His Plain-Jane CinderellaBy: Jennie Adams
‘If there’s a chance that you might love—’ He stopped.
Stacie’s heart thundered. Had he just said what she thought he had said? ‘I’m not sure if you mean…’
‘I’m deep in love with you. That’s what I mean.’ He got to his feet, pulled her to her feet and his hands cupped her shoulders as he gazed into her face. ‘I want to look at your face every day for the rest of my life. To become so familiar with each feature that I know each part of you better than I know myself. And when I’ve done that I want to start over and learn you all over again. I want to know you as well on the inside.’
‘Troy?’ Her heart slowed, and then rushed on a bursting beat.
His expression, his touch, the sincerity and hope and belief in his eyes, told it all. He loved her. Truly, as she loved him.
‘I love you too, Troy.’ The words burst from her. ‘I knew it the morning after… I didn’t know what to do.’ She drew a breath. ‘No; that isn’t true. I was afraid to reach out for what I wanted with you. I thought you wouldn’t want me, but then I wanted to fight for you if there was any chance.’
‘You are a fighter, and I’m glad of that.’ He cupped her face in his hands and closed his eyes and for a moment he simply breathed her in. ‘Because I want you to fight to stay with me for always. To build a life with me. To sell dog-coats and grow almonds and survive floods, and look after muscle-dogs with beauty complexes and Houdini dogs wanting to escape all the time.’
It was Stacie’s idea of heaven. ‘Oh, Troy. I want that. I want it all.’
‘And children.’ His voice lowered an octave as he spoke the words. ‘I want beautiful children with you. Daughters just like you.’
‘And sons just like you.’ Her voice choked on the words. ‘Oh, Troy. I want sons just like you.’
She would have a niece or nephew first, and Stacie just smiled because it would be nice, but it was Troy’s babies that she would carry the deepest in her heart.
Troy pressed his forehead to hers and inhaled. ‘My mother might warn you to steer away from anything to do with me and tell you I’m cold.’
‘She tried to fix her unhappiness by leaning on you emotionally.’ Stacie said it gently, but it still had to be said. ‘That was wrong of her, Troy.’
‘Families aren’t perfect, are they?’ Troy lifted his forehead from hers and pressed his lips there instead. ‘But I care about my parents, and they’re not bad people. I think they’re just not all that happy with each other.’
Stacie’s hands crept around his middle. She was still struggling to believe this but, oh, she needed to, and touching him made it more possible to believe. ‘We’re going to be happy, Troy. We’re going to share emotionally and in every way. Support each other and go forward together.’
He tipped up her chin and looked deep into her eyes. ‘Then marry me, Stacie Wakefield. Make me the happiest man in the world.’
‘Oh, Troy.’ She drew a shuddery breath. Their lips pressed together lightly, just once, and she spoke her answer against those lips she had dreamed from the start must be made for kisses. ‘Yes. I will marry you and try to live up to your strength.’
Troy hushed her with a finger laying lightly against her lips. ‘You don’t need to try to match my strength. You already do.’
‘And you don’t ever need to worry about your injury with me.’ Warmth crept into her face as she admitted, ‘From the first day we met I saw the way you lived with those limitations and conquered them. I found you so attractive.’
Stacie’s arms squeezed his waist as he pulled her tight against his hard body, and let her hair flow over the back of his hand where he cupped her neck.
‘I want to make love with you.’ He whispered the words against her neck.
‘I want it too, Troy. I need you. You, and only you.’
Stacie took his hand. They left two dogs lying in front of a heater in Troy’s living room, and she and Troy resumed their journey together.
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