“I won’t bring you out to Hollywood without adding a major string,” he said.
“A job is pretty major,” she said.
“Not major enough.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a velvet box. “I offered you the job because I didn’t want to say good-bye. What I really wanted was to be with you forever.”
Her pulse rate accelerated, air whooshed through her ears. In all her wildest dreams she’d never imagined this scenario. Only that they’d have the opportunity to be together, working and loving each other side by side. Marriage hadn’t entered her mind.
Her lungs squeezed. Hope tripped along her spine, raising her hairs. Time slowed, evaporated until her only reality was Blake’s warmth, the aroma of his clean male scent, and his gleaming green irises.
He loved her. Jessie’s heart skipped a beat, happiness mingled with the sweetness of knowing she’d found the perfect man. One who would give himself to her completely, her match in every way.
“Isn’t this too fast?” she asked. “We’ve only been together for a few short weeks.”
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to find you.” He turned his head to take in the crowd circling around them and opened the box. “Marry me, Jessie, and I promise I’ll be yours forever.”
The room hushed as if it had taken a collective breath. She contemplated her mom’s beaming face and her father’s slight nod of unspoken approval. The expectant gazes in her siblings and Nick Constanza’s cocky grin gave her a strength only the bonds of family could bring.
Peering inside the box, Jessie’s throat filled with emotion when she recognized the contents nestled inside the satin, creamy interior. A platinum band with a large, princess cut diamond surrounded by smaller ones. And her medal nestled next to the ring. “My Purple Heart,” she said, unable to hide the catch in her voice. “I couldn’t figure out how to ask for it after I left the room.”
“I’m sorry I hurt you, but I’m not sorry you left the medal behind.” He pinned it to her dress. “It showed me the way back to you.”
“Blake,” she whispered, touching her pin. “I don’t know what to say.”
He lifted the platinum engagement ring he’d had overnighted from New York. “Tell me you’ll stay with me forever.”
Warmth radiated through her chest. This wasn’t movie magic with a fade to black ending. This man. This moment. All of it was real. She couldn’t resist the wishes glittering in his emerald eyes. “Yes.” She held out her left hand. “But you know I’m never going to let you get off easy.”
“No kidding,” her brother Michael joked on the sidelines.
Jessie’s mother shot him a hush-your-mouth look that had him sheepishly shrugging. Beside him, Kennedy moved a little closer to Zach, her eyes filled with dreams Jessie had believed she’d never discover herself.
Blake slid the ring onto her finger. “I want you to be tough.”
He lowered his head to capture her lips. As she welcomed him, Jessie heard clapping and whistles of celebration. Around her a countdown began as everyone cheered the New Year into life. But Jessie wasn’t counting down, she was counting forward. Forward to the future with the man who owned her heart, and who held her soul entwined with his.