“Nothing is as good as this,” Dean murmurs, biting my ear.
“Nothing,” I repeat, and I sound just as lost as he is in the pleasure.
But I’m found too.
I’m where I want to be.
And after we come in another hot, sticky, perfectly sexy mess, we clean up and return to bed, where he takes my hand, threading his fingers through mine.
I look down at the ring on his finger, admiring it. “Looks hella hot, Dean.”
“Yes, and I think you need one too.” He holds up my hand, showing me our fingers twined together. “I can’t have you walking around like this. All these bare fingers. I need everyone to know you’re taken.”
And I smile.
Yeah, I’m definitely taken.
“Feel free to put a ring on me, babe. Let the world know I’m going to marry the love of my life.”
He squeezes my hand. “I fucking love you. That is all.”
And that is everything.
THE NEXT FEW DAYS
Also known as the start of a new countdown.
When I walk into The Magpie before we open the next night, a whoop and a holler greet me.
“Lover boy!” Maeve rushes out from behind the bar and over to me, jumping into my arms.
I grip her before we topple over. “Lovely to see you too.”
“Tell me everything, you dog,” she says when I set her down.
I arch a brow. “Everything?”
She rolls her eyes. “Great sex, blah, blah, perfect chemistry, blah, blah, happily ever after, blah, blah.”
“Sounds about right,” I say, laughing as I walk inside and grab a stool at the bar.
She hops up next to me, rests her chin in her hand, and bats her eyes. “So, when is the wedding? Can I be your best woman? And how bloody fucking happy are you?”
“Next year. Obviously. And more than I ever thought possible.”
She sets her hand on her heart and sighs. “I want to say I told you so, but I’m too excited for you to gloat.”
“Gloat a little. You deserve to.”
She squares her shoulders, preens, then pokes me in the chest. “Remember that night when I said I’d laugh so hard when love smacked you in the face and knocked you on the arse?”
I stare at the ceiling like I’m deep in thought. “What do you know? I recall it perfectly.”
“I was right,” she says, shimmying her shoulders.
“You were,” I say, and once we’ve done the requisite recap, I take a breath and broach the subject we need to discuss. “So, I’m leaving soon.”
“I know,” she says, a little heavily.
“I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too,” she says, wiping her hand across her cheek as her eyes shine with tears. She purses her lips and looks away. “A lot,” she adds, her voice breaking as tears slide down her cheeks.
I reach for her, drawing her into an embrace.
She cries quietly for a minute, then she pulls back, flaps her hand in front of her face, and composes her expression. “I’m all good. No more tears.”
“We need to talk about this place and what this means. Especially since the loan is nearly paid off.”
“Right. How do we work this out? I mean, I’ll buy you out, of course.”
I shake my head. “No.”
“What?” Then she blinks, an alternative occurring to her. “Oh, you want to be a silent partner from the US? I’m sure we can sort that out.”
I take her hand. “Listen, I talked to Fitz about this. And I hope this isn’t presumptuous. But we really want to do this for you. Because here’s the thing—everything is changing for me, and he wants to make it easy for both of us, for me and for you. So, think about it if you need to”—I take a beat—“but I want to give you my half.”
Her jaw falls open. “What?” She looks like a cartoon character hit with a box of shock. “G-give it to me?” she asks, stumbling on the words.
“Ah, um, how?”
“Well, I can’t run it anymore. And I bought my flat at a steal, and it’s gone up in value, so when I sell it, I’ll have enough for a lease on a new bar in New York. And I want you to have this place.”
“But New York isn’t cheap.”
“Nor is London, as we both know.” I scrub a hand across my jaw. Money matters can be touchy to discuss, but Maeve and I talk about everything, including finances. “Look, I’m going to be blunt here. My fiancé does well for himself. And I don’t intend to dig my heels in and be pigheaded about things. That would be pointless. He takes care of the people he loves.” It’s such a privilege to be one of those people—to be his person. “When I’m in New York, the bar I open will be mine, and I’ll be responsible for it. But I won’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage, or things like that. So, yeah. I—” I stop, because I didn’t make this decision alone. I made it with Fitz this morning before he returned to New York. “He and I—we—we want to do this for you.”