The Penance of Black Betty
up at him, shyly. “Am I too clingy now?”
                  “No.” He cupped her face in his hands. “God, no. Don’t ever think that. I love you just like you are.”
                  “What if I’m never like her again?” Her eyes shined with wetness.
                  “You are her, but the best parts. You’re kind and caring. You let yourself be vulnerable and trusting. That you can do that when you don’t even remember me—us—means so much to me. It means your strong and brave, just like you’ve always been. You didn’t lose yourself or her, you lost the shield you built around yourself and that’s okay. It’s for the best. There was so much of your past that needed to be forgotten to free you, and now you are—free to be who you’re meant to be.”
                  Tears fell from her eyes. “What if--”
                  Alistair placed a finger over her lips. “No more what if’s. Even if your memories come back, you’re still who you are. You can handle the memories without letting them take you down a dark path. And I’ll be here with you, no matter what.”
                  He kissed her then, putting every ounce of emotion he felt in his heart into it. She shifted, urging him on top of her. Her hands found their way up his shirt, into his hair, over his hips. He was so delirious in his love for this woman, he didn’t know who started undressing the other first, all he knew was that soon they were bare, pressed skin against skin, kissing like it was their air to breathe. She wrapped her legs around his and he pushed inside her. They stayed that way, still, joined, kissing like they were drowning in each other. He began rocking into her, slowly, gently, making love to her. It had  never been like this—an act of the heart and mind—before. Alistair had never experienced anything like this, anything that wasn’t lust-fueled sex, even with a woman he loved. This was beyond sex. It was beautiful and innocent, the definition of love making. He wanted it to last forever.
                  Bethany threaded her fingers between his, holding tightly. Her lips parted from his as her neck arched. He felt it then too, the heat, the gripping urge, the pressure mounting. Bethany let out a hoarse cry, her insides contracting around him. He groaned and buried his lips against her neck, spilling into her. “I love you,” he whispered against her damp skin.
                  “Thank you for loving me.” She ran her nails up and down his back. “I love you, too. I know I have for a while, haven’t I?”
                  “I hope so.” Alistair lifted his head and looked into her eyes. “I’m not ever going to stop loving you either. We might as well get married and start having kids.” He prodded her side, tickling her. “Am I scaring you?”
                  She laughed. “No. We didn’t use a condom—does that scare you?”
                  For a moment, he couldn’t breathe, but after a second or two of examining how he felt about it, was surprisingly calm. “No. I’m not bothered at all by that. I have this feeling that something bigger than us is guiding us together now.”
                  “Ixchel?” She nuzzled her nose against the tip of his.
                  “Maybe. Some kind of strange fate gets credit for bringing us together. I’m just the lucky bastard that gets to be with you.”
                  He rolled to his back, pulling her against him. She rested her head on his shoulder and let out a contented sigh. It was the best sound he’d ever heard.
                   
     
                   
     
                   
     
                  EPILOGUE
     
                   
                  The horses galloped ahead on the beach. Alistair did his best to hang

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