I glance up from skimming the company’s latest financial report to find Vivian in my office doorway, holding something in her hands. Squinting, I realize what it is, standing and almost knocking my chair over in my haste to reach her.
“Did you look at it? How is it?”
She beams at me. “It’s beautiful.”
I open the ring box, the princess-cut diamond inside catching the light to sparkle brilliantly. “You think she’ll like it?” I ask, suddenly unsure.
“She helped you design it, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, but designing it is different than seeing the finished product. What if it turns out she doesn’t like the band? Or it’s not big enough? She said she didn’t want anything flashy, but maybe she changed her—”
“She’s going to love it,” she interrupts me. “You know why?”
I shake my head, glad she’s here to talk me off my cliff. No wonder Dad kept her around for so many years.
“Because you gave it to her. And I swear, I’ve never seen a woman more in love than Emma. That girl is head over heels for you.”
She’s probably only saying that so I’ll stop being neurotic, but I still appreciate it.
I close up the box, sticking it in my inner suit jacket pocket, but I can feel it there, bumping against my chest. I’ll never get any work done while I know it’s there, will I?
“When’s my next meeting?” I ask her.
And it’s eleven now. I have plenty of time to meet Emma and come back… “Call Allen, will you? I’m just going to head over to Emma’s real quick.”
“I already gave him a heads up,” she replies. “He’s downstairs.”
I grin at her, grabbing the financial report off my desk to finish reading on the drive over. “This is why you make the big bucks, Vivian. You’re a mind reader.”
She laughs. “Or maybe you’re just too predictable.”
I move past her, meeting my driver downstairs, my leg jiggling the whole ride over to Prince Street where Emma ended up leasing her store. Maybe I should take her to Chez Alexandre’s tonight. Romantic candlelight. Mouthwatering food. That’d be a good place to pop the question.
I walk in through the open back entrance of Shepherd Designs, workers installing the last of the shelving in the main part of the shop. Over in the corner, Emma’s speaking with the manager she hired to be in charge of day-to-day operations, gesturing widely across the room.
I take a moment to study my girlfriend, so proud of her for following her dreams and making her boutique a reality. Mackenzie and Gabriel have been on the case drumming up media interest, my brother reaching out to his wide network of acquaintances in anticipation of the grand opening, just three weeks from now.
Her attention shifts, noticing me, and she smiles widely. She points to her office in the back, joining me in there a minute later.
“You didn’t say you were coming today,” she says happily, leaning in to kiss me before settling in behind her desk. As much as she’s insisted on using her own money, she at least let me buy the furniture for this room, and I sink into the ridiculously comfortable guest chair, knowing I’ll be spending a lot of time here.
“Thought I’d stop by and see you. I had a few free hours before my meeting this afternoon. What’s on your plate today?”
She sighs, opening up the planner she’s taken to carrying around lately, filled to the brim with everything she needs to do before the store launches. I blame Mackenzie for getting her hooked on it.
“I have to go over the press releases one more time before sending them off to all the media outlets I want to target. They’re starting on the displays this afternoon after they finish up the shelving. And then we’re going to unpack all the merchandise in the back and inventory it.”
Sounds like she’s busy all day. She doesn’t have time to get ready for a fancy dinner tonight.
The store manager pops her head in through the open doorway, rapping on the door. “The mannequins were just delivered. Where do you want them?”
Emma gives me an apologetic smile as she stands. “Sorry, I have to take care of this.”
“No worries. I’ll get out of your hair. How about I order in for us tonight? Thai?”
“Oh, that sounds great,” she says, relief in her voice. “I’ll see you later.”
She kisses me quickly on the lips before leaving, the ring box sitting heavy in my pocket.
Why am I so worked up about it? We have all the time in the world. Nothing has to happen with the ring right away.
Even though I feel like I might burst knowing I have it and it’s not on her finger yet.
“Sorry I’m late.” Emma rushes into the apartment in a flurry of activity, piling her tote bags on the dining room table. “The security system wouldn’t set right but I finally figured it out.” She makes her way into the living room, pausing as she spies the food on the coffee table. “You waited for me? You didn’t have to do that.”
She toes off her shoes and tucks her feet beneath her as she sits next to me on the couch, and I take her hand, squeezing it. “You know I’m happy to wait for you.”
“You’re always doing that, aren’t you?” she murmurs, playing idly with my fingers.
“For however long you need me to.”
She leans forward to kiss me softly. “Thank you for being patient with me.”
“It’s not a big deal. Honestly. We’ll reheat it.”
“I mean with other things too. Moving in here to your apartment, all the craziness with my store. Everything’s been happening so fast lately, but you always keep such a level head about it all.”
Except when it comes to rings, apparently.
My gaze cuts to the bedroom, where I placed the ring in my nightstand drawer. When should I give it to her? I’d debated earlier about taking her somewhere nice, planning a fancy proposal, but now that I consider it, times like tonight are what I most enjoy. The two of us alone, no one gawking and trying to snap pictures. As much as we’ve tried to keep our relationship private, why would I think it’s a good idea to propose in public? I don’t want a special moment between us recorded and blasted over Entertainment Tonight’s nightly broadcast. I might as well hold up a neon sign for paparazzi saying film here.
The stroke of her fingers along my arm has me pulling back to the present. “What are you thinking about?” she asks. “Your mind went somewhere else.”
I glance down at her hand, imagining the ring there, how good it’ll look. Yeah, I can’t keep this to myself much longer. I’ve never been great at hiding things from her.
“Something came in today,” I tell her. “Wait here.”
She blinks at me, confused, as I get up and leave her to retrieve the ring box from our bedroom.
Returning to the couch, I present the box, a soft gasp escaping her.
“Oh,” she murmurs, transfixed.
I place my hand on the latch to open it, prepared to show her, but something has me pausing. Yes, she already knows what it’ll look like since she helped design it. But a part of me wants to do this the traditional way, even though so much of our relationship has been unconventional. It’s impossible to be a completely normal couple when you’re the head of an internationally recognized behemoth of a company, but I want to do what I can to root ourselves in normalcy.
I get down on one knee, savoring the way her eyes widen, the shaky inhale she takes.
“You knew this was coming,” I remind her gently.
She nods. “I know, but still—” She cuts herself off abruptly. “I’m sorry, continue.”
“No, go ahead.” I’m curious as to what she was going to say.
She twists her hands together in her lap, appearing both nervous and excited. “Every day with you… God, I can’t believe how lucky I am. And just the idea that you want to spend the rest of your life with me? I still can’t get over that.”
“I don’t think I could have put it better myself,” I murmur, reaching for her hand. “You are everything to me. My rock. My sounding board. The reason I look forward to coming home every day.”
She bites at her bottom lip, sniffing slightly, and I give her a moment to compose herself.
“I hope you know I love you beyond words. I can’t wait for you to be my wife.”
I open the ring box, the diamond shining brightly, and I pull it out, holding it up. “Will you marry me, Emma?”
She nods, her mouth trembling as I slip it on her left ring finger, and she holds her hand up to admire it, the ring looking absolutely right settled there.
She drops to her knees to join me, kissing me deeply. “I love you,” she whispers, over and over between kisses, her lips turning greedy as she moves from my mouth to my neck, unbuttoning my shirt.
I guess we’re skipping dinner and going straight for dessert.
I shrug out of my shirt, peeling off her top next, and stand and pick her up off the floor to carry her to the bedroom, laying her down on our bed. I strip off the rest of our clothes, taking longer than usual because I keep getting distracted by her ring, unable to take my eyes off it.
She notices the direction of my gaze, smiling softly as she holds out her hand so it’s on display. “You like seeing this here?”
“I love it,” I confess, no use in hiding it. There’s something almost primal feeling about it, my claim on her for anyone to see.
I cover her body, our chests brushing, and dip my head down to trail my lips along the column of her neck.
“This ring is never coming off,” she says, arching underneath me. “I’m yours forever.”
Oh God, she knew exactly where my mind went, a thrill running through me at her vow.
Every day with her is a new adventure, my life full in a way I didn’t know I was missing previously. And even after a year together, there’s no sign of my need for her slowing. If anything, it’s only grown with time.
Especially when every night is like this.
She hitches a leg around my waist, my dick dangerously close to slipping inside her, and I roll to my side to avoid temptation. Maybe one day soon, when we’ve talked about kids, but not yet. For now, I travel down her body, using my lips and tongue to drive her wild, exploring every inch of her. My gorgeous fiancée.
She’s panting by the time I reach her pussy, and I enter one finger, then another, stroking her until she’s grasping at the bedsheets, then lean down to suck her clit, enjoying the long, low moan she gives in response.
“Inside me,” she mumbles. “Now.”
My dick twitches in excitement, still loving the way she calls the shots in the bedroom. I never tire of her telling me what she wants me to do to her.
I leave her briefly to grab a condom out of my nightstand drawer, her arms wrapping around my shoulders from behind as I roll it on, laving hot kisses along my neck. I turn my head, catching her lips mid-kiss, and she smiles against my mouth, kissing me wholeheartedly.
“Lean back against the pillows,” she murmurs, and I move to do what she says, my hands gripping her waist as she straddles me, sliding my cock over her seam.
“Fuck, that feels good.”
If she moves just the barest bit more… there. I slip inside her, her pussy so wet for me already, and steady her as she works herself on me, grabbing at my shoulders for balance.
“I love you,” she whispers, need in her voice.
“Mmm. Love you too.” I kiss her, breaking away as she speeds up, her breasts bouncing in front of me. I can’t help leaning forward to gently capture a nipple in my mouth, my belly dipping low in delight as she groans for me.
“Keep doing that,” she says, breathless. “Just like that.”
Her nails dig in my shoulders, a sweet sting I want more of, and I suck her harder, wanting her reaction, groaning myself as she picks up her pace, wild atop me.
I pump into her from below, the tension in me coiling tighter the longer we continue, until I’m about to burst, needing to hear her cries of satisfaction.
I switch breasts, my hand creeping between us to massage her clit, and she breaks apart, the way she clenches around me like heaven, my own orgasm shortly following hers.
She cups my jaw, kissing me deliriously, the two of us connected in a way I’ve never experienced with anyone else. And if I have my way, I only will with her. She’s the one I want for the rest of my life.
I reach up to place my hand over hers, tracing her new ring with my fingertips, still hardly able to believe it’s there. That this woman will be my wife.
She reads my mind again, whispering, “My soon-to-be husband,” her husky voice stirring lust within me once more, my grip on her tightening.
“Keep that up and I’ll have us on a plane to Vegas tomorrow.”
She smiles against my lips. “However you want me, I’m yours.”
The idea is tempting. The two of us eloping, no one the wiser as we escape to Sin City. But Gabriel and Mackenzie would probably have our heads if we didn’t involve them in the wedding planning process, not to mention how hurt Serena would be if we left her and Archer out of the loop. Even if it’s not a grand affair, our wedding should include the people closest to us. The ones who have had our back time and again.
I cup the nape of her neck, kissing her once more, and she moves so I can clean up in the bathroom, joining her in the bed when I return.
“Do you still want dinner?” I ask her, tracing light circles over her back.
“Let me just lie with you for a minute more,” she murmurs. “Even though I knew it was coming, I’m still kind of in shock we’re engaged.”
“You have me forever,” I tell her, closing my eyes as she comes in close, wrapping her arms around me.
“And you have me. I love you.”
She snuggles in tighter, the action reassuring me we’re on the right path. That no matter what comes our way, we’ll make it. We can weather anything.