Well, this was a long time in coming, I don't know if any of my old readers are out there, but I hope so! At any rate, this story never felt finished. And we all wanted more from Alora and Drake. I hope this gives them a better ending for all of you.
Dedicated to Thalia Bryne who found this somewhat recently, and started my inspiration up again. This really would not have happened without her support.
A final dab of paint here, a dash of color there, and the mural was complete. Alora carefully pulled away painter's tape holding the sheet of plastic in place. She even took her flip-flops off and put them into the kitchen sink along with some soapy water. After padding back into the room, she folded up the plastic tarp, making sure only the clean underside touched anything before shoving it into a trashcan. Her paint supplies were already in a bucket ready to be taken to the kitchen to be washed.
Once she had taken care of her tools and tucked them away out of sight, she went back to the room and searched everywhere for even a drop of paint. But Alora had been careful to start with so she did not find any stray bit of mess. She nodded to herself and let herself out of the apartment, locking it behind her and headed home.
At home, Alora eyed her phone warily, though she knew Drake could not know yet; he was out of town on business for four more days. More than long enough to let the paint dry thoroughly. She was lucky he had gone for three weeks; Drake was not traveling quite as much now, and he opted to return on the weekends more often than not.
Normally, she loved that he was trying to become less of a workaholic for her. But she had been waiting to paint the mural in his office for over four months, and that was after she had designed it. But Drake did not know any of that. In fact, she was fairly certain he would have absolutely forbidden her from painting the mural in the first place. His apartment was still fairly barren, though he had a few pieces of Alora's pottery she was especially proud of, and a painting in his study.
There just had not been anything in the bedroom, and Alora spent a fair amount of time there; enough that now she had a toothbrush, some closet space, and a drawer. Drake did not keep much more than a toothbrush at her apartment, but it was much nicer to stay at his penthouse with its spaciousness, huge bed, and lack of nosy roommates, so she did not think much of it. This would be the first time she would have purposefully changed something in his apartment without asking him.
Of course, Alora intended to convince Drake to let her move in sometime soon; they had been together for two years now. She figured it was beyond time. And she thought Kat and Ben might like a little more room. Alora wondered if they would want to start a family soon. Renee had moved out half a year before to live with a very good baseball player who not only could support Renee's lifestyle, but seemed to genuinely like her.
Alora shook her head. Out of her closest girl friends, she had fallen for, by far, the most conservative man. Sometimes it drove her a little crazy just how much her mother and her mother's parents liked her boyfriend. Her grandparents had even offered to help her finish paying for school shortly after he had come to Thanksgiving dinner.
After showering, Alora checked her email and sent Drake a short note in reply to his own. With him in Germany, it was just easier to talk that way. Right now, it was even better because it was much easier to surprise Drake this way; Alora almost always gave herself away with her expressions.
It wasn't until five days later that she actually heard from Drake. Though that was not unexpected; he would have gotten in late, showered, and fallen asleep before he hit the bed, though he always claimed the traveling was not wearing on him. Alora did not believe that for a moment. Still, she had been hovering near her phone nervously, hoping he was not annoyed with her, or worse, angry.
Since she had been expecting a phone call, it only made sense that Drake would step into her bedroom and say "There is a rather intricate Chinese mural on my bedroom wall."
"I thought it needed some dressing up," she said. His expression was the neutral one he liked to use for business. She stood up since he was standing, rather than stay sprawled on the bed.
"It is extraordinary," he said, before taking a long step forward and taking her in his arms. She stood on tiptoe while he bent to kiss her; not only was he glad to see her, he liked the mural.
"I'm glad you like it."
He looked down at her smiling wryly, his arms around her waist loosely. Drake said, "I still don't like surprises."
"I'll make sure to plan a surprise birthday party for you," Alora said, rolling her eyes. "How was Germany?"
"It was the usual," he said. "I would have thought you would have painted the waterfall here."
Alora had taken to painting scenes lately; especially ones with waterfalls. She loved the water. "This way we can both enjoy it. Besides, you had more wall space, and it was boring. The blah painting your decorator picked out is in the guest closet."
"Let's have lunch."
"Right now?" Alora stared at him; she was wearing yoga pants and an old T-shirt and she was not sure if she had brushed her hair or not. Drake, of course, looked as neat and put together as always.
"Yes," he said.
"Well, I'm making myself pretty first, then." If Drake wanted to be spontaneous, she was not about to discourage it.
He nodded, already settling down on her bed to look over a book. Alora huffed out a breath since he had not even waited to make sure she wanted to go. Sometimes, he was a touch overly confident.
Nonetheless, she pulled on a pretty jersey dress that accentuated her figure nicely and brushed her hair out. She dabbed on some makeup and pinned back her hair at the last second. A pair of black sandals, and she was done.
Drake smiled his faint, quiet smile. "You look pretty." He looked her over for a moment longer before he put the book away. "Shall we?"
Alora smiled; that was one thing she loved about Drake, he gave compliments just often enough to make her feel beautiful and special without them sounding false or habitual.
When Drake pulled into a parking spot, Alora looked up from her sketchbook, blinked, and then looked at Drake. "I thought you wanted to go to lunch?"
"We're having a picnic."
"What would you have done if I had already eaten lunch?"
"It was too early for you to have eaten lunch," Drake said and slide out of the car.
Alora thought he looked just a little smug as she hastily unbuckled herself and followed him around to the trunk of his sporty little car. By then, he had already lifted out an old-fashioned picnic basket, with a blanket folded neatly on top.
"Is there anything I can help with?" Alora asked, but pulled the blanket off as Drake began to shake his head. It made her feel a little more useful to have something to do. Drake watched her fondly for a moment before he set off into the park, Alora following behind him. As usual, he seemed to know exactly where he wanted to go.
Beneath a broad tree at the edge of a number of other trees, staring down a hill overlooking a small lake, Drake stopped and Alora spread out the blanket. He probably could have made it neater than she did, but her way was more artistic. At least, that was what she told herself, and anyone who questioned her methods.
"So how was Germany?" Alora asked as she sprawled on the blanket, watching Drake unload the basket.
He waited until he had set out a small plate for them eat along with a cheese platter with crackers, hummus, and grapes. As he uncorked a bottle of white wine that Alora enjoyed, he finally said, "I contracted a deal I had been hoping to make for some time. We mostly discussed the details of the project."
Alora knew as much already, and told him so. "And I bet you didn't do any of the fun things there either."
"I find business is not the time to 'see the sites'," he replied blandly, handing her a glass of wine.
Alora groaned, "You work too hard. You need to have some fun sometimes." She began trying out the selection between them, before surreptitiously sliding all of the brie onto her plate.
Drake smirked at her action and took a sip of his wine. "Perhaps sometime, you will have to accompany me. I am sure I would find a moment to 'have some fun'."
It was the first time he had ever suggested she go with him while he traveled on business. She felt her lips turn upwards. "I think I'd like that. I bet I'd drive you crazy."
"Only a little," he said, leaning over to kiss her temple.
Alora crawled around the cheese platter to throw her arms around Drake's waist, burrowing her nose against his shoulder. "I missed you."
"And I missed you," he said, wrapping his free hand around her firmly. They stayed like that for a little while, until they finished their glasses of wine.
Drake let her go to replace the cheese with cold, spiced chicken, a cold noodle dish that looked Italian, and a salad topped with a crumbly cheese and tomato. Along with that came a new glass of wine, this time red. They ate leisurely, while Alora slowly extracted more details about his trip as she told him about the antics her friends had been up to, and of her meeting with EAloraa about a few of her pieces that would be in an upcoming show at her gallery, a show she had already made sure Drake would be able to attend.
As their plates cleared, Alora noticed Drake watching her more and more often with a curious look in his eyes. At last, she said, "You're staring. Do I have something on my chin?"
"No, it's nothing," he said, and busied himself with clearing away their food. Alora laid back against the blanket and watched him, her arm half covering her face. Sometimes, that man was a bit peculiar. He was leaning over the basket, staring at something in his hands. Alora went still, carefully maintaining her illusion of daydreaming. She was absolutely sure that was a small, black velvet box. Drake swallowed hard, a nervous gesture, she surmised. He set the box back into the basket quickly and pulled out two slices of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, one of Alora's favorite desserts.
She waited until he turned before she sat up, saying, "My favorite."
"I know," Drake said, settling down next to her.
Alora began eating immediately, trying to give herself a moment to process what she had seen. She almost missed the slight tremble in Drake's hand as he took a bite of dessert as well. She was absolutely certain he had planned this elaborate picnic to ask her to marry him. Alora was also absolutely certain that he had chickened out. Drake, a respected, confident businessman who seemed intimidated by nothing was afraid of proposing.
Alora smiled as she curled up against his side. Well, this time she would let it go. But if he did not ask her soon, very soon, she was just going to have to take things into her own hands. It might not be quite as romantic, but Alora nearly laughed at the expression she could imagine on Drake's face if she asked him when he was going to propose and give her the ring she knew he had.
Alora looked up at Drake, murmuring "Thank you." Then she kissed him soundly. Either way, Alora knew she was going to be engaged very soon, and already, she had to struggle to keep from smiling. Now she just had to keep Drake from finding out that she knew for just a little while longer. If he did find the courage, and she knew he would if she was patient enough, then she did not want to ruin his planning.
So, better ending than just the last chapter? Suggestions?