Nicole paid the driver and climbed out of the cab. She felt a little huffy that Corey wouldn’t drive twenty minutes out of his way to pick her up from the house. He had also insisted she not drive her own vehicle. It was a little freaking ridiculous. And she was going to give him a piece of her mind.
She walked up to the restaurant and saw him standing outside. He smiled when he saw her. Nicole felt her all anger disappear. She was here now, about to have a nice supper with the man she loved. The man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, a feeling she never thought she’d feel again.
It killed her that he feared committing to her. But, when she saw the fear in his eyes, heard it in his voice, she knew she couldn’t push him. When he confided in her about his childhood, she just wanted to track down Roger Porter and ream him a new asshole.
She smiled back at him as he bent to kiss her. “Hey sweetheart,” she said.
“Hello, m’lady. Sorry I couldn’t come get you.” He looked as if he had more to say, instead he took her hand and opened the door. “Shall we?”
“Thank you.” Once they were sitting, she leaned into him. “This was a good idea.”
“Yes, we haven’t had dinner out together in quite some time.”
“Well, my days off rarely coincide with the kids weekend out. And I don’t want to sacrifice my time with them by getting a babysitter.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “I think you love them more than anyone.”
“Not more than you. No one could more than you.”
“Maybe. But you do enjoy spending time with them. I’m glad, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. They love you, you love them. I love you.”
“I love you.” She loved how easily it rolled off his tongue. He caressed the back of her neck. “I’m regretting the dinner out, right now.”
“Because when you say things like that I just want to scoop you up, kiss you senseless and take you to bed and show you how much I love you.”
“We can always do that later. It will go better if we have something to eat first.” She reached for her menu.
“I suppose you are right. I guess you will have to be dessert then.”
“I like that.”
“About the dinner out. It’s hard to really kiss in public. Not the way you need to be kissed.”
Corey fiddled with his fork, then his knife and napkin. “See.”
He rarely showed his anxious side, though she knew it lingered below the surface. His habit was to show his arrogant side. “You okay?” she asked, laying her hand over his as he bent the corner of his napkin.
His face showed surprise. “I thought I was doing okay.”
He pulled his hand away and reached into his pocket. “I was supposed to wait until after supper. Until dessert, I think that’s the traditional romantic way to do it.”
She pulled her brow together and tried to get a look at his hand, but he kept it in his pocket. “Do what?”
In one smooth movement he pulled his hand from his pocket, pushed his chair back and got down on one knee in front of her. She gasped as did a few women in the background. She didn’t know if the entire restaurant went silent to watch or if she just blocked everything out. She swallowed as she looked into his beautiful face. Her first impression of him was right: Modern Adonis. She opened her mouth but he silenced her with a look. “You can’t talk until I ask,” he said.
“Nicole, I love you. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have everything you’ve given me in the past year and something. I didn’t count exactly. I know we are a family already, but I want to make it official. Will you marry me?” He tried to open the box without letting go of her hand or taking his eyes off her, but it proved too difficult. He let go and forced it open.
She was about to give her affirmation when the shine off the diamond caught her eye. Holy crow. She knew it was supposed to be six months of his salary, but she didn’t think he’d take it literally. Hell, she couldn’t believe he asked at all. Her hand fluttered to her throat.
She pulled her eyes away from the ring. “C-Co-Corey,” she stammered. “It’s too much.”
“Nothing is too much,” he said, his eyes shining. She was sure it reflected her own eyes as she felt about ready to burst into tears.
“Of course, I will marry you.” She had been waiting a year for this day. Sometimes it felt as if she’d been waiting her whole life for him.
He smiled and pulled the ring out. He took her hand and slipped it on her finger. A perfect fit. Typical Corey with the perfect ring and the perfect words. “Come and give me a kiss before your knees get sore.”
“My knees aren’t going to get sore, but I would like to give you a kiss.”
“I think our audience is waiting.” He rose and kissed her for all he was worth. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back and behind them the restaurant clapped.
When he let her go, she was breathless and her face felt hot. He sat and took her hand. She turned it so she could see the ring. She should ask for something smaller. she didn’t need something so extravagant.
“Don’t even say it,” he said, smirking at her.
“That it’s too big, I should get you something smaller. It came from New York, so there is no going back. I did pay a lot for it, but you are worth every penny.”
“First you buy me a house then a ring.” She couldn’t stop smiling at him. “All I need is you.”
“I know, but you deserve the ring. You put up with me and my dirty laundry.” He couldn’t seem to stop smiling either.
The waitress stopped next to the table. “Here are your appetizers. The manager says that they are on the house tonight. And a bottle of champagne for the happy couple.”
Nicole turned to look at her. “Oh, well—”
“Thank you,” Corey said.
“Congratulations you two look so happy together.”
“You have no idea,” Nicole said.
The waitress left. “Don’t worry about the free drinks and such, I’ll leave a big enough tip to cover it.” He rose out of his chair to kiss her again.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t just get our food to go?”
“No, we are going to sit here and drink our champagne. And we are going to enjoy a quiet evening, because they are few and far between. And you never know what will happen that could make it even more difficult.”
“What does that mean?”
“Do you realize there is one empty bedroom on the top level of our house?”
“Do you realize how giddy I still get when you say ‘our house’?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I’m serious. Tanner and Jessa each have their own room then there is the guest room.”
“Which is the guest room. It’s not empty. Your mom and Tonya are coming to stay over Christmas. How excited will she be to plan the wedding?”
Corey shook his head. “You’re missing my point.”
“I am.” She looked down at her hand. “I barely remember my own name. You’re going to have to be a little more direct.”
“How in the world could we fill an empty room Nicole? What would we put in there instead of seldom used furniture?”
“I have no idea. What… oh. Oh, oh. Do you mean?”
“Just one would be enough. We’d be outnumbered, but I think we can handle it.”
“You think? Id love to have a, your baby. Are you sure just one? Two is a nice round number.”
“That would be four and no, one.”
“Well, this surprised the hell out of me, so you never know what the future may bring.”
“No we don’t know. But I do know, I can’t wait to be married to you. Where should we do it here? Back east?”
“I’d like to do it here, so Colt and Mandy and Kip can be there.”
“And that sweet girl Lucy. I think we may end up with more children in our wedding party than adults.”
“Rick is gonna be ticked. I can’t wait.”
“Why should he be ticked? He’s married to that bitch, what’s her name.”
“Yeah what’s her name, let’s call her that. I shouldn’t be so mean hearted, she does treat the kids nicely. And she’s never been mean to be personally.”
“You know, except when she slept with your husband when he was still married.”
“There was that. But for you and me that turned out to be a real blessing. Maybe, it was meant to be. Without Rick there would no Tanner and Jessa. Without Sheridan there would be no you and I.”
“Well, when you put it that way let’s toast Rick and Sheridan.” Corey raised his glass, his eyes dancing behind it.
Nicole shook her head. “No, to us. To our wonderful little family.” She tapped her champagne glass against his. “And to this restaurant for their wonderful champagne.”
They drank. And laughed. And ate.
And when it was all done, Corey took his new fiancée home and kept her up late, making her come over and over….