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Author's Chapter Notes:
A big thank you to Sapphire for helping me get this done!
Sam spent most of the afternoon down by the lake, alternating between swimming and getting some Vitamin D on shore with a good book. AJ knew how much she needed this so he decided not to crowd her; he was able to send emails and take care of some business while she was enjoying her own space. Pushing himself onto to her as a constant companion would only backfire so he waited until dinner time to approach her.

“Don’t get too toasty down here.” he teased as he took a seat in the sand next to her.

Sam laughed and smiled at him. She was beautiful as she was but AJ had never seen her this tanned and happy; it was almost like joy was radiating off her. He must have been staring too long because she finally blushed and turned away.

“I’m trying to just soak up as much sun as I can before I turn back into Cinderella.”

AJ could hear a hint of irritation in her voice as she quietly made her comment. He knew that she hated being stuck in the house all the time and he honestly wished that there was some way to give her more freedom at home. The thought of that wish was tainted when he saw Ryan’s nasty smirk in his mind and the abuse he put Sam through came flooding in.

Sam noticed AJ get quiet and saw a glimmer of fury in his eyes; she knew he was thinking of Ryan and she hated that, even though they were miles away, he still had the nasty habit of creeping into her life. The abuse she suffered while they were together was awful but it felt like she was still being abused, just by fear and threats instead of fists and feet.

The couple sat there in silence for a few minutes before they picked up everything Sam had brought down to the shore and headed back to the cabin. He had planned another nice evening under the stars but he wanted to make sure she ate something first.

Once dinner was over, he collected the blankets from the night before and spread them on the sand. He lay down and tugged Sam down next to him; he could feel her become still and heard a small sigh of content as she lay there holding his hand. This caused him to smile and they lay there, staring at the stars for a little while before AJ turned on his side to face her. The question that he was about to ask had crossed his mind earlier that day while he was working.

“You can tell me to mind my own business, or even slug me, but can I ask a question?”

“Shoot.” Sam said and turned over to face him. “I don’t have any secrets with you.”

“What was Ryan’s dad like?”

The words flew fast out of AJ’s mouth; he wasn’t sure if the question was appropriate or if it would bring back awful memories.

“Honestly?” Sam asked. “He was one of the sweetest men I have ever met.”

AJ’s jaw dropped; he wasn’t quite sure what he expected her to say but he wasn’t prepared for the compliment she bestowed on the man who raised her abusive husband.

“Surprised you huh?” Sam said with a half-hearted laugh. “I bet you didn’t imagine that coming out of my mouth.”

“No I didn’t.” AJ replied. “I think that was the last thing I expected.”

“Well it’s true. Besides my dad and my grandfather, Matthew Murray was the kindest man that I had ever met and I adored him. It hurt to watch him wasting away from cancer but he had the most positive attitude, he exuded peace and calm.”

“How the hell did this man raise such a monster?” AJ spat out and instantly regretted it; he didn’t want to make things worse for her by bashing someone she obviously cared about.

“I don’t know and trust me when I say that I have asked myself that question over and over again.”

They sat there for a bit before Sam spoke again.

“I don’t think Ryan’s father knew what a bastard he was. He was good at pretending to be the doting son and perfect gentleman while he was at his parents’ house. His mother was so proud of him and his dad always spoke highly of him. If they did know anything, they chocked it up to someone not understanding him.”

“He’s more than a bastard.” AJ whispered.

“I know but I fell for him partly because of the way his parents talked about him and how he acted around them.”

“Why didn’t they do anything about the abuse?”

“His dad passed away before we started dating seriously and about two months into our relationship, his mother had a heart attack from all the stress that losing her husband caused. Personally, I think she died of a broken heart; I’ve only seen a love like theirs’ twice, once with my parents and the other time with my grandparents.”

“So he was free to do whatever he wanted after that.”

Sam nodded and sighed.

“He came into his parents’ money and his career was starting to take off. He was free to be the abusive piece of crap he was.”

Sam turned and lay back down on the blanket; she could feel some tears starting to well up in her eyes and she didn’t want AJ to see them. It would make him feel bad for asking her and she didn’t want to hurt him after all he’d done for her.

Even though she tried hard to hide it, AJ saw the rogue tears slipping down her face and he wiped them away with his finger.

“I’m sorry for dredging this all up for you Sam.”

“It’s ok.” she replied a few moments later. “You should know everything if we’re going to make this work.”