The Farmer's Daughter

by MissLynn

Copyright© 2008 by MissLynn

Romantic Story: Would he ever be good enough to take her hand? He was a city boy with long hair but he loved her.

Tags: Ma/Fa   Romantic  

{i]Note from Jake Rivers:

This is my fifth semi-annual "invitational." The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "This Bed of Rose's." The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: "El Paso" "El Paso City " and "Faleena." The third had stories based on the various versions of "Maggie May" or "Maggie Mae." The fourth invitational was based on any Country & Western song.

The current invitational is based on any song written or performed by Merle Haggard.

Regards, Jake

Jessie Trabert curled up on her sofa and thought back eight years ago to when she'd lost her mother.

"Mama, I'm done with my homework, can I please go to Becky's?"

"Are your chores done?" Agnes Trabert asked her daughter.

"Yes, mama, I did them. Please mama, can I go?"

Agnes felt the familiar pain start to grip her abdomen. "Sure, you go on and have fun."

She waited for the telltale slamming of the door to tell her that Jessie was gone before she gave in to it. Agnes knew she couldn't hide it much longer but she just didn't want her family to worry. Besides, the doctor already said the cancer was far enough along there wasn't anything they could do. No, telling them would help no one and only make the entire family upset. She wanted them to have a decent Christmas, if she had her way.

Jessie was a gangly fifteen-year old and full of energy. She'd hopped on her bicycle and pedaled a little over a mile to her friend Becky's house for an hour or so. Both girls loved to browse through the latest fashion magazines and imagine wearing the stylish clothing themselves. They wanted to go to college and find handsome boyfriends that took care of them. Giggles erupted when they thought about kissing, though. The girls had fun together but soon it was time for Jessie to go home.

The sight of the ambulance in the driveway at their house scared Jessie. She raced across the yard and jumped off her bike.

"Mama! Daddy!"

A police officer kept Jessie from going inside as she screamed. He led her to the porch swing and sat there with her, trying to calm her a little.

"Where's my mom and dad? I wanna go inside."

"Let's wait here for a bit, okay? Are you Jessie?

She shook her head in confusion that he would know her name. "Yes."

"Well, Jessie, I'm Officer Swift and your daddy would want me to be sure you're safe out here, don't you think?"

"Is my daddy okay?" Tears streaked down her cheeks as all sorts of thoughts went through her head. "I want my mama."

Paramedics brought out a stretcher just then and Jessie scrambled toward it. Her father followed them out the door and saw his daughter.

"Jessie, I'm so sorry."

"Daddy, what's wrong? Where's mama?"

"Honey, I came in from the barn and your mother ... I called for help right away, but..."

She ignored his words and tried to get at the ambulance. "Mama!"

"Jessie, Jessie, no, don't," he yelled and grabbed her arm.

He'd held his only daughter then, as the ambulance drove off with his precious wife. The rest of the day was a blur for her but they'd gone to the hospital. There the doctor told them about her mother's cancer and that she'd known about it for weeks. Today she'd had a massive stroke and died instantly. She'd left them even before she thought her time was going to be up.

Jessie's father took over everything after that. It was hard for him to be both her dad and a mama, too. Raising a teenager alone wasn't easy but he made sure she knew how much he loved her every single day. Ralph Trabert vowed on his wife's grave that he'd never let her down when it came to their daughter. Jessie's father attended all of her school functions those last years. He was so proud when Jessie graduated in the top ten of her class. The years were tough, but they'd grown closer and made it.

She chose a college about five hours away from their home but still in Florida. Jessie was torn. Getting a degree was a dream of hers but leaving meant her father would be alone. They'd discussed it in depth before he'd convinced her he would be fine and she left. Jessie's four years of school seemed to fly past and soon it was time to graduate. Her father had tears in his eyes when he saw his only daughter receive her diploma. He looked to the sky where he knew his wife was watching over them and smiled.

Ralph went back home and Jessie stayed in the city. She'd made friends at school and found a secretarial job she enjoyed. A few times, she brought dates back with her for the weekend but her father always found something wrong with each one. Jessie decided it wasn't worth the hassle and gave up dating for several months. Then she met Erik.

"Am I supposed to know what all this stuff means?"

Erik heard the soft voice and stopped. He wondered what kind of answer the girl would get from what in his opinion were lame salesmen at this dealership.

"Torque, water fording, wheelbase, crosswinds, articulation activity, traction control, panic brake condition, electronic, mitigation..."

He chuckled to himself at the obvious confusion in her voice.

"There's no way anyone knows this stuff," the girl muttered.

By now, Erik surmised she was alone and decided to offer some assistance. He knew quite a bit about the vehicles and thought it might be fun to help.

"You might not need to know all of that," he said as he rounded the front of the Jeep. "What's most important is do you know how to drive one on the beach?"

Jessie blushed when she realized she'd been overheard talking to herself again. She knew it was a bad habit of hers but she thought she was alone.

"Isn't the beach for people?"

"That depends where and when you go," he replied. "Take Miami Beach for example. There are people lined up on the sand from sun up to dusk. Inland you'll find less people. That's where you take a Jeep and play."

His broad wink made her laugh.

"I'm so sorry. Forgive my lack of manners. I'm Erik Corlett."

"Jessie Trabert," she said. "Do you work here?"

"No, I don't, but I do know a few things about Jeeps since that's all I've had for about ten years."

Erik studied the petite woman in front of him. She wasn't his usual athletic type but something in her eyes drew him to her. They wandered through the rows of new and used vehicles with Erik pointing out things he found to be pros or cons of each one.

"Well, Erik, thank you for trying to teach me a little today," she said when they reached her car.

He opened his wallet and took out a business card. "Here's my number if you have more questions. You can call me anytime."

Jessie read the name of the real estate company he worked for and whistled. "Impressive. I've heard good things about this company."

Erik grinned and nodded. "We do pretty well. Call me, Jessie. Soon, okay?"

Jessie smiled before she answered. "I'll do that, Erik."

He watched her drive off and wondered if she really would. Something about her intrigued him.

Jessie left the car lot and thought about the cute guy she'd just talked with. She hadn't wanted to seem too excited when he'd said to call him if she needed help but his offer thrilled her. Her father might be able to give her tips on shopping for a tractor or other farm equipment but that was about it. His whole life centered on making a few dollars from the small parcel of land he owned out in the country. A week passed before she dared take Erik up on his offer.

"Flynch Realty and Land Development, how may I help you today?"

"Erik Corlett, please?"

"One moment please, while I see if Mr. Corlett is available."

Jessie couldn't believe she was really calling him. She remembered how the wind tousled his blond hair that day and blushed. Would it look that way after she ran her hands through it, she wondered?

"This is Erik."

"Hi, ah, this is Jessie. Jessie Trabert. We talked last week and you said to call..."

"Still confused about torque, are you?" Erik heard the hesitation in her voice and hoped the joking would help.

"That and so much more, Erik," she said and laughed.

Their conversation lasted over an hour and only ended when she promised to meet him for dinner. He named a popular restaurant she'd heard of but never been to. Jessie felt good that he hadn't offered to pick her up. She wanted to have her own vehicle there in case she decided to leave for some reason. He might not be as honest as he seemed, she told herself as she rummaged through the closet for something to wear.

She needn't have worried. Erik was the perfect date all evening. He talked about himself only when she asked and he didn't pry into her personal life either.

Erik chuckled now at those memories as he put his beer back on the bar. Jessie had not called for a week and he had just decided she was not going to. Later she had admitted to thinking she was not his type and that he had only made the offer to be polite. Apparently, a friend convinced her to give him a chance. A year later, they were inseparable and madly in love.

"You look like you can use some company," a soft voice said close to his ear.

He felt a body on either side of him and sighed. "I'm waiting for my lady, sorry."

"We can make you forget your lady."

Erik made eye contact with the bartender and shook his head.

"Ladies, I think the gentleman gave you his answer," Joe said to them.

"Shut up, Joe, we aren't talking to you," the one on Erik's right replied.

"Let's not make a scene, ladies." Joe cocked his head toward the bouncer as he spoke.

"We just want some fun with this hot hunk of meat."

"Get your hands off my man." Jessie stood a few feet behind Erik and glared at the two hussies pawing at him.

Joe arched his eyebrow at Jessie and grinned. He recognized her and decided to let her handle this on her own for now.

"I'll give you twats ten seconds to leave," Jessie said in a calm voice.

She never flinched when one of the girls flung her glass of beer behind the bar. Erik remained seated and did not say a word.

"Five seconds, bitches."

The two girls, both well on their way to being drunk, turned to face Jessie.

"Who the hell do you think you are to tell us what to do?"

Taller than Jessie, the speaker took a wobbly step closer and raised a fist at her.

"I'm the one that's going to kick your ass if you don't get out of my face," Jessie said as she stared at the brunette.

Erik realized that the blonde had slipped away without saying a word. He looked into the mirror behind the bar and saw her squirming in the arms of the bouncer. She wouldn't be sneaking up on Jessie at least.

The voluptuous brunette laughed and made a move toward Jessie. Erik heard the gasp from the rest of the patrons and was almost afraid to turn around. He'd figured the drunk would walk away and didn't expect anything to happen.

"Jessie!" he called out expecting to see her on the floor.

"Hi, Honey. Joe, I'll take a beer." Jessie moved up next to Erik and kissed his open lips.

Erik saw a couple of the bar employees dragging the tall brunette out the door. Blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth.

"What the hell did you do to her?" His shock was evident in the tone of his voice.

"I might have forgotten to tell you about the class I joined at the gym..."

He laughed at the look of pride she had on her face at that moment. "I think you did but it's all right."

"I'm quite certain it's established now that you're my man."

"Yes, it is. But I knew it all along."

A cheer went up throughout the bar as Erik pulled her close and kissed her hard.

"Let's go," Jessie murmured when they broke apart.

Erik tossed some bills on the bar before he took her hand and led her toward the exit. Once outside, they remembered each had their own vehicles when Erik turned to his left and Jessie went to his right.

"I have to pick up a few things at the store anyway so I'll just meet you at my place," Jessie said.

He watched her drive off then went the opposite direction to her apartment. She'd given him a key several months ago, so he let himself in once he'd parked in the space reserved for guests. Erik put on some music and just relaxed as he waited for Jessie. A knock at the door a few minutes later surprised him. He checked the clock then peeked through the small window before opening it.

"Mr. Trabert, come in. Jessie isn't here —"

"Why are you in her apartment if she isn't home?"

"We were leaving the bar —"

"Did you let her drive drunk?"

Erik sighed and took a deep breath. He knew that Jessie's father was only trying to protect her but he just didn't seem to give Erik a chance.

"She didn't have a drink at all. We met there after work and decided not to leave either of our vehicles in the parking lot overnight. Jessie had to get a few things at the store so I came right here."

"Seems to me if a man cared about a woman he'd go with her and be sure she was safe," her father said.

"Jessie's shopped there be—"

He glared as he cut Erik off. "A real man would go for her."

Erik ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes. The loose blond locks hung below his shoulders as always.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Erik asked.

"I'll wait for my daughter, thank you."

Ralph sat on the sofa and looked straight ahead. He'd raised Jessie alone after his precious Agnes died. They'd struggled to make the old farmhouse a home but somehow they'd done it. Now he only wanted the best for his baby. It didn't matter if the man she dated was the richest in seven counties, he'd never be good enough.

Minutes passed and the silence went on. Erik wished he could find a way to get Jessie's father to accept him. There wasn't any one real reason he could think of that made the elderly man dislike him. The jiggling of the doorknob brought them both to their feet.

"Erik, oh my god, look," Jessie burst into the apartment as she spoke. "I bruised my knuckles when I punched out that girl."

"Honey, look who's here," Erik said just as Jessie saw her father.

Jessie blanched as she realized what she'd just said in earshot of her father. "Hi Daddy, what brings you out here?"

"Is that the type of behavior I taught you, Jessie?"

"Daddy, I'm an adult now. Besides, they were trying to pick up my man."

"Ever since you met him," Ralph said, "you've changed."

Erik heard the implication of disapproval in the words and looked at Jessie. They'd discussed her father's attitude before but never come up with an answer to get him to accept Erik. He just continued loving Jessie and hoped in time the older man would see his devotion to his daughter was real.

Jessie dropped her keys on the counter and turned to hug her father. She knew it was time to change the subject.

"It's good to see you, Daddy. I didn't know you were coming to town, though."

"I needed some tractor parts and thought I'd stay on your sofa tonight. That way I can get to the dealer when they open and head home right away. I won't lose as much time working that way."

"You could always stay with me, Mr. Trabert," Erik said from the other side of the room. "I have a spare bedroom all set up for guests. It's more comfortable than Jessie's sofa, I can tell you that for sure."

"I suppose I should be glad you know about her sofa and not her bed," Ralph replied and turned toward his daughter.

"Mr. Trabert, I love Jessie —"

"I'm tired from the trip here and need an early start. Jessie, I could use a shower before I call it a night." Ralph cut Erik off and walked away.

Jessie motioned for Erik to wait as she took her father down the hall. He heard her talking as they disappeared into her bedroom where he assumed she was setting him up in her shower. Erik knew Ralph loved Jessie and had struggled raising her alone after her mom died. He just didn't know how to make him understand he loved Jessie, too.

"I'm sorry." The soft words came from Jessie as she came back into the room and stopped in front of him.

"It isn't your fault, Baby. I should go before he's done."

Their lips met for only moments as both tried to contain themselves. Her eyes looked almost black in the light as they conveyed to him a message of desire and passion. Erik groaned when she swayed against him with her petite frame.

"Jessie," he murmured, "you're making it hard for me to leave."

"Hard is how I like it, Erik."

He claimed her lips again and crushed her body to his so she could feel just what she'd done to him. One hand slid under her shirt to brush her nipple through the thin bra covering the puckered tip. The sound of the water shutting off stopped him from going further.

"I'll call you when he's asleep," Jessie whispered into his ear.

"I love you, Jessie." Erik ran his knuckles over her cheek and gazed into her eyes. "Your father will see that some day."

Jessie just nodded. She locked the door behind him and sighed before getting some blankets for her father. If only her father could see the things in Erik that she did, she thought as she made up the sofa. He had so many good qualities, several that her father always approved of in other people but didn't see in Erik.

"Are you hungry, Daddy?" Jessie asked when she saw her father come out of her room.

"I stopped on the road for dinner but if you need something, don't let me interrupt."

"No, I'll be fine. Maybe we can have breakfast together before you leave in the morning?" Jessie hoped her father would stay since she planned to ask Erik to join them.

"That sounds good, since the supplier doesn't open until nine anyway. Then I can get back to the farm and repair the tractor tomorrow and only lose one day of work."

Ralph gave his daughter a hug and went over to the sofa. "Goodnight, Jessie."

"Daddy, he's a good man. He's kind, generous, and polite and above all, he loves me for who I am. I wish you could see that."

"No one is good enough for my baby, Jessie. I don't care who he is."

Jessie didn't know what else to say. It seemed she wasn't going to change her father's mind with her words.

"Night, Daddy. I love you."

Father and daughter went to their separate beds and slipped between the sheets. Jessie waited until she heard the soft sound of snoring from the living room and picked up the telephone to call Erik. He answered after only one ring.


"Hey Baby."

Only a few minutes passed before Jessie hung up again. It took much longer for both of them to fall asleep.

Getting up early was a habit that stuck with Jessie from living on the farm for so many years. Her father still woke first the next morning and had coffee going when she walked into the kitchen.

"Morning, Daddy. I thought maybe you'd sleep in a bit since you didn't have to cook your own breakfast today." Jessie grinned at her father since she knew he always woke up early.

"I'm too old to change my ways, you should know that," he replied and chuckled.

Jessie thought about his attitude toward Erik in relation to that statement and decided to bring it up again.

"I've been seeing him for a year already, Daddy. What must he do to prove himself to you?"

He didn't reply for several minutes. Just as he started to speak, a knock on the door interrupted him.

"That's Erik. I invited him to have breakfast with us," Jessie said as she went to the door.

Ralph sipped his coffee and watched as the young man hugged his daughter. He took in the long blond hair and the surfer look of the city boy and sighed. At times like this, he really missed his Agnes to guide Jessie.

"Good morning, Mr. Trabert," Erik greeted as he walked further into the room.

"Erik," Ralph replied.

Jessie looked at her boyfriend with beseeching eyes. He felt her irritation but wasn't sure what to do.

"So, Mr. Trabert, how do you like your eggs?"

The question took Ralph by surprise. "Over-easy, with the centers unbroken is how I've had them every day for over thirty years."

"I can do that, with a twist. Are you game?"

"If you don't break the center, I'll try 'em, how's that?" Ralph replied.

"Jessie, you can do the sausage while I take charge of the eggs," Erik said as he opened the refrigerator.

Ralph watched as the two young people worked side-by-side preparing breakfast. They bumped into each other and laughed just as he and Agnes had years ago. He missed her so much some days it was difficult to go on, but he did for Jessie.

Tantalizing smells soon wafted through the small kitchen. Jessie refilled his coffee mug and brought in the morning paper for him. He hated to admit to himself how homey it really felt.

"Erik cooks most of the time for us, Daddy. He learned on his own in college when he needed to find cheap meals. The things he can do with pasta would amaze you."

"Here you go, Mr. Trabert," Erik said as he slid a plate across the table. "Not a broken center on there."

He grinned as Ralph checked the eggs before looking back up at him. "You're right."

Jessie watched her father fill his fork and lift it to his mouth. She noticed how he tried to identify the spices before he slipped it into his mouth. Erik leaned against the counter and waited to hear the verdict. Ralph took a second bite then turned to Erik.

"They'll do."

Erik turned his back to the man and closed his eyes. Jessie knew how hard he was trying and knew this hurt him.

"Dad, I think you owe Erik an apology."

Ralph jerked his head up. Jessie only called him dad when she was angry.

"No, Jessie, it's fine. I'll just leave. It's obvious he doesn't approve of me for whatever reason he has. I've done everything I can think of to show him that I love you. I've never shown him any disrespect. He hates me and I can't win."

Erik walked out the door and shut it just a bit harder than normal. Jessie didn't move as she took a deep breath.

"Why?" She asked just the one word.

Jessie saw the gray in her father's hair and the stoop to his shoulders and wondered when he'd gotten so old. He'd aged in the years since her mom died for sure.

"He's a city boy," Ralph began to say. "Look how long his hair is and the way he does all those dangerous sports."

"Dad, you know I love you. But you know nothing about the real Erik if that's all you see. I've tried to point out —"

"You're my baby, Jessie. No one is good enough."

"Erik is. He's the one I hope to spend the rest of my life with, Dad."

Ralph stood up and gathered his small bag before walking to the door. "I'll call you when I get home, Jessie."

She waited until she didn't hear his car anymore and phoned Erik. It only went to voicemail so she left a short message asking him to call her right away. Next, she cleaned the uneaten breakfast from the table and did the dishes. She still hadn't heard from Erik when she'd finished. Her second call brought the same results, which made her worry. It wasn't like him not to get back to her.

Across town, Erik sat in his office and tried to think. He knew he shouldn't have left Jessie's the way he did but her dad got to him. Maybe Seth would have some tips when he came in to the office, he decided. After all, his boss had been married at one time. Erik chuckled at the thought of having Ralph for his father-in-law. The man would go crazy, he decided.

"You're here early, Erik," Seth said from the opened doorway.

"Hey boss, do you have a bit of free time?"

"Sure, what's going on?"

Seth sat in one of the chairs across from Erik and listened as he talked about Ralph and his clear dislike of him. They'd discussed this a bit before but Erik always took it in stride. Now, he seemed to have reached his limit.

"Are you thinking of proposing to Jessie soon?" Seth asked.

"We haven't talked about it, but yes, it's time. I love her and want to be with her forever."

"Then I'd suggest you live your life and go for it. Jessie's old enough to decide for herself. If she says no because of her father, then she isn't what you think she is anyway. I have faith in her, though. She's a strong young woman and I can see the love in her eyes when she 's with you."

"I just was hoping he'd approve, though," Erik said in a defeated tone.

"He might, after you put that rock on her hand."

"You don't pay me enough to afford a rock, Seth. Maybe a pebble, but not much more," Erik replied and grinned.

"Jessie will be happy with a pebble, believe me, Erik. She's not about things, she's real. Gabriela is that way, you know. I could live in a trailer and she'd accept it. The thing is, I enjoy giving her nice things."

"Yeah, but you can afford it, too," Erik said. "I'm still working my way up and building clientele."

"You have to remember I'm a bit older, too, Erik. At your age, I didn't have what I do now."

Seth wasn't only the boss, he owned the real estate company where Erik worked. They also were friends, despite the fact that Seth was about twenty years older than Erik was. As single men, they'd played tennis, golf and other sports together since both were athletic. Once Seth met Gabriela, he'd had less time for those activities. It didn't hurt their friendship, though.

"Maybe I should have charged you a 'finder's fee', Seth," Erik stated and chuckled.

Erik happened to be browsing an online dating service one afternoon and come across Gabriela's profile. After reading about her, he'd just known she was the one for Seth. It hadn't taken him long to convince his boss to send an e-mail to her even though he didn't expect a reply. Almost a year and a half later, they married.

"I owe you, Erik, more than you may realize. Gabriela means everything to me. Without her, I was existing, and now I'm alive. She's my soul mate, the one I thought I'd never find. If your love for Jessie is at all like mine is for Gabriela, then you won't let her father stand in your way. Your actions will have to show him you're serious about his daughter."

"You're right, Seth," Erik replied. "I guess I just wanted him to approve now. Jessie makes me happy, Seth."

"Do you want the name of my jeweler or do you have one?"

Erik looked at Seth and grinned. "Can I afford yours?"

The two men talked about business for a while before Seth's secretary told him his first appointment for the day was there. He slid a slip of paper with a store name and address on it toward Erik before he stood up.

"He'll take care of you. There's no one in the diamond business that knows more than he does, Erik."

Erik nodded but didn't reply. His mind was already figuring out what he could afford to spend and when he could sneak out to look at what they had. He checked his schedule and realized he had a couple hours free that afternoon yet. The grin never left his face as he tried to get through some work. By noon, he knew it was a lost cause and told the office staff he was leaving.

He found the address without any problem and walked right in. It was obvious from the décor that the place was for the more distinguishing customers.

"How may I help you today?"

"I'm looking for an engagement ring for my girlfriend. Seth Flynch recommended I come here."

"Ah yes, Mr. Flynch," the gentleman said. "He's a wonderful man. Did you have anything in mind for your lady?"

Erik knew Jessie's other jewelry was white gold so they began there. He browsed the cases of rings but nothing really caught his eye.

"I think this might be closer to what you're looking for, sir." Harold, as he'd learned the man's name was, opened another case and smiled at Erik.

"Harold, this is gorgeous. Tell me a little about it, please."

"The center round stone is just over two karats with those on the sides adding another for a total of three and a half."

"This has to be out of my price range, though." Erik placed the ring back in the case and sighed.

"I think you'll be surprised at how affordable this one is," Harold said.

"Okay, go ahead and tell me, but I'm sure it's higher than I can go."

"It's only ninety-five hundred."

Erik looked at the man and then at the ring with shock. "It can't be."

"I assure you it is."

"Jessie would love it. I'll take it, Harold."

Erik was still having trouble believing the price when Harold put the paperwork in front of him. He took care of his part and minutes later, the ring was his.

It didn't take him long to get back to the office where he looked for Seth. He found him alone in his office and knocked on the doorframe.

"Come on in, Erik," Seth said when he saw his friend standing there.

"I did it. I bought a ring. You were right, that's the best place to go. I got an awesome deal on a fabulous diamond."

"That's great, Erik. Harold takes care of his customers well. You ever need anything else, you go to him and he'll remember you."

The men talked for only a few minutes before Seth had a call come in. Erik went to his own office and thought about how he was going to propose to Jessie. Maybe he'd wait for a special occasion, he thought. So many ideas swirled in his head he didn't know where to begin.

Over in his own office, Seth hung up the phone and grinned. He'd known he could count on Harold to follow his orders. Erik would never know that he'd gotten the ring for half price. He did owe him and covering the other portion of the diamond was the least he could do. Seth appreciated the young man as a friend as well as for being an excellent employee. With his continued determination and hard work, Erik would go far in the business.

The afternoon seemed to fly past for both the men and soon it was time for them to leave. Seth met Erik in the main lobby just as he was heading out so they walked to their cars together.

"Have you decided when you're going to ask her, yet?" Seth asked.

"I want it to be perfect, you know?"

"Whatever you choose will be right, Erik."

"How did you ask Gabriela? Or is that too personal?" Erik knew the couple was very close but hoped Seth could share a few things that would help him know just what to do.

"It just happened. I had the ring for weeks, and always looked for that one special moment. Then on Christmas Eve, I just knew it was time. We'd been talking and she went upstairs to get ready for bed. I felt it, all my love for her, the need to make her mine, to let the world know she was mine because she wore my ring. It was nothing like I'd pictured in my head but more beautiful than all of them together."

"Yeah, I think I get that part. It was like that when I decided to buy this ring, too. Any time I thought about doing that, it I'd already planned it all out in my head. I would browse all the stores and compare everything. There was this little notebook even for keeping track of what I found. Then I was going to make the wisest choice based on those facts," Erik explained.

"Love doesn't go that way, my friend."

"No, it doesn't. My decision was almost rash but I'm positive it's the right step. Jessie and I don't have any plans for the weekend and I'm anxious now so who knows."

They stopped near Seth's car and the older man held out his hand. "Good luck Erik."

"Thanks, Seth. I owe you."

Seth grinned before replying. "I'm sure I'll find a difficult client to send your way to make up for it."

Erik laughed and waved before jogging over to his own vehicle. He was eager to call Jessie and didn't care if his boss did give him a rotten job. Seth just chuckled to himself as he drove home. Jessie was a wonderful woman. If the young couple ended up half as happy as he was with his new wife, they would be fine. A few miles later, only Gabriela was on his mind as he left the city and made his way out to the country.

Jessie was just walking into her apartment when her phone rang. She'd had a rotten day and ended up with a headache. The thought even crossed her mind to let it ring, but she grabbed it hoping it might be Erik.


"Jessie, I'm done early and thought I'd pick up something for dinner."

"Whatever you want is fine."

"Are you okay?"

"My head is splitting in two is all," she said and winced at the sarcasm she heard in her voice.

"Would you rather I not come over?"

"Oh, Honey, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that at all. What about some of that pasta from Gerrelli's?"

"I'm close to there right now, so that's perfect. Give me half an hour. Why don't you rest and I'll let myself in." Erik knew it was rare for her to have a headache and was worried.

"Thanks, Honey, I just might do that," she said. "See you soon."

Erik stopped and ordered their dinners and then went across the street to the liquor store. He chose a bottle of Jessie's favorite wine and stored it in his trunk before returning for the take-out order. A movie of sorts ran in the back of his mind showing a multitude of scenarios for proposing to Jessie. Images of a candlelight dinner at their favorite restaurant, an evening walk at the beach, lying together after making love and even a surprise visit at her work all ran together. He remembered Seth's words how it felt right when he'd proposed to Gabriela and decided just to let the moment happen for him, too.

Jessie's apartment was quiet when he walked in. He set the wine and their dinner on the table and went in search of her. She was asleep on her bed wearing one of his old football shirts. He left the room and went back into the kitchen. Dinner could wait. He could heat it up whenever Jessie woke up, he decided as he put it in the refrigerator.

It was two hours before she wandered into the living room. Erik had his laptop open and was taking care of some paperwork he'd left earlier. He set it to the side as soon as he saw her. Jessie walked over and sat on the arm of the easy chair he was in then smiled at him.

"How do you feel?"

"Groggy but much better," she said. "Have you been here the entire time?"

"I checked you every fifteen minutes."

"Erik, that's so sweet of you."

"You almost never get headaches and that bothered me."

"I think it was the stress with my father. The way he acted this morn —"

Erik covered her lips with his finger to stop her from saying more. "Let's forget about that. Tonight it's just you and I, okay?"

Jessie gazed into the blue eyes of the man she loved and nodded. He meant the world to her and she hoped he knew that. All she wanted was to spend the rest of her life making him happy.

"You sit here and I'll go heat dinner for us," Erik said.

She slid into the spot he deserted and tucked her legs up under her. His scent surrounded her and the chair still held his warmth. Jessie snuggled further into the corner and listened to the sounds coming from the kitchen.

"Another fifteen minutes and it should be heated, okay?" Jessie looked up to see Erik standing in front of her.

"You're just too good to me, you know that?"

"Never," he said as she slid over so he could sit with her. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Jessie. I know that sounds cliché, but it's true. A year ago, I thought my life couldn't get any better. You showed me I was wrong."

"Oh Erik, everything is so perfect. You make me happy in so many ways."

He drew her close to his body and kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry you didn't feel well tonight, Honey. Is there something I can do to make you forget it?"

"Just hold me, Baby," she whispered.

"I have an idea," he murmured a minute later. "Why don't you sit up first for me?"

Jessie groaned but did as he said. Erik moved a bit before he spoke again.

"Baby, did I tell you I went shopping today?"

"How ... what does that have to do with my headache?"

"Well, you might be interested in what I bought is all," he replied.

"Sure," Jessie said as she turned to face him.

Erik waited for her to notice the small box in his hand. He'd worked it out of his pocket as they talked without it catching her attention. Her eyes seemed to pop out of her head the second she saw it.

"Oh my god, Erik," she murmured.

"Honey, I love you more than I ever imagined was possible. I feel incomplete when I'm not with you. More than anything on earth, I hope you'll agree to be my wife. Jessie Marie Trabert, will you marry me?"

The diamond glittered and sparkled in the light when he opened the tiny lid. Her gasp gave him hope that she approved.

"It's fabulous! Oh Erik, yes, yes I'll marry you!"

Shaking hands worked the ring from its velvet bed and slid it onto her finger. "I love you, Jessie."

Their lips met in a sweet kiss just as the buzzer went off in the kitchen. Both laughed at the awkward reminder that their dinner was ready. Erik pulled the dishes from the oven and flipped the knob to off just in time to see Jessie motioning to him.

"Honey, I thought of what you can do to help with that headache." She reached out for his hand with her own as she spoke.

Together they made their way to her bedroom where they spent the next few hours letting their bodies speak of their love for each other. Much later as they lay tangled together in the sheets, Jessie held her hand up in front of them.

"Baby, I love this ring. It's so gorgeous."

"You can thank Seth," Erik said and grinned.

Jessie gave him a questioning look. "How do you mean?"

"He recommended his jeweler, is all."

"Well, it's obvious the man has good taste. You've seen what he gave Gabriela."

Erik wasn't sure how to interpret her statement so didn't answer. Rumors at work were that Seth paid over seventy thousand dollars for her ring.

"If I had to choose a ring for myself, this is it. It's me," she stated with a nod as she turned her hand back and forth.

"You really like it?" Erik's question came out in an uncertain tone.

"I love it. It's exquisite."

"But, it's nothing like Gabriela's..."

Jessie put her hand down and stared at Erik. "I'm not her and I don't want her ring. You chose this," she said and pointed to her ring, "for me from you. It symbolizes us, Erik, the union to come between you and me. We are our own couple, not a part of them. Seth and Gabriela are older and he can afford to give her expensive things. You and I have other things to consider in our future."

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