She laughed. “You’re sticking around?”
“Yes. I’ll be here.” He wrapped his arms around her, sucking on her neck, flicking his tongue against her pulse. “You know, I think this will work a lot better if you’re naked.”
“You’re bad, Ivan. I’m not getting naked to decorate the tree. I’ll fall in and have pine needles everywhere.”
He laughed. “You’re right.”
“So, come on, let’s get this looking all festive.”
She held out some baubles and they worked together to get the tree decorated. It was a small one, suited to her apartment.
His parents always had a large tree for the hallway. In fact, they had several trees all around the house.
Delaney played some carols and the whole time, he was very much aware of the ring burning a hole in his pocket. When it came time to put the angel on top, Delaney gave it to him to do the honors.
Once he slid the angel on the tree, he stepped back and stared up at their work.
“Let me grab the mulled wine. Two seconds.”
Delaney stepped away from him and he watched her go.
Staring up at that angel, he felt this overwhelming sense of home. The scent of pine filled the air, and carols played in the background. Delaney came back with two glasses filled with warm mulled wine.
“Merry Christmas, Ivan.” She clinked her glass with his.
She stared at the tree while he looked at her.
Don’t leave it another moment.
He opened his mouth, about to tell her.
“Let’s turn the lights on,” Delaney said.
He pressed his lips together and waited as she flicked the switch and white lights brightened the tree.
Delaney stepped back again.
He placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “I’m so pleased you’re here.”
“Delaney, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
She turned toward him. “That sounds serious.” She sipped at her mulled wine. “Is everything okay? You look a little worried.”
Ivan took another sip.
“It is serious.”
“Oh. Let me turn off the music. You don’t want to have to fight to be heard.”
Ivan waited as she turned the music off.
She pushed some hair off her face and smiled at him.
He opened his mouth and the doorbell rang.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll get that. Hold your thought.” She handed him her glass and he stared down at the cups.
Minutes later she returned, holding a basket.
“It’s from the office. You know they like to send a gift basket as thanks. Where were we?”
“Delaney, I know this is really fast and that we’ve been mostly enemies but”—he handed her the glass and reached into his pocket—“I want you to marry me.” He held the box out for her to see. With a glass in his other hand, he couldn’t open the lid.
“Please, Delaney. I’m not joking around. This is serious. I want you to be my wife because I’m in love with you.”
Delaney couldn’t move, couldn’t even speak. He popped the lid and she stared at the ring Ivan produced, this massive solitaire, the light hitting it and making it sparkle. She felt her heart beating so hard against her ribs, knew she probably looked shocked, with wide eyes and an open mouth.
And she was shocked, beyond belief.
Never had she envisioned Christmas Eve going this way. Hell, she hadn’t even thought Ivan was the type of man to propose or get married.
But she’d be lying in saying she hadn’t envisioned marrying him, being his wife, having a family with him … the whole shebang.
“Delaney, baby, say something.”
She finally lifted her gaze to Ivan, closed her mouth, and inhaled deeply through her nose before exhaling it out again. What was she going to say? They hadn’t been together that long, but this felt so real and right.
Being with him felt like perfection.
“Say something,” he whispered. “You’re starting to freak me out.” He chuckled softly, but she heard the nervousness in his voice.
She inhaled deeply, trying to calm herself. “You love me?”
His body relaxed slightly. “More than you’ll ever know.” He smiled. “I know this is fast, that our relationship didn’t started off the best. But spending that night with you in the office changed everything for me, Delaney.” He took a step closer to her. “I’ve fallen madly in love with you. But the truth is, I think I’ve always loved you. The banter between us, your stubbornness. Your strength. All of that endeared you to me.”
Oh. God. This was really happening.
And then she felt wetness slide down her cheeks, and she realized she was crying. She lifted her hand to brush away the tears, but Ivan was already doing that.
He ran the pad of his thumb underneath one of her eyes, gathering that droplet before bringing it to his mouth and kissing it, as if he were trying to get rid of her sadness.
But she wasn’t sad.
She was happy, unbelievably so.
And then she couldn’t help herself anymore, couldn’t stop the happiness that exploded from her.