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Bittersweet Promises


  Shanna fought like a wild thing when he picked her up to carry her back into the barn, so hysterical that she could barely make a sound. Only gasping chokes emerged from her throat and she twisted and writhed in his grasp. Caught between not wanting to hurt her and somehow having to calm her enough to talk some sense into her, Cody dropped her on a pile of loose hay and covered her body with his own. Why in God's name had he mentioned kidnapping? All he wanted to do was care for her and Toby for the rest of his life—never let anyone hurt her or take away what she loved. His scathing words, jealously thrown at her from the depths of his own hurt, were torturing her. God, what an ass he was. But how, dear Lord, could she ask him to help her find her way into another man's arms? Cody buried his face against her neck and pressed his body down on hers. The hay gave under them at first, but finally Shanna was immobile in his grasp, her tangled hair spread out against the hay. "Please, Shanna," Cody mumbled. "I'll let you go if you promise not to run. You've got my word, I'll do whatever it takes to see that you don't lose Toby!" Shanna's muscles slackened. After an instant, she nodded her head slightly against his hair. Cody rolled to the side. He reached out a hand and brushed a lock of hair from her face, unsure of exactly what to say, but knowing his next words could either send her back into hysterics or make her hate him forever. "Shanna, I...." Cody gulped and the words tore from his throat, with him unable to stop them. "Oh, God, Shanna. Do you know how much I wish I could just kiss you and make it all go away? Do you know how much I've come to love you?" Shanna stared at him, eyes wide in her tear-streaked face. Hesitantly, tenderly, she touched his cheek. "I love you, too, Cody Garret. I think I've known it since that night we talked about Melinda. Oh, God!" Shanna pulled away and tucked her legs under her, sitting up in the hay. "What am I saying? I shouldn't have said that." Cody sat up and faced her, reaching across to tip her face up from where she had buried it on the arms wrapped around her knees. "Is it true, Shanna? Do you love me?" "I... it's... I shouldn't have said it. I wouldn't have, if I hadn't been so upset." "Is it true?" Cody demanded again. "All right." Shanna lifted her chin proudly and met his eyes. "All right. It's true. I love you, but nothing can ever come of it. I can't have you and Toby both." "Right now, that's enough for me. Maybe it will have to be enough for the rest of my life. If it turns out that your way is the only way for you to keep Toby, Shanna, I'll stand behind you. And I'll always be there for you after that, if you need me." "Thank you, Cody," Shanna whispered.

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