The diamond catches the light coming from the bedside lamp, sparkling brilliantly in my hand, something about it captivating me. I’ve never paid much attention to jewelry, but when you spend several paychecks worth of cash to buy a single ring, it suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting.
I slowly trace the rose gold band, imagining it on Mia’s finger, her expression of delight, the wide smile she’s sure to give me. That moment of connection as I ask her to become my—
The front door slams and I fumble with the ring for a second, nearly dropping it before I fit it securely back in its box.
“I’ll be right out,” I call out, crossing the length of the bedroom to tuck the ring box in the top drawer of my dresser.
I walk out toward the entryway to find Mia struggling with a laundry basket and quickly reach to take it from her.
“Thanks.” She smiles, hands free now to lock the door of our apartment behind her. “If we ever move again, we have to get a place we can put a washer and dryer in. This running back and forth to the laundromat is getting old.”
She leans forward to give me a kiss, the contact too quick to truly appreciate the sweetness of her lips, as she takes the basket from me. “How was your day?”
Coming from anyone else, I’d dismiss the question as inconsequential small talk, but Mia always wants to know.
“My lab won that grant we applied for. They’ll fund my research through at least next year.”
“Oh my God, congratulations.” She reaches forward again to give me a longer kiss, but with the laundry basket in our way, we can’t exactly get close. “Let me go put this away real quick.”
Her ass looks glorious in those tight jeans as she walks off, and I get caught up for a moment imagining stripping them off her, the same way I’ve done hundreds of times over the last two and a half years, but I still never tire of it. Every time with her is exciting.
“We should go out tonight to celebrate,” her voice calls out from the bedroom. “I’ve been wanting to try that new pizza place that just opened down the street. It smells amazing when I walk past.”
“Uh…” I don’t exactly have the money right now to go out. That ring was worth every penny, but it still set my bank account back quite aways. “How about we stay in? I’ll make us dinner.”
“Oh, do we have stuff for tacos? I’ve been craving them.”
I open the fridge door to peer inside, the sound of one of my dresser drawers opening and closing from across the apartment instantly setting my heart to racing. “Don’t open that.”
I rush in to the bedroom where she’s holding a stack of folded t-shirts, her other hand on the knob of the top dresser drawer. What the hell was I thinking letting her put my clothes away?
My hindbrain kicks in, and I step between her and the furniture, her eyes blinking with shock as I essentially push her back with my body.
“What are you doing?” Her brows pop up, tone indicating she’s dealing with a crazy person right now, and I can’t quite blame her.
“You, um, can’t go in there.”
Wow, did I really get into a prestigious PhD program? I swear my brain normally functions at a faster rate than this.
I cross my arms over my chest, her eyes dipping down briefly in appreciation as the movement stretches my sleeves tight over my biceps. I’ve found a new boxing gym here in Boston, keeping up with my routine. Mia’s even joined me there on occasion.
“Are you hiding something?”
There’s a long pause as I scramble to come up with some kind of reason why she can’t go in that drawer. It would ruin the surprise if she did. I’ve been so careful to give her no clues that a proposal is on the horizon.
“No,” I finally say, unable to produce any plausible excuse.
She blinks again, handing me the pile of shirts. “That’s an awful long hesitation for someone who just screamed don’t open that from across the apartment.”
I shrug, my shoulders relaxing as she carries the basket over to the small walk-in closet next to hang her clothes.
Mia picks at the few pieces of taco meat left on her plate with a fork, uncharacteristically quiet.
I clear my throat, but her gaze stays glued in front of her. “How’d you do on your test for Psychopathology?”
“Fine.” She somehow draws out the one-syllable word into three, setting her fork down and pushing back from the table to stand. She grabs our plates and stalks to the kitchen, setting them down in a clatter on the counter.
I knock back the last of my drink, watching as she lets the faucet run for a minute until the water turns hot and begins to wash the dishes. She angles her head down but her lips are moving, almost like she’s arguing with herself.
I follow her into the kitchen, positioning myself behind her, and massage her shoulders, upper back tight with tension. “You want to tell me what’s wrong?”
She sets down the scrub brush and turns the water off, bracing herself against the edge of the sink as I work the knots free. “It’s nothing.”
“Bullshit. You barely said a word during dinner. It’s not natural for me to have to carry the conversation.” I peek around to see her mouth lift in a ghost of a smile. “And I left that question about your test wide open for you. I bet you aced it.”
She scoffs. “Of course I did.”
I grin, practically hearing her roll her eyes. She’d knocked it out of the park when I quizzed her for it last night. “So, what? You mad at me or something?”
She turns, slipping out from between me and the counter. “Do I have a reason to be?” She tucks her hands in her back pockets, face solemn as she returns my gaze.
My stomach flips disconcertingly, not liking this turn of events. What happened to happy Mia from earlier kissing me congratulations? “What are you talking about?”
She looks down, curls tumbling forward to partially shield her face, her toe drawing circles in front of her on the linoleum floor. “You’ve been weird lately. And my brain’s been going nonstop trying to figure it out.”
My mouth goes dry, heart beating painfully as that same instinctual panic from earlier fills me. She waits expectantly for an answer, but… I don’t have anything to give her. All reasoning has left my brain, any excuse I come up with weak. She doesn’t deserve to be lied to. But at the same time, what am I supposed to say? I still haven’t figured out the best way to propose.
Shit. I should have taken her up on her offer to go celebrate tonight, bank account be damned. That would have been the perfect excuse to take her to a fancy restaurant and have it be special.
“Tyler, are you happy?”
I automatically step forward at the sadness in her voice, taking her hands out of her pockets to hold them in my own, her expression clearing slightly. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You’ve been on your phone a lot lately. Like way more than normal. And when you’re on your laptop, you immediately shut it when I pass by.”
Well, yeah, I’ve been researching rings and proposals. I can’t let her see that stuff.
“You haven’t wanted to go out together, not just tonight.”
Again, a little broke at the moment.
“And then this thing with your dresser.” Her fingers squeeze mine, almost painfully. “You’re hiding something.”
I make a noncommittal noise, not outright denying, but not agreeing either.
“This voice in my head,” she whispers, “keeps telling me you’re thinking about leaving or seeing someone else.” Her voice is soft, trembling slightly, my own hands beginning to shake upon the realization that all this secretive behavior I’ve been embarking on has majorly backfired. “And logically, I know it isn’t true, that you wouldn’t do that, but my brain—”
“Mia,” I cut her off, letting go of her hands to wrap her in my arms. “I love you. I’m not cheating, not going anywhere.” I lean back, tipping her chin up till she meets my eye. “You’re the only person I want to be with. Ever.”
What the fuck was I thinking that I could pull this off without her picking up on it? The girl’s been able to read me since the very beginning.
A calmness descends over me as I make a split second decision, knowing in my heart it’s the right one. “Come here.”
I lead her to our bedroom, directly in front of my dresser. “Open it.”
She stares at me, wiping her eyes. “But you said earlier—”
She cautiously pulls at the handles, peering inside. “It’s just your t-shirts.”
“Look at what’s underneath them.”
She lifts the stack, the pile falling haphazardly on the top of the dresser as she spies what’s there.
“Is that…?” Her hands fly up to cover her mouth, covering her gasp of surprise.
I nod, coming up behind her to wrap my arms around her waist, breathing in deeply of her sweet scent. “It’s for you.”
She picks up the ring box with shaking fingers, frozen in place like she doesn’t know what to do next. “Tyler…”
I gently take it from her, flipping it open to reveal the diamond ring, nestled comfortably among the velvet.
There’s a second gasp muffled from behind her hands, and I smile as I press a kiss into her neck and turn her around in my arms till she’s facing me. “I probably went overboard making sure you didn’t see all the rings I was looking at online. Or the proposal ideas. And I’ve been trying to save money, so no going out.”
She nods, wiping at her cheeks, but at least she’s smiling now through the tears.
“You make everything better.” I thumb away a droplet that’s rolled down to her chin, her skin soft and perfect. “You saw something in me I couldn’t see myself, brought out the best in me.”
She sniffles, eyes luminous in the dim light of the bedroom, smile as radiant as I imagined it would be.
“I love you more than I ever believed I was capable of, and it’s so easy with you. Like breathing. You’re necessary for me, Mia. So no, I’m not going anywhere. I want you in my life forever.”
I go down on one knee, her whole body quivering with excitement as she waits patiently for what’s coming next.
“Will you marry me?”
She falls to her knees to join me, taking hold of my face to whisper, “Yes,” before kissing me with such passion, I’m momentarily left speechless. “I want to be your wife,” she says against my lips, unable to stop smiling. Or maybe that’s me. A joyful effervescence fills me as I carefully slip the ring on her finger, along with other emotions I can’t deny.
My hands circle her waist, drawing her closer, as I tell her, “And I’ll be your husband.”
A shiver runs through her, grip tightening on my shoulders. “Say that again.”
I lean in further, my lips tickling her ear, and give her my deepest, darkest voice. “I’ll be your husband soon, Mia.”
“Oh, fuck,” she whispers, the expletive making my stomach dip low in anticipation. She only does that when she’s riled up.
The gray of her eyes darkens, seductive passion lurking beneath the surface. “Bed. Now.”
I pick her up and place her on the bed, covering her body with my own, sinking into her softness. I know her body inside and out, just as she knows mine, but that doesn’t mean our need for one another has tapered off any. If anything, it’s only grown with time.
A deeper understanding. A more intense connection. This is the woman I’ll be with for the rest of my life.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
She tugs at the hem of my shirt, eager for me, but as her ring sparkles in the light, I’m momentarily delayed. I take hold of her hand, studying how perfect it looks there, like it was made to rest on her finger for eternity.
“The caveman part of my brain likes seeing my claim on you,” I confess, hoping she doesn’t take offense at the primal instinct.
“I like it being there too. Now everyone can see what’s always been in my heart.” She cups my face, eyes so full of love, it’s almost hard to look at. What did I ever do to deserve her?
“I love you, Tyler. Forever.” She kisses me, drawing me down on top of her again, the two of us exploring each other for long minutes until the lust builds to a point where we can’t deny it any longer, turning our kisses rougher as she pushes her hips into me.
“I love you.” I echo her words back to her as I strip her of her clothes, nipping at her breasts until she’s panting, hands clenching the bedsheets reflexively.
“I wanted you to undress first,” she moans as I travel south, hitching her upper thighs up over my shoulders. “Before you got me all hot and bothered.”
“There’s plenty of time for that.”
She inhales sharply at my first lick, her fingers finding their way to my hair, tugging at the strands as I build her higher. She arches her back, heels digging into my sides, her obvious enjoyment spurring me on. I focus on her clit until she breaks, her groans of satisfaction like music to my ears.
When her spasms subside, she reaches down to pull me up to her, ridding me of my clothes herself. Her palms run hot over my torso, tracing each ridge of my abs, caressing the planes of my chest, that damn ring acting as a beacon, my eyes unable to leave it.
She catches the direction of my stare, whispering, “I’m yours. Forever now.”
Goosebumps race across my skin, the sensation startling in its intensity, and I reach toward my nightstand to grab a condom, rolling it on with lightning speed. “I can’t wait to marry you.”
She sprawls against her pillow, eyes sultry as she gazes back at me. “My almost husband.”
I bring our bodies together, rocking into her, a homecoming I’ll never get enough of. “My almost wife.”
She lets out a sigh of pleasure, legs coming up to wrap around me as I push in and out, starting out slow, giving her time to adjust to me. But it doesn’t take long till she’s urging me for more, her hands gripping the headboard behind her as I quicken the pace, our bodies in sync, that symbol of our love catching my eye once more as I give her everything, groaning her name, unable to hold it in.
What this woman does to me. Gives to me. How she changes me inside and out. I’m hers, the same as she’s mine. Forever.
I topple over the edge, her following close behind, our bodies damp with sweat as we lay afterward entangled together.
She gives me a sleepy smile and kisses me softly, her simple actions doing more than she knows to fill my heart with a lightness I didn’t know existed before her.
“I love you,” I tell her, trying to convey with those three little words the depth of my feeling, how much I cherish her, adore her, thank whatever higher power there may be as I think about how much she’s brought to my life.
“Love you, too,” she murmurs, seeming to understand in the way her smile curves, the way she reaches out to cup my jaw tenderly. “I can’t wait to call you my husband. To spend the rest of my life with you. For always.”
Always. I like the sound of that.