For the first time in what felt like months, I exhaled.
“Oh, look!” I gasped and clutched Griffin’s hand as we made our way over the bridge to the other side of the Seine.
A sparkling dance of light from the Eiffel Tower flickered the sidewalk in front of us.
“Every hour on the hour,” he said, brushing his lips across my temple.
Griffin and I arrived in our hotel suite a few hours ago. He’d taken a nap. I’d tried before giving up and deciding to park myself on the hotel balcony and watch the city go by. Every time I closed my eyes, my never-ending to-do list for Kat’s wedding appeared in the insides of my eyelids. Yes, the wedding was yesterday. Yes, they were already off to Mallorca on their honeymoon, and the guests headed back to their respective homes. Still, I had things to do.
We’d ask that people send their gifts by mail in the U.S., but some had carted them to Europe. I had to ship them back to Kat and Adrian’s apartment in L.A. Some decorations were going back as well. Adrian’s uncle packed everything up, but I needed to follow up with him to get the tracking numbers. Then, there were the cases of wine we’d ordered. And Kat’s dress.
She and Adrian were off to Mallorca for their honeymoon.
Griffin and I only had a couple of days in Paris—
“No to-do lists tonight,” he declared as we left for dinner.
I took a deep breath and leaned against him, shuttering my busy thoughts. Now that the sun was going down, Paris was cooling off.
He pulled my hand to his chest and hunched to kiss my fingertips as we walked.
“You’re off the clock for the next two days, Ms. Johnston. Adrian’s uncle said he’d take care of shipping everything back to your house. Mrs. Johnston was overseeing everything. He’d be too afraid to fuck up.” Griffin laughed.
I blew out a relieved sigh. “It’s hard to turn it off. We had a thousand details to manage the past few weeks.”
“But it’s done, and the wedding was stunning. Congratulations,” Griffin declared and spun me around. We’d reached the corner at the end of the bridge and waited for the signal to change before crossing a series of streets to Quai Branly, which would take us to the Tower.
I grinned. “Wasn’t Kat gorgeous?”
She’d chosen a backless halter sheath in ivory silk, dotted with pearls. Eniola had gasped at her bare shoulders. And at not having the wedding in a church. And at, well, dozens of other details.
“She was beautiful, but not as beautiful as her mother,” Griffin said.
I grinned, and we kept walking until we were standing under the famous landmark with our heads tipped up, triggering vertigo even though my feet were planted firmly at ground level.
“New item on the to-do list,” I said, pressing closer to him.
“What’s that?” he asked dropping his forehead to mine.
“Kissing under the Eiffel Tower.”
I planted kisses down his jaw to his chin, then he claimed my mouth with his own, driving out the last thoughts of busyness. His lips moved over mine slowly, with purpose and intensity. I lost myself in the sensation of him until a noise half-way between grizzly bear and freight train grumbled up from my midsection. I laughed into Griffin’s sensuous kiss, then leaned back.
“I haven’t eaten anything except train station gummy bears since this morning. We might want to get to the restaurant.”
“This way, my lady,” he said and directed me through the crowds toward one of the pillars.
He and I had only a few hours of sleep after the wedding festivities wrapped at nearly three in the morning—a couple of hours after the newlyweds escaped into the summer night. They had an early morning flight to Barcelona and then on to the Balearic Islands where they would spend a week in Mallorca and then a few days in Ibiza and Formentera before returning home.
Griffin and I jumped also had an early departure and train tickets to the city.
He’d talked me into relaxing for a couple of days in Paris before flying back. As hard it was for me to unwind, I was grateful. The first half of the year had been an absolute whirlwind with the wedding as the final destination before I could even think of breathing.
I planned the wedding without killing my mother.
Griffin helped his father ensconce Carter as the new CEO of the Kelso Engineering.
Gregory pushed his divorce from Marisa to near finality.
And Griffin had bought a small house near his childhood home to serve as home base for visits with Grace—who was head over heels in love with her newfound big brother. Gregory Sr. and Grace even made the trip to France for the wedding.
The quiet pride and love in Griffin’s eyes as he danced with Grace last night had nearly undone me. He twirled her, dipped her, and bowed, and she giggled, declaring the wedding the most fun she’d ever had.
He was already being the father I knew he could be, and he and Gregory had an unspoken understanding. They would tell Grace the truth as soon as the family therapist they were working with deemed it appropriate.
I gave the issue with Grace one last thought, then sent it fly away into the flickering Parisian shadows. Griffin would handle it.
He hadn’t proposed yet, but I’d made him agree to wait until after I saw Kat and Adrian down the aisle. I didn’t want anything to detract from her big day. Now, that over, I smiled at the thought that I might have my own wedding to plan soon. At some point. Griffin hinted at having proposal plans in the works, and when he suggested the trip, my mind started turning.
I forced my brain to a halt. Whatever he planned and whenever it happened, I already knew my answer, so I let go of needing to anticipate and predict and plan my own scenarios.
“I can’t believe you got reservations at one of the restaurants here in just a couple of months.” I couldn’t imagine how. The Eiffel Tower restaurants booked up as far as a year in advance.
“Bonus points for me, then.” His breath warmed my cheek before his kiss. “Surprising you is nearly impossible, but I do have the magic touch to sometimes pull off the impossible.”
That he did.
My mother finally acknowledged the truth about my paternity. Thinking of how quickly life could change, nervousness joined the tumult of my hungry stomach.
When I got back to Texas, I had one week before going to Houston to meet Dr. Knight—my father—for the first time. He’d answered my lengthy letter sent to his offices only a few days before we left for France. A simple, long-awaited missive.
I would love to meet you. Please come to Houston. Congratulations on your daughter’s wedding.
I quelled the anxiety and focused on the moment.
“It may take us a while to get an elevator. What time is our reservation?” I asked as we approached the gaggle of tourists near the south side elevators, which lead to the restaurant.
Griffin didn’t even glance at his watch. “We’re fine.”
He snaked his arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer so we could dodge the flow of people. The buzz of conversation popped around us in various languages, but I managed to pick out enough in English.
“I can’t believe it’s closed.”
“We came all this way.”
“I told you to call first.”
I was about to ask Griffin whether he’d confirmed our reservations when he guided me toward the name-badged gentleman and addressed him by name before introducing himself.
The man’s eyes lit up. “Ah, Mr. Kelso. Ms. Johnston. Yes. Bon. Right this way.”
“It sounded like the restaurant was closed,” I asked with a confusion in my voice that matched the disgruntlement on the faces of the tourists heading the other direction. We boarded the elevator, and the attendant press the button.
“It is. For a private party,” Griffin answered. The corners of his mouth curled up, and he raised one brow at me.
My heart thumped. “Private?” I whispered.
“Yes. Dinner for two.”
The older gentleman tossed me a sly smile. “Bienvenue à la Tour Eiffel.”
“I should have waited before singing the praises of the view from the hotel balcony,” I said, letting the chilled fizz of champagne slide down my throat. Servers had already dropped a tray of appetizers at a table in the center of the slanted, windowed wall, overlooking the river and Trocadero. They filled our glasses with champagne and left the ice bucket before retreating to parts unknown.
With the introduction of elegant French food, anticipatory twinges replaced the grumbles in my stomach.
“I can’t believe you arranged all of this.”
“I wanted tonight to be special.” Griffin grinned and spun me around again—this time in sync with the jazz swelling around us from the small orchestra situated in the corner of the room. The skirt of my floral maxi dress flared, dappled by the strands of lights hanging around the single table in the center of the room.
“Booking the entire restaurant just for us definitely counts as special,” I said, tapping the brakes on wondering just how special tonight was going to be. Before dinner? After dinner? Later at the hotel?
“They let you book this place for private events. I tried to get the restaurant at the very top. That was legit impossible,” he laughed.
“Well, consider me duly impressed, Funny Boy.” I stopped our turns and steps, threw my arms around his neck, and kissed him loudly on the lips. He started in for another kiss, then stopped and looked at his watch.
“Let’s go out the observation deck.”
“Now?” I asked. “I was going to snag another amuse-bouche.”
“I have other ways to amuse your bouche,” he said, getting more literal with the French word for mouth. “Come on.”
We slipped out the door to deck and walked to one end, which provided a clear view over the city.
“You can see all the way up to Sacre Coeur.” I pointed to the domed church, high on a distant hill on the other side of the river. I’d been to Paris twice—both times for work with little time to explore. Griffin promised that we would spend all day at Montmartre tomorrow, and I couldn’t wait.
I pouted. “Now that I’m here, I wish I’d let you talk me into staying for a couple of weeks. There’s so much to see.”
“That was one of my more fanciful notions. Neither of us has time to stay for an extra two weeks.”
“I like your fanciful ideas.” I played with his hair and dreamed of lengthy vacations.
“Good. Because I have another.”
He signaled to someone inside, and the door to the deck swung open. A single musician stepped outside. A saxophonist. With the first few notes of the song, I didn’t know whether to burst out laughing or throw Griffin to the ground so I could have my way with him.
“I thought you hated this song.”
“You’ve turned me around on Kenny G, and besides, I’m still trying to stack up points in my favor. I have a question to ask you.” Griffin reached inside his linen blazer and pulled out a small, square box.
“Yes.” I said.
“I haven’t asked you anything yet,” he grumbled, then dropped to one knee. “Delilah.”
“Yes?” I paused. “That’s a question. Not an answer.”
“Good. Now,” he took a deep breath, and his hand shook almost imperceptibly. “Even though, you’ve already answered. I’m still fucking nervous.”
I laughed and gave him my hand.
“Sorry,” he said. “That wasn’t very romantic.”
“That’s okay. You’ve accrued lots of romance points with all of this.” I waved my hand at the view. The dance of Eiffel Tower lights kicked on flashing around us, and I gasped. Being inside the lights was an entirely different experience.
I dropped my ecstatic gaze down to Griffin’s questioning eyes.
“You are the love of my life. The best partner in any and everything a man could ever ask for. You are beautiful and smart and if I could spend the rest of my life, waking up to you, I’d think myself the luckiest man on earth. Will you marry me?”
I thought about playing around with him—tapping my chin in fake contemplation or saying, “Hmmm, will I?”
But I couldn’t.
I loved him. I wanted him. And for all his jokes, the sincere desire in his eyes eliminated the need for any other word.
He jumped to his feet and captured me with a kiss as dizzying as the heights of the Eiffel Tower until the final notes of the song stretched and faded into forever.