When he’d first shown her the closet it’d been empty, stark, and she immediately thought of Laura, his dead wife, and cried for him.
Now it had clothes hanging in it. There were shoes, jewelry, and lingerie.
Sam laid her on the bed. “I’ll be right back.”
Simone watched him, her lids half closed, as he walked into the closet. She sat up and quickly pulled off her shoes. Then slid her dress over her head and lay down, in only her red bra and panties. A few moments later he came back, his hands behind his back.
He took in her barely concealed body and she watched his eyes grow hungry, lustful. One side of his mouth quirked up, and he knelt beside the bed. “Were you hot?” he asked, his finger teasing her skin.
Simone blushed. “A little.” She sat up. “Aren’t we… I wanted…”
Sam placed a finger over her lips. “Oh, we will. I want that too. But first I want to give you this.”
From behind his back he moved his hand and held it out. In his palm was a black box.
Her eyes went from the box to his face and back again. “Sam?” she asked in awe.
He flipped the velvet box open. Inside was a large oval diamond with three rubies lining each side of it. The setting was platinum. The diamonds and rubies sparkled in the light.
“It’s beautiful.” Simone clutched her hands to her chest, barely able to believe what the ring might mean.
“Simone St. James, you’re the woman of my heart and soul.” He pulled the ring from the box, setting the box on the floor. “The diamond represents my everlasting love for you and the rubies represent the fire in my soul. For you and only you, forevermore.”
Simone covered her mouth with her hands, unable to believe what he was doing. Her lips twisted and funny noises came from her throat. At any second she knew the ugly cry would happen. Tears lined her lashes.
Sam continued, “The moment I saw your beautiful face in the Bandon library I knew I wanted to date you. And then when you recommended
The Count of Monte Cristo
as a light summer read, I knew I wanted to know you.”
Simone laughed-cried at that. She remembered the look on his face. He hadn’t been convinced when she handed him the eleven-hundred-page novel.
“On our first date you took me to the beach. It was windy and cold but so beautiful. The tide was out and you walked me around the giant rocks, pointing out the anemones, starfish and different sea creatures. Your hair was down and kept blowing in your face. You took a hair band from your wrist and whipped your hair in a ponytail. The sun was setting and the rays hit the red in your hair, making it shine like fire. I was mesmerized by your beauty.”
She swallowed. She remembered that day, remembered going into the bathroom when she got home and being shocked at her appearance. No makeup, her hair a tangled mess.
“At that moment I fell in love with you. I wanted to be with you, spend every waking moment with you. When we weren’t together I was thinking about you.”
Simone nodded, understanding exactly what he was talking about. She’d felt the same way.
“The eight weeks we spent together were some of the best of my life. Leaving you nearly killed me, but I had to do it, to make sure. I didn’t want to be a broken man. I wanted to be whole, complete, and able to be the kind of man you deserved.”
Tears leaked onto her cheeks. She couldn’t stop crying.
“Seeing you again, the night at the beach, I knew. Knew. I loved you more than ever. And I hope you love me too.”
Simone nodded, unable to say anything, too filled with emotion to speak.
His eyes watered. “Will you marry me, Simone St. James?”
She wiped at the tears on her face. “Sam, I want to say yes, more than anything, but are you sure? I might be dead in four days, or paralyzed. Are you sure you want to be burdened with that? You’ve been through so much.”
“I’ll take you however I can get you, for as long as I can have you.”
“Then, yes. Yes. Yes. Of course I’ll marry you.”
Sam slid the ring on her finger and kissed the palm of her hand. He got off his knees and kissed her lips, hard and full of passion. He put one knee between her legs and laid her back on the bed. Her tears immediately halted as hunger bloomed in her belly.
“Wait, wait,” she gasped, putting her hands over his.
Sam growled. “I thought this is what you wanted.” He smirked and leaned down, kissing each cheek.
His mouth was incredible. “I know. It is. But not right now.”
Sam stopped and gazed into her eyes. “Why?”
“We’re going to be married in two days. I have a bajillion plans to make and you are going to have to resist my womanly charms until our wedding night.”
In response he ran his fingers along her shoulders and down her arms. Simone closed her eyes, moaning at his touch. “You aren’t playing fair. How can I think when you’re doing that?”
Sam chuckled, kissing her neck. She put her hands in his hair.
“Don’t think, just feel. Let me show you how much I love you.”
After Sam and Simone dressed, they went downstairs. Simone’s mom and sisters were in the large Tuscan-styled kitchen. They were speaking quietly and putting oatmeal raisin cookie batter on baking sheets.
When the two of them came in, the ladies turned to them.
“We heard,” Simone’s mom said, indicating the baby monitor.
“I’m so glad you’re going to have the surgery,” Liz clarified, which Simone was grateful for. She had a momentary surge of humiliation when she thought her mom meant she heard what they’d been doing afterward.
Heather and Sara came over and hugged Simone tightly. “Us too,” Sara said. Heather nodded as she fought not to cry.
After they hugged her, they went over and hugged Sam. Simone noticed her sisters lingered with their hugs. She laughed. It was understandable. The man was so good looking it was almost a crime.
“Thanks,” Simone said, placing her left hand on the counter.
Simone’s mom noticed first and screamed, scaring the crap out of her.
Heather, Sara and Liv flanked them. Simone’s mom held up her hand for them to see.
“When did this happen?” Simone’s mom asked.
“Just now,” Simone replied. Her sisters took turns holding her hand and exclaiming how beautiful the ring was.
When they were finished, Sam said, “We’re getting married here in two days. We’re going to need your help.”
Simone’s sisters clapped their hands and squealed with glee. Her mom sat on one of the chairs and started to cry.
“Mom?” Simone wrapped her arms around her mom’s shoulders. “What’s wrong?”
Sam handed her a tissue. She wiped her eyes and kissed Simone’s cheek. “It’s just I’m so happy. So happy for both of you. For Sabrina. You deserve it. You both do. This is what I hoped would happen.”
Simone squeezed her tighter. “Me too, Mom.”
She patted Simone on the shoulder.
“What am I going to do about a dress?” Simone asked, kissing her on the cheek.
Sam cleared his throat. They all looked at him.
“I may have a connection or two. Let me make some calls.”
Sara fanned herself. Liv whispered in Simone’s ear, “You better hold on to this one because if you don’t, I’m going after him.”
Simone laughed. “I’ll remember that.”
Sam came over and kissed Simone on the forehead. “I’ll be down the hall in my office. Will you be alright without me?”
“I’ll manage,” she said hugging him.
He kissed her full on the mouth, tongue and everything right in front of her mom and sisters. Simone responded as though they weren’t watching. When he lifted his head, he smirked, and she blushed.
“Be good,” he said, tapping her on the nose.
As soon as the door to his office closed, Simone’s mom and sisters screamed and laughed and started talking all at the same time. Sara grabbed a pen and paper from a drawer near a computer in the kitchen. She wrote across the top:
Simone’s Wedding Plans.
“Where should we have it?” Heather asked.
“That’s easy,” her mom said. “We’ll have it here. Outside. The ceremony will happen on the gazebo.”
“I’d like that,” Simone said, wishing she could have her wedding on the beach. That was her favorite place and that was where she’d always dreamed of having it. But she was getting her dream guy; she could be okay without having her dream wedding too.
“We need a priest, chairs, flowers, food, a cake.” Sara put her hands on her head and pulled at her hair. “There’s so much to do.”
They all laughed.
Simone took Sara’s hand. “I have all I need. I can get married in this as long as you guys are there as well as Sabrina and, of course, Sam.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” her mom tutted. “We can get something together in two days.”
“Right,” Liv agreed. “There are wedding shops that have dresses we can just go in and buy.”
“Absolutely, and if it needs to be altered, I can do it,” Heather said.
“I can make a cake,” Sara said. “It’s what I’m good at. Baking.”
Heather rolled her eyes and they laughed.
Sam came back in. “I’ve a friend who’ll be over in an hour to show you some of her wedding dresses.”
“Really?” Simone asked, worried.
“Yes. I also have someone coming with cake samples as well as a party planner.”
Her mouth fell open. “On such short notice?”
“I’ve never used my position for anything, ever. It’s about time I started calling in favors.”
Simone walked around the granite countertop and jumped into his arms. “You’re amazing.”
“I know.” He winked. “I’ve got a tux and the priest. I told him we wanted an evening wedding on Wednesday. That’ll work, right?”
She nodded, unable to speak.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he said, kissing her cheek.
Simone wrapped her body around him, clinging to him. “I love you, Sam.”
“And I you. Always.”
Simone dreamed about the surgery. She was on the table, lying on her stomach. She could feel the blade go into her back, feel the doctor cutting away the tumors, and she was screaming.
“Sim. Simone. Wake up.”
She opened her eyes afraid she’d find herself on the table.
Sam touched her face. “Get dressed.”
“Why? What’s wrong? Did something happen to Sabrina?” She scrambled out of the bed they shared.
He smiled sweetly. “No, Sabrina’s fine. I’ve got a surprise. Wear something warm.”
“Okay.” She tossed back the covers and went to the closet. She put on jeans, a thick cable-knit sweater, and a pair of cowboy boots Sam had bought her. Then she went into the bathroom, brushed her teeth, and pulled her hair into a messy bun. When she finished she came out of the bathroom. Sam was sitting on the edge of the bed, one knee bouncing up and down. “Is there something you want to tell me?” she asked walking toward him.
He stood and grabbed her hand, dragging her down the stairs. “It’s a surprise. Remember?”
When he opened the front door, she pulled them to a stop. “Are we leaving? What about Sabrina?”
Simone’s mom came around the corner. She had on a silk bathrobe and pink, fluffy slippers. “Me and your sisters will take care of Sabrina. Go.” Simone realized her mom was crying.
“Mom?” she asked, a nervous wave washing over her.
‘I’m fine. Happy. Just go.”
“Come on,” Sam tugged her through the door and into a waiting limousine. He was bubbling over with excitement.
“What time is it?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Like seven-thirty in the morning.” He helped her in and climbed in after. The limousine started moving. “Can you give me a hint about where we’re going?”
He shook his head. “Then it wouldn’t be a surprise. Sheesh.”
She started to ask another question and he stopped her with a kiss. When it was over he said, “We’re flying somewhere, that’s all I’m saying.”
“Oh?” Simone thought it was sweet he wanted to surprise her, but she didn’t want to be away from Sabrina or her mom and sisters. She’d spent all day yesterday trying on dresses until she found one that was perfect. It was a simple white dress. The bodice was sleeveless and had folds of material that went in a diagonal. At the waist was a “belt” made of real diamond flowers. The bottom half was straight and puddled around her feet. The designer had clapped her hands and exclaimed loudly that she’d made the dress for Simone, that she looked divine and had to have it. Simone had asked her how much it was. The designer pressed her lips together in a tight line. “Not to worry. Mr. Merrick is handling the expense.”
Simone wanted to argue, but the look on the designer’s owlish face discouraged her.
Then there’d been the woman who was making the wedding cake. She and Sam tasted them together and decided on a vanilla with strawberry cream. The cake would be white with flowers that matched her diamond “belt.”
After that she and Sam spoke to the party planner. It would be a small affair, with some friends and family. They discussed flowers, food, an open bar, and dancing. The night sounded like one to remember and by the end of the day Simone was tired, but contently happy.
“It’ll be a quick trip. I promise,” Sam said, bringing her out of her thoughts.
“Alright.” Simone leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Sam squeezed her hand.
They arrived at the airport and climbed aboard his jet. Sam pulled a black scarf from his jacket pocket. “This is so you don’t get any ideas.”
Simone laughed. “Uh-huh. Right. Tell the truth, you’ve got kinky plans for me.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Maybe.” He placed the scarf over her eyes and the pilot took off. While they were in the air Sam fed her grapes, strawberries that smelled freshly picked and a delicious almond flavored pastry. To wash it down they had orange juice laced with champagne.
“It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?” Simone asked giggling. The bubbles tickled her nose.
“It’s never too early for champagne.”
After they ate, he read to her from
The Count of Monte Cristo.
She loved listening to his voice. The deep timbre, the way his voice caressed the words. If she hadn’t been in love with him before, she would’ve been now. There was something extremely sexy about her man reading to her out loud.
More than once Simone tried to attack him. They hadn’t made love last night since she’d said they needed to wait until their wedding night. She was seriously regretting that crazy decision.
Sam laughed. “Oh, no. You don’t get any of me until after we’re married, young lady.”
Simone whined playfully. “Come on, just a little make out, that’s all I want.” There was something freeing about the blindfold. She felt bolder.
“You need to relax,” he said, laughing.
She sat up, rearranging the blindfold. “Fine. More grapes then, please.”
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her forehead, then her eyes, and the tip of her nose, each of her cheeks, her chin, and her neck near her ear. She reveled in the feeling, enjoying the warm scent of his aftershave and the way his lips caressed her skin.
Chills ran the length of her body. “You are evil,” she said, her voice breathy.
He turned her so she was fully on his lap and rolled a grape across her lips.
“So evil,” she said again, opening her mouth.
He stuck the grape in her mouth and kissed her lips while she chewed. After she swallowed she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Sleep if you want, love.”
She closed her eyes. “Impossible,” she pouted, sure she was too nervous to sleep, but it seemed like minutes later he was helping her to get buckled in her own seat for the plane’s descent.
Once they landed, she said, “Can I take off the blindfold?” Simone touched the soft material still around her eyes and took a deep breath. The air smelled familiar.
Sam pushed her fingers away. “Not yet.” He helped her off the plane and into another limousine. The brief moments outside told her nothing about their whereabouts, but she had a feeling.
He fed her again. This time it was some dry wine, cheese, and green apples. She couldn’t see, but she could taste the flavors. The combination was delicious.
When they stopped, Sam helped her out of the car. She immediately knew where he’d taken her. Home! It was the sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean that gave it away.
“Sam,” she sighed, yanking off the blindfold off and throwing herself into his arms. “What did you do?” she whispered into his neck.
“You’ll see,” he said, hugging her tightly.
They walked hand in hand down the wooden steps. Wild daisies and thistles grew on either side. She ran her fingers along the tops. The wind whipped at her hair and she leaned into it, enjoying the heat from the morning sun. When they rounded the bend next to their rock she noticed a man in black. It was the Reverend Smythe from their local church. He had a book in his hands and a white collar around his neck.
Simone stopped, focusing her gaze on him. “Sam, you didn’t.”
He turned to her and touched her cheek. “Your mom told me you always dreamed of getting married at the beach. I had to make that happen.”
“Serious?” Simone said. Tears of happiness streamed down her face. “That is… You are the kindest man I’ve ever known.”
He took her hand and they walked toward the Reverend.
When they were close, Reverend Smythe smiled and closed the distance. “Simone, it’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you, too.” She practically overflowed with happiness. When he stuck out his hand, she took it and then hugged him. “Thanks for doing this.”
His wrinkled face reddened. “Of course, dear. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sam stuck out his hand for the Reverend, who shook his hand heartily.
“You must be the lucky man our Simone loves,” Reverend Smythe said.
“Yes, I am.” Sam gave Simone a sideways glace.
“Well it’s good to meet you then.” He eyed Simone. “Is he the father of your child?”
She nodded. “A very good father, too.”
The Reverend cleared his throat. “That’s very good news.”
Simone took Sam’s hand and pressed it to her heart. “It really is.”
It looked like Reverend Smythe started to get choked up, but he pulled a pair of glasses from inside his jacket pocket and put them on. “Dan. Ava.” He called to a couple who stood behind him, hand in hand.
They turned and smiled at his voice. The woman leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Dad.” Then she smiled at Simone and Sam.
“This is my daughter and her husband. They’ve agreed to be witnesses.
“Hi, Ava. Dad. Thanks for doing this,” Simone said. She knew them both, even though they hadn’t hung in the same circles. It’d been a while since she’d seen either of them.
“Yes, thank you,” Sam said, shaking their hands.
“All right. Let’s get started. I know you don’t have a lot of time.”
Simone and Sam followed the Reverend as he made his way toward their rock. It was a beautiful day and a tender peace filled her heart.
If I die, at least I can say I died happily,
Reverend Smythe stood with his back facing the ocean. The water twinkled in the light. Simone and Sam stood on either side of him.
“Face each other and take the other’s hands.”
There was a crowd on the beach and several stopped to watch.
“Do you, Samuel Dean Merrick, take Simone St. James to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love her, honor her, and cherish her for as long as you both shall live?”
Simone listened to the Reverend, but inside all she kept thinking was,
It’s happening. This is really happening. I can’t believe this is happening.
Sam said, “I do.”
The priest turned to Simone. “Do you, Simone St. James, take Samuel Dean Merrick to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love him, honor him, and cherish him for as long as you both shall live?” At the reverend’s words, she got choked up. She hoped she would live a long, long time, but it might be only two more days.
Sam shook her hands. “Sim?”
She swallowed. “I do. Of course I do.”
Reverend Smythe smiled. “Then by the power vested in me by the state of Oregon, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
Sam pulled her to him, lifted her into his arms and kissed her. Cheers came from the random crowd behind them. When he set her down, they shook the Reverend’s hand again.
“Thank you, Reverend,” Simone said.
“Thanks,” Sam added.
“It was a complete pleasure. You’re very welcome.”
Unable to help herself, she hugged the Reverend again. Then hugged Ava and Dad.
“Will I be seeing you in church anytime soon?” the Reverend asked with a wink.
Simone shrugged. “Anything’s possible.”
“Very true,” he said, clasping his bible to his chest and walking away.
For the next several minutes random people came over to the two of them and congratulated them.
It was the best moment of her life aside from the birth of Sabrina.
“I love you, Sam,” she whispered as they climbed the wooden steps. “Thank you so much for doing this. It was perfect.”
The limo drove the two of them to a restaurant overlooking the coastline where they dined on fresh lobster and cobb salad. Simone could barely eat. She kept thinking about spending time with him alone. When they finished, the limo drove them to her house. It was stuffy from a month of absence, so she went around opening the windows, letting in the fresh ocean air.
“Well, Mrs. Merrick, what do you intend to do with this house now that you’re going to be living with me?”
She beamed internally at the way he called her Mrs. Merrick. “I’m not sure. My mom and sisters already have their own houses.” She shrugged. “I guess I’ll put it up for sale.” She stared out the large window in the living room.
The thought of leaving the house made her sad. She had so many fond memories there, but she couldn’t expect her mom and sisters to keep it up. Plus, she still had a mortgage.
Sam came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “You want to keep it, don’t you?”
Simone’s body tingled at his touch. She did want to keep it, but if she had to choose between Sam and the house, there was no contest. Of course she’d choose Sam. “Not as much as I want to be with you. But we should probably put it on the market quickly. I have a little savings, but the next mortgage payment is coming up soon.” She turned and put her arms around his neck, pulling him in for a kiss.
His face was serious. “You love it here, don’t you?” he asked after a kiss that was too short.