Sunlight poured through Arielle’s bedroom window, illuminating the thin pages of Cade's Bible as she read the scripture late that morning.
She flipped the next page to continue, and was about at verse thirteen of the second chapter of Proverbs when the door swung open and Cade entered. She turned on her side to face him, closing the book and laying it on the night table alongside her bed with a smile that instantly faded at the sight of what he held in his hands. She covered her mouth to keep from gasping.
Cade rolled his eyes and thrust a tray of scrambled eggs and bacon at her. “Does it look burnt?” he asked, then quickly answered his own question. “No. So I don’t see any problem with you eating it. Do you?” He sat down on her bed, laid the tray down, grabbed her by the shoulders to straighten her, then plopped the tray in her lap and began to shove a mouthful of eggs in her mouth.
She held up her hand to stop him and examined the food. It was perfectly cooked. “How in the world did you do it?” She lifted the piece of bacon to her mouth and breathed in the salty aroma of smoky, greasy goodness before taking a hesitant bite. Heavens, when did he become such a good cook?
“Very carefully, my love. Very carefully. The only way to do something right, I say,” he replied, leaning back on her bed and watching her devour the breakfast. A proud grin formed on his lips. “Good, isn’t it?”
Arielle nodded, unable to speak with her full mouth. After she swallowed, she turned her head towards him with an impressed smile. “You surprise me with your many talents, Mr. Darren,” she stated, then took another forkful. Who would have thought that the same man who had burnt sugar could now bake pies and fry bacon with ease? Arielle certainly would’ve never guessed. But even still, she loved this man, whether he could cook or not.
He chuckled. “Why, thank you, Miss Myers,” he responded as he reached out to brush a loose strand of hair behind her ear, his fingers tickling her skin as she leaned into his touch. His mouth was but a breath away, and Arielle bent in to touch her lips to his.
He pulled back and motioned to her tray of food. “You don’t want it to get cold, now do you?”
She rolled her eyes, thumping him on the shoulder. “You just don’t want to kiss me,” she whined, sticking her bottom lip out in a pout, then finishing her breakfast.
After the plate was clean, she hopped off her bed and carried the tray into the kitchen for Cade to wash while she sat on top of the counter, watching him. Her back was bent trying to avoid hitting the cabinets behind her, causing her muscles to ache. “Goodness, how do you sit up here?” she asked, scooting forwards until she was sitting on the very edge of the countertop.
He smirked as he pointed a soapy finger at her. “Like that.” He set his hands back into the basin of water and pulled out a plate for her to dry and put away while she jumped off the counter.
She grabbed the plate, dried it, then laid it on a stack of plates inside a cabinet above her. “So, I was thinking of taking a walk. To my old home,” she stated. Last night she had tossed and turned, the thought of returning to where her home used to be never leaving her mind. She had the feeling that going back there would help her battle the ghosts of her past and lay it to rest. Finally, she had decided that she would, and hopefully not burst into tears or anything while there.
Cade stared at her as though she had said she was an octopus. “You’re sure? I mean, that was where the fire was. It might bring back memories. You feel up to it?” His eyes showed such concern, it made her heart melt like butter.
She nodded confidently. She was sure. “Yes, I’m sure.”
It wasn’t long before Arielle was walking along the same shore she’d ran across so many years ago, her hand intertwined with Cade’s. Not but a handful of months ago, she never would’ve even considered ever going home, not when the fire haunted her so badly. But here she was, finally moving beyond that storm inside her. And it felt so much better.
Her father had loved the water, said it connected him to his home in Germany, so he’d built their home on the shore. Arielle had to admit that she loved the lake as well, but because it connected her to her family. On a bright, albeit freezing day like this one, the icy waves made a beautiful scene that filled her heart with hope and joy. Unlike the storm that passed through a few days ago. It reminded her of the years she had spent with her parents, walking along the beach, swimming in the lake, or just sitting back and enjoying their time together. Perhaps one day she could do the same with a family of her own.
The thought of having a family brought her back to reality. Her whole future was in front of her. What had God planned for her? She had used up part of her life moping in her self-pity; she had never thought of God’s will for her life. She knew quite well He didn’t want her to hid in sorrow forever. But if He had kept her from dying in the fire, then He had to have a plan for her.
It wasn’t long before the endless sand led her to a patch of grass. Above the grass―she dared to look―was a pile of burnt wood. Wood that had once been her home. Cade squeezed her hand as a tear trickled down her cheek at the sight of the pile of burnt wood. Memories flooded her mind at the sight. Memories of cooking with Mother in their kitchen, laughing at dinner with Vater, her parents telling her silly stories before bed.
But none of that mattered now. Just the future. Dwelling on the past didn’t do anything to ease the hurt, and she ought to know that. She was here to lay the past to rest, and she couldn’t do that if she was constantly waking it up, so to speak.
Arielle walked up to the remains of the house, imagining the cottage as used to be. Before her, where only blackened wood laid, would’ve been the front door, which led into the den. Through a doorway at the right, the kitchen and dinning room. Then on the left side used to be her parents’ and her own bedrooms. The outhouse behind the crumpled building still stood, as it hadn’t been touched by the flames, as did Vater’s shed, which had once held buckets of paint and her canvases and easel. More her art studio than a tool shed.
Taking a chance, she strode through a path made by the townsfolk who had found the ruins and her parents’ bodies years before. When she came to where Mother and Vater’s room was at one time, a small black square caught her eye. The sun shone down one it, highlighting golden writing. It didn’t take long for her to realize that Vater’s Bible laid there. Somehow, someway the holy book had survived those flames. A sad smiled formed on her lips at remembrance of all the times Vater had read to her from that. Careful not to get ashes on her hands, she bent down and picked up the Bible, blowing off the dirt and residue before gently opening it to a random spot. “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” The verse from Psalms was the first to catch her eye.
“Ari, get back here,” Cade called to her as he jumped over a burnt beam and walked up behind her.
Arielle turned with a smile and showed him the Bible. “Look, it didn’t burn.” So, it may not have burned, but it suffered quite a bit. The pages were torn and crinkled from the rain, the cover was worn, and the spine was falling apart. Even still, the fact it was readable was amazing.
“Wow.” Cade’s whispered word blew away with the wind while his hands grasped the book, softly flipping through the pages. “This was your father’s, right?” he asked, turning his head to face her. At her nod, he handed it back, then tugged on her wrist and pulled her out of debris.
Her smile not wavering, she slipped her hand into his. “I think we can go home now.”
With a sleepy yawn, Arielle propped her back up against the wall and slid down to the cold stone floor. Cade had all but dragged her to the lighthouse, stating that since he now knew how to cook, she needed to learn how to run the light, should it become necessary, though she prayed it wouldn’t. Sleep had been pulling her eyelids down from the moment she ventured up the stairs, making concentration impossible. See, she was the housekeeper; Cade was the light-keeper. Not that he cared. He still blurted out every single step to turn the light on, off, clean it, and replace it just as fast as his sister spoke. And anyone who’d met Kerri-Leigh Cannon knew that fast was an understatement in her case.
“And that’s how you prevent bugs from―” Cade’s words were cut off as he pivoted from his position hovering over the light to face her. “What’s the matter?” He grinned as though her sleep deprivation was a joke, and leaned his shoulder on the wall beside her.
She rolled her head over with another yawn. “I’m all tuckered out, mister,” she replied, rubbing her eyes with her fists. “You don’t know how boring you can be.”
He chuckled and sat down alongside her. “I believe Kerri’s mentioned something like that before. I’m not the only one boring around here, though.” By the look on his face, she knew he was referring to her. She couldn’t help it that mixing paints and making sure the consistency was correct was tiresome. And it wasn’t her fault that he was present while she was in the middle of a painting, or that he asked about what she was doing. Now was it?
“Okay, okay. Truce?” She extended her hand with a questioning glare.
“Truce.” But instead of shaking her hand as she’d intended he do, Cade grasped it and pressed a kiss to her knuckles, causing her stomach to turn flips. “Have I ever mentioned how much I love being boring with you?” he teasingly asked, his cinnamon eyes suddenly seeming darker than just a moment ago.
She tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach and the way her pulse sped up, though it didn’t work. “Well, I don’t think you have,” she answered, attempting to make her voice sound more normal than the breathy sound coming from her mouth. Goodness, he was only being silly, right? She had no reason to be acting so...so… Even if the thought had time to fully form itself in her mind, it was cut off anyway as Cade pressed his lips to hers.
His arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer to him while her hands slid absentmindedly up his chest to his shoulders. All coherent thought fled her mind as he took the kiss deeper, slowly tilting her head back and kissing her more fully. Passion flowed through her, a feeling she’d never experienced until Cade came along, and she returned the kiss. An endless moment passed before he pulled away and laid his forehead up against hers.
“Then it’s high time I told you,” he whispered, continuing their conversation as though the kiss had never interrupted it. “I can’t imagine being boring with anyone else but you. And I love it beyond comprehension.” Though his words were on the confusing side, Arielle had spent enough time with him to decipher his teasing. And he wasn’t talking about being dull.
“I love it too,” she mumbled in reply. “So wie ich liebe dich.”
At her German, he rolled his eyes. “I really need to learn that, don’t I? What did you say?”
She leaned in just a little closer and smiled. “Just like I love you.”
“Then you’ll marry me, right?”
Oh, how she wished she could slap that nonchalant look off his face, and she would have had she not been so shocked at his words. Marry him? Did he just ask her if she would marry him? Well, if he did, he didn’t do it right, that stinker. Mother had always told her stories of how Vater had gotten down on one knee and said all these sweet and flowery words, then slipped a glittery diamond on Mother’s finger. Hmm, Germans must be more romantic than Americans. Even still, she had been wanting to hear those words for quite some time now, and so whether Cade had some fancy proposal or not, she knew what she was going to say. Which she knew Cade, and he wasn’t fancy, that was for sure.
“Yes, but only because you asked so nicely.”