Mallory Hunt steps out of her shower and dries herself with a towel. She pulls on her favourite fluffy bathrobe then wraps her long red hair in a towel. She goes into her bedroom and stares at a very naked Rob Shepherd sleeping in her bed.
Christmas had always been her favourite holiday, and now it was extra-special. Rob showing up, all handsome and charming. Irresistibly sexy. Once she'd established that (a) he was single and (b) had no interest in her sister, she'd pounced. And he'd been willing. Very willing. Sex had suddenly become more extraordinary, more magical than she had ever experienced or imagined. It had been making love, and she craved more.
She frowns, remembering something he'd said before they'd made love one more time that morning. She shakes his shoulder.
"Wha?" Rob wakes up and blinks at the unfamiliar ceiling. He turns his head and sees her. His blue eyes light up, making her heart skip an extra beat. "Good morning!"
"What did you mean?" Mallory asks. "You're not leaving Paris without me?"
He smiles, running a hand through his tousled black hair. "I'll stay in Paris as long as you're here."
"And then what will you do?"
He rolls over, propping up his head on his hand. "And then I'll leave with you. To wherever you go next."
She blinks. "What?"
Rob snorts. "I'm sorry. Was this supposed to be a one-night stand? Did you not confess that you've had a crush on me since you were twelve? If just sex is what you wanted so long ago, you are far kinkier than I thought."
Mallory rolls her eyes. "No, that was not my plan as a twelve year old. But...you want to go wherever I go? After one night?"
He nods. "I'm afraid so."
"That's crazy," she says.
"I'll tell you what's crazy," he says, extending his free hand. She takes it, and he pulls her down to sit beside him on her bed. "What's crazy is that I go to Hurricane Mallory's apartment last night, expecting to see my childhood buddy and score a free meal. And instead, there is this lovely, alluring, bewitching woman waiting for me. She's like, 'Oh by the way I have a crush on you, now kiss me. ' She ruthlessly seduces me; together we discover what making love is as opposed to just sex; I realize that she just belongs in my life; and I can't imagine a future without her in it. The really crazy thing is, she's surprised that I want to stick around."
"Huh," Mallory says. "That is a surprise."
"I promise to hunt down and beat up every guy that has dumped you," he says, kissing her hand. "They've made you cynical about love."
"Oh, I always dumped my ex-boyfriends first," she says, absently.
"Really?" Rob chuckles. "May I ask why?"
She turns and looks at him. "I guess because they weren't you."
They look at each other for a long moment.
"You seriously can't imagine a future without me?" Mallory asks. "After one night?"
He laughs. "What are you surprised about?"
"That it worked!" Mallory exclaims. "That you actually wanted to kiss me and make out with me and then spend the night having lots of really great sex and now you can't imagine a future without me? This is unreal."
He smiles. "I'm going too fast. Got that. Okay, I can't imagine the next few months without you. When are you planning on leaving Paris?"
"My course ends in June," she says softly. "I'm going back to Seattle then. I have to see my family. Everything else is like I told you last night. I'm going to get a job so I can start building some experience, learn what it takes to run a business, then become fabulously successful running my own place. Maybe eventually own my own chain of eco-friendly cafes that serve nutrition, not crap, and be the most famous chef in the world."
"You are so Cristina Yang's daughter," he grins.
"Oh my god," she says. "Our parents! What are we going to tell them?"
"The truth," he teases her. "That we made mad passionate love for hours. That you've got freckles everywhere."
"I am serious!" Mallory protests. "I mean, my mom isn't going to be mad. She's known about my little crush on you for ages. All she said was to wait until I wasn't jailbait to make a move on you."
"You told your mom that you had a crush on me?" Rob laughs.
"Oh, she figured it out. Apparently I looked at you like you were a pop star. Anyways, she's not the problem. My dad is."
"Oh crap," Rob says, sitting up and suddenly looking serious. "I slept with one of Owen Hunt's daughters without obtaining permission to even court her first."
"Exactly," Mallory sighs. "We can't tell him about the sex."
"But you are twenty years old."
"But he's Dad." Mallory sighs. "We'll tell him about the not imagining a life without me part first. Soften the blow."
"So we're back to the life thing? Not just until June?" Rob kisses her neck.
"Oh god." Mallory leans forward, rubbing her temples. "You have got to stop that. You're insane."
"I've never felt more sure of anything in my life," he murmurs, surprising himself with his honesty.
"And what about your father?' She turns to face him. "He's been predicting you'll marry Chloe since she was born!"
"But he knows that I've never wanted to date her," Rob points out. "And you said that feeling was mutual."
"It is," she assures him. "I called her yesterday before you came over to make sure."
He blinks. "You did?"
"Of course! I figured you would turn out hot … which you did … so I made sure I wasn't going to break my sister's heart before … what did you say I did?"
"You ruthlessly seduced me," he reminds her, removing the towel from her head so that her damp hair tumbles down. "But checking with Chloe first makes you an honourable woman. Sort of."
"My dad is going to be thrilled that we're together," Rob assures her. "He likes being a family man, and our families are one big happy family unofficially. Once we get married -"
"What?" Mallory stands up and whirls around. "You are freaking me out!"
He smiles gently at her. "I'm sorry, Mallory. I'm very new to this 'wanting to spend my life with you thing,' and I'm going too fast again. I apologize."
She blinks at him. "Apology accepted." She stands there, looking confused.
"Is it okay if I spend the day with you?" Rob asks softly. "Can we plan that far in advance? Should we start with breakfast?"
She smiles. The kitchen is where she feels most in control. "Yes. I'm starving. How do you like your eggs?"
"Scrambled. But you don't have to make breakfast. We can just have leftovers."
Mallory snorts. "I don't do leftovers for breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day."
He grins. "I forgot that I am speaking with the future most famous chef in the world."
"Exactly. You can go shower while I scramble up some breakfast."
Rob shakes his head as he enters Mallory's tiny kitchen. The table is set, and she's placing a bowl of fresh fruit on it. She's dressed in a plain sweater and jeans.
"I think I can get used to this," he smiles before giving her a quick kiss.
To his surprise, Mallory is quiet as they eat. She looks at him curiously but doesn't say anything, except to acknowledge his compliments to her cooking. He decides to not interrupt her thought process, although he's very curious to know what she's contemplating.
"Now what?" Rob asks, as he stands up to help her clear the table.
"You need a change of clothes," she says.
"I can run over to my hostel and change. Want to come with?"
She smiles softly. "Maybe you should just bring all of your stuff over."
"Really?" Rob doesn't try to hide his huge grin.
"It just makes sense," she shrugs. "Why pay for a hostel if we're both going to be in Paris until June?"
He puts down his dirty dishes and pulls her into his arms, kissing her. Laughing, she starts tugging his t-shirt out of his jeans.
A couple of hours later, they finally leave her apartment and start walking to the nearest subway station.
"So, what are you going to do until June?" Mallory asks, linking her arm through his.
"I'll find a job," he says. "Bartending, probably. My French really isn't good enough for any other kind of job. But you won't have to worry about feeding me. Although I hope you will feed me. With groceries that I'll help pay for."
"Deal," she giggles.
Mallory makes herself comfortable in the hostel lobby as Rob heads upstairs to gather his belongings. She looks around at all of the people around her before impulsively pulling out her phone. She quickly calls the one person that she trusts will not share her secret.
"Hi, sis," Chloe answers.
"Are you alone?" Mallory speaks furtively into the phone.
"Yes," Chloe replies. "Mom and Dad are at the hospital, and Diego is in the shower. What's up?"
Mallory sighs. "I am in so much trouble."
"What did you do now?"
"I ruthlessly seduced Rob," Mallory confesses, causing eyebrows to raise around her. "We made love all night, and it was fantastic. And now he's talking about spending the rest of his life with me! He's really freaking me out!"
Chloe shrieks with laughter.
"It's not funny!" Mallory protests. "He's crazy!"
"I'm sorry," Chloe laughs. "But it is funny. Hurricane Mallory is in over her head!"
"Yeah," Mallory confesses with a smile. "It's just awful. Damn him."
Chloe chuckles. "So - you don't want to spend the rest of your life with him?"
"That's the really crazy scary part," Mallory whispers. "I do. He's being weird with talking about forever and marriage, and it's scary; but I also really like it, and I don't know what to say or do. Other than we're at his hostel so he can get his stuff and move in with me."
She hears Chloe exhale. "Oh, Mallory. You are in deep, deep trouble."
"I know!" Mallory sighs.
"But it makes sense," her sister soothes. "Look at who our parents are. They're not exactly role models of restraint and taking things slow."
"That's true," Mallory giggles.
"And they met because of an ice storm and Mom's lack of scruples. It was fate. Maybe it was fate that Rob came to Paris?"
"Maybe," Mallory says softly. "It's not like I met Rob yesterday. I just met grownup Rob yesterday. And he's hot."
"I should hope so. Although again, not my type. I am happy for you."
"Thank you!" Mallory looks up to see Rob descending the stairs. "Okay, gotta go. Listen, don't say anything to anyone, okay? We really have to think about how we break the news to Dad."
"Smart," Chloe laughs.
It doesn't take Rob long to move in with Mallory. She makes room for his meagre belongings, and he gets his bags unpacked in less than thirty minutes.
They sit down on the bed next to each other.
"Now what?" Rob asks.
"It's past lunch time," she notes. "We could have leftovers. Or get naked."
"Remind me again … who are we meeting?" Rob holds Mallory's hand as they walk down a street.
"My friends Annick and Bernard from school," she says.
"And what did you tell them about me?"
"That you're someone I know from Seattle, and you're sexy," she grins.
"So that's why you made me shower," he chuckles.
"Exactly." She points to a café. "Here we are."
To Rob's relief, Mallory's friends speak English. They greet him warmly and they sit down. Rob watches with amusement as Mallory orders for them in fluent French.
"Tell us about yourself," Bernard urges Rob. "How long have you known Mallory?"
"Since she was a baby," Rob smiles. "Our parents are best friends. I remember meeting her when she was a preemie in the hospital."
"She must have been a pretty baby," Annick notes. "I envy her hair."
"She looked like a tomato," Rob chuckles. "I was actually disappointed that she was a girl. I wanted Uncle Owen and Aunt Cristina to have a boy so I wouldn't be outnumbered."
Mallory shrugs and smiles. "Our sisters have been best friends since they were born," she informs the other couple. "They tend to stick together exclusively. And my brother is younger than all of us."
"And now you two are …?" Annick smiles slyly.
"We're … having fun together," Mallory grins, taking his hand. "Rob is going to stay in Paris and go back to Seattle with me in the summer."
"And then what will you do?" Bernard asks.
"I will find a job somewhere," Mallory says. "And …" She looks at Rob.
"I'll … find a job too, I guess." He smiles. "I'm an excellent bartender."
"Rob has been backpacking around the world for a while," Mallory tells her friends.
"Oh." Bernard smiles politely. "Your parents are okay with you 'having fun' with a bartender?"
"We have met her parents. Her mother is scary," Annick informs Rob, who laughs.
Mallory blushes. "We … haven't told our parents yet. We're … still figuring things out."
The other couple look intrigued.
"Annick, you're looking well," Mallory says, changing the subject.
"I have my new insulin pump," her friend notes, patting her side.
"Really?" Rob sits up. "Which model?"
Mallory notes her friends' surprise. "He has a pre-med degree," she tells them.
"Ah," Annick smiles. She launches into a discussion with Rob, who doesn't notice how closely Mallory is suddenly observing him.
Chloe looks up as her parents enter the house, both looking exhausted.
"Derek set you free?" Chloe quips, standing up to hang up their coats.
"We caught a break between ice storms and accidents," Owen yawns. "I'm going to bed."
"I'll be up soon!" Cristina smiles as he goes upstairs. She turns to Chloe. "He was so exhausted he let me drive us home while he slept. I love his four wheel drive."
"You must have gotten some sleep," Chloe notes. "You don't look quite like a zombie."
"I managed to get a few hours in here and there," Cristina shrugs. "How are you and Diego doing?"
"We're good," Chloe replies. "We know enough about cooking that we're not starving."
"I miss Mallory during the holidays," Cristina sighs. "She doesn't know when to stop cooking."
"Speaking of Mallory … have you spoken with her lately?" Cristina asks innocently.
"I have," Chloe answers carefully. "She's fine."
Cristina drops all pretense of casual conversation. "How was her supper with Rob Shepherd?"
Her daughter smiles mysteriously. "It happened."
"They had supper," Chloe grins.
"And?" Cristina stares at Chloe.
"And she didn't kill him with food poisoning."
Her mother purses her lips and regards her oldest daughter. "Chloe, you know and I know that Mallory's had a crush on Rob forever."
"That is true."
Cristina clears her throat. "I want to know if our Hurricane has finally done something about it and if I need to hurt Rob for breaking her heart?"
Chloe grins and says nothing. Cristina sighs. "You drive me crazy when you keep secrets."
Her daughter merely wiggles her eyebrows in response. Cristina takes note of the gleam in her eyes. "Chloe Hunt. Tell me what you know."
"Cristina Yang," her daughter replies. "I am her sister and am honour-bound not to reveal any secrets that have been entrusted to me. If there even is a secret."
"You would tell me if things were horribly wrong, right?" Cristina probes.
"If things were horribly wrong, Mallory would have been sobbing on the phone with you and Dad already," Chloe points out. "You would definitely know."
"Good point." Cristina regards Chloe. "God, I hate how stubborn you can be."
Her daughter laughs. "I learned from the best."
Mid-morning, Rob stumbles out of the bedroom and smiles when he spots Mallory concentrating on her laptop. He thinks that even her determined look is cute. He walks over and kisses her. "What are you looking at?"
"Medical schools," she replies. "What do you think your specialty is going to be?"
He stares at her. "What?"
She smiles. "I've been revising my plans for the next ten years. I thought I'd include you in them since you're so persistent."
He grins, feeling a wave of happiness. "Awesome."
"So I'm going to help you pick out a medical school," she informs him. "And in September, we'll move to wherever you're going to be studying."
"What?" Rob gapes at her. "Who said I'm going to med school in the fall?"
"I just did," she reminds him.
He starts pacing. "I … never … said … I wanted to go to medical school next year."
"I know," she smirks. "But as long as I've known you, you've wanted to be a doctor. And you have your pre-med degree. It's time, Rob."
"Why?" He flops down on the sofa.
"Because of my plan!" Mallory smiles patiently. "I'm going to work while you're in school, so I can get valuable experience, and we won't have to eat dog food. Then, when you're an intern and a resident, I'll start my own business. It's hard to predict what the economy will be like, so I'll have to be flexible on the timing. And by the time I'm established and you're done your fellowship, you'll be earning enough money for me to take a break and have a baby or two. That's the plan."
He stares at her. "Really. You've just planned this out without consulting me?"
"Do you have a plan?"
"No," he admits. "I mean, yeah, I want to be a doctor someday …"
"Then be one," she encourages him. "Look Rob … you've been kicking around the world for eighteen months now since you graduated. I'm sure it's been fun, and I hope you got a lot of valuable life experience." She leans closer. "You keep talking about forever and marriage. For your information … I'm not going to marry a bartender who thinks he'll eventually settle down and go back to school. I need to know that I'm going to be taken care of when it's baby time."
"Oh." He sits down.
"Why haven't you gone back to school?" Mallory asks quietly.
"I wanted to travel and be on my own for once," he replies. "And everyone keeps expecting me to take my 'rightful place' in the family legacy. My father is Derek Shepherd. My mother is Meredith Grey. My grandmother was Ellis Grey. It's like I would have caused a family scandal by not going into medicine."
"Do you not like medicine?"
He smiles ruefully. "I love it. I loved that conversation I had with Annick about diabetes and insulin. Just between you and me, I actually don't see myself as a surgeon; I see myself being an endocrinologist or something internal."
"Not a surgeon!" Mallory grins. "You rebel, you."
"Shocking!" Rob laughs. "Well, look at you, you turned your back on medicine completely."
"No I didn't," she retorts. "Nutrition is a form of medicine, you know. Have you noticed me having any asthma problems while you've been here?"
"That's because I have planned my diet around my asthma," Mallory smiles. "I know what triggers it now. And that's why I'm going to be an amazing chef. I care about healthy food that also happens to taste great."
"Ah." He blinks. "Will you marry a medical school student or do I have to get my MD first?"
Mallory grins. "I'm not walking down the aisle until you have an acceptance letter."
"Deal." He looks at her. She smiles.
A thought occurs to him. "Are - we engaged now?" Rob asks.
Mallory turns pale. "We can't be," she says. "It's too soon, and you didn't ask me properly and oh my god you are crazy!"
Rob laughs and jumps up, quickly gathering her in a hug. "What's your middle name?"
"I have two," she says, puzzled. "My full name is Mallory Helena Sun-Hi Hunt."
He lets go of her and drops to one knee, taking her hands in his. Her eyes widen. "It's too soon," she repeats, pulling her hands away and stepping back. "It doesn't feel right. I'm sorry."
Rob nods and stands up. He sees that she is frightened and yet regretful, and he resolves to be patient. "If you say it's too soon then it's too soon," he assures her.
"Really?" Mallory looks up at him, unsure. "So ..?"
"So we're not engaged," Rob says quietly, stroking her hair. "It's okay, Mal. I'm not going anywhere."
"This is crazy," she stammers. "You're crazy, and I'm crazy; and this whole thing is crazy."
"It's like we've been caught up in a hurricane of crazy," Rob muses. "I suppose you get that a lot."
She chuckles and leans against his chest. "What are you doing to me?"
He frowns. "What do you mean?"
"You're being exactly the kind of guy I'd hoped you be and more," she sighs. "But I didn't plan on things going so quickly."
"I got news for you … life doesn't always go according to plan," he smiles, wrapping his arms around her. "I was thinking of going to South America next fall. But apparently I'm going to medical school."
Craving some fresh air, Rob leaves the apartment to explore Paris on his own. He walks along rivers, finally settling down on a bench to rest.
Rob sighs and looks at the river. He knows that the last few days have been extraordinary … and he doesn't regret anything. For the first time in a long time, he feels at peace with himself.
He buries his hands in his jacket pockets, watching an older couple walk by, arm-in-arm. He looks around … suddenly, all he can see are couples. Rob smiles ruefully.
His reverie is interrupted by the sound of his cell phone. He answers.
"Rob!" Mark Sloan's voice booms through the phone. "How is Paris?"
"Paris is great," Rob answers. "How is LA?"
"Smoggy and hot, same old," Mark replies. "Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I put some money in your account for Christmas. Sorry I forgot."
"It's okay, Mark. Thanks."
"It slipped my mind until your sister messaged me with some pretty strong hints," Mark chuckles. "I've - uh, well - Candi moved out last week so I haven't really been paying attention to things like I should."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"At least she signed a pre-nup, so it won't be a huge mess like my last divorce," Mark sighs. "Listen - we'd booked a couple of weeks in Monaco in late January, and obviously she's not going anywhere with me now, so why don't you make your way there, and we'll party together? My treat."
Rob raises his eyebrows. "Well … I'll see if I can."
"What? Since when aren't you available for a free vacation? I can buy you a plane ticket."
"It's not that." Rob chuckles. "I'm, um, seeing someone in Paris. She might not want me to party with you in Monaco."
"Really?" Mark sounds interested. "Some French girl's got you whipped?"
"I'm not whipped, and she's not French."
Mark pauses. "Who did your dad say was in Paris …" He laughs. "Oh tell me that you're not seeing Mallory Hunt."
"What's wrong with Mallory?" Rob asks defensively.
"Mallory's cool," Mark assures him hastily. "I saw her last summer in Seattle. She grew up hot. But Rob - do you have any idea how protective her parents are?"
"I didn't mean to start dating her," Rob confesses. "And please don't call my girlfriend hot. Or tell me that you hit on her."
"Don't worry, I'd never touch a Hunt girl," Mark laughs. "Owen would kill me, if Cristina didn't get to me first. Which is why you have got to be kidding me."
"The Hunts like me," Rob points out. "And I'm not you. I don't have a grandson that's older than her."
"That was low," the older man chuckles. "So they're okay with you dating their baby girl?"
"Well … they don't know yet," Rob confesses. "We're keeping it quiet for now while we sort things out."
"What's to sort out?"
Rob grins sheepishly. "I've moved in with her. And I want to propose to her but she's freaking out over that."
There is nothing but slight static on the phone.
"Mark? Are you still there?"
"What the hell is going on with you?" Mark asks incredulously. "How long have you been dating?"
"Well," Mark searches for the right words. "So this isn't just sex?"
"It's not just the sex," Rob insists. "She's just … she's the one. She's been in front of me my whole life, and I didn't realize it until three days ago. She belongs in my life; and she has me wanting to do something with my life now, like going to medical school. And yeah, maybe I don't know everything about her yet, but I want to spend the rest of my life getting to know her. And if I want to spend the rest of my life with her, why not get engaged now?"
Mark laughs. "Oh, you got it bad, son. You got it bad."
"Please don't say anything to our parents," Rob pleads.
"You can count on me," Mark assures him. "So you really want to propose to her?"
"Do you have a ring?"
"We don't need a ring."
"Oh, yes, you do," Mark tells him. "I realize that I'm not exactly a role model, but I know this much: you need a ring. Tell me when you're ready, and I'll put some money in your emergency fund account."
"You don't have to."
"I want to," Mark tells him. "Look - you're a great kid, Rob, but you're kind of a slacker."
"I can relate," Mark tells him. "It took me a long time to want to settle down and establish a life. You might say that I waited too long to learn how to be a good husband, since now I'm on my third divorce. So - good for you for finding The One and wanting to marry her and go to medical school. You've got a lot of obstacles in front of you. Let me help you out with the ring. That will be your first wedding present."
Chloe looks up from her book as Diego enters the living room and flops down on the couch. "I'm sick of all these ice storms," he says. "I'm sick of eating macaroni and cheese."
"So I ordered a pizza," he says. "It will be here soon."
She puts down her book. "You're making a pizza delivery person drive in this weather? You think Mom and Dad don't have enough to do at the hospital right now?"
He rolls his eyes. "I ordered it from that new place one block over. They were happy to get some business."
"Teenagers," Chloe mutters, picking up her book again.
"Do you have cash?"
Chloe sighs and puts her book down. "You don't?"
"I ordered that vegetarian pizza you like," Diego grins. "Even though I hate it."
"You are so noble," she snickers, standing up. "We can use my emergency credit card."
The doorbell rings. Diego jumps up to open it while Chloe finds her purse.
"Thanks, man," the pizza delivery man says, quickly stepping in out of the snow. He looks at Chloe. "Hey, I know you."
"Mickey!" She smiles. "You were in my Chem class in Grade 11."
"Right … Cassie?" He looks sheepish.
"Chloe," she corrects him, handing him the credit card as Diego snatches away the pizza box.
"Right. Chloe Hunt. You were friends with that blonde girl … JoJo Shepherd."
"Still am," she smiles. "We're getting together for New Year's Eve, as a matter of fact."
Mickey looks Chloe up and down. "Really? Is your boyfriend going too?"
Diego grins and leaves the room, while Chloe starts to blush and stammer about not having a boyfriend.
Rob wakes up to find Mallory in bed next to him, watching him intensely.
"What?" Rob yawns. "Was I snoring?"
"Just a little," she smiles. "I was just … watching you sleep."
"It's starting to feel normal," she murmurs, snuggling beside him. "You. Me. Waking up together."
"Now can I propose marriage?" Rob asks.
She sits up and glares at him. "Why? Why are you talking about marriage?"
"I can't imagine a future without you," Rob smiles. "So why wait to get married?"
"Why wait?" Rob repeats.
She stares at him. And then shakes her head, as if waking up. "I can't get married without my family there," she says. "That's why."
"Good point," he concedes. "Your dad would kill me. Okay, we'll get married in the summer, when everyone can be there. Better?"
"Yes," she nods.
He beams, causing her to wag a finger at him.
"We are not engaged," she warns him."Too soon. We should wait, like four or five months first before you propose."
"So you're okay with us getting married in the summer but you don't want to be engaged yet?" Rob asks.
"I never said I was logical," she smiles ruefully.
"I know." He smiles. "I think I've got you figured out now."
"Uh huh." He grins. "You don't like to go by anybody's rules, you like things your way. And when you find yourself in a situation where you're not in control, that's when you like to spout rules, like we should wait X number of months before getting married. You don't really believe in traditions that have been defined by somebody else, you're just trying to get control."
She blinks at him. "Oh."
Rob smiles and tilts his head at her.
"You do have me figured out," she says softly.
"And I haven't run screaming to Monte Carlo," he grins.
"We should -" she pauses and licks her lips. "We should do it when it feels right. And I really do think you should ask in a proper way. With a ring."
The sound of the phone wakes Mark Sloan up. Sighing, he grabs it off of his nightstand and checks the caller ID. Grimacing, he answers. "Do you need money, a lawyer, or money for a lawyer?"
Rob grins. "A ring."
"I love Paris," Mallory sighs as they stroll arm-in-arm down a side street. "We'll have to bring our kids here someday."
"You're okay with having kids?"
"Yep," he says. "I want at least one redhead, by the way. We'll just have to keep trying until we get one."
Mallory pokes him in the side. "Easy for you to say; you won't be the pregnant one."
"True." They walk along.
"So … when do you think we should tell our parents?" Rob asks. "They're going to find out sooner or later that we're dating."
"When it feels right," she replies absently. She stops and looks at the sky. "It's snowing again. I love it when it snows in Paris."
He smiles, watching her tilt her head back and open her mouth, trying to catch a snowflake with her tongue.
"I love you," he says softly.
Mallory closes her mouth and smiles at him, eyes sparkling. "Hey, that's the first time you've said that."
"It's true," he chuckles, taking her hands.
She kisses him and then laughs. "It's New Year's Eve!"
"That is also true."
"You don't get it!" Mallory smiles brightly. "Eight years ago, on New Year's Eve, I started to fall in love with you."
She nods and smiles. "My parents were having a party, and I was sitting on the stairs with Diego; and you came along just before midnight. And you very sweetly said you wanted to kiss the prettiest girl at the party, and you kissed my cheek. Right here." She points to her left cheek.
"Just like a Prince Charming," she murmurs.
"I'm no prince," he warns her, threading his hand in her copper hair. "I'm a slacker, bartender, and future medical student."
"But you are charming," she purrs. "And I love you."
"Good. You're stuck with me."
"Good." She looks over his shoulder and her eyes light up.
"I want to go into that shop," she says, pointing to an antique shop. "I need to get something for my grandmother's birthday."
"And I want a cup of coffee," Rob says, pointing to a café.
"Then come find me in the shop after your coffee."
Rob checks his phone and bank account while having his coffee. When he's done, he meanders over to the antique shop. He walks in, seeing Mallory's brilliant copper hair by the jewellery counter. He walks over.
She's staring at a tray on the counter as an older woman speaks with her in French. Rob notices that the tray contains rings.
"Find something you like?" Rob asks from behind, making her jump. "Sorry."
The clerk smiles politely and steps back.
"Um, yes," Mallory stammers, looking down.
She glances up at him. "I didn't find something for my grandmother…"
He watches her face slowly turn red. "Oh." He feels time stand still. "I see."
She nods and looks at the tray.
Rob puts his arms around her. "Which one do you like?"
"See if you can guess."
"What?" Rob chuckles.
"See if you can guess," she repeats, gesturing to the tray.
"Is this some sort of compatibility test?" Rob asks.
"Okay." He lets go of her and moves closer to the tray. He stares at the rings, trying to determine how to handle this. "I'm going to guess that you don't like any of the rings with the large stones. They would look huge on your little hands, and would get in the way of food preparation."
She dimples. "True."
He points to a simple band. "Now this one is a little too plain. I don't think you'd like a plain ring. That would be boring. And Hurricane Mallory is far from boring."
She arches an amused eyebrow. "Indeed."
"Hmmm. That leaves four - no, five rings." He carefully considers the rings. Three have ornate designs etched into them, none of which appeal to him. The other two have small diamonds.
He looks at Mallory's earrings. They are small, and they sparkle.
Rob looks again at the two remaining rings. He reaches out, letting his hand linger near the more sparkly ring. Her eyes gleam. He picks it up. "This one."
She smiles then, brilliantly.
"So you...would like to have this ring?" Rob asks carefully.
"Mm-hmm," she nods, shyly. "It, um, fits."
"I see." He looks at the price tag - and suddenly feels very grateful that Mark Sloan had insisted on giving him money.
"Maybe - maybe we could put it on layaway?" Mallory quietly suggests. "I'm very good at stretching a Euro, and you're going to get a job -"
Rob holds up a hand. "It's taken care of."
"Um, I talked with Mark Sloan a couple of days ago. I told him about us," he confesses.
"You … you told him?"
"He promised he wouldn't say anything," Rob assures her. "I … told him you were the one, and he insisted on giving me money for a ring. And he gave me enough. It's sitting in my emergency account."
"Really?" Mallory looks delighted. "So … we could get the ring today?"
"We could." He looks at her. "But if we get the ring today, I'm going to ask the question today. You need to tell me if it's too soon."
She smiles quietly. "I think I'm ready now."
"Okay." They grin at each other.
Rob coughs. "Why don't you go wait outside? Have some coffee or something."
"Okay." She smiles shyly again and then leaves.
Mallory sees a small park across the street and walks over. She sits on a bench as snow falls gently around her. She tilts her head back and watches the snowflakes. They land on her face.
Rob's face appears above hers. She grins at him. He bends over her and presses his lips to hers. "I have something for you," he whispers.
"Do you now?" She smiles against his face and closes her eyes.
He runs a finger against her lips before speaking. "Mallory Helena Sun-Hi Hunt."
"Look at me, Mal."
She opens her eyes and looks at him. His blue eyes are warm and amused. "Hey, want to do something crazy this summer?"
He smiles. "Like - will you marry me?"
"Yes," she grins.
He takes her left hand and slides the ring onto her finger then kisses her hand. She smiles and grabs his face, pulling him into a kiss. The snow falls gently on them as they start to make out, stopping only when passers-by start to whistle.
"Now what?" Rob asks.
"We should probably call our parents," Mallory grins. "Now that we've sorted everything out."
"They might want to know we're engaged, yes," he agrees. "I think my father will be happy that I'm marrying a Hunt."
"And my dad will … hopefully accept that you didn't ask permission first," she laughs, standing up.
"Just don't start with the sex," he says, taking her hand.
"Why not? We did."
"What have I done?" Rob laughs, as Mallory grabs his hand and starts pulling him along.
"You have no idea of what you're in for," she promises him, with a grin.
Author's note - to be continued! If you haven't read my story "Americans in Paris" yet, you should, if you want to know how the parents react. :-)