“Well, Merry Christmas again. Will I see you tomorrow?” my father asks.
“I’ll try to come by. Lots of stuff going on in preparation for the wedding,” I say.
“Of course. I wish I could be of more help.”
“Just give me away. That will be more than enough.” I give him a kiss on the cheek, Michaels says good-bye, and we head back to my place.
By the time we get outside, the snow is coming down heavily. We arrive home within fifteen minutes, but before we step inside, Michael goes to his car and fishes something out of his trunk.
“What is it?” I ask, seeing he’s carrying a black box. I unlock the front door, and step inside. A wave of heat greets me. Looks like they turned the power back on, thank God.
“I picked this up for you the other day. I thought you might need something formal to wear tonight,” he says.
“A dress?” I ask.
“Just open the damn box,” he says with a crooked smile.
I take the box out of his hands and slide up next to him. Then I plant a small kiss on his cheek. I’d better be careful not to get too greedy, or I’ll just want so much more.
I open it and inside there is a white, floor-length chiffon dress with silver and clear rhinestone embroidery on the bodice. The sleeves are long and sheer and there’s a chiffon scarf that goes with it.
“You have a thing for scarves,” I say.
“You have no idea,” he says, his voice low, his eyes suddenly ablaze.
“You had better get those dirty thoughts out of your mind or I’ll have no other option than to make us miss the party,” I say.
“What are you suggesting, exactly?” He leans in and kisses me behind the ear.
Reluctantly, I reel myself in. “Nothing. I have to get ready now.”
“One more thing,” Michael says, holding up a small black box. He opens the lid and inside is a beautiful necklace. It looks like diamonds, but…
“Are those…real?” I say, thinking yeah, right.
“Twenty-four grade ‘A’ diamonds, totaling forty-eight carats.”
I look at him in disbelief, my eyes widening by the second. “Where did you get these?” Surely they’re on loan.
“A jewelry shop.”
I give him a look. Smartass.
“I’m not telling. But I want you to know that they’re not on loan. They’re yours,” he says. “Consider it an engagement present.”
“I can’t…” I start.
His eyes flicker with subtle annoyance. “Don’t be ridiculous. I want you to have these, you hear? If not, I’ll donate them to my mother’s favorite charity.”
I chuckle. I’ve never received a gift even remotely as nice as this. I can’t imagine what something like this would cost. I’ve never even looked at purchasing a single diamond, and I feel guilty just thinking about accepting it.
“Please, let me dote on my future wife. It would mean a lot to me. Besides, I insist,” he says.
“I just don’t even know what to say to something so extravagant,” I say.
“Thank you, merci, gracias, tusen takk, you can pick your language of choice. But I don’t need a thank you.”
He’s relentless and I roll my eyes.
“Rolling your eyes at me, Mrs. Manning? Did you forget how severely I punished you when you did that to me last time? Don’t think I’ll let you off the hook just because it’s Christmas Day.” He pinches my ass.
Oh… Would he really do me…again? I stare at him for a moment. “Bring it.”
“You’re going to learn to be a lot more amiable and obedient when you’re married to me,” he says. “Let’s just say I believe in the Christian marriage where the wife is obligated to willingly submit herself to her husband.”
“I submit ever so willingly,” I tease, licking my lower lip.
His eyes flare up just enough so I notice it, and then he exhales a slow and controlled breath. “If it weren’t for the fact that we need to be at the party in less than half an hour, I’d have my way with you, woman.”
“Again?” I say, my deepest muscles clenching at the thought.
“Is that a threat?”
“Oh, very much so.” He kisses me on the forehead, and then he swats me on the behind. “Now, go get ready before I lose the ability to control myself.”
It amazes me that I have such an effect on him. It makes me feel powerful in a way, but at the same time, oh, so weak.
* * *
On our way to Diane’s, we stop at Michael’s house—well, mansion—so he can change into his tux. I wait in his bedroom while he gets dressed, trying to come up with how I’m going to tell him I’m Samantha. Should I drop a hint and see if he figures it out? No, I should just be direct. Maybe I’ll send him an email. No, that would be chickening out. I want to be there and see how he reacts and be available just in case he has questions for me. I feel giant knots tie in my stomach as I imagine him freaking out and ending our deal.
He did say that nothing would make him change the way he feels about me. That makes me feel a little better.
What’s surprising is I’m almost just as worried about losing him as I am of losing the deal. Maybe even more worried.
Michael comes out wearing a black tuxedo with a silver bow-tie that matches my dress. His hair is still slightly messy at the front, but is neatly combed at the back. Standing up, I suddenly feel the need to inhale, and notice I have stopped breathing altogether. I get to marry him? I’ve been fucked by him? I’ve had him tell me that I drive him crazy? If it weren’t for the fact that we were both dressed and late for the party, I’d be attacking him again.
Driving over to his mother’s dinner party, I feel like my life has finally arrived. I’m so grateful that I met Michael. Not only is he the answer to my financial needs, I truly think I love this man and finally feel like I’ve come home. I never imagined I would meet a man who at the same time could take my breath away and make me feel completely at ease, so wanted, and so thoroughly fulfilled.
As we pull into Diane’s driveway, snow is coming down heavily. The white fluff has started to stick on the ground and I feel like I’m in winter wonderland on my way to Cinderella’s ball. Lit torches line the long driveway. I have a feeling it’s going to be a fabulous night, but as always, I’m a little worried about my future mother-in-law. Although she has clearly given her approval of me, I don’t know if she’ll do a one-eighty and slit my throat.