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My boyfriend presses a soft kiss to my temple.

“It’s fine, honey. Anyone would have felt betrayed in your shoes because the situation as you knew it was a smoke screen for something more serious, not to mention deadly. Your emotions were natural.”

I smile at him, and then perk up.

“Actually, speaking of Alana, she’s been feeling pretty bored with life lately, which is probably one of the reasons why she wanted to come out to Long Island. She says she wants to find a way to ‘spice it up,’ although I have no idea what that means. Maybe once the baby comes, we can ask her to babysit. That’ll definitely relieve some of the boredom!”

Ben laughs, brushing my hair away from my face.

“You really think our baby is the kind of excitement she’s looking for?”

I purse my lips and then giggle.

“No, you’re right. I just don’t know what to tell her. Any ideas?”

Ben laughs. “Yeah. She could get a job at Club Z if she wants. I don’t think she’ll find anything spicier than that.”

Shaking my head, I laugh.

“Okay yeah, I don’t think she’s looking to go quite that spicy, but good try.”

My handsome man shrugs.

“It worked for you, so it could work for her, too. You never know.”

I shake my head again and giggle, but he’s right. Who knows? Alana does play the clarinet after all. If I can manage naughty antics with my flute, then imagine what she can do with her instrument!

But then, the auction begins and we watch avidly. Bidding is fierce, and finally, one man prevails. He’s tall and handsome standing in the back, with black hair pushed off from a high forehead. I shoot an inquisitive look at Ben.

“Do you know who that is?”

“No,” he says in a low voice. “But I doubt he’s mafia, so I’d say it’s a win.”

Before I can speculate more, Ben takes my hand and guides me out of the ballroom. We stroll through the estate grounds, and finally end up by a fountain in back which they’ve turned on, probably in order to spur higher bids. It’s a gorgeous, clear day and I sigh while leaning back on a wooden bench. This is the life.

Meanwhile, Ben takes a seat next to me.

“You know, honey,” he says, his voice neutral, “I’ve officially been removed from the undercover task force.”

I smile.

“The transfer went through?”

He nods.

“Yes. From now on, I’m just a regular detective.”

I nod, searching his strong features.

“Will you miss it?”

He’s silent for a moment but then shrugs.

“I think I’m fine. We talked about this already, and I don’t want to be leading a double life when we have a kid. That’s a game for young men, and well, I’m not young anymore. Plus, there are more important things in my life now. I want to be home for our baby. I want my child to know their daddy, and not think of him as some shadowy figure that reappears intermittently before disappearing again.”

Tears come to my eyes as I press a soft kiss to his lips.

“Thank you, Mr. Culver,” I whisper. “I know you’re doing this for our family, and I appreciate it.”

His lips are gentle on mine, but then Ben gets down on his knees beside me and presses a kiss to my bulging belly.

“I want to be around for you forever, Michelle.” Then, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a velvet box as the air evaporates from my lungs. Is this really happening? But my handsome man nods, his blue eyes seizing mine. “Michelle Commons, I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you. We’ve been to Hell and back already, but it’s only made my feelings for you stronger, and I can’t imagine my life without you and our baby. In fact, I want to spend forever with you.” He pops open the box, and inside is a beautiful diamond ring that glimmers in the sunlight. I cover my mouth, gasping as my eyes begin to fill with tears. “Will you marry me?” Ben asks in a low voice. “Will you do me the honor of becoming Mrs. Benjamin Culver?”

At first I can’t answer, but then I lean forward to press a kiss to his lips.

“Yes! Yes. I love you so much. I’d love to be your wife.”

With that, my gorgeous fiancé slides the ring onto my finger, and we both pause, just looking at the glimmering stone for a moment.

“Thank you, Michelle,” Ben says in an emotional voice. “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

I turn to look into those blue eyes then.

“No thank you, Detective Culver,” I whisper while twining my arms around his neck. “For showing me that there’s more to life than one moment, or one event, or one anything. Instead, life is a series of moments with the people you love, and I love you most of all,” I say in a fierce tone before kissing him. “You are the man for me.”

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