Nicole couldn’t even breathe as tears trailed down her cheeks. She’d thought he was breaking up with her and instead he was giving her his love. She didn’t see how she deserved such an amazing man. She hated him knowing about the abuse. It made her feel weak, but as she looked into his eyes she realized he didn’t think of her as weak at all. She believed he really did love her. She stared at him in wonder.
Her hand drifted up to his face. He said nothing else to her. He simply held her hand and waited for her to get her emotions under control. She stared into his eyes, looking for anything there that may belly his words. She saw nothing but love and acceptance within their depths.
“I love you too, Ryan. I always have and I had to send you away back then because I didn’t want you to know how weak I was,” she began.
“Don’t you dare ever say you were weak. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever known and you took all that punishment for your sister’s sake. You took the weight of the world on your shoulders, you stubborn fool. I would’ve gladly taken that weight for you but I understand why you did it. Now, you have me by your side and we can conquer anything as long as we’re together,” he interrupted her.
“I was a fool Ryan, I always blamed myself for the beatings and I thought you would be horrified and leave me anyway if you knew about it. I was so young,” she said in explanation.
“Tell me again,” he demanded and she knew what he wanted to hear.
“I love you Ryan Titan, I always have and I always will, even when you’re driving me insane with your cave-man ways,” she said, with true joy in her voice. She knew they’d be fine. She knew her life would be okay from that day forward. He crushed her lips beneath his before she could tell him about the baby.
It was several minutes before they broke apart for air and she was left even more breathless by the pure love shining through his eyes. He suddenly let go of her and dropped to his knee. She gasped in shock and more tears tracked down her face.
“Marry me, Nicole. Make me an honest man. Tell me always when I’m wrong, love me day and night, give me a lot of children and let me help you fulfill all your dreams,” he said with a choked up voice. She sobbed as she shook her head yes. She couldn’t have gotten words past her throat if her life depended on it.
He opened the small velvet box and she was surprised she didn’t faint. He was presenting her an exquisite diamond ring. The center stone was perfect, surrounded by a beautiful pattern of smaller diamonds. She watched him take it from the box and slip it on her finger. She stared down at the sparkling ring, a symbol of his love.
“I hope you like it. I had it made especially for you,” he said, sounding unsure.
“It’s stunning, Ryan but you didn’t have to get such a large one. I would’ve been happy with a simple band,” she told him, meaning what she said. He looked at her as if she was insane.
“If your ring size equaled the love I feel for you, you wouldn’t be able to lift your hand. I actually toned it down a bit from what I originally wanted,” he said a bit sheepishly. She threw her arms around his neck and held on tightly. How could she have ever taken his generosity as controlling?
He’d been showing her love all along, just in the wrong ways. He’d bought her things, which she’d continued to reject because it was the only way he knew how to show love. She would teach him what she really wanted and that was only him.
“So you want a lot of children, huh?” she asked him slyly.
“I’d love to fill this house from top to bottom with them,” he said with a wicked smile.
“I don’t know about filling the place from top to bottom but I could manage to have one in here in about five months,” she said and waited for it to sink in. She watched as his eyes looked at her in confusion for a few moments and then widened as what she said dawned on him.
He looked from her eyes to her stomach and back up again and she nodded at him. His mouth parted in the biggest smile she’d ever seen him give and he grabbed the hem of her shirt and lifted it out of his way. He ran his hand over her stomach, which was just barely beginning to show.
“How could I not have realized?” he asked her, as his hand continued to caress the smooth surface. His rubbing wasn’t meant to be sexual but he was turning her body to liquid fire with his innocent caress.
“I’ve suspected for a while but just found out for sure today. At first I thought I was getting fat from all the food you’ve been feeding me,” she said a bit sheepishly.
“I love your body. Don’t ever say anything like that again. I’ve enjoyed your curves and was simply so turned on by you I didn’t pay attention to the changes,” he said with real passion behind his words.
“Ryan, you’re so good for me.”
“I plan on being there for you every day for the rest of our lives,” he told her. He took her back into his arms and the talking came to an end. He carried her to their room, where he worshiped her body, noticing the slight changes his child was causing in her and more turned on than ever before, knowing they’d created a life.
They stayed up late into the night, lovemaking, talking and planning for their future together, both of them feeling a peace unlike anything either of them had ever known.
“Blow out the candles, baby,” Nicole said to her two year old daughter. She couldn’t believe how much her life had changed in the last few years. She was happier than she could’ve ever thought possible.
The crowd erupted in applause as Jessica blew out her two candles and rewarded everyone with her precious smile and giggles.
“That’s daddy’s good girl. I can’t believe how big you are,” Ryan said to his daughter, before scooping her up in his arms.
He then wrapped Nicole close to him, still as passionate about her as the day they’d reunited. He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. She’d given him the gift of his daughter, and her love, and he couldn’t be any happier.
He looked around his yard, grateful for the beautiful Seattle day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, as if the fates were shining down on them. His cousins were playing on the enormous play structure with their children. He smiled at his ever growing family.
He laughed to himself, thinking how hard he and his cousin’s had fought marriage and commitments. None of them could picture their lives without their beautiful brides and to top it off, the women all got along so amazingly well together. They’d quickly become best friends, sharing their shop together and motherhood.
They were all a family, closer than anyone he knew. Jasmine called Nicole over and he reluctantly let her go and watched as she laughed with the other two women. He headed over towards the play structure, where Jessica squirmed to get down and play with her cousins.
“We’ve done really well, cousin,” Drew said, with a satisfied smile, as his focus ran from his children to his wife.
“Yes we have,” Ryan agreed triumphantly.
“I can’t believe how stupid we were to think life was complete without these women in it,” Derek added. The three men all nodded together.
“I feel like the luckiest man alive. I have an amazing wife, beautiful daughter and though Nicole wanted to wait a couple more weeks to tell you, I can’t stand not sharing. She’s pregnant, again,” he told them.
“That’s wonderful,” Drew said, slapping his back hard enough to send a lesser man to his knees.
“Congratulations,” Derek added with enthusiasm.
“How is Patsy doing?” Drew asked.
“She’s loving college but man do I miss her. I’m glad she decided to stay closer to home but still we don’t see her enough with her living on campus. I’ve already had to scare the crap out of one guy who was getting far too amorous with her. She was mad at me for weeks because he won’t even look at her now,” Ryan said with satisfaction.
“I would’ve done the same thing. I can’t even imagine what I’m going to go through when my kids begin to date,” Derek said with a narrowing of his eyes.
“Yeah, I know. Patsy is technically my sister-in-law but I think of her like a daughter and I swear I’ll destroy any guy who tries to hurt her,” he told them.
“I almost feel sorry for the poor guys who try and over-step their bounds,” Derek said but the look in his eyes contradicted his words. He would thoroughly enjoy terrorizing those men.
“At least we have a long time to prepare,” Ryan said.
“Amen,” both of his cousins agreed.
“Come eat, boys,” Trinity called and the men eagerly headed towards their wives. Nothing gave any of them greater joy than time with family. They’d been wealthy but marriage and children made them richer than kings and they counted their blessings daily.