Authors: K. S. Ruff
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Inspirational, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
look of complete and utter satisfaction lay claim to his face. He stood and
pulled me onto the bench. “There is this small matter of the ring.”
fidgeted nervously. It wasn’t so much the ring. It was what that ring
symbolized. Rafael’s proposal and our engagement were about to become undeniably
lifted my right hand. His eyes darkened when they settled on Maxim’s ring. “As
is true for the people of Ukraine, the Portuguese place their engagement rings on
the right hand.”
sucked in a sharp breath. “Rafael, I didn’t know. When Maxim placed this ring
on my finger, I didn’t know that.” I thought it was okay, that somehow it symbolized
less, if the ring was on my right hand. I swallowed nervously. “Americans wear
engagement rings on their left hands.” I was now thoroughly regretting my
decision to accept Maxim’s ring. He had deemed it a promise ring, not an
engagement ring. He released me from that promise, but I continued to wear the
ring because it reminded me of all I’d endured and lost in Ukraine.
eyes met mine. “Regardless, my wife will not wear another man’s ring.” His eyes
remained locked on mine while he removed Maxim’s ring.
couldn’t possibly object. Maxim had rubbed that ring in Rafael’s face at
Cenia’s wedding reception. Clearly, there was a great deal of symbolism
involved for Rafael and for Maxim. I forced myself to breathe when Rafael
pocketed Maxim’s ring.
opened the black velvet box. A diamond ring glittered brilliantly against the
breath caught. Rafael was presenting me with the most exquisite ring I’d ever
seen. The platinum and diamond ring had been sculpted in such a way that the
center stone appeared to be unfolding like a rose. Two smaller stones flanked
the center stone, like leaves. Diamond braids formed the band along the top of
the ring. Still more diamonds were secreted into a breathtaking, scroll-like
display along either side of the ring. The center stone was quite large, and
there were more accent diamonds in the melee than I could possibly count. It
was as if I’d stumbled upon an elegant diamond encrusted garden. “It’s
beautiful,” I breathed.
held the ring over the tip of my right ring finger. “I’m going to repeat the
question, Kristine. Will you accept me as your husband? Choose me above all
others? Marry me and become my wife?”
gazed deep into his eyes. “Yes, Rafael. I will marry you… honor, love, and cherish
you every minute of every day for the rest of my life.”
both breathed a sigh of relief when the ring slid securely into place.
gaped at the sleek white jet. “You bought this?”
laughed. “At your request.”
turned sharply. “What?”
placed his hand on the small of my back as we neared the metal stairs leading
into the aircraft. “At Reagan National Airport, you said, and I quote, ‘
the property owners over, purchase the jet, and meet me in McAllen
stared at him incredulously. “I was joking.”
shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
carefully climbed the stairs. “Did you buy this in Paris?” Rafael hadn’t
breathed a word about the jet when he joined me in Mexico or during the six
weeks that had passed since Cenia’s wedding.
smiled. “I purchased the jet while I was in Paris, ordered a few modifications,
and had it delivered here.” He was climbing the stairs directly behind me.
Stone, Mr. Garcia,” the flight attendant greeted warmly. “Welcome aboard.”
pilot stepped out of the cockpit. “Mr. Garcia. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d
like you to meet my co-pilot, Robin Tatman. We just completed the pre-flight
inspection and checked the weather. You picked a perfect day to fly. We may hit
a few bumps during the climb out, but it should be smooth en route. We’ll have
about a hundred knot tail wind, which should shorten the time.” He glanced
adoringly at the flight attendant. “If there is anything we can do to make the
flight more comfortable, please let me or my wife, Kari, know.”
shook the pilot’s hand. “Captain Anderson, you and your wife came highly
recommended.” He shook Kari’s hand before greeting the co-pilot. “Ms. Tatman,
it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for assisting Captain Anderson.”
tried to exchange pleasantries with the flight crew, but I was rendered
speechless by the décor inside the jet. A sleek leather U-shaped couch cradled
a deep mahogany table with an inlaid chess board. Three plush leather chairs
flanked each table on either side of the couch. The furniture had a
contemporary feel. The upholstery was white with dark brown trim. Recessed
lighting glowed softly along white walls, just above the windows and from within
the tray ceiling. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the couch faced a large,
contemporary gas fireplace, framed on all four sides with the same dark
mahogany wood. The fire was already lit and glowing brightly from within. “There’s…
fireplace?” Rafael finished as he stepped behind me. He pulled me flush against
his chest. His chin rested briefly on top of my head, but he shifted so he
could press his lips to my ear. “That fireplace extends into the room on the
other side of that wall. Would you like to see it?”
breath rushed out all at once. “You didn’t.”
laugh rumbled from deep within his chest. The vibration tickled my spine, which
was still pressed to his chest. “Didn’t what?”
spun in his arms. “You did
buy a jet with a private bedroom.”
locked his arms around me as he stepped forward, forcing me to walk backwards
while he made his way toward the back of the jet. He snagged a bottle of wine,
a corkscrew, and two wine glasses from the table when we walked by, pressing
them all against my back. “Why don’t you see for yourself?”
be departing in twenty minutes,” Kari warned. She coughed, trying to stifle a
be seated by then,” Rafael replied.
legs nearly buckled when I caught sight of the bedroom. A queen sized bed
dominated the room. A dresser lie beneath the windows on the left, but there
was still enough room to walk around the bed. The dresser and the bed were
carved from the same dark mahogany wood that framed the fireplace, which was,
as Rafael promised, visible from the bed. Glass shelves and lights were tucked
inside the headboard. A white suede duvet covered the bed. White and brown
pillows lined the headboard, and a plush, dark chocolate blanket lie at the foot
of the bed. “This bedroom is… incredible.”
glad you like it.” Rafael pulled the cork out of the Chianti and handed me a
glass of wine. “Would you like to see the bathroom before we depart?”
took a sip of wine while running my fingers along the soft duvet. “Yes, please.”
opened a door to the right of the bed. The white door blended in with the wall,
so I was surprised to see him open it. He waved me inside.
the lid been open, my jaw would have fallen inside the toilet. The bathroom
held a mahogany vanity with a dark brown, black, and bronze marble countertop.
A brushed bronze faucet and clear glass bowl lie beneath a mahogany mirror. A brown
hatbox toilet sat beside the vanity. Both faced a moderately sized shower,
tiled in the same marble as the floor and the vanity. The shower boasted six
jets and a rainfall showerhead.
stepped inside the bathroom. “Do you think we’ll both fit in that shower?”
think we can make it work,” I replied with a wry smile. I slowly turned around.
“This aircraft is beautiful… beyond beautiful.”
set our wine glasses on the vanity before pulling me into his arms. “I’m so
glad you like it. I was worried it was a little over the top.”
practically snorted. “Oh, it’s over the top… but it’s also elegant and quietly understated…
elegant?” Rafael chuckled.
pulled the leather band from his hair, slipped it over my wrist and buried my
hands in the dark, silky strands. “We’re going to have so much fun making love
on this airplane.”
grinned. “So it doesn’t matter where we’re going.”
pressed my body against his. “This jet could circle DC or sit on the tarmac for
all I care.”
arms tightened around me. He lowered his head and brushed his lips slowly…
softly… teasingly… against mine. His hand wound through my hair, tugging my
head back as his lips captured my mouth in a dominating kiss. His tongue delved
deep inside, stroking… demanding… branding me from the inside out. My nipples
hardened, pleading for his attention, while heat pooled between my legs.
both groaned when Captain Anderson’s voice sounded over the intercom. “Cabin
crew, please prepare for departure.”
Rafael promised. His husky tone promised sinful things. We grabbed the wine and
returned to the main cabin.
bottles of sparkling mineral water and a platter filled with grapes, sliced pears,
sliced baguette, and a variety of meats and cheeses were sitting on the table.
Neither of us had eaten lunch, so I dropped into one of the plush leather
chairs flanking the table. “Oh! This seat is comfortable.”
fastened my seatbelt and dropped a quick kiss on my lips before taking his
seat. “Good. We’ve a long flight ahead.”
flight attendant stepped out of the galley and approached the table. “I have to
remain in my seat until we reach cruising altitude. After that, I’ll be
available for anything you might need. I’m sure you would prefer some privacy,
so I’ll remain in the galley while you’re in the main cabin. I’ll check on you
periodically, but please don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.”
nodded. “Thanks, Kari.”
topped off our wine and set the bottle inside a wine bucket that was built into
the wall next to the table. She waved toward the food. “This should tide you
over until we level off. When would you prefer the remaining courses?”
glanced at me.
maybe three hours?” Frankly, I was more interested in the bed.
smiled, as if reading my mind. “We plan to retire to the bedroom once the plane
has leveled off. May I call you when we’re ready for dinner?”
course. There’s a call button next to the bed.” The plane began to back away
from the terminal. Kari walked to the front of the jet. “Enjoy the flight.” She
disappeared into the galley.
raised his wine glass. “To my future wife.”
tapped my glass against his. “To my future husband.” I studied him over the top
of my wine glass. He had refused to tell me where we were going, claimed we
didn’t need luggage, and drove straight to the airport in his SUV. He asked Jase
to drive my jeep back home. He also cleared my absence with Paul. Seeds for
Peace was closed between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, so we could be gone
for two weeks and I’d only miss five days of work. As far as my schedule went, he
couldn’t have timed this trip more perfectly.
jet picked up speed. I took another sip of wine as the nose of the aircraft lifted.
Where to begin with my inquiry? “How long is our flight?”
stacked meat and cheese on top of a slice of bread. “Twelve and a half hours,
which includes a two hour layover while we refuel the jet.” He popped the tiny sandwich
into his mouth.
eyes widened. “Twelve and a half hours? Clearly, we’re sleeping on the plane.”
nodded. “We should arrive at our final destination around seven-thirty tomorrow
morning… their time, not ours.”
paired a piece of bread with some cheese. I still couldn’t believe Rafael sang
to me. “You have such a beautiful voice. How is it I’ve never heard you sing?”
you Feel My Love’ is the only song I can sing. I was going to search for the
man who sang that song to you the first time, but I didn’t want you gazing into
his eyes while I was proposing. I decided to take singing lessons. I started
about three months ago, so I could sing the song myself.” A boyish grin lit his
shook my head in disbelief. “You have got to be the most romantic man to have
ever walked the planet.” I tasted the pear and another piece of cheese.
glad you think so.” Rafael smiled. “Shall we set a wedding date?”
I glanced out the window. The jet was already beginning to level off. “When
would you like to be married?”
He looked… serious.
eyebrows shot up. “Tomorrow? Is that even possible?”
laughed. “Anything is possible.”
curiosity piqued. “What type of wedding would you like to have? Aren’t there
people you’d like to invite?”
looked thoughtful. “Honestly? No.”
man had a point. Aside from the minister or priest and the two requisite
witnesses, we were the only two people who really had to be there. Large
wedding ceremonies could be stressful. They seldom focused on the bride and
groom. Besides, I had a good sized family to include, while Rafael had no
family to speak of. Having my family present could make Rafael feel the absence
of his parents and brother even more. I reached for his hand. “I have to admit,
the thought that our wedding would be focused solely on our vows, our
relationship, and our marriage is appealing.” I truly didn’t feel the need for
a large wedding.
soft “ding” sounded before the captain made his announcement. “We’ve reached
cruising altitude. The flight attendant and passengers are now free to move
about the cabin.”
bedroom?” I bit my bottom lip.
unfastened his seatbelt and mine. He grabbed the food and bottled water while I
finished my wine.
that date,” I murmured. “Can we wait until after I graduate in May? Even if we
have a small, intimate wedding, I’d rather not juggle all of the last minute preparations
against work and school.”
offered me his elbow since his hands were full. “If we were married tomorrow,
there would be no juggling.”
hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s paperwork involved.” We walked
back to the bedroom.
set the appetizers and bottled water on top of the dresser. “Paperwork? What
kind of paperwork?” He began to undress.
fidgeted nervously. “Well, if I remember correctly, we’ll need our birth
certificates. I’ll probably need to provide my divorce decree. We’ll need
baptismal records and my annulment paperwork if you want to be married by a
priest.” Suddenly, I felt like damaged goods. I took a deep breath and
continued. “The Catholic Church requires engaged couples to attend a marriage
preparation course in advance of the wedding. Some states require blood tests,
and we have to fill out an application for a marriage license.”
looked thoughtful. “Are you Catholic?”
shook my head. “Lutheran.”
pulled the sweater over my head. “But you were married in the Catholic Church
when you were married to your first husband?”
cheeks heated. “Yes.”
fingered my bra before unbuttoning my jeans. “And you’d be willing to go
through all that again for me?”
I breathed. “I… I presume you’re Catholic?” I couldn’t believe we hadn’t
discussed our religious affiliations before now. I’d presumed Rafael was
Catholic simply because Michael was. I stepped out of my jeans when they slid
to the floor.