By: Candace Blevins

* * * *

Cara awoke later in the evening to discover she’d fallen asleep outside and Travis had erected a temporary awning over her to block the sun. He’d also situated a fan to blow a gentle breeze over them, and he reclined in a lounger beside her reading an ebook or — more likely — a tech magazine or specs for a new gaming device.

“You spoil me.”

He looked up from his e-reader, smiling. “Of course I do. It’s my job. Hungry?”

“Thirsty. Maybe a little hungry. Actually, yeah. I’m starving.”

He stood, stretched his lean body, and walked a few feet to a cooler and pulled a bottle of water out, opening it as he stepped back. “Deb put some steaks and giant portobellos in to marinate before she left, and put baked potatoes in the warming oven. I’ll fire up the grill and we’ll be eating before you know it.”

Cara thought she remembered him asking her to marry her last night but it was hazy and she wasn’t sure how to bring it up. She let him fuss around her, grilling the steaks and huge mushrooms and setting the table on the screened in porch. It was during their dinner conversation she finally blurted, “I think I may have been hallucinating last night, while in subspace.”

He smiled at her and she instantly knew she wasn’t delusional and her stomach leapt into her heart.

“Ah, so you do remember. Don’t answer just yet. I’d planned to ask you after dinner. Give me a sec.”

He stood and walked into the house, returning with a velvet jewelry box. He stepped to her and dropped to one knee, saying, “When you moved in with me you told me you had no interest in getting married. I love having you here and I thought it’d be enough.”

His eyes held hers, the emotion almost overwhelming as he continued. “But the truth is I want you to be my wife. You’re so much more than a girlfriend, and I know it’s cliché but it really is as if you complete me. It’s more than just a piece of paper. I want us to have the legal protections marriage will give us. I want your name on the house, and you in a safer car; and if something happened — a car wreck or illness — I’d want to talk to the doctors and make decisions if you couldn’t. And the same if I were hurt, I’d much rather you make medical decisions than my parents. Please Cara, please at least consider being my wife.”

“You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”

He leaned forward and rested his forehead on her knee. “Yes. Please don’t torture me.”

Cara ran her hands through his hair, waiting for the second part, as she knew him well enough to know there’d be more. After a few moments she finally said, “Let’s have the rest of it. You’ve put this much thought into it, what else is there?”

“The next part only comes into play if you say yes to the first question. How’d you know there’s more?”

“There always is with you. Anything big comes in multiple parts.”

He was quiet a moment as he considered her words, then shrugged, “Okay, maybe it does. Will you marry me?”

“I meant what I said before. Our love shouldn’t need a piece of paper for proof. However, I hadn’t thought about the doctor thing, and I know how you are about legal stuff, so I guess I can sort of understand why it’s more important to you than me. All of your hacking and retaliation managed to play out without the police questioning us, but I know your safety plan, if they’d started asking questions, was to try to get me to marry you so they couldn’t insist I tell them about your activities.”

She shook her head, glad she’d been able to convince him to do only a few things outside the legal system. She’d approved of him sending the hundred grand to an offshore account, with the idea it would eventually go to David’s son to pay for college. Connie ended up facing criminal charges and civil lawsuits for recording people without their knowledge or consent, and though she didn’t do jail time, her legal costs, fines, and other assorted expenses were in the tens of thousands of dollars. As for the tabloid owner, information surfaced proving he’d illegally hacked cell phone towers for information, and his bail agreement forbid him from deriving an income as a journalist or photographer. He still faced numerous criminal charges and civil suits, and was currently making deliveries for his sister’s florist shop with no hope of paying his mounting debts and every reason to believe he’d go to prison when his attorneys could no longer postpone his trial.

She grinned, thinking of how much nicer the paparazzi were to her now. She was still followed, but from more of a distance, and while a picture from twenty yards away with a zoom lens may look the same as one taken from five feet, it felt less intrusive when the flash went off.