"Trace," Vinnia said slowly, "why did you come here?"
Trace slid his hand over Vinnia's. "Because I care about you. You know that, Vinnia."
Removing her hand from Trace's, Vinnia tried to ignore the heat that pulsed through her veins whenever he was around. This isn't right, she reminded herself. You can't fall in love with him. This isn't right, Vinnia Valdeza. Don't do it!
Yet for all her self-reminders, Vinnia couldn't deny the fact that her heart raced whenever Trace made his affection apparent. In another world, she could have had him...
Depressed by her thoughts, Vinnia turned away. "You know I don't want your affection, Trace."
"No, I don't know that." There were tears in Trace's voice. "But aside from all that, what happened in there? What were you talking about?"
"The scars? Didn't know I had them, did you?"
Trace shook his head. "Stop making light of the situation, Vinnia." Vinnia realized there was a small trail of tears down Trace's face. "I felt like..." He stopped and lowered his head, grief obvious in his posture. "I felt like they ripped my heart in half."
"I'm sorry," Vinnia said. "I'm not good enough for you. I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you'd..." There, she broke off, unwilling to finish her thoughts.
"You were afraid I'd what, sweetheart?"
"No, Trace! No! Don't do this to me!" Vinnia cried out, shielding her face from Trace's loving eyes. "You have no idea what I'm going through! Don't love me, Trace! Please, don't love me!"
"I love you too much to listen to you," Trace said, grabbing Vinnia and forcing her to turn around. Yet when he tried to make eye contact, Vinnia only closed her eyes. "Oh, Vinnia..."
Out of habit, Vinnia rubbed her scars with the heel of her hand. In the past, when the cuts had been fresh, the action would have provided a burst of pain, which would have been enough to push Vinnia through the moment. Now, however, the action didn't result in any pain. Vinnia hadn't even noticed what she'd done. Old habits died hard.
"I hate what they do to you," Trace said, letting Vinnia go. "I'm sorry. I should respect your wishes to stay away. But I hate to see you hurt."
"I like the hurt," Vinnia snapped back, unable to be pleasant because all she could think about was the razor in the shower.
Two months since she'd last used it for purposes other than shaving.
And those two months were worth fighting for.
Holding her head high, Vinnia let out a long sigh. "I'm sorry. I overreacted. You can stay if you want. I can...I don't know...make you coffee or something."
"Don't go to any trouble on my account, hon - uh, Vinnia."
But frankly, Vinnia needed a little trouble to go to right then.