His words seemed to finally register with Tate. Tate dropped his gaze, embarrassment and the knowledge that Jensen was dead-on reflected on his face.

“I’m sorry, Chess,” he said in a sincere voice. “I’ll leave so you can finish what you’re doing. But there are two things you need to understand. One, I love you. I’ll never love anyone else. And two, I’m not giving up on us. I’ll do whatever it takes to get you back and to earn your trust and forgiveness, even if it takes forever.”

The conviction in his statement was undeniable. Before Chessy could respond, Tate turned and slowly walked out the door. A moment later, the front door slammed and then she heard the engine start up in his car.

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Kylie pulled one of the slats down in the blinds of the bedroom window and peered out.

“He’s gone,” she said in a low voice.

Chessy should have been relieved, but the only reaction she could summon was overwhelming sadness.

Jensen pulled her into his arms and gave her a huge hug. “Chin up, honey. We’ll get you through this. I know I can speak for Joss and Dash as well, and we’ll all do whatever we can to help you.”

Chessy gave him a watery smile. “Thank you. I appreciate y’all. You’re the best friends I could ever ask for.”

“I’ll start taking your stuff out to the car while you and Kylie finish up packing. Joss is coming over as soon as we get back to the house and I’ll cook dinner for us.”

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“If you don’t stop, I’m going to cry again,” Chessy said with a sniffle. “I can see why Kylie loves you so much. You’re so sweet and thoughtful, Jensen.”

He smiled. “As long as Kylie recognizes what a catch I am.”

Kylie snorted. “If I don’t, I have no doubt you’ll remind me on a daily basis.”

“Damn right,” he said smugly.

Then he gathered an armload of Chessy’s clothing and walked out of the bedroom. A few moments later, he returned carrying the suitcases from the car and opened them up on the bed.

“If there’s anything in the rest of the house you know you want, tell me and I’ll start packing that stuff,” Jensen said.

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“I honestly don’t know,” Chessy said softly. “I’ll do a walkthrough before we leave. I shouldn’t be but a few more minutes. There’s no point in moving so much stuff twice. Maybe after I get my own place I’ll get the rest. As it is now I don’t have anywhere to put everything.”

Kylie rubbed her hand up and down Chessy’s back comfortingly.

Her own place. How sterile and lonely it sounded. But it was something she had to face. She couldn’t impose on Kylie and Jensen forever. They were still in the beginnings of their relationship and the last thing they needed was a mopey third wheel underfoot.

Maybe a town house. Something small and homey without a lot of maintenance. There were plenty of upscale neighborhoods in the Woodlands with housing ranging from apartment complexes to duplexes and townhomes. She’d rent at first until she figured out a solid plan to support herself. No matter that she would be entitled to a settlement from Tate in the divorce, she still needed to evaluate her career options.

She had a business degree and had job experience in a marketing firm, but she hadn’t worked anywhere in the five years she and Tate had been married. In hindsight it had been incredibly stupid of her to give up everything and depend solely on her husband for support, but at the time she’d found it wildly romantic that he was so determined to provide for her every need.

Setting aside thoughts of divorce and her lack of independence, she finished packing what she wanted from the bedroom and Jensen lugged it all out to the car while she and Kylie did a sweep of the rest of the house.

On the fireplace mantel in the living room was a photo of her and Tate looking so happy that it hurt to look at it. Her hand hovered over it, wanting to take it, to be able to recapture a time in their marriage when they’d been in love and deliciously carefree. Before work had consumed all of Tate’s time and attention and she’d slipped in his priorities.

She closed her eyes. Could she really blame him for wanting to make a success of himself? Was she being selfish for not being more understanding?

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No. That may have been true before the night at The House. But it was inexcusable for him to have left her at her most vulnerable when she was defenseless against another man’s actions. But then did she share in the blame for participating in a kink they both enjoyed and had shared in multiple times before the other night?

Finally making her decision, she carefully picked up the photo and stuck it under her arm before reaching for her wedding album from the built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace.

There were other photos. Vacations. Honeymoon pictures. Candid shots that had been taken in unguarded moments. She was infused with longing for those simpler times when their focus had been each other and there were no worries about jobs or careers or anything except loving and being.

“I’m done,” Chessy quietly announced as she deposited the stack of picture frames and photo albums into Jensen’s waiting hands. “We can go now.”

Kylie put her hand on Chessy’s shoulder and squeezed in silent support. “I’ll call Joss and tell her we’re on our way. She’ll probably be at the house waiting when we get there.”

“Thank you,” Chessy said softly. “Thank you both. I don’t know what I’d do without such good friends. Having to do this alone …” She closed her eyes, unable to finish her statement.

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