When Jerry Douglas asks Elly Benson to marry him, he wants their ceremony to be as close to Valentine's Day as possible. Though Elly tearfully accepts Jerry's proposal without hesitation, as she readies herself for her second wedding, the doubts and misgivings of any new bride-to-be are exacerbated by the abuse she suffered during her first marriage. When Elly recalls how quickly her uncertain stomach jitters grew into tight knots of pain on her wedding day, she also remembers how and why she'd fallen in love with and married Arthur, her first husband. A mistake she regrets more and more with each passing hour.
Though she's lived with Jerry for four months now, and been subject to his discipline more than once, her first husband had been kind and careful with her, too, in the beginning. At least until she vowed to love, honor and obey him. And their move to Corbin's Bend turned him from the strict, but caring husband she thought she'd married into a monster she no longer recognized.
After placing a kiss on Elly's head, Jerry handed her a small glass angel ornament. "Here." The crystal wings and bell skirt were so fine and delicate she hesitated to take the figure from his fingers.
"Go on. She's a lot sturdier than she looks. Just grasp the hanging string. I want you to place her on the tree."
"Me? Why?" Elly asked, blinking up at him in wonder. These were the Douglas's traditions, and as welcoming as Jerry's family had been, she was still an outsider.
"Because I want to start a new tradition — tonight. Please?"
Elly carefully pinched the slender golden cord between her thumb and index finger and set the sparkling three-inch figurine on her palm before she glanced at Jerry in surprise. "Did you make this?"
Smiling, he shook his head while his mother, father, two brothers and single sister all took seats on the couches positioned near the tree. Elly held the last ornament to be placed.
"He did have it specially made, however," his mother announced with a grin.
"Mother...," Jerry warned.
Elly examined the fragile angel more closely. "You did?"
"Yes, I did. Look at her eyes."
They were two tiny green stones that matched the color of Elly's irises. She smiled at him, when a sudden sparkle from the angel's halo caught her eye. A garland of diamond-like crystals crowned the celestial being's long crystal locks.
"She's got a halo of shiny stars set in a silver circle," Elly said in wonder, staring at the delicate winged figure.
"The eyes are emeralds, the circle is platinum, the bar set stones are real diamonds, but you're right about the halo, because you are my very own angel." Grasping her free hand in his, Jerry dropped down to one knee. "Eleanor Ann Franklin Benson, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
The room grew snowfall silent as Elly's tear-filled eyes gazed down at the man she adored.
"You're asking me to marry you?" Her words emerged as a mere squeak of a sound.
"I told you I would do things right when I proposed. Yes, my heart, I want to spend the rest of my life with you at my side and under my wing. I want to love, hold, cherish and protect you for as long as we both shall live. Will you say yes? Please?"
Elly's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Then she gazed at his smiling family gathered to witness their baby lay his heart out on a line. The man, whom she loved most in the world, knelt before her and his closest relatives to claim he wanted her. Her. Overcome with emotion, Elly could only nod her head.
His smile broad, Jerry rose to his feet, cupped her face in his hands and kissed her beneath the sprig of mistletoe his eldest brother held above their heads.
Love In The Rockies is a Corbin's Bend Valentine's Day Collection.
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