to being strong and in control and not letting things get to her the way they once did?

She was already paying a heavy price for her stupidity in the past; she did not need to add another mistake to that list.

And yet, she mused as she watched Nick standing motinless before her, something about this... about him... told her this wasn’t stupid at all.

“Just a chance,” he added then, breaking into her thoughts.

“Pardon?” she asked, blinking a few times.

“One chance,” he repeated. “That’s all I need...”

“For what?”

He searched his mind then, trying to form his thoughts into words.. the right words.

He came up with nothing.

“Nick?” She questioned, her eyebrow raised. “A chance for what?”

He stared at her for a moment, trying, and failing, to come up with what to say. Something, anything, to no avail.

Instead, in a move that shocked and shook them both, he closed the distance between them, scooping her up in his arms, and pressed his lips to hers in a kiss that was as electrifying as it was frightening.

“To prove to you that I love you,” he whispered, moments before letting her go and leaving her standing alone in the middle of her living room as he exited the apartment.

[chapter list | chapter thirteen]