But he didn’t. He committed a thousand percent of himself to our relationship. Being with him has brought me out of my boring, sheltered existence—even though I may have kicked and screamed a little (okay, a lot) along the way. He’s always been right there to reassure me and comfort me when I needed it. And for that, I love him more than words can say.
He’s right, it’s time for me to let my safety net of an apartment go and commit to us in every way.
“All right,” I finally say. “Let’s do it.”
He lets out a whoop. “Damn. It’s about time. I was thinking maybe we’d buy a house closer to Talon and Asia.”
I blink at him. “But you have a house.”
“I know, but I’ve lived there for five years and I’d rather we get something that’s new for both of us. This way you can pick out how many closets you want and have an office with lots of windows, and I can have a bigger guitar room.”
“You don’t have to do that…I don’t need a lot of closets. Your house is fine. I can set up an office in the basement.”
“No. You’re not sitting in the basement all day. My mom drives you nuts. I want you to have windows and a view of the pool so you can watch me float around on a dolphin raft.”
I burst out laughing at that visual. “I’m not sure I’ll get much work done if you’re outside taunting me.”
“You can take a break every two hours and come join me.”
“Seriously Storm, we don’t have to get a new house. I like your house.”
He stands and stretches his arms over his head, making his jeans fall low around his hips. I have to drag my gaze off the delicious V of his lower torso.
“I know we don’t have to. I want to. I’ll get in touch with the realtor on Monday so we can start looking right away, and you can talk to Mom and nail down the wedding date.”
A wave of apprehension floods my senses, and my ears ring with the tune of anxiety. Smiling, I busy myself with folding up the calendar, hoping he doesn’t sense my nervousness. I don’t want him to think it’s doubt, because it’s not. Its just there’s so much to think about and so many details to cover. Over the next two months I’ll be moving to a new house, planning a wedding and a honeymoon, and becoming Mrs. Storm Valentine.
I’m a pet sandwich. Niko is stretched out on top of the comforter, with his head resting on my hip, and Halo is curled up on my other side, his body pressed into the curve of my waist. This is what they do on the mornings when Storm gets up early to go for a run or spend a few hours at the gym—our fuzzy kids climb up on the bed and snuggle with me.
I should get up and start my day, but the warmth and coziness of Storm’s bed, coupled with the contentment of our pets, is hard to leave. Instead I pet Niko’s head and stare up at the autographed poster of Storm on the ceiling above the bed. He put it there as a joke, months ago, after I teased him about how much he loves looking at himself. Now I won’t let him take it down because I like looking at it.
Twenty minutes later I slowly creep out of bed, being careful not to disturb my two sleeping beauties. I’m meeting Amy for lunch at noon, and then we’re meeting my future sister-in-law, Asia, at a wedding boutique to look at wedding gowns. Asia is a sewing goddess and makes all the stage clothes for the band. Once I pick a gown, she’s going to customize it to match my winter theme. Aria wanted to join us but couldn’t make it, so I promised her Amy will text her pictures of me trying on dresses.
My stomach flips. Wedding dresses!
I spend the morning going through Storm’s house, making a list of what we need to pack and trying to figure out how many boxes we’re going to need for all our things, because we’re moving in four weeks.
Yes, a month. Less than a week ago, at the cabin, we agreed to buy a house. Two days ago we found the perfect house—a mile away from where Storm’s youngest brother, Talon, lives. The homeowner immediately accepted our offer, so now we’re just waiting for paperwork to seal the deal.
My stomach does a double flip. Everything is happening so fast.
As I stare at my little notepad, my cell phone beeps with a text message:
STORM: Have fun today dress shopping. NO stressing. You’re beautiful. I love you. Can’t wait for you to be my wife. xo
Pent-up stress seeps out of me in a cleansing sigh as I type back a reply:
ME: I love you, too. You’re going to be the best husband. xo
Storm has some sort of sixth sense when it comes to what I’m feeling. I can’t even count how many times he sent me a text or called me at exactly the right moment, even when he’s traveling thousands of miles away.
As usual, I’m ten minutes late meeting Amy for lunch. I park my car in the first empty spot I find on the busy street and rush inside the café, searching for her among the small bistro tables, but I don’t see her anywhere.
“Evie? Hello?” A girl sitting at a table by the window grabs my arm as I head back toward the front of the café, and I stare down at her in momentary confusion.
“Amy?” I take a seat in the chair across from her. “Oh my God, I didn’t even recognize you! When did you dye your hair brown?”
Her hand lifts to finger the ends of her glossy hair. “It’s auburn, not brown. And how could you not recognize my face? What kind of best friend are you?” she teases, opening her menu.
“It makes you look completely different. It’s gorgeous.” Amy’s a natural blonde and totally owns it with her sassy “blondes-have-more-fun” attitude, but the darker color has softened her features, making her look even more beautiful and natural.
“Now that I’m single—yet again—I thought a change would be good,” she explains. “Blonde me attracts dickheads, mommy’s boys, cheaters, assholes, and commitment-phobes. Maybe auburn me will attract an actual nice guy for once. It worked for you.”
The hamburgers on the menu are screaming my name, with their side of crispy fries. No! I can’t! I shift my eyes over to the salad section before I reply to her comment. “I hate to debunk your theory, but have you forgotten the twelve years I spent with Michael? My hair color didn’t thwart his assholicness.”
She closes her menu and puts it to the side. I’ll be so jealous if she orders a hamburger while I get a strawberry and walnut spring-mix salad. “He doesn’t count, Evie. He was a pre-existing condition from high school. As a beautiful adult woman, you landed yourself an amazing man.”
I don’t think my hair had anything to do with my landing Storm, as she so nicely put it, but I’m not going to even try to set her straight. If she needs to believe hair color will help her find love, so be it. Most of us spent at least the first seven years of our lives believing an old man in a red suit cruises around in a sled with flying reindeer, handing out presents, and that hasn’t hurt anyone. Faith in hair color seems pretty harmless.
“What are you getting?” she asks.
“The strawberry salad.”
“Ooh,” she coos. “The poppy seed dressing is amazing with that. I’m getting a cheeseburger. With chili cheese fries.”
“Are you excited? I know you’re nervous because that’s just you. But are you finally getting excited about the wedding?”
“I’ve been excited about it since he proposed. I just wanted to take things slow.”
“If you took it any slower, you’d be going back in time.” She grabs a roll from the wicker basket at the center of our table and pulls off a small piece. “If a guy proposed to me, I’d be sprinting to the altar.”
The waitress arrives and I’m tempted to order the burger, at the last minute, but I stick to my guns and get the salad. I’m determined to lose ten pounds for the wedding. I want to look as perfect in my gown as I can for Storm - and in lingerie on our wedding night.
Even though I stopped searching Storm on the internet a long time ago, the pictures I saw of him with various models with perfect bodies are forever burned in my brain. He’s assured me a million times that he only fooled around with a handful of those women and the rest of it was just posing for the camera to stir up attention, but it still amplifies my insecurities.
“Evie? Are you listening to me?”
Shaking my head, I refocus on Amy’s face. “I’m sorry, I was thinking.”
“I said I think it would be pretty if me and the other bridesmaids wore red dresses. Red is really festive and it will match your flowers, and it’s sexy. I look great in red.”
“You do,” I agree. “That’s a great idea.”
She beams. “I’m not going to let Storm’s mother think of all the ideas. I’m your best friend. I know you better than anyone.”
Ah. So it begins.
I make a mental note to ask Storm if he’s open to eloping.
Wedding gowns are magical yet evil things. They look so pretty on the hanger, but once you try to get your body into that stunning form-fitting mermaid-style dress, you’ll be wondering how your perception of width got so warped; especially your own width. And those gorgeous, flowing ball-gown-style dresses will make you feel itty-bitty buried under those layers of poof that just added at least fifty pounds of fabric to your body.