Chapter 34, Part 4 (End of Chapter)

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"Is Jack still in the picture?"

"Oh, no! But, Dixon, you know it's . . . not possible."

"I'll wait for you."

She looked away. "No," she sighed, "I couldn't ask that of you. And even if I could, you'd be in no place to make such a vow now to someone who can't return it, and at a time when you're still so vulnerable. You'd just be exchanging one sorrow for another."

"Vulnerable?"

"There's still Rowena."

"What? Rowena?"

"Rowena."

He pulled back. "I don't understand."

"Dixon, you're still in mourning. And you . . . loved her. You need time to get over her. It wouldn't be right to—"

His eyes opened wide. "You're wrong," he interrupted. "I loved her, yes, but not the way that you think. Oh, I'll admit that there was a time I was entirely smitten with her, but it was nothing more than youthful—I don't know. Inanity? She never gave me reason to think my feelings were returned and, eventually, I came to understand that it was all . . . wrong. I was an Oathtaker. I'd sworn an oath. I wasn't available. She was my charge. She was married. She wasn't available. Talk about being unequally yoked!"

He stood for a moment, then sat back down. "But you know, even if none of that had been the case, Rowena would've been all wrong for me. Once I figured that out, I was free to care for her in a positive way."

"But when we first escaped with the girls. That night at the campfire. You remember. You told me that I was right."

"No, I told you that you were right 'about most things.' And yes, I remember. I remember perfectly." He paused. "I remember because, in that moment, I knew."

"You knew?"

"I knew what you thought. I let you think that. I wanted you to think that. The truth is that I knew the moment you told me to leave, that I could never be without you or the girls and . . . I hoped your believing that I loved Rowena would help to keep a distance between us."

Their eyes met.

He leaned in. "I remember because that was the moment I knew I was destined to love you."

For a moment, she was still, then she turned away. Her eyes welled with tears. "Stop it. I can't take any more."

"I told you. Truly, I'll wait for you. Unless of course, you don't find me . . . charming," he said, smirking, "in which case, I may have this all wrong."

"What?"

"It's a long standing family joke. My mother thought I was so difficult, that if I ever found a woman who found me charming, I would know I'd found the right one for me. She said that when I found her, I'd best hold on. But you said it yourself—tonight—at dinner. You said you were charmed." He smiled, his brow raised, looking long into her eyes.

She grinned. "And so I was."

"So, you see? There you have it. I knew it from that night and I know it now." Slowly he reached up and touched her cheek. "I love you," he whispered.

She closed her eyes. "Oh, gracious Ehyeh!" she exclaimed. "Dixon, this is all wrong. I can't break my oath and I can't ask you to wait for me. The girls are just infants! It'll be a lifetime before I'm free."

"Just for the moment, imagine you are."

She looked long in his eyes. "This is very dangerous, Dixon."

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