After my bath I found Knox in bed, half asleep. I dropped my towel and climbed in beside him, curling my naked body around his. “Hi,” I whispered, kissing the spot behind his ear.
“Feel better?” he asked.
I nodded, rubbing my lips against his neck. “Yes. That was lovely.” I hadn’t soaked in a hot bath like that in ages. And he was right, I had been sore. The warm water had soothed most of the lingering ache reminding me of where he’d been, deep within me. And the bubbles made from Knox’s manly-scented body wash had made the experience that much better. I felt closer to him. Surrounded by him. I hadn’t wanted to get out – and didn’t until the water had started to turn cold.
I wished I could put into words what tonight had meant to me. Our lovemaking, him taking care of me like that…I’d never experienced anything like it. I was falling for this man, body, heart, and soul. Part of that scared me, but mostly I felt happy and safe. “Thank you, Knox.”
“You’re welcome, angel,” he murmured.
“I love you.” I hadn’t planned on telling him – I had barely let myself think those three dangerous words, but before I could even process what I was doing, they were out of my mouth and lingering in the air between us. My heart pounded unsteadily and the calmness I’d found vanished in an instant.
Several agonizing moments of silence passed between us. I knew he’d heard me. I knew he was still awake. I also knew I probably just triggered every defense mechanism Knox had put in place. Dread churned in my stomach, twisting it into a painful knot. I was dying to know what he was thinking. Surely he felt the pounding of my heart against his back, the faint sweat breaking out over my skin. Knox gave my hand a careful squeeze, but said nothing.
The next morning, seated behind my desk at group, the weight of what I’d done came crashing down on me the moment Knox strolled into the room looking happy and carefree.
I’d lost my virginity last night to a man who was in sexual addiction recovery. I could lose my counseling license. I could lose everything I’d worked hard for – and for what? While I was falling deeper and deeper, I had no idea what it would lead to. Did Knox even love me? He’d told me time and again he wasn’t capable of love. I was finally starting to see the ramifications of that. The risks I was taking for him could all be for nothing. My chest felt tight as I watched him take a seat across the room without so much as acknowledging me.
That week’s group was the most awkward experience of my life. Each member shared the number of days since their last sexual encounter and when Knox said one – my cheeks flamed as memories of me unabashedly grinding against him in his bed last night came flooding back. I didn’t know how to reconcile these two halves of myself – the counselor helping him heal and the girl who wanted to fall into his arms and give in to the pleasure of the moment.
It seemed like I’d lived a lifetime of new experiences since I’d first watched him saunter through that door just a few short months ago. So much had changed and yet nothing really had. I had Knox in my life now – but the threat of his past still threatened our future, I still had Brian playing the overprotective and slightly possessive big brother, and I’d yet to face my own past. Dread churned inside me. I had a strange feeling everything I held dear was about to collide.
There were times I thought we could really do this – forge a real relationship built on honesty and trust. Like when I’d been neck deep in bubbles last night, feeling pampered and cherished. Other times, like this moment sitting in sex addicts anonymous, or when Knox hadn’t returned my I love you I realized I was living in a fantasy land and that this relationship had far more complications than I gave it credit for.
As the weeks passed, I became less and less sure about what I was doing. My life was spinning out of control further by the day. It made me miss my mother and her pragmatic advice more than ever. I was falling deeper and deeper for a man with an inability to love me back and my weekly group sessions were becoming something I dreaded. They were heavy and intense and I felt like a complete hypocrite.
Everything I did felt like a burden I could just barely carry the weight of and by the end of the day, I collapsed heavily into bed alone, my chest an aching hole. I thought I could do it, be with Knox on his terms, wait for him to come around and continue leading SAA, but I was quickly beginning to realize it was too much for me. I was emotionally invested in both – loving Knox and helping with his recovery – and I didn’t even know where we stood.
I’d kept myself busy with work and volunteering in an attempt to give him a bit of space. I’d met up with Amanda a few times and we’d been scouring resale shops for pink baby clothes. Even Knox’s neighbor Nikki had helped out – sending a big bag of Bailee’s old clothes home with me for Amanda. But none of my distractions helped. I was consumed by my growing love for Knox and the undeniable guilt about the relationship we were carrying on.
Knox was picking me up from my apartment tonight since he’d become increasingly difficult about me taking the bus. I had my backpack slung over my shoulder with pajamas, a few toiletries, and clothes for tomorrow since heaven forbid I leave a few things over at his place. I didn’t want to freak him out. I was sharing his bed, but I knew I wasn’t occupying the space I really wanted to – his heart.
Brian watched me from the corner of his eye, disapproval written all over his face.
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