Lucy closed the door of her red convertible and pulled off the scarf that had kept her blonde hair out of her face on the drive up. Shaking it loose, she pulled a few strands off to the side and clipped them in place, before grabbing her hot pink cell phone off of the sun visor. Checking the address she was standing in front of against the information Ryan had texted her, she determined she was in the right place and slid the phone into her purse. Pulling out a tube of lipstick, she quickly touched up in the side view mirror, before turning on her heels and striding to the door.
When Ryan had called her three days ago and tantalized her with a surprise he was arranging for her, she had been delighted, to say the least. Over the course of the last three days, she had spent considerable time wondering what he could possibly be surprising her with. She had also tried tricking him into spilling the beans, but, for once in his life, he successfully managed to keep something from her.
She had to admit that she had never felt this way about any other guy before. All through high school and even the beginning of college, she had bounced around from guy to guy like a pinball machine, looking for the next best thing. She first met Ryan when they were both juniors at Washington State University. They had met in a psychology class and he hadn't been in the same class with her for fifteen minutes before he passed her off as the stereotypical beauty queen whose parents were footing her college bill and the only reason she was in the class was because it fulfilled a requirement and not from any real desire to be there. Lucy had put up with that label from everyone else around her, but, for whatever reason, it had really bothered her that he thought of her like that, especially since she wanted to be in the class. She had worked her butt off all semester long and she had tasted the sweet flavor of success at the end of the semester.
A few weeks into the class, he had asked her out. She had flat out refused him. The next Monday rolled around and he asked again, and again she refused. This soon became a regular ritual between them every Monday morning as they arrived to class. It wasn't until the end of the semester had rolled around that Lucy had finally accepted a date with Ryan—after the grades were posted and she was announced as the top student of the class. They had been together ever since.
Lucy smiled as she thought over the start of their relationship. If you had told her at the start of their relationship that she would still be with him years later, she probably would have laughed, but here she was. She quickened her pace and soon reached the doorstep and rang the bell. It was much too hot to be standing around outside. The house was situated overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so there was the occasional cool breeze blowing across the endless expanse of water, but nothing to really compete with the heat. At least when she had been in her car, she had the wind whipping past her, keeping her cool.
Lucy checked the time on her phone. She had exactly two hours before she was due to meet up with Trish. Trish had called her that morning and invited her out to lunch, with the intention of talking to her about something to do with Henry. Lucy swore that if Henry didn't pop the question soon, she would encourage Trish to sow her oats elsewhere. Lucy had to admit that she thought Trish and Henry were perfect together, but they had so many explosive moments, that Lucy was convinced they either needed to end it permanently or make it last forever. Perhaps if Henry thought he was going to lose Trish, he might be forced to act in order to keep her. Lucy smiled at the thought and then it quickly turned to a frown. Who was she to point fingers at Trish and Henry? She had been with Ryan almost as long and he definitely wasn't showing any sign of proposing.
Her heart suddenly jumped up into her throat as she glanced nervously at the door, footsteps approaching on the other side. Looking down at herself, she frantically thought, I so did not pick out the right outfit for this moment! The door opened and Ryan stood there, looking as yummy as he ever did to her. She stood rooted to the spot, the lack of movement having nothing to do with the wait for an invite in. She quickly studied him, trying to gauge his thoughts, trying to determine if she was jumping to conclusions. He leaned over and kissed her quickly on the cheek while slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her through the door and into the cool interior.
"I almost thought you got lost," he replied, steering her further into the house towards the kitchen where a pitcher of ice, cold water was waiting. He poured her a glass and held it out, but she didn't touch it. Her stomach was doing cartwheels inside, and she was sure she would be sick if she tried to consume anything. "Is everything alright? You look really pale."
"What's this about, Ryan? Why am I here?" She almost clamped a hand over her mouth. She hadn't meant to sound so harsh, but it definitely came out that way. "I'm sorry. I've been trying to figure out what this surprise could possibly be and this wild thought just hit me a few minutes ago."
"It's nothing to get all flustered over, I can assure you. It's not like I was going to propose." She gasped. "Oh, no. Is that what you thought this was about?"
She couldn't figure out whether the news was a relief or a disappointment. Not trusting her voice, she merely nodded. He quickly made his way over to her and wrapped her in a gentle embrace. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. The words echoed over and over in her mind like a mystical chant. Pulling back, he looked down at her.
"Can I let you in on a secret?" She nodded again. "I am going to ask you to spend the rest of my life with me." Her eyes immediately locked with his in surprise. He forced a small laugh before continuing, "But, it's going to be a heck of a lot more romantic than at my friend's house. As nice as it is, I can do so much better for such a special moment." She laughed, all the anxiety slowly draining from her. Somewhere in the back of the house, she heard a dog bark.
Even though it was obvious that both had heard it, she replied in an effort to break the tension, "Is that a dog I heard?" He flashed her a wide smile and beckoned her to follow him. Following after him, Lucy had to fight to control her emotions. She went from fretting over an impending proposal, to realizing it was all in her head (and heart), to securing a promise that it was coming. It was just a huge emotional roller coaster and she thought that seeing Ryan's friend's dog was just what she needed to calm down. She had always loved dogs, but the death of her childhood canine friend while she was in high school had left a hurt too deep to be filled casually by another dog and so she had grieved for her four-footed friend and sworn off ever finding another dog that she could love as much. It was during her last year of college that she had realized the grieving process had passed and she found herself yearning for the companionship only a furry friend could give, but things had been too crazy with finishing college and starting her career that she knew she couldn't devote the time she needed to caring for another dog, so she filed away the desire until after her life slowed down a notch or two.
Lucy followed Ryan towards the back of the house, just as a young man stepped out of a room and closed the door behind him. Looking up, he smiled at the two of them and Lucy had to admit that he was very good-looking, though he couldn't hold a candle to her Ryan. Her smile widened just a little bit more when she thought that, someday, he really would be hers and she would be his in every way possible.
"Drake, this is Lucy. Lucy, this is my friend Drake." She took his hand when he offered it to her, but instead of shaking it, he pressed his lips to the top of it. "That's the first, last and only time you kiss my girlfriend, buddy." Lucy knew that it was said in jest, but she also knew that Ryan would defend her in a heartbeat, if necessary. Pulling her hand back, she ran her fingers through her hair.
Smiling from Ryan to Drake, she sweetly asked, "I heard your dog bark when we were in the kitchen. I really love dogs, so if you don't mind, I'd love to meet him."
"She's right through there, and you are welcome to stay as long as you want." Turning to Ryan, he said, "I'm going to go get something to drink, so I'll be back in a few." He continued down the hall and turned the corner, disappearing from sight.
Ryan motioned Lucy towards the door. "After you."
Lucy opened the door and stepped through, Ryan right behind her. At first glance around the sparsely decorated room, Lucy didn't see a dog, and her first thought was that Drake had pointed them to the wrong room. It did look like a dog lived in there, though, as there were toys and pet paraphernalia all over the room—just no dog. She was about ready to ask Ryan to check with Drake again, when movement from a box in the corner caught her attention. It was quickly followed by a pitiful yipping that would have caused any heart to break. Lucy hurried over and found the most adorable ball of white fluff running round and round the box, searching for an escape from the predicament she found herself in. Lucy reached down and picked her up, cradling her in her arms.
Looking up at Ryan, her eyes shining, she cooed, "She's so adorable! I think I'm falling in love!"
"Wait a second! You better not be telling me that I'm losing your heart to a living cotton ball."
Despite the fact that it was clearly an insult to the dog, Lucy had to smile at his choice of description. "Just a piece of my heart that is reserved for the canine kind and was never yours to begin with." She batted her eyes at him.
"As much as that excuse doesn't console my breaking heart, I'll accept it. Drake said we could stay as long as we wanted, so why don't you get to know her a little better."
Lucy did just that. She put the dog, whose collar named her Gigi, on the floor and, kneeling down herself, she proceeded to scratch the dog's belly and play tug of war with a small piece of rope with her. Lucy lost track of the time and never noticed Drake slip back into the room. Finally, at a clearing of his throat, Ryan brought Lucy's attention back to the other occupants of the room. Blushing slightly, she got to her feet and went over to stand by Ryan.
"I didn't hear you come back in. I must have looked so silly playing with Gigi on the floor like that."
"Did you have fun with her?" Drake asked.
"She's exactly what I want in a dog, which is unfortunate because she just set impossibly high expectations for my future dog." Her eyes flew back to the dog who was actually circling her ankles, looking for the attention that had just been withdrawn.
"That's excellent news, because," Drake looked at Ryan and then back at Lucy, "she's yours." It took a few seconds for the words to sink in and, refusing to believe it at face value from someone she had just met an hour ago, she looked to Ryan for confirmation. He was beaming as he nodded that what Drake was saying was the truth.
"I—I can't possibly take her. She's yours. I—" Drake shook his head, cutting her off.
"My job is moving me to Europe in a couple of weeks and the hotel they are going to be setting me up at while I look for housing has a no pets policy. So, I've got to get this house ready for market and get everything I'm taking with me ready to move halfway around the world. Besides, relocation of that magnitude stresses animals out."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Absolutely. I was talking to Ryan here last week about the relocation and what I was going to do with Gigi and he immediately thought of you."
Lucy's mind was reeling. She was finally getting her dog, and not just any dog. One that she had immediately connected with in under thirty seconds. Beaming she hugged both of the guys, pausing to kiss Ryan briefly on the cheek, and then bent down to pick up Gigi, before showering her in kisses.
"I know she'll be well cared for and I've already told Ryan to keep me apprised of her life. If you want to take her now with a few essentials, I can send over everything else for you to look through tomorrow."
"You should keep her for one more night. Just to say a proper goodbye. I couldn't possibly separate you before then." Lucy gave Drake a look that said she wouldn't take no for an answer. When her own childhood dog had died, Lucy had been at school and part of the reason her grieving process had lasted as long as it did was because she had felt guilty about not being there to say goodbye.
Shrugging his shoulders, he agreed to keep Gigi one more night in order to say farewell and also to pack up her belongings. Gigi nestled quite comfortably in Lucy's arms, occasionally raising her head to lick Lucy's chin before settling back down. In a matter of minutes, while the trio were talking about Gigi's likes and dislikes and habits, she had closed her eyes and slumbered peacefully in Lucy's arms.
Even though she had been adamant that Gigi stay one more night with her owner, Lucy had difficulty in letting go when it was time to leave. It was only her pressing engagement with Trish that finally propelled her out the door, but knowing that Gigi would be hers forever on the morrow was enough to keep her going for the rest of the day. She couldn't wait to tell Trish!
Ryan walked her out to her car, his truck parked in front of hers. Once they arrived at the vehicles, Lucy spun around and took him totally by surprise, wrapping her arms around his neck and giving him a lingering kiss. "Thank you so much for this. It meant a lot to me."
"Enough to make up for the panic attack you had on the doorstep?" She could see in his eyes that he still felt awful about it, considering he had been so secretive about the surprise.
At mention of the incident earlier, she was pleased to discover that the anxiety and frustration she had felt only a short time ago had evaporated and not even its casual mention brought those feelings back. He had given her a promise and she knew that she could trust him. Smiling up at him, she nodded before kissing him again.