Jessa was wearing the purple dress again and Kieran was captured by her beauty, watching her every move. While he tried to eat, he waited with nervous anticipation for the meal to be finished. He wanted to be alone with her. He wondered if he would be able to ask her the question that had been on his mind for so long.
When the meal was finally over, he took her hand and invited her to ride with him. She agreed and took his arm as they went out the door. He saddled Fallon and helped Jessa up, sitting in front of her. She wrapped her arms around him as he spurred the horse towards the shore.
The full moon reflected off the water, and they rode in silence, listening to the wave’s crash onto the shore.
“I’m going to miss this,” she said. “And you most of all.”
He could feel her stifle a sob against his back. He stopped the horse and dismounted, helping her to the ground. They wove their fingers together and walked along the shore. After a few minutes, Kieran led her towards the bluff.
Where are we going?” Jessa asked.
“A place Kale told me about.”
When they reached the spot, Jessa let out a quick breath. They were in a narrow grotto, carved by a waterfall that spilled from the top of the bluff and came down in ribbons over moss-covered boulders. Each side of the grotto was lined with ferns and grasses.
Jessa sat on a boulder and trembled as Kieran dropped to one knee.
His mouth was dry and he wasn’t sure how to start. He swallowed hard and took Jessa’s hand.
“Might you consider…?”
Why was this so hard? He knew that she loved him and that he had to do this. He just wasn’t sure about the timing. His only concern was that if he didn’t ask her now, he might not have the chance for months. And he wanted her to have time to consider her answer.
Gathering his courage, he looked into her eyes and asked, “Jess, will you marry me?”
She smiled. He could see that she was about to answer, but he put his hand to her lips. “Don’t tell me now. I want you to be sure.”
Her face fell in disappointment.
He pulled something out of his jacket, a simple gold band. “This was my grandmother’s,” he said, putting it on her first finger. “Let it remind you of me while we’re apart.”
She reached inside her dress and handed him a piece of cloth. “I just finished this today.”
He unfolded it and saw that she had embroidered a rose on it.
“So you’ll remember me,” she said as he tucked it inside his shirt.
He stood up and lifted her up on the rock so that they were face to face. He ran his hands down her arms and she closed her eyes, her chest rising and falling erratically at his touch. As he moved his hands past her waist to the small of her back, she pressed into him and dug her fingers into his hair. When she kissed him, he felt like something in him had been restored, almost as if she had been torn from him long ago and was now being fire welded to his heart.
Now, onto the final version.