Smiling, he pushes off the Audi.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” he replies. I’m dumbfounded, thinking this is beyond weird.

Benjamin takes my hand and leads me around the back of his car to the passenger side. The front window rolls down and I stare at a woman who, while I’ve never seen a picture of her, I know she’s Benjamin’s mom. She was flying in this morning for a visit, which is something I’d managed to put out of my mind until just now.

I smooth my hair down in a nervous gesture. Benjamin’s hand goes to my lower back, urging me forward just a bit closer as if assuring me she won’t bite. His mom smiles broadly, then sticks a hand out the window. “Hi, Elena… it’s so wonderful to meet you.”

Of course, I take her hand, but my smile falters. I’m faltering. “Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Hewitt.”

She waves a hand. “Please… call me Kathy.”

Not able to contain my confusion anymore, I just ask Benjamin point blank, “What’s going on here?”

His mother smiles before the window slowly rolls up to give us privacy. Benjamin looks a little discombobulated as he glances over the top of his car back to the church.

“That was weird,” he says softly, giving a nod at the chapel. “Sitting in church.”

“Not your thing,” I remind him. “I get it.”

“It could be my thing,” he replies, eyes on me. “With you, that is.”

I shake my head, brows furrowed. “I’m sorry… I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Yesterday, I got the distinct impression we were over, and now you show up at my church with your mom.”

Benjamin chuckles as he points a finger at the passenger window behind which his mother sits. “That’s sort of my grand gesture.”

I frown in further confusion. “Grand gesture?”

He gives me a sheepish smile and a tiny shrug. “I thought introducing you to my mother would show you how serious I am.”

“Serious about what?” I ask, although I’m starting to clue in at this point.

“About you,” he replies, hand going to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear. His eyes roam over my face. “I wanted to show you I wasn’t afraid to move forward. To build on what we already have. Make a life together.”

My head swims from the implications of those words. He seems so sure, yet… he’s flaked out on me because of his fears twice now.

“That’s a big turnaround from yesterday,” I say.

He shakes his head. “Not really. I knew what my choices were, and I just had to make the decision. Go forward or backward. It was pretty simple once I really thought about it.”

“Simple?” I ask with a wry smile.

“Yeah,” he replies, his hands coming to my waist to draw me closer. My hands rest on his arms, and I tip my head back to look up at him. “My love for you simply outweighed my fears.”

“Love?” My voice is so faint I can barely hear it, but, fortunately, he does.

He nods, his eyes solemnly locked onto mine. “Yeah… I love you, Elena. So incredibly deeply. I can’t let you just walk out of my life. In fact, I’ve been thinking, and I’m fairly sure God put you in my path for a reason.”

“What’s that?” I whisper.

“So I can live again,” he says. “Love again. It’s a gift that’s been handed to me, and I can’t ignore it. So please put me out of my misery and tell me I still have a chance with you. I haven’t irrevocably ruined things, right?”

My smile is coy as I shake my head, stepping in closer. I bring my hands up to touch the nape of his neck, then go to my tiptoes to put my face as close to his as I can. “I love you, too.”

“Thank fuck,” he mutters just before kissing me. A sweet, soul-stealing kiss that’s filled with so much promise my heart flutters in response.

He pulls back. “I’m in it for good, Elena. I promise.”

I give him my own pledge in return. “I’m right there with you. Always.”

Benjamin grins, rubbing his nose alongside mine. When I have his eyes again, he nods at the car. “Ideally, I’d love to whisk you back to your place or mine to seal this all with orgasms, but I got Mom along for the ride. I was thinking of treating you ladies to a five-star lunch. Can you break plans with your family today?”

“They’ll totally understand,” I say, making a note to text Jorie as soon as I get into the car.

“Then your chariot awaits,” he says as he opens the back door with a flourish.

“I can get in the backseat,” Kathy immediately says, but I’m already sliding in.

“No way,” I say as I reach for the seat belt. “I’m good back here.”

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