Pain slashed across his features. “Oh, baby.” He dropped to his knees in front of her, encircling her waist with his arms and pulling her close. His mouth moved over her belly, muttering gruff apologies that sent tears cascading down her cheeks. Throat tight, emotions rubbed raw, Ginger could only stroke his hair comfortingly. Every excruciating moment she’d experienced overnight fell away until all she cared about was taking away his pain. The guilt she knew he now harbored for shutting her out when she needed him most. It’s what they did for each other. What she would always do, as long as he’d let her.
“You tried to tell me, didn’t you? And I just walked out.”
She reacted to the self-loathing in his voice by kneeling in front of him on the floor. “Derek, it’s okay. You’re here now.”
Face paling of color, he sat back on his heels. “Last night at the party, I…did I hurt anything? God, I didn’t know—”
“No.” She shook her head for emphasis. “That’s the one good thing about having so much time on my hands this week. Lots of late nights Googling embarrassing-ass questions. Nothing we do together will ever hurt me. Or…the baby.”
“The baby.” Finally, he took her in his arms. She burrowed her face in his neck and breathed deeply. His chest rose and fell steadily beneath her. “Our baby.”
Hope permeated her chest. “You’re happy?”
His incredulous expression was like a healing balm. He sobered when he saw her drastic relief, appearing to realize just how worried she’d been over his reaction. Before she could blink, he’d scooped her off the floor and set her down on the dining room table. “Ginger, happy is a pitiful, inadequate word to describe what I’m feeling right now. This happened in Miami, correct?”
“I-I think so, yes. How did you—”
“How did I know? I didn’t.” He winked, brushed her mouth with his. “But I’d hoped like hell.”
A laugh burst from her throat. It felt damned amazing. “You’re unbelievable.”
Derek kissed her again, deeper, longer. She swore she could feel it in her soul. “Ah, Ginger. If I could do this week over…”
“I wouldn’t.” She smoothed his arched brow with her thumb. “We’re not perfect. We make mistakes and we always come out stronger on the other side. I hope we never stop screwing up.”
He laughed softly. “Then we won’t. Ever. Not if you say yes.” Derek reached into his jacket pocket. “I should have been home hours ago, but jewelry stores don’t open until ten in the morning. And I wasn’t coming home without a ring.” A black velvet box appeared between them in his palm. His lips quirked when she slapped a hand over her mouth. “Ginger Peet, you were mine the moment I saw you not twenty yards from this spot. I need it to be permanent. I need to call you mine in every sense of the word. Give me that honor and I’ll never give you a reason to doubt me ever again.”
“Yes, Derek. Yes. Make me your wife.” When he plucked her off the counter and spun her around, their laughter echoed through the apartment.
Derek leaned back against the rim of the bathtub, hot water soothing his tired, aching muscles. His eyes threatened to close, but he refused to lose sight of Ginger for even a moment. When she drew her nightshirt over her head to reveal her naked body and slipped into the water with him, Derek’s exhaustion went on hiatus. Steam from the bath caused her hair to curl, her face to flush. It reminded him of the first time they’d been in this bathroom together. When he’d touched her smooth skin for the first time. Listened to her cry his name.
He drew her back against his chest. Having her so close forced the chaotic events of the previous night to recede into the background almost completely. Only she could do that. Still, his chest felt heavy. Images that didn’t belong anywhere near her danced behind his eyes. They would likely never leave him. Remembering their earlier conversation about honesty, he shared his burden, instinctively knowing she would understand.
“I fired my gun last night. Several times.” He swallowed hard. “I didn’t have a choice.”
Ginger let her head fall back onto his shoulder and looked him square in the eye. “Of course you didn’t, Derek.” She seemed to sense his lingering restlessness and pulled away to face him. He didn’t need any more assurances from her. Everything she felt was right there in her eyes, her complete faith in him already beginning to mend the damage. She took a sponge in her hand and lathered it with soap, cleaning his neck and throat before moving lower to his chest.
Derek wouldn’t lie to himself. Sitting in his bathtub, being washed clean by the beautiful woman carrying his child…it made him feel like a fucking king. Damn, he’d needed this. Needed her. She knew it, too. He could see it in the way she bit her lip, looked up at him through those long eyelashes. She knew she ruled his entire world. That certainty made him so goddamn happy, he could barely draw air. And hell, of course, it turned him on.
He took the sponge from her hand, let it fill with water. Then he squeezed the moisture out over her breasts, loving the way her breath faltered, her nipples peaked. His gaze followed the path of water as it streamed down her body. “I can’t wait until your belly starts to show. When I can walk down the street holding your hand, everyone knowing I put a baby inside you.”
Her flush deepened. “Hmmm. This could be a very good thing.” Smiling saucily, she turned in his lap, making him growl when her wet bottom slipped over his erection. “Maybe we’ve finally found a way to cure your jealousy, Lieutenant.”
“I’ll never be cured of my jealousy. Not now. Not in fifty years.” He gripped Ginger’s hips, worried her ear with his teeth. “And don’t pretend for a second that you don’t love it.”
Her laughter roll
ed over him. “All right, I won’t take issue with the green-eyed monster for now. On one condition.” She guided his hard flesh to her entrance and sunk down, melting back onto his chest as he filled her to the hilt.
Derek tilted his hips, scorching heat and need spearing through him. Watching him over her shoulder through heavy-lidded eyes, Ginger dipped and swiveled, driving him insane. He groaned in surrender. “Name your condition. I’ll agree to anything, baby. Just don’t stop moving.”
She didn’t answer, merely continuing to ride him. Her pace increased steadily, pushing him past his breaking point, until his grip on her hips tightened and he was dragging her up and down his length, racing frantically toward release, Ginger’s name a litany on his lips. It was too much. Her love stripped him bare until nothing else existed but them, in that place in time. He felt her come undone and followed quickly behind, pulling her back for a moaning kiss as they shook in the aftermath.
Long moments passed before Derek remembered Ginger’s words. On one condition.
He wrapped her in his arms. “Name your condition, beautiful girl.”
She placed his hand over her belly. “If it’s a girl, we name her Dolly.”
Derek’s booming laughter ricocheted off the bathroom walls. He placed a gentle kiss on her shoulder. “Dolly it is.”