He flashed a grin. “I mean the box.”
She blinked. “Oh.” She reached in and retrieved a small clear plastic box. With a fake ring in it. The kind that came from a bubble gum machine. She stared at it, heart pounding. “Is that—”
“Yeah,” he said. The band was painted gold with a gaudy green fake stone and she felt her throat tighten as he slipped off the bench to his knees, nearly falling over in the process. “Will you marry me, Elle?”
She gulped air. “You took too many pain meds, right?”
“No.” He laughed a little. “You’re killing me here, Elle. Yes or no.”
“Very. My knees are gone.”
She dropped to her knees in front of him and stared into his beautiful warm, slightly impatient hazel eyes. Then she kissed him and pressed her forehead to his. “Yes.” Her eyes filled as the horror of the last day overcame her, the horror and her overwhelming love for this man, and she sniffed. “Yes.”
He cupped her face. “Don’t cry. I promise to get you a better ring. There weren’t any jewelry stores open.”
Now she was both crying and laughing. “The ring’s perfect. You’re perfect.” She ran her fingers over his scruffy, unshaved jaw. “I love that you couldn’t wait until the stores opened. That’s how I know how much you want this.”
“You better believe I want this. We fought like hell for it. So let’s stop wasting time and spend the rest of it together.”
“Great. I can’t get up.”
Laughing, she helped him back to the bench, where she snuggled into his chest and held out her hand to admire the wildly gaudy ring ten sizes too big on her finger. “Where did you get it?”
“There’s a lineup of candy machines at the pizza joint on Divisadero,” he said. “And trust me, it wasn’t easy. It took twenty-five bucks in quarters to get the one I wanted. Those fuckers are totally rigged. Spence was ready to buy all of the machines just so I’d sit down. Pru and Willa spent the whole time laughing their asses off and Kylie missed the whole thing because she was flirting with some guy who worked there.”
“Never tell me you’re not romantic,” she said, and he smiled his trouble-filled smile.
“Well, you do inspire me,” he said.
Two weeks later Archer woke up first. Since he was still on light duty, he hadn’t had to get up at the crack of dawn to work out and then get to the job. He’d have gone ape-shit stir-crazy days ago except for Elle. She’d insisted that he, being incapacitated, needed someone to watch over him. She’d appointed herself the boss, demanding he rest and recuperate and recover by sitting on his ass until the doctor said otherwise.
There weren’t many who’d ever been able to tell Archer what to do. Actually, there’d been no one.
And the only reason he let her was because when she bossed him around in that sassy tone of hers, eyes flashing, it turned him on, enough that he sometimes gave her trouble just so she’d give him ’tude. She wasn’t onto him, yet, although she’d been practically sitting on him every day, to keep him quiet and still.
There’d been some noteworthy exceptions of the naked variety. They’d had to be inventive to work around his limitations, but it turned out that, on top of being smart and amazing, Elle was also creative as hell.
But today was to be his first day back into the office. And yet with Elle wrapped around him like a pretzel, suddenly he wasn’t in a rush to get back to real life at all.
Unable to wait any longer for her to wake up, he shifted against her. She stirred, smiling without opening her eyes as he gently rolled her onto her back. Covering her body with his, he spread featherlight kisses along her throat, heading south.
“Don’t you have to go soon?” she murmured, still smiling. Her eyelids fluttered open and her baby blues focused on his.
He ran his hand across the naked curve of her hip before burying his face in her hair. “I’m calling in sick.”
She froze and then struggled to sit up, trying to fight his hands to get a look at his shoulder. “I knew it, you pushed yourself too hard and you’re hurting—”
“Not even a little bit,” he promised, capturing her hands. “I just want you to myself for one more day.”
She met his gaze and gave the slow smile that never failed to rev his heartrate. “Did you have something specific in mind?” she asked.
In fact, he did, and he reached for the remote on his nightstand and hit a switch.
Instantly a fire came to life in the hearth.
“That’s kind of cheating, don’t you think?” Elle asked.
He paused, looking over his shoulder at the flames dancing in the hearth, then back to Elle. “It’s a gas fireplace.”
“I know. But I’d have loved to watch you build a fire with your bare hands.” Her eyes were dancing with humor. “Shirtless.”
He laughed. “And I suppose I should’ve chopped the wood shirtless too?”
She let out a little whimper that had him grinning. “Yeah?” he asked.
“Well, you’re the boss.”
She grinned and kissed him, a really great kiss, a deep, soul searching, body tingly, brain cell destroying kiss. “Say it again,” she whispered.
He rolled to his back, pulling her over top of him, tugging her face to his. “You’re the boss.” He grinned. “For this one last day.”
This made her laugh. “Just one more day? That’s it? Then you’re going to take a turn?”
“Yeah, then I’m taking my turn. Make it count, Elle.”
She kissed him with such tenderness it made his heart feel like it might burst from his chest. Fisting a hand in her hair, he kissed her back with everything he had, adding a little nip of his teeth and then a glide of his tongue to soothe the ache.
She laughed softly as she straddled him and rubbed up against him until he couldn’t laugh. Hell, he couldn’t breathe. All he could do was hold on and try to show her with his body how much he loved her. He reached into the nightstand drawer and grabbed a condom. “We’ll double up for now, at least until we figure out the high-chair dilemma,” he said, lifting up to press a kiss over her heart. Then he turned his head slightly and kissed her breast, lingering until she sucked in a breath.