“If you don’t mind, I’d like our first destination to be my home in Omaha.” Ethan glanced to the side, keeping his eyes mostly on the highway. “I know I just left there this morning, but in a few days you will officially be my power of attorney, and if I never come back here, ya know, for whatever reason, you need to know where everything is.”
“Do you really think it could happen that soon?”
“I have no idea, Natalie. You saw me the other night. I went from happily eating pizza with your family to passed out for fourteen hours.” He used his turn signal to merge to the other lane. “One of these days you may find me back there not breathing. How frightened are you about that? Guess we probably should have discussed this before we left. Sorry.”
“I’m not,” she said. “Sorry, or worried, or frightened, or anything.”
“Really?” He found her confidence strangely comforting.
“You’ve been upfront about your condition. We’re not sticking our heads in the sand, pretending you’re not going to die. We’re not tip-toeing around the subject. We’re confronting this head-on, talking about this like we’re planning your estate. Which we are.”
“So, show me everything at your house, give me a key, tell me what real estate agent you want me to list with—I’m sure you’ve chosen one already. You’ve chosen everything else—and then we’ll get back on the road and head east.”
Ethan chuckled. “You know me too well already, my dear.”
“My dear?” Natalie laughed. “Did you really just call me that?”
“Did I?” Ethan gasped and wondered how she’d react to his slip. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Ethan. Seriously, we’re going to be spending the next several weeks with each other. You can call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”
“Or chocolate ice cream and binge-watching old sitcoms.”
“Exactly.” She pushed his shoulder. “See, you know me too well already too… my dear.”
“Ya know, maybe we should just take your parents’ advice and get married. That would take all the pressure off the whole situation.”
“Very funny, Your Highness.” Natalie sat back and propped her feet up on the dashboard then slid a paperback book from the console. “I’ll take that into consideration.”
“You gonna read to me?” Ethan chuckled, trying to see the cover of her book without taking his eyes off the road.
“Do you want me to read to you?” She lowered her sunglasses to look at him with a mock-serious expression and held up the paperback book. “It’s a romance novel. This is the only romance I’m gonna get unless I agree to marry you.”
“Sounds good. Broaden my horizon. I’ve never read a romance novel,” he said. “Just think, you reading this book to me could be the only romance I get for the rest of my life.”
“You are indeed obsessed with your own mortality, aren’t you?” Natalie cleared her throat and held open the book with exaggerated intensity. “Once upon a time there was a dying prince who fell in love with his attorney.”
“Ooh, I’m gonna like this story,” Ethan said with a straight face. “I can totally relate to the characters.”
Natalie snickered and continued. “He loved her so much he rode off into the sunset—uh, well, sunrise, they’re heading east—and took her to see his palace in Omaha, and then to a penthouse in New York City, and then to see a princess.”
“Not just any princess,” Ethan interrupted. “The Princess Miranda, who’s also married to a real prince.”
“Just like the attorney is going to be someday.” Natalie snickered and continued. “Then they will sit together on a grand island and sip sparkling lemonade on the veranda.”
“Don’t forget the waterfall,” Ethan said.
“Oh yes, the Niagara Falls. Would you like to see the Canadian side or the United States side?”
“You mean him? The hypothetical prince in your story? Would he like to see the Canadian side or the United States side?”
“Yes, yes, the hypothetical prince. Which would he like to see?”
“What’s the difference between them?” Ethan creased his brow.
“For the Canadian side they have to use their passports, and for the United States side they merely need to park their motorhome.”
“Ooh… no passports.” Ethan cringed in mock horror. “The prince doesn’t like to pull out his diplomatic papers and draw attention to himself.”
“Good point. Okay, United States side it is. Moving on. Literally. After the prince took the attorney to see the pretty waterfall, they drove all the way to the Grand Canyon where he held her tight while they looked over the railing, so she didn’t fall.”
“Is she afraid of heights?” He creased his brow.
“Okay, the prince in the story holds the attorney tightly so she’ll feel safe and secure in his arms.”
“This is turning into a very romantic story,” Natalie said.
“You did promise me a romance.”
“True.” She turned a page with exaggeration. “After the prince held her safely in his arms while looking down over the Grand Canyon, he drove her to Vegas to see the lights on the strip and took her to see a show with dancing girls.”
“And they found a wedding chapel where Elvis joined them as husband and wife.”
“Hey, I thought the attorney loved the prince?”
“Yes, but she hates Elvis.”
“Ah, good to know.” Ethan winked at her. “I’ll be sure to remove all Elvis songs from my playlist.”
“And they lived happily ever after.” Natalie closed her novel and nodded her head once to conclude her story.
“Until death do they part,” Ethan added with irony.
“Thanks for ruining the ending of my story.” Natalie pushed his shoulder so hard he fought to stay in his lane, and they both laughed. “My story had a happy ending.”
“Yeah, well, mine doesn’t.” Ethan sighed as he turned on his signal to exit the highway for the road that would lead them to his tiny palace in a middle-class neighborhood near Omaha.