“We need to get our story straight,” Natalie said as they pulled up a long driveway. Multiple cars were parked haphazardly near the house, some of them very expensive sports cars, one minivan, and a sedan. “You told your sister we’re engaged.”
“Well, we did talk about getting married in Vegas,” Ethan teased.
“Where’s my engagement ring?”
“Shoot, hadn’t thought of that.” Ethan pondered for a moment as they crept up the long driveway. “Hey, I’ve got some of my mom’s jewelry in my suitcase. She gave me a ring that used to belong to my grandma. She wanted me to pass it down to my wife and children, if I ever got married.”
“You want me to where your grandma’s ring?” Natalie raised her eyebrows.
“She was a queen, you know?” Ethan backpedaled. “It’s a really nice ring.”
“Really nice to you probably means something that’s worth a million dollars.”
“Eh, I doubt it’s worth that much.” Ethan shrugged. “Maybe a hundred thousand?”
“I’m not wearing a family heirloom worth a hundred thousand dollars,” Natalie practically screeched. “What if I lost it?”
“One, you won’t lose it, and two, you deserve to have pretty things. You’re kind of amazing.” Ethan realized his voice had grown serious and he parked the motorhome off to the side of the driveway, out of the way of the other cars in case someone needed to leave sooner than them. “Come on. I’ll give you the ring before we go inside.”
Ethan unbuckled his seatbelt and slipped into the back of the motorhome, heading straight for his suitcase. He unzipped a secret compartment and dumped a small bag out onto the bed and sifted through a little pile of jewelry to find the elegant ring.
As Natalie tentatively approached the bedroom, Ethan held up the little diamond, okay, big diamond. “This belonged to my great-great grandmother, Queen Salaina of Medain Saleh.”
“Ethan, I can’t accept that,” Natalie whispered. “It belongs with your family.”
“Natalie, you are my family now, remember? You’re my advocate, my power-of-attorney, the woman who is joining me on a working vacation to help me cross off items on my bucket list.” Ethan pulled her hand forward so that she was standing directly in front of him. “You can pretend this is a fake engagement if you want, but the truth is, I want you with me until the day that I die.”
“Ethan, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be with you until the day that you die.” Her shoulders relaxed in resignation.
“Then let’s make it official,” Ethan whispered. He didn’t go so far as to ask her to marry him, but he lifted her hand and slipped the little ring onto her finger.
“Okay,” Natalie whispered back, glancing down at the elegant ring.
Ethan stood and took her gently in his arms and she wrapped her arms around his back. They held each other like that for several long seconds and Ethan breathed in the scent of her hair, relishing the fragrance that filled his senses.
The magic bubble popped when the motorhome door flung open and Miranda bounded up the stairs, an excited smile and gleam in her eyes. She squealed, “Oh! You’re so beautiful!”
Ethan chuckled as Miranda pulled Natalie from his arms, squealing again and hugging her and squealing again. “Nice to see you too, sis.”
Miranda completely ignored him as she talked a mile a minute to Natalie, explaining all the people she’d meet when they went inside the treehouse.
Natalie glanced back at Ethan with a grin and followed her future sister-in-law down the stairs of the motorhome and up the sidewalk toward the house.
Ethan pulled the door to the motorhome closed behind him and prepared to see his cousins for the first time in almost ten years.