By: Melissa Schroeder

“You’re the one who ran away.”

He sighed. “I was stupid.”

She wanted to punish him, but since he admitted he was stupid, she would at least be cordial. “From the uniform, I assume you’re going to stay in the military?”

He nodded.

“So you flew over, and that must have been expensive by the way, dressed up in your little white uniform, to tell me you’re staying in the military.”

“I came for you.”

The declaration had a few of the women sighing, and if she were honest with herself, Shannon’s heart did a little flip flop.

“Me? Oh, the person who was trying to fix you?”

His jaw flexed again. “You were right, I was scared. Mainly because my mortality had been in question.”

“We’re all mortal.”

“He is a Seal, Shannon,” her brother said from behind her.

She glanced over her shoulder with narrowed eyes. “Stay out of this, or I’ll tell Cynthia you told me about helping her with her shoes.”

He held up his hands in self-defense.

When she turned back to Kade, she was still frowning. She had to stay mad. It was her only safety from falling for the idiot again.

“As I was saying, that last mission was bad. Really bad. I knew it was, and so did Mal, but we didn’t act fast enough. I…well, I questioned if I was fit to serve.”

Oh, God, he was killing her. He had been like Mal. The only reason he had gotten into the military was to be a Seal. It had been the thing that had driven them, the one thing they identified with the most.

“Just because you had one bad mission doesn’t mean that you should quit. You’re a good Seal.”

He nodded. “Since taking you to bed, I care more about being a good man.”

She couldn’t take this. Her heart was melting, her better judgment flying out the window with the trade winds. If she gave into him, what would she do?

“You are a good man.” Her voice was raw with emotion. She might not be able to take him back, but there was one thing she knew. He was good at his core. Always had been.

He nodded, then bent down on one knee. Several of the women gasped, and there was a patter of applause.

“I love you, Shannon. Will you marry me?”

Panic came first. It took her by the throat and would not let go. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat. Then on the heels of it came anger. He thought he could propose and everything would be okay.


“What did you say?”

“You can’t just come in here with a ring…” When she noticed him grimace, she realized he wasn’t offering her a ring. “You didn’t even bring a ring, you idiot.” She slapped him on the shoulder and went to move past him, but Kade grabbed her by the wrist.

“I thought you’d want to pick one out.”

The moment he touched her, her pulse jumped. Fear had her twisting her arm free. She wasn’t afraid of him, but of what she would do. She couldn’t say yes, deal with the idiot’s moods. Months of waiting for him to come home, then have to joke him out of his stupid bad mood and God, hear him laugh as he hugged her.

Tears stung her eyes. She did not want that. No way.

“No. Stay away.”

He rose to his feet and started after her. She was heading for the door with no idea of where she was going. She left her purse behind, she didn’t have a car, but she just needed to get away.

Her hand was inches from the door when he scooped her up off the floor, then positioned her on his shoulder like a freaking sack of potatoes.

“You know, woman, I had to chase you across the Pacific. I came to apologize, to tell you I love you, to tell you I want to spend my life with you, and what do you do? You say no and run away.”

“Put. Me. Down.”

He apparently heard the threat in her voice and decided to heed the tone. He slowly put her down. She stepped back from him, but put up her hand when he inched closer.

“I promise not to leave. Just…stay there.”

If he was close, she would feel his warmth, take in his scent, and she couldn’t handle that. Her head was already spinning.

“Why are you running?”

The question had her stomach churning. She was running. She wasn’t going to admit it to him.

“I just wanted to get away. I needed some space. I don’t like public declarations.”

He cocked his head, then that slow smile that always melted her bones curved his lips. “You’re afraid.”

“Go to hell.”

She turned to march away, but he caught her and pulled her back against him.

“I’m sorry, baby. So sorry. You didn’t take any cheap shots at me, and I shouldn’t have been so happy about you being scared.”

“I’m not scared.” But even as she said it, she knew she was lying.

“Yeah, you are. It’s okay. This thing we have is scary.”

He turned her gently and cupped her face, wiping away the tears from her cheeks.

“I want to marry you, I want to have babies with you, but know I have to finish my obligation. I have four more years, then I’m out.”

“You’ll stay in more.”

He shook his head. “I love it, really do. But…I love you more. I need you more than I need this. It’s a lot to ask. I’ll be in Virginia, then out in the field. You’ll be in New Orleans. But, we can make this work. I know we can.”

She sighed, her heart just falling down at his feet then. It wasn’t so much of what he said, but the way he said it, and the soft look in his eyes.

“I have to ask again, because, Shannon, without you, being a Seal means nothing to me. I love you. Please, marry me.”

Her vision blurred as another batch of fresh tears filled her eyes. “Oh, Kade, I love you, too. Yes. Yes! I’ll marry you.”

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her as the sound of customer’s applause filled the air.


“What do you have planned?” Shannon asked as Kade took her hand and led her out of the elevator.

“You’re the worst about secrets. I thought you were bad at Christmas.” She could hear the smile in his voice, but she couldn’t see him. He’d blindfolded her downstairs and refused to tell her where they were going. She knew they were still in the hotel where they had their wedding reception, but she wasn’t sure where they were going.

“For all I know, you’re leading me down the hallway to kill me.”

“No, I just have a surprise, and I didn’t want you to know about it.”

She frowned at that as he stopped her. She opened her mouth to tell him just what she thought, but she heard a woman’s delighted squeal in the distance.