Bride By Design 3: Manchala Nights

By: Alicia Roberts

"Don't even think of it," he said when I brought up leaving for the night. "I still have to punish you for the way you tortured me earlier."

I blushed and was about to protest when Colin interrupted me.

"Lisa," he said, "I realized something on Manchala when you told me you wanted to leave."

"I'm really sorry about that, Colin, I didn't realize - "

"No, let me finish. When you wanted to go away, it suddenly hit me that I didn't want you to leave. I mean, not just for the work stuff, but just… I don't want you to leave me, ever. People close to me have been leaving me alone all my life, first my mother, then my foster parents. I don't want you to leave me. I tried to deny it when we were in Manchala, but this week, being alone and without you just drove me nuts. You're kind, beautiful and honest, you're the only girl I trust and I'm addicted to you. I need you around me, the way I need air to breathe. I love you, Lisa."

I stared at him, the words flooding through my head. He loved me. Was this another dream or fantasy? But Colin was staring at me, his jade eyes intent and watchful and he was waiting for me to say something.

It finally got through to me that this was actually happening, it wasn't just something I imagined. I felt myself drowning, as reality sunk in.

"I love you, too, Colin," I managed to choke out. "I think I always have, I just didn't trust you enough to believe it."

I let Colin hug me tight and he kissed me softly.

He pulled away and looked at me and I felt myself sinking into his deep eyes.

"That's good to know," he said, "But it's really not enough for me."

I watched, as if in a daze, as he produced a small box from his pocket and got down on one knee.

"I know this is far too son, but I believe in controlling what I can and trying my best to keep what's mine," he said, and gulped. "I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm going to do my best to stop you from ever wanting to leave me again."

He opened the box with a tiny "pop" and I gasped out loud. It contained the most beautiful ring, a large diamond surrounded by a circle of tinier diamonds, and I felt my eyes misting up and my throat constricting.

"Lisa Jones, will you be my wife in real life, and promise to never want to leave me? Will you…"

I lost control when I heard those words, and tears started streaming out of my eyes. I had no idea what Colin said next, I couldn't even see straight because of my tears, but I know that at some point he got up and hugged me, and stroked my hair until I stopped sobbing like a baby.

I let him hold me quietly, and then he leaned back and lifted my chin. "You still haven't answered me," he said softly, and I laughed brokenly.

"Yes, yes, of course I'll marry you and stay with you!"

He lifted my hand to slip the ring on and I started crying again. I had no idea how it happened, but I found myself lying in bed, sobbing into Colin's arms.

When I managed to dry my eyes, I sneaked a glance at Colin, who looked both amused and worried.

"I didn't expect this reaction," he said slowly.

I laughed again. "I'm sorry, I'm normally not such an emotional wreck, I just… I don't know! This is crazy."

Colin smiled back. "Good. You need some craziness in your life. And you need to let someone else take care of you, for once, and I plan to spoil you till you can't even imagine leaving me. No, don't start crying again!"

I traced my finger along Colin's jaw and somehow managed to choked back my tears.

"I love you, Colin Anderson," I said quietly, "And I'm never going to leave you, ever."

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