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My smile grows and I nod, squeezing his fingers. “Now?”
“Yes.” He takes a deep breath and lets go of my hand. Odd. “I’ve known about this for a while and it’s … taken everything within me to work up the courage to tell you.”
Oh. How sweet. He’s nervous about proposing. Zachary’s always so confident about everything—I’m surprised. “Go ahead and just say it, Zachary. I’m fairly sure it will all work out in the end.”
“I agree. Your father said the same thing.”
My heart skips a beat. He spoke with Father. This is serious. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for all this time. I can’t believe it. My fingers are literally trembling in anticipation of the ring he’s about to slip on my finger. I wonder how big it is. I don’t like gaudy jewelry. Neither does Zachary. Understated, refined—that’s more our style. Perhaps he spoke with Grandma and she gave him her engagement ring, though rightfully that should go to Lily since she’s oldest …
“… so he’s asked me to test out the new position in London and see if I’d be a good fit. And I said yes.”
Wait. What? “P-position? In London? What are you talking about?” I clear my throat, proud that I keep my voice level. I didn’t want to make a scene in the middle of one of the most elegant restaurants in all of Manhattan. I could hear my father’s voice now.
Violet, that just wouldn’t do.
“Your father is sending me to the London office, just on a temporary basis. They’ve created a new position there since growth in the UK and Europe has been so strong the last couple of years. I’ll be trying out the new chief brand and marketing director position both in London and Paris. It’s a tremendous opportunity, Violet. One I couldn’t turn down. This promotion could change everything.” The pointed look Zachary gives me says he’s made his choice and there’s no chance I can talk him out of it.
“But … Wait a minute.” I shake my head, a huff of fake laughter falling from my lips. He can’t be serious. That’s what he wanted to tell me? About a possible promotion? To London? “What about …”
“Us?” he finishes for me with that rueful, charming smile. The one that says he knows he’s a little bit in trouble but somehow he’ll talk himself out of it. As usual. “I won’t be gone for long, only a few months. Hey, I bet you could fly over for a weekend. Come to London or even better, Paris. We can explore the cities together.”
No offer to take me with him to live there—not that I’d go, especially since it’s temporary. But it could turn permanent and he might end up staying. We don’t know.
Would I leave to be with Zachary? Only if he promised that we would be married—and he vowed his complete fidelity. I feel safe here. Everything I know, my family, my friends, my career, is here. In New York. Not London or Paris. And what about the ring? The proposal?
It sounds terrible in my own head, but I expected that. A beautiful diamond solitaire ring accompanied by an offer of marriage, along with Zachary’s promise of undying love and faithfulness to me. A girl can tolerate only so much and I know it’s stupid, but … I love him.
Disappointment threatens to wash over me, but I hold it at bay. I have to.
“I think I know what you were hoping for,” he says softly. “But what sort of marriage could we start if we’re on two different continents? It wouldn’t be fair to either of us. We’re still young, darling, especially you. We have plenty of time.”
“We’ve already been together almost two years …” My voice drifts and I drop my head, blinking my eyes shut for an agonizingly long moment before I open them again. I refuse to cry. I am twenty-three years old. I refuse to bawl like a little girl.
“And maybe we’ll have another year, maybe two years, like this, but I promise, I will marry you.” My heart leaps at his words. “I swear. I just—I need this. This promotion is important to me and I’m not the only one your father is considering. I’m a front-runner, but still, there are no guarantees. For you, it’s different. This is your family. They’ll give you whatever you want,” Zachary says, irritation making his voice scratchy. Does he even register the change in tone? “But for me? I have to work at it. Constantly.”
I stiffen my spine, offended by his words. They make it sound like I’m some sort of spoiled brat who gets whatever she wants whenever she wants. “I’ve worked very hard at Fleur since I was in my early teens,” I say in protest. “You know this.”
He waves a hand, whether dismissing his words or mine, I’m not exactly sure. “You know what I mean. Just … let me have this. I’m not a selfish man but I’ve worked damn hard for this career, Vi.” I hate it when he calls me Vi and he knows it. “I’m almost thirty years old. The time for me to do this is now. Before I marry you and we have children and I won’t be able to ever leave.”
The way he said that makes me think he would feel like he’s stuck with the wife and children. In other words, with me and our future children. Why am I letting this bother me? Am I being too sensitive? What he’s saying makes sense. He needs to push forward with his career. I understand that. But I need to push forward with my career as well. And my life. My personal life, with marriage and children and …
My voice is hesitant as I say, “I could ask my father to step in and offer you a promotion here—”