Author's Notes I: Well, here it is, the last chapter. I thank all of my wonderful readers for sticking with me this far and for the new ones who had the guts to start reading a story that's nearly 80 chapters long.
"Is everything alright, my dear?" he inquires as he steps up behind her.
"You...you...," she stammers.
"I fixed it, as I said I would," he tells her. "Do you like it?"
"Yes, it's beautiful, but...but...," she quickly replies.
"But?" he prompts after a few moments of silence.
"But you only needed to fix the sink and the shower curtain," she says, still flummoxed by what she sees before her. "You didn't need to put in new linoleum or a toilet."
"The linoleum was old and it really was in need of replacing," he tells her before getting a chagrined look on his face. "As for the toilet...I'm afraid my less than graceful landing on it last night left it with a hairline crack that was slowly leaking. It had to be replaced."
"I should pay...," she starts.
"For nothing," he interrupts as his arms encircle her waist from behind, pulling her flush to his chest. "It's the least I could do after demolishing your bathroom. I would have painted the walls and re-caulked the bathtub as well, but I'm afraid I ran out of time."
"You don't need to paint or caulk anything," she insists, turning as best she can to look at him. "You've already done more than enough."
"I know I don't have to, but I wanted to," he replies as he looks at her with hope in his eyes. "I want to take care of you. Is that a bad thing?"
"No, of course not," she answers with a smile as she gently kisses him on the cheek. "Thank you."
"You are most welcome," he replies while he gives her a gentle squeeze. "Now finish getting freshened up while I go check on the chicken."
He reluctantly releases her and then gives her a gentle push into the bathroom. She doesn't resist and a moment later the bathroom door shuts behind her. Content that she's getting more comfortable, he heads back to the kitchen to finish making dinner.
A while later, he sets the food on the table, lights the candles and then turns on his iPod sitting in its little dock to give them some quiet dining music. Once everything is set, he goes looking for his lady and finds her in the bedroom staring at the bed.
"Is something the matter, my dear?" he asks, smirking to himself.
"Did we break the bed too?" she counters, looking back over her shoulder at him and noting the self satisfied look on his face.
"Sort of," he cheerfully answers as he slips an arm around her waist. "We bent the frame and cracked the box spring mattress. I could have reshaped the frame and replaced the box spring, but I thought this was a better solution."
"Hank, I don't have sheets for a bed this size," she points out, waving a hand towards the queen sized bed, ignoring the fact that it's already made.
"I've already taken care of the bedding," he assures her, pulling her closer to him. "There are two sets of bamboo sheets, perfect for winter or summer and enough blankets to keep you warm should I not be here to do it for you."
"Hank, I understand the toilet, but the bed...," she starts.
"It was my pleasure to do it," he purrs as he buries his nose into her hair, trying to keep his libido in check as thoughts of what pleasure may be happening in that bed later run through his head.
"I should pay for some of it," she says, trying not to think of the damage the cost of a new bed plus all the bedding will do to her checking account.
"Look at it as a belated Valentine's Day gift," he tells her as he pulls back enough to look at her face and places a finger over her lips opening in protest. "I refuse to take no for an answer and besides, dinner is on the table and is getting cold."
"I hope you weren't planning on testing the bed out tonight," she states as she heads for her dresser and he tries not to let his disappointment show.
"Why is that?" he asks keeping the disappointment out of his voice as she pulls a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt out of a couple drawers and tosses them onto the bed.
"Because I'm dead on my feet," she answers as she strips off her work clothes. "I'm not kidding about trying not to fall asleep during dinner."
"I certainly hope you don't fall asleep," he muses, watching her change clothes and only just managing to keep his libido and Beast in check. "I made a chocolate silk pie for dessert."
"You're evil, you know that?" she huffs as she pulls her clothes on.
"How am I evil?" he asks, not sure if he should be affronted or amused.
"You're going to kill my waist line," she grumbles. "All the good food you make and I can't help but eat until I'm ready to pop."
"You are more than welcome to prepare the meals if you like," he suggests, knowing full well that she never will.
"Looking to get food poisoning?" she queries with a raised eyebrow as she picks up her discarded clothing and tosses it into the hamper.
"Poor cooking skills are not likely to make a person sick," he muses, a smile tugging at his lips.
"Says the man who's never tried my cooking," she huffs after coming to stand in front of him. "Starving dogs wouldn't eat my cooking."
"Whether or not they would must be left for another day," he stats as he gently guides her out of the room. "Dinner is waiting."
She takes a deep sniff as soon as they step in to the living area and lets out a sound that's between a whimper and a moan. He grins at her response to just the tantalizing scent of dinner and then he goes to pull out her seat for her. She just manages not to collapse into the chair as her tired body just wants to stop having to bare its own weight.
Once he's sure she's properly situated, he takes his own seat and they both dig into the wonderful food spread before them. Between bites they talk about their day and what the next day will bring. The talk is quiet and relaxed with no hidden meanings in their words or their body language and he realizes that he could quite happily do this for the rest of his life with her.
Eventually dinner is done, dessert is eaten with many a moan of pure delight from her and then finally the dishes are washed, dried and put away. He's never encountered such domestic bliss and he never wants it to end. Acting like he's just brushing something off his pants, he makes sure the small precious object is still in his pocket and hopes that it will bring him his wish.
They finally exit the kitchen and she stops just outside the room she uses so little, looking a little less than stable.
"Is everything alright, my dear?" he asks, a bit concerned.
"I usually watch the news after dinner, but I'm not sure I even have the energy to fall down, much less turn on the TV," she confesses, the exhaustion evident in her voice.
"May I make a suggestion?" he queries.
"Dance with me?"
She turns her bleary gaze upon him and stares at him like he's grown a second head.
"Hank, if I'm too tired to even watch TV, how the heck am I supposed to have the energy to dance?" she almost demands.
"You won't have to do anything," he assures her as he picks up the remote to his iPod, still quietly playing away. "Just let me hold you."
He turns up the volume enough that she can make out the words of the song and smiles as Matchbox 20's 'I can't let you go' fills the room.
"You trying to tell me something?" she teases as he slips the remote into his pocket.
"It was pure chance that this song is playing," he tells her while he pulls her into his arms.
She softly chuckles as she wraps her arms around his neck and then lays her head on his shoulder. He holds her close, buries his nose into her dark hair and then starts to gently sway. With a sigh that's part exhaustion and part contentment, she closes her eyes and thinks about how she could stay like this forever.
The small player continues through its list of love songs while they stand there, swaying from side to side. They say nothing as they gently move and he's fairly sure she's still awake since she's still upright. While she relaxes in his arms, his nerves and his primal self are starting to get him more wound up.
Life mate, Beast whispers in his mind.
Soon, Hank assures it.
Now, Beast hisses back.
The moment needs to be right, Hank insists.
Right now, Beast growls and Hank can't help but roll his eyes.
The song on the player changes and he barely notices the first few notes playing. He moistens his suddenly dry mouth and then takes a deep breath. He lips part to ask her a very important question when he notices she's singing along with the song.
Used to be that I believed in something
Used to be that I believed in love
It's been a long time since I've had that feeling
I could love someone
I could trust someone
I said I'd never let nobody near my heart again darlin'
I said I'd never let nobody in
But if you asked me to
I just might change my mind
And let you in my life forever
If you asked me to
I just might give my heart
And stay here in your arms forever
If you asked me to
If you asked me to
Somehow ever since I've been around you
Can't go back to being on my own
Can't help feeling darling since I've found you
That I've found my home
That I'm finally home
I said I'd never let nobody get too close to me darling
I said I needed, needed to be free
(But if you asked me to...)
Asked me to, I will give my world to you baby
I need you now
Ask me to and I'll do anything for you baby, for you baby
If you asked me to
I'd let you in my life forever
If you asked me to...
As the last notes slowly fade away, he takes the remote out of his pocket and stops the player. She slightly raises her head while he carefully pulls her arms free of his neck and then steps back. She looks at him in confusion and when he won't meet her eyes, she begins to worry.
"Hank, what's wrong?" she asks, feeling her heart starting to beat faster and waking her up a bit.
He doesn't answer at first as he tosses the remote onto the couch and then takes her hands into each of his. He briefly marvels at the size difference and how she allows him to touch her. He kisses the back of each of those lovely, unadorned appendages and only then does he still his nerves and impatient Beast.
"I need to keep a promise," he tells her, still not meeting her eyes.
"What promise?" she questions in complete confusion.
Instead of responding, he lowers himself down onto one knee and he relinquishes one of her hands so that he can reach into his pocket. His actions confuse her for a bit until she notices him down on that one knee and then the adrenaline hits her system like a freight train. Suddenly, she's not tired any more.
"Amanda, I love you more than I can adequately put into words," he starts, finally looking up at her as he withdraws his hand from his pocket, his fingers firmly, but gently clutching a small item. "But know this, I will do everything within my power to make you happy and to give you whatever you could possibly want or desire. I have only one favor to ask of you."
With great reluctance he releases her other hand and brings up the hand that's clutching something. Her heart hammers against her ribs and she's not sure when she last took a breath, not that she could get her lungs to work even if she wanted to. With great care, Hank opens his closed hand and reveals a small velvet box. She lets out a small squeak that quite possibly only dogs can hear and watches as he opens the small box with trembling fingers to reveal quite possibly the largest diamond she's ever seen in her life.
"Would you do me the honor of letting me be your husband?"
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to 'If you asked me to' or 'I can't let you go'.
Author's Notes II: Fear not, gentle readers, my muse is already spinning ideas for the next story in my head and hopefully we'll get that one going soon. Keep your eyes peeled for "Eye for an Eye".