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My mouth hangs open silently as he walks past me, but I don’t respond. I know he’s talking about his wife and revenge and how good it must have felt to him when he exacted it. I want to argue with him, because that’s not me.

But deep down I know there’s some truth to what he’s saying. I might feel horrible for taking another life, but I’m not sad JT is gone from this existence. My world is safer. Some other unsuspecting woman out there is safer.

I’ll let that thought soothe my conscience and I’ll keep that in reserve for when I get down on myself.

“That was a deep conversation,” I hear from behind me and turn slowly to see Beck walking into the kitchen.

“Eavesdropping?” I ask with a cocked eyebrow.

He walks up to me, puts his hands to my waist, and pulls me in close. “Couldn’t help it. Wanted to make sure he wasn’t hitting on my girlfriend.”

I give a husky laugh because no way Beck even had that remote thought. There’s few people he trusts in his life, and Dennis Flaherty is now unconditionally one of them.

I snuggle into his chest, feel his heartbeat, inhale his scent deep into my lungs and hold it there for a moment. When I let it out, I tell him, “I can’t help being conflicted over what I did to JT. Is that disappointing to you?”

“No, baby,” he says, squeezing me tight. “It makes you beautiful and kind and forgiving.”

“I didn’t forgive him,” I argue.

“No, but you forgave what life handed you. You made peace with your pain long before you had to take his life and that’s why you’re conflicted,” he says, and the man is wise beyond his years.

That makes perfect sense to me.

“Thank you for saying that,” I whisper.

“Thank you for loving me,” he says back so reverently I have to pull away and look into his face. I’m almost bowled over by the naked expression of devotion on his face.

“Beck?” I ask, my head tilted, because I can tell he’s got something on his mind.

His hands come to my face. “Sela, there is no one in this world I love more than you. And I mean no one. I don’t even bother questioning why you came into my life, or the crappy circumstances we were both handed. It was fucking destiny. Like there was this massive puzzle in front of me…of a life that was simple at times but still lacking. And I didn’t know it was lacking, but there were these pieces missing. I didn’t know what they were until you came along, and the pieces started falling into place.”

I swallow against the emotion clogging my throat. “Pieces?”

“You gave me all the pieces that were missing,” he says with a smile. His fingers stroke my cheeks. “Laughter, comfortable silence, a sounding board. Fucking amazing sex. Love. Devotion. Care. Did I mention amazing sex?”

I laugh and tuck my lower lip in, biting at it to keep from quivering with emotion.

“The point being, the puzzle is solved. You put all the missing pieces together and I’m so fucking complete and balanced right now, I feel like I could conquer the world with you at my side.”

“Oh, Beck,” I murmur, going up on tiptoes to kiss him lightly. I bring my hands to his face and hold him tight. “You gave me things I never dared hope for in this life. I never believed I would ever have true happiness. I just didn’t believe it was possible, but you’ve proven me wrong on that.”

“And I give you great orgasms,” he says with a wink.

“Yes, that’s what I love about you the most,” I say dryly, but then go up to kiss him again. “You give me everything. You are my everything. And today our life starts brand new.”

“What should we do?” he asks curiously, eyes bright and shining with beer, victory, and love.

“I think we should move to the beach,” I throw out at him. “It’s different. A major change. And besides, you can do your work from anywhere.”

“I think we could do that,” he says, looping his arm around my shoulder and turning me back toward the party. As we walk toward our friends, he reminds me, “But remember, you said it had to have whitewashed cabinets and a peeling linoleum floor that will need to be replaced but we’ll never do so because it will be so charming.”

“You remembered,” I say with a laugh as my arm goes around his waist.

“I remember every smile you’ve brought to my face, Sela. And I can’t wait for tomorrow because I know you’ll do it again.”

My life is like a mental scrapbook, clips and images that I easily call forth into my mind that chronicle my journey of growth, salvation, and redemption. I try not to think about the past too much, but rather choose to start remembering them where the story left off, so you can judge the merits of how far I’ve come.

Three weeks after murder charges were dropped…

It’s been three weeks since the charges were dropped against Beck and me, but it seems like a lifetime ago. We’ve already instituted so much change in our life that sometimes the past feels unreal to either of us. We’re big believers of “clean slates” and we decided that we needed to simplify things so that we could start creating a new life.

We also need to leave California behind.

“The best feature by far,” the Realtor says as she sweeps her arm across the narrow living room that leads out to a rickety-looking deck, “is the beach access and panoramic Gulf of Mexico view.”

I watch as Beck walks to the sliding glass doors that lead out but I don’t follow. I can see the view from where I’m standing in the kitchen, which sits behind the living room separated by an L-shaped counter, and it’s breathtaking. A boardwalk picks up at the bottom of the deck stairs and extends out probably fifty yards over the dunes and down onto the beach. The sand is white, soft looking, and the gulf waters off the Florida Panhandle are shades of light blue to turquoise, which gets progressively darker as the water gets deeper. I turn my back on the Realtor and Beck, and take a slow walk around the kitchen, trying to envision what it would be like to live here. I’ve lived in California my whole life and it’s very different here. Flat and hot. A moist hot. It will take some getting used to, but as Beck says, I can walk around in a bikini all the time and he’s not opposed to that.

A hand on my hip and Beck is back with me briefly before he pushes past me into the kitchen. He looks at the Formica counters and veneer cabinets, running his hand over one of the doors. The three-story, narrow cottage is just 1,380 square feet and was built in the early eighties. It’s very dated.

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