"You know what your problem is?" Gatlin bit out. "You're too damn naïve. Not everything in life is all butterflies and sunshine Kylie."
"And do you know what your problem is?" Kylie shot back. "You're too damn jaded. You wouldn't know happiness if it bit you in the ass," she continued. "You're content being miserable — and I'm going to leave you to that because it has no place in my world of butterflies and sunshine," she ended, storming past Gatlin.
His arm snaked out and grabbed her.
"Let go … of … me," Kylie bit out as she fought against her rising tide of passion.
Gatlin's heat-seeking tongue melted her last bit of resistance. Kylie dug her hands into his thick, dark hair.
Gatlin slowed his assault on her mouth, moving to the golden column of her neck.
"No, no, no … stop. Stop Gatlin," her words slowly penetrated his aroused state.
"This doesn't solve anything," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. It's never been our problem … and it won't be our salvation."
Shaking off his desire to focus as best as he could, Gatlin responded, "It's a damn good place to start," and reached for her again.
"Gatlin stop!" Kylie yelled. "Don’t you see? This is just another way for you to not deal with your real feelings. … I'm looking for real, lasting, soul-connecting love; not some casual roll in the hay!"
"You know you mean more to me than just a roll in the hay," Gatlin said. "I really care about you Kylie."
"I love you Gatlin. And I know it's not something a modern woman is supposed to say so early in a relationship. But there it is. And I don't expect you to do anything or say anything. I just wanted you to know where I'm coming from."
"In my world, love is not complicated. Difficult at times? Yes. But hard? No. You're absolutely right, I do believe in butterflies and sunshine. I believe in love — and I won't let anybody make me feel bad about that or take that away from me."
"The thing is, I know you love me too. But you just won't let yourself trust that what we have is real. And I refuse to spend my life trying to prove it to you."
"Stop hitting my mom!" Gatlin yelled, jumping in front of his mother to prevent his father from landing another blow.
"This is between your mother and me boy!" his father said in his drunken slur.
"Go to your room. I'm ok honey."
"I'm not leaving you," Gatlin cried, his seven-year-old voice cracking with fear as he tried to drag his mom from the room.
As his father prepared to land another blow, Gatlin kicked him in the groin. He doubled over in pain, shouting, "You miserable little piece of shit! I'll kill you for this!"
Gatlin's mother ran to his side. "Honey are you alright? " she said, wiping blood from the side of her lip with one hand while she consoled his father with the other.
Gatlin had mentally catalogued hundreds of these memories from his childhood. But this particular one stuck with him vividly. He realized why when Kylie said, "I believe in love and I won't let anybody take that away from me."
When his mother had gone to his father to comfort him, instead of coming to him, a frightened 7-year-old, he realized the power of love. His mother had loved his father beyond all rhyme and reason — even beyond her child. He didn't realize it, but that had been the moment he'd stopped believing in love. Love hurt. It was cruel. It wasn't kind. It was loyal to the wrong people.
Can Kylie trust that what's between them will blossom into everlasting love, or will Gatlin's painful past always be a barrier to their happily ever after?
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