Well, Hadley Hemingway, you helped me through another one with your kind words and encouragement. I thank you for every minute you've spared for me.
I can't let you go just yet though. It seems that writing this was the break I needed to spur me on to writing more chapters of something I was struggling with.
I take the note and search the restaurant, easily finding the Volturi table, twice the size of anyone else's. At one end, I see Aro, her father, my ex-boss. Gianna is slipping into her chair next to Mike Newton, smiling as if she didn't just leave her phone number for another man. With vengeance in my head, I storm over and put the note down in front of her.
"What does 'later' mean, Gianna? I assume this is your number you left on the bar."
She glances around the table nervously and then looks up at me. "Sorry, where did you get that, Izzy?"
I huff at her use of my nickname. "You know very well where I got it. I just watched you push it in front of my boyfriend."
"Gianna?" Mike waits for her answer. He looks pathetic, and I wonder what I ever saw in him. "Seriously?"
She rolls her eyes, rather than answering and tries to grab his hand as he yanks his away. I gloat, feeling like fist pumping in the middle of the restaurant, but I know I cannot stay in this room with them to see the New Year in.
"What's going on?" Masen is suddenly right next to me, rubbing my back.
Gianna brazenly looks him up and down, ignoring the man who's right next to her. Mike stands and puts his hand out to Masen, introducing himself to show some sort of puffed up dominance over Gianna.
As soon as Masen hears the name, he takes the offered hand and squeezes it until Mike's eyes bulge and he slumps down in his seat, slightly panicked. Masen bangs the bottle of wine down on the table, leans down and eyeballs him closely.
"You… I should belt you right now, but that would spoil the evening. Lucky for me, you chose the wrong girl, didn't you? Just don't come anywhere near Izzy tonight and we'll have a happy New Year."
The last three words he says quite loudly as he looks up and smiles at the others around the table, picking up the bottle, grabbing my hand and taking me back to Emmett and Rosalie.
"I don't want to stay here, Masen," I tell him before he asks me to sit down.
"Me, either," he says, sliding his arm around my waist. "What do you say we go somewhere and make our own fireworks?"
"Let's go home then. I want you to myself," I answer, playing with his collar.
"Perfect," he whispers with that killer smile and a gentle kiss.
Mom and Dad understand how I feel, and while they're not happy about us driving home tonight, we assure them we'll be careful. A cab takes us back and we're on the road again by eight, heading north out of the city.
Not long into the drive, I start to get teary. Masen wants to pull over, but I tell him these are good tears. It feels like I've released something tonight and I'm finally getting over what happened.
"I loved the look on his face, babe. He didn't know what I was going to do," Masen says through laughter.
"They deserve each other," I add, laughing and shaking my head.
We talk seriously during the two-hour drive home and I tell him how lost I felt when we were parted over Christmas, asking him to consider that we might see too much of each other. He nods and seems to understand without saying the words.
I tell him I'm going to look for a new job so we can start to make friends and socialize like a normal couple.
"Okay," he says quietly. I think he senses the difference in me already, that I'm serious about wanting to change.
Holy hell, when we get home, it's like we're sex-starved and the kissing is hotter than the heating and the fire.
I manage to break away to take the sweater from his bag and tell him I want us to wear our Christmas presents. Then I stand back and strip seductively, repeating the thing with my hair that he said he likes. He definitely likes it when I can't keep my hands off him under the cashmere and go down on him, watching him alternate between boring his eyes into mine and throwing his head back on the couch.
When I tell him we don't need to use condoms anymore, he warns me that he's going to make me scream and he ends up with a snowflake indentation in his chest from me pressed up against him while we fuck like animals. Neither of us seems to care about midnight passing. Our fireworks go on for much longer anyway.
We stay in bed most of New Year's Day, watching TV, cuddling and making love.
On our first day back at work, he's up early, monitoring what's happening in the office. When we leave together, it feels different. He's going to arrive at the same time as I am, and we're bringing our coffee with us.
"Morning, all!" he calls out as usual, and a few people look up, wondering why he's so early, and glancing at me.
Two days later, after watching Jess fall all over herself to get his attention, I tell her to back off, that's he's now with me. I'm sure I see people looking my way and, for a day or so, I'm back in that horror story of accusations again, needing him to reassure me at night.
By the end of the week, I'm over it again, lost in my work most of the day. Nothing has really changed because we don't flaunt our relationship in the office. We just go home to the same bed now.
I don't kid myself that it's going to be easy to find another job like this. We are not in Toronto or Fredericton for that matter and jobs for graphic designers don't come up that often around here.
The new fan-fiction story is going well, but I won't let Masen read anything until we're happy with it. I do give him a few other fics to read, however, and he tells me he loves that I read and write smut. He brings some of the role playing into the bedroom, even calling me Bella when he's feeling particularly dirty, and it's a rush, playing out some of my favorite scenes with a hot, eager guy. I seem to have hit the jackpot.
At the end of January, my family arrives for the weekend. Masen has worked hard to finish the downstairs bathroom before they get here and, as I watch him, a seed starts to grow for a new story about a builder, someone who works with his hands. I find I like watching him work physically and I imagine us role playing this blossoming fantasy.
Rosalie is proudly wearing a brand new engagement ring. She's still flying, but she's already had an interview for a job at the international airport at Fredericton, so it looks like they might settle down close to Mom and Dad. I'm so happy for them I could burst, especially when Masen magically produces French champagne for a toast. God, he's a doll.
The only thing Dad complains about over the weekend is having to leave his car out in the street. Apart from that, he bombards Masen with questions, exploring the house, genuinely interested in all the work he's undertaken.
On Valentine's Day, we have a romantic dinner at a restaurant and I give him the softest washed jeans to go with the sweater. Later that night, I model the lingerie he gave to me.
A week later, we have our first night out as a couple with people from work. Felix, the programmer Masen works with, has always kept to himself in the office, and no one but Masen knows him well, so I don't know what to expect, but the evening is hilarious. He has the driest sense of humor and his wife is just like him.
By the end of March, we're posting the new story and it's getting a lot of attention. When Masen sees my inbox, he begs me to let him read it but I ask him to wait until it's finished. While I don't think he has any secrets, I'm not sure how he'll react to what happens in the middle of the story.
Something strange starts to happen in the office. I'm not nearly as busy as I was. For a while I enjoy it, able to get time to write at work. We hit the complete button, relieved it's over, even though we had fun on this collaboration.
I send Masen the link to the story and watch his face as he finds out what I've actually written in the last few years. This is a very big step for me, and he knows how much I must trust him, letting him into my very private world of fantasy. It's a very good time for us… sexually.
At work, however, always critical of my own talent, I wonder if they are farming out work to another office and that they are going to let me go.
Masen tells me that I'm not the problem – sales are down. While Jane is very good with the existing clients, she doesn't have Tanya's knack for gaining new business and we hear a rumor that someone new has been employed.
Victoria is everything Tanya wasn't. She's openly critical and she will not abide the way we ask the clients to brief us. Jane and I are apprehensive about this, knowing how well Tanya's form works.
Yes, there are a lot of questions on the form, but asking up front about colors, mood, fonts, examples of things they love and those they hate, even asking them to choose from a selection of adjectives to describe how they want the ad to communicate, all makes my job easy. We have never had anyone say we got the idea wrong.
Victoria prefers to get her briefs verbally, thinking her "personal touch" is the thing that brings in business. That may be so, but follow up paperwork doesn't hurt when it comes down to trying to guess what they want it to look like. She refuses to let me contact the clients directly, even though it worked fine before, so now I'm forced to fly blind, trying to design based on what she thinks the client said when she last saw them.
If she uses the "KISS" word again I feel like I'm going to shove this mouse down her throat. She has no real understanding of what I do, how I can simplify from an initially complex direction, but that I can't make shit up. I can suggest alternatives by showing them templates I've already done, but only if I have an idea of what they want. This middle man crap is not going to work.
The "unnecessary" form used to ask what they had in their head, but now I've just received artwork returned with more changes than I've ever seen, with twenty-four hours to get it to press. I scan it and email it to Jane, begging her to help me. She gets up without waiting and heads into Victoria's office, closing the door and going over the form again.
I can see Victoria's mouth set in a skinny line. She's not going for it.
My phone buzzes with a text from Masen. "What's going on?"
"I've just spent two days on a magazine ad and Vic the Dick just handed it back to me with scribbles all over it."
"When is it due?"
"Tomorrow. I don't even know how to interpret these changes, so Jane is in there trying to get her to use our form."
"Let's see what happens."
Jane comes out and I see the deep sigh. She goes straight to her desk and emails me.
"Sorry, Iz. Can you just put something together from their changes?"
"I can, Jane, but how do I know if it's what they want? All I see is changes in Vic's writing. You know what that means."
Another text arrives from Masen. "Well?"
"Leave it to me."
I watch him stand, roll his sleeves down and check his shirt is tucked in to perfection. He locks his office and then casually walks up to Victoria's desk and sits down. She's all smiles for him, as she has been since the day she arrived.
A couple of minutes later, Jane and I get an email from Victoria saying she doesn't have time for the ad and that we need to get it sorted out ourselves. She and Masen leave the office together.
Jane comes up and asks, "What happened?"
"I don't care, Jane. Let's just make the call and get this done. If we lose the client, she'll blame me and she's a nasty bitch. She'll give me a written warning. I don't want that on my record. I'll stay here all night if I have to."
We park in Victoria's office and, about fifteen minutes later, we have a completed form and a much clearer idea of the client's preferences. I immediately get to work and don't surface until Masen kisses me on the neck, telling me he needs to start the backups.
"Give me ten minutes and it's all yours, you gorgeous man," I purr, pulling him down for a kiss with a whole lotta tongue.
"Hmm, what's all mine?" he asks mischievously, hanging over me and kissing my jaw.
"Anything you want, handsome."
He walks away and throws his keys in the air. I'm sure I hear him mutter something under his breath, but I have to get back to the job. I want to upload it and get out of here.
Once I'm done, I send the client an email with the link and join him. We go into the server room and I have to ask what went down.
"How did you accomplish this, anyway?"
As he methodically puts the tapes in the drives, he answers, "I just made her an offer I knew she wouldn't refuse."
"What was that?"
"She's made a few comments about the laptop she's using, saying it's slow and that she needs an Ipad."
"Is it slow?" I ask, pressing that green arrow that started our relationship.
"There's nothing wrong with it. She just wants to get a new toy she can show off. They wouldn't sign off on it, so I told her if she wants to test one for me, she can keep it, but I said she needed to come with me and choose the color. See, she's a tight ass. She doesn't even own her own laptop and she already put in a claim for an Internet connection at her apartment."
"Doesn't she live with…? No, forget I asked. I don't give a shit. Thank you so much for making this happen. I'm very grateful," I add, telling him with my eyes just how grateful I am.
By the time we get home, the client has already emailed me.
"Two words. They changed the juxtaposition of two words. That's it. I'm done!"
"Oh, baby, that's great!"
"I don't know what I'd do without you, Masen," I say sincerely, cupping his chin. "I cannot work with that woman."
Masen, Jane, and I have dinner with Tanya, hoping she can help, but she tells us honestly that she cannot interfere as the wife of the boss. She advises us to maneuver around Victoria, to play up to her vanity and convince her we think she is the best sales manager ever.
Eventually, we do make progress when Victoria realizes it is easier to work with us rather than against us. She does all the schmoozing and then hands it over to her "design team" as she now refers to us. Jane is great with the clients and gradually sales improve until I get busy again.
Then one day I see a job advertised and think my dream has come true. Up at Edmunston, nearly an hour away, they want someone with my skills to work from home, coming in a couple of days a week.
When I tell Masen about it, he says I should do what makes me happy but I can tell he is a little cold on the idea. I go ahead and have my first interview anyway, mainly out of curiosity. There are two designers in this franchise print shop company and I am like a permanent freelance. If I have to meet the client in person, they will cover my travelling expenses as long as I produce the work to the client's satisfaction on time.
When I show them my portfolio, they tell me they will call within forty-eight hours.
It's so different to my current job that I have to take a hard look at what I want. So bound up in the idea that Masen and I spend too much time together, I forgot to remember how much I enjoy our routine, how I know I can count on him for anything, and how he goes to bat for me without ever playing the girlfriend card. Having my IT guy looking out for me is important in my kind of work and, in this new position, I'll be on my own most of the time.
Sure, I can now be that partner who comes to the company social events, staying removed from office scandal, but really the staff here aren't so bad now they know that Masen and I are a solid couple who don't bring their personal life into the office.
Everyone is friendly these days, not whispering about me behind my back. I realize that maybe it was all in my head, when I arrived here with barriers in place, fucked up from a horrible experience. These aren't those people and Masen is nothing like Mike Newton.
Masen is a solid and caring man. Sure, he's kinky, oversexed, and unpredictable, but he never makes trouble and I feel very looked after.
They don't offer me the job and I stop looking.
Over the brief summer, we work together on weekends, planting and painting, finishing the house. Ogling his muscles twisting and contracting, mesmerized by the sheen of sweat on his skin, I flesh out the finer points of the male character in my new story.
We have a housewarming barbeque and a lot of people accept, keen to see where Masen Edwards and Izzy McCarty live. Yes, they are curious, but only because I'm so secretive. I am still working on it, and I think I'm getting much better.
November comes with its cold blanket of weather, reminding me of the time when I used to stay in the office with Masen because my heating didn't work.
This year, I am definitely not forgetting his birthday. I already have things lined up and I'm going to surprise the hell out of him. The third of December is a Wednesday so I've told him I'm inviting people for drinks and dinner on the previous Saturday night. I want him to know I've thought of him well in advance.
He thinks that means the couples we've been socializing with in the last six months. He doesn't realize it's everybody from work and both of our families who are arriving for a surprise family dinner on Friday night.
He's not going to know what hit him.
I've spared no expense for this one, ordering gourmet finger food to be delivered in. Since I've been rent-free for the last year, I have quite a bank account that I hope to share with him one day soon.
If he asked me tomorrow to marry him, I'd say yes in a heartbeat, but he won't because I still have to say the words I've never said to a man, those three little words that everyone banters around so easily. I feel them in every cell of my body but it's never been… necessary to say them when I show him in every other way.
By the second week of November, all plans are locked in and I ask everyone not to contact me unless it's absolutely necessary. Masen will know something is up if my phone stars ringing off the hook.
Because we're practical people, he knows what I'm buying him. We've already had the suit tailored and it will be ready next week. I tell him I'd love him to wear it on the night, already using the magic word in sentences, getting in practice.
Certain people have been allowed to ask him questions freely about Saturday night so I already feel like I've pulled this off.
And then I'm derailed.
We're leaving the office when I casually ask, "Can I take you to dinner next Friday, just the two of us?"
He gives me a blank look and answers, "How about on the actual birthday instead?"
Of course that makes sense, something I've overlooked, but I can't go back now. "Is Friday no good?"
"It's month end, babe. Gotta work back," he states with a shrug as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.
Of course he does. I'm so gutted, I want to swear and kick and scream for having omitted to recognize the date and its significance.
There is not a person on earth Masen would hand this job over to. He prides himself on making sure the reports are correct for the first of the month and he'll re-run the whole month end process if there are errors. He stayed until midnight one month.
I call his mother, Esme, in a frightful state, and confess what's happened. I've only met them on Skype and was hoping to impress them this weekend. That idea's gone now.
She's wonderfully calming, saying they don't care as long as they see their son, and she suggests bringing food to the office. She admits she'd like to see where he works.
It's not ideal but it's strangely reminiscent of last year, so I find I don't mind the changed plan. There's no other option, anyway.
On the Friday, I'm a bundle of nerves, cowering in my workstation in case one of them calls. The McCarty's are picking up my order of Chinese on the way while I race over to the hotel to pick up the Edwards family. Hopefully, we can all arrive back together around seven.
What a way for all of them to meet. At least they'll have something to talk about – me and my lack of attention to detail.
At the same time, I have three new ads to finalize and upload before I can leave tonight, so saying I'm feeling the pressure is an understatement.
At six, Masen comes out and tells me he really needs to start the backups. I'm flustered because I'm not quite finished and I ask for another fifteen minutes. In what seems like a blink, he's back, asking if I can save the job locally and upload from there when I'm done. It's 6:20 already.
"Oh, shit, of course. I'm sorry to hold you up."
"Babe?" he asks, looking at me strangely. "What's up, you can stay and finish. We've got hours."
"I need to go home and make sure the house is clean."
"Finish the job. The house… it's spotless already," he offers, looking concerned and not understanding.
"I'll come back, okay? I'll bring you some dinner," I say, shutting down.
He wraps his arms around me, his eyes suddenly blazing. "Maybe a little hanky-panky in the server room after dinner?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll be back."
He frowns, but lets me go. I tear down to the car, impatient and nervous, tapping the steering wheel as the boom gate rises. I'm only on the road for ten minutes when my phone beeps with a text from Mom.
"Where should we park? It's very cold."
I pull over and call her, telling her I'm running late and asking if they can come back in half an hour. She sighs but tells me it's no problem. Then I have to call Esme and ask for them to be waiting in the lobby. She must think I'm an idiot, but I hear nothing negative in her voice.
By the time I reach the hotel, my eyes are full of tears and I'm stressed. This is so not how I expected tonight to unfold. We were supposed to arrive together and find our families waiting at our table. Now we're going to be eating cold Chinese in the office if I can ever get us there.
Instead of hugs and long conversations about the surprise, I get a quick introduction to Alice and Jasper before rushing them into the car, cramming three in the back.
"Calm down. Everything's going to be fine," Esme says comfortingly. "We're still going to surprise him."
I breathe out a long breath before my phone beeps with another text. I check it, imagining my family freezing in their car somewhere, but it's from Masen.
"I feel like pizza tonight. Shall I order? What time?"
"Great." I hand the phone to Esme who laughs and shakes her head.
She taps my leg then types in, "No, I'll do it," showing me before hitting send and laughing to herself.
Another text arrives which she reads out. "Capriciosa and no garlic bread."
"What does this mean?" She draws the two tildes he's added with her finger in the air. He means waggling eyebrows, reminding me he hasn't forgotten about the hanky-panky. From the back, I hear Alice cough out a laugh.
I just shake my head as if I have no idea.
Mom, Dad, Emmett and Rosalie are already waiting and follow us in when I use my swipe card for the boom gate. It's 7:30 already. I hug my family quickly because it's really cold and I ask them all to be quiet as I use Masen's key in the front door.
We creep up the stairs and can't see him. Then I spot him through the glass bricks of the server room, moving around. We wait for him, all ready for the surprise.
He comes out and looks at us, blinking, not really registering what he's seeing. Then his face bursts with the biggest, most glorious smile. He glances at me and then hugs all his family, followed by mine, asking everyone to explain. I stand to the side and revel in what I'm seeing. I'm touched and excited and nervous all at the same time.
Walking over to me, he's smirking. "You did this?"
I nod shyly and then say, "I wanted to make up for last year. I love you, Masen."
From behind me, I hear Jasper laugh but Masen doesn't register it.
"I know, Iz. I love you too," he says, touching my cheek tenderly.
"I've never told you before."
"You're telling me now." He tips my chin up and kisses me sweetly.
"Microwave?" Mom asks, taking us out of our private moment. We congregate in the tiny staff kitchen, some of us standing, and start pulling out the containers of Chinese. Everyone is laughing, relating their version of today's debacle, and Masen never mentions the pizza.
When I finish mine, I disappear to finish the job and upload. It takes me less than ten minutes to complete. In my flurry of nerves, I wasn't concentrating on how little I had to fix. Now I finally feel like I can relax, I go and sit in Masen's lap. He's still eating with chopsticks, managing well with his arms around me.
The month end process finishes without a hitch and we go back to our place for coffee. Esme takes the family around the house, amazed at what Masen has achieved. Charlie tells Carlisle he's never seen a better job done by a non-tradesman and Carlisle describes what a wreck the house was before. I really had no idea.
Apparently, Carlisle thought it was an insurmountable task for his son to come up here and renovate it while he was working full-time. As he looks around with pride in his eyes and his arm around his son, he says he's glad he was wrong.
They all stay late and we're exhausted when we finally fall into bed, knowing we can sleep in tomorrow. Masen thanks me for a great surprise and I tell him I love him again. It feels like the most honest thing I've ever said.
He thanks me properly the next morning.
The family is back for lunch and the party guests start to arrive around five. By then, we have yummy hot finger food ready to serve. Masen is astounded by the number of people who come through the door and the house is soon full. I can't remember a single person who declined the invitation.
Masen doesn't wear his suit. Instead he chooses my favorite cashmere sweater and soft jeans, looking gorgeous and relaxed.
Someone remembers the foil Happy Birthday sign from the office which they stick up with a piece of paper underneath it that reads, "FOR WEDNESDAY." Masen thinks it's hilarious.
Even Tanya makes it with her growing belly, catching up with everyone and telling my mother what a great asset I am to the company. She also relates with a giggle how long Masen was smitten with me before I ever knew. I tell her I've fallen madly in love with him since then and she hugs me, saying she knew I would.
We have cake about 9:30 and we all sing Happy Birthday. Then they call for Masen to make a speech. He says he's never had such a good surprise, thanking everyone for attending and our families for making the effort to come up for the weekend. He looks at me and says he feels happy and settled, saying it's all my doing. I look at his mother who has tears in her eyes and my heart goes out to her, having her son so far away.
People start to leave soon after, including our parents who share Charlie's SUV for the ride back to the hotel. Our siblings have the option of staying with us tonight.
Masen and Jasper follow them out to say goodnight while I clean up the kitchen with Alice.
"He's so happy, Izzy," Alice says as she wipes down the bench. "That speech made me emotional."
"I love him, Alice."
"We know," she says putting her arm around me. "If you want to join our family one day, it's fine with us."
I lean my forehead on her head and start to get teary.
Suddenly the music is turned up and the birthday boy comes in, taking my hand and asking me to dance, right here in our kitchen.
"I'd love to," I answer, laughing as he gradually maneuvers us out into the living room where others are already dancing. He tilts me back, kissing me in front of everyone, and I see Jess sigh as she watches us. I don't have bad feelings about her anymore and I really don't blame her if she still fantasizes about him, as long as she keeps her hands off.
We end the evening drinking brandy around the fire, talking about Emmett and Rosalie's plans for their wedding in spring, and I think about how much I like Alice, imagining her being part of my family one day. Masen's mention of the word "settled" has resonated with me because that's exactly how I feel. My work colleagues have accepted me totally and my man? Well, he's everything I could want.
The folks are back on Sunday to help us eat leftovers and they bring gifts for Masen's birthday. Edward's family gives him a tiny hi-tech coffee machine. Mom and Dad give him a handmade pure wool cable sweater. Rosalie and Emmett have taken my suggestion, knowing I bought him the suit, and their gift is a gorgeous white dress shirt and tie that matches the color of his eyes.
We feel flat when we finally have to say goodbye. My family helps by taking Esme with them to the airport before driving home. Masen hugs everyone, quite emotional, and thanks them as they call the flight. Esme is fighting off tears, thanking him for bringing the house back to life and telling us she'll expect me in Toronto over Christmas.
When they leave, we stand there for a while, holding each other before we head out to the car.
The real birthday arrives and Masen and I turn up at the office together. When he says, "Morning, all," everyone turns around and wishes him a happy birthday. There's cake at 10:30 and we all stop for fifteen minutes, talking about the party on Saturday night and how we forgot him last year.
The day goes by like any other. My ads are accepted without changes and I have a good day, without Victoria giving me any grief. I feel secure enough to stand up to her now anyway.
Masen and I have a table booked for 6:30 so we're changed and ready as soon as he kicks off the backups. He's wearing the new suit and I'm loving the way he looks tonight. Before he starts the engine, he leans over and says, "Isabella McCarty, you know how much I love you?"
"I think so. I hope it's as much as I love you."
He blasts me with his killer smile and we take off.
Once we're seated at our table, Masen looks around the room and then places a small gift box in front of me.
"Isn't it your birthday?" I ask, frowning and thinking it's a thank you gift.
"This isn't about my birthday," he says with a smirk. "Open it."
I pull on the ribbon and open the box, finding a velvet jewelry case inside. As I look at it, my heart starts to race and my eyes meet his. He raises his eyebrows as if to encourage me and then looks around again nervously.
Lifting the lid, I gasp, looking at a diamond ring staring back at me.
"I've had this for a while, waiting for you to say the words out loud."
"You mean the 'I love you' words?" I ask, touching the ring, but not pulling it out because I'm so nervous.
"Yeah. Now I don't want to have to wait for you to say you'll marry me."
"I'll marry you," I answer, confidently, absolutely, positively.
"You will?" he asks, almost child-like, and gets up out of his chair, pulling me into his arms. Then he laughs and says, "Oh, I should put the ring on your finger."
I kiss him and agree, "You should."
He takes it out of the case and slides it on my finger. It fits perfectly and we both admire how it looks.
"I love it, almost as much as I love you, Masen Edwards."
Looking around again, he makes eye contact with a waiter and two glasses of champagne soon arrive. We're still standing when we toast to love and happiness. I sneak in another toast to his birthday.
"Izzy, you gave me the best birthday present ever."
On the way home in the car, we call our parents who are thrilled with the news, making it feel official.
Later that night, I take a few selfies of us in bed together with me holding up my ring. The one I choose to upload to the girls' thread is him kissing my cheek and me looking happier than I've ever been before.
I post it without any text and turn off my phone, knowing I've just blown them away.
A/N - I'm not saying this is the end, Missy, because this time last year I thought it was complete and then one more chapter turned into four. You just never know with this fic.
I do hope you enjoyed it. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.