Craving Him (Page 48)

Craving Him (Love by Design #2)(48)
Author: Kendall Ryan

I felt the air around us shift. My mom leaned forward in her seat and Ellie held her breath. What was going on?

Ben rose to his feet and plucked the little box from inside the tree, then turned to face me, looking contemplative. Brilliant hazel eyes locked on mine and one hand lovingly stroked my cheek as he stood before me.

“Before you came along, I didn’t know there was a piece of me missing. But there was. You’ve taken a place in my life, in my heart, that was empty before.”

A stray tear escaped my eye and rolled along my cheek. Ben’s thumb caught it and he smiled at me lightly before continuing. “You’ve enriched my life, made it more complete, and I don’t want to spend any more of my days without you by my side. I love you with my whole heart.”

My heart galloped in my chest, watching this beautiful man pour his heart out to me. My mom was now actively crying and my confused brain scrambled to try to make sense of this moment.

He dropped down onto both knees and kneeled before me, looking deep into my eyes. He slowly opened the box. “Will you be my wife, Emerson Jean?”

Big tears leaked from my eyes and my heart tripped over itself at hearing those words fall from Ben’s mouth. It was everything I’d wanted and more.

But not like this. Not because he felt backed into a corner and needed to make some grand gesture to win me back. I wanted to shout yes, to throw myself into his embrace, to knock him to the floor and kiss him senseless. But the little annoying voice in the back of my head refused to pipe down.

Ben’s confidence faltered, and I saw his jaw tense as he waited for me to answer.

Shit.

I knew how this man was with rejection, and I wasn’t rejecting him . . . I just needed to talk to him about this. To be sure this was what he wanted.

“Emmy,” he whispered, his voice a hoarse plea. “Do you want some privacy?” he whispered.

I nodded.

He lifted me from the floor and carried me to the back bedroom we’d been in only moments before.

He set me on my feet, cupping my cheeks. “Baby?” Ben’s voice broke and his eyes were filled with worry. “Please talk to me . . .”

I stood there uselessly sobbing because I’d just ruined my own proposal. Why hadn’t I just said yes and then talked to him later in private? I’d taken what should have been a beautiful moment and turned it into drama. We had a roomful of people down the hall probably wondering what in the world was going on, and I had a wounded and hurt man standing in front of me.

“Fuck,” he roared, shutting the door firmly behind us. “I should’ve never planned this elaborate thing in front of your family. I’m sorry, baby. Tell me why you’re crying. Tell me how to fix it.”

I drew a deep gulp of air and wiped the remnants of my ruined mascara from under my eyes, searching for a way to fix this.

Ben

Watching Emmy cry big, soggy tears broke my f**king heart. I wasn’t sure how I’d managed to mess up this proposal, but somehow I had. A sob bubbled up her throat and broke from her lips. I held her, stroked her back, and let her cry. At least she wasn’t pushing me away. I held her and swayed with her in my arms, letting her tears soak my shirt while lightly rubbing her back. It tore me up seeing her like this.

She finally took a sobering breath and stepped back. Her cheeks were wet with tears, her eyes red and swollen.

“Emmy, baby. Talk to me.”

Crossing the room, she sat down on the bed. “I will. I just . . . need a minute.” Her eyes briefly met mine, and what I saw there made my pulse sprint. Fear. Confusion. And uncertainty.

I nodded and waited, unable to do anything else. I could practically see the wheels turning in her head as she fought to organize her thoughts. I had no idea what had conflicted her so badly, but it was obvious she was struggling.

“Let me get you a glass of cool water.” I stepped into the adjoining bath and filled a glass tumbler with cold tap water, if only for a moment to break the intensity humming between us.

Glancing into the bathroom mirror, the man staring back at me was just as much of a mess. My skin was pale and lifeless. I looked like shit. Fuck, I felt like shit without Emmy. I didn’t think she ever understood how badly I needed her. I inhaled deeply, knowing that I’d need to search inside myself to find the right words to get through to her.

Moments later, I returned to her side with the glass of water and a box of tissues. She accepted each and after wiping her cheeks and blowing her nose, she took a sip of the water then handed the glass back to me.

“Thank you. Sit down,” she instructed me, now slightly more composed. She patted the bed and I lowered myself down beside her.

“You know I’d never intentionally hurt you. You know that, right?”

She nodded slowly.

“I want us to work. I’ve cut Fiona from my life, I thought severing that tie was all we needed to finally move forward as just us. I never thought that a video I recorded two years ago would come between us.”

She sucked her lower lip into her mouth, so quiet and unsure.

“Tell me why you’re crying,” I coaxed, unsure if I could take her hand. I clenched my fists at my sides instead.

“Because.”

Using two fingers, I lifted her chin, bringing her eyes up to meet mine. “Because why baby?”

“Because . . . this future with you . . . it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.”

“And . . .” I prompted.

She sniffed, her chin quivering. “And, I know this isn’t you. It’s not what you want, and I won’t pressure you. I won’t have you do this—make this grand gesture just to gain my forgiveness over your sex tape.”

Holy shit. Her words felt like a punch to the gut. “That’s what you thought this was? Some makeup gift? Some penance for my sins?”

She nodded carefully.

“I’m not good with pretty words, but I promise you I meant every word of that proposal. I want you with me always. I need you like I’ve never needed anything before. How can you not see that?”

“I believe you. I just can’t go into this thinking you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Realization struck me and hope ballooned in my chest. “Baby, I’m a selfish bastard, trust me. I’m going into this for all the wrong reasons. Because I want you to be mine. Forever. I can’t let you go. I want us to vow that we’ll be together because I can’t lose you. I bought your ring before the tape even came out. I knew I wanted to marry you months ago. I’ve been trying desperately to get you to move in with me.”