A/N: Okay so this is it for this one. I hope that you have enjoyed it. I'd just like to say a big thank you to all those that have read and taken the time to let me know that they have enjoyed it. Your comments have given me the encouragement I needed to perservere. So thanks again. Maybe after a little break I might come back and see what these 4 are up to?

Chapter 25

Ryan and Marissa spent the day blissfully together. After their late, relaxed and drawn out brunch Ryan had suggested that they actually leave the confines of the apartment and go for a drive. He knew that if they stayed where they were that they would end up back in bed and he was concerned that he didn't want Marissa to over do it … if she hadn't already.

They had ended up beside the water and had spent a leisurely hour or so walking hand in hand along the water's edge, talking about all sorts of unrelated topics, from their favourite foods to who they thought would win the next presidential election and why.

Ryan couldn't ever remember feeling closer to another human being.

Marissa felt like she'd died and gone to heaven. Everything about him ... everything ... was perfect.

When the sun started its descent and Marissa shivered slightly, Ryan wrapped his arm around her pulling her close and turned around to head back to the car. Once inside he asked her "What would you like to do tonight? We could go out to dinner or I'm happy to cook for you again."

"I'd like to go home." Marissa replied and for a moment Ryan panicked as he imagined that she didn't want to stay with him any longer.

Noticing the fear in his eyes, Marissa realised the ambiguity of her words. "To your home." she explained. "I'm sorry." She said noticing the colour returning to his face. "Where ever you are … that feels like home." she admitted shyly.

Ryan's face broke into a huge smile. He took her in his arms and held her close. Words weren't necessary as they made their silent commitment to one another. He pulled back and started the car. "Then home it is."

---

When they were nearing his apartment Marissa asked. "So what's for dinner?"

Ryan laughed. "For someone your size you have a very good appetite."

"I can't help it. You've had me exercising more than I usually do." Marissa replied "and I intend to be doing more tonight as well. So I need to keep my energy levels up."

"Yes you do." He agreed. "Let's see. I have steaks at home and salad makings or I could do tacos or …" he started but was cut off.

"Tacos! Definitely. They're yummy plus they are messy to eat. If we have them then I could feed you and you could feed me and then we can clean each other up?" she suggested, the sparkle in her eyes not lost on him.

Ryan laughed. "Sounds like they should be in your 'Rude Food' book?" he said as they pulled up back at his apartment.

"Maybe they are. I'll have to check." Marissa said as they got out of the car.

As they entered the apartment again Ryan moved into the kitchen to begin the dinner preparations and Marissa stopped him. "Uh uh. You can't do that."

Ryan frowned. "What?" he said hesitating as he pulled the lettuce and tomatoes out of the fridge.

"Walk around dressed like that." Marissa pointed out. "You need to get back into your towel." She instructed him.

Ryan smiled. "How about I give you another of your gifts and maybe we can put it to good use?"

"Surely I've had them all?" Marissa asked.

"Nearly. But not quite. And I get to share in this one." He said as he opened a cupboard and pulled out another gift box.

Marissa hesitated. She felt like she already had everything that she could possibly want.

"Go on. Open it." Ryan urged.

She unwrapped the parcel and inside was a pair of matching aprons. One was black with 'HIS' boldly emblazoned on it and the other, a white apron with 'HERS' upon it. She turned and smiled at Ryan.

He shrugged. "They're for the next time we use your cook book. You did say that you threw the other aprons away." He explained. "I would have preferred the frilly see through one but I had no idea where to find it and I wasn't prepared to ask Kirsten for help with that. That would have led to way too many embarrassing questions."

Marissa knew that he was only trying to make her feel better. She was mortified when she thought back to what she'd tried to do when she had been attempting to seduce him. This was his way of telling her that it was okay. Even better than okay. "So you think that we should try that again?" she asked knowing that this gift probably meant more to her than all the others. It meant that he saw them as a pair, as a couple, with a future together.

Ryan shrugged. "I don't see why not. It was all a bit of a shock to the system last week but now that we know one another a little better …"

"A little better?" Marissa queried. "Let me assure you that no one knows me like you do."

Ryan took her in his arms. "I know." He smiled. "It's great isn't it?"

Marissa could almost feel the glow of love around them. "Yeah. It is." She replied snuggling in.

---

Sunday morning Marissa woke to an empty bed but just as she was about to get up to find out where Ryan was, he came into the bedroom carrying a tray laden with breakfast treats.

"Good morning birthday girl." He said as he put the tray on the end of the bed and handed her the single red rose that had been lying on the tray.

Marissa sniffed the delicate scent, all the while looking at Ryan, her eyes taking in everything about him. The white towel was firmly in place but it only made him even more desirable. "I don't think that I want it to be my birthday. That means that I only have one more day as boss."

Ryan laughed. "I have a funny feeling that you're likely to be the boss all the time. I certainly can't imagine being able to say no to you." "Ever." He added.

"Then how about you lose the towel and come back to bed." Marissa suggested leering at him until he burst out laughing.

But he didn't need to be asked twice. He quickly dropped the towel, but before he pulled back the covers to join her he opened the drawer of his beside table and pulled out a classic white jewellery case. He slid back under the covers and turned to Marissa. "Lucky last?" he said as he handed the case to Marissa.

Marissa looked at the Tiffany's writing embossed on the case and then looked back at Ryan. "I can't take anymore." She said simply. She was completely overwhelmed. Everything about the weekend had been perfect. He was perfect. "You've done … you've given me …" she started but she couldn't keep her emotions in check any longer and she could feel the tears as they formed in her eyes and then slowly escaped to run silently down her face.

"No." Ryan muttered. The last thing that he wanted to do was upset her. He gently wiped the tears away and said to her. "I don't want to make you sad. I never want to make you sad."

Marissa smiled. "I'm not sad. I'm so happy that I can't help but cry." She attempted to chuckle as another tear escaped. "She what sort of a loony that you've gotten yourself involved with?" her emotions were going haywire.

"You're my loony. And I intend to keep it that way." Ryan said softly kissing her. He waited until she seemed to have her emotions back in check and said. "Aren't you going to open it?"

Marissa swiped at the last few remaining tears with the back of her hand and then after first glancing at Ryan again for reassurance, she gently opened the case. Inside lay a beautiful silver chain with two fine locks on the end; one with an 'x' in it and one with an 'o'.

(For those that need a visual see here supposed to mean that all my hugs and kisses are yours. You have them under lock and key." He explained, scared that she may not have understood.

Marissa looked lovingly at him, the tears threatening to start up again. "I'm not sure that Sophie would be too happy with that idea?"

"Sophie will have to get used to it. You are the most important person in my life now." Ryan informed her clearly. "I thought about getting you a heart but I was afraid that I might scare you off. I didn't know how you felt about me?" he explained, somewhat shyly.

She was amazed that he could be insecure about her feelings towards him. "This is perfect." She said lifting it from its bed of white satin so that she could put in on. "But you could never scare me off."

Ryan helped her to fasten it around her neck. "Then maybe we should exchange it for a heart?" he suggested. He was a little surprised at himself but now that he knew that his feelings were reciprocated he wanted to tell the world.

"No. I love this." She said looking down at it now resting on her bare skin. She looked up at him "And I love you."

Ryan took her in his arms and held her close. "I love you too." He whispered still totally in awe of the feelings that he had for this girl. He'd never experienced anything like it before in his life. It was intoxicating. She was intoxicating. And he intended to cherish her forever.

---

Ryan was standing in the kitchen ironing a dress shirt to wear to the party. As he was still wrapped in just his trusty towel he was being very careful. He didn't want to let the iron slip and burn himself. Marissa was in the bathroom getting ready and he could hear her singing along to the music that was playing in the background. They had had another wonderful day. But he was coming to realise that anytime that he spent with her was wonderful, just because they were together. He smiled as he looked up when she emerged into the room and pirouetted before him.

"Will I do?" she asked.

"You look amazing." He commented as he ran his eyes over her. She had on a simple black dress that was classically cut. Her hair fell in natural waves over her shoulders and the chain that he'd given her from Tiffany's was around her neck. She had a minimal touch of makeup on but then he reasoned why would she want any more? She would only spoil her natural beauty. She looked perfect. But now that he knew her body better than his own, he knew exactly what was under every bump and curve. Over the weekend, he had memorised every freckle. And all it did was make him want her again. He didn't think that he would ever have enough of her. She was like a drug. The more he had of her, the more he wanted … no needed, he corrected himself.

Marissa smiled. "Your not biased are you?" she asked staring at his buff body. The towel was hanging low on his hips and she could see the feint trail of darker hair that ran from his belly button down towards his groin as it disappeared into the towel. The look that passed between them indicating that their passion for one another was no where near spent. Noticing something coming to life and causing a tent effect in the towel, Marissa smiled.

"Who me?" he asked as he turned off the iron, smiling as he did so. "If you just give me a few minutes then I'll be ready too."

"Ready for what?' Marissa asked as she looked lustfully at him her eyes indicating that his arousal hadn't gone unnoticed.

Ryan gulped. Maybe they wouldn't be leaving quite as soon as he expected. "Ready … to go to your party?" he queried. He had a feeling that she had something else on her mind.

"What if there's something else that I want to do first?" she asked trying to appear timid but there was an undeniable sparkle in her eye.

"Like what?" Ryan asked. He could feel his dick stiffen until it was ramrod hard from just the sparkle in her eyes. Who knew what would happen if she actually touched him?

Marissa moved to him and wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him in to a deep deep kiss. Ryan's arms instantly wrapped around her, one hand around her ribs, the other dropped lower to pull her against him so that she could feel the full effect that she was having upon him.

Marissa smiled as she broke the kiss and pulled back. She unhooked her hands from behind his head and took his hand in hers guiding him to the table and tugging off his towel at the same time.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"You." She stated plainly as she took both his hands in hers and placed them on her thighs.

Ryan hesitated. "But you're all ready for your party. I don't want to crease …"

Marissa cut him off "There may be one thing that I've forgotten." she said forcing his hands to run up her thighs and under her dress until he realised that she had nothing on underneath.

"Oh God." Ryan needed no further encouragement. He lifted her on to the edge of the table and then looked around for a condom only to have Marissa pull one out that she'd had tucked into her bra.

"Looking for one of these?" she asked.

His face broke into a huge grin. "I do like a girl that comes prepared." he answered and she quickly sheathed him. Ryan moved his hand to her core and was startled at how wet she already was. He slipped first one, then two, then three fingers into her. "What have you been thinking about?" he asked.

"You." Marissa said wriggling to the edge of the table and trying to pull him closer.

Ryan took the hint and removed his fingers and zeroed in … his dick pushing inside her welcoming core.

"You do know that this could make us late?" Ryan asked while he still had an ounce of control. He could stop if she wanted him to. But he wouldn't be able to for too much longer.

"I'm sure that they'll never even notice." Marissa said pertly "But if you pull out now then I will." She added pouting. "And I am the boss."

"True." Ryan said as he pulled back slightly only to thrust back into her. "And we can't upset the boss." He replied as he began to repeat his efforts … over and over. Each thrust moving them closer and closer to their desired goal.

---

Quite some time later the two arrived at the party. As they walked in the door they were instantly greeted by Molly.

"Finally. I was starting to worry that you weren't going to come at all." She exclaimed.

Marissa and Ryan both looked at one another and burst out laughing and Marissa replied. "I can assure that was never going to happen." She leant in to her friend and whispered. "That's about all we've been doing all weekend."

Molly looked puzzled and then the penny dropped. "Coming?" she queried, trying to look bored.

Marissa nodded.

"It's sort of obvious. You have this post-coital glow surrounding the pair of you." She teased but the other two didn't even seem to notice, too lost in one another to care. "But you do have other people here so maybe Ryan should go and get you a drink while you greet your guests." Molly suggested.

Marissa didn't like that idea at all but she realised that she had little choice. She glanced at Ryan who simply asked. "What would you like?"

"You." Marissa stated and Ryan smiled.

"I meant to drink." He explained more clearly.

"Oh." She said innocently. "A white wine would be great."

He leant in and kissed her thoroughly … until she was weak in the knees … before moving off to the kitchen. He knew that it wouldn't go unnoticed to the surrounding group but it was deliberate. He didn't know all the people there and he wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that she was well and truly taken. It had been a long time since Ryan had felt proprietorial about a girl but he had no intention of sharing this one … ever.

Marissa giggled. Ryan's intentions were blatantly obvious to her and she couldn't have been happier. She watched him move off in the direction of Luke who was standing in the kitchen obviously playing barman and she waved towards him. Luke waved back and then she turned to give Molly and the rest of her guests her attention but as she did so she looked more closely at Molly. "Have you really been worried that we wouldn't turn up?" Marissa asked. Her friend was flushed and seemed over-animated. Perhaps she'd started drinking earlier than all the rest.

"No. I knew that you'd make it sooner or later." Molly explained.

"Then why are you so flushed?" Marissa asked.

"You're not the only one who had fun on your birthday." Molly replied.

---

After his little performance in front of everyone, Ryan knew to expect a ragging from Luke and as he walked up to him, Luke was grinning from ear to ear. "What?" Ryan asked.

"What what?" Luke returned.

"What are you looking at me like that for?" Ryan asked taking a clean wine glass and filling it for Marissa.

"Like what?" Luke replied.

"With the big grin on your face." Ryan pointed out. "Surely I'm allowed to kiss my girlfriend?'

Luke laughed. "Girlfriend? I thought that you didn't do 'girlfriends'?" Luke questioned.

"A lot has changed my friend." Ryan admitted.

"A lot indeed." Luke agreed. "And it's all thanks to you."

Ryan looked at him puzzled. Luke seemed just a little too happy with himself. He needed to find out more. "Hold that thought. I just have to give this to Marissa." He said as he moved across the room to stand beside her as she spoke with some others. Handing her the glass he moved his mouth towards her ear as if he wanted to whisper something to her but all he did was bring his lips to the sensitive spot just below her ear lobe sucking the flesh into his mouth. Fairly certain that he had left a mark he pulled back and smiled at her. "Have fun." He said meeting her grin and then he returned to Luke standing in the kitchen.

"Okay. So where were we? Are we talking about the same thing?" Ryan asked.

"I don't think so." Luke admitted looking smug. It made a change for him not to be the one that didn't know exactly what was going on and he intended to make the most of it.

"Okay. So spill." Ryan stated.

"I owe you." Luke admitted. "Big time. I mean BIG BIG TIME!" he stressed.

Ryan frowned. He had no idea what Luke was talking about. "What for?" he asked.

Luke leaned in conspiratorially and said "You know that Molly was collecting me from the airport?"

"Yeah." Ryan replied.

"Well. It seems that she was a little jealous of a loved up couple that she'd come in contact with yesterday and she was feeling a little horny. Actually I think that we could say she was a LOT horny. And guess who was the lucky recipient of her need?" Luke laughed.

"Really?" Ryan commented only a little surprised. He knew that Molly liked Luke. Marissa had told him. But she'd also told him that Molly was holding out because of Luke's reputation. She didn't want to be just another one night stand. Plus she enjoyed playing hard to get and watching him try every trick in the book to try to gain her interest.

"Man. I may have to hang up my available status as well if I can get that every night." Luke admitted. "She was amazing."

"I know about amazing." Ryan said his eyes never leaving Marissa as she moved around the room greeting her friends. Every so often she would glance up at Ryan and their eyes would meet reconfirming the fact that they would be happy if they were the only two people in the room. Each time they did so, she would hold the kisses and hugs charms that hung on her chain, in her fingers, as if holding them could bring her closer to Ryan. He smiled indulgently at her, her actions bringing them together even though they were on opposite sides of the room.

"Who knew that girls like this existed?" Luke asked his best friend as he followed Molly's progress around the room.

"Who knew that libraries were such a font of information?" Ryan replied, all the while watching Marissa.

"What?" Luke said looking at Ryan, completely baffled by his last statement. For a moment there he had thought that they were on the same page.

"Libraries. We are going to have to go to the library a whole lot more." Ryan stressed.

"You've completely lost me." Luke admitted. "I know that you can go off into your own little brainiac world sometimes and have these conversations that I'm not up with but how the hell did we get from sex to libraries?"

"Does Kama Sutra mean nothing to you?" Ryan asked.

"Kama Sutra?" Luke's eyes bulged.

"Yeah. It's a book." Ryan stated the obvious. "And it's in our very own college library. I swear that some of the stuff that Marissa wants to do …" he shook his head disbelievingly. "I'm not even sure if it's possible. But she assures me that it's supposed to be."

"Is that where they get it from?" Luke asked rhetorically. "No wonder Molly could ..."

Ryan cut him off quickly. "I don't need details thanks all the same. But I think that it's safe to say that we have things to learn."

"And I am a very poor pupil." Luke admitted smiling from ear to ear. "I have to do things over and over again before it sticks. It's going to take me a long time …" he started and then grinned even more. "Actually if she does what she did to me before … then it doesn't take me long at all."

"Again. Too much information." Ryan replied. "Keep the details to yourself."

Luke chuckled. "So is there anywhere at our place that I should avoid?" Luke asked.

Ryan rolled his eyes at Luke and then looked back to follow Marissa as she moved about the room. "We cleaned up after ourselves." He explained.

Luke nodded watching Molly again. "I never thought that I'd be so happy to be sharing with a clean freak."

---

As the door closed on the last guest a tired but happy Marissa moved into Ryan's arms "Hey birthday girl. Big Day?" he asked.

Marissa glanced at the clock and noticing that it was way past midnight she replied. "I'm not the birthday girl anymore. Not until next year. Now I'm just the tired girl." She admitted.

"You go on in to bed. We'll just finish cleaning up here …" Ryan started only to be cut off by Molly.

"The both of you should go to bed. You look like you are out on your feet. I suspect that neither of you have had too much sleep lately?" she chuckled at the sheepish looks that she was greeted with. "Luke and I will finish up."

"We will?" Luke asked surprised.

"If you want a repeat performance of earlier then yeah ... we will." Molly stated.

"Can't wait." Luke replied picking up a tea towel off the kitchen bench. "I was born to clean." He added, smiling from ear to ear.

Ryan almost gagged at the comment and Marissa couldn't help but laugh. They had had to close the door to Luke's room; scared that there may have been rodents' living in there it was such a mess. But obviously he just needed the right form of encouragement to get him to clean up. "Okay. Thanks you two. I will sleep better with my teddy bear beside me." Marissa said cuddling in to Ryan.

Molly smiled indulgently at the two and then remembered that she still hadn't given Marissa her gift. "Before you go ..." she halted the couple and they both stopped and turned to her. "I haven't given you my present."

Marissa looked at her friend. "I don't need a present. The party was more than enough."

"Well as it turned out I had a lot of help with the party thanks to Ryan. And I did have something else for you but after seeing the two of you together yesterday I took it back and exchanged it and got this instead." She handed Marissa an envelope.

Marissa opened it and brought out an airline ticket. Recognizing the destination she looked at Molly puzzled and said "You bought me a plane ticket to go home with you?"

"No I bought me a plane ticket home for next weekend so you'll be all on your lonesome. I thought that Ryan might like to stay over and keep you company." Molly explained.

Marissa looked to Ryan smiling and she was met with his smile as the full meaning of Molly's words made sense.

"I'd love to. Thank you." Ryan said to Molly. He felt like he was the one getting given a gift; the thought of being able to spend another weekend solely with Marissa was better than anything else that he could imagine.

"My pleasure." She replied and as she watched the blissful expression on her best friend's face she knew that she'd done the right thing.

"I suspect that it will be THEIR pleasure." Luke commented.

The others all laughed.

Marissa looked at Molly. "Thank you. That's the best present that you could have given me." she said feeling humbled that Molly had known yesterday just how special Ryan was to Marissa and how much she loved spending time with him.

Molly shrugged. "Just remember to ask me to be a bridesmaid." She replied.

Ryan wrapped his arm around Marissa. The thought of her as a bride no where near as scary as what he would have once imagined, in fact it definitely held some appeal.

Marissa looked deeply into his eyes. The promise of a future together clear upon both their faces.

"Well … I think that it's a sucky present." Luke commented breaking the beautiful moment. "What's going to happen to me if you're away for the weekend and they're both joined at the hip?"

"Play your cards right this week and I could have you so shagged out by the end of the week that you'll need a break just to recover." Molly replied.

Luke nodded his head, the grin taking over his face. "That's what I'm talking about." He said as Ryan and Marissa laughed and headed towards her room only to be stopped by Luke's next words "Hey Chino?"

Ryan turned and waited for what was to come.

"I meant to warn you that you should expect a call from Seth sometime real soon."

"Why?" Ryan asked.

"He called me earlier because he hadn't been able to get on to you all weekend. Apparently your phone's been off." Luke explained.

"Yeah? Well that's because I didn't want to be disturbed." Ryan admitted.

"I told him that. … Explained that you'd been getting busy." Luke teased. "Actually he seemed relieved to hear it." Luke added puzzled, as he thought back to Seth's comments. "Although why he would be concerned about your love life, I have no idea."

Ryan frowned. He knew exactly why Seth would have been relieved. At least now he could put all the STD doubts to rest but he also knew that, thanks to Luke's big mouth that he would have to put up with Seth's ribbing. "Is that it?" he asked keen to get back to heading off to bed with Marissa.

"No." Luke stated clearly. "If he tries to bribe you with anything then tell him to rack off. I was there first."

"What?" Ryan asked completely perplexed by Luke's words.

"He's trying to claim that he's your brother and so he gets dibs on being best man but I pointed out that he's not really your brother and anyhow I was there when you two first met. So if anyone gets to be best man then it should be me. You're going to have to choose."

Ryan looked at Marissa and wrapped her in his arms. "I already have."

---