A/N - Here it is, the last chapter, it's a long one. Thanks so much for all the reviews, they make my day! Hope you enjoy!
Oliver stood in the study, waiting for Grace, fingering the box in his jacket pocket. He had checked over the things that Drake had sent up for him. The champagne was chilled in a bucket on the table, two crystal glasses sitting next to it. There was a single red rose in a small vase in front of the bucket. Oliver touched the box in his pocket again, the solidness of it a reassurance to him. Now all he needed was Grace.
He hoped she wasn't too angry with him. He knew he had been acting distant all day and that Grace had noticed. He was afraid he had hurt her, unintentionally of course, but he'd hurt her all the same. The thought of that cut him deeply, he never wanted to hurt her ever again. She'd suffered enough pain because of him, both physical and emotional, and Oliver vowed to make it up to her.
But still, he had wanted things settled between the two of them before he made any formal announcement. Oliver was well aware of the backlash that would occur when people found out, not so much on his own staff, but amongst society at large. He wanted to give them the least amount of gossip to chew on as possible. Grace didn't deserve to have to deal with whispering behind her back, simply because she was his secretary. Because she was so much more, she was everything. He wanted to spend his life with her, proving to her just how special she was.
Hearing footsteps in the hall, Oliver smiled. He turned at the knock on the door, but before he could say anything, Grace opened the door and strode into the room. The look on her face was not what he had expected. She looked upset, yet determined, all at the same time. His brow furrowed, as she stopped a few feet from him, arms crossed, eyes flashing.
"Grace?" Oliver took a hesitant stepped forward, reaching out a hand to her. "Is something wrong?" Grace stared at his hand for a moment, but did not reach for him, then laughed, but it was too high-pitched, too shaky, too not Grace. Yes, something was definitely wrong.
"So it's Grace again, is it?" she asked, not bothering to mask the anger in her voice. "Is that how it's to be then? Miss Farrell where anyone might hear, but Grace when we're alone?" Oliver's jaw dropped, and he simply stared at her, unable to speak, unable to move. Grace's jaw clenched, her nostrils flaring.
"I won't do that Oliver, I won't. I won't have you act one way towards me when we're around other people, then expect me to fall in your arms when we're not," Grace fumed. Oliver tried to close his mouth, tried to come up with something to say, but his brain seemed to have shut down. He realized what a mistake he had made today, that he should have explained sooner, should have made her understand what he was doing. He had been in such a hurry to do things right, to make things special, that he had ended up turning the whole thing into a complete mess. Grace seemed to misunderstand his silence, anger giving way to hurt on her face.
"I can't believe that you would treat me as some..some..tart, that you can have your way with and then brush aside when it suits you," she said quietly, one tear escaping from her eye and making it's way down her cheek. She looked up at Oliver, her eyes brimming with tears and the sight of her anguish finally broke him out of his stupor.
"Grace, please," he said, reaching for her once again. But she crossed her arms more tightly in front of her, turning away from him, shoulders shaking as she cried.
"Grace," he said again, wanting to go to her, gather her into his arms, but afraid of what she might do if he did. She didn't turn, just shook her head and his heart broke, cursing himself for his foolishness. Would it have hurt if he had squeezed her hand beneath the table when he joined her on the terrace? Would a smile or a look between them have gone amiss? What had he been thinking, approaching this as some business deal between them? He loved this woman, wanted her with him for always, and he had been treating her as just another employee.
Oliver went to her then, placing a hand on her shoulder, turning her to him, taking her into his arms. She allowed him to wrap his arms around her, although she didn't sink against him as she normally did and didn't return his embrace. He pulled back from her, laying a hand on her cheek. Grace pulled away from him, ever so slightly, and he sighed resignedly, taking her elbow instead and steering her toward the sofa.
Grace let Oliver lead her to the sofa, wondering how she had gone from being so angry, to a crying mess in such a short amount of time. She had been determined to get the truth from him, but the more she thought about it, the more hurt she became. He didn't seem to have any ready answers for her, which just confirmed her suspicions that he had changed his mind in his intentions toward her. Misery rolled over her at the thought.
"Please, sit," Oliver said. Grace sat down, leaning back into the corner, as far away from Oliver as she could get. She still wouldn't look at him, choosing instead to study her hands which were clasped in her lap.
"Grace, I'm sorry," Oliver began. "I didn't mean," at this he broke off, as if unsure of how to continue. Grace glanced at him from under her lashes, then looked down once more. She waited, but he didn't continue, just shifted on the sofa, nervously, Grace assumed. She shook her head, not knowing what to say, but knowing she couldn't, wouldn't continue like this.
"Oliver," Grace began, then paused, taking in a deep breath. "I can't do this, Oliver. I can't only be with you when it's convenient, stealing moments here and there."
"Grace," Oliver said, but Grace interrupted.
"If you're worried about what people will say, because I'm your secretary, I don't care about that," Grace continued, still looking down at her lap.
"Grace," Oliver tried to interject again.
"No, Oliver, please. I love you, but if you don't," she continued.
"Grace!" Oliver said, rather forcefully. Grace startled, finally looking up at him, but he was no longer sitting next to her. He was on one knee before her, and then he reached up and took her hand.
"What, what are you doing on the floor?" Grace asked, looking mystified.
"Grace, please, just let me say something," Oliver asked, giving her a smile.
"All right," she agreed, nodding.
"I'm sorry Grace," Oliver said again. "If I had known how my actions toward you today would have come across, I would have handled things completely differently. I never meant to hurt you." Grace, misunderstanding what Oliver was trying to say, pulled her hand from his, looking away. Her lip began to quiver and new tears leaked from her eyes.
Oliver sighed and scrubbed a hand across his face, things were not going as he had planned. Somehow Grace had gotten it into her head that he only wanted her as an occasional dalliance. He wasn't sure where this had come from, surely after everything they had shared last night, he being a bit standoffish in front of the staff couldn't have made her doubt him so completely? But somehow it had. And Oliver wasn't helping the situation, trying to explain things to her and doing a horrible job of it. He decided it was time to put his plan aside and just tell her how he felt.
Oliver sat back on the sofa and moved as close to Grace as he dared. He reached out and cupped her chin in his hand, turning her head to look at him. She met his eyes for only a few seconds, then looked down again.
"Grace, look at me please," Oliver said. She shook her head.
"Please," Oliver pleaded. Grace looked up, her eyes bright with unshed tears, others making their way down her cheeks. Oliver wiped her tears away with a thumb, cupping her face in his hand. She stared at him, allowing the contact, but the tears didn't slow. He leaned forward and kissed her tear tracks gently, placing a hand on either side of her face. He stared deep into her eyes, then softly kissed her lips. She shuddered, closing her eyes, as he kissed her again. This time, she pulled back, looking at him for a few minutes before she spoke.
"Oliver, I can't, I," she began, but Oliver interrupted before she could continue.
"Shh," he said, placing a finger against her lips. "Just listen, please." She nodded and he took her hands in his.
"I love you Grace. Everything I said to you last night and this morning, it was all true. I love you with my whole heart, my entire being. I don't want to steal time when it's convenient and hide you away the rest of the time. This isn't some dalliance, for a minute or an hour or a day. I want you by my side when I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night and all the time in between, for the rest of my days. I want to spend my life showing you what a beautiful, intelligent, special woman you are. I want to watch our children grow and spoil our grandchildren rotten with you. I love you Grace." As he finished, Oliver reached into his pocket and pulled out a box, then dropped back to one knee on the floor before her. He opened the box, inside was nestled the largest and most beautiful diamond ring Grace had ever seen.
"Marry me, Grace," Oliver said, looking up at her. Grace gasped, a look of shock on her face. Oliver almost chuckled at her expression, clearly this was not what she had been expecting at all.
"Oliver, what?" Grace whispered, looking at him, searching his face. "I, but, you," she stammered. Oliver knelt, waiting patiently for her to process what had just happened. She finally seemed to gather herself, shaking her head as if to clear it.
"Oliver, are you sure?" she asked, quietly.
"I've never been more sure of anything," Oliver responded, smiling widely at her. Grace took a deep breath, looking from the ring to Oliver and back again. Oliver held his breath, waiting. Then slowly, a smile began to form at the corners of her mouth, until she was grinning as widely as he was.
"Then, yes," she said and Oliver slid the ring onto her finger. He stood and pulled her to her feet, then picked her up and swung her around, laughing heartily. He set her back on her feet and kissed her until they both needed to come up for air. Grace lay her head and hand against his chest and he swayed gently from side to side, as she looked at the ring. She looked up at him and kissed him again, slowly and sweetly. As they pulled apart once more, Grace noticed the champagne and the glasses on the table. Her brow furrowed and then her eyes widened as realization overtook her.
"Oliver, did you have this planned all along?" she asked. Oliver followed her line of sight and saw what she was looking at.
"Well, yes," he admitted.
"Oh, Oliver, I'm sorry," she exclaimed, tears leaking from her eyes again.
"Grace? What's all this now? I thought you were happy," Oliver asked, concerned.
"Yes, of course I am, it's just, I came in here ranting like a crazy person and you had this whole proposal planned and I ruined it with all my insecurities," she reddened and put her hands to her face. Oliver gathered her back into his arms, stroking her hair and kissing her temple. He pulled her hands gently away from her face and tilted her chin up.
"You are not a crazy person and you did not ruin anything," he insisted. "It's I who should be apologizing to you."
"Whatever for?" she asked, puzzled.
"For acting the way I did today. I was simply trying to be discrete because of the staff, but I took it too far. I made you think I didn't want you and there is no excuse for that," he finished, looking ashamed of himself.
"Oliver," Grace said, putting a hand to his cheek. "It wasn't your fault. I should have had more faith in you."
"Why? Because I've given you so many reasons to trust my feelings for you up to now?" he said, derisively. She chuckled.
"All right, so I suppose we both share a bit of the blame," Grace said, smiling at him, then giving him a quick kiss.
"Yes, I suppose we do," Oliver agreed. "But that doesn't matter now, because I've got everything I want right here." He pulled her closer to him, kissing her ardently. Grace sighed, then shivered, running her hands up his chest and twining them around his neck. One hand on her neck, his other snaked around her waist to the small of her back, pulling her as close to him as he could, as he began to place soft kisses down the side of her neck. After a few minutes, Grace pulled back and Oliver looked up, startled.
"What is it?" he asked, his voice husky.
"I was just thinking that we have a houseful of children, six of whom have never slept here before," she looked at him pointedly. "Remember Annie's first night?" Oliver contemplated that for a moment, then went back to his ministrations on her neck.
"Annie was alone," he said in between kisses. "The girls have each other. Besides, I asked Punjab and Mrs. Greer to look in on them. They'll be fine." He had made his way to Grace's collarbone now, kissing it gently before moving back to her mouth. Grace had sighed softly as Oliver had continued his trail down her neck, and now was trying to regain her senses enough to remember why they should stop. Oh, yes, the children, that was it.
"Oliver," she said, against his lips.
"Hm," he responded, not stopping kissing her.
"Oliver, we have to stop," she insisted, pulling away from him, even as he tried to pull her closer. "Oliver." He groaned, resting his forehead against hers.
"Remind me again why I agreed to have a houseful of children here this weekend?" he asked, feigning annoyance. Grace laughed, swatting his chest playfully. He smiled and kissed her forehead, then took her hand.
"Come, my dear, let's not let this champagne go to waste," Oliver said, leading her back to the sofa. Grace sat, while Oliver poured two glasses of champagne, then handed her a glass as he sat beside her.
"To the most beautiful woman in the world," he said, raising his glass. "Who has made me the luckiest man in the world." Grace smiled shyly, then clinked her glass to his and took a sip. He smiled at her, then leaned forward and kissed her gently. She kicked off her shoes and scooted closer to him, drawing her legs up under her. He wrapped an arm around her as she leaned into his chest. They sat that way for a very long time, sipping their champagne, Oliver idly running a hand through Grace's hair, Grace studying her ring and thinking. Suddenly she popped up, looking at Oliver, shock on her face.
"Annie knows, doesn't she?" she asked, the pieces of the puzzle finally sliding into place. "The way she kept looking at me all day and when she whispered in your ear on the terrace? She's known all day!" Oliver chuckled, unable to help himself.
"Yes, I discussed it with her this morning," he replied. "She was very excited when I told her I wanted you to be her mother." His eyes twinkled as Grace's mouth dropped open. Her mother, Annie's mother. Grace hadn't really thought about it, not concretely at least. She already felt like Annie's mother, after all. But now she would be, really and truly would be, and the thought of that brought on a new round of tears, happy ones, but tears all the same. Oliver seemed to understand and reached for his handkerchief, then remembered he had given it to Molly earlier and hadn't replaced it. No matter, he simply pulled Grace closer to him and let her cry into his jacket, kissing her temple and tightening his arm around her.
"I'm sorry, Oliver," Grace said a few minutes later, sitting up and wiping away a stray tear with the back of her hand.
"There's no need to apologize," Oliver insisted, taking her hand and kissing it, then shrugging out of his jacket and laying across the back of the nearby chair. "I felt much the same way when I thought about it." She smiled at him tenderly, then laughed as she realized the enormity of the secret.
"I still can't believe she was able to keep it from me," Grace exclaimed.
"She had a very difficult time of it, she confessed to me at bedtime," Oliver admitted, chuckling himself. "I suppose we'll have one very excited little girl, come morning."
"Our little girl," Grace breathed, a dreamy look in her eyes. "I like the sound of that very much."
"As do I my dear, as do I," Oliver agreed, snuggling her close to him once again. They sat in silence once again, Grace tracing small circles on his chest, deep in thought.
"Oliver," she began, biting her lip, not wanting to taint the joyfulness of the evening, but she had to know. "What are you planning on telling everyone?" Oliver pulled back from her a bit, so he could see her face. He saw the uncertainty there, something he had vowed he would never cause to be on her face again, not regarding his feelings about her. He sat up, taking her hands in his, looking into her eyes.
"I plan on telling everyone that I am the luckiest man in the world because you have agreed to become my wife. And that I love you more than anything in this world," Oliver said. He gripped Grace's hands tighter. "I don't ever want you to doubt my love for you again, Grace. Ever." The look on his face was so fiercely determined, that Grace gasped, then grabbed him by the front of his shirt, pulling him to her and kissing him as soundly as he had her this morning on the balcony. When they broke apart, Grace looked shocked at her boldness. Oliver just chuckled, running a finger down her cheek, then pulled her close to him again, as they resumed their earlier position on the couch.
"So, have you thought about when you might want to have the wedding?" Oliver asked.
"Tomorrow," Grace answered immediately and Oliver laughed loudly.
"I don't think we could pull that off, even with all of my resources," Oliver replied, smiling mischievously at her. "Although I do echo the sentiment."
"Well, as soon as possible then," Grace said, smiling back at him. "I don't need a big extravagant affair, Oliver. I just need you and Annie and the staff of course. We should have it here, in the gardens. Annie could be the flower girl, oh she'll be adorable!" Grace exclaimed, her eyes sparkling. Oliver smiled in delight, he loved seeing her so excited.
"All right, how about in a week then?" Oliver suggested.
"Perfect," Grace agreed. She sighed contentedly, laying her head back on Oliver's shoulder, snuggling up to him once more. Oliver kissed her forehead and smiled himself, content for the first time in a very long time.
Oliver awoke an hour later, momentarily disoriented. Then he felt the warm weight of Grace against his chest, her breathing deep and even, and he realized they had fallen asleep on the sofa in his study. He glanced down at his sleeping bride, his bride, how he loved thinking that, and smiled. Then he contemplated the situation and what he should do. Propriety dictated he wake Grace and escort her to her room, but he'd had quite enough of propriety to last him for a very long time. Oliver toed off his shoes and shifted, careful not to wake Grace. He scooted down the sofa until he was lying on his back, Grace on her side next to him. He smoothed her hair away from her face and placed a gentle kiss atop her head. Grace shifted slightly, tightening her arm around his waist, burrowing deeper into his chest and sighed, a smile ghosting over her lips in her sleep. Oliver smiled himself, taking a deep breath and relaxing back into the couch, and fell back asleep.
Grace awoke some hours later, experiencing the same disorientation, until she felt Oliver's arm, heavy and warm around her. She smiled and yawned, propping her chin on his chest to watch him while he slept. He snored softly, she could feel his chest rising and falling beneath her chin, as she reached out a hand and brushed his cheek. He stirred a bit, but did not waken, and she was content to watch him for a few minutes more. Then the clock in the corner slowly began to chime and as Grace listened, she realized it was already 8:00 in the morning. She jumped up, gasping. The girls would be up soon, if they weren't already, and all of the staff already was. Grace's sudden movement startled Oliver, who snapped awake, sitting up quickly.
"What is it?" he asked, concerned. "What's wrong?" He searched Grace's face, registering her shocked expression, then glanced at the clock in the corner and seeing the time, swore under his breath. He never slept this late. Oliver had fully intended to wake early, letting both of them get back to their rooms in plenty of time to wash and dress before anyone else was up.
"Grace, I'm sorry, I should have woken you last night, but you looked so peaceful, and," Grace stopped him with a finger to his lips.
"I don't regret this Oliver, not for a second, so just stop right now," she insisted. "I'm just trying to decide what the best excuse is for me being here all night. Someone's bound to see me leaving. There will be talk." She looked at him, searching his face for any embarrassment or regret, but there was none.
"Let them talk then," Oliver said, vehemently. "We've nothing to be ashamed of Grace. I told you I didn't want to hide you away and I meant it." He kissed her then, as if to solidify his point. As he pulled away, he realized he wasn't being entirely fair. He didn't care what anyone said about him, but he did have Grace's feelings to consider. He didn't want her to be the topic of idle gossip.
"I'm sorry, I should have asked how you felt about it," he said, looking at her apologetically.
"I told you, I don't regret it Oliver and I meant that," Grace responded, caressing his cheek. "I don't care what anyone says either. I love you." With that, she returned his kiss. "But, we should probably get up and get changed, the girls will be looking for us soon," Grace reminded him.
"Yes, of course," Oliver agreed, standing and pulling her up from the sofa. They both slipped into their shoes, and he gave her one last kiss, then led her to the door. Opening it, they came face to face with Punjab, whose hand was raised in the air, poised to knock. True to form, Punjab's face gave away nothing, he simply nodded to the two of them.
"Sahib, young mistress and her friends have awakened. She is asking for you and Miss Farrell," Punjab reported.
"Thank you Punjab, please tell Annie we will be there shortly." Punjab nodded, then turned and walked back toward the girls' rooms. Oliver looked at Grace, who bit her lip, unsure of what to do.
"You go to your rooms and change," Oliver said "I'll get my jacket and go to Annie's room. My suits all look the same anyway," he chuckled. "You can meet us there when you're ready and we'll give her the news together." Grace smiled, kissed him quickly and hurried down the hall to her room. Oliver went back into his study and pulled his on his jacket, smoothing his shirt and trousers as he did so. He took a deep breath and walked down the hall to Annie's room, bracing himself for the onslaught of questions he knew she would ask the moment he crossed the threshold.
Grace all but ran to her room, intent on nothing but dressing as quickly as possible so she could see Annie's face as she heard the news. Grace, smiling as she entered her room, came face to face with Annette, who had come in to bring fresh towels and linens. Grace glanced from Annette, to her bed which had obviously not been slept in, and back again. Annette's mouth formed a small "o", as she took in Grace's disheveled appearance and the fact that Grace was still in the same clothes as yesterday. Grace's mind emptied for a long moment, no words forthcoming, and then she took the towels from Annette, smiling and thanking her.
"I'll just take care of these myself," Grace insisted. "I'm sure you've plenty of work to do today."
"Thank you Miss Farrell," Annette replied, smiling. Grace could tell she was full of questions, but Oliver's staff were far too well-trained to ask any of them. Grace returned the smile, then watched Annette leave the room, closing the door behind her. Grace let out a loud breath, setting the linens down on the bed and hurrying to her closet for a change of clothes.
Ten minutes later, clothes changed, hair brushed and face washed, Grace walked quickly to Annie's room, the noise reaching her before she got to the door. The girls were shrieking and laughing and as Grace opened the door she immediately saw why. Oliver was lying on Annie's bed, being pummeled with pillows, wielded by all seven girls. Grace laughed, leaning against the door frame, enjoying the sight. She never would have thought, a mere two weeks ago, that she would ever see her serious, no-nonsense boss having a pillow fight. Of course, she never expected to be wearing his ring either, just proving how much Annie had changed them all.
After a few minutes, Annie finally caught sight of her and ran across the room, jumping into her arms.
"Good morning my dear," Grace said, kissing Annie's forehead. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, I did," Annie replied. "Did you?" Grace looked at Oliver, who was smiling at her from the bed.
"Yes, I slept very well, Annie," Grace said. "Very well indeed." Oliver gave her a wink and Grace chuckled quietly, setting Annie down on her feet. Annie looked at her curiously.
"What's funny?" she asked, but Grace merely shook her head.
"Nothing, my dear. Come over here and sit on the bed, your father and I have something to tell you." Grace led Annie to the foot of the bed and sat down beside her, Oliver sitting up, putting a hand on Grace's shoulder. Annie was looking from one to the other, suspiciously, then she smiled widely.
"You said yes, right?" Annie exclaimed. "Daddy Warbucks asked you to marry him and you said yes?" Grace laughed, tweaking the little girl's cheek.
"Yes, you little scamp, I said yes," she replied. "I hear you kept a very big secret yesterday." Annie smiled proudly and nodded her head.
"So, this means you're my mom right?" Annie asked. "My mother, really and truly?" Grace hugged Annie tightly to her.
"Yes, sweetheart, really and truly. Forever and always," Grace kissed the little girl's hair, a tear sliding slowly down Grace's cheek. She looked over at Oliver, who rubbed a gentle hand down her back, smiling at her all the while. Annie pulled away a minute later, smiling at both her parents, who were staring at each other. Grace became aware that there were many sets of eyes on them, having almost forgotten that Annie's friends were also in the room. She squeezed Oliver's hand, then turned back to her daughter, a smile on her face.
"Can I see the ring, Mom?" Annie asked. Grace startled for a moment at the name, then smiled at Annie, kissing her atop the head.
"Of course, dear," Grace answered, holding out her hand. Annie took it, then looked at the ring and back up at Grace.
"Leapin' lizards," she breathed and Oliver laughed loudly. Then Grace was suddenly surrounded by six other little bodies, all clamoring for a look. She showed all of them, smiled at the awe on their faces, then turned back to Annie.
"We're getting married next week, we want you to be the flower girl. If you'd like, to that is," Grace added.
"Would I!" Annie exclaimed, bouncing up and down on the bed. Grace and Oliver both laughed.
"Well, first, I believe we have a party today," Grace said, looking at all the girls. "So, I think you'd better all get dressed so we can go down and get some breakfast." The girls all scurried to Annie's closet to pick out their clothes, then headed to bedrooms and bathroom to change. Oliver and Grace were left alone in Annie's bedroom and he leaned over and kissed her softly.
"Well, she took that rather well," Oliver smirked and Grace laughed.
"Yes, I suppose she did," Grace agreed. "We may have a slight problem, however." Oliver's brow furrowed as Grace relayed what had happened when she had gotten back to her room that morning.
"Don't worry my dear, you just get the girls ready for breakfast and I'll take care of it." He kissed her quickly, then got up and left the room. Grace watched him go, confused, but did as he asked.
Fifteen minutes later, Grace and the girls approached the staircase and Grace was surprised to see the entire staff assembled at the foot, Oliver standing a few steps up from the bottom. He turned at their approach and smiled at her, gesturing with his hand for her to join him. Grace let go of Molly's hand and descended the steps to Oliver's side. He took her hand in his, then turned to the staff.
"I wanted to inform all of you that last night, I asked Miss Farrell, that is, Grace," he paused, smiling at her, "to be my wife." There were a few gasps from the staff, as Oliver continued. "And she said yes," he finished, eyes shining. It was silent for a moment, then the staff erupted into applause and cheers. Grace looked out on them all, Mrs. Pugh cheering and clapping loudest of all, of course, but even the normally stoic Drake was grinning and clapping along with the rest. Grace blushed and was then gathered into Oliver's arms, a swift kiss placed on her lips. She smiled up at him, then looked out at the staff again, grin still on her face. She had thought the staff would accept their relationship, but she never expected this type of response.
"Thank you everyone," she said. "The wedding is next week and you're all invited, of course." More cheers and applause rang out at this news and then Oliver and Grace were surrounded by their staff, offering congratulations, women oohing and aahing over the ring and hugs all around. Finally everyone drifted off to work, there was a party to prepare for after all. Grace and Oliver led Annie and her friends to the dining room for breakfast, smiles on their faces and in their hearts.
Hours later, Oliver stood at the bottom of the steps, waiting for his fiancée. Annie was being readied by Cecile, so Grace could greet guests with Oliver. Annie and Oliver had something special planned for the party, even Grace didn't know exactly what they were doing. Oliver looked at his watch again, wondering just exactly how long it took one woman to get ready, when he heard the tell-tale sound of her heels clicking on the floor above him. Oliver turned and drew in a breath at the sight of Grace at the top of the stairs.
She wore a slim-fitting dress, which sat slightly off her shoulders. Her hair was pinned up in a fancy twist, flowers twined within it, strands of pearls at her neck. She walked slowly down the stairs, smiling at Oliver as she approached. He took her hand and kissed it as she reached him, then looked her slowly up and down.
"I'm not sure if I should let you out of my sight tonight, looking like that," he said.
"Why, is something wrong?" Grace immediately began to inspect herself. She gasped as Oliver put an arm round her waist and pulled her to him.
"No, you just look entirely too stunning for anyone else's eyes but mine," he murmured, kissing her softly and Grace blushed. At that moment, they heard chattering behind them on the stairs and looked up to see Annie's friends being shepherded down by Mrs. Greer and Mrs. Pugh. They stopped at the bottom smiling widely at Oliver and Grace.
"Don't you ladies look lovely," Oliver said, smiling. The girls giggled.
"Yes, they most certainly do," Grace agreed, beaming at them. "Why don't you all go outside and see the circus." The girls' eyes widened.
"There's a circus," Molly asked in awe. "In your backyard?" Grace laughed, patted the girl on the head.
"Yes, there is my dear, complete with all kinds of treats," Grace whispered conspiratorially. The girls all began talking at once, turning to hurry out the door to the terrace, laughing and giggling as they saw the sights before them. Oliver and Grace watched them go, smiling in amusement.
"Is there anything sweeter than the laughter of children?" Grace asked, leaning back against Oliver, as he wound his arms round her waist.
"Hm, I can think of one thing," Oliver whispered, kissing her behind the ear. Grace drew in a shaky breath.
"Oh and what's that?" she asked, breathlessly.
"The word, yes," he said, fingering the ring on her hand, as she smiled. "But the other is a close second, I must admit. Perhaps we should get to work on that soon," he whispered. Grace gasped, turning to look at him, instantly reddening. He wore a smirk on his face, not abashed at all.
"Oliver!" Grace exclaimed, still blushing. He simply shrugged, smirk still adorning his face and Grace couldn't help but laugh. "You're impossible."
"I do try, my dear, I do try," he murmured, as he kissed her. They were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Drake opened the front door and the President and Mrs. Roosevelt came through.
"Oliver," President Roosevelt exclaimed, "how wonderful to see you twice in as many weeks."
"Franklin," Oliver nodded, shaking his hand. "Let me introduce you to the future Mrs. Warbucks, my fiancée, Grace Farrell."
"Fiancée? Oliver, that's marvelous!" the President exclaimed. "Congratulations, my dear," he continued, shaking Grace's hand.
"Thank you sir, it's an honor to meet you," Grace replied. "Welcome to our home." Mrs. Roosevelt took her hand as well.
"Congratulations, Miss Farrell," she said, smiling.
"Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt, but please, call me Grace," Grace insisted.
"Only if you agree to call me Eleanor," Mrs. Roosevelt returned and Grace nodded, smiling. The four chatted amicably for a few minutes before the President and Mrs. Roosevelt moved on to the back terrace and the party.
Oliver and Grace continued to greet guests, Oliver introducing Grace as his future bride each time. There were a few raised eyebrows amongst the society women and some of Oliver's business associates, who knew that Grace was Oliver's secretary, but Grace took it all in stride, smiling politely and welcoming everyone, while ignoring the looks. Eventually, all the guests had arrived and Oliver escorted Grace outside to join the party. They mingled with the guests, Grace playing the perfect hostess. Oliver smiled as she worked her way around the terrace and the lawn, chatting with guests, making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink and attending to the children when needed. She truly was amazing and he wished once again that it hadn't taken him such a long time to realize it.
Finally, it was time for Oliver to meet Annie. He collected her from inside the house, then they began their song and dance number as they entered the terrace. Everyone seemed thrilled with the performance and Oliver caught the delight on Grace's face as she watched. As the two the them neared her, Oliver couldn't resist and paused in his singing long enough to place a gentle kiss Grace's lips, then went back to Annie and finished the song. After giving Annie her new locket, Oliver gathered his daughter and future wife to him, kissing Grace softly as he put his arms around them both, and they watched the fireworks explode in the sky over the mansion. As Grace leaned a head on his shoulder, Oliver sighed contentedly, leaning his head down against hers. Grace looked up at him, and he at her, the look they gave each other needing no words. Oliver pulled Grace tighter to his side and smiled to himself. He truly was the luckiest man in the world.