"Zak, where are we going?" I asked as I exited my room. I had changed out of my pajamas and into a pair of jeans and a red long sleeve t-shirt with a white winter vest zipped up over top. I flipped up the hood that was lined with faux black fur, stuck my hands in the pocket of my jeans, and cocked my head to the side looking at Zak.
He looked me up and down before meeting my gaze with a smile.
"You look great. Are you warm enough?" He asked completely avoiding my question.
I nodded. "Yes, I'm fine. Seriously though….where are we going?"
Zak laughed and grabbed my hands bringing me in close to him. He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed my forehead. Except I got a different feeling from him then when my brother had done it.
"You'll see. Now stop being so impatient," he cryptically answered. He glanced down at his watch making me look down as well. It was 11:23 at night.
"Come on we should get going if we want to get there on time," he urged tugging on my hand.
"But, Zak, I still—"
He swung around and crushed his lips against mine in a searing kiss that didn't last nearly as long as I wanted it to. Especially since this was the first kiss we'd had since I had rejected his confession.
He pulled away with a wide smile. "Just trust me on this. I promise this a moment you will never forget."
As we left the apartment I couldn't help but wonder what this unforgettable moment could be. He was dressed in a pair of his nice dark jeans, a midnight blue long sleeve t-shirt, and black leather jacket. He was dressed rather nicely, not seductively (well to be honest he always dressed seductively in my mind), so it couldn't possibly be THAT kind of night…right?
I gulped as my eyes traveled down his body.
Oh boy…I wasn't sure whether to be excited or afraid at the thought of what tonight might turn out to be.
"Zak, can I look now?" I sighed playing with the blindfold he had placed around my eyes.
Zak slapped my hands away and instead grabbed them in his as we continued to walk forward. My foot caught on something making me trip and fall forward. Zak caught my arms with a chuckle.
"You're such a clutz," he whispered. His warm breath washed over my ear sending shivers down my spine. "Don't worry, babe, we're almost there. But until then…."
He slid his arm behind my knees keeping one hand behind my back and slung me up in his arms wedding style. I wrapped my arms around his neck as a small squeak of surprise left my mouth. I rested my head in the crook of his neck as he continued on the journey. It was nice being able to feel his muscles move and flex beneath the thin fabric of his clothing. It made me wonder what those muscles would feel like if they were exposed….all naked bare flesh pressed up against my own nak—
I shook my head of those thoughts and tried to focus more on what this whole surprise thing he had planned for me was.
"Alright, we're here," he notified me placing my feet back on the ground.
"So….I can look?" I asked with a small smile. I felt Zak's hands wrap around to unknot the blindfold. When he pulled the piece of cloth away all I saw was the top of his chest. I glanced up and smiled at him.
"So is my surprise your chest?" I chuckled.
"No," he smiled shaking his head. "This is."
He moved out of my line of vision and all I could do was stare. We were at the secret lake where I always came to clear my head…except…it was all lit up and glowing. We weren't standing up on the cliff where I usually ran to, but instead we were down on the side beach. We had come through the actual entrance and all across the lake were floating lanterns and…something else. I bent down and scooped up a dark floating object to observe it closer. Petals. Red rose petals. I gazed up at Zak who had a wide smile on his face. He pointed off to the side. I followed in the direction he pointed and covered my gaping mouth with my hands. Stuck in the sand were electric candles on either side of a red rose petal path that led to a romantic dinner for two laid out on a red blanket. Then on the edge of the lake's shore was a beautifully crafted gondola waiting to be taken out into the open water.
I turned back to Zak with tears in my eyes.
"How in the world…where did….why did….huh?" I stammered never being able to complete the question I wanted to ask him.
"This past week I have been looking for the perfect way to do this for you. Since I knew this lake means so much to you, I wanted to use it as the location. So I bought a lot of floating lanterns, ordered in a gondola, and went to the local florist to ask her for a "lake worthy size" of red rose petals. Then I had Nick and Aaron help me set all of this up earlier today which is why I was so late and I apologize for that, but…I just wanted to make everything perfect. There's just one more thing I need to give you," he said. He jogged over to the gondola and grabbed something out before hiding it behind his back.
Zak slowly approached me. I gulped wondering what it was he wanted to give me. And of course being the girl that I am, my mind instantly went to engagement ring even though I knew that wasn't possibly what it could be. I hoped…because if it was…I honestly don't know what I would do or say.
He took the object from behind his back and showed it to me. It was a beautiful trailing arbutus flower. The petals were small and a blush pink color. The flowers themselves almost looked like softly rounded stars. But how did he get these? They weren't even in season.
"These aren't even in season," I breathed taking the trailing flower stem from him. As I took it from his hands, something dangled from it glistening in the light that illuminated from the electric candle.
I laid the object across the palm of my hand to see what it was. My mouth dropped open again when I saw it was a necklace. The pendant was in the shape of a diamond encrusted shell. My brows furrowed in confusion over why he had chosen a shell.
He took the necklace from my hands and unclasped it.
"Because of its hard casing, the Shell is a protective image - protecting life and also symbolizes the protective quality love sometimes takes. In Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love, was said to be created from the foam carried ashore atop a scallop shell. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi was said to also be created from the grit and pearls within the shell. Also in Hinduism the conch shell is symbolic because it awakens the heart of the faithful and calls to those who live with heart-filled love," Zak intelligently explained as he hooked the pendant around my neck. He brushed the hair out of my face and gently cupped my jawline in his hands.
"Now….can you tell me what the arbutus I just gave you means?" he asked.
I shook my head waiting for him to tell me.
"It means," he began. He leaned in closer to me; our lips merely a centimeter apart from each other.
"That you're the only one I love," he whispered before brushing his lips against mine. I closed my eyes during that brief moment of contact. Before I had the chance to open them, he molded our lips together in an achingly slow, passionate kiss. He took his time exploring every inch of my mouth before our tongues went one on one in a passionate duel. I wrapped my arms around his neck, the flower still tightly gripped in my hand, and pulled him down to me so that the kiss could deepen. He wrapped one hand in my hair while pulling our bodies closer with the other one. I could feel every inch of his body against mine; I could feel the smooth ripple of his muscles moving beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. The growing pressure against my stomach was even harder to notice. Our lips were locked in a long, slow kiss for what felt like eternity. Not that I minded.
When we finally pulled away, I could feel that my lips were swollen, but looking up at him I could see his were, too.
"Zak…" I breathed not sure if this was all some sort of dream I was having. I was afraid I had fallen asleep waiting on him and this would just turn out to be the best dream I had ever had since first seeing him on television.
He checked the time on his watch and smiled before locking eyes with me.
"It's 12:02 and you know what that means?" he asked trailing his thumb across my bottom lip.
He chuckled. "Happy birthday, Aerolynn," he congratulated before closing his lips over mine for another mind blowing kiss.
He pulled away and grabbed my hand to lead me over to the dinner he had laid out for us.
"I figured we could eat and then go out on the gondola," he suggested. All I could do was nod, my head still cloudy from his kiss.
We sat down as he began pouring a glass of red wine.
"You….you did all of this…for my birthday?" I asked. Even I had forgotten my birthday was coming up, but he had remembered and had gone all out. Did Mason know about this? Though as worried as he seemed earlier, I would say he didn't.
"Of course. At the hospital, when I told you I loved you, you didn't seem entirely convinced that I loved you for the right reasons. So…I wracked my brain trying to come up with a way I could show you. That's when I overheard Mason talking to Luke about how your birthday was coming up…so I planned all of this out then had Nick and Aaron help me with ordering some of the stuff," he explained handing me my glass.
That explained why he had seemed so distant this week. He hadn't been avoiding me…he had been busy planning. I watched as Zak took out some of the food and began preparing it. He hadn't been mad knowing I doubted his love. Instead, he had been busy thinking of ways to prove it and redeem himself. He wanted to earn my love. Which told me more than any words or actions could ever say.
I placed my hand on his arm to catch his attention. Those eyes glanced up at me with curiosity. I scooted closer to him on the blanket placing one hand to grab the edge of his belt and the other hand on the side of his face to keep him looking at me.
I brought his head down to mine so that our lips could meet in a short kiss.
"Zak," I whispered. I opened my eyes only to see he still had his closed.
"I love you," I softly confessed. His eyes slowly fluttered open then to meet my gaze. A large smile split his face as tears began to well up in his eyes.
"Oh god, Aerolynn, I love you, too. So much," he softly chuckled in relief.
I smiled into our kiss.
That kiss…it lasted for eternity.