In her thirty-two years of life, the one thing that Makenna O'Neill hated more than anything else was getting up early in the morning, especially when she had overslept or was running late. Today, it was both. Not exactly a morning person, Makenna stretched, groused, and ran her hands through her mussed up hair. For good measure, she glanced at the bedside clock. The annoyingly bright red numbers told her not so nicely that it was almost half past the hour. Good God. If she didn't move, she was going to be so late. Hadn't she already thought that? Whatever the case, she had to get her butt in gear. Today, she had to go to court, and she couldn't be late for that. No way. Not unless she wanted to hear her supervisor bitching at her for an hour or more.
Having the desire to kick and scream like a wayward child, Makenna struggled against the temptation and dragged her tired body out of bed. Slowly, ploddingly, she made her way toward a small chest of drawers where she had stored her stuff. Behind her, she could hear the rustling of the bed covers as her lover of two years began to awaken. He obviously missed her presence in bed. She found the trait very endearing. It made her believe that he actually loved her, loved having her near him. That thought comforted her, and she suddenly wanted to give him a close and personal morning greeting. However, she resisted the urge to turn around and look at him. She wasn't an idiot. If she did that, she would be really late. As it stood, she had a long drive ahead of her this morning. She knew she shouldn't have spent the night at his place, but he could be so damn persistent when he wanted something. Not only that, but there were other things floating in her mind. The thought of his dark skin against the light colored sheets on his bed was enough to make her jump his bones with the slightest errant glance. It was funny how in twenty-four months, she had completely allowed herself to lose control, to fall so totally, completely, and hopelessly in love with the bastard.
Makenna had met Sirri Amandurre completely by chance. She had gone to the airport to pick up her sister. While waiting for the flight, some idiot ran through the terminal with a suitcase full of drugs. In the process of trying to escape, he collided with Makenna and knocked her flat. As desperate as he was, he might have taken her hostage, but he was too focused on the pissed off head-of-airport-security chasing him tirelessly. His collision with the hapless woman had actually given Mr. Pissed Off an opportunity to catch him. For a moment, Makenna was too stunned to react at being knocked on her ass, but it didn't stop her from watching in amazement as Mr. Pissed Off wrestled the guy down. Not blind by any far stretch of the imagination, Makenna couldn't help but notice the security guy's dark good looks and longish black hair that he had likely patiently tied back before coming to work. However, it was coming undone from the leatherette band that held it slickly away from his face. She could see it was wavy when freed from its constraints. She watched silently as the PO'ed man brought the drug guy to his feet. The airport guy was snarling almost, and looked quite scary. Meanwhile, Makenna sat back and kept her mouth shut. It would be just her luck that the guy would come after her, thinking that she was the druggie's girl or some stupid crap. She wasn't left alone long enough to ponder her fate.
Approximately ten minutes later, the security guy returned, his hair back in its perfect ponytail. Makenna immediately realized that her thoughts of his 'scariness' was unfounded. His eyes were deep brown and kind. His face, although strong with sharp cheekbones, was smooth and devoid of stress or anger. He had a neat goatee type beard that framed his face perfectly. Makenna had never cared for that type of facial hair on a man. She believed in the credo passed down from her redneck daddy that a man with a goatee had swallowed a jackass, leaving his tail hanging. The close cropped facial hair suited him, though, giving his handsome face even more character. She couldn't help but notice that his mouth was, by far, one of his best features. It was wide set with full lips, but the lower was fuller still, appearing almost dramatically different from its twin. Stupidly, she stared at him, wondering vaguely if he was going to interrogate her about the collision. She had opened her mouth to begin explaining that she wasn't part of the gig, but he spoke first, voicing his concern about her.
They spoke very briefly, conversing only long enough for Makenna to tell him she was all right and to spy the badge attached to his chest. She saw the initials "HOS" before a name: "Amandurre." Was it a first name or a last name? She wanted to know, but she wound up saying nothing. He was some type of untouchable Greek god or something, and she was plain old Tate Makenna O'Neill who had simply had the wind knocked out of her. He lingered only a moment longer after their conversation, doing a quick fade just before her sister came strolling casually toward her from the jetway. Makenna spent the better part of her night talking about the gorgeous airport guy. He was out of her league, but it didn't hurt to fantasize about him.
Makenna saw him again when she took her sister back to the airport. She figured he must have been either leaving work or just arriving because he was decked out in regular clothing and had his hair down. It rested softly against his shoulders, inky and glorious. She thought she might have to start hanging around the airport if he was going to show up like this. It had been a good two weeks since she got knocked down, but he recognized her right away and waved. Stupidly, Makenna waved back, feeling as if she were the biggest idiot ever created. After that, he disappeared again, and went his own way. With her sister safely on the plane back to her home state of Virginia, Makenna made moves to leave and return to her apartment. Before she left the terminal, she felt a hand on her arm. When she turned around, it was sexy Mr. HOS. His line was horrid, one used by the worst of bar hoppers, but she would never forget what he said, even if it was kind of stupid: "I meant to tell you before. You have beautiful eyes."
The rest, as they say, was history. He invited her out to have coffee, and she might have considered the invitation for three seconds before accepting. She discovered that he was, indeed, head of airport security. He was a year older than her and divorced. She discovered that Amandurre was his last name and Sirri was his first. He told her that he had a mixed Middle Eastern heritage and was saving money to finish his law degree. There wasn't much she revealed about herself. She had never been one to talk about herself, but he asked all the right questions, and said all the right things. Makenna told him of her strict southern upbringing, the fact that she hated her job, and even told him he had scared her to death two weeks prior to their innocent coffee date. They spent a relatively comfortable two hours together before parting. After that, they began seeing each other regularly.
And now, today, their relationship was fairly serious and steady. He'd asked her to move in with him dozens of times, but she refused. He had a cop roommate that Makenna wasn't too crazy about. They considered her place for a while, but it was too small for one person, much less two. Now, they were making plans to get their own place. They had yet to find anything, but that was okay. They were taking their time, moving things along slowly, at almost a snail's pace. Of course, she couldn't blame Sirri for his gun shyness. After all, he had been married before, and from what he'd said, the relationship had been rocky at the start only to get progressively worse. He didn't talk much about his marriage, and she didn't push. It was a touchy subject to him. She had plenty going in her own life, so she didn't mind about that, either.
"What are you doing," Sirri asked sleepily.
He had a slight accent that was mostly undetectable, but when he first awoke in the morning, it was pronounced and heavy. It was different, sexy. She liked it a lot. She had actually managed to dig out her clothes. Now if she could just make it to the shower without further…distractions. "Trying to get ready for work," she answered. "Like you should be right now, you lazy bum."
He yawned loudly and stretched his long, lean frame. If she had been facing him, the sight would have easily taken her breath away. "I told you. Today is my day off."
She bit her lip. I toll you. Today is my day oaf. Oh good Lord. She couldn't stand how he seduced her without seducing her. She had forgotten that he had some huge secretive appointment today that he hadn't bothered sharing with her. He told her that if the news was good, he would spill it. Little did he know, but she intended to get the information out of him even if she had to threaten him with physical violence or something. A sneaky man was her lover. Sneaky indeed. "Lucky you. You don't have class either?" He grunted his response, which she took as a 'no.' "I've got to get moving. I'm going to be so late it ain't even funny."
"Turn around and let me see you," he said, mockingly commanding her. He knew she hated to be bossed around. "You snuck out of bed before I could look at you."
"Nope," she answered simply. "If I look at you, back into bed I'll go. I have court this morning, and I cannot miss that. I hate my job, but love that paycheck."
He said nothing further and she took that as her cue to hop into the shower while she had the chance. Any more conversation and she'd wind up tangled with him in the sheets. She came out of the shower fifteen minutes later, thankful that Sirri hadn't decided to join her and torture her. He knew when he could push and when it wasn't such a good idea. They'd been together long enough where they had pretty much learned each other's body language, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. When she emerged from the bathroom, he was sitting up in bed reading through one of his bazillion text books. He was completely devoid of apparel. Why oh why did he do this to her when she was running behind?
As soon as he noticed her, he stopped reading and focused his attention on her. With a lifted eyebrow, he gazed up at her, noticing that she was clad only in her bra and skimpy hip hugger panties. Although she argued with him almost every step of the way, he often told her that she was so very beautiful and well put together. She was petite, barely five feet four, if that, and had glossy chocolate brown hair that fell in thick waves to her shoulders. Her lovely eyes were hazel flecked with green and gold. Her perfect round face was without one slight indication of her age. She had a cute smattering of freckles across her nose that she literally hated, but he found them endearing, especially in the summer when the sun made them stand out prominently. Those were simply the physical things that had caught his attention when he first saw her. There was more to her, much more that he loved. He loved her shyness and subtle humor. He loved the fact that she maintained a job that would send most people screaming for the door their first day. He loved the way she tried to hide her deformed left thumb within her hand when she encountered strangers. They had been dating close to six months before she finally told him what happened to her hand. She had lost the tip of her thumb when she was five. Her older sister had accidentally slammed the car door on it, and it simply couldn't be saved. What she considered a hideous deformity was yet one more thing to love about her.
"Don't forget to come straight to your apartment after work," he said suddenly.
Makenna had just stepped into her 'going to court' pantsuit. She was busily buttoning her top when Sirri made the comment. "I intend to unless something falls apart. If it does, I'll call." After she stepped into her sensibly low heeled shoes, she approached the bed and sat down. "Why all the covertness? Just tell me what you're going to do today."
He smiled a little. "I can't. I want you to be pleasantly surprised tonight. If I said anything, it would ruin the moment."
"You're such a butthead," she said with a laugh.
"I know, but you wouldn't have me any other way."
"Gotta run," she said. She leaned toward him and gave him a soft kiss on the forehead. "I guess I'll do my make-up during recess. Love you."
Makenna didn't bother driving to the office. Instead, she pointed her car toward the highway that would take her straight to the county courthouse. She was just lucky that she had brought along her files and the necessary paperwork to distribute to the court and attorneys. She wished she could say she was one of the attorneys who would probably have her for lunch, but she wasn't. For the past ten years, she had been working as a caseworker for the local child protection agency. It was a demanding job, one that often tore her heart out. Although she hated her job, especially going to court, being on call, and confronting irate parents, she truly loved the children that she worked with on a daily basis. She liked helping when she could, and listening to their stories. She loved playing with the kids when she had time and receiving their heartfelt hugs. However, it was the red tape of the job she hated most. Her hands were often tied by government bureaucracy. Today, she was due to testify in court for a few of her foster care cases. She especially hated those days, because it gave the parents' attorneys an opportunity to show the court, her supervisor, and the foster parents that she was the worst caseworker ever hired. She knew it was part of the routine, the attorneys were only doing their jobs, but it still never failed to give her an awesome headache by day's end.
One of her cases was going to a particular booger today. About two weeks ago, she had taken custody of an infant and his two older siblings. The mother's boyfriend was very abusive and quite dangerous. He had beaten the mother repeatedly, and it was suspected that he had choked one of the children in a frenzy of anger. The sad part was that the mother had recanted her story and Makenna's ass was over the fire. The father had his own attorney appointed by the court, but the mother did not. Makenna wasn't afraid to bet that she would request an attorney today, and the court would be forced to set yet another hearing while the children remained in foster care, completely unsure of their fate. It was yet one more thing that made her dislike her career. No matter how difficult it was, she couldn't leave. She simply loved the kids too much, worried about them.
After driving like a bat out of hell, she made it to the courthouse after about forty-five minutes. When she found a parking spot, she heard a groan leaving her. The mother, boyfriend, and the boyfriend's attorney were standing outside, likely matching up their stories. Adding yet more fuel to the fire. Joy oh joy. She killed the car's engine and ignored the staring trio. Keeping her eyes focused elsewhere, she got out of the car and retrieved her briefcase from the backseat. Makenna couldn't help but notice that the boyfriend was giving her a look that could kill as she made her way past them and inside the courthouse. Forgoing the elevator today, she took off upstairs to the third floor. The courtroom was packed. There were several people here for CPS court, but there were also tons of them waiting for the judge to hear other juvenile cases. It was going to be a long day.
As Makenna made her way toward the front bench where her supervisor and co-workers awaited, she heard herself groaning again. Sitting on the opposite side of the room conferring with one of his clients was Niko Milionis. Niko was strikingly handsome and young. He stood right around five feet ten and had thick dark brown hair. His eyes were just as dark as his hair, but they could be piercing and sharp. Makenna hadn't seen much kindness in them, only anger, mirth, and they were sometimes even mocking. He possessed rich features from a mixed ancestry including a smooth, dark complexion, strong chin, Roman nose, and full lips. His good looks didn't quite extend to his personality in the court room. She had seen what he did to her co-workers in court, and she thanked her lucky stars that he wasn't the attorney for the parents on any of her cases. Unless… No. She wouldn't even think it. Not today.
Case after case on the juvenile docket went by until it was time for the CPS cases. Makenna's first was, of course, the abusive boyfriend-clueless girlfriend. And as she had feared, the mother demanded an attorney. And as she further feared, Niko was appointed to represent her. Dear Lord. Makenna wondered if it was too late to ask her supervisor to take her off this case. Niko would rip into her as he had done with her co-workers. For now, he was smiling innocently, but behind that smile lurked a sneer. She was almost certain of it. Another date was set to hear the case and then it was dismissed. Could this day get any worse?
Makenna pulled her car into her assigned slot at her apartment building. She noticed Sirri's car in her 'visitor's' parking space and she smiled. Whatever had happened to him today must have been good. She wished she could say the same about her own day. After court, Niko had mentioned he wanted to come by the office and discuss the case with her. She had no desire to do it, Niko was a tricky bastard, but she was sort of obligated in a way. She made a hasty appointment and got the hell out of there. Tonight, she intended to relax as much as her lover would allow.
When she entered her apartment, she was immediately taken aback. It was almost as if there was a stranger in the room. Sirri had shorn off his long locks. His hair was very short in the back and combed up and away from his face. There were a few stray locks here and there hanging over his forehead. Not only was his long hair missing, but he had also shaved off the goatee as well. All that remained was a shadow of a beard that looked like new growth. Like her redneck daddy sometimes said about himself, Sirri tended to 'hair up' fast. He looked startlingly different, younger.
"What happened to you," Makenna asked carefully, as if stunned.
He smiled a little and approached her. Swiftly, taking her breath away, he took her into his embrace and kissed her. When he broke the kiss, she was gazing up at him questioningly. "Before you ask, I didn't join a cult or anything," he began. "I had to clean up a little. Law firms don't want their clerks coming to work with a ponytail."
Confused now, she uttered, "What?"
"Well, this is my last semester of law school and I decided it was time to change my career path before I attempt the Bar exam. It's a little less money, but good experience with the option to join the firm after graduation. You're looking at the new law clerk for Milionis and Wade."
Makenna's confused facial expression quickly turned blank. "Milionis? Niko Milionis?"
Sirri nodded. "Yes, but I haven't met him yet. Is there something wrong?"
She shook her head. "No, babe. I think it's wonderful." Although she wasn't sure she was supposed to divulge any information, she couldn't keep her feelings at bay. "It's just that I know Niko, and he's a bit of a shark. I know that won't happen to you, but don't expect me to be nice to him when the firm has a party or something." This last bit she had said with a small smile.
He pulled away from her and took her hand. Tugging on it gently, he said, "Come. There's something else I'd like to share with you."
Not sure what to expect, she followed him over to her couch. It was small and rickety, and she often wondered how long it would last. They had made love here a couple of times and were lucky to walk away without broken necks or other injuries. They sat down together, facing each other, and Makenna's eyes searched Sirri's face. He looked nervous, almost unsure of himself. In the two years they had been together, she had never seen him like this. She wanted to ask him what was going on, but she was certain that he wouldn't say anything until he was darn good and ready.
He smiled at her again and gently ran the back of his hand along her cheek. "These past two years with you have been incredible. I never once thought I could feel this way about another person again. I don't know what I would have done without your support. I love you very much."
"I love you, too."
He brought his lips to hers again, and when he was certain her eyes were closed, he moved a bit. He knew she felt him shifting ever so slightly, and she had begun to break away from his kiss to see what he was doing. "Wait," he whispered against her lips. "Don't open your eyes yet."
"Sirri, what are you doing," she whispered back.
"Shh. Give me a minute and I'll tell you."
He kissed her lips very gently and then a moment later, she felt him lifting her hand. She felt an unmistakable sensation. He was putting a ring on her finger. Makenna opened her eyes and stared down at the diamond solitaire ring. She couldn't even imagine how long it had taken him to save up the money to get this for her.
"Sirri, what is this," she uttered, completely surprised that she could speak.
"It's an engagement ring," he answered with a gentle smile, one she had seen before. No duh, Makenna. "Be my wife?"
They had never discussed getting married. She was totally and completely overwhelmed. "Yes, I'll be your wife."
A look of relief washed over him and the nervous tension coiled in his stomach slowly dissipated. He kissed her again, drawing her into his embrace. Two unpleasant surprises were completely canceled out by one most unexpected question. Or so Makenna thought.