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One Perfect Night

Written by Teresa Southwick

Chapter Five

Julie was torn between a warm, fuzzy feeling that he'd protected her from a messy part of his past and irritation that he hadn't believed she would be up to the challenge.

"Why did you feel you couldn't lean on me?" she asked.

"It was too much to ask." His eyes blazed with intensity and something else, something primitive and honest. "I was an afterthought to my parents—they were never there for me. It's a lousy way to grow up, and I vowed if I ever had a child, I'd give one hundred percent of myself to him. And that meant I didn't have much to give to you."

"So, you decided for me what I couldn't handle?"

"I didn't want to hurt you." 

"And yet you did."

There was honest regret in his eyes. "It seemed like the best decision at the time. Now I realize I was a jerk. But I'm asking for a chance to prove I'm not a total jerk. That I can make things right."

If there was someone on the planet who claimed they'd never been stupid about a relationship, she'd bet they were lying. Maybe she was being stupid, but she believed Ben was being truthful.

He looked so completely miserable and sincere that her resolve to keep him at arm's length weakened. "I appreciate what you're doing, Ben, but—"

"Don't say it." He held up his hand to stop her. "I hate the word but. I'll cop to an error in judgment, but my only intention was to protect you, Jules. I didn't want the feelings on either side to go too far before I knew one way or the other if I was going to be a father."

"Very noble."

"I wasn't going for noble, just trying to do right by you and a child that might have been mine."

"Would you have married her if it turned out you were the baby's father?" The words popped out before she thought them through, but somehow it was important for her to know.

"I'd have taken responsibility and been there for him, but I don't love my ex and marriage would have been a mistake. The same kind my parents made." He stared at her long and hard. "Besides, I'd have been thinking about another woman."

"I see."

"That makes one of us. I was so sure I had everything figured out, and I was wrong. What I didn't count on was missing your support through the whole mess."

The thought of him being all alone in a crisis bothered her more that she wanted. "Was anyone there for you? Your parents?"

"No. They never have been, and there was no reason to think that would change now." He met her gaze while dark memories swirled in his own. "And now I'm asking for the opportunity to make things up to you."

"That's not necessary." She put her hand on the door and started to open it. "We should probably say good-night now."

"Not yet. There's something I'm going to ask you."

"Yes, I've forgiven you."

"No, you haven't, but that's not it. Before I ask, though, you should be aware that I'm not leaving until you agree."

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About the author

I discovered my love for books through being lazy. In a high-school hi...

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Teresa Southwick

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