"You know, you don't play fair."

Was she ever under the impression that I did? "I believe I recall telling you I always get my way, within reasonable means."

"You put a ring on my finger—which is absolutely stunning, by the way—and teased me with the prospect of being your wife only moments before walking away. You skimmed the surface but you didn't really even ask me to marry you. And all of this you do while I'm experiencing an emotional breakdown because you're leaving. You seriously think that's reasonable?"

"No, but I think it'll get me what I want, which is making you my wife." That's the end result I'm shooting for here. I don't really care how I achieve it.

"You didn't ask me to marry you yet, so I'm not giving you an answer until you propose properly."

She sounds agreeable, so I'm going for it. "Laurelyn, will you please marry me and be my wife?"

"No?" That wasn't the answer I was expecting.

"Asking over the phone isn't a proper proposal, and I won't answer you until you're on one knee in front of me."

Damn. I should've dropped down to my knee when I gave her that ring. "It's sort of hard to do that when I'm going to be nine thousand miles away."

"I hate it, pal, but a drunk proposal and a phone proposal are both null and void with me."

I wondered if she was ever going to bring up Vegas. "This is the first mention of my drunk proposal."

"So you do remember it?"

How could I forget that epic fail? "Hell yeah, I remember it. I could've kicked my own arse for being so careless with those precious words. You deserve so much better than me getting wasted and telling you to marry me."

"I damn sure do. Therefore, all proposals, drunk or sober, don't count. You've not asked and I've not answered."

I really don't want to go back to Australia like this. "Should I get on a plane and come back now?"

"No. Now isn't the best time to talk marriage with me, buster. I'm still pretty pissed off at you."

I just put a beautiful ring on her finger and told her how much I want her to be my wife, and she's mad at me. This can't be right. "Don't be like that, baby. Think of the thought behind the gesture. I love you and want to be with you forever. Don't let formality or your anger cause you to forget that part."

It's a dirty trick but I'm gonna use it anyway to soften her anger with me. "And think of those babies you long for. I'll give them to you—as many as you wish, whenever you're ready."

"Something tells me you want those babies as much as I do. Half of our conversations seem to revolve around them."

She's right. Something has happened in me and I want them too. "You think so?"

"Are you asking if I think you want them, or do I think we talk about them a lot?"

"Then yes to both."

We've talked about kids so this isn't news to her. "I do want them, but only with you."

She makes a sound of frustration. "This makes me so damn mad that we're having this conversation now when we should've had it before you left."

She's right. I feel like such a dumb-arse for holding out for the perfect time. "I'm sorry I waited. I should've asked you the day I bought the ring. I was going to propose when I took you to Oscar's for dinner. I had the ring box in my hand, about to ask, when that reporter walked up to our table."

"I went nuts right at the moment when you were going to ask. I'm sorry."

It's fate. That wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. "It's not your fault," I reassure her.

"I need you to be patient with me."

"Baby, I've waited thirty years for you. I can wait a little longer."

I cannot believe Jack Henry did this to me.

He and I aren't ordinary. We never have been—and we never will be—so I'm not sure why I'd expect a normal proposal from him. But he's right about one thing: it'll definitely be a story to tell our kids.

Our kids. Wow. It's beyond the realms of reality to think we've gone from agreeing to a three month sex-a-thon without true identities to contemplating marriage and kids, especially when he was so hell-bent on neither. Should it concern me that he made a complete one-eighty on issues he was so firm about only a few months ago?

I know he loves me, but I'm concerned that he's changed his mind about marriage and kids for the wrong reason. I don't want him basing that on what I want instead of what he wants so he can keep me.

I need someone I can talk to about Jack Henry's proposal. There's only one person worthy of a brutally honest conversation about this, and she's gallivanting around Australia with the love of her life. I look at the clock—it's 10 p.m. her time. I'm definitely calling that slut puppy.

She answers on the third ring with a greeting that isn't all that unfamiliar. "Hello, twat."

It stops becoming a surprise when she says it every time. "Hello, crotch rot. How are things down under?"

I anticipate her reply involving something about going down or getting under Zac.

"I could do a lot with that and say that you walked right into it, but I won't."

That would be a first. "Thanks. I appreciate that."

"So, what's going on with you since the good-looking suit left? Wasn't that going down today?"

She still calls him that. "Yeah. He left about five hours ago."

"Are you okay?"

No, I'm not. It's far shittier than I'd imagined. "I'm not at all fine with being separated from him again."

"Addie, he asked me to marry him." I jerk the phone back in anticipation of the scream to follow.

"What!" she yells, as expected. "Tell me everything."

"He told me that he knew I wasn't ready to give up my career, but he'd be waiting for me to come to him when I was prepared to be his wife. He put a ring on my finger. It's an engagement ring—the most beautiful one I've ever seen—and told me it was a reminder of him waiting for me. That's how he left it, but then he called me from LA and asked me over the phone."

"What are you going to do?"

I know what I want to do—drop everything and run to him. I want to beat him to Avalon and be waiting in his bed when he arrives home. "I don't know. That's why I'm calling you. I need your blunt advice."

"I only met the guy a few times and it was under false pretenses. Thank you again for that, by the way."

She isn't going to let me forget that. "I know. Sorry."

"It's difficult to give you advice about a guy I don't know, but here's what I have to go on: he's rich and successful so you'd never have to worry about how he'd take care of you. He's fucking gorgeous, so that's a definite plus. According to what you've told me, the two of you have crazy monkey sex. He gives your vajayjay a lot of special attention and makes you come a lot, so you're good there. We both know that one's a deal-breaker if the sex is terrible. He hired a private investigator to find you, so that proves he wants you bad. He must love you or he wouldn't have proposed. But do you love him enough to marry him?"

I know I do, but there are other issues at hand. "I do, but I worry he's talking about marriage and babies because I told him it's what I wanted. What if he's going along with it but it's not what he wants?"

"Laurelyn, do you really think the guy would marry you if he didn't want to? For God's sake, he had meaningless sexual relationships with women to avoid the whole commitment thing. He wouldn't decide to give that life up unless he loved you and wanted to be married to you."

I guess that makes sense. "But I'm terrified of giving up my career only to have the whole thing backfire in my face. What if I move down there and it doesn't work out?"

"What if you don't and you never know what might have been? Can you live with that?"

Could I? I don't think so. "You think I should give up my career?"

"You know I gave all of that up for Zac because I love him and wanted to be with him. Will I ever have a singing career for shit now? No. Do I care? No. We're together and I'm happy. I was willing to walk away. The only question now is, are you?"

Addison is different. She isn't afraid to fly by the seat of her pants. "You know me. I have trust issues that are damn near impossible to shake."

"You worry so much about protecting your toes that you miss out on the joy of the dance."

I've never thought of it that way. "I may, but I've never had anyone looking out for me. It's how I protect myself."

"Answer this question for me: do you really feel like you need protection from Jack?"

No one makes me feel safer than Jack Henry. No one. "No. It's the complete opposite. He's always my protector."

"I think you should marry him—if for no other reason than for me to have you back in Australia with me. I miss you."

It would be nice to have him and my best friend. "I know. I miss you too, and I do love Australia. I think I could be very happy living there. I can so easily see myself as part of Jack Henry's family. They're wonderful people and they took me in and treated me like one of their own."

"You can take some time to think about it if you feel like it's necessary, but it's plain to see that your heart already knows what it wants."

She's right. I can think about this day and night but I hear my heart's plea—and it's screaming for me to go to him, like, yesterday. On the other hand, I hear my head trying to overpower my heart. All I hear is my head saying no and my heart saying go.