For a moment he just stared back at her. Then he sighed, long and deep. The last of the tension drained from his features and he rested his forehead on hers and closed his eyes. ‘Thank you.’
She ran her fingers down the side of his face, holding him tenderly, and wanting him to understand everything. ‘When I went out the other night it was—’
‘You don’t need to tell me,’ he butted in. ‘I know there’s no way you could have organised that party without working round the clock. You told me you were checking some details—I believe you.’
She smiled, but needed to explain anyway. ‘I was trying to organise entertainment—a DJ or a band or something. It was such short notice and I had to find out if they were any good and if they could be released from the club for the evening. I didn’t want to tell you. You were so busy, the last thing you needed was me adding to your list of things to do. I wanted to show you that I could do it, that I wasn’t totally useless. I wanted to show you that you could believe in me. But none of my old friends would help me.’ That rejection still stung. ‘They didn’t want to know.’ She looked at him sadly. ‘I guess they weren’t really friends.’
She’d been dreaming for all these years, pretending, hiding from the truth. Now she could finally admit it. ‘I ’ve been so alone for so long, James.’
He slipped his arms right around her, cradled her to him. ‘I know.’
She clung to him, feeling his warmth, and knew he could give her everything she hadn’t had—family, friendship.
He stroked his hands down her back. ‘I would have helped you.’
‘I know.’ And she did. ‘I stumbled on my way out of the club and the paparazzi snapped the moment. For once my stupid shoes got me.’
‘Your shoes aren’t stupid,’ he teased. ‘They’re the ultimate adornment for the most magnificent legs ever to walk the earth.’
She smiled but soon sobered, knowing there were still mountains for them to climb. ‘They’re always there, James—the paparazzi. It’s just part of the deal. You just have to learn to ignore them and never read the papers.’
‘How do you think they’ll handle your wedding?’
‘Your marriage—will they be fighting for exclusive coverage?’
She stared, speechless.
His eyes sparkled with the golden flecks now. ‘You might be the princess, but I’m still the boss. And I’ve decided the next event I want you to plan is our marriage. So long as you keep a tight rein on the budget and a close eye on the guest list, of course.’ He winked.
‘You want to marry me?’ She knew he wanted her, that he loved her, but she hadn’t expected that he’d ever want to take on such a public commitment. Not after what he’d been through, not with the sad example his parents had given him.
He tilted her chin and made her look at him. ‘Your home is with me. My home is with you. Permanently.’
His hand tightened on her waist. ‘Understand?’
She was trying to, really trying. He wasn’t going to let her go. He wasn’t going to make her go. He wanted her. Just as she was, all that she was—for ever.
She couldn’t believe it.
A smile, one more wry than wicked, softened the angles of his face. ‘Is it bad of me to be hoping that I just got you pregnant? And if I didn’t, then I’m going to keep trying till I do because then you’ll have to marry me.’
‘Oh, James.’ Her eyes burned again.
‘We’ll have such fun with our kids, Liss.’ His eyes glowed with the promise of heavenly dreams soon to be realised. ‘We won’t send them away either. No matter how wild they try to be.’
She crumpled then. He was offering her everything—her dream career, a family, a home, a heart that was all hers. All she’d ever wanted in the world, he wanted too. She clenched her fingers on his shoulders, keeping herself upright—just.
‘No more tears.’ He shook his head at her. ‘You’ve ruined your make-up.’
‘I don’t give a damn about my make-up.’ She hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours. She’d gone from the angst of uncertainty, to the despair of heartbreak, to the unending joy in knowing she now held the heart of her lover—unconditionally.
It was more of an order than a question but she didn’t mind.
Exhaustion disappeared in her elation and his expression exploded—excitement, relief, jubilance coloured him. He beamed, open and free, as she took his face in her hands and whispered with rapture yes, yes and yes to him again. He wiped the fresh tears from her cheeks with his thumbs, and then claimed his prize.