If anyone had ever told King that he’d be one of those pathetic men who couldn’t even go one night without his girlfriend, he would have laughed in their face. In fact he would’ve wagered half his net worth that it would never happen.
He’d be quite a few million lighter in the wallet by now if that had been the case. It had only been a few minutes since he’d left Olivia in the car and he was already wondering what she was doing or if she needed anything.
But also exactly why he was standing in the lobby of a rustic mountain cabin.
“So everything is set for tonight?” King glanced over his shoulder to be sure Olivia hadn’t followed him inside.
He’d told her to relax in the car while he got them checked in. Pulling her away from the club in the midst of December had been a hard sell but she’d eventually agreed they both could use a weekend getaway. The remote cabin resort in the mountains of Virginia was perfect.
“Yes sir, Mr. Kingsley.” Mrs. English, the cheerful proprietor of The Olde English B&B, had been his primary contact setting up this important weekend.
“Good. Because we almost got in an accident on the way here and then we had a flat tire. I’m starting to feel like the universe is conspiring against me.”
Although he couldn’t understand why. The universe should know better than anyone that he needed Olivia like he needed air.
The past few months had only proven what he’d known since the moment he’d thought he lost her. She was his reason for getting up each day and his comfort when he went to sleep each night. Not only did she make him happy but she fit right in with his family like she’d always been there. She smoothed the rough edges of his relationship with Colin and kept Georgina from blistering his ear with TMI details that he did NOT want to know.
He didn’t even want to think about what he’d interrupted in his sister’s room a few weeks ago. Ugh. He was still trying to bleach his brain of images that could scar him for life.
But through it all, Olivia had been there. She made life better. She made him better. Obviously she was way too good for him.
He was selfish enough to ask her to marry him anyway.
“There’s no need to worry. Your dinner tonight will be spectacular.”
“It’s dessert that I’m worried about.”
Mrs. English smiled. “Her tiramisu will be perfect.”
King immediately felt his blood pressure start to rise. “Chocolate mousse. The tiramisu is mine.”
“Of course. I misspoke. The chocolate mousse will be perfect.”
King tugged at the collar that was suddenly strangling him. “Maybe we should–”
Mrs. English cleared her throat suddenly and tilted her head to the left, his only warning before Olivia appeared at his side.
“Hey! I decided to get out and stretch my legs.” She nodded hello to Mrs. English.
“Hey, baby. Perfect timing. Our room is ready now.”
With a meaningful glance at Mrs. English, he picked up the ancient-looking key she’d placed on the counter and offered his arm to Olivia.
Before the day was done, she’d be the future Mrs. Kingsley.
* * *
King figured he’d been crappy company since he was so nervous about their special dinner that night. Olivia hadn’t seemed to notice though, completely charmed by every aspect of their mountain cabin getaway.
She’d cajoled him into taking a short hike around the property even though it was damn near freezing. Then she’d insisted on sitting downstairs in the quaint sitting room to enjoy the fire. Now it was finally time for dinner and he was starting to get worried that he wouldn’t be able to get her out of the room.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
Olivia rolled over and buried her face in the pillows. “Not really.”
“Because I’m starving. You know, after all that hiking.”
“I’m sleepy.” She curled up and put her hands beneath her cheek the way she always did right before she fell asleep for the night. Oh god. He knew that look. It was her comfy, my-bra-is-off, sleeping position. Which meant that if he didn’t figure out how to get her down to the dining room his plan was ruined.
“Chocolate!” He yelled, desperate.
Her eyes popped open. “What is going on with you?”
“Nothing. I just heard they have a really good chocolate mousse here.”
She sat up looking completely alert. “Really? That’s worth getting up for!”
King let out a sigh of relief. He hadn’t thought the hardest part of proposing would be getting her to leave the room.
An hour later they were seated in the small dining room finishing up a delicious steak dinner. He’d snuck off ten minutes ago to meet Mrs. English in the kitchen. She’d promised to make sure the custom engagement ring he’d had designed for Olivia was placed right on top of her chocolate mousse.
It was only a few minutes after the waiter had cleared their dinner dishes that another waiter arrived with their desserts.
“Ooh look at this. My mouth is watering.” Olivia dug out a huge bite with her spoon and hummed in delight at the first taste.
King took an absentminded bite of his own. The top of her chocolate mousse had so much whipped cream that he couldn’t tell where they’d placed the ring. What if they’d lost it? Or mixed up the orders and someone’s ninety-nine year old grandma was about to get a five-carat ring stuck in her dentures?
Just when he was about to hit full-on panic mode, Olivia’s eyes lit up.
“Oh my gosh. King, this is amazing.”
He smiled. She must have found it. Just then he swallowed and his throat closed. He coughed.
Then coughed again.
Just as she stood up, he coughed again and the ring landed in his lap. He closed his hand around it before Olivia could see it. He glanced behind him to the waiter who looked ashen.
The waiter mouthed “Sorry” before turning around and scampering into the kitchen.
So much for the perfect proposal.
King sighed. He’d do it tomorrow and plan it all himself. This was too important to risk getting wrong.
Olivia caressed his hair. “Let’s go relax in our room.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t get to eat your dessert.”
She kissed his cheek. “We can come back tomorrow.”
King followed her out, the ring still clutched in his palm. Considering how the weekend was starting out, he was almost scared to find out what was in store for the next day.
Olivia smothered a grin as she moved around the room, pretending she didn’t notice King melting down right behind her. Counting on her fingers, she went through her list of campfire smores essentials one more time.
Portable speaker. Check.
Did she actually need to check it all again? Not really. But was it crazy amusing to watch King losing his patience? Absolutely.
She finally decided to give him a break. He would bite a hole through his lip if she didn’t take pity on him soon.
“Seriously, babe. You have to relax. We’re on vacation. I can’t wait to make smores and look at the stars.”
King sighed. “I know. I’m relaxed. I am.”
Her eyes dropped to where his fist was clenched around the end of the blanket she’d asked him to place in their basket. Then she shook her head.
“Right. Relaxed. You totally look it.”
That made him laugh.
“Okay, I’m trying to relax. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He pulled her into his arms. His nose settled against the side of her neck the way it always did sending a little shiver down her spine.
It was something Liv didn’t think she’d ever really get used to, the casual way he made her feel completely essential to him. She loved the soft, contented sound he always made when he pulled her into his arms that could banish even the worst of days. King wasn’t a naturally demonstrative man, much more likely to grunt instead of explaining his feelings. That was what made all the little things he did to show his feelings matter so much. Olivia cherished every single one.
Things such as planning a spur of the moment long weekend at a romantic B&B.
“I’m not sure why you’re so on edge. This has been the perfect weekend already. We slept late and lolled around in bed all morning like two lazy slugs. Then we had that amazing brunch.”
He bit her neck, making her jump. “Not sure I like our morning in bed being given the same weight as French toast.”
She laughed. “I definitely enjoyed taking a bite out of you more than the French toast.”
“That’s what I’m talking about.” He glanced at his watch and then grabbed the picnic basket. “Okay, time to go!”
Olivia hustled to keep up, stopping briefly to grab her coat. By the time she caught up with King he was already outside marching toward the firepit the proprietor of the bed and breakfast had promised was perfect for making smores.
“What is the hurry? King, we’re on vacation. It’s not like we have reservations.”
He slowed. Barely. “I know. I just want to be sure we get a good spot. You never know.”
Olivia looked around incredulously. The bed and breakfast was located in a tiny town in Virginia called Broken River. From what she’d seen the prior evening on arrival there wasn’t much here other than the B&B itself, a general store and a lot of farmland.
“I think we’re okay if we take our time.”
She fell into step next to him and watched his profile. King was always so confident that it was unsettling to see him like this. Even in a situation where he had no idea what was going on, he was a master at keeping his emotions hidden.
When they reached the firepit, he placed the basket next to one of the wooden chairs. Olivia took a seat and then pulled the blanket out of the basket while King tended to the fire. It was cold but they’d dressed for the weather and she found the brisk air refreshing. She took a deep breath, enjoying the luxury of having nowhere she needed to be.
“It’s beautiful here. So quiet.”
King smiled and for the first time that day, it looked genuine. “This is exactly what we both needed.”
Olivia pushed a marshmallow through one of the skewers provided while King uncorked the wine. The B&B had even provided mini-wineglasses inside the basket. The perfect romantic smores kit.
She sat forward to hold her marshmallow over the flames before making another for King. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes before King glanced over at her. “Could you ever see yourself living somewhere like this? In the future, I mean.”
Olivia shrugged. “You’re forgetting I was raised somewhere similar. New Haven isn’t this tiny but it’s green and beautiful just like this. When I was a little girl, all I knew was our land. It seemed to go on as far as the eye could see. We used to sit outside on clear nights just like this and wish on the stars.”
“What did you wish for?”
The serious tone of his voice alerted her that this wasn’t just a random question. His blue eyes were so intense that she sat up slightly, almost dropping her marshmallow.
“Is everything okay?”
He took a deep breath. “Everything is better than it’s ever been before. The past year with you has shown me what it’s like to actually live. Each day I keep expecting it to wear off.”
“For what to wear off,” she whispered.
He took her hand. “Whatever spell you cast on me that’s made me need you so much.”
Suddenly she couldn’t breathe. “Clearly I’m very devious.”
He laughed. “You are. Now that you’re in my life, I hate every moment that I don’t get to spend with you. All the things that used to mean so much to me are suddenly completely empty. Since that’s entirely your fault, I’m hoping you’ll take pity on me and supply the cure.”
“What’s the cure?”
He held out his skewer in her direction. Liv looked at it in confusion. “The cure is a marshmallow?”
“No, it’s …”
He jumped up suddenly and Olivia watched as he started turning in circles. Then he dropped to his knees and started looking at the ground. Puzzled, she leaned forward trying to see what he was doing.
“Damn it all to hell!”
Startled, Olivia fell over when she leaned too far. “King, what is going on?”
“It fell off! It was only on there for a second!” He let out a frustrated yell and then put both his middle fingers up to the sky.
Unsure of what to make of his behavior, Olivia covered her mouth to keep from laughing. “That’s okay. I understand. We can make you another.”
“Even the marshmallows are conspiring against me!”
At this point she couldn’t hold back her laughter anymore. “Babe, it’s fine.”
His hands tore through his hair until the strands were standing straight up. “It wasn’t the marshmallow. It was… oh for fucks sake.”
He walked next to her and dropped down on one knee. Her laughter faded as he took her hand.
“I was trying so hard to make it special. I wanted you to have the big ring on the dessert moment because you deserve that, Liv. You deserve magic and moonlight and everything I have to give. But I can’t wait another second to ask if you’ll be my wife. It’s been hard enough to wait this long because I feel like I’m dying every second that I don’t know your answer.”
Olivia couldn’t even speak with the huge lump in her throat so she just nodded. If she hadn’t already loved him madly, the dramatic look of relief on his face would have pushed her off that cliff. How had she gone through life not knowing what it was like to be loved this way? To be wanted so badly that a man acted like her answer was all he was living for.
When she finally could breathe, she put a hand on his cheek. “Of course my answer is yes, you crazy man. What would I do without you in my life?”
King kissed her so long they were both panting for air by the time they broke apart. “Hell if I know but I don’t want to find out.”
“At least now I know why you’ve been acting so strangely since yesterday.” She laughed remembering how weird he’d been last night at dinner. “Oh god, the dessert!”
“Yeah, the kitchen got it mixed up so instead of you getting a diamond ring, I almost had to get the Heimlich.”
“My poor baby. You really have been through a lot planning this, huh?”
“The universe put me through my paces this weekend trying to ruin my perfect proposal but as long as I have you, I don’t care.”
Olivia grinned when she noticed a glint of something shiny in the dirt by his foot. She pointed and King turned to look.
“Maybe the universe is trying to make amends.” He lifted the ring carefully and blew it off. Then he slid it on her finger.
“Holy hunk of carbon,” Liv whispered. “You really were trying to make a statement.”
He grinned. “Only the best for my queen.”
“You know it, mister. Maybe you should take your future queen upstairs and worship me properly.”
She shrieked as he lifted her suddenly, running for the cabin. Over his shoulder, she marveled at the beautiful display of stars on show, remembering that she’d never answered King’s question earlier.
She’d have to be sure to tell him he’d already made her wish come true.