I drank coffee while I sat out on Woods’ porch and watched the waves break against the sand. I had been forbidden to go to work today. Woods said he’d have to deal with his dad and having me there would stress him out. He was worried about me getting hurt. After the night we’d spent, I was too weak to do much of anything else. So, I’d agreed and stayed here.

If working at the club was going to be an issue I’d need to get a job somewhere else. But that hadn’t been an argument I wanted to deal with today. Last night’s high was still with me. I’d lost count of how many orgasms I’d had but I knew Woods had come inside me five times. Each and every time had been memorable.

I had taken my pill first thing this morning before brushing my teeth. If we were going to start having sex like this I couldn’t miss one.

I couldn’t have children. That would be a horrible fate to give a kid. A mother who was destined to lose her mind at some point. No kid needed a life like I’d had. I swore I’d never do to a child what my mother did to me but I couldn’t be sure. Not if I snapped mentally. My mother hadn’t been a bad person. She’d just been unwell.

I shook that fear away because I was being careful. I wouldn’t get pregnant.

My phone rang and I reached for it. Braden’s name flashed across the screen. I hadn’t talked to her in over a week. I’d been so wrapped up in Woods I hadn’t taken time to call her.

“Good morning,” I said into the phone.

“Good morning stranger who doesn’t call her best friend anymore. How are you?” she replied.

“I’m good.” The meaning behind that one simple word was powerful.

Braden laughed. “Good, huh? Like how good? Like he’s super hot and gives you multiple orgasms, or good like you’ve never had better sex, or good like you’re gonna marry him and have his kids?”

I had been smiling until the last sentence. My smile vanished and my heart slammed against my chest. Marry him and have his kids… I could never marry him. He knew that. I’d told him I was crazy and that I could mentally snap at any minute. Did he even love me? I didn’t think so. He hadn’t told me. But I loved him. I loved him more than anything. And I couldn’t marry him. This would have to end eventually because I couldn’t marry him. He would want kids. He didn’t need a wife who would eventually lose her mind.

Oh God. What was I doing?

“Della, you okay?” Braden’s voice asked. I could hear the worry in it. “Shit. Della I didn’t think before I said that. Dammit honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Think about the guy and the hot sex. Think about everything you need to tell me. Stay focused. Stay with me.” She was working hard to get me back on track. The problem was I wasn’t off track. I was very well aware of the truth. The facts. And I’d let myself forget them.

“I love him. I can’t love him,” I said quietly into the phone.

The door behind me opened and I turned around to see a man I’d only seen once before. It had been at the ball when I’d had to sing. It was Woods’ father.

“Don’t you say that, Della. You can love him. You deserve this. You are not your mother. You can be happy. This is what I wanted for you for so long. Does he love you too?” Braden’s voice asked me on the other line.

I stared up at Woods’ father as he walked over and took a seat facing me. Why was he here? He was supposed to be with Woods.

“I can’t. I don’t know,” I told her, unable to look away from the hard cold eyes in front of me.“Yes, you can. You can have babies. They will be beautiful and special like you. Don’t think you can’t.” I had to stop her. I could feel the darkness starting to close in. Visions of my mother and her wild eyes staring at me. The phone fell from my hand.“Let’s keep this simple,” the man staring at me said with disgust in his voice. “How much money is it going to take to get you to leave and never step foot back in this town again? Name your price and it’s yours.”Della, Della, let’s sing a song. Della, Della, come eat with your brother. His food is getting cold. He’s waiting on you. Della, did you see your brother’s favorite shirt in the laundry room? He said you took it and he’s very upset. He won’t eat Della. He won’t eat. We have to make him eat.Did you go outside Della? Your brother said you did. He said you snuck outside while I was sleeping. He sees you. He just wants to keep you safe. I didn’t keep him safe but he’s helping me with you. Don’t you want to be safe Della? You can’t go out there.Della, he said he was waiting on me. He loves me Della. You don’t love me. You want to disobey me and run around at night outside in the dark. He doesn’t disobey me. He wishes he had stayed with me. Now he’s waiting on me. He said he’d eat his food if I came to him. Della, how do I go to him? What do I do?“Momma! NO! Momma! NO!” My cries don’t ease the pain. The blood is everywhere. In a pool around her body. I left her and she went to him. I shouldn’t have left. I shouldn’t have left.I blinked my eyes several times. I was on the ground. I touched the warm wood underneath me and slowly eased myself up. I was lying on the porch. Confused I glanced around and saw my phone lying on the lounger beside me and my cup of coffee on the table beside it.Mr. Kerrington had been here. I’d been on the phone with Braden. Crap, Braden, I reached for my phone and I had several missed calls from her and two from Woods. I hadn’t been out long. It was only an hour later than the last time I checked. Good.I glanced back at the door and wondered what I was going to do about Mr. Kerrington. Had I dreamed him being here or was it real? Would he just leave me like that? Wouldn’t he have called Woods? I started to get up when I heard the front door open and then Woods came running into the living room and straight for me. I quickly stood up just in time for him to barrel out onto the porch and pull me into his arms.“You’re okay. You didn’t answer. I called and you didn’t answer. Why are you on the ground? Did it happen? Did you have a panic attack? Why? Come here.” He was babbling as he sat down on the lounger I’d been sitting in earlier and held me in his lap.He brushed my hair back out of my face and pressed a firm hard kiss to my lips.“You scared me to death, Della. Why didn’t you answer baby? Are you okay?”I didn’t want to tell him the truth but then I didn’t want to lie to him either. But I wasn’t positive his father had been here so I wasn’t going to bring that up.“I was talking to Braden and she said something that triggered a memory. She didn’t mean to it just happens sometimes. I think I blacked out. I woke up on the ground. She’s called me more times than you. I need to call her back she’s probably freaking out.”Woods pulled me into his arms. “Dammit. I hate that you went through that alone. I can’t stand it. Fuck,” he growled as he held me tight.He couldn’t keep doing this. He was getting too upset over my issues. I was already screwed up and I was just going to get worse. It was inevitable. Could he handle that? No. I knew he couldn’t. He would also want kids.“You can’t always be with me Woods. You have to accept this will happen sometimes when you aren’t around.”Woods let out a defeated sigh. “I can’t do that. I don’t ever want you alone when that happens. I’m going to find a cure. I’m going to find the best damn doctors out there that can help you with this. We can beat this. I promise you.” He sounded so determined. I hadn’t been honest with him. I hadn’t explained to him that this was just the beginning of my madness.The look in his eyes mirrored what I felt. Did that mean he loved me? Had I let him fall in love with me completely blind to whom it was he was loving?