She bit her lip again, not knowing what to say.
“You told me you loved me,” he said.
She cringed because he hadn’t been able to return her love.
“I don’t know much about love,” he said. “I gave up on it at an early age in order to survive.”
She took a deep breath. “I can understand that.”
“You’ve taught me something different,” he said. “You’ve taught me that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. I don’t know much about love, Bella, but I know I want you with me forever.” He lifted her chin so that she would look at him. “I want you to teach me about your way of love.”
Bella felt as if her heart would burst with happiness. “Oh, Michael. You already know how to love. You’ve already shown me so much love.”
“Maybe we need each other to find the way,” he said.
“Maybe,” she said hopefully.
“I love you,” he said. “And I’m determined to love you more.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “You are an amazing man, Michael Medici. I want to help make you happy.”
“You already have, Bella. You already have.”
T en days later, after her Aunt Charlotte and new husband had returned from Michael’s new house in Grand Cayman, Bella caught her first break in days. She’d been in charge of the shop during her aunt’s honeymoon and was looking forward to a quiet night with Michael.
How things had changed during the last week. Michael had completely opened up to her about his brother Leo, and she, too was on the edge of her seat waiting to find out more from the P.I.Michael had arranged for all her belongings to be moved to his house. She was ready to soak in the Jacuzzi. She just hoped she could talk him into joining her. He was picking her up from work. She saw his vehicle pull alongside the curb and hopped in.
“Finally, a break,” she said and kissed him. “I have plans for you.”
“Oh, really,” he said, his lips lifting in a slight grin. “What kind of plans?”
“Wet, bubbly plans,” she said.
“Hmm. Not a bubble bath,” he said.
“Not the kind you’re thinking of,” he said. “I thought I’d take you to one of my restaurants.”
She would have preferred to be alone with him, but she was with him. That was good enough. “Okay. How was your day?”
“Busy. Rafe called. I keep forgetting to tell you that Nicole wants that recipe.”
“Give me her e-mail and consider it done,” she said as he pulled into the nearly empty parking lot of his restaurant. “Wow, I wonder what’s going on. I’ve never seen the parking lot this empty at this time of night.”
“I’ll have to talk to the manager about that,” he said and helped her from the car.
They walked to the door where a sign was posted. Private Event. Please return tomorrow.
“What’s this?” she asked, confused.
He pushed open the door, and seemed much more calm than she would have expected. “We’ll find out.”
The lights were low and Michael led her to the bar where a bottle of champagne and two glasses sat on a table with two chairs.
She shot him a curious glance. “You knew about this. What’s going on?”
“Have a seat. Let me pour your champagne,” he said with a mysterious smile on his face.
He poured the bubbly and sat beside her. “Do you know what I like about this place?”
“Besides the fact that it’s profitable?” she asked.
He chuckled. “Besides that.”
“The good food. The atmosphere. The staff?” she asked, trying to gauge his mood. She’d never seen him like this before.
“I like this place because this is where I first saw you.”
Her heart turned over and a lump formed in her throat. “I don’t think you could touch me more deeply.”
“I’m a high achiever. I’m not done yet,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that meeting you has changed me in ways I didn’t dare dream. You were a wish I didn’t even know I was making. I never believed in love until you.”
Tears burned Bella’s eyes. “Oh, Michael, you mean the same to me. I so want you to be happy.”
“Then wear this,” he said, pulling a black box from his pocket and opening it to reveal a sparkling diamond. “Wear this and marry me,” he said. “I love you.”
Bella shook her head in amazement. “Are you sure? Are you really sure?”
“I’ve spent my life figuring out the odds of winning and losing. I’ve never been more sure of something or someone in my life. There’s no losing for me as long as I have you.”