The mere mention of the word marriage and she practically ran away mentally and physically. Not that he blamed her. After living through a violent and abusive marriage at a young age, and an equally violent childhood, he could understand her running in terror. Though he was doing his best to court her slowly with small gifts, attending quiet dinners in her huge hideout of a home, sometimes engaging in extremely sensual make-out sessions, full blown overnight lovemaking and patiently listening to her voiced fears, he was afraid to initiate a conversation that could possibly take their relationship to the final level or kill it where it stood. Sighing again, he leaned forward. Legs apart, hands hanging and swinging mildly between his knees. The well manicured fingers nearly touching the porch's marble flooring. After six months he no longer wanted to be the hidden silent boyfriend. He wanted to place a ring on her finger and be considered a public fiancé.
"You're looking pretty darned miserable there, Son."
Nathaniel startled at the sound of Michael Gardiner's voice. He hadn't noticed the man come out on the porch and take position on the recliner, a part of the wrap around porch's outdoor furnishings.
Michael Gardiner took a sip from the coffee cup he held in his hand, silently staring at the younger man. "So, what's going on, Son?" Nathaniel cleared his throat before answering. Pop Gardiner had always been like a second father to him and out of habit he wanted to rush in and confess his feelings and spout his doubts about his relationship to Lillie-Rose, but as a man sworn to secrecy, he held his tongue. "So, what's up boy? Cat got your tongue? Or should I say, Leelee got your tongue?"
Nathaniel's head jerked up in surprise. His eyes encountered the laughing gaze of the older man and he smiled sheepishly. "How do you know?"
"I know everything when it comes to the people I consider family'."
"Oh yeah? Did you know Lille-Rose hates being called by that name?"
"Yeah I know, but it was her nickname as a child. All it took was a sadistic bastard of a husband, and a no good father to steal every facet of her being. She feels if she changes her name she changes the past. I refuse to let her give up on the person she is. I think only a good man can do that for her. You are that man."
"Really, now how do you even know she sees me that way?" Pops' hearty laughter filled the air, the chuckle turning into a strangling cough. Jumping up to thump the man on the back, Nathaniel had to laugh along with him.
"Son," Pops cleared his throat. "Only the unobservant wouldn't know about the two of you. You disappear every night, can't concentrate on your duties around here and you switch between euphoria and grief at the twitch of an eye. That is the serious sign of a man in love with a woman and you should do something about it. "
"I assure you Sir, I will." Nathaniel stood to leave. "And this time, make sure you don't make her cry during the process."
"Oh no Sir, I won't have her crying ever again if I can help it."