2 years ago
He’d expected this all along. And it has to be said that he’d even hoped for it. But he still felt a twinge of — pity. She’d been stood up. Again. Here she sat, all alone in an upscale restaurant, dressed in her favourite little black dress. Martin watched her reflection in a mirror and saw the sigh that gusted out of Catherine’s mouth as she ruffled her hair as she sat back in her chair, closing her eyes.
It was time for him to make his move.
Before she became aware of his presence behind her, he cupped the back of her neck, his thumb caressing her just under her left ear. He felt her pulse leap, saw a smile burst across her face as she turned to look back over her shoulder. Martin stepped up beside her and watched her as her smile quickly died away.
Yanking herself away from his touch, she frowned at him. “What’re you doing here?”
Martin just gave her a long-suffering look. Then, jerking his head, he said, “Come on. Let’s go.”
Catherine hunched a shoulder and turned her head away. “Get lost. I don’t need you to rescue me.”
He glanced at the two empty water bottles sitting before her and pulled a couple of notes out of his wallet to leave on the table. Then he stood there for a moment, gazing at the top of her head, his mind juggling the usual what to do; spank her or kiss her debate. Under his breath, he said to her, “Yes, you do. And this time I’m going to do it right.”
In one way or another, he’d been rescuing her since they were both kids, and she’d always resented it. Whether as the pre-pubescent ugly duckling tomboy, or the swan she’d later evolved into, she’d been diving headfirst into catastrophes and he’d always been there reeling her out. And though until just recently — he hoped — she’d viewed him as nothing more than a bothersome big brother figure, he’d never once considered her a sister.
Martin’s problem was that every time he’d tried to tell her how he felt, he’d muck things up, the result being she’d never believed him. He reached down and started to pull her chair out from the table, the muscles of his arm flexing.
She didn’t surprise him. True to form, Catherine was stubborn and tried to dig her feet in, but after a brief struggle she must have realized it was pointless. With a sigh, she let him help her up and followed him out of the restaurant. They walked for a whole block without speaking, but he had no problem in reading her thoughts. She had an expressive face, and he’d been translating it for years.
Before long he was unlocking the passenger door of his car. “Come on. Get in.”
She pulled away from him, then turned and lifted her head and looked into his eyes, still not saying anything.
Martin felt his lips twitch. “What? Are you still mad at me?”
She settled her butt back against the side of his car and shook her head, a sad look on her face. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at Phil. Mad at myself — or at least disgusted with myself.” His heart clenched as tears began to roll down her face.
“What’s wrong with me, Martin? Why is it so hard for me to find someone who will care about me once in a while, instead of thinking only of himself? Someone who can remember which night of the week is my night, and which night is the night with the boys.”
Taking a step forward, she settled herself against his body, her arms around his waist, the side of her face resting on his throat. His chin came down, and using it, he gently rubbed the top of her head while his arms surrounded her in a gesture of comfort and protection. Their movements were fluid and natural, as if they’d stood like this many times before. And they had.
Catherine mumbled into the bare flesh beneath her mouth, “If you dare crack a joke, or make fun of me, I swear I’ll bite you.”
Martin cupped the back of her head, pulled back, and dropped a kiss onto her forehead. “It wouldn’t be the first time, would it? All right, no jokes, no making fun. Come on. Get in the car. Everything will be okay. I promise.”
Frowning up at him, Catherine said, “I have my own car here.”
Lightly squeezing her head, he said, “Kitty Cat, I told you to get in the car. Now get in!”
Wrenching herself out of his hands, nearly hissing like the cat he’d just called her, she said, “Don’t call me that! And how many times have I told you, you are not my boss!”
Grinning, he replied, “I’ve lost count. But I do remember that you were six years old the first time you ever said it.”
Grumbling, crossing her arms over her chest and standing her ground, she said, “For all the good it’s ever done me.”
Exasperated, Martin said, “Fine, I didn’t want to do this here, but you leave me no choice.” And with that, he pushed her back against the car, using the weight of his pelvis to hold her there, letting her feel one facet of his desire, but knowing he had to make her understand the extent of it. With a deep breath, he said, “You’ve been a part of my life since you were six, and I was eight. So I can speak with authority when I say there is nothing wrong with you, Cat.” He paused. “I wanted to drive you to the park near where we lived when we were kids. I was fourteen years old the first time I told you I wanted to marry you, and that’s where we were. Since then I’ve told you four other times. And each and every time, it was in that very park.”
He felt her gasp and heard the wobble in her voice as she said, “I told you no jokes. You’re making fun of me again.”
Martin leaned his forehead on hers. “Sweetheart, it’s never been a joke. But the way I feel about you scares me, so every time I tried to tell you I deliberately made it sound like I was teasing. But I was serious, even when I was fourteen. Every time, I was standing there with my heart in my palms, offering it to you.”
Catherine put her hands on his chest and pushed him away, looking up into his face. “What are you saying Martin?”
He swallowed around his heart, which had now taken up residence in his throat. “I guess I still haven’t said it, have I? I love you Cat. I want you to be my wife. And lately I’ve been thinking that, just maybe, you might even love me too.”
She punched him on the shoulder and then yelled in his face. “You moron! Of course I love you. Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
Laughing, Martin grabbed her fist, and then pulled her tightly toward him. Lowering his mouth to hers, he said, “I’ve been asking you to marry me since I was fourteen silly! What more do you want?”
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