“Are you sure I look okay?” Katie asked as they drove up the gravel driveway to the restaurant near Brandon and Callum’s winery. “This dress doesn’t reveal too much?”
“Katie, it still looks great on you. You’re beautiful, love.” He clenched her hand.
“I know it looked great before,” she stated, fingering the delicate teal lace. “It’s just…well, I still have some scars,” she whispered. She had taken her time getting ready for tonight. She wanted to look beautiful not just for Brandon, but for herself as well. She smiled a bit as she inspected herself in the small visor mirror. The teal green of her dress made her eyes a mesmerizing greenish-blue. Her long brown hair fell over her shoulders in soft waves.
It had been three weeks since she returned from the hospital. Most of the scars had disappeared completely and the ones that remained were barely distinguishable. Brandon pulled into a parking spot, put the car in park, and turned to face her. “Honey, you are the most beautiful and wonderful woman I know, with or without scars. I know you feel insecure right now, but believe me, you have nothing to fear. Virtually all of the wounds have healed and the scars are gone. The ones that do remain are hardly noticeable. You’d need a bright LED light to even have a chance to see them.” He gave her a kiss. “And there are no LED lights in the restaurant. I had Callum take them all down.” He grinned.
“Ha ha, you’re so funny.” Katie smiled. His words had made her feel much better. Over the past three weeks she had made a lot of progress. She’d had regular appointments with Dr. Canton ever since he first met her at the hospital. On some appointments Brandon came in with her, but most times he waited in the lobby.
The few times he did come in were when they both needed some guidance down this precarious road they were traveling.
When she had arrived home, Katie was horribly insecure over the wounds on her body. It wasn’t that she was vain—far from it—but the scars represented something ugly; something dark.
They were a constant reminder of the evil she had encountered.
For the first few days’ home, she had experienced dreadful nightmares. Several nights she’d woken up either crying or screaming. Thankfully, Brandon had been there each night to chase away the fear and soothe her to sleep.
During the day, Rebecca would come over and they’d watch movies and eat pizza. That ended about two weeks ago when Rebecca had gone into labor. Despite her insecurity, Katie had been there when little Elizabeth Anne Hughes made her appearance into the world. The little girl was the most precious thing she’d ever seen. Since then, Katie had been making trips to Rebecca’s house three or four times a week. She would watch Elizabeth while Rebecca showered or cleaned. Rebecca never complained about her constant company. Having Elizabeth in her life made her extremely happy. She hoped she and Brandon had several just like her.
During her stay in the hospital Katie had found out that Bella was making an excellent recovery from her burns. Jane said that with the skin grafts, by the time she grew up, the scars would barely be noticeable. Katie even had a chance to talk to the precious girl. After much cajoling, Katie had promised to come and visit her in New York. She even promised to bring her Prince Charming with her.
Overall, she was making a remarkable recovery—at least that was what the doctors said. Most of the time she agreed with them, but there were days she got low. Fortunately, Brandon was there to help her. After he’d closed Katie’s case, he’d left the police and went to work full time at the winery. He decided that he’d seen enough ugliness in his life. Katie was glad that he was off the force. His job at the winery was far safer than hunting down criminals. Still, she felt a little guilty that the reason he’d left, even if indirectly, was because of her. She’d talked to him about his decision, told him her thoughts on it. Yes, it would be nice not to worry about him all the time, but she didn’t want him to give up something he loved because of her. He’d told her that the choice was his; that after this case he was burned out and needed a change.
“Katie, are you okay?” Brandon’s statement interrupted her train of thought.
“Of course,” she replied. “I was just thinking.” “About what?”
“You. Us. How nice it is to be safe again.”
“You’ll always be safe. I promise.” He kissed her softly, wrapped his arm around her waist then led her into the restaurant, which was empty.
“You weren’t lying when you said it would be just the two of us.” Katie stated. This made things far easier for her to handle.
“Nope. I’d planned for us to sit outside. That is unless you’d rather sit in here.”
“No, outside is great.” She smiled.
Brandon led Katie out the back door of the old wooden farm house that had been converted into an intimate restaurant several years ago. He’d brought Katie here many times before she moved to New York. This was their first visit since she’d returned.
Brandon pulled out Katie’s chair then took his seat adjacent to hers. “You look beautiful.” He smiled then brought her hand to his lips. “You always look beautiful.”
“Well thank you. You don’t look so bad yourself.” She smiled.
Brandon was dressed in a gray suit, blue shirt, and black tie. The suit was tailored to his muscular physique, perfectly hugging his body in all the right places. His appearance and the feel of his lips on her skin made Katie tingle. They hadn’t been intimate since she’d come back from the hospital. Maybe tonight they would change that.
“So, what do you have planned for dinner tonight?” Katie asked. “I assume you have something planned since there are no menus.”
“Just sit back and find out. I promise you’ll enjoy it.” Moments later, a waiter appeared and filled Katie’s glass with a light, fizzy white wine.
“This is a special blend I made just for you.” Brandon smiled. “I hope you like it. It’s sweet and bold, just like you.”
Katie took a sip of the new blend. It was by far the most amazing wine she’d ever tasted. “Wow! This is fantastic.” She beamed. “I hope you made more than one bottle.”
Brandon laughed. “Believe me, there are plenty of bottles for your consumption. Just don’t down them all in one night.”
“Oh no, this is reserved for special occasions.” “Is tonight a special occasion?”
“Yes. It’s the first night we’ve gone out since I came home from the hospital. I’d say that’s cause for a celebration.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” he replied.
“Now that my wine craving is satisfied, let’s talk about food.”
Brandon chuckled. “Okay. Here comes the first course.” He smiled moments before two salads were set in front of them.
Two hours and several courses later, Brandon and Katie stepped off of the patio and into the long rows of grapevines that surrounded the house. The sun had set and the area was illuminated by several strands of tiny light bulbs. The lights reminded her of little fireflies.
“I’m having a wonderful time tonight,” Katie said as they walked along the vines.
“I’m glad,” Brandon replied, wrapping his arm around her. “Are you having fun?”
“Of course.” They walked along for a while longer until they reached a small wooded area to the side of the grapevines. Brandon guided Katie into the woods. In a clearing about ten feet away was a large blanket with a chilled bottle of wine, two glasses, and a glass dish containing a bowl of chocolate mousse. Katie’s mind flashed back to their last experience involving chocolate mousse. As a result, she felt a familiar tingle shimmy up inside her for the second time that night.
“I thought it would be fun having dessert out here,” Brandon said and guided Katie to the blanket.
“It’s a wonderful idea,” she replied while she took in the scenery. The trees were wrapped with strands of the tiny lights. An MP3 player was connected to two speakers. The whole effect was magical.
“But before we eat, would you care to dance with me?” Brandon said then pushed play on the MP3 player.
“I’d love to.” She stepped into his arms. They danced in the clearing for several minutes. Brandon had made a playlist of her favorite indie songs. Sometime later—Katie didn’t know how much time had passed—Train’s Marry Me began filtering through the speakers.
“We never did get to finish this dance,” Brandon whispered.
“No, we didn’t,” Katie replied. Her heart gave a little leap. She snuggled in closer to Brandon and, unlike before, his heart was pounding at an accelerated yet steady beat. Katie savored the moment, the warmth of his body, the scent of his cologne, the calming sounds of the forest. The whole moment was magical. A few minutes later the song ended and Brandon released Katie from his grip. She watched in awe as he knelt down onto the blanket and pulled out a small box from his suit pocket.
“Katie Breanna Quinn, you make my life complete. I love you with all my heart and will until the day I die. I savor each day that we wake up together and treasure the precious moments only we have shared. I would feel like the luckiest man alive if you would agree to spend the rest of your life with me,” he declared then opened the box to reveal a large, shimmering diamond. “Katie, will you marry me?”
Tears gathered in Katie’s eyes. For only the second time in her life she couldn’t find the words to say, so she nodded vigorously. Brandon slipped the ring onto her finger then stood and gave her a long kiss.
“Thank you,” he whispered into her ear.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Brandon pulled away for a moment then removed his jacket. “Now, how about we eat that mousse?” He had a mischievous look in his eyes.
“Here?” Katie asked then removed her shoes. “Right here.” He smiled.
Katie nodded then sank down to the blanket.