Hayden sat across from Nico. The bottle of wine they shared, sat to the side, still half full. The whole time they ate, her mate seemed...distracted. Edgy almost. He kept glancing at the clock like he was missing something or anticipating something, which she couldn't figure out. A couple of times, she thought to broach the subject, but thought better of it. Instead, she concentrated on the meal Nico prepared for her.
"How were your classes today?" He ran his finger around the lip of his glass. His smoldering gaze bore into her, and she sucked in a breath.
"Good, I suppose." She rolled her shoulders. "A little boring, honest. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing what I should be."
Nico cocked his brow. "What do you really want to do?"
She grinned. "I'd like to be a deputy like my dad and uncles." She took a sip of her wine. "Maybe more though. An advocate. For kids, perhaps."
He nodded. "Doesn't Jasmine need an assistant?"
Her aunt had said the center was in desperate need of an intake advocate. "Yes. Do you think during the summer she'd let me work with her?"
"I don't see why not." He tapped his finger against the table. "Look, the sky is the limit, little wolf. You set where you want to be. I'll stand right beside you the whole time."
"Then, it's settled. I have a plan now." When she let out a breath, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. "So, how was your day?"
"Interesting, to say the least." Again his fingers drummed on the table, and she could help the niggle of trepidation filling her.
"Is something wrong? Do you need to be somewhere?" She cursed the tremble in her voice. Not two minutes ago, she was excited, but the more she watched her mate, the more she worried.
"Shit," Nico muttered. "I'm mucking this up."
She didn't understand. Dinner was perfect the roses were beautiful. Why would he feel as though he was messing up anything? "What are you talking about?"
"Fuck it!" He sliced his hand through the air, then stood. "I'm horrible at stuff like this, but when is there ever a perfect time to say how you really feel?"
Nico closed the distance between them. The pulse at his neck throbbed and the wild excitement, with a hint of nervousness filled his eyes. He stuck his hand in his pocket, seconds before going down on one knee in front of her. Hayden narrowed her eyes, unsure of what he was doing. "Nico?"
"I have loved you, since the minute you walked into the sheriff's department all those years ago. You took a chance on me when I thought all of my chances were gone. Then I screwed it up again, acting like a foolish wolf, hell bent to push you away."
The sting of his betrayal had slowly dissipated over the months they'd been together. Forgiving him had taken her years to achieve. But, they were in a good place together now. A mate couldn't be pushed aside or forgotten. His reasons weren't okay with her, it might take years to fully grasp the gravity of them, but he was her mate, and a mate is a mate. For all her heartache, she loved him more than she did as a wide-eyed little girl. "I forgave you. I mated you."
He gave her a wry grin. "Yes you did. Now, for as long as we live, we're mates and you're stuck with me. But--" He opened his hand. The small cream colored cotton bed appeared along with a gorgeous ring. "Hayden Raferty, will you do me the honor of also being my wife?"
Tears filled her eyes, blurring out the sight of one of the most delicate, perfect rings she'd ever seen. He remembered. "Yes," she sobbed. "Yes, I'll marry you, Nico Lopez!" She launched herself into his arms, practically knocking him backwards.
"Thank fuck. I worried maybe I'd done this too soon." It all made sense now. He'd been nervous about asking her to marry him. She lifted her gaze to his, seconds before he kissed her. The intense emotions shared between them in those moments, stole her breath and her heart.
When they finally broke their kiss, she held her hand out to him so he could slipped the ring onto her finger. She stared at it, the full weight of his intentions hit her square in the chest. Her heart burst with happiness as she turned her hand this way, and that, allowing the light to catch the diamond just right.
"You're beautiful." He helped her up then nuzzled her neck. "I love you, Hayden."
She blushed as he wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her tight to his body. "I love you too, Nico."
He growled and nipped her mated mark. "How about we continue this celebration, in our room?" He palmed her butt and squeezed.
"I say, lead the way, mate of my heart. Lead. The. Way."