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“Damn it, I wanted it to be perfect,” he was muttering to himself, but she didn’t think that he was aware of the fact that he was speaking out loud. He fumbled with something small and gleaming that he pulled out of the same breast pocket he had abandoned just moments ago. When he raised his vulnerable gaze to hers once more, there was sweat beading his forehead, and his breath was coming in ragged gasps.

“I played this out in my head so many times,” he confessed hoarsely. “I envisioned hot-air balloons, brass bands, and huge, extravagant spectacles. But in the end, perfection for me was having you to myself in a private place where I could beg you to end my miserable, lonely existence without you. You give my life purpose and meaning. Every beat of my heart belongs to you. I love you, Bronwyn. Please marry me.” He opened the palm of his hand and Bronwyn gasped when she saw the ring lying there.

“Where did you find this?” she whispered, her eyes going misty. It was her ring, the one he had given her after his first proposal . . . the one she had so reluctantly sold years ago. “How did you track it down? I never even told you the name of the shop I used.”

“I e-mailed pictures of the rings to just about every pawn shop proprietor on the Garden Route. It took a while but eventually one e-mailed me back with the information I needed. He had sold it to an elderly lady who said that it reminded her of her own wedding set. She’s a regular customer of his and luckily had enough of a romantic heart to sell the set back to me when she heard why I needed it.”

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“The set? You have the wedding ring too?” she asked in disbelief, and he nodded somberly.

“Yes . . . I wasn’t sure you’d want the rings back, but I took a chance that you’d recognize it as a symbol of my enduring love for you. I may not have known it but I loved you the first time I proposed and never stopped loving you. Not once. If you want something else, I could . . .”

“Don’t you dare,” she choked out the words. “Don’t even think about it.”

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“So you’ll marry me?” he asked hesitantly.

“Of course I’ll marry you,” she said with a watery smile, cupping his jaw before leaning down to plant a kiss on his beautiful mouth. “I love you too. So much!”

He started grinning like an idiot before clumsily placing the ring on her finger. They both stared down at the gleaming diamond and emerald cluster before Bryce lifted her hand to his mouth and dropped a lingering kiss on the ring.

“Don’t take it off again,” he whispered.

“Never,” she promised fervently. “Never.” She kissed him again, winding her arms around his strong neck and toying with the hair at the nape of his neck. She felt him tense as he pushed his way to his feet, taking her with him. She refused to relinquish her hold on him, and he wrapped his arms around her slender waist, dragging her even closer. The kiss got hot so quickly they were gasping for breath but unable to surrender each other’s mouths.

“God, I could eat you alive,” he rasped, lifting his lips from hers and sweeping them down over the graceful column of her throat, over her delicate chin, until they once again landed, with searing intensity, on her open and gasping mouth. His hands moved to frame her small face, and his palms drifted down her cheeks until his thumbs brushed the underside of her jaw, where they exerted enough pressure to tilt her head back even farther in order to accommodate him more fully. His tongue swept into her mouth, and they both shuddered at the invasion. Her delicate hands molded over the strong, sculpted contours of his torso and up over his pectorals until her fingers unintentionally brushed over the small, flat male nipples, which were hard as pebbles beneath the thin material of his shirt. He hissed at the sensation, and she teasingly moved her hands away from the highly sensitive area.

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“Touch me like that again.” He lifted his lips only long enough to issue the rough command, and Bronwyn moved her fluttering fingers back up and over his chest, kneading and exploring hungrily along the way, until she reached her goal. She copied a move from his playbook and gently flicked the tiny nubs with her thumbs until he groaned against her lips. She was fully committed to the kiss, enjoying the musky taste of his mouth and the unbearably erotic sensation of the rasp of his tongue over hers. Her skin burned at every point of contact, but she still couldn’t get close enough to him. It had just been so long since they had been together like this.

He cupped her firm behind through the denim of her jeans and hefted her up. She happily took the hint and wrapped her long legs around his waist. She kept her mouth glued to his, even while he stumbled his way into the living room and nearly dropped her in the process. He got only far enough inside to turn and brace her against a wall.

“Sweetheart, I’m so hard for you,” he whispered. The words were completely redundant since she couldn’t miss the solid ridge of his masculinity pushing up against her through the thick denim of their jeans. He shifted her until her own hot core was rubbing up against that delicious length of flesh that she could feel throbbing despite the layers of clothing between them. She wriggled and ignored his groan as she tried to lower her legs, wanting to stand. Thankfully he seemed to know exactly what she wanted, and he stepped back to allow her down. Free to do what she was aching to do, Bronwyn clumsily unbuttoned the fly of his jeans. No easy task when he was pushing up against the unyielding material and leaving her with little room to maneuver. She succeeded at her task and his rigid penis spilled into her waiting hands. She gripped him tightly and stroked him in a way designed to drive him a little crazy. He groaned, fighting to maintain his composure and kissed her gently, his velvet-soft lips firm while his tongue forged its way into her mouth. Bronwyn was helpless to do anything but open for him, and she gasped when his hot tongue immediately sought and coaxed a response from hers. Her grip tightened around him and the sound that emerged from his throat was so anguished that for a second she thought she might have hurt him. He lifted his head and stared down at her intensely.

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