“You deserve to be happy, Dianna,” he said quietly. “Your father tried to force you into something you didn’t want. You resisted. That’s natural. There isn’t a horse alive that willingly puts its head in a noose—”
He ignored the sarcasm in her voice, kept his gentle. “What is a lasso if not a noose? The only thing that prevents the horse being choked to death is the cowboy’s skill and the horse’s instinct to survive. Most horses quit fighting once they realize they can’t free themselves, their desire to keep breathing overriding their desire to escape. But some… some fight until they drop, literally, their lungs starved of oxygen. They’d die if the person holding the lasso didn’t loosen it—”
“So now I’m a horse?” Her tone was bitter.
“No.” He laid a light hand on her shoulder. She flinched, but didn’t scramble away, and he took that as a positive sign. “You’re a young woman forced into an untenable situation by the very people you should have been able to trust the most, the people who should have protected you. Instead, they forced you to protect yourself. That’s something to be proud of. You have what we Texans call grit. Grit’s a good thing to have. Especially in Texas.”
She finally angled a look at him, frowned. “Honored?”
He nodded, and raised his hand from her shoulder to graze his fingertips along her jaw. She trembled, but didn’t turn her head, or look away. Another positive sign. He smiled. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to become your friend, maybe even help you learn to trust again.”
Her throat pulsed as she swallowed, tears adding a bright shimmer to her dark blue gaze. “My friend? I thought you were my husband?”
“Are they mutually exclusive?” he asked softly.
Dianna and Jake’s love story continues in the sequel to My Dear One, My Own...