"Her love is rare, and all she's ever wanted was someone who understood that."
Will stared in me quizzically as I began. The words tumbled out of my mouth in an undignified mess.
"I didn't dislike Lorraine only because I didn't trust her," I confessed, staring my wringing hands, unable to look Will in the eye. "... I don't know when it happened, but the day you said you had a date with Lorraine, my heart shattered. I realized I wasn't going to be the only girl in your life anymore, and I was jealous of what you two had. I don't mean in a way that I wanted a boyfriend in my life. I meant I was jealous of her having you. I'd admitted it out loud to Mia and James that I liked you as more than a friend, but I still hadn't really admitted it to myself because I always thought I never had a chance with you. I'm a commoner; you're a prince. It doesn't happen unless you're Kate Middleton. Besides, I thought you didn't love me the way you used to. I gave you an opportunity to ask me out on a date the day Lorraine called you for the first time. You asked me point blank if I liked you, and in true 'me' fashion, I said I wouldn't tell you even if I did, but I told you to ask me and find out. I stupidly thought you would, but you said I'd just shoot down your ego if you did."
I was bumbling through my words at this point, jumping in all different directions, but I needed to finish what I'd started, no matter how embarrassing it was to me, or how vulnerable it made me. "I wanted to respond to all your calls and texts the second I got them."
"Even right after it happened?" Will asked in surprise.
"Okay, maybe not the first week because I was thoroughly pissed and upset, but I constantly thought about them. But I knew if we made up, I'd have to deal with Lorraine... As selfish as this sounds, it hurt to see you happy with her. Of course, I wanted you to be happy. I always want you to be happy, but I wanted to be the girl making you happy, not her, and it's why I ignored you. I couldn't bring myself to let you back in and risk my heart getting broken again. For the longest time, I convinced myself I no longer had feelings for you, even when I saw you at the hospital when Walt had his heart attack. Then you kissed me on the head after you saved me from your dad, and I realized all those feelings for you were still very much there and present and deep. It's why I reacted so horribly when you started pushing me away and ignoring me when you were searching for Lorraine's dad, and-"
"Please, just... let me finish. I promise I'm almost done rambling," I said, taking another deep breath and wiping a tear off my cheek. "We missed our chance because of me. We loved each other at different times. I'm sure after having me ignoring all those phone calls and texts, you lost any romantic feelings towards me, and I know you're doing everything you are to make up for what happened between us, but you've more than made up for it. I don't want what I'm saying to change anything between us because I finally got you back in my life. We're finally back to where we were before, if not closer, and I don't want to ruin it. I promise I won't act on these feelings, but I'm telling you this because you deserve to know that your feelings weren't always one-sided. I'm sorry to only be telling you this now. I was terrified my feelings wouldn't be reciprocated because I've never dealt with emotions like this before, and by the time I came to my senses, it was too late."
I finished in a rush. A queasiness settled in my stomach as I waited for Will to respond. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him staring at me with his mouth partially open. I still couldn't look at him. My cheeks flushed so much, I truly believed the heat would melt my makeup right off.
"Annalise, look at me," Will whispered, placing a hand on my back. I tensed at his touch, bowing my head so my hair would hide the tears threatening to spill over. "Annie, please. Look at me."
Swallowing the knot down in my throat, I steeled myself and met his gaze. He cupped my flaming cheeks, brushing away stray tears with his thumbs. Kissing my forehead, he said, "Please don't cry."
I sniffled. "Sorry. I'm trying not to. I-"
"You don't need to apologize, either. I just have one question for you."
"What is it?"
"If I were to invite you on a date, would you say yes?" The corners of Will's lips quivered upward as he barely refrained from smiling outright.
I smirked myself, not even daring to believe my ears lest they be deceiving me. "Ask me and see."
"Can I kiss you instead?"
"I like that idea much-"
I never finished my sentence.
Will crashed his lips onto mine, and I eagerly returned the affection, gripping the lapels of his suit in my fists, desperate to close any remaining distance between us. For Will, he was releasing over six years of repressed emotions towards me. I'm not sure how long mine had gone unnoticed, but they utterly overwhelmed me.
Will wrapped his arms around my waist, lifting me into the air, while my arms snaked around his neck. We couldn't get enough of each other. It was as if we were afraid to break apart in case this turned out to be a heartbreaking dream.
The saltiness of my cascading tears mixed with the taste of chocolate from our last snack. His jacket slipped off my shoulders, allowing for the cold brick to press into my back as Will pinned me against it, closing any possible gaps between our bodies. The heat from his body warmed me instantly, the previously chilly air disappearing instantaneously. The crowd below counted down, but for what, I didn't know.
My mind was gone, unable to think about anything other than the feel of Will's lips on mine, of our hands roaming up and down each other's bodies, of the pent up passion finally released.
Will and I jumped as a shower of gold and red light danced across our faces as the beginning of the fireworks show exploded in the air.
Will braced his forehead against mine and whispered, "That was-"
"Long overdue," I finished. We kissed again, this time long, slow, and sweet. It only ended because neither of us could contain our smiles.
Will led me to the railing, wrapping his arms around my waist from behind. Resting his chin on my shoulder, the two of us watched the glittering bursts light up the night sky.
"This may be too early, but I love you, Annalise Stark," Will said wistfully. "I always have."
"I love you, too," I replied, pecking him on the cheek.
"I guess the next step is deciding what we are. I mean, we've kind of bypassed the getting to know each other stage, haven't we?"
"True. We know mostly everything about each other. We've seen each other at our best and our worst. I guess the next step would be saying we're boyfriend and girlfriend."
"I'm absolutely comfortable with that."
"You know? I think I am too."
Will grinned, squeezing me gently. "All right, girlfriend, who do we tell first?"
"Would it be selfish of me to ask not to tell anyone yet so that I can have you all to myself for a little bit?"
"Not at all. I love the idea," he said softly, kissing my bare shoulder, causing my stomach to do somersaults. "How long are you thinking?"
"I have no idea, but when we do, I think it's obvious to tell Mia, your mom, Everly, Mark, James, and the Griffiths. The Stewarts and Wallaces too. They're all family to us, and they are the ones I'd trust to know."
"Agreed. What about the public?"
"We should wait longer to tell them. I think after your coronation."
Will frowned. "That's months away, though."
"I know, but that day is supposed to be about you. If everyone knows we're dating, they're going to make it about us. Plus, I don't want our relationship to detract from Everly and Mark's impending wedding," I said, searching for the two of them in the crowd. I found them off in the distance by the lake, underneath a leafless tree strung with soft white lights.
"They're getting married?!" Will exclaimed. "How do you-"
I pointed to Mark getting down on one knee in the distance. "He told me a while ago. I've been planning the wedding ever since because I know she'll say yes. I've secretly been having her help me plan her wedding the way I did her baby shower."
"Holy shit," Will breathed. We watched Everly attack Mark in a hug. I swear I could see her body shaking from sobs, even all the way up in the belfry. "You're incredible, you know that?"
I smiled up at him, and he planted his lips on mine. "Do you still want me to stay the night with you tonight? I don't want you thinking I'm expecting anything now that we've taken our relationship to the next level and-"
"Will, you know very well if I'm not comfortable with something, I'd tell you," I said, turning around to face him. I clasped my hands around his neck, a sudden surge of confidence flowing through me. "For the record, there's not much I'm not comfortable doing with you. There's also no way in hell I'm going to my room alone after a kiss like that."
Will let out a burst of laughter. "Just say the words, and we're gone."
"What words would those be?" I asked playfully.
He pondered my question. "What were those words Charlie said to Maverick in Top Gun when they were on the motorcycle together making out?"
I bit my lip and giggled, remembering that particular scene all too well. "Take me to bed or lose me forever."
Will smiled devilishly. "As you wish."