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“I can see why Emmy is so hung up on him,” she whispers in my direction.

“You aren’t lying.”

We both laugh and Maddox jerks his head in our direction. The carefree smile that was on his face only seconds before is now long gone. He almost looks mad that he ever let it appear in the first place.

“I’ll take Nate while you two do your chick stuff.” He takes off with a giggling Nate in his arms. I hear a door click in the distance, and know he must have gone down into the basement where Beck keeps all his workout equipment.

“So, I’m guessing that we aren’t actually eating, huh?” She lets a nervous laugh bubble out, but stops when I look at her and shake my head. “I didn’t think so. I just knew somehow that you didn’t want to catch up.”

“Come on, it’s a pretty day, so why don’t we go sit out in the sunroom?”

She grabs a water bottle out of the diaper bag and follows after me.

“Just spit it out, Dee. It’s killing me. All night, I was worried about what you wanted to talk about. I could tell by the tone in your voice that something’s going on, but I can’t figure out for the life of me what it could be.” Her green eyes look so dark when she’s worried. She’s biting on her lip and fidgeting with her hands.

I start at the beginning and tell her about my parents, the boys I used to date, and how all those relationships ended. I tell her about how I didn’t have any real friends until the day I met her. She takes it all in, nodding her head a few times here and there to let me know she’s listening. I can tell she’s getting upset when I mention how bad things had been growing up with my parents, but she kept silent.

Then I tell her everything I’ve only spoken about to Dr. Maxwell and Maddox about. I finally reveal the secrets about her ex-husband that I have held in for so long. She only lets out a few shocked gasps, her hand shooting out to hold mine when I relate how he broke into my office and beat me.

“I should have done more to get you out, Izzy. I was just so scared of what he would do. I could see it in his eyes. I don’t know how I knew, but I just did. I sat by and let him hurt you, Izzy.” When I meet her troubled gaze and see the tears in her eyes, it breaks my heart, and the tears that I have been holding back start falling freely.

“You’ve been beating yourself up this whole time, haven’t you?” I nod my head, but before I can open my mouth, she interrupts. “Brandon was a sick man, Dee. You have no idea how much it hurts to know he got his filthy hands on you, but nothing that happened during my marriage is your fault.” She’s trying to keep her emotions in check, but the tremble in her voice gives her away.

I pause for a second to get ready to finish my story, and gaze out on the beautifully landscaped backyard. I must have been silent for a while, because her whispered question makes me jump.

“What aren’t you telling me, Dee? I know you. There’s more isn’t there?” Her voice is begging me to prove her wrong.

“Yeah, there’s more.” I take another breath and look back over to see her face awash with pain. “When he finally got done using his fist he told me that if I tried to contact you in any way, that he would kill you,” I whisper on a sob. Her tears are coming quickly, and I know I have to get the rest out before she starts to cry in earnest. “And then… then he took the only thing left to take from me.”

She starts shaking her head begging me to shut up.

“I’m sorry, so sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me, but he said he would kill you! I tried to keep my eyes on you, but I was so terrified that if I even tried to warn you, he would take you from me completely.”

Her body is heaving with her sobs, and it’s hard to tell who is crying louder at this point. She grabs me and pulls me into a tight, painful hug. We sit there, rocking together for a while, before she pulls back.

“He raped you, didn’t he?” she asks a few minutes later, her voice calm despite the fact that her hands are shaking violently.

“Yeah, he did.”

If she hadn’t have jumped slightly, I wouldn’t have thought that she heard me since I’d spoken so lightly.

“I’m trying to process this. I really am… I can’t even wrap my head around all of this, Dee! Why didn’t you tell me years ago? Even after he was gone? Did you think I would blame you? God, never! I’m upset because you had to go through that alone.” She wipes her eyes with her shirt and tries to calm herself down. “You’re like my sister, Dee. Why couldn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t know how. It seems so simple now, looking back, but then, all I saw was another man turned monster. It wasn’t even about the rape, Izzy. That was terrible, but I survived it. I was worried about you and what would happen if I didn’t find a way to save you.”

She grabs my hand and holds it tightly. “You did save me. That night that I called you, you saved my life that day and every day after. I wish you had told me about this years ago, but thank you for telling me now. For trusting me with this.”

We sit here both with our own pain, for a few minutes when I feel her hand constrict against mine. “You aren’t done, are you? If you were done, you wouldn’t look like that.” Her eyes are wide and panicked with the unknown fear of what else I have to tell her.

“I’m not done.”

“Jesus, Dee.” She shakes her head in disbelief. “Tell me, please.” Her pleading voice gives me the last push I need.

I tell her about the pain I suffered after Brandon’s final attack. How his attack clicked some switch inside of me. How it made me feel like I was drowning in the nightmare that he created. How I had no hope in my escape. I tell her all about my fight with depression, and concerning what the doctor has diagnosed as PTSD brought on by the attack. For a second, I think I need to stop, or fib a little and downplay how bad I got mentally, but I know that I need to get this all out in order to move on. She’s crying, sobbing, and gasping for air by the time I finish.

“My God, Dee!” She grabs me and pulls me in tight again, crying into the crook of my neck. “I’m so, so sorry. I’ve been so wrapped up with Axel, Nate, and life that I’ve been a terrible friend.”

“No, Iz. You haven’t been a terrible friend. You’ve just had other priorities, and I never blamed you, not once. Please, don’t think that. I didn’t tell you this to make you upset. I told you this because, without letting it out, I will never be able to move on. I want to move on. I’m ready to fight for my happiness now, and I couldn’t do that with this between us, even if you didn’t know it was there.” I’m so proud of myself for getting that out without a single tear. I hate seeing Izzy upset, but knowing that I’m strong enough to get through that, and to let her know how hard the last few years have been, gives me a feeling of peace that I didn’t have before. I’m one step closer to being healed, and it makes me feel like a whole new person.

“I don’t know how you can ever forgive me for not seeing how much pain you were in,” she whispers, staring off into the yard.

“Izzy, that’s easy. There isn’t anything to forgive. I love you.”

She gives me a smile, wipes her eyes again with her shirt, and reaches out to hug me again.

“Please, tell me there isn’t anything else?”

“There isn’t. I know it’s not easy to hear, but thank you for listening. You have no idea how scared I’ve been to tell you all of that.”

She leans up and gives me a weak smile. “Don’t keep things from me again. I understand where your head was in keeping that to yourself, but don’t do that again. You’re one of the most important people in my life, Dee, and I don’t ever want you to think there’s something you can’t tell me.”

“I know that now. It’s taken me a lot of really expensive doctor appointments to really understand that, though. I’m done hiding and keeping parts of myself from those that love me.”

We sit here silently for a while, just offering each other the strength that we need. I know she’s hurting, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. She’s my best friend, my sister, and one of the most important people in my life. But this is something she has to take and process on her own, with the help of the husband that loves her, to get past it.

It’s a shock, and I know she’s going to be upset about this, understandably so, but I also know that our friendship is that much stronger, because there isn’t a single thing standing between us now.

She gets up to leave about an hour later and when I watch her drive off, I do it with the clarity that everything is going to be just fine.

Chapter 16

“Dee? Are you up there?” I smile and drop down further in the tub, enjoying the soothing effects the warm water is having on me. “Dee!” I can hear him panicking slightly when I don’t answer right away.

“I’m in the bathroom,” I yell through the crack in the doorway. I could let him wonder where I am, but I know he’s worried. It wasn’t easy to get him to leave this morning to begin with, so it would be cruel to make him search longer than he has.

He comes bursting through the door and skids to a stop when he sees me sitting in the bath, bubbles surrounding me. I give him a wide smile, and enjoy the fact that his body visibly shutters.

“Jesus Christ…” he mumbles under his breath.

“You found me.” I laugh when his eyes shoot up from where they’ve been staring at my chest. I make sure that I’m still covered under the bubbles before looking back at his face.

He clears his throat a few times and adjusts himself. I laugh when I see how much just being in this room is affecting him.

“Are you okay, Beck?” I ask, pushing myself up in the tub. He looks like he might pass out as my naked breasts clear the bubbles. My nipples harden instantly when I see the look of pure lust that comes over him.

“Dee, if you don’t want to start anything, then please cover yourself up.” His voice is just shy of begging.

My body heats up when I see the outline of his erection against his jeans. My mouth waters and I have to press my thighs together to keep from touching myself.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he pleads.

“Like what?” I question in mock ignorance.

“You’re looking at me like you haven’t eaten in years, and I just brought you a steak dinner.” He sounds strained, almost to the point of pain.

I smile at him and give him one more, slow caress with my eyes. “Will you please hand me a towel?”

He presses his palm against his crotch and groans when he turns to grab the towel I’ve left on the sink. He stands there with his hand clenched tightly against it and his head bowed. The water is almost completely gone by the time he turns back around with his eyes pinched shut.

“You have no idea what I would do to be able to carry you off to the bed and show you for hours how much I’ve dreamed of this moment. It’s been six long months since I’ve been inside that tight body, and when I have you again, and believe me, Baby, I will have you again, it’s going to be forever this time.” He opens his eyes, and the fire I see blazing deep within takes my breath away.

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