Curling up onto the couch, he held her close, stroking his fingertips up and down her arm.
“If I agree to do this,” she said as she twined her fingers with his, “I want you to promise me something.”
“I want you to have power of attorney over me for my medical care. If…if I’m a vegetable promise you’ll make me DNR. I do not want to live like that, trapped in a corpse of a body.”
“That won’t happen,” he said fiercely.
“But if it does, please, promise me. Please, Hawk. You’re the only one I trust to do the right thing, to do what I want. I’ll give you power of attorney, so you can make all the calls.”
Closing his eyes, he nodded. “If I agree, I don’t just want power of attorney.”
“But you’ll need it to be legally covered.”
“Not if I’m your husband.”
She gaped at him, and he silently cursed himself. He’d imagined proposing to her a million times, all daydreams that involved beaches, or mountains, or some romantic setting in Paris. Hell, he’d been ready to propose to her the moment she stepped off the stage with her diploma. Life had thrown a wrench in those plans, but his desires remained the same.
“I want you forever, Sunny. However long that may be.”
“I don’t…I can’t…” She shook her head, sorrow clear on her face. “You don’t have to marry me because I’m sick.”
Shaking his head, he cupped her face in his hands. “I don’t want to marry you because you’re sick. I want to marry you because I love you more than anything in this world. And I’m not above using any means necessary to get my way. You want me to make a life or death decision for you, then you become my wife.”
He ran upstairs and grabbed a small, green velvet box out of his dresser. By the time he made it back downstairs, Sunny was crying again. She looked so small, so fragile curled up on his big couch. The veins in her hands stuck out as she wiped her face with a tissue and looked his way.
Kneeling before her, he opened the box and held it out to her. “I bought this in Colorado after you left.”
“Oh my God,” she gasped and took in the big diamond set in a native American inspired platinum band set with slivers of opal and turquoise. “This is the ring I saw in the window of that jewelry store!”
He nodded. “You stopped in your tracks when you saw it and your eyes lit up. I knew, right then and there, it was the ring for you.”
“It’s amazing,” she whispered. “You really want to marry me?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle, then he laughed even more at the confused, adorable look on her face. “Sunny, I love you. I don’t mean a passing fancy, or puppy love, or lust-fueled affection. I will love you until the sun grows cold and the universe grows quiet.”
The circles beneath her eyes were dark as she looked up at him, her face swollen from crying. “I love you, too, but I don’t want to burden you—”
He gently placed his big hand over her mouth, his skin so dark against her too pale tone. “You will never be a burden to me. Ever. No matter what. Before you argue with me, consider this—what if our positions were reversed? What if I was the one facing a serious medical issue? What if I was suddenly paralyzed in a car accident? Would you leave me?”
Sparks flared in her brown eyes, and she empathetically shook her head. “Never.”
“Then don’t expect me to leave you.”
Her lower lip trembled. “Are you sure?”
He gave her a small smile. “Sit up a little bit.”
Working quickly, he balanced her slight weight on his lap as he quickly unbuttoned his shirt.
“What are you doing?” she asked as she reached for a tissue from the box on the table.
“I’m showing you how sure I am of you.”
As she dabbed at her nose, he revealed his left pectoral. There, curved into a tribal design that flowed over his shoulder, was her name in Old English letters. He’d worn his vest closed at the club, hiding it from her until the time was right.
“What…when?” she leaned forward and traced her fingertips over the letters. “It’s my name.”
“Tattooed over your heart.”
She blinked a couple times, her dark lashes spikey from her tears. “You really love me.”
He had to hold back an exasperated sigh. “Yes!”
A small smile curved her lips as some of the sorrow left her gaze. “I got my nipples pierced for you.”
Now it was his turn to stare at her, dumbfounded. “What?”
She brushed her fingertips over his left nipple, playing with the gold hoop. “I got my nipples pierced last year. The hoops match yours.”
His cock began to pulse as blood rushed below his belt. “Let me see.”