She let out a frustrated sigh and sat up, running her hands through her hair. It flowed through her fingers and down her back, and he wished he could bury his own hands in it, bury his face in the heavy locks and breathe her in. But he’d obviously upset her.
“I’m sorry, Fern. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why?” she snapped, startling him enough that he winced. “Why are you sorry?”
“Because you’re upset.”
“I’m upset because you pulled away! You’re so careful. And it’s frustrating!”
Ambrose was taken back by her honesty, and he smiled, instantly flattered. But the smile faded as he tried to explain himself.
“You’re so small, Fern. Delicate. And all of this is new to you. I’m afraid I’m going to come on too strong. And if I break you or hurt you, I won’t survive that, Fern. I won’t survive it.” That thought was worse than walking away from her and he shuddered inwardly. He wouldn’t survive it. He had already hurt too many. Lost too many.
Fern knelt in front of him, and her chin wobbled and her eyes were wide with emotion. Her voice was adamant as she held his face between her hands, and when he tried to pull away so she wouldn’t feel his scars, she hung on, forcing his gaze.
“Ambrose Young! I have waited my whole life for you to want me. If you don’t hold me tight I won’t believe you mean it, and that’s worse than never being held at all. You better make me believe you mean it, Ambrose, or you will most definitely break me.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Fern,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Then don’t,” she whispered back, trusting him. But there were lots of ways to cause pain. And Ambrose knew he was capable of hurting her in a thousand ways.
Ambrose stopped trying to pull his face away, surrendering to the way it felt to be touched. He hadn’t allowed anyone to touch him for a long time. Her hands were small, like the rest of her, but the emotions they stirred in him were enormous, gigantic, all-consuming. She made him shake, made him quake inside, vibrate like the tracks under an on-coming train.
Her hands left his face and traveled down the sides of his neck. One side smooth, the other riddled with divots and scars and rippled where the skin had been damaged. She didn’t pull away, but felt each mark, memorized each wound. And then she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his neck, just below his jaw. And then again on the other side, on the side that bore no scars, letting him know that the kiss wasn’t about sympathy but desire. It was a caress. And his control broke.