A Debt Paid in Passion(33)

By: Dani Collins

“I love you. This isn’t pandering to your romantic side—even though I love the idea of making your dreams come true. It’s me asking you to marry me properly. Not for Lucy’s sake, but because we love each other. If you don’t want that, if you don’t believe we’re equally invested in this relationship, then don’t do it.”

He was right, she couldn’t imagine hurting or humiliating him with refusal.

He seemed to read her mind as he straightened to look down his nose at her. “Don’t marry me out of pity or a sense of obligation. I’d rather a hit of revenge. But, Sin, think about it. Why would I set myself up for this kind of drubbing unless I wanted to prove something to you? Something really important.”

Like what?

The truth revealed itself like a specter condensing from something she had tried too hard to see.

“You shouldn’t have to prove anything to me. I should just believe you. Trust you,” she said, smothered by growing compunction. “That’s what I always wanted from you, faith in my feelings and intentions toward you...” She pressed her lips together so hard her chin crinkled. Why hadn’t she put it together before this? “I’m so sorry.”

“We’re not holding grudges, Sin.” He stroked a tender hand down her cheek. “This is our fresh start.”

She nodded agreement, letting him draw her into his embrace. With her head on his chest, she said, “I love you so much. It’s hard to believe you could feel this same way for me. It’s so big and endless and you are so incredible. You deserve to be loved like that, but I’m just me.”

“If you could see yourself the way I do. The way we all do. You’re such an amazing woman, Sin. So strong, but so kind. I’m proud that you’re my wife. I want the world to know how much you mean to me.”

For such a naturally circumspect man, this was quite an act. She couldn’t think of any reason he would do such a public thing, take such a risk, except that he loved her.

She was so overwhelmed and touched she could only wrap her arms around him and hold on, trying to keep the bursting sensations from breaking her skin.

“Will you?” he asked, kissing her hair. “Marry me?”

She nodded through happy tears. “Of course. I’d love to. I love you, Raoul.”

“And wear my ring this time,” he grumbled, easing back to thread it onto her finger. It was a band of baguette diamonds, smooth enough that the claws wouldn’t catch on baby clothes or skin, stunning enough to make her gasp as she really took it in.

“I might have been overcompensating,” he commented sheepishly.

“You think?” She laughed, then looked up at him. “I don’t know how to handle being this happy.” Her cheeks ached from her huge smile. “It means so much to me.”

It wasn’t the proposal; it was knowing he loved her that made her misty with emotion. She felt his lips touch hers as she blinked fast, trying to keep her eyes from overflowing.

“Ali helped me set it up. I hope our day is everything you imagined your wedding day would be.”

It was already better than she’d ever dared hope, but she was still awed by the small touches that made her wedding ceremony utterly perfect. As she was too curvy for ruffles or a full skirt, Ali had found her a gown of lace over silk with a modest train. She did her own hair and makeup, only calling in Ali at the last minute to help her with the veil. Faye loaned her the blue cameo pendant that had been in her family for ages and her father met her at the elevator, still unsteady, but so proud to walk with her. Her heart soared.

When she saw her daughter in a confection of a flower-girl dress sitting on Amber’s knee, she almost tripped. Then Raoul’s mother and stepsister came into focus and some of their longtime work associates...

He had really laid himself on the line with this arrangement.

Now in a morning suit that took her breath, he turned to her with such unashamed adoration in his eyes, she couldn’t speak. Unbelievably moved by their vows, feeling the sincerity deep in her heart as they spoke them, she knew he loved her. Her.

And they had a lifetime ahead of them.

He lifted her veil and she kept her eyes open, wanting him to see the same devotion in her gaze as she found reflected in his. They sealed their promises to each other with a tender kiss.

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