"I still can't get used to living on the 21st floor. It feels like we're up in the clouds."
"The view is great, though," Ethan pointed out, punching in the entry code and holding the door open for me, his other hand on my lower back. "Then again, it always is when you're around."
I teetered into the glossy, marble-tiled foyer, mindful of my 3.5 inch heels and impossibly tight dress. Isabelle's influence had struck again. "You smooth talker, you."
"It's not smooth talking if it's true," he said with a small shrug, raking his eyes over my body.
"But so much for the dining out budget," I grimaced, setting my sequined clutch on the glass entryway table. A rush of guilt ran through me; tonight's bill would have covered the rent I paid Ethan back in college. Dropping that much on a meal made me dizzy. "The food was amazing, but those prices were out of control."
"Eh, screw the budget. We can easily afford to splurge on one meal. And it's a special occasion, anyway."
"That's true. You deserve that performance bonus," I said, turning to face him with a smile. He'd been killing it on the ice all season. A force to be reckoned with, especially for a rookie. "I'm proud of you."
My heart sped up as he leaned me up against the wall in the entry, body heat and spicy-sweet cologne radiating off him in an intoxicating wave. "Couldn't have done it without you."
His lips claimed mine and a familiar craving unwound within me as I opened my mouth, surrendering to his kiss. I tugged off his suit jacket as he pressed up against me, surrounding me. The entryway could be a good thing to knock off our bucket list. As long as we didn't knock over that glass table.
But he pulled back and took me by the hand before things escalated any further. "Dance with me," he said, gently pulling me out of the foyer in the direction of the living room.
"What?" I giggled, tipsy from the champagne with dinner. "Ethan, are you drunk?"
He flashed me a grin that, even after all this time, still made me a little weak in the knees. "No. I just want to dance with my girlfriend."
"In the living room?"
He walked over to the Christmas tree and switched on the warm white lights, blanketing the room in a dim glow. Soft music started in the background as he turned on the wireless speaker system with his phone. I knew he song instantly; the song from the banquet. Our song.
"Well, this is romantic," I murmured, my heart pitter-pattering as he drew me close, one hand along my waist and the other holding mine. "Brownie points for you."
"I'm so lucky to have you," he murmured. "I think about that every single day."
My eyes started to well up, but I took a breath and blinked it away. "I'm lucky to have you, too."
Neither of us spoke for the rest of the song as we swayed to the music, our bodies tight against one another. I savored the feeling of his body against mine, the familiar scent of his cologne, his warm breath against my ear.
When the song ended, he said, "Come here. I have an early Christmas present that I want to give you."
"Christmas present?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. "You're just ticking all the boxes tonight, aren't you?"
He chuckled. "I hope so." Steering us over to the Christmas tree, he grabbed a small box wrapped in silver paper out of the pile of presents, handing it to me.
I carefully tore it open, almost hating to rip such pretty paper. Inside was an ornament box, similar to the ones he'd given me the first two years we lived together. He knew me too well. I loved anything Christmas. Sparkly was a bonus, too.
My breath caught as I opened the box. Inside was a different sparkly object... a ring.
An engagement ring.
A cushion-cut solitaire on a delicate platinum band. Exactly what I had always envisioned, but I'd never told him that.
In the dim light of the tree, the stone glittered against the midnight blue velvet of the case.
He got down on one knee. It was surreal in the best possible way. "I don't want anything or anyone to ever be able to keep us apart again," he said, looking into my eyes. "Will you marry me?"
He must have been nervous, but he was doing a great job of hiding it. As always, he seemed completely calm and collected. Typical Ethan.
Meanwhile, I was an emotional mess. Happy tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to fight them off, but they just streamed down my face. Typical Ryan.
Like everything with us, it felt like pieces sliding into place. There was only one possible answer to give him.
"Yes. Of course. Yes!" I said, laughing and crying at the same time as he slipped the ring on my finger. It fit perfectly. Just like us.
He wrapped his arms around me, leaning down to kiss me. It was slow and sweet, as if we had all the time in the world. And now, we did.
"By the way— the ornament from the box is already hanging on the tree. Right up there," he pointed to the top. I could see it on a branch off to the side, gleaming in the light.
"After you saw the box, I didn't want you to be disappointed that it wasn't inside."
"Disappointed? No way," I laughed, holding my hand out to admire the ring, watching the fiery sparkles dance in the light. "This is the best day of my life."
He loosed a sigh of relief, the nerves now seeping through. "Oh, thank god. I was a little worried you wouldn't say yes."
"Aww, babe. You knew I'd say yes."
"It would have crushed me if you hadn't," he admitted.
"For what it's worth, you didn't seem nervous at all. You were your usual, unflappable self."
"I had to be. That was all part of the surprise. If you knew I was nervous, you might have figured out why."
To be fair, I probably wouldn't have. If he had been out of sorts, I would have chalked it up to hockey, family, or a million other things. He'd caught me completely off guard.
"Are we crazy? This is crazy. We're so young," I said, still in a state of happy shock.
He just smiled and said with a shrug, "So? I want to marry you young and grow old and grey together."
The sentiment overwhelmed me and my happy tears started again. "I want that, too," I sniffled, wiping my eyes.
"Besides," he added, "when have we ever done anything by the book? I don't see why we should start now."
True enough. It had worked for us so far.
Then, he leaned down and put his forehead against mine. "I don't ever want to lose you," he told me.
I kissed him on the cheek and said, "You couldn't if you tried."
Author's Note: Awww, love! Getting engaged is so exciting. You might remember that last line from the hospital scene awhile ago.
And that's it! I'm so sad to be done with these two. Done for now, anyway. Maybe those future chapters will resurface on their own in the not-too-distant future. 😉
If you made it all the way through this story, thank you again. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. This is the first story I've ever written, so thanks for hanging in there and bearing with me while I figured out the whole writing thing. 💜
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When nursing student Ryan Winters moves into hockey captain Ethan Russell's place, they both agree that they can keep things from getting weird. The only problem? Smoldering sexual tension that they both try to ignore. Ryan tells herself that all s...