The blood roared through his ears and his heart pounded in his chest, but neither one was enough to stop Gwen's
words from penetrating through his passion fogged brain. Hank swallowed hard then raised himself up on his elbows
and looked into her shock filled brown eyes. "What did you just say?"
He watched her drag in a deep breath then close her eyes trying to... trying to what? Shut him out? He supposed
that was possible. Given what he'd learned about her over the last six months he knew she wasn't going to just
let what she said stand. "Um, Hank, I didn't... I didn't mean that the way it sounded."
"You didn't." He said furrowing his brow and watching as she dragged in another breath then opened her
eyes to reveal her uncertainty.
"No, I just... I was... I was just caught up in the moment." She paused for a heartbeat then rushed on
the words practically flying out of her mouth before he even had time to comprehend them. "I was caught up
in how you made me feel and I... I meant that I love you for making me feel that way. I didn't mean.... I didn't
mean I looove you."
"So let me get this straight," Hank said. "You don't love me, but you made love with me?"
"Hank! I was trying to -." She stopped and closed her eyes then covered her face with her forearm. "I
"I know what you were trying to do." He said with a chuckle as he raised his hand and moved her arm away
from her face. When she opened her eyes again, he grew serious. "Did you mean it?"
"I didn't mean to say it." She said searching his eyes then giving him a small smile. "But I do
He started to open his mouth, but her finger across his lips stopped him. "Don't. You don't have to say anything.
I didn't mean to put you on the spot by saying I love you. I wasn't ready to say it. I didn't even know I was going
to say it until the words left my mouth. I don't want you to say something you don't feel just because you think
it's what I want to hear. I don't want that at all."
"And you really think that's what I'd be doing?" He asked when she finally removed her finger from his
lips. "You really think I'd say something that I don't mean?"
"No, I think you'll think you mean it. But -" She took a deep breath then looked at him her eyes brimming
with unshed tears. "I don't want to ruin what is happening by us saying something before we're ready. Can
we just forget I said it?"
"Forget it?" Hank asked finally rolling himself off of her and sliding out of the bed. He walked into
the bathroom and took care of the condom then walked back out to search for his boxers. He found them on the floor
beside the bed and made quick work of putting them on. "You want me to forget that you just said you loved
"No." He said cutting her off and holding up his hand. "Don't say anything else. I can't believe
you actually asked me to forget that you just said you love me! After what we just shared..."
He broke off then looked around the floor until he found his jeans. He jammed his right leg into one pant leg then
did the same with his left and pulled the jeans up over his hips. He zipped them furiously, but didnt bother with
the snap. He was angrier than he'd been in a really long time and he wasn't really sure why. He just knew her suggestion
about forgetting what she said really ticked him off.
"Hank I... I didn't mean to upset you. I just... I just didn't want to -"
"To put me on the spot. Yeah, I got that." He said coldly as he began to look around for his shirt. He
found it by the dresser and slammed his arms into the sleeves. There were only three buttons left on it and he
didn't bother messing with them. "You know what I think, Gwen? I think you're scared of what you said and
you're even more scared that I feel the same way. In fact, judging by the look on your face I'd say you're terrified."
"Terrified?" She said rising up on her knees and pulling the sheet across her chest. "I'm not terrified.
And I'm certainly not scared of what I said or that you feel the same way! I just didn't want you to have to say
something you weren't ready to say! That's all."
"And what makes you think I'm not ready to say it?" He asked walking toward her and sitting on the edge
of the bed then leaning down to pull his shoes out from under the bed. He raised his right foot and placed it on
his left knee then pulled on his shoe. When he had both shoes on he sat his feet on the floor then got up and turned
to face her. "What makes you so damn sure that I'm not ready?"
"The fact that you didn't say it." She said closing her eyes and lowering her voice to a tone barely
above a whisper.
"You didn't give me a chance!" He said placing his hands on his hips then releasing a heavy sigh when
she opened her eyes to reveal her tears. "You stopped me before I could say anything."
"I know." She whispered in voice rich with defeat. He stood frozen as the tears started to fall down
her cheeks. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am the one who isn't ready. I didn't expect to feel this way, Hank.
I really didn't. I mean I knew I cared about you, but the possibility that I was falling in love with you never
even entered my head. So when those words came out I was... I was just as surprised as you were."
All the anger he felt melted away as he saw the truth in her eyes. She really was scared and whether he admitted
it or not, he was too. This was entirely new territory for him. She was his best friend and he'd just taken her
to bed. But more than that she just told him she loved him and even though he hadn't said he yet, he knew he felt
the same way.
Gwen reached up to wipe away her tears then sucked in a deep breath when Hank sat back down onto the bed and pulled
her into his arms. She laid her head against his shoulder then closed her eyes as he began to rub his hand over
her bare back.
"Don't cry, Gwen." He whispered as he moved his hand higher and began to stroke the back of her head.
"If you're not ready to face what's happening between us or if you need time to take it all in then we'll
table this discussion for now. Will that make you feel better?"
She raised her head then favored him with a small smile. "I don't know. I just want to be sure this time,
Hank. I can't take another heartbreak. I really can't."
"I won't break your heart, Gwen." He said reaching up and touching her cheek with the knuckles of his
right hand. "I won't hurt you the way Ethan did. You have to know that."
"I know you're nothing like Ethan. It's just things between us have changed so much over the last few days
and..." She stopped and took a deep breath then told him the one thing that had been going through her mind
since she'd uttered those three little words. "I'm scared that it's all happening too fast."
"Then we'll slow things down until you're ready." He said moving his hand to the back of her neck and
gently rubbing the tension there. "I don't want to rush you into something that you're not ready for. I don't
want to lose you."
"You won't lose me." She whispered leaning in to place a small kiss against his lips. "I just need
some time to digest what's happened. I just need time."
"Then you got it." He said brushing his lips across hers then pulling her head back to his shoulder and
wrapping his arms around her. "We'll take things one day at a time and when you're ready to talk about what's
happening between us then we will."
She nodded her head against his shoulder then wrapped her arms around his waist and held on for dear life. She
had no idea what she'd done to deserve a man like Hank, but she wasn't going to screw it up by allowing things
to move at a break neck speed. She knew how she felt about him, but she wasn't ready to hear how he felt about
her... not yet. Because the moment he told her that, would be the moment that both of their lives changed forever.