Hired Girlfriend, Pregnant Fiancée? - Page 62
The careful explanation, the caveats, the build-up. All gone. Instead, she said, ‘I’m here because I love you.’
The words fell from her lips and she closed her eyes, unable to watch his reaction, braced for rejection.
‘It’s not a big deal. I’m not expecting anything back, and it won’t affect how we bring up the baby. I totally get that you don’t do love after Claudia.’
She sensed him right in front of her—so close she could inhale his oh-so-familiar citrus smell, so close it took all her willpower not to touch him.
‘Open your eyes, Gabby.’
His voice was gentle.
‘Look at me. Please?’
The last word disarmed her and she obeyed, looking directly into blue-grey eyes that held a depth of seriousness, warmth and joy.
‘I love you, too.’ He gave an almost strangled laugh. ‘Why do you think I’m standing here with a bunch of balloons?’
Disbelief warred with hope. ‘But you can’t… I don’t understand…’
‘I’ll try to explain about Claudia. I told you that we had different dreams and ambitions. But it went deeper than that… Very soon into our marriage I realised that I’d made a mistake.’
His breathing was shallow and Gabby stepped closer to him, to offer what comfort she could, sensing he’d never admitted that before.
‘We were too different… Perhaps we’d never really known each other. Then she fell ill, and in that awful time the only thing I am glad of is that she never knew. That she believed in our love to the end. And so did everyone else. Because I didn’t want to betray her memory, because I felt such guilt.’
‘Oh, Zander. I am so sorry.’ She could see how the guilt, the secrecy, the living a lie would have eaten away at him. Topped up by the guilt at all his success after her death.
‘It’s OK. I’m telling you because I want you to understand why I believed that love wasn’t possible for me. I believed it was my fault—that my ambition killed my love and that that would always happen, that it was a given. I’d always put my wishes, my work first. You’ve made me see that it isn’t true. You’ve made me look back on my marriage differently. Perhaps Claudia and I simply weren’t suited and our love simply couldn’t have survived our differences because we couldn’t ever have worked out a compromise. You’ve shown me I can do that—that we can do that. You’ve shown me that work isn’t the be-all and end-all of life, that I can achieve a balance.’
Joy lightened her whole body and she felt as if she must be radiating happiness.
‘And you’ve changed me. Brought me out of my comfort zone, encouraged me to try new things and overcome my fears and anxiety.’ Gabby grinned. ‘You’ve shown me how to have fun, take some risks, to sing and be heard and seen. Before I set out today I even sent my book off to some agents. I spent so much of my childhood, my life, feeling afraid, thinking I had to be invisible or quiet or perfect. You’ve helped me figure out who I am. The real me. Made me see I am good enough, and that some things are worth risking rejection for.’
‘I’m thrilled about your book. And this is what I hope we’ll do for the rest of our lives. Grow together, learn together, discover new things. Together. I want to make a home with you. Ever since you entered my house I’ve realised how bland it is, how dull… I want a real home, full of love and clutter and…you.’
Gabby grinned at him. It seemed impossible to smile as widely as her happiness dictated. ‘I’d love to take you shopping, to all the markets and places I love. We can choose colours together, paint walls, make the happiest home in the world.’
‘I love you, Gabby. I love everything you’ve achieved. I love your courage, your loyalty and your love for your grandparents. I love the way you overcame your fears. I admire your resilience. I love the way you tuck your hair behind your ears. I love you.’
‘I love you, too—your strength, the way you’ve coped with dyslexia, your drive and ambition, your love for your family, the amount you care… I just love you, Zander. This baby is the luckiest baby in the world to have a dad like you.’
‘And a mum like you. So…now seems the right moment for this.’
Turning, he made a slight movement with his hands and suddenly from the crowds emerged a group of people holding instruments. Before Gabby even knew what was happening a jazz melody broke out, the strains upbeat and beautiful, and a woman began to sing, her voice rich and melodious.
And then Zander released the balloons and went down on one knee, pulling a box from his pocket.
‘Gabby. Will you marry me and make me the happiest man in the stratosphere?’
‘Yes, I will!’
And this time he slid the ring on to her finger and looked up with a smile. ‘Diamonds, lapis lazuli and sapphires. Love and friendship for a lifetime. We are going to be the happiest family in the whole entire universe.’
And as he picked her up, twirled her around and then pulled her into a deep, soul-satisfying, toe-curling kiss, Gabby knew that they would be.
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