Page 60 of Hot Mess

The jury took twenty minutes to convict him.

“I’m so happy for you,” he murmured into my ear.

I wasn’t going to cry this time because I’d wasted enough time crying over it all. I was just happy it was over.

Theo released me into the arms of my brother-in-law and then my sister. Emily hugged me tighter than she ever had.

“I’m so proud of you, Elle. You worked so hard for this.” She pulled back and squeezed my hands. “I wish we didn’t have to run, but we have to get Amelia from school. We’ll see you in a few weeks, okay?”

“The house is waiting for you,” Theo assured her, accepting the hug she gave him before she pulled back and we waved them goodbye.

I took five minutes to hug and thank my team, and then Theo and I left ourselves from a private exit. Media was waiting outside as they knew it was the trial day, and even though I’d pulled back massively from such a public life, they were still interested in it because of everything that had happened before.

It was a bit of a precedent in terms of cases, and I was thankful that I had a great partnership with a charity to help other people.

The charity wasn’t the only person I had a great partnership with.

I rested my head on Theo’s shoulder. His parents had traveled to New York ahead of going to Creek Keys to celebrate Christmas there solely to look after Arielle while we attended the court case. Considering I’d only met them a few times last winter because I’d gone to spend Christmas with Emily, it was sweet of them and I really appreciated it.

It took us forever to get through the city and back to the hotel on Times Square. We’d made the mistake of letting Ari pick a place to stay, and while we’d talked her out of some of the extortionately priced hotels, she wasn’t willing to budge on Times Square.

I didn’t blame her. It was the first place I’d visited when we got there.

Unfortunately, there was media outside the hotel, waiting for me.

Theo tossed the cab driver some money and asked him to wait a second. He did, and Theo removed his coat and tossed it over my head so I could enter without too much harassment.

In theory.

It didn’t stop the shouts or the yells for my attention, but Theo kept me tucked tightly against his side and guided me into the hotel. And he only threatened to punch someone once.

Not bad.

I shrugged his coat off the second we were inside. “Well, I guess we’re not going anywhere for dinner tonight.”

He smiled at me. “I didn’t plan it anyway.” He took my hand and guided me to the elevators. We only had to wait a moment for it to arrive, and we traveled up to our floor without encountering anyone else.

Thank God. I’d had enough people today.

I yawned as we walked down the hallway to our room. Theo whipped the keycard out of his pocket and inserted it in, then held the door for me to go in first.

There were… candles. Everywhere. The room was dark except for the candles that covered every flat surface, and Ari sat in the middle of the bed, grinning, with something in her hand.

“What’s going on?” I looked behind me at Theo.

“I have a question,” Ari said, drawing my attention back to her. She made a ‘come here’ motion with her hand, and I did as she asked, going to the edge of the bed. It was an envelope. She was holding a little box. “Elle, you are my most favorite person in the whole world. Apart from my dad, of course.”

Theo grinned from next to her. “As it happens, aside from Arielle, you’re also my favorite person in the entire world.” He reached behind Ari and pulled out a small box, one that made my heart jump into my throat. “I never, ever thought you would be the person to bring a light into our lives. If I think back to the day we walked into the diner, I never would have imagined we’d be here with you, right now.”

A lump formed in my throat. I could barely breathe, because while I knew what was happening, I also had no idea.

“I know that today has been one of the best days of your life, and now I’d like to selfishly ask that you consider making it one of mine.” He dropped to one knee and opened the box, showing off a simple band with one diamond in the middle.

“And mine!” Ari jumped off the bed and knelt next to Theo. “Dad. Help. The box is stuck.”

Theo fought a laugh while I tried not to cry, and he opened Ari’s box. Hers was bigger than his, and hers had two necklaces in it like the best friend ones you gave your best friend when you were five.