Who doesn’t dream about a romantic, candlelit marraige proposal? Jessica Dunn, that’s who. Too bad her on-again-off-again man Connor O’Rourke has other plans …
“Get up, doofus.”
Though the words were said with a smile, they definitely weren’t what Connor O’Rourke was hoping to hear. He was, after all, on bended knee, holding up a diamond ring.
“I just asked you to marry me, Jess,” he said.
“And it was adorable.” She ruffled his hair. That didn’t bode well, either. “The answer is no, obviously, what were you thinking, and boy, I’m starving. Did you call for pizza yet?”
Okay. Granted, Jessica Dunn was…different. They’d been dating for the past eight months (or ten years, depending on how you counted it), and getting her to this moment had taken as much strategizing as, oh, D-Day. Still, he hadn’t quite anticipated this.
He tried again. “Jessica. Make me the happiest man on earth and say you’ll be my wife.”
“I heard you the first time, big guy. And I did wonder about all these candles. Nice touch, if a little on the fire hazard side of things.”
“And your answer is?”
“You already know my answer, and you knew it long before you asked anything. Now come on, Connor. Upsy-daisy.”
He didn’t move. Jess sighed and folded her arms across her chest, giving him a patient look, eyebrow slightly raised.
Her phone buzzed, and she pulled it out of her pocket, because she always checked her phone, no matter what they were doing. “Iron Man is killing all the bad guys in the cave,” she said, deadpan.
This was normal—her brother dictating text updates on whatever movie he and Gerard, his occasional babysitter, were watching. It could be funny. At the moment, not so much.
“Can we be serious here?” he asked.
“I’m really hungry, Con.”
“If I feed you, will you say yes?”
“No. So up you go. Let’s have a nice night, okay? Weren’t we gonna watch Game of Thrones?”
Hail Mary, full of Grace, she was really turning him down.
He didn’t get up. With the hand that was not holding the little black velvet box, he rubbed his hand across his jaw. He’d shaved for this and everything. The diamond winked in the candlelight, taunting him.
“Look, Jess,” he said. “I’m tired of feeling like you pay me by the hour. I’m tired of you breaking up with me. Why don’t we get married and stay together for the rest of our lives?”
“You ever hear that expression, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
“Do you see me here on one knee with an expensive ring in my hand?”
“Yes. You’re hard to miss. And it’s very pretty. But I get the feeling you think you should love me for the simple reason that we’ve been sleeping together on and off for so many years—”
“No, it’s genuine love.”
“—and secondly, you know how things are. I can’t marry you. I have Davey.”
“Well, I have Colleen, and she’s a lot more trouble than your brother.”
“Funny.” Jessica’s three feet away face was erasing any emotion. It was a face he’d seen all too often in the past two decades, as if she was saying, very politely, keep three feet away from me or you’ll lose an arm.
His knee was getting sore. “I know how things are with your brother, Jess. I don’t think you’re supposed to martyr yourself because of it.”
“Don’t go there. I love my brother. He comes first.”
“So you basically have a life sentence.”
“Yes,” she said, as if she were explaining it to a two‐year-old. “Davey’s life. My life. They’re inseparable. You think I should put him in a kennel for you?”
“Did I say the word ‘kennel’? No, I didn’t. But I think you could tell him you’re getting married and he can come live with us.” Or in the group home in Bryer, which seemed like a very nice place. Yes, Connor had checked it out.
Her phone buzzed again. Again, she checked it. “Iron Man can fly.”
“Jessica. I’m asking you to marry me.” His jaw was getting tight.
“I know. And really, thank you. It’s very sweet. Are we going to eat?”
“So you’re not saying yes, is that it?”
“Yes. I’m not saying yes.” She pushed a strand of silky blond hair behind her ear.
Jaw at 100 percent lockdown. “Then it’s a no.” “Sadly, yes, it’s a no. Which I’m sure doesn’t come as a huge surprise to you.”
She was really turning him down.
Somehow, he’d seen this all going a bit differently.