“You don’t mean that,” I replied, a concerned look flashing across my face.
“I did… But then I met you, and I learned what it meant to love. For the first time in my life, I understood what people meant when they talked about these feelings…these indescribable, insatiable emotions.”
“Maybe Alphonse had a point, then,” I responded slyly.
“Perhaps so. Even sanctimonious assholes can be right once in awhile.”
“That reminds me,” I told him, pulling myself from his grasp. Cole’s confused gaze followed me as I wandered from the room, returning a moment later with a large, legal-sized envelope. “Alphonse said to give these to you the moment you stirred from your rest.”
“Oh?” Cole took the envelope, unpinning the catch in the back and unsheathing the pages. His eyes quickly scanned everything as his eyes lit up with the brightest glimmer I’ve ever seen.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked, barely able to contain my overwhelming excitement.
“Now it’s really over,” he grinned, holding up the final page. A large, magnanimous signature was scribbled along the open space on the bottom. “Alphonse Megami – the Megami Corporation – has officially bought Andrews Enterprises.”
I squealed with satisfaction and curled back into bed with him, planting kisses along his bare shoulder. “I’m so happy for you. Everything you’ve always wanted is here.”
“And I couldn’t have done it without you, my dear.”
Cole’s smile began to falter after he spoke the words, and he turned away.
“What’s the matter?”
“I…this is where I was going to die,” Cole told me, confessing his confusion and hesitance. “I didn’t think I’d have enough time to see this deal through, and now…I’ve sold the company I built from the dying promise of my fallen friend…everything has led up to this. But now…what do I do now?”
“Whatever you want, Cole. It’s all over,” I told him firmly. “You did it. You’ve fulfilled your obligations. You’ve honored the wishes of your friend, your employees will all be properly rewarded…everything is done. Now, I think that it’s time that you find your own path. And the best part is?” I grasped his hand, holding it up in both of mine. “You have plenty of time to figure it out…and I’ll be right here by your side to help.”
Cole thought on my words carefully, still gazing into space, but a crisp smile began to cross his lips.
* * *
A few weeks later, after Cole had bounced back enough from his surgery to move around independently, he snuck away from our penthouse bright and early in the morning. I thought about telling him that I’d woken up, but I decided to sleep in – I trusted him completely. When he returned an hour later and woke me again, I pushed down my curiosity, wondering what he had been up to.
Out of spontaneity, he wanted to go back to New Orleans and enjoy it again for the “first time.” I agreed, amused by his sudden enthusiasm, so long as he was fit for travel.
That night, after a delicious dinner at our restaurant again, he took me back to Frenchman Street and to the soul and jazz club that we’d visited – where I’d started to really fall for him. After a long night of powerful, soul-moving music, he revealed the contract again – the one that we’d signed that wiped our marriage clean from the books. Immediately, he dropped to a knee, producing the most beautiful engagement ring I’ve ever seen – with a stunning jade stone.
“Let’s do it all again,” Cole told me, “and let’s do it the right way this time. You and me – we’ll take what we have and we’ll make it better. Stronger. Proper. No contracts. No lies. No playing pretend. Will you marry me Kiona?”
The musicians blared into a passionate, perfectly happy jazz number as the crowd cheered us on. The horns danced in unison, the music attuned to our very souls, and time froze for that beautiful, magical moment.
“Oh God yes,” I grinned triumphantly, chucking the old ring over my shoulder.