Chase kept his hands over Presley's eyes as he walked her carefully through the door. She giggled with nervous excitement and begged him to tell her what was going on.
They were two weeks into the tour, but had a brief couple of days to come home. Chase couldn't have been more grateful for the timing. He had been in close works with the realtor and his parents the last month or so to get this surprise ready. While the shows were going great, he couldn't wait to get home to Presley – there were a couple of surprises coming for her birthday.
"Keep your eyes closed," Chase instructed, turning her so he could see her face.
"I'm about to pee my pants," Presley finally told him.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Chase warned. "Unless you have a mop with you to clean up … our new wood floors."
Presley opened her eyes and gasped, her hands flying to her throat. There had been a tremendous amount of work done on their house. The walls were painted, the floors were done. As she wandered, speechless, from room to room, she marveled over kitchen counters and bathroom sinks.
"So is this where you've really been hiding the last two weeks?" Presley teased, finally turning around to Chase.
He laughed. "No, I really have been on tour. When I told you, though, that we needed to make decisions on furniture and all that right before I left though, it wasn't because of delayed delivery times – I wanted to have this done by your birthday. Mom and Dad have been supervising everything. The things you couldn't decide on, Kyla and Janie helped me fill in the holes."
Presley threw her arms around his neck and kissed him for all she was worth. "I'm so spoiled."
"Yes, you are," Chase agreed with a smile. "But I love surprising you."
"You did good this time." Presley looked around at the room that would be their bedroom. If they set up the furniture right, they would be able to sit in their bed and watch the sunset every day if they wanted. "Thank you, Chase."
"You're welcome. Oh, but there's more – the moving truck will be here with the furniture in a couple of hours. You've got to go back to the apartment and pack up the rest of your stuff."
"Yes. I'm going to help you, and my brothers will be there, too."
"What about the girls?"
"You don't get to ask this many questions the day before your birthday. I got a pretty good surprise on my birthday, and you're going to get some good stuff, too."
Presley kissed him again, backing him up towards the wall. "Speaking of good stuff …"
"Insatiable," Chase mumbled between kisses. "We've got to be careful, Pres. I'm still fighting off that sinus infection."
Presley rolled her eyes. "I took precautions. Dr. Kiefer put me on antibiotics because I knew you'd be home sometime around now. We were fighting off the infection before I was even exposed to it."
"I love the way you think," Chase smiled, pulling her back to him.
Presley blew out a strand of hair out of her face as she taped off the last of the boxes. The guys had been a great help in getting her packed up and, according to Chase, were already unpacking in the new house.
"Ready to go, darlin'?" Chase asked.
Presley nodded. "I think that's the last of it."
"You all right? It's been a busy day."
"Yeah, it has. I'm not too tired though – I was just thinking of all the things that happened here. That first night we met, we came back here, before I barely had anything in the apartment."
"When I kissed your cheek that night, I couldn't believe how hot your skin was," Chase remembered. "I had no idea about anything then."
She smiled. "Remember our first kiss, by the door? I was weak at the knees."
"I was incredibly panicked," Chase admitted. "I thought I'd pushed you too far and you'd never speak to me again."
She laughed. "That just might have been the moment I fell in love with you – well, if it wasn't when you sprayed me with water when we were doing the dishes at your parents that night."
He laughed along with her, remembering everything over the last five months. He'd almost lost her, in more ways than one and more times than once. He looked around her now empty bedroom and remembered the time she collapsed, when the infection and the cancer had collaborated to nearly kill her.
"There are some memories I won't miss about this place," he muttered.
Presley didn't have to ask what he was thinking of. "Hey. We've got a beautiful new home where we are going to make beautiful new memories. I promise you – the cancer's behind us, Chase. I know it is."
"Then I believe you."
He picked up the box and smiled, heading for the front door. Presley turned off all the lights and turned at the door to take one last look around.
"Hey," Chase said, nudging her with his elbow. "I love you."
Presley smiled and kissed him. "I love you, too."
With that, Chase made way down the stairs, and Presley closed the door. She stopped at the leasing office to drop off her keys then got in the car with Chase to drive over to the new house.
Chase groaned as Cera and Petrie settled themselves on the bed. Presley just laughed.
"I don't know why you thought they were going to sleep anywhere else than with us. They've only ever slept in the bed."
"Yes, because someone gave up on crate training while I was in New York," Chase reminded her.
"And I am that someone, I'll admit," Presley quickly replied. "But the point of letting me have the dogs – well, besides bribing me to move into this beautiful house – was so that I wasn't alone when you were on the road or out of town or whatever. That includes not leaving me alone in the bed."
"Darlin' … I love you. Petrie is going to stay small. Cera isn't – she's going to get probably going to get at least sixty pounds heavier. You really want to keep her sleeping in the bed with us?"
"So we're going to let Petrie sleep with us but not Cera? That isn't fair. She will think we don't love her. Besides, we have this great big bed. What's another few pounds?"
Chase laughed. "Oh, you're so lucky I love you as much as I do."
"Kyla and Janie said there's a big dinner tomorrow?"
"Yes, but it's dinner out, just the three couples. Before you freak out, Mom and Dad actually suggested it."
"Well, good. As long as they don't feel left out or anything." She smiled as she turned to her side. "I'm glad you're home."
Chase smiled back. "Me too. Did you think five months ago that we'd ever be here?"
"Hope for it," Presley admitted. "I can't believe though that it's only five months … we've been through so much."
"And we've got a long way to go," Chase added. "I'm really excited for tomorrow. Probably more excited than you are."
Presley laughed. "Well, now you know how I felt when I went to New York to surprise you. Driving around all day with Wyatt while you called him and me over and over – and let's not even talk about trying to not lie to you about my test results but still keep you in the dark."
Chase kissed her. "That was the best birthday present I've ever gotten. To me, those test results meant you were going to live. It's all right – I know you said that the cancer is behind us and I believe it. You have to understand that for me, Pres, not being able to get a straight answer when you first told me about the cancer and I asked you if you were dying – that might have been one of the worst moments in my life. It took me a long time to find you. There are no guarantees anyway, but this disease that you have – that you had – could have taken you away from me at any moment. I'd lay awake at night and watch you breathe, just to know you were still alive. I could live without you, darlin', but I don't want to."
"Chase," Presley breathed, trying to keep her tears at bay. "You don't know how much you mean to me. When I say I'll never leave you, trust me when I say that I mean that in every way possible."
He reached out his hand and placed it just under her collarbone. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath; every time her heart beat, it was another moment he got to be with her. Presley had given him a new outlook on life in general. It was such a fragile thing that could be taken away in an instant. He had seen and experienced that firsthand.
"Stop thinking about it," Presley whispered, rolling over so that her body was flush with his. "Just love me, Chase."
Chase ran his hands up into her hair and kissed her with everything in him. "Always, darlin'."
"Happy birthday to you … Happy birthday to you … Happy Birthday, dear Presley … Happy Birthday to you …"
Presley yawned and rubbed her eyes. She stretched and smiled, expecting to see Chase in bed next to her. When her eyes landed on a wooden box instead of her boyfriend, however, Presley's smile turned into a frown. She studied the lock on the box, and her mouth dropped open a little bit. She reached for the key on the necklace she had worn every day since Christmas, slid it into the lock, and with a simple turn, the lock gave. Presley bit her bottom lip in anticipation; inside the box was a beautiful diamond solitaire. She stood all at once, headed for the door, when she realized Chase was already there, down on one knee.
"Chase …" Presley breathed, a hand at her throat.
"Presley," he smiled back. "This spot is the equivalent of where we were in the apartment the night you collapsed. I stood here for a while last night while you were downstairs, wondering if it would happen again, here in our room in this house we bought together. It was then that I realized, I don't want to wonder about that anymore. You're right; we have to put the cancer behind us and move on with life. I figured we would just fall into this routine and let things fall into place from there, but the one thing I can't get past is that you have to be careful with every moment you're given. Cancer or not, I'll never be able to start forever with you soon enough. Marry me, darlin'."
"If this is about how early it is in my remission –" Presley started.
"No," Chase interrupted. "This isn't because I'm afraid you're going anywhere in the next five years. It's because I love you and I want you to be my wife. Marry me."
There was no stopping the tears this time. Presley nodded, unable to speak. Chase slipped the ring on her finger, then stood and hugged her. Presley threw her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek over and over.
"I guess that tops the watch, doesn't it?" she laughed when she could finally compose herself.
Chase chuckled. "I still think I'm getting the better end of the deal here, though."
Presley couldn't stop kissing him. Chase finally forced her out of the bedroom and into the shower, promising her that she would have chocolate chip pancakes when she was done.
"Wait, I have to call Kennedy!"
"You're really going to tell her before you tell your mother?" Chase asked. "You're a braver woman than I thought, Pres."
She chuckled. "I'm going to video chat with Mama in an hour or so anyway. She'll get to see the ring first, so it'll even out."
Chase watched her as she disappeared into the bathroom, dialing her sister as she went. Chase couldn't let her have all the fun – he wanted to tell someone, too.
"Morning, son," his mother greeted. "I suppose the birthday girl has you up early with her excitement?"
"Actually, I woke her up," Chase replied. "You were the first person I told about meeting Presley, Mom. Do you remember what I told you that morning?"
Joyce took a deep breath. "I believe your exact words were 'more than amazing, stunning, breathtaking'."
"That's right," Chase smiled. "This morning, Mom, that amazing, stunning, breathtaking girl – I asked her to marry me, and she said yes."
"Chase!" Joyce gasped. "You didn't even tell me you were thinking about proposing! Oh, never mind that – Presley's going to officially be part of the family and that's what's important. I'm so happy for you, son."
"Thanks, Mom. I'm supposed to be making her pancakes right now so I won't stay on the phone too long, but I just wanted you to be the first person I told."
"I guess we better plan a trip to Carolina soon, then."
"Maybe so," Chase agreed. "I'll see you later on tonight."
Janie and Kyla ooh'd and aah'd over Presley's ring when they all met up for dinner later that evening. Presley blushed modestly as she held out her hand, smiling at Chase where he was standing behind the girls.
"Did your mother cry when you told her?" Kyla asked.
Presley chuckled. "Yes, she did. She handed the phone right over to my father and still had to call me back later when she composed herself. She wasn't like that when my brothers and sister were married but – you know, it's a little different this time, I think, me being the youngest and all."
"I'm sure," Kyla agreed. "You're going to make a beautiful bride, Presley."
"I hope so," Presley replied.
A hostess came then to take them to their table. Chase hung back with Presley, interlacing his fingers with hers.
"Darlin', you are going to be the most beautiful bride anyone has ever seen," Chase told her.
Presley shrugged. "I've been losing a little bit of weight again. I hadn't really thought about how that would affect being in a wedding dress."
"Hey," Chase said, lifting her chin so she was facing him. "First of all, Dr. Keifer said you would have some weight fluctuation with the new medicine, and that's okay. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and that's what's important."
Presley took a deep breath and shook her head. "You're right, I'm sorry. It's supposed to be a fun, good night. I'm thinking positive, I promise."
"Good," Chase answer, kissing the tip of her nose. "I can't have you frowning in your pictures when the wait staff sings to you."
"Chase! You wouldn't!" Presley exclaimed as they resumed their walk to the table.
"Evan threatened me with that on my birthday, so you at least are going to sit and worry about it for a while," Chase teased her.
Presley poked him in the side, to which he answered with tickling her just behind her ear. Presley shrieked, earning the couple odd looks from some of the other patrons.
"Behave yourself," she chastised. "You're going to get us in trouble."
"Not nearly as much trouble as you're going to be in later when we get home," Chase whispered in her ear. Presley blushed a bright pink, leaving the other four wide open to some embarrassing comments when they sat down.
"I love you," Chase chuckled, trying to stay on his fiancée's good side.
"I love you, too," Presley smiled, before leaning over and whispering, "But if you think you had trouble in mind before, you just wait until we get home."
She kissed his cheek and delved into a conversation with Kyla and Janie about wedding details, leaving Chase to sit and squirm over her mischievous tone.
Four weeks later, Presley pulled up to the airport in Tulsa. Her nerves were active with excitement, and with good reason. Chase was still in the middle of the tour, but Kyla and Janie were house-sitting and watching the dogs for her while Presley went to surprise him for a few days. It was a last minute trip and while everyone had their suspicions, Presley refused to tell them why she had made the last minute trip to meet her fiancé in Los Angeles. She swore up and down that she missed him and wanted to see him, and simply couldn't wait the week and a half until they came home, just in time for Kyla's wedding.
After leaving her car in long-term parking, Presley shouldered her bag and took a deep breath. Her plan was to show up at the venue and be waiting for Chase backstage after the show. If her two flights were on schedule and the rent-a-car place didn't hold her up, she'd be just on time.
Everything was going perfectly. Her cancer was still in remission, she felt good and healthy. Just after her birthday, she had even managed to land a couple of photography jobs. It was freelance work, but it was a start. She missed Chase terribly but with the constant calls and messages between the two of them, it took the edge off. About a week ago, some familiar symptoms landed her in Dr. Kiefer's office two weeks ahead of schedule. The results had been exactly what she thought they would be, and she was determined to tell Chase face-to-face. After all they had been through, he deserved to be the first to know and to not have to hear it over the phone.
Presley waited impatiently at the security line; was everybody flying to California this morning? She checked her watch and let out a deep breath as the line moved forward.
"Excuse me," she heard behind her. "Aren't you Presley O'Brien?"
Presley turned around and her eyes instantly narrowed. "I am. And before you say anything else, I know exactly who you are, Lauren."
Lauren nodded. "I figured you might. Um, how are things with you and Chase?"
She couldn't stop herself from switching her bag with a flourish to her left hand, showing off her engagement ring. "They're great. How about you and your husband?"
Lauren looked confused. "My husband?"
"When I first met you, it at the bridal shot when Kyla was looking for her dress."
"Oh, that's right," Lauren sighed. "It didn't work out. We called the wedding off."
"Tell me, was that before or after you showed up at Chase's apartment in New York? Don't look so surprised, Chase tells me everything. By the way, that little magazine stunt you pulled just about pushed him over the edge – I'm the one who talked him out of taking any kind of legal action." She counted backwards from ten to lower her volume before she created a scene.
Lauren threw up her hands as the line moved forward. "I'm sorry, Presley. I know that Chase is happy with you and I was wrong to try and do anything to come between the two of you. If you're marrying him then you must know how good of a man he is – wouldn't you do everything in your power to keep him?"
"I don't have to do anything desperate – then again, I've never left Chase for anyone else or gone behind his back. That being said, I'm telling you right now that if you try to contact him again or if you pull any of those little stunts with the media again, I promise you that I won't stop Chase from reacting however he sees fit."
Maybe it wasn't really the telling-off she had always hoped to give Lauren, but there was no telling who was around and who would overhear the tongue-lashing she really wanted to let loose. She wasn't going to let Lauren give Chase any sort of bad publicity, and she certainly wasn't going to bring any on him, either.
And hour later, she was seated as comfortably as she was going to get on an airplane, waiting for take-off. Presley would sleep off the whole Lauren scene on the flight and by the time she got to Los Angeles, she was sure, she'd only be thinking of the news she had for Chase.
A/N: Finally, another chapter! Life seems to have taken over most of my time and when I do get to write, it's been on projects I haven't posted. I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, so maybe over Christmas Break I will be able to work on some other stories as well. Big emphasis on the MAYBE! Thank you to whoever is still reading this!