“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry. You’re nervous, aren’t you?”
“I’m not nervous. Why would I be nervous? I’ve been with Rachel for two years. Living with her for nearly a year. We get along great. Better than great. I love her more than life itself. She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I can’t wait to make her my wife. What’s there to be nervous about?”
“How about the fact that Portia, Stan, and Tim are all hiding at the Love You Forever Inn and Chapel, you’re going to perform an acoustic guitar version of “I Will Always Love You” in front of the whole town, then ask Rachel to marry you, plus there’s a flashmob, then her parents and brother are going to come here and stay in the guest cabin for three days, and–”
“Got it. Now I’m about to have a full-blown panic attack hearing it put that way. Thanks, Mom.”
“I can’t help with that, but I can unstick a zipper.”
His hands and feet turned cold. Heart started doing a reggae beat in his chest, double speed. His head felt like a calypso drum and his brain was wiped clean of all the notes to the song.
He was a fool for thinking he could pull off such an elaborate scheme. Why hadn’t he just planned a private, quiet proposal at the hot springs?
What was he thinking with this grand gesture?
If Kell thought he was fooling her, he was sorely mistaken. Anyone could clearly see what he was up to.
Mr. Kellan Dean Luview was about to propose.
And it was his cat, Calamine, who had tipped Rachel off.
The enormous orange Maine Coon cat had climbed onto Kell’s nightstand last week, tipping over a glass of water he’d left there. Rachel had grabbed a towel from the bathroom and mopped it up, but some had dribbled into his drawer, which she’d opened.
And there it was.
The little velvet box.
Not one to snoop, she’d felt an overwhelming mix of emotions when coming upon it: joy, exhilaration, guilt, joy, regret, excitement.
Mostly lots of joy.
Because it felt so right.
Sure, they’d talked about it. You didn’t just spring a marriage proposal on a person, especially a person like Rachel. These two years together had taught her many things about Kell; for example, he needed lots of physical activity, and spent as much time as possible in nature. For his part, Kell had learned that she hated–despised, even–surprises.
So one of the many emotions she’d felt upon discovering the ring was…
Which then triggered guilt.
Which then provoked some shame to leak out.
Which finally made her corral all these errant feelings and give them a good talking to.
Because having Kell Luview pop the question was going to be the best moment of her entire life, so there should be nothing–not one little bit!–wrong with that.
She planted her hands on her hips and gave him a mortified look. “You’re telling me that you put on this ridiculous lemur costume to sing “I Will Always Love You” onstage at the festival before proposing to me, and underneath you’re only wearing your underwear?”
“Are you trying to repeat what happened to me in D.C.?”
“Not repeat…” he said slowly. “More like recreate parts of it.”
She looked around quickly, frantically even. “Is there a pedicab coming? Because if you tell me there’s a pedicab coming, I’m going to need a couple of therapy sessions to deal with this! Maybe even EMDR.”
He soothed her by brushing his hands down from her shoulders to her fingertips a few times. “No, Rachel, there’s no pedicab. I’m not re-enacting what happened to you in D.C. I’m just…”
Her phone rang. She looked down at the screen and grimaced. “It’s my mom. I do not want to talk to my mom right now.”
“Well, you’re going to have to talk to her in a few minutes. First Kylie’s, then we’re going back to the camp.” Sweat was pouring down his forehead as he fussed with the zipper, arching his hips up in his seat as he tried to smooth out the fabric. The steering wheel mocked him now, holding his thighs in place.
And then the zipper gave way abruptly.
The force of his hand carried it down hard and fast, so fast that it got caught on his–
She was everything.
Everything to Kell Luview, and he was everything for her.
“Yes!” she said louder as Kell’s grin blocked the sun, his knees flexing as he lifted up enough to take the ring out of the box and slide it slowly, achingly, up her finger. The cool sensation of precious metal on her skin felt like a full-body kiss.
And then she got one of those, too.
Kell’s arms wrapped around her, pulling her to her tiptoes as he kissed her with abandon, full and happy, his whole self embracing her whole self, every part of them fully present. Everyone surrounding them began to cheer and even scream, the pandemonium a muted backdrop for the soaring of her heart.
Kell Luview loved her.
Loved her enough to rescue her from that pedicab seven years ago.
Loved her enough to help her when she came to Luview, Maine, two years ago.
Loved her enough to break through his own stubbornness and give their relationship a chance.
Loved her enough to move in with her.
And now–loved her enough to stand before her in a silly lemur costume, on the common of the town where everyone knew him, and kiss her silly, the sun shining on her new engagement ring like it was smiling, too.