I smile in reply, but secretly hope Lucian won’t be offended that I’m actually considering Lee’s offer. I love Lucian and his intelligence is one of the many things I admire about him. It would be amazing to work alongside him, but not as his girlfriend and mother of his child. No matter how hard I tried, there would always be people who assumed I’d gotten the position because I was sleeping with him. He deserves better than that—and so do I.
Lee and I are standing in the foyer as he prepares to leave when Lucian walks in the door. He looks surprised to see my father but gives him a friendly handshake. He walks to me, dropping a kiss on my upturned lips before sliding his arm around my shoulders. “Hey, baby,” he says softly before turning back to Lee to exchange a few words.
When he shuts the door behind our guest and leans against it, I notice how tired he looks. He’s stressed, and it’s beginning to show. I step forward and take his hand, tugging him gently. “Let’s go relax. I’ve missed you today.”
He lets me draw him to our nightly spot on the sofa. “I miss you from the moment I walk out the door each morning until I return in the evening,” he says lovingly.
He goes to get my feet and I stop him. I pat my lap and motion for him to lie down and put his head there. The fact that he rushes to comply tells me that he needs my touch tonight. I begin running my hand through the thick strands of his hair, rubbing his scalp soothingly. There’s a comfortable silence between us as we unwind from the day and just enjoy being together. “Is there anything new?” I ask, not wanting him to go to bed with everything bottled up inside.
He releases a heavy sigh before saying, “Just the life story of Monique and how she ties in with Cassie.” He fills me in on the details and I find myself gaping down at him. Talk about something that could be a movie. I shouldn’t really be surprised, though. If anyone could find a way to remain in our lives as a pain in the ass, it would be Monique. She does have staying power; I’ll give her that. “Max doesn’t think Aidan should fight her to remain Cassie’s guardian. He believes it’s not a battle that can be won.”
Lucian has told me how much Aidan cares for Cassie. It’s hard for me to imagine the other man giving up and walking away. “What was Aidan’s reaction?”
With a faint crook of his lips, Lucian says, “About what you can imagine. He doesn’t trust that Monique has Cassie’s best interests at heart. He feels like he’s abandoning her if he doesn’t try.”
“What’s your opinion?” I ask, now more than curious. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish we could put everything to do with Cassie behind us, but it’s not that simple. Lucian is fiercely loyal to Aidan, which means Cassie will remain with us as long as she’s tied to him. I would never ask him to turn his back on his friend.
“Fuck if I know. Of course, it would be easier to give Monique what she wants and walk away. A part of me even thinks it might be for the best. Other than an absent father, Cassie doesn’t have any family that I know of. If Monique and her father care enough about her to go to all this trouble and expense, then maybe that’s what she needs. She has been Aidan’s life for so long though, and I’m not sure if he knows how to let her go. I worry about what this will do to him if he’s forced to do that against his will. He even admitted to me that he doesn’t know if it’s the love of a man for a woman he feels now or more the feelings you have for a childhood friend that you feel you failed.”
“My heart hurts for him,” I say, as a tear breaks free to run down my cheek.
Lucian pulls my hand to his mouth and presses a kiss in my palm before rubbing his cheek against it. “We are the only thing in my world right now that doesn’t appear to be unraveling. Tonight I sat at that table and watched Aidan and Max deal with demons that even I don’t fully know or understand and I thought, that was me just months ago. Living day-by-day because that was all I had. Then you came along and after giving me a good ass-kicking, you loved me.”
If it were physically possible, I’d be a puddle at his feet right now. For someone who’d once professed to be closed off to love, he was now so eloquent at expressing his feelings. I open my mouth to tell him just how much I do love him when instead I find myself blurting out, “Lucian Quinn, will you marry me?” As proposals go, it wasn’t the best. My mouth immediately falls open in alarm because I have no idea where that came from. Lucian leaps from the sofa as if his butt is on fire and promptly plows into the coffee table. He’s lying on the floor, cursing and groaning while I wonder if I’ve just ruined my life with that one out-of-nowhere question.
He shits up, holding his head, staring at me. When I don’t say anything, he asks, “Did you ask me to marry you?”
“No?” I squeak, although it comes out as more of a question than an answer. I’m beyond humiliated now and turn my head away from his penetrating gaze.
He moves until he’s pushing between my legs. “Baby, look at me,” he says quietly as I continue to stare at the wall. “How can you expect me to say yes when you refuse to make eye contact?” His voice is full of amusement as if his shock has finally worn off. Now he has my attention. I give him a bashful smile and hope he’ll put me out of my misery one way or another. Maybe I should just take it back and pretend as if it never happened. He places one of my hands on his heart. “First of all, yes a million times, I’ll marry you.” With a sexy grin in place, he continues, “Now that we have that out of the way, let me say that you’ve made me the happiest man on this Earth. I’ve been trying to figure out the perfect way to ask you and nothing I came up with seemed worthy. It was either too much, too little, and just plain fucking stupid.” He surprises me by getting to his feet and walking over to his briefcase. He pulls out what looks like a hundred pieces of paper and puts them in my lap.