"No. No, you're wrong."

"I think that's up to me to decide, thanks." The young woman with the sparkling green eyes tore her gaze from the man standing defensively a few yards away. She kept her gaze focused on the hardwood until she was confident enough that she could keep herself from faltering when she spoke again. Once her head lifted, she chewed on her lip for a moment. Could she say it?

"No, it's not. You've gotten hurt so many times already, Ash." The man wasn't backing down. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, and although the girl knew he was trying for a firm, unwavering appearance, what he came across as instead was defensive. That, paired with his words? He was as vulnerable and scared having this conversation as Ashling herself.

"So what? Do I seem broken to you?" Unwilling to give him the upper hand, she continued speaking without allowing him ample time to answer. "I've been that way before and I'll no doubt have my heart broken again. That's the human condition, Jake. People hurt people. It's unavoidable. I've always known you could hurt me one day. And the thing is, I've never..." She trailed off then, wondering if she should say what had come to mind. Wondering if it was too much for the cowboy she'd grown so fond of. Regardless, she chose to trudge on, possibly digging herself a grave in the process. "I've never felt the way I do with anyone else that I feel when I'm with you. I'm in love with you, Jake. I think I've loved you ever since we met. And yeah, you might hurt me. Yeah, I've been hurt far too often in the past. But do you want to know something?"

At this point, Jake's expression had softened. He didn't say anything, simply watched Ashling with a close eye, waiting for her to continue. What she said next he would remember for the rest of his life.

"It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."