She’s wearing jeans and a cotton shirt, so I doubt she’s dressed to attend the party. My heart is in havoc. “Can I have a word?”
I drain the rest of the whisky, letting it smoke down my throat. “Sure.”
Maybe this isn’t even happening and I’ve had too much to drink. I’m probably in my bed right now, dreaming, or sprawled on the couch and the party is over.
But she walks up to me, with a nervous look on her face. Her hair is in a ponytail, her face bare. She never looked more beautiful. My fingers itch to touch her, but I curl them into a fist.
She shrugs. “Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks. I didn’t know you’d come.” I had hopes even after reading her email about not coming. The moment I saw Cara, I knew she wouldn’t come. And now, here she is.
She takes a deep breath, and walks to the middle of the library and stays there. “I didn’t want to. I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened in the elevator yesterday. And everything that came before.”
I shuffle on the seat, interested. My heart thrums in my ears, the sound echoing again and again. I clutch the metal arms of the chair on either side, to keep me from standing and walking to her. I need to listen, at least enough to learn why she’s here.
A shade of pink spreads across her cheeks. “I’m sorry. When Alex caught us… I didn’t want to be the reason why you two don’t have a relationship anymore.”
I suck in a deep breath, still wrestling with my own reactions. I want to believe this could be a clean slate, but what if this means different outcomes to us both? For her, a clean slate can mean talking about it and moving on—without me in her life. “That won’t happen.”
“Yes. Good. I wasn’t sure back then.”
“You said it wasn’t the right time.”
“Because it wasn’t. I needed to think, to come to terms with what was happening. Ever since Alex cheated on me, so much of what I’ve done was on impulse… deciding if we should be together needed more reflection.”
I stand, against my best judgment, yet unable to keep still. My gut is curled, my chest frozen. If her reply doesn’t kill me, the tension may just do the trick and take me out. “And?”
She takes a couple of steps toward me, her face brighter. “I love you, Rhett. I want to be in your life,” she says, her voice leaving no room for misunderstanding.
I erase the gap between us. My own fingers tremble when I cup her face. “Damn it.”
A warm intensity flickers in her big blue eyes. “I love you. I want to be with you for every single one of your upcoming birthdays, and mine too, if you’ll have me.”
A huge bubble of joy bursts inside me, impacting me on a cellular level. “You realize you’ll have more of those than me,” I say playfully, and put my arms around her.
She stands to her fullest height, on her tip toes, her gaze locked in mine. “Yes, so we better make each one of them count.”
Make every birthday, every ordinary day count with her. That’s my idea of heaven. “I love you, Riley.”
I catch her lips in mine, and kiss her passionately, my tongue swiping over hers. Our bodies cling to one another, our hands searching and exploring. I pull her so close I can barely breathe, but I don’t care. I want her like this, every part of the way with me. Forever.
One year later…
“Do we have everything ready?”I ask, more to myself than to Rhett.
“What kind of wine pairing goes with ‘we’re having a baby?’” I ask, looking at the different wine bottles in Rhett’s cellar. Correction: our cellar. We moved into this dreamy home about six months prior, right after our wedding.
We wanted to start fresh and we found a place that was new to us both.
“You let me worry about that,” he says and kisses the top of my head.
He takes a look at a few bottles and selects a couple of them to go with dinner.
I am now officially three months pregnant, so we decided to invite Alex and his girlfriend Sara, Lily, and my mom and stepfather to break the news all at once. Of course Cara overheard me making plans and sort of invited herself, so she’s coming too. Truth to be told, we’ve grown closer in the last few months.