The moment he knew he loved her, he knew he wanted to marry her.

Erik Destler was a man on a mission, and Christine Dupree was his unknowing target.

It has to be perfect, for she deserves perfection... Never before had he been faced with such a challenge. To be in a relationship with Christine was one thing, but to ask her to marry him was something else entirely.

They'd been through so much together, which probably should have made the task of asking for her hand in marriage easier, but it didn't. For almost five years now, Erik and Christine had been in a very serious relationship. He'd gotten to know everything about her and had fallen more and more in love with her each passing day.

She was the epitome of all that was good. He'd known that since nearly the beginning, since the days of their emails. Part of the reason proposing to her was so difficult was because of her goodness. He knew he didn't deserve her, and yet she had stayed with him this long. She'd put up with a lot, from his reclusive ways to his famous secret identity. And through it all, she claimed to love him.

One might ask why Erik had waited nearly five years to propose. Well, besides being nervous about her answer, there was the complication of school. Christine had been attending college for the past four years as a vocal performance major. The college was local and well known for its music program, which was very lucky for Erik, as he still saw her every day. He'd enjoyed helping her study and hearing her practice her repertoire. Those were very special quality times that he would always treasure.

She was finally done, though. It was the 14th of May, and she'd graduated a few days before. Erik was so proud of her. Christine had achieved her goal. She'd been so determined, both during and before her four years in college. Not many people could have accomplished what she had. Her year of raising enough money to attend college had certainly paid off.

Erik was sure his love would go far, and he wanted to be right by her side watching it happen. Of course.. he had a plan, too, which involved helping her gain fame. He was famous, after all. Though Noah Wellington had never shown his face to society, his name still had a number of connections tied to it. With his assistance, Christine would be able to perform in any opera house of her choosing.

She had no idea of that plan, just like she had no idea of his other. And, at the present time, his other plan -the proposal- took precedence.

The problem remained, though. How do I go about asking her to marry me? His eyes focused on a small black box sitting on the table in front of him. That box contained the engagement ring Erik was longing to slide onto Christine's finger. The question was, would she allow it?

"You're not telling me something." Christine sat up straighter in the passenger's seat of Erik's Rolls Royce Phantom and looked at him suspiciously. She knew he was keeping something from her. "What's going on?"

Erik merely smiled. Tonight was the night, but she didn't know it. "Whatever do you mean, my dear?"

After having spent most of the day at Erik's mansion, they were driving, and Christine was under the impression that they were going to her house. "Well, let see," she began sarcastically, which made Erik's lips curl upward. "You're taking me home later than usual and you've been really quiet all day." Something was definitely going on, she was sure of it. But, what if..? Suddenly, she inhaled sharply. Her confidence wavered as worry took its place. "Is something wrong? With us, I mean?" A large part of her was afraid of his answer.

Erik certainly didn't want her to worry about that. Yes, the surprise did have to do with their relationship, but not in the way she thought. He instantly reached out to place his hand on her knee in a reassuring way. "Christine, you are the most important person in my life. You needn't worry about us."

But, Christine was worried about them. They'd been together for almost five years, and there still weren't any changes in their relationship. They'd gotten closer over the years, sure, but it just seemed like it was time to make a stronger commitment. She was ready and, quite frankly, had been ever since realizing that he was her soul mate so long ago. She wasn't about to bring it up with him, though. Apparently, he wasn't ready. I'll wait until he's ready.

That was when she noticed something strange. "Erik, where are we going?" He'd missed the turn that would take them to her house.

He wanted this night to be perfect, so he mysteriously replied, "You'll see, darling."

Knowing there was no chance of getting a real answer, Christine shrugged. "Ok."

She didn't say anything else, and for that Erik was grateful. Nobody else could pry information out of him like she could, so he was glad she wasn't trying to. He, too, stayed silent.

They drove a bit further until a lake came into view. Erik and Christine rarely ventured out into the public, due to his appearance, but he wanted this night to be different. He wanted to present her with 'the question' in a place they'd never been before. Also, though, he wanted Christine to know that he was putting his own selfish insecurities aside in order to focus fully on her. He felt he didn't show her enough that she was his reason for being, whereas she always put him before herself. It was time to make her understand how important she was to him.

He turned into the parking lot and was relieved to find that the lot was nearly empty. It was late, so it wasn't too surprising, but even if it had been full, Erik wouldn't have turned back. To show her how much he loved her and wanted to be with her for the rest of his life was all that mattered.

"Um, what are we doing here?" Christine was just so confused. It'd been quite some time since he had confused her. She was usually really intuitive when it came to Erik's actions. This time, however, he'd gotten past her.

He parked and turned off the car's ignition. "It's quite lovely at night, isn't it?" he asked, looking out at the lake and refraining from answering her question. Before she could say anything, he opened his car door and said, "Let's take a walk."

Christine sighed, still confused, but got out of the car. Erik was by her side a moment later and they began walking hand in hand. "I've actually never been to this lake before. Have you?" she asked, attempting to strike up a conversation. The silence was frustrating.

Erik shook his head, most of his focus centered on what was about to happen. They reached a bridge, and he led her across it until they reached a white wooden gazebo, which was located in the middle of the lake.

Looking around the dimly lit area and listening to the nighttime nature sounds, Christine said, "You're right, it's gorgeous out here."

He gazed at her lovingly enjoying her apparent interest in their surroundings. But, he also knew that nothing was as gorgeous as her. "Will you sit with me?" he asked softly. Actually, he was becoming nervous again. The next part of his plan was about to be underway, and it was the most important part. Was he ready? Better yet, was she ready?

Her brow furrowed at the expression in his eyes, but she sat beside him on a circular bench that went along the inside wall of the gazebo. "Are you going to explain to me what's going on now?"

Erik turned towards her and nodded. "Yes. I am." An intense determination came over him as he studied her precious face. "I love you, Christine."

He'd said the words countless times throughout the years, but this time they seemed a little different. "I love you, too."

A small, thoughtful smile reached his lips, and he lightly moved a strand of curls behind her ear. "Over the past five years, I have come to realize and trust that you do love me. You have no idea how much that means to me," he whispered.

Then, after a moment, his eyes left hers and he reached into his pocket to pull out a small stack of note cards. They were upside down so that Christine couldn't see what was on them.

"Green note cards?" she asked, a little amused and even more confused than before.

"I thought your favorite color would be appropriate." Erik became very serious as he handed her the first card on the stack. "You may read it aloud, if you'd like."

Still puzzled, Christine slowly turned it over and read the words. Her eyes moved from the card to Erik, and then back to the card. "'Because I have never judged you?" It wasn't even a complete sentence. What is going on?

"Yes, Christine," he affirmed softly. "Because you have never judged me. As I have told you before, others have judged me based on my appearance. You never have, and though I do not understand why, I do appreciate it... very much."

"It's wrong to judge people, so I don't. Plus, I love you."

Erik let out a thoughtful sigh before handing her the next card.

"'Because of my kind and generous nature," she read before looking at Erik for an explanation. He knew she didn't take compliments well, so why was he doing this?

"I've never known a better person than you, Christine. The very first time I met you, your warm personality shined through." He watched her blush, as he knew she would. She was such a modest person. Chuckling at how well he knew her, he handed her the next card.

Instead of reading it, she looked at his masked face trying to get to the bottom of all of this. "Erik, is there a point to this, or are you just trying to..." She paused trying to think of the right word. "Are you just trying to woo me or something?"

He laughed loudly at that. Her confusion was quite amusing. "You will see," he told her gently. "Now, please continue."

Christine sighed but did as she was told. "'Because of my ability to bring about light."

Nodding, Erik said, "You do just that. Anywhere you go, you bring light. My life was full of darkness, we both know that. But, because of you, the darkness has faded. I'm able to see the good in things. I'm actually able to enjoy life. All because of you." He touched her cheek reverently before handing her the next card.

She shook her head lightly. "You give me far too much credit." Even so, she couldn't help but smile while taking the card. "'Because I am calm and patient'." She thought about it for a second before shrugging. "So are you, you know."

Erik let out a short laugh knowing Nadir would beg to differ. "I'm only that way around you, Christine. That is not the point, though. We are focusing on you," he said, looking at her as if she were the only important person on the planet. "You are always so calm and patient, even when you have reason not to be. Your ability to stay controlled and reasonable will get you far in life." He nodded, reinforcing his statement, and handed her another card.

"'Because I am intelligent." She rolled her eyes. "Not really, Erik." Especially compared to you.

"Yes really, Christine," he countered. "You are, and that is a very good thing. I would love you regardless, of course, but your intelligence just adds to your charming character."

"You've taught me most of what I know," she pointed out.

"And it is because of your intelligence that you are able to learn and retain what I teach you. Most people are not so capable. Also, your intelligence helps us relate well. We both adore music, and you are, without a doubt, a musical genius." Erik spoke the words with pride. She obviously didn't believe him, though, which was so typical. He caressed her cheek with his hand. "You are always so humble and unaware of your own talents, angel." Both were appealing qualities to possess, and it made him love her all the more.

It was then that he gulped and dropped his hand. Two more cards, he thought, nerves coming to the surface again. She was definitely going to catch on after reading the last two cards. Not knowing how she would react was what was really unnerving. But, trying not to assume the worst, he handed her the next card.

"'Because I complete you." Christine was realizing just how sweet all of this really was, even if she didn't understand it. She turned her attention to Erik and took his hand while gazing tenderly into his eyes. "Thank you, Erik. You complete me, too. I love you."

She still wasn't catching on, which was amazing. He pulled her hand to his lips and brushed them against it. "I mean that with my whole heart. There used to be so much missing in my life. You changed that. You changed me. You're the missing piece. I'm incomplete without you." Without pause, he quickly handed her the next card.

Noticing his actions, she turned it over and quickly read it. "'Because you want to spend the rest of your life with me'." All was silent. Christine read the words again, except slower. "'Because you want to spend the rest of your life with me." She blinked and then blinked again before looking up at him. "You mean-?" Words left her as her eyes focused on what was in front of her face. It was a small black box, and it was open. Inside was a ring. Her eyes widened considerably.

Erik continued to watch her every expression as he moved off the bench into a kneeling position in front of her, the ring box held out so that she could see it. He licked his lips before saying, "Those are the seven reasons why I wish to marry you. There are many more reasons, of course, but I considered those to be the most important. Each word you read is true. In my eyes, you are perfect. I love you, Christine, more than words can say, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you do me the honor of being my wife? Will you marry me?" He held his breath while still watching her.

He's ready! He wants to marry me! He wants exactly what I want! A huge smile made its way to her face, and she eagerly jumped off the bench and threw her arms around the man she loved. "Yes! Yes, of course I'll marry you!" Christine felt a few tears come to her eyes as she heard laughter escape him and felt his arms go around her.

"Thank you," he whispered while kissing her temple. "Oh, thank you." Tears came to his eyes, too, as he comprehended the full extent of what this meant.

She backed away from him slightly, and both laughed at each other's tears. No, thank you, Christine thought before moving forward to kiss his lips. "I love you," she murmured against his lips before kissing him again.

They continued kissing for quite some time before finally separating. "And I love you," Erik said, a bit breathless. He then helped her to stand and kissed the top of her head. Remembering the ring, he removed it from its box. "May I?" he asked softly while gently raising her left hand.

Christine nodded, speechless, and he slid the ring onto her left ring finger. Some tears spilled over as she watched him do it. When he was finished, he kissed the top of her hand, signifying his love for her.

"Do you like it?" Erik asked. He grinned as he watched her stare at it with wide eyes.

"I-it's huge," she couldn't help but say, referring to the diamond in the center of the elegant silver band. There were five smaller diamonds on either side of the large diamond. The ring seemed to give off its own light. "Whoa.. It's just so beautiful." She was mesmerized.

He regarded her hand with satisfaction. "It suits you." His eyes returned to hers. "You're stunning." She couldn't stop staring at the ring for another fifteen seconds, and Erik waited patiently, relieved to know that she liked it.

Finally, she looked up at him again and smiled. "Thank you so much... I'm so happy." She paused and reflected on all that just happened. "You really surprised me, you know that?"

Erik chuckled. "That was my intention, darling. I must admit, I was afraid you would catch on."

She shook her head, her eyes returning to the ring for a moment. "No, I definitely did not see this coming. Maybe I'm not as intelligent as you think I am?" she asked playfully.

"No, my dear, I'm just very clever." He winked at her.

Christine most definitely agreed. "That was, seriously, the most romantic proposal. How did you think of it?"

"As I said, I'm clever." Erik laughed but then admitted, "I talked with Nadir about proposing. I was hoping he would give me some advice. As it turns out, I didn't need any. It was actually while I was talking to him that the idea came to me."

"So, how long have you been planning this?"

"About a week."

"Do you want to know something?"


"I've been hoping you would do this for a long time now."

That surprised Erik, but he said, "I didn't want it to get in the way of your studies. I was also nervous. And, I had to gain the courage to ask your family."

"You actually asked my family?" Christine was stunned. She couldn't even imagine what Brian's reaction must have been.

"I wanted to do this properly. I wanted their permission."

She tried to think of a time when Erik could have asked them, but she couldn't. It didn't really matter, though. What mattered was that it actually happened. He proposed in the most romantic way she could think of, and he made her dreams come true. She decided to voice her thought. "You've made me so happy. You've really made my dreams come true."

Erik smiled feeling the exact same way. "My dear, I couldn't have said it better myself."

They laughed, glad to be on the same page. After everything they'd gone through, Erik and Christine were happy with the outcome. They completed one another, and both of them were already thinking about the wonderful future they would share together.

The End

This came to me the other day, and I've been working on it off and on ever since. You might think it's not really necessary, but, well, I just felt like writing and posting it. Plus, I'm pretty fond of epilogues. I've also got to say that it's hard to part with these characters.

I really hope you liked it.

I want to thank all of you for reviewing chapter 23, too! That's another good reason for posting this epilogue. I never got a chance to thank each of you individually, so I hope a big THANK YOU here suffices :) THANK YOU! Without you, this story may not have come this far. You all really are the best :D

Though these words are extremely repetitive, here goes: Please review! It would be so greatly appreciated!

Thanks again!