I hip bump him. “This pit stop was planned all along? So much for spontaneity.”
“I can be a planner just like you.” He bumps me right back.
Kicking off my flip-flops, I start taking my shorts down. “Sometimes, planning takes all the fun out of the adventure.”
Not to be outdone, his clothes come off as fast as mine do. But as we stand there, neither of us rush into the water without the other because the water’s cold, even for a summer night. Joshua looks at me, taking hold of my hand, and asks, “What’s next?”
“We just jump right in.” He still waits by my side. But I don’t have those same fears I did years ago, so I take the first step and then another with him coming with me. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I say. “It’s not like there are sharks in this lake.”
“Nope.” He chuckles as we get deeper. “No sharks.” When we get waist deep, we lift our legs and swim.
Treading water doesn’t bother me as much anymore. It didn’t take long to find a job I’d like in New Haven, the man of my dreams next to me, and an endless lake of hope ahead. Wrapping my arms around him, I whisper, “You know, we never did make love in a lake.”
His feet plant, and he holds me to him, kissing me until we both fall under, not the water, but each other once again, spellbound by one another. I’m held tight, so tight, his cheek scratches against the skin of my neck. I love the feel of him burying himself in me in ways that others will never understand.
Moving my hair behind my shoulder, he whispers, “Not a day that goes by, not a minute or even a second when you aren’t at the forefront of my mind. Everything. Everything I say and breathe is because you give me the strength to do so. I will always be your strength, your shoulder, your ever after no matter what a new day brings.”
Although the sound of my heart beating is lost under the lapping of the water around us, I feel it as big as the moon and as strong as a bass drum.
I thought I lost the ability to cry, but no. I’d lost him, the soul that gave me the depth of emotion. So as I start to cry, I hug him as we swim as one.
“It’s funny to remember standing in your way when you entered my apartment seven years ago, barging right into my life, into my heart, and becoming the only plan worth sticking to. I realize now that I was only standing in my own damn way.” Slicking his hair back, I kiss his forehead. “I’m no longer afraid to jump all the way in if I’m jumping into your arms.”
“Prove it,” he says, smirking.
I roll my eyes because he’s so damn cocky. And handsome, and smart, and loving, and he puts up with me when my emotions spin into little hurricanes now and again. He’s my salvation. He’s my safe place. “I already did when I married you.” I’m kissed, and then I kiss him because I’m his haven as well. I’m the one he tells everything to, who allows him to be who he is, and who loves him to his core. I say, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
We start to make love in the lake, but no, it’s too murky and then a fish touches my leg, so I’m out of there. He gets a blanket from the back and spreads it out, the leaves like downy underneath. Music drifts from the speakers of the SUV as we sit down facing the lake. He says, “I was thinking we might want to live by the lake. Right here. Build a house in this very spot. What do you think?”
My gaze skims the water and I smile because it’s fun to dream. “The moon lighting the back porch.”
My response makes him grin. “Fresh fish for dinner.”
“Skinny-dipping in summer.”
“Kids learning to swim right out there.” He points. “We can build a dock.”
To hear him bring up the topic of kids takes me by surprise. Maybe it shouldn’t since we’re now married, but it’s a big jump for anyone to get used to. “I like when we dream together.” Taking another look at the lake, I add, “I know you have the money—”
“It’s not my money; it’s our money.”
“But this land will cost a fortune.”
“What if I told you it came as a package deal?”
I stare at him, slowly blinking, trying to catch myself up to what he’s saying. “What’s the package deal?”
“Everything I have is yours, Chloe. Earnings from the restaurant, money from investments, the apartment . . . and forty acres of land, this land.”
Is he saying what I think he is? “Your dad owned this land?”