Nicole stared at the ring like she'd never seen it before despite having ooo-ed and awe-ed over it for a good half-hour when he slid the Tiffany's box across the table the night before with a half-hearted: "Oh right; here."
Last night, it was just a pretty ring that could have belonged to anybody and their sister. Today, right now, it was something different entirely.
Trembling hands pressed to her mouth, Nicole dragged her eyes up from the ring to stare into Tyler's shining blue. She took a deep breath, then another, before she felt stable enough to respond, except there was nothing in her head. What were words again?
"If this is a joke," she finally forced out around the lump in her throat. "Or a prank or a tease or…or whatever, then it is absolutely not funny—"
"It's not." He reached for her with his free hand, his whole palm cradling her cheek as tears blurred her vision. "I don't mean tomorrow or next week or even six months from now; neither of us is ready for that, but Nicole, it's only been three days and you're already one of the most important people in my life."
Tyler pushed back that same errant lock of hair she'd been fighting all morning before dragging his knuckles slowly down her jawline with a look so intense it almost burned. "I'm asking you because I want the chance to get to know you without worrying about a deadline; without feeling rushed because I don't know if you'll be waiting for me while I settle things in New York after the IPO so I have time to come back and court you properly. Call me selfish, but I want to know that you're mine and you're waiting for me, because if you say you will, then I'll believe it. 100-percent."
"Of course, I'll wait! It's not like there's a lot going on right now that's competing for my attention, and you'd definitely be worth a month or two of long-distance." Nicole leaned back, taking her face out of his hand and shook her head. "But Tyler, we don't have to be engaged for that. We could just be, you know, dating and let everyone else go on thinking what they want—"
"I don't want to risk it." Tyler grasped her left hand and held it with a trembling hand. His eyes scanned her face almost desperately as he tried to make her understand something that made absolutely no sense in a modern-day setting. "You said you wanted an autumn wedding, so why don't we set a date for next year? That will give us a whole twelve-months to determine if this is real or just a whirlwind, caught-up in the moment type thing. We'll basically be dating the whole time, but without the awkward 'where is this going' question looming over our heads."
Nicole nodded slowly as her brain began rearranging his words into a context that made sense. "Like a Japanese omiai."
"Exactly!" Tyler said, then blinked in surprise. "You know about omiai?"
Nicole scrunched up her nose with a nervous grimace. "Yeah, first possible deal-breaker you should know about me: I'm a bit of an anime nerd."
Another surprised blink, then a soft smile quirked the corners of Tyler's lips. "What a coincidence; me too."
Nicole gaped. "You are?"
"Don't sound so shocked; I may be the head of a multi-billion-dollar company, but I also grew up in the early 2000's. DBZ is my jam. I own all of the DVDs. Except GT; it sucked."
Nicole burst out laughing at such an out-of-character statement. Shockingly, his admission made him seem even more perfect to her than before because he was now so decidedly not perfect. He could make bad jokes and say stupid things and enjoy a children's show well into his 20's. It made her odd attachment to Sailor Moon suddenly feel not so odd at all.
Only five minutes ago, knowing that would have been dangerous. Now, it was glorious. Because not only had he said he might be falling in love with her, he wanted her to fall in love with him. And just like him, she was dangerously close.
"Yes." The word was out before she could really think about it, but she didn't regret it in the least as she grinned at Tyler's dumbfounded face.
"Yes," she said again, taking his face into both of her hands. He didn't resist as she leaned in and kissed him softly, almost reverently. He went up on one knee, which put him several inches above her, and leaned into her kiss. She fought down a shiver at the feel of him all around her.
Nicole had never thought she would enjoy being dwarfed by someone; Chris had barely been 5'8". She'd always been small and that had always bothered her, but for the first time in her life, Nicole liked being small. With Tyler, it was so comfortable, so safe.
Sighing happily, she released his face and he immediately pulled back. She liked that about him too. He was always so respectful of her boundaries; no questions or complaints.
"Would the 22nd work for you?" Nicole asked as Tyler blinked the kiss-haze from his mind.
"September 22nd," she repeated. "It's the first day of autumn, and I think that would be a perfect time to get married. If you still want me."
"I will." He sounded so sure, Nicole couldn't help but believe it. She smiled shyly and held up her left hand.
Tyler didn't wait for another invitation as he slid the ring back into its proper place and dropped a soft kiss just below it on her finger. Nicole went hot and cold in waves as desire and dread battled within her. How was she ever going to find the resolve to hold on for an entire year?
"Come on." Tyler stood and took both of her hands to draw her up as well. "We should eat before it gets cold."
Kaliea: Another update so soon(ish!), and yet, it is so very, very short. I apologize, but hopefully the resolution of the cliffhanger helps at least a little?
As you can probably guess, this marks a huge shift in TyCole's relationship and also ushers in all of the climax-building craziness. Be prepared to meet old (probably forgotten characters) as the final confrontation draws nearer :)
Thank you again for all of your support and patience!
Lots of Love,