Rival Page 73

God, I loved him.

“Madoc . . .” I ran up to him, and he turned just in time to catch me in a hug. I whispered in his ear. “You’re so hot.”

His body shook with laughter, and he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me up off the ground. I circled my arms around his neck and slammed the bedroom door after he’d walked us in.

“We’ve got problems,” said matter-of-factly.

“We’re eighteen. And my father is bluffing.”

“But—”

“Trust me,” he interrupted. “Do you love me?”

I nodded like a kid that wanted ice cream. “Yes.”

“Like love me so much that you wouldn’t even be able to kill me if I turned into a zombie?” he pressed with mischief on his face.

“Yes.” I laughed.

He set me down and dug in his pants, pulling out a circular, black leather box. As he opened it up, I nearly slumped at the sight of what I saw.

A ring, beautifully detailed around the platinum band with a large round diamond in the center and several smaller round diamonds down each side, shimmered in the room’s glow.

When my wide eyes looked up, Madoc was on one knee.

He smirked. “I have an idea.”

• • •

“Man, are you sure you’re ready to do this?” Jared leaned on the counter on Madoc’s other side as we signed the papers for our marriage license.

“Don’t be jealous,” Madoc joked. “We can still be friends. Just not friends with benefits.”

Jared rolled his eyes and walked back to the wall of chairs, sitting down with his elbows on his knees.

He didn’t look worried. Definitely concerned, though. Maybe a little frantic, too.

I knew I certainly was. I was nauseous, nervous, petrified, worried, and tense.

And completely in love.

It had taken me all of two seconds to find my voice and whisper “yes” when Madoc asked me to marry him. And even though I had a hurricane of concerns and questions spinning in my stomach, I was completely sure and calm about one thing.

Madoc.

I didn’t doubt him for a single moment, and I never hesitated when I asked myself if I was his.

I was, am, and will always be. This was it.

We’d left our house before Madoc’s dad got home and drove straight into Chicago. I’d barely had any clothes with me, so we headed to my dorm first so I could clean up and grab Tate, and then we’d texted Jared to ditch class and meet us at the City Clerk’s Office.

We needed witnesses and, of course, we wanted our friends there.

I definitely didn’t look like a bride, though. Tate and I had the same style in clothes, which meant I was out of luck for dresses. It was probably for the best, though. I would’ve been uncomfortable.

I wore a flimsy, white blouse with a fancy tie collar and capped sleeves tucked into some nice skinny jeans, and some black ballet flats with a matching black Burberry military coat. It was fitted at the waist and flared out as it fell mid-thigh. Madoc complemented me in his usual expensive jeans and a black military style fall coat that fell just below his waist. He had slapped some paste into his hair to make it stick up and the way he looked at me now, flashing his bright smile, was already doing me in.

Tate and I had scrambled on hair and makeup, but Madoc wouldn’t stop looking at me like he wanted to eat me, so I guess we did all right.

I interlaced my fingers, each hand clutching the other.

The big diamond ring felt like heaven on my finger, and that was saying something for a girl who didn’t wear conventional jewelry.

He’d said it was a family heirloom, and that his father had given it to his mother for their engagement. When I hesitated, he’d laughed and explained that even though her marriage ended in divorce, the grandmother and great-grandmother who’d worn it before all had long, happy lives with their husbands.

Husband.

Questions flooded my head. Where would we live? How badly were our parents going to react? What about school? Would I be good to him? Good for him?

Looking down, I stared at the ring with its intricate detailing on the band, considering the history it represented and the man who gave it to me. He loved me. He was faithful. He was strong.

And our parents had to face the fact that we would never leave each other alone.

“You look happy.” Tate stood at my side as Madoc finished up with the clerk.

I held my stomach and sighed. “I think I’m going to throw up, actually.”

Madoc turned his head, eyeing me with raised eyebrows.

I rushed to add, “But it’s like a wow-I’m-so-excited-I-think-I’m-going-to-be-sick feeling.”

He leaned in and plopped a quick kiss on my lips. “Come on. Let’s head to the courthouse.”

He took my hand and grabbed the marriage license off the counter, but I dug my feet in, stopping him.

“Madoc?” My voice sounded as timid as I could make it. “I think . . . maybe . . . we should find a priest.”

I scrunched my face in an apology.

“A priest?” he asked, his expression confused.

Madoc and I were both raised Catholic and attended parochial elementary schools. However, we’d both stopped practicing, so I could see how he was blindsided by my request.

I gulped. “I just think that my father may kill you unless a priest marries us.” I tipped one corner of my lips up in a smile and clutched Madoc’s hand, dragging him forward. “Come on.”

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