"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way." - Pablo Neruda
The wind outside the cabin was moving the lake, ripples darting through the water as the wind swept its surface. Inside the cabin, the wood-burning stove was providing a soft glow and warmth, illuminating the room just enough to see.
Deacon Claybourne was prone on the couch, his face toward the ceiling as he strummed his guitar, haphazardly draped across his chest. Rayna Jaymes was next to him, her body half on his, her arm draped across his stomach.
Deacon stopped strumming the guitar, "I can't believe you didn't want to go away this week." He said, taking his guitar and propping it up against the couch. He ran his hand gently down her arm.
She took his hand in hers, "As much as I would love being on a tropical beach with you, there's nowhere else on this earth I'd rather be today than here, in this cabin, half naked with you." She scooted up on the couch, so her head was buried in the crook of his neck as her hand rested on his bare chest.
He touched the ends of her hair, toying with them as she sighed contentedly, enjoying the way the sensation went all the way to the root.
"I can't believe it's been a year already." He whispered, his mouth against her hair. "And then sometimes I can't believe it hasn't been longer."
She glanced up at him, "What do you mean?"
He sat up, so his back was pressed against the arm of the couch—she adjusted herself accordingly, still leaning against him, but sitting up, his arm around her shoulders.
He considered her question, working his lip with his teeth before he answered, "I guess I mean… it feels like my heart has been married to you for damn near my whole life."
She smiled as she leaned in and pressed a kiss against his cheek. She felt her eyes burn, "Me too." She said, no longer afraid to admit that for most of her life she'd been in some form of love with Deacon, even with another man's ring on her finger.
He turned his head and found her lips with his, kissing her gently. He pulled away, and cupped the right side of her face with his hand. "I love you." He whispered, staring at her, his gaze so intense and yet somehow so gentle. Reverent, she remembered thinking, the first time he'd looked at her like that.
She knew then, when she put a name to the look, back when she was 17 years old—she would never get over him. She'd spent so much of her life after things went wrong between them trying to pretend he didn't look at her like that anymore, trying to convince him not to look at her like that anymore, even though that was the exact opposite of what she wanted:
You can't look at me like that anymore, she'd told him once, right after she married Teddy.
Like what? He'd asked, smirking.
Like I'm yours. She whispered, so no one rushing around them could hear.
You are. He'd said simply.
She didn't deny it, couldn't.
At her open-mouthed silence, he smiled, shoved his hands deep in his pockets and walked away.
It all seemed so silly to her now, all the pretending they did back then. She was glad for that.
"I love you, too," She whispered back, smiling. She leaned her head back against the couch.
"Let's see…" Deacon glanced at the clock on the wall, squinting to make it out in the dim light. "Last year at this time we were…" He closed his eyes, remembering.
Rayna smiled as she spoke, following his gaze to the clock, "We were having our first dance right about now."
Deacon opened his eyes, "That we were." Smiling, he stood up. "Dance with me, baby." He offered her his hand.
She smiled, and took it, standing up to join him next to the stove; the firelight threw their shadows around the room as they moved together, making a small circle in the living room as Deacon sang in her ear the song he'd played for her on their wedding night.
With anyone else Rayna would have felt awkward, dancing to no music—but she and Deacon had seen each other in every light imaginable throughout the years, so her heart just felt full, instead of embarrassed.
When Deacon stopped singing, he whispered, "Just like last year." He said, kissing her ear.
"With fewer articles of clothing involved." She said, her bare chest pressed against his.
He nodded, biting her ear softly, "I like it like that."
"Me too," She agreed.
He pulled back from her and smiled, "Presents?"
Rayna nodded, as they both sat back on the couch. She crossed her legs underneath her and turned to face him.
"I want you to open mine last," Rayna said, handing him a small box with gold wrapping paper.
"Alright," Deacon agreed, as he handed her a larger box with red wrapping paper; she pulled it into her lap.
She slid her finger under the paper, and eased the wrapping paper from the box. She looked at him as she opened the box, and then glanced down as she moved the tissue paper to find a picture frame displaying something she immediately perceived as soundwaves. She pulled the frame out of the box, pushed the box to the floor, and cradled the frame in her lap. She glanced up at Deacon, who was watching her expectantly, before she returned her attention to the gift.
She ran her fingers over the glass, tracing the soundwaves, and then began reading the text at the bottom. When she realized what it was, she gasped, and then looked at Deacon. "Is this…" Her fingers traced over the text now, the lyrics to "No One Will Ever Love You"
Deacon nodded—"It's the soundwaves of the first recording we ever made together." He smiled.
"How did you…?" She trailed off, glancing between him and the frame.
"Watty had it, kept it all these years," Deacon said, then he chuckled, "And Maddie taught me how to use this site called Essie or Etsy or something like that." He shrugged.
She set it gently on the coffee table, and leaned forward to wrap her arms around his neck. She planted a kiss on his lips, and pulled back, "It's Etsy, babe, and I love it. It's perfect." She kissed him again, and then pressed her forehead against his, "Thank you." She pulled away, "Okay, now your turn," She said, excitement edging its way into her voice.
Deacon smiled, and picked up the box he had in his lap; tentatively, he began removing the gold paper from the outside of the box. He shook it a little, noticing it felt uncommonly light. He quirked an eyebrow at her, and then returned his attention to the box. Opening the lid, he saw a manila folder inside. Confused, he pulled it out.
Thumbing it open, he glanced at her, "Did you get me legal documents, Ray?"
She just stared at him, offering him a small smile, waiting for him to figure it out and connect the dots. He took the documents out, staring at them as his eyes scanned them over. Rayna watched as the wheels turned while he made his way further into the documents until he reached the last two: a judge's order, and a scanned copy of her driver's license.
"Ray… did you…" He glanced up at her, his eyes glistening, "Really?" He asked on an exhale.
Rayna shrugged, and then nodded, "It's hyphenated, but…" She trailed off, raising her eyebrows and smiling at him.
Deacon closed the envelope and set it on the coffee table. "But, you took my last name." He grinned.
Rayna laughed, "I took your last name." She confirmed.
Deacon tossed the box on the floor, and leaned in to kiss her. He grabbed her by the back of her head, and pulled her to him, his mouth moving against hers.
"I couldn't have asked for a better gift, Ray." He whispered against her lips.
"It felt right," She said, kissing him. She deepened the kiss, running her tongue over his, running her fingers through his hair. She heard him moan against her. "Know what else feels right?" She said, sliding her hand along his leg. "This." She closed her hand over him through his jeans.
"I think it's time for me to make love to…" He trailed off, nipping her bottom lip with his teeth, "Mrs. Claybourne for the first time."
Rayna smiled, reaching for the button on his jeans. "I think it is."
Deacon was slow and tender with her, taking his time, exploring every inch of her body with his hands, his mouth. He watched the way she moved underneath him, watched the way her face changed as he moved inside of her. She'd given him an incredible gift today—he knew how important her last name was to her, he knew what it meant that she would do this for him. When the panting, touching, and kissing was done, they were side by side on the couch, both breathing heavier.
Deacon ran his fingers up her spine, before laying his hand flat on her back, enjoying the feeling of her lungs taking in air underneath his palm. He knew he would spend his life stealing her breath like this, as long as she let him.
He kissed her hairline, "Happy first anniversary, baby." He whispered, his voice quiet in the cabin.
She smiled, her eyes growing heavy as she felt his warmth against her, "Happy first anniversary, Deacon," She said, pressing her body into him.
Deacon sighed, glancing down to see her eyes close in the dim light of the stove. Firelight danced up the walls, and he gently drew designs on her back with his fingernail as she drifted to sleep against him. He closed his eyes and focused on the sensation of Rayna's warm body against him, her arm draped over his midsection-a song came to mind; he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.
A/N: This is a series that will follow Rayna & Deacon through their wedding anniversaries (because that other thing didn't happen, obviously). Not sure how long we'll go-until I get tired of writing it, or you get tired of reading it, I suppose.