by Jenna Bayley-Burke
“Don’t hate me.” Melissa said as soon as she opened the door.
Brian stared at his wife, his brows knitting together. He’d only been gone two days. She couldn’t have done anything to make him hate her in two days. Could she?
“I lost my ring.” Tears glistened in her pretty brown eyes.
His gut clenched. He’d designed her engagement ring himself, spent a month flipping through catalogs, trying to draw what he wanted, searching for someone who understood his sketches. Heck, he spent an entire afternoon staring at diamonds for ones that sparkled just right.
Instead of letting her see him cringe, he smiled and stepped in the door, dropping his bag to the floor and wrapping her up in his arms. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” She squeezed him tight, pressing her face against his shoulder so her voice was muffled. “Last night when I went to wash my face it wasn’t there. I spent the whole day looking everywhere. Everywhere.”
Taking a deep breath he released her, kicking the door shut and leading her into the living room. He sat with her on the couch and pushed her blonde hair behind her ears so he could look into her face.
“My mom helped too. We went back to the park we to Jesse to, the grocery, cleaned out the car completely, washing machine, dishwasher, and it’s nowhere. I swear, this house has never been cleaner.”
“That’s something at least.” He forced a grin, racking his brain for a possibility she hadn’t thought of. “What about Jesse’s toy box? Or the fridge. You’re always leaving the remote in there.”
“That was once. And I cleaned them both out. Took a box of toys to the children’s shelter when I finished with the toy box.”
“Wow. Okay.” He nodded slowly, taking her left hand in his. He’d grown so accustomed to seeing that ring on her finger the last four years, it looked bare without it. “We’ll get a new one.”
“We can’t afford it right now.” Melissa waved her hand toward the kitchen, which they’d been remodeling themselves bit by bit for the last three months. Right now all their meals came from the microwave because they didn’t have a stove. “My mom gave me one of her rings she’s not using. I can wear that.”
“I can buy you a ring.” He pushed a hand through his hair and tried to think of where the money would come from. He’d picked up some extra money when he volunteered to train the airport screeners at the Boise airport, where he’d just returned from. Maybe if he asked to be assigned to more, or picked up extra shifts managing the checkpoints at neighboring airports. But that would mean more nights away from Jesse. And two-year-olds understood ‘Daddy has to work’ about as well as ‘Don’t touch.’
Melissa leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’d rather have a stove, and have you home.”
The metal detector really liked the petite brunette trying to pass through the security checks with her two young children. The curly haired little girls were not impressed by the hold up.
With a smile, Brian stepped forward, helping to keep the kids from bolting. The woman unfastened her watch, dropped it in the tray, and tried to pass through again. No such luck.
“Why don’t you try removing all your jewelry,” Brian suggested. They could pat the woman down, but that might scare the girls. “Even your shoes could be setting it off.”
Brian watched as the woman slipped off her shoes, earrings, necklace, and three rings. His heart skipped a beat as he saw the heart shaped diamond, flanked by two teardrop diamonds on the wedding band.
He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but where did you buy that ring? Your wedding band?”
“Oh, I’m not married anymore. My girls found that a few weeks ago while we were playing at a park.”
“Here in Oregon?”
“Yes, Hillsboro actually.” The woman passed through the metal detectors without a peep. Her girls began to clap. She bowed and kissed the youngest on the head before retrieving her shoes and pulling them on.
“Would that be Griffin Oaks Park?”
The woman’s eyes widened as she looked up at him. “Yes.”
“And is there an inscription on the ring? Brian's Best Bet?”
His cheeks tightened as his smiled widened. “I’m Brian. I met my wife when she sold me a lottery ticket.”
She blinked, then began to laugh. She reached into the tray and pulled out her jewelry. Handing the ring to Brian she shook her head and grinned. “Your wife should have this sized so she doesn’t lose it again.”
“Thank you so much.” Brian turned the ring over in his fingers, breath swelling in his chest. As he watched the woman who’d answered his prayers walk away his cell phone rang on his hip. His supervisor was understandably confused by what she saw on the monitors.
He couldn’t stop smiling as he explained. Keeping the secret as he called Melissa and asked her to meet him for lunch nearly killed him. His hand slipped into his pocket at every opportunity, a thrill shooting through him every time his fingers found the ring.
By the time Jesse toddled up to him, pulling Melissa along for the ride, Brian was sure the secret showed on his face. To get to the bank of windows where Jesse could watch the planes land he had to let go of the ring, holding the boy with one hand, and Melissa’s hand with another. He tried not to look behind them every few steps, worried the ring would slip from his pocket and be lost forever.
“What’s on your mind?” Melissa asked, giving Jesse a container of crackers and sitting down in a chair by the windows.
“What makes you think there’s something on my mind?” Slipping his had into his pocket he connected with metal and let out a deep breath.
“You called, for one. And you seem nervous.”
He’d been nervous the first time he did this. But now, excitement ruled his emotions. He got down on one knee in front of her chair.
“What are you doing?”
Pulling the ring from his pocket he held it out to her. “Will you marry me?”
She stared longingly at the ring. “We decided it was too much right now.”
“I already paid for it. Five years ago.”
“That’s my ring?” Her eyes glassed over and her bottom lip started to quiver. “But how did you find it?”
Brian slipped it on her finger as she tried not to cry. “I am a very lucky man.”
About the Author: Jenna Bayley-Burke is a domestic engineer, freelance writer, award-winning recipe developer, romance novelist, cookbook author and freebie fanatic. Blame it on television, a high-sugar diet, or ADD; she finds life too interesting to commit to one thing — except her high school sweetheart and two blueberry-eyed baby boys. Her category romance novels can be found in bookstores, as long as you live in the UK. Her short stories, both naughty and nice, are available from The Wild Rose Press. When she is procrastinating, she has lots to say on her blog, website, and reading group, We Call It Research.