Prior to tonight, I have been nervous three times in my life.
The first was before the national championship game I played in at Alabama. It was, without a doubt, the biggest game of my life. I also knew it was going to be the last time I ever took a snap as a quarterback. I might not have wanted a pro career, but I wanted to go out on top.
And I did.
The second was when I was about to be introduced as the offensive coordinator of the Fury. I convinced myself then it was because I was about to begin the biggest job of my life. But deep down it was because I knew I was going to see Sadie when I entered the press conference. She had already rocked my world, and that was before I really even knew her.
The third time also had to do with the love of my life. It was the night I asked her to give us a shot, even if it had to be a secret. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do so we could be together. I knew that night it was either going to be the beginning of something great, or it was going to be the last night I was ever going to spend with her.
Thank God it wasn’t.
If you combine the nerves of all three of those events, it would still not equal the amount of jitters I’m feeling right now.
Tonight, I’m going to propose to her. I can feel the ring box burning a hole through my pocket.
It’s her mother’s ring. Well, the stone. When I asked Mike for her hand in marriage, I was confused when he walked away without giving me an answer. When he returned ten minutes later with his late wife’s ring, I knew I had his blessing.
I had it reset and added diamonds around her stone. Bethany promises me she will love it.
That is, if I ever get up the courage to ask her.
I’m usually cool under pressure. I’ve been in the spotlight my entire life. But apparently the knowledge that I’m going to ask Sadie to marry me is the straw that has broken my cool demeanor’s back.
I don’t know why I’m nervous. We live together. We’ve talked about the future. But there’s always that chance she could say no.
She could say it’s too soon. We’ve been together almost a year to the day, but only half of that was in the public eye where we didn’t have to hide.
Even now we aren’t a stereotypical couple. After my mock press conference when I begged for her forgiveness after being an idiot, I put us in the center of the spotlight. The sports gossip blogs love writing about us. And I’m sure once the proposal pictures hit Instagram we’ll be the talk of sports.
I just hope to God the headline doesn’t read: Sadie Benson rejects Hunter McAvoy’s proposal in Memphis
“Are you OK?”
Those three words from Sadie shouldn’t scare me, but apparently I was in such a daze that it not only made me jump in my seat, I also spilled water all over the table.
Smooth McAvoy. Real fucking smooth.
This is not me. I’m not a quiet, bumbling idiot. Sadie says all the time that I’ve turned her into a crier. Maybe this is what she has done to me?
It’s the only reason I can think of as to why asking her to marry me has me so freaked out.
Either that or I’m putting too much pressure on myself to recreate our first date.
I thought it was the perfect plan. We were going to go to Memphis. Stay at the same hotel we stayed at last year — only this time in the same room. We were going to go to the same barbeque restaurant. Then I was going to track down the saxophone player, ask him to play our song, and after we were done dancing in the streets I planned on going down on one knee and asking her to marry me.
Except I’m fucking it up.
I’m fucking everything up.
I’m a nervous wreck. I’ve been so worried about spilling something I’ve stayed quiet. I’m now spilling drinks.
Instead of looking happy she looks confused and even a little pissed. Which is exactly how you want the woman you’re about to ask to marry to look before you pop the big question.
“Everything is fine,” I say, frantically trying to clean up the water spill.
“Really?” she asks, clearly not believing my half-ass answer. “If you didn’t want to come to Memphis Hunter, you could have just told me. We could have gone anywhere. Or we could have stayed home. Hell, we can still go home if you want.”
“No,” I quickly say, tossing aside the wet napkins and taking her hands in mine. “I’m sorry I’ve been distant today. This was my idea to come here. There is no other place in the world I’d rather be.”
“Then what’s the matter?” she asks, a sense of desperation lacing through her words. “And none of this ‘all good’ bullshit. Talk to me Hunter. You know I freak out when you go radio silent, and you are two notches on the dial from reaching that level. And spilling the water? You don’t do that. And earlier you almost missed our exit to the hotel and you could make this drive with your eyes closed. Something is wrong and I don’t want it to weigh on you our entire trip. Talk to me.”
I hate that I’ve made her worry. I hate that in my efforts to give her a night she’ll never forget, I’m making it into a night she’ll want to erase from her memory.
That stops right now.
I push my plate aside and take both of her hands in mine.
“I’m sorry,” I say, bringing her knuckles to my lips. “I know I haven’t been myself. But I promise, starting right this second, that changes. In fact, I hope a lot changes for the both of us.”
She gives me a questioning look as I signal for our waitress to deliver the bill, which I pay for without looking. As soon as it is settled, I stand and walk to her side of the table, extending my hand for hers.
Even though I’ve been acting like a Grade-A douche today, she places her hand in mine. If I have any chance that she’s going to say “yes” tonight, I need to right this ship.
Instead of leading her out of the restaurant, I pull her flush to me and kiss her. The kiss is probably indecent for a public restaurant, but I don’t care. When I let go of her lips, her face is red and her lips are swollen.
It’s one of my favorite looks on her.
I place one more kiss on her forehead before putting my hand on the small of her back to lead her out of the restaurant.
“Come on. Let’s take a walk.”
Something is up.
And I’m not talking about the silent treatment Hunter gave me all day. I’m not even talking about the one-eighty he made in the restaurant with that kiss.
I’m talking about the fact that we’ve walked back and forth along the same portion of Beale Street for the last hour. Well, Hunter power walked. I tried to keep up.
And I am pretty sure I saw Bethany in the crowd, though Hunter insisted I was crazy.
“Can we stop for a second?” I ask, my feet starting to hurt. Of course, tonight is the night I decide to wear heels.
“Let’s just walk a little more,” Hunter says, pulling my arm a little as he leads me to a spot we just passed ten minutes ago.
“Hunter,” I say, my voice almost begging. “My feet are killing me. I just need to sit for a second.”
He turns to look at me and realizes that I’m not joking. Normally, he would immediately take me to a bench and make sure I’m okay. Hell, most of the time he would scoop me up and carry me.
Instead of doing either of those things, he scans the crowd like he’s looking for someone before he lets out what sounds like a defeated sigh before we make our way to an empty bench.
“What is going on with you?” I ask, taking one of my heels off to give my foot some relief. “And if you tell me ‘nothing’ or ‘don’t worry about it’ I will stab you with this heel.”
Even though he knows I’d never do that, by the look on his face it almost looks like he thinks I’m serious. I put my shoe back on and reach for his hand.
“What’s the matter? Seriously. Talk to me. You aren’t acting like yourself. I wanted this vacation to be relaxing and you seem more stressed than you were in Nashville.”
He looks down at our joined hands, and even though I can’t clearly see his eyes, I can see sadness in them. Which scares the shit out of me.
“I’m fucking this all up,” he says quietly, his eyes still not making contact with mine.
“Fucking what up? Hunter, you’re scaring me.”
He stands up and walks in front of me, taking my other hand in his. “I remember every minute of the time we spent together right here last year.”
Well that wasn't what I expected, but I can’t help but smile. This city will always hold a special place in my heart because of that night. “So do I. It’s still the best night of my life.”
My words slightly ease the tension in his face. “All I wanted to do tonight was recreate that night. I wanted to give you the same magic we experienced last year. I wanted this to be another night you’d never forget.”
I begin to stand, but as I do, Hunter slowly goes down on one knee.
Is he about to?
Oh my God.
I immediately sit back down. I’m pretty sure I’m not breathing.
Correction. I know I’m not.
“I was trying to make this night perfect. I was trying to replicate everything down to the minute. Hell, I even tried to find the same guy who was playing the saxophone when we danced on the sidewalk. I walked you up and down this street for an hour just because I thought I needed to hear our song before I could propose to you. But I don’t need that. I don’t need to redo that one night. I need to make this its own special night. Because hopefully this is the first night of the rest of our lives.”
I’m still not breathing as I watch him take a ring box out of his pants pocket.
I also feel a tear slip down my cheek as he opens it up to show the most beautiful diamond ring I have ever laid eyes on.
Of course I’m crying. Damn this man.
Damn this man who I’m about to say yes to.
“Sadie Benson. I remember the days when all I wanted was to be able to hold your hand. All I wanted was to be able to kiss you whenever I wanted. All I wanted was to scream from the rooftops that you were mine and I was yours. And now, all I want to do is slip this ring on your finger and tell the whole world that you agreed to be my wife. So what do you say gorgeous? Make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife?”
I can’t speak. All I can do is furiously nod as the tears come streaming down my face. I watch Hunter’s fingers through blurry eyes as he slips the ring onto my finger as a roar of applause circles us. When I lift my head back up I can’t help but notice two familiar faces just off to the side.
Bethany and Davis. Both holding phones and recording every second of this moment.
I don’t have a chance to acknowledge them before Hunter scoops me off the bench and twirls me around.
I’m crying. I’m laughing.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
He slows down and I slide down the front of his body. My tears have stopped but they are threatening again.
Who could blame me?
Here I am, standing in front of the man who made me realize I was more than the job. The only man to look at me and make me feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet. The man who makes me laugh. The man who challenges me. The man who has made me a better person.
The man who I’m going to get to call my husband.
He’s the story I never saw coming.
And our life together might be the best one I ever write.
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