Chapter Twenty Six.

Time seemed to be running out for Amanda as she stood there in complete silence, her gaze locked on AJ’s. Her mind was a whirlwind; a million and one thoughts scurrying about every which way, all at once, flooding her mind, frustrating her to no end.

She had to do something, of that much she was certain, but what, exactly, she didn’t know. The moment one thought came to her, it was just as quick to leave and be replaced by another. Not one clear image developed in her head, and she was completely flustered, overwhelmed, and so near the border of insanity she didn’t know what to do with herself.

“So...” AJ suddenly began, and the rich sound of his voice was all the encouragement she’d needed at the moment.

She’d crossed the room and was in his arms in the blink of an eye. Her hands cupped the sides of his face, and he was immediately pulled forward and into a searing kiss that made him forget everything. Including himself.

His arms snaked around her middle, pulling her impossibly close to him as the kiss continued, deepening just when they felt it couldn’t get any deeper. Her fingers lost themselves in his hair as she sought out his lips time and again with her own, trying desperately to both get her fill of him and make up for all the lost time. She found she couldn’t do either very well, but it was one hell of an experience trying.

Suddenly remembering what she’d planned to tell him, she pulled back slightly and broke the kiss. She realized then that AJ was just as, if not more, breathless than she was. Knowing that she had the same effect on him that he had on her made her smile then. When his bright smile appeared in return, she knew there’d be no turning back.

Even if, for some strange reason, she’d ever want to.

“Manda..” he whispered, running a hand gently up and down her back, causing her to shiver slighty. She gave a little half smile and rested her head on his shoulder, and he began to caress her hair.

“Let me talk first?” she whispered against his shoulder.

AJ nodded. “Go ahead, but I’m not letting you go.”

She smiled as she lifted her head to meet his gaze and whispered, “I love you, J.”

He drew in a sharp breath, and Amanda could feel his heart begin to race even faster.

“You..” he began, then shook his head disbelievingly.

“I do,” she nodded. “I love you. I don’t know when I started to, but it’s been that way for a while.”

They stood there, in each other’s arms, in silence for a few moments before AJ finally spoke.

“Do you have any idea..” he paused, his voice rough with an emotion so strong it shook them both. “Any idea at all.. how long I’ve been waiting to hear this? How badly I’ve wanted it? How I dreamed about it every day since the day I met you?”

Amanda shook her head. “I never imagined...”

“That’s how it was,” he told her. “How it is. It always will be, Manda. I’ll always be waiting for you to tell me you love me. I’ll always be anticipating it, always be dreaming about you telling me, because now that you’ve told me, I can’t not hear it from you every day for the rest of my life.”

She kissed him again, and kissed him hard. She put everything she had into that kiss, for what he’d just told her took her breath away. It made her heart swell with even more love for him than she thought possible. It made her the happiest she’d been in... well, forever.

“I love you, Amanda,” he whispered against her lips, “And I’ll never, ever, get tired of telling you, showing you, proving it to you...”

“So prove it to me,” she challenged, her eyes daring him, catching him by surprise.



His mind travelled back in time, to that night two and a half months ago when he’d only begun to prove his love to her. He’d never have imagined the things they’d both have to go through to come together that way again, the hardships, the fights, the yelling, the frustrations. Yet there they were, willing, in love, and happy.

It was then that, looking into her eyes, he was convinced that miracles really did happen.

He leaned in toward her, gave her a brief, sweet kiss and shook his head.

Amanda looked at him, a surprised expression on her face. “AJ?”

“I wanna do this the right way,” he whispered. He took her hands tightly in his, looked deep into her eyes, past the surface, and smiled lovingly at her before speaking the words he’d only dreamed of saying. Up until that moment, that is.

“Will you marry me?”

[chapter list | epilogue]