“I gave you everything I was,” I whispered. “It still wasn’t enough.”
“That’s not true,” he grated. Still cupping my face, he forced me to look at him. He ran his thumbs beneath my eyelids, tracing the tears away. “I want to be a better man for you, Katelyn. I didn’t—” His voice caught and I saw his crystalline eyes gloss over. “I have never had to share my past with someone outside of a shrink. I was caught off guard by Roger at dinner and I didn’t think you could ever look at me again.”
“I love you, Adam.”
“That’s what confuses me. You’ve known for a while…about the things that happened when I was young, but you still stay by me. What happened…what he did to me…I never wanted you to know the kind of shame and hate I carried for myself.”
Before I could think better of it, I wrapped my arms around his neck and tugged him into me. “I’m sorry you suffer. Nothing could ever make me think less of you. You own my soul, Adam. I wish I could take the pain for you.” I backed away enough to look him in the eye. “But I can’t handle your rejection. Throwing me away…”
“I’m sorry, Katelyn. God, how I’m sorry. I wanted you gone because I didn’t want you to look at me. Not the other way around. I pushed you away. I’ll never forgive myself for that. As soon as you left, I knew the mistake I had made.” He tilted my chin up. “It took me all of five minutes to run after you.”
“It took you hours to get here,” I argued.
He took a deep breath and took several steps backward. “I know words aren’t enough. I would have gotten here sooner, but I had to wake up and harass my psychiatrist to get this before I showed up here.” Adam took a manila envelope from inside his wool coat and handed it to me.
“Outside of my shrink, you’re the only one who’s ever seen this. Who will ever see this.”
My hands were shaking but I opened the envelope. Documents, records, photos. A big pile of Adam. I saw the picture of Adam as a young boy right before he went into the custody of the state. His eyes were stark and deathly looking.
“It’s all there. The last twenty years of my life. And it’s all yours, if you’ll still have me.”
My chest felt tight and my stupid eyes wouldn’t seem to stop dripping. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I want to. Because I trust you, Katelyn. And for you…I’ll try.”
A watery smile split my face. My tortured, brave man. He was trying. I knew dealing with this, airing your darkest secrets to another, left you vulnerable and terrified. But he trusted me. Just like I trusted him.
“From the moment I met you, Katelyn, I knew you were it for me.”
He took my left hand and placed a small piece of paper in it.
“Dinner was ruined. I had planned to ask you something, but I realize that now is not the right time. I do want you to know, though, that I will not give you up. Whatever I have to do to make this right, I will. But I want you to realize that I mean what I say.”
I looked at the folded piece of paper he’d handed me. Setting the file down, I used both hands to unfold it.
It was some kind of receipt from a Lorraine Schwartz. I heaved and my stomach twisted when I saw the price for a…ring…written down.
I tried to form words, but I couldn’t. So I clamped a palm over my mouth. Another tear slid down my cheek when I read the date of this invoice.
It was dated the same day I’d met Adam.
My gaze snapped to him.
“I knew, Katelyn. I just want you to know that. Know that I have no intention of letting you go.”
“A-are you proposing to me with a piece of paper?” I was in so much shock, I didn’t know what to do, or how to react.
He grinned. “Kind of.” He pulled a massive diamond ring out of his pocket and sank to his knees. “Or I could use this.” He lifted the shiny ring in one hand and gripped my hip in the other.
“Katelyn. I’ve never bowed to anyone, but I will gladly live the rest of my life on my knees before you, if you’ll be mine. I wanted you to know that this isn’t a game, or a ploy to get you back. This is real. And it has been since the moment I saw you.”
His thumb rubbed over my hipbone. “Katelyn Gunn, will you marry me?”
I sank to my knees and kissed him with all the breath I had left. “Yes,” I whispered between sobbing and peppering his mouth with kisses over and over. “Yes.”
He wrapped me in his arms. “I love you, Katelyn.” And I believed him. Our pasts couldn’t hurt us anymore, because we had let them go, and reached for each other instead. Yes, we still had a long way to go and a lot to deal with once the light of day hit, but for now, we were happy.
And there, on our knees, submitting to one another, Adam and I finally found our middle ground.