Warning: This scene contains content that some may find offensive. Please read with caution.
“You’re quiet tonight.” Micah glanced at her in the seat beside him as he parked his Porsche.
Madison shrugged. “You seemed distant. I didn’t want to disturb whatever thoughts bothered you.”
He snagged her by the nape and tugged her across the console to claim a kiss. She loved the way he kissed, even if her daddy said she shouldn’t show it. When he broke away, she thought he peered in the direction of her eyes, but it was hard to tell in the shadows. “I was thinking how much better my life is because you’re in it.”
That comment was so unlike him, she made a face. “Something happen today to make you melancholy?”
“No. I just want you to know how important you are to me.”
A slow smile, as she ran her fingertip along his smoothly-shaven jaw. “Why are we at the park at night?”
“You’ll see.” He pushed open his door. “Stay right there.”
After climbing out of the vehicle, he walked around to her side and opened her door. She took the hand he offered and hugged him after she stood. With a finger beneath her chin, he tipped her head back. She explained her sudden embrace without him asking for one. “That was my way of saying you’re important to me too.” She rubbed her nose against his chest. “You smell fabulous tonight, Micah. Are you wearing a new cologne?”
“No, it’s called the scent of love.”
She laughed. “That’s awful. You’re terrible at romantic dialogue.”
He chuckled and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Retract your claws, kitten.” She thought he winked. “Come along, my surprise is near.”
“Ooooh…I love surprises.”
They walked toward the water fountain at the center of the park, the one he’d met her at the day she was distraught over catching her mom with the Deacons. That day had changed her life so much. She’d take the heartache a hundred times over if it meant she could claim the man.
“Won’t you give me a hint of what it is?” She caught his hand draped over her shoulder and laced their fingers together.
“An itty bitty hint?”
“No. You’ll see soon enough.”
“I don’t like it when you tease.”
Laughter grumbled up from his chest. “Kitten, you’re adorable when you’re pouting.” He kissed the side of her head. “Now close your eyes.”
“Why?” She stopped walking and faced him.
“I don’t want you to see the surprise until you’re in position.”
“Oh, good grief, seriously?”
“Seriously.” They stared at one another. “Better yet….” She gaped as he undid his tie and tugged it free. She’d imagined watching him do that many times, but the reality was so much better. It felt like her mouth was suddenly stuffed full of cotton and she swallowed, as he made a circular motion with his finger. “Turn around.”
“You’re going to blindfold me?”
“Do you want your surprise or not?”
Madison huffed dramatically but knew he didn’t buy her irritated routine. Neither could she deny she was intrigued by what could be so important he needed to blind her. She turned and allowed him to knot his tie at the back of her head.
Micah twisted her back around, facing him. At least she thought she faced him. “Can you see anything?”
“No.” She placed her hands on his chest. Yep, they were facing.
“Are you sure?”
He kissed her and she wrapped her arms around his neck, going into the embrace willingly. “Walk normal,” he said against her lips. “And I’ll guide you safely.”
“I trust you.” And she did, more than anyone in her life. He’d become her rock of support, the foundation on which she lived. Without him, she’d be nothing and she wasn’t talking about the folks who suddenly wanted to be her friend or show her preferential treatment. They were in her life because of him and she had no use for people like that. Micah had become her world and she worried about losing him or that he’d discover she really was all the vile things daddy said.
But those thoughts weren’t for tonight. She gave a mental shake, refusing to give value to the words Daddy had begun to renew over the last month.
Micah guided her without one stumble and then they stopped. “Stand still.” She nodded and waited until he said, “Remove the blindfold, kitten.”
She hooked her finger beneath the silk material and tugged it down around her neck. Twinkling lights were strung from the fountain and trees. And Micah kneeled at her feet.
He captured her hand, pressed a kiss to her wrist. “Madison, will you make me the most envied man in the world and marry me?”
Am I dreaming? His thumb swished against her palm. No, not a dream! Her heartbeat zoomed out of control. She’d only dreamed of this moment and none of her fantasies were as perfect as the reality.
“Yes,” she breathed, tears bursting forth to blur her vision.
Micah swept her into his arms. “I love you, kitten,” he said between kisses. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Micah.” She dashed away the tears when he finally settled her on her feet. He popped open a jewelry box. “Good lord!” Smaller diamonds encircled the biggest one she’d ever seen. Hands shaking, he had to clasp her palm to slide the ring on her finger.
“If you’ll agree, I don’t want a long engagement.”
Daddy went brittle when she and Micah told her parents of their new engagement. He congratulated them with a grim smile and an hour later walked Micah to the door with a mild-mannered “goodbye”. No way Micah didn’t see Daddy’s very obvious displeasure and disapproval.
Madison was headed upstairs to her bedroom when Daddy called, “A word, Madison.”
She followed him into the den where Momma had begun to read a horror book. Always with a smile on her face as if she enjoyed the bloody torment she found within the pages. Momma looked up when they entered.
Daddy wasted no time getting straight to the point. “You’ll not marry that man.”
Madison bristled at his order. “Funny. I thought I said yes.”
“You’ll call him in the morning and tell him you changed your mind.”
“I won’t.” In a month she’d be eighteen. She did not need his permission to marry Micah.
“Bruce,” her mother spoke, her voice placid. “Do you mind detailing your problem with Micah?”
“I’m her father and I don’t need to detail my issues with him. All she needs to know is that I don’t like the man.” He pointed his finger at her. “And I do not trust him. He’s shady.”
Temper soaring into the heavens, she enunciated her words, “I. Don’t. Care. What. You. Think.”
“You’ll do as you’re told!”
“Enough!” Momma slammed her book on the table. Daddy flinched. Madison didn’t blink, but continued to glare at him. “She’s eighteen in October. You cannot forbid her to marry.”
“A father knows what’s best for his daughter. Trust me, if you marry him, it’ll be the worst mistake of your life, Madison.”
They glared at one another for a long while. She thought Daddy truly meant what he said. But she hadn’t believed he had her best interest in mind for a long, long time.
Madison shrugged aside his warning and went ahead with her plans to marry Micah.
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