Her eyes widened and her heart began racing so fast she could feel her blood ping-ponging from her heart through her veins and back again. Pleasure and a sharp sense of relief spread through her as she tried to get her throat to form words. But had she just gotten a marriage proposal uttered in the same sentence with the word shit? It didn't matter. She'd take it. Her mind was whirling around her, a loud buzzing going on in her brain.

She didn't answer quickly enough and he began arguing his case. "If you'd only gotten pregnant." He ran his hand through his hair leaving it a ruffled mess. "I prayed like hell you'd be pregnant--you know--that time we screwed up in my office. If you'd conceived all this shit would be over by now. You couldn't have turned me down, we'd have a baby and I wouldn't be constantly scared shitless you were going to waltz off with some other guy."

Natalie's heart completely stopped. What kind of emotion had he been hiding from her all this time? It was as if a switch had been flipped, and suddenly, she didn't care about protecting her heart from him. She just wanted to know. "Marco--"

He ground his teeth together and she could tell he was preparing himself for the worst. "Yeah?"

Natalie closed her eyes, took a deep breath and asked the question that she prayed would change her life in a glorious way. "Do you love me?"

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He let out a puff of air and ran his hand through his hair again with fingers that shook. "Jesus Christ, Natalie. Heart, body, and soul. More than life itself."

She stared at him sitting there, only an inch away from panic, and decided to put him out of his misery. She got up from her seat and fell to her knees in front of him. She lifted her eyes to his and gripped her hands over his. "I've loved you forever, Marco--and I don't want you to be stressed." She smiled softly. "So yes, I'll marry you."

His sigh of relief was palpable but she didn't have time to dwell on it, because he began kissing her as if he'd never let her go.

Epilogue

Seven years later

"I think it's time." Marco tried to make his voice sound stern and determined, because by God and all that was Holy, he was going to get his way this time.

Natalie shifted the baby from one hip to the next and stirred the sauce on the stove. "Do you now?"

He paced back and forth. "You need help, Natalie. Three kids and one on the way--"

"What do I need help with?" She put the spoon down and picked up a pink stuffed whale and handed it back to her four-year-old who played with plastic utensils at her feet. Their six-year-old daughter played quietly on the kitchen computer.

"You don't need to be standing on your feet all day for one thing. It's too dangerous. For you and the baby. The doctor said you need to rest. This doesn't look like rest to me." His eyes glanced around the room that somehow, she always managed to keep semi-tidy.

"I feel good," she said as she walked in front of him on her way to get the plates from the cabinet.

He grabbed her elbow and stopped her. "I know, baby, and we want to keep it that way." His words sounded agonized, even to himself, but damn. She needed to stay healthy. Not just for herself. For the new baby she carried. For the kids. For him.

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He'd fall down and die if anything happened to her.

Natalie turned and gave her husband her attention. He looked pained, and she knew he'd finally hit his breaking point with this. "Is this one of those times when I'm supposed to do as you say?" she asked him lightly.

He clenched his mouth tightly. "Yes," he said through gritted teeth.

"And what is it you want?" she asked.

"A cleaning service--supper delivered every night until at least six months after the birth. And groceries delivered again, for a while. And you. Sitting on your butt."

"That's it? That's what you want?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

"That easy?"

"I want to make you happy, Marco. That's all I've ever wanted."

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her and the baby close to him in relief. He kissed one forehead and then the other. "You do, Natalie. God knows you do." He leaned his forehead against the top of her head and rocked her in his arms. "You always have."

The End

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