“Please don’t be offended but I asked Mark for advice with regards to meeting your parents tonight.” Alex glanced over at Krystina, barely taking his eyes off the twisting mountain road. She leaned her head back and laughed.
“Why would I be offended?” Krystina asked. “Girls talk to each other about their boyfriends all the time. Why shouldn’t guys be able to talk about their girlfriends?” They were hugging the curves through the Kaaterskill Forest on their hour drive to visit her parents in Prattsville.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Alex said. “He encouraged me to define our relationship status prior to meeting your parents.”
“Would you like to take a selfie and post it on Instagram? or use it as a Facebook profile picture and change our status to ‘in a relationship’?” Krystina teased him. He tried to hide a smile as he forced his face to remain stoic. “I’m totally joking.”
“I am a city councilman, a business owner, and the advisor to the crown prince of a sovereign nation. I do not have social media platforms anymore.”
“Oh, come on, you had to have had some in college.” Krystina poked him in the side. “I want to see your old social media profiles from years ago.”
“I want to marry you.”
“What?” Her face calmed and all teasing disappeared. “You do?”
“Okay, um, I need to process this.” Krystina turned to face forward and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I mean, I’ve had a crush on you for a while. But you just met me, and we barely know each other, and, and… yes.”
“Yes, I’ll marry you,” Krystina said. Just like that. So matter of fact.
“No, I wasn’t asking you to marry me,” Alex said, panic crushing his chest. She’d misunderstood. She pursed her lips and turned the other way. Not the reaction he wanted. “I would never ask you to marry me without talking to your father first, and without a ring, and without some sort of grand gesture that could be video recorded so you could post it on your social media sites.” He wanted to reach for her hand but didn’t dare let go of the steering wheel while his Porsche was hugging curves that were inches away from guardrails protecting them from certain death in the ravine below.
“You would do all of that for me?” Now she really sounded like she was going to cry.
“Yeah, I would.” Alex loved her playful, youthful, goofy personality. He would want to do things the way she would want them done, but in the proper order.
“But you haven’t even told me you loved me yet.”
“That’s another reason why I don’t want to propose to your right now,” Alex said. “That’s a word I’ve never said to a woman before, not even my mother since she’s been dead longer than I can remember. I won’t take that lightly.”
“Really?” Krystina rested her hand over her heart and Alex was momentarily distracted by her tastefully cut blouse that showed just enough of her neckline to leave something to the imagination. He suddenly had a vivid imagination. He pulled himself back to the reasons why they couldn’t get engaged yet.
“We should also probably wait until this legal stuff resolves itself. What if I’m somehow charged with a crime? I could lose everything. I don’t want to bring you down with me.”
“Are you innocent?” She folded her arms across her chest.
“Then there’s no problem,” she said.
“What if I want a prenuptial agreement?” Alex asked.
“You’re a billionaire. I would expect nothing less. Your legal counsel would be doing you a disservice to not include a prenuptial agreement.”
“What if I don’t want to have kids?”
“Then we won’t have kids,” she said.
“What if we have to go live in Madain Saleh?”
“Then you’d better buy me a really colorful scarf to wrap around my head and neck so I can go out in the desert wind without getting a sunburn or sand in my hair.”
At that Alex leaned his head back and laughed heartily. Then he pulled his serious mask back in place. “What if I go to jail?”
“I’ll bring you cookies each week.”
Alex laughed again. “I love you, Krystina, you’re adorable.”
“What did you just say?” She turned to him with her eyes wide.
“What’d I say?” Alex’s smile fell when he realized the words that had slipped out of his mouth.
Alex slammed on the brakes and pulled his Porsche to the side of the mountain highway, hoping no cars came around the corner to hit them over the guardrail, but not really caring at that moment. He shoved the gear into park and engaged the parking brake.
“That is how it’s supposed to be done.” Alex turned to Krystina and took her hand in his.
“Huh?” Her eyes were wide, and her mouth gaped.
“That’s exactly why I’ve never told a woman I loved her,” Alex tried to explain. “Because the words should just flow naturally based on a relationship that’s strong enough to laugh together and cry together and face the good and bad times together.”
“And you think we’re ready for all that?” she whispered.
“I have no idea.” Alex shrugged. He reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. “All I know is that right here, right now, in this moment, I love you.”
“Oh, Alex, I swear I’m dreaming.”
“If you’re dreaming then I’m dreaming.” He raised his eyebrows and shook his head gently.
“This is a really great dream,” she said, her shoulders softening.
“You know what would make this an even better dream?” Alex asked, his voice lowering.
“If you let me kiss you,” he whispered.
“I can do that.” Krystina leaned forward and laced her hands into his hair, crushing her lips to his. He moaned and pulled her closer, as close as they could get with a steering column in the way, and the gear shift in between them, and very uncomfortable bucket seats.
The way his body and heart were reacting to his admission of love and her acceptance of his suggestion they get married and their passionate kiss, it was a good thing they were incredibly uncomfortable or he might have been tempted to take things further than a kiss. Instead, he pulled away and gazed into her eyes with a soft smile.
“Would it be okay for me to go meet your father now?” Alex whispered.
“You can meet my mother too, if you want,” she teased.
“I want,” Alex said with a soft laugh, then leaned closer to her ear. “I want all of you.”
“Well then you’d better take me home to meet my parents, Alex Stephenson.”
Alex disengaged the parking brake, pushed his foot onto the clutch, and slid the shaft into first gear, pulling back onto the mountain road with a renewed excitement for their future.