By: Anne Marie Winston

Faith's face drained of color. Stone leaped forward, afraid she was going to faint as she groped for a chair. His mother went out again, closing the door behind her but he barely noticed. He gathered his wife into his arms, turning to sit in the wing chair and pulling her into his lap.

She didn't even struggle, just lay passively with her Iface buried in his shoulder.

She was warm, smelling of the indefinable essence of her, a scent he would recognize anywhere, and he nuzzled his nose into her hair. "God, I've missed you:" His voice shook, surprising him as he savored the weight of her body pressed against him. She still didn't move, didn't respond, and he started to worry. "Faith?"

Slowly, she pushed away from him and sat up. "You think I'm too young to know the difference between love and sex."

"No." He shook his head slowly, holding her gaze, trying to communicate the depth of his feeling to her. "The truth is, I was afraid you were too young. I felt like I was taking advantage of you— you hadn't known enough men to know whether you loved me or not. And whether or not I wanted to admit it, I was falling for you. I was afraid. Afraid you'd grow up and fall out of love with me, afraid to believe in forever." He ran his palms slowly up and down her arms. "Now," he said, "now I don't give one flying damn if you're too young or not, because / know the difference." He swallowed, his throat closing up. "And what we have is love."

He saw her face change, just a slight relaxation of the tense muscles. She believed him! "I love you," he said again. "Forever."

"Forever." Her voice wobbled. "I love you, too."

He sought her mouth, relief almost a painful sensation as she kissed him back. God, he'd been afraid he'd never know her kiss again. He lifted his head a fraction. "As long as we live."

She gazed earnestly into his eyes. "It's all right if you don't want children. We'll have each other."

He considered her offer. "Thank you, but I've changed my mind about so many things I think I'll change it about that, too." He took her face in his hands. "I want to give you babies. I want to be there when they're born, and every day of our lives after that. I want to see your mother's face the first time we put her grandchild in her arms."

"And your mother's." Tears glimmered in her eyes but she was smiling.

"And my mother's," he repeated. He glanced around the room. "I guess she's going to be smug about this for the rest of my life." But his tone was fond. Somewhere inside him, he'd discovered that he could accept his past. He knew he and his mother would have to talk, because she felt obliged to explain. But he also knew it wasn't going to matter. She would be a part of his future.

Faith laughed. "How did she know to call for me?"

"If I had to guess, I'd say that little receptionist out front probably gave her the headsup. She looked like she'd seen a ghost when I walked in."

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