Jared hummed as he crunched a path down the gravel driveway from the carriage apartment to Mary’s house. He checked his watch. Good, he had at least a half hour before Will was due for lunch. Time enough to finish their business before Will updated them on the case.
He had spent the past three weeks planning his future and it would all come to a head in the next hour. A quick pat to his shirt pocket assured him that the diamond ring still nestled there. A local doctor’s practice looking to add a psychiatrist to their group had extended an offer for him to join them and he had accepted. Now he just had to pop the question to Mary.
Crossing the lawn to the back door, he glanced down at the grass. He’d have to mow the yard tomorrow, but once they were married, he’d hire someone to maintain it and to fully restore the gardens. If she said yes, that is. He knocked at the back door. When she called for him to come in, he twisted the knob with sweaty palms. An inauspicious beginning for such an occasion.
“Hi, Jared.” Mary smiled from her position at the stove, as she stirred something that smelled like thyme and rosemary in a pot.
“Uh, hello.” This would never do. How was he supposed to articulate his prepared speech out about his love for her when he could barely manage a greeting? “What’s for lunch?”
“Chicken noodle soup, a fruit salad, and fresh baked bread.”
Jared came over the stove. “It smells good.”
“Want a taste?” Mary lifted the spoon and held her other hand underneath it.
Jared leaned over and took a cautious slurp. The herbs and light broth tasted delicious. “Mmmmm. Family recipe?”
She laughed. “Nope. I made this one up myself.”
He grinned and rocked back on his heels. Better get started. He wouldn’t want Will to interrupt at the wrong moment. “Can you leave that for a minute? I have something to talk to you about.”
Mary set the spoon on a spoon rest, turned down the heat, and covered the pot. “Sure, what’s up?”
Her eyes glowed more purple today, probably because of the lovely light lavender sweater she wore. Dark hair curled around her shoulders and his fingers itched to get tangled up in their silkiness. First things first. He blinked to refocus his thoughts and cleared his throat.
“You know what we talked about a few weeks ago, when you told me you suspected Ed Divers was Wildcat?”
Her eyebrows knitted together. “Yes.”
Jared reached out and took one of her hands. “I know I said I’d give you space, and that we would continue our platonic friendship, but I can’t.” He stumbled to a halt as her expression became more confused.
“You don’t want to be friends?”
He groaned. “No, that’s not what I’m saying.” He scrambled to remember the words he had carefully written down and memorized last night, but none of the eloquence of those phrases surfaced in his mind now that the moment was upon him. He sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. Nothing for it but to go for it.
“I love you,” he blurted. “I have since we were children, and when I met you again as a grown woman, I fell in love with you all over again. I can’t be with you and not be with you.”
Mary looked down at their joined hands. “I, uh, oh, my.”
Jared firmed his resolve, then dropped to one knee, his right hand still holding her left. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, would you marry me?”
Gazing into her eyes, he fumbled into his shirt pocket and brought out the simple solitaire diamond ring.
Her eyes brimmed with tears. “Yes, Jared.” She reached out her hand and touched his cheek. “I will marry you.”
Her face glowed as he slipped the ring on her finger. Rising, his hands skimmed her cheeks before he buried them in her loose hair. “You have made me the happiest man in the world, my love.”
Mary silenced his lips with hers. Other words would have to wait.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.0