Worth fighting for, p.30
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       Worth Fighting For, p.30

         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
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  She grinned and waved me away with a flick of her hand. She’d really come into her own here; living in this beautiful place suited her. It suited us all.

  Ellie smiled up at me, her eyes shining with excitement as I dipped my head and planted a deliberately noisy kiss on her lips before leading her to my car. On the fifteen-minute drive to our new home, she could barely sit still, fidgeting in her seat and babbling about all the things we still needed to buy. Luckily for us, the previous owners of the house were downsizing and had sold the house partly furnished—which meant we already had a sofa and some of the most important furniture. We’d make do for a while until we could afford our own stuff.

  When we pulled up outside and looked at the building in front of us, Ellie let out a happy little sigh. The two-story house was a cozy three-bedroom set among the trees in a picturesque backdrop. The drive was curved and led up to the single garage. The house itself had wood siding that had been painted a slate gray. It was wonderful and was right at the top of our mortgage borrowing budget, so anything we wanted to do to the house would have to be done over time as we could afford it. Luckily, the house was essentially perfect for us as it was.

  I dug into my pocket, pulling out the keys and jangling them, drawing Ellie’s attention from our new home. “Want to go inside and look around?”

  She squealed, the sound making my insides quiver with happiness as she reached out and took the keys from my hand. Seeing her so joyous made my heart ache and my skin tingle. “Yes! Come on!”

  She climbed out of the car in a rush and almost slipped on a patch of ice before righting herself. I chuckled to myself and walked to the front of the car, waiting for her to reach my side.

  The birds chirped from the snowy trees above our heads, singing loudly as we walked arm in arm toward the front door. As Ellie slipped the key into the door, she held her breath and my hand slid down her back. I was so overwhelmed with love for her that it almost knocked me sideways. We’d done this; we’d made it out and we’d just closed on our first home.

  The door opened with a slight creak that I made a mental note to fix. Ellie exhaled in one big gust and turned to me, her eyes sparkling with tears. “I can’t believe this is ours. I’m so happy.”

  I nodded, bending and capturing her lips with a soft kiss. “Me too.”

  Suddenly her excitement seemed to overcome her, and she grabbed my hand, pulling me inside, her eyes wide as she looked around the hallway. On the sideboard was a bottle of champagne and an envelope with our names on it. Ellie picked up the card eagerly, ripping it open and making an “aww” sound. “It’s from the previous owners. It says: ‘We hope you’ll be as happy here as we were. We’re so pleased that the house will feature in such a lovely couple’s new memories.’”

  I smiled at the thoughtfulness.

  Picking up the bottle of champagne, I nodded toward the stairs. “We should open this on the balcony.”

  Ellie nodded eagerly, unable to contain her smile as her fingers interlaced through mine, and we walked up the wooden staircase. Ellie had fallen in love with the house immediately; the quirky upside-down layout really worked. Having the living area upstairs made wonderful use of the beautiful view. As soon as she’d seen the large picture window in the living room overlooking the lake, she’d turned to me and whispered that she wanted it, that this was the one. I’d made an offer to the sellers there and then, not wanting to go through the usual channels and have to wait for a reply from the agent. Seeing how in love with the house Ellie was, they’d accepted and the rest was history. That was eight weeks ago, and this was the first time we were back.

  As we stepped into the living room, the huge picture window showed the trees lining our small yard, and in the distance, the lake and snow-capped mountains beyond. There were bifolding doors leading out to the large wooden balcony, the table and chairs all set up ready for people to soak in the spectacular view.

  To the right, the seating area faced another large window that practically covered the whole wall. A solitary welcome home helium balloon was anchored to the coffee table.

  “Aww, they bought us a balloon, too,” Ellie cooed, heading over to it and catching the string.

  “Actually,” I said, “I bought that. I snuck in after I collected the keys and put it there.” I grinned sheepishly, my heart beating erratically. A sudden rush of nerves made me shift on my feet as I set the bottle of champagne on the table.

  Ellie turned and smiled lovingly at me. “You’re so cute, Jamie Cole.”

  I took a deep breath, clenching and unclenching my hands, willing my nerves to subside as I stepped forward. “Did you notice the weight on it?” I asked, nodding at the balloon’s string, which she had wrapped around one finger.

  Her eyes traveled along the string until they got to the little red box tied at the bottom of it. Her eyes widened a fraction, but she didn’t move. I smiled at her stunned expression and was grateful that her mom, grandmother, and sister had been able to keep this a secret; they’d all been bursting with excitement when I’d told them of my plan.

  Ellie gasped as I got down on one knee, tugging the little box loose from the string and looking up into her face. She was now covering her mouth with both hands, her eyes swimming with tears as she looked back at me.

  Come on, Jamie, don’t screw this up! “Ellie, I know this isn’t Paris, and we’re not standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, or in some amazing restaurant in Rome, or floating on the Dead Sea, or anything spectacular, but it just feels right to me to ask you the most important question right here in the middle of our new home,” I began.

  My hands were trembling as I lifted the lid of the ring box.

  She squealed, her eyes widening as a lone teardrop fell down one cheek.

  “I love you with all my heart, and I always will,” I said, trying to keep my own tears in check. “I swear I’ll keep making you smile for the rest of your life, just like I promised your dad I would.” She whimpered as I said that, and I smiled. “Will you marry me, little girl?”

  There was no hesitation in her answer, no indecision or thought needed. “Yes! Oh God, hell yes!”

  I laughed as she bounced on the spot excitedly when I held the box out to her. The ring was the same one I’d bought for her all those years ago, the one I’d showed her dad. I’d never gotten rid of it. But it now had a subtle difference.

  “I had it engraved inside,” I told her as I stood, watching her squint to read the writing on the inside of the band.

  “Scars and all,” she read. Her eyes flicked up to mine and the smile that stretched across her face stole my breath. “I love you,” she whispered.

  “Scars and all.” I nodded in agreement before wrapping my arms around her and crushing her against my body as I kissed her, showing her with that one kiss how much I adored her and how grateful I was that she would give a guy like me a chance.

  When I pulled back, we were both breathless. I took the ring and slid it onto her finger, where it would stay for at least the next eighty years.

  It turned out happily-ever-afters could happen, even to people like me. All it took was something worth fighting for.

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