After clearing my ID with security at the door, we go inside, bringing the giant Christmas tree decorated in all red into view, the top climbing into the ceiling between two wood-railed stairwells.
“It’s beautiful,” Crystal says, lacing her arm with mine. “My mother would love to see this.”
“We can bring her tomorrow.” I lead her to the elevator and we step inside, where I punch in a code to allow us to travel to the sixty-eighth floor.
“How do you know the code?”
“I made special arrangements.”
Her brow furrows. “Now I’m really curious.”
“You’re supposed to be.”
She leans in to me and smiles. “Does it involve floggers?” she asks, having gained a liking for that form of pleasure quite recently.
I stroke her cheek, where the last remnant of a deep bruise remains, my gut still wrenching at the hell she’d endured. “You’ll have to wait and see.”
The doors open and we exit into a massive living room with four huge white pillars, a white-faced fireplace, and huge windows overlooking the city.
She glances at me, obviously curious about the lack of furniture. I motion her forward. “Go inside.”
Biting her lip, she enters the room and stops, and I know that she’s seen the small box in the center of the room. “That doesn’t look like a flogger.”
I move ahead and pick up the velvet box, waiting for her to join me. She takes tentative steps forward and I can almost feel her nervous energy mirroring mine. She stops in front of me and I see tears pooling in her eyes. But she has a right to cry. We’ve been through hell and back together, and we’re stronger for it, seeing a counselor, working through the hell of our pasts.
“I put my house in San Francisco on the market, and this apartment can be ours if you like it, but it doesn’t have to be. We can shop and find whatever you want. What’s important to me is we find the perfect place for us.”
I open the box, revealing the Tiffany diamond inside. “I never thought I was the marrying kind of man, but you’ve changed me. You have made life so much better.” I go down on my knee and take her hand. “Please spend the rest of your life with me. Will you marry me, Crystal?”
Tears stream down her cheeks. “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
A deep warmth spreads through me. Setting the box down, I slip the ring on her finger.
She stares down at it. “It’s gorgeous. So very gorgeous.”
I push to my feet and enclose her in my arms. “Like you.”
“Like you. I’m a lucky girl.” Then mischief fills hers eyes. “Can you imagine everyone’s face if we end the ceremony with ‘You may now spank the bride’?”
I laugh, something I do a lot since meeting Crystal.
Life is so much better—and so are the spankings.