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To Have and To Hold

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...I love you with all my heart…


...please don’t turn your eyes away…


...accept my heart…


He meant those words. I could see it in his eyes as he whispered them so fervently, so cautiously, like they’d be snatched away if he spoke too loud. He held me and told me he loved me and only me. His breaths were hot against my forehead, my cheek, my mouth. I could feel the solidness of his embrace through the arm that encircled my back. The other hand cradled my face gently and lifted my trembling mouth to his.


...just be honest with me…


...tell me that you share my feelings too…


I kissed my reply to his pleading lips. I could feel his heart racing beneath my hand, his breath like pants, quick and shallow. My own heart was beating fast enough to burst from my chest.


His fingers were warm, oh so warm! as they threaded through my wild red hair. They snagged on a curl and my eyes watered, but this moment could not be interrupted by that. All that mattered was the softness of his gratitude and the dampness of tears on our cheeks.


He broke away first with a gasp. His lips were red, his whole face flushed.


“Don’t go anywhere. Please. Stay here so I can protect you.” He kissed me. “My love.”


“I’m not going anywhere,” I promised with an answering kiss. “I want to stay here with you, Zen. Always.”


I had never meant anything so wholeheartedly in my life. All the terror of the afternoon--the stranger’s appearance, the flight from Rika’s apartment--faded away in the rush of Zen’s warmth and the strength of his embrace, in his scent like smokey jasmine and vanilla.


My beautiful Zen.


When we pulled back this time, he said, “Let’s get to bed.”


“In the same bed?” I asked.


He blushed. “I’ll take the couch.”


“No. Wait. I was just teasing.” I brushed a peck against his chin. “I don’t mind sharing.”


He hesitated. “I would love to, but I don’t know if I can…”


“Can what?”


“Keep the beast leashed.”




He grinned, all hooded eyes and sultry smile. “I’d have you exactly where I want you.”


“Ohh.” I blushed. We had just kissed today. I didn’t think I was ready for...that.


He saw it on my face and squeezed my hands reassuringly. “We don’t have to do anything but sleep. It’s been a really long day.”


“Thank you.” I beamed up at him. He was so beautiful, so honest. Our love had begun in a heartbeat’s time but we could nurture it over a lifetime, and I knew Zen would never push me past my comfort zone. He’d proved that time and again, always pulling back when I hesitated, never pressuring me for more than I felt comfortable giving.


We crawled under his sheets together and lay a long time in the darkness, holding hands and listening to the other’s breathing. It felt like a dream. From the day we’d met there had been something between us, and now I could sense it blossoming, opening up petal by petal to reveal the heart within.


My lovely Zen. I’ll love you always and forever.


I squeezed his hand one last time as I slipped into sleep.


...I’m so grateful that I can be with you like this…


...for now...this is enough...