Forty-five minutes later, Presley's nerves were again on end. Supper was almost ready; she went about setting the table as she tried to look out the window on the front door in an attempt to see them.
"Don't you dare make me talk about Jonathan coming here and asking to marry you again," Dorrie hissed at her daughter. She flicked the girl on the arm, stunning her back to her task.
"That hurt!" Presley scowled as she set the plates in her hand on the table.
"Quit trying to eavesdrop and pay attention to what you're doing."
Knowing that her mother had had to scold her several times too many that day already, Presley shut her mouth and finished setting out the silverware and napkins. She was pulling the salt and pepper from the cupboard when her father and Chase finally came back in the house.
"Just in time, supper is ready," Dorrie smiled up at Craig. He winked at her and set the two coffee mugs in the sink in front of him. "Did you have a good talk?"
"We did," Craig confirmed, kissing her forehead and then her mouth. He had a goofy grin on his face; Dorrie desperately wanted to question her husband about it but knew that he wouldn't tell her anything until after Presley and Chase had gone. She let it drop for the moment and turned back to the table.
"Was it really good?" Presley asked Chase, wrapping her arms around his middle.
"Yes, it was. I'll talk to you about it later. Let's eat."
The conversation over their meal was smooth and easy. Presley told about the few shoots she had been able to do since being home and Craig told about the latest case he'd taken on at the law firm. Once everyone was done eating and the table was cleared, Presley and Chase prepared to go.
"Thank you for dinner. It was really wonderful," Chase told Dorrie. He gave her a hug and then shook hands with Craig. "Thank you for having me."
"You're always welcome. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday," Dorrie smiled.
"You kids be careful driving back," Craig cautioned.
Presley promised that they would and kissed both of her parents goodbye before leading Chase back out to her car. Craig pulled Dorrie to him as they watched the taillights of Presley's car fade into the distance.
"He wants to marry her, Dorrie," Craig said quietly.
Dorrie look at her husband, completely astonished. "Now?"
Craig snorted and kissed her forehead before shutting and locking the front door. "Not today and I don't think any time in the very near future. He does love her, and I have a feeling he would give up everything he has if keeping it meant he couldn't have Presley."
"So you're assuming he wants to marry her just from your discussion?"
"I could see it in the way he looked at her how much he loves her. When I took him outside, I asked him exactly what his intentions were with Presley, and I think I caught him off guard because he just kind of blurted out that he wanted to marry her."
"What did you tell him?"
"Well, I gave him the chance to recover and he told me that it had been something he's been thinking about lately, but he knows that it's too soon."
Dorrie frowned. "What did you tell him, Craig?"
"I told him that whenever he thought it was the right time, he has my full consent and blessing to ask Presley to marry him." He looked down at his wife to see what her reaction would be and was rewarded with a full grin.
"We got pretty lucky with all four kids being so happy, don't you think?"
"I think we did, sweetheart. I think we did."
As they pulled up to Presley's house, Chase was in complete awe. It was literally right on the beach; he could smell the ocean from where he stood. She led the way up the stairs to her front door and motioned for him to go in front of her.
"There's a kitchen and living room upstairs, and the master bedroom, which has its own bathroom. This is a spare room that Nolan and Tyler have deemed as their own because they're the only ones who ever stay in there, pretty much. That, obviously, is a bathroom and this is my room. I've got my own bathroom, too."
Chase dropped his bag on the floor and looked around. She had a balcony that overlooked the beach and sheer curtains that let in as much light as possible. As he looked out at the sand and water, Presley's arms snaked around him.
"This place is amazing. I see now why you love it so much."
"It's much better with you here," Presley assured him. Chase turned in her arms and leaned down to kiss her.
"Speaking of being in the same place," he spoke between kisses, "I get to go home to Tulsa for Thanksgiving. I come in Wednesday night and I will be there until Tuesday, so maybe Monday we can look for apartments?"
"Sure, I'd like that." She kissed him again and dragged him to her bed. "All the food Mama's been cooking since I got home, I've gained a few pounds. Can you tell?"
"You do look healthier," he agreed, feeling as though that was the safest answer to her question. "I hate to tell you, darlin', but I am pretty tired. You ready for bed?"
"Sure. Tomorrow I'll take you around to see everything – maybe we'll go down to Wilmington. I have a shoot Wednesday afternoon, but you can come with me, if you want."
"I might stick around here and do some writing."
As they crawled into her bed, Chase brought her close to him and kissed her sweetly. "We really do need to figure something out that'll have us around each other more. I wish you could tour with us."
"I know. Maybe next tour. Dr. Kiefer said that for the first six months I have to be monitored weekly, then after that it will be once a month. For the second and third year, it'll be every three months and then yearly until I'm cured."
"Cured," Chase repeated. "Five years seems like a long time."
Presley shrugged. "It'll go by fast."
He rolled to his back and she cuddled up to his chest. "Can I talk to you about something without you freaking out?"
"Yeah …" she drawled. She positioned herself on her elbow, leaning over him.
"I've just been thinking a lot about you and me lately. I don't know, maybe it's because of you going into remission or maybe being without you. Maybe both. It just that I listen to Isaac talk about his wedding and I hear how happy you are when you talk about Jacey or when I talk to you when you're holding her and –"
"Wait," Presley interrupted. "Are you proposing?"
Chase sighed. "I'm not proposing. I guess I'm just wondering if you would want to wait for your five year mark to get married and everything."
"If I learned anything from this relapse and from my relationship with you, it's that I can't let cancer stop me from living my life. I love you and I know that I'll never be with anyone else. So, no. I don't want to wait until I'm considered cured."
"That's all I was wondering. Let's get some sleep." He kissed her again, but Presley wasn't done.
"Is that what you and my dad talked about?"
"Presley, I'm not telling you what I talked about with your dad."
"You said you would tell me later."
"I didn't say how much later."
She fell onto her back and crossed her arms. "Not fair."
Chase sat up and did the first thing he could think of: he blew a huge raspberry on her stomach. She shrieked and pushed him away, but her sour mood was gone. He continued to tease her until they both fell into a deep, blissful sleep.
The next day, Presley and Chase flirted their way through the shops and sights of downtown Wilmington. They ate lunch at the Dockside Café and took a walk together along the water. After a few hours of walking around, they headed back for Topsail Island.
"Do you want to go out to dinner tonight? We can see if any of my siblings want to go out with us," Presley offered.
"Let's just stay in tonight. Being out has been fun and everything, but I just want to spend some time with you."
"We can certainly do that. Let's go by the store and I'll get some stuff to make dinner, then we'll eat and take a walk on the beach."
Chase agreed and an hour or so later, they were back at the beach house. Presley changed into a pair of sweats and a tank top and pulled her hair into a ponytail before setting about the task of cooking supper. Since they had nearly stuffed themselves on seafood at lunch, they went with a light pasta supper with garlic bread on the side. Presley added some steamed vegetables and stood over the stove stirring the individual pots while Chase hung around like a child who hadn't eaten all day.
"I can't believe you're hungry!" Presley exclaimed.
"I'm not that hungry," he corrected.
"Then why are you hurrying me along here?"
He picked her up and set her on the counter before kissing her like there was no tomorrow. "Maybe I am anxious to go to bed."
Whatever else Presley had to say was drowned out by Chase's lips connected to hers again. She had to admit; the sleeping arrangement they had agreed on in New York and continued when Chase arrived in Carolina was indeed making Presley more comfortable with Chase. That coupled with the fact that she was looking and feeling healthier had brought a new desire between the two of them that they had still not acted upon.
She tugged his shirt off and tossed it to the side. Her hands ran trails up and down his bare arms and back and Chase pulled the holder from her hair so that it flowed freely and he could run his hands through the locks. His lips left her mouth, only for the purpose of planting kisses along her jaw and down her throat. He was working her shirt up her torso, but was interrupted by one of the pots spilling over, the water hissing as it struck the burner.
"Oh no!" Presley groaned, hopping off the counter to turn the heat down and clean up the excess water. "I guess the pasta's done."
"You are an evil, evil woman," Chase told her. He swatted her on the bottom and went to locate his shirt.
They managed to keep their hands to themselves as they ate and were even able to maintain their self-control long enough to take their walk on the beach – a walk that left Presley wishing they would have decided to stay inside.
They had walked about fifteen minutes down the beach and had turned back around to go back to Presley's house. Chase was piggy-backing her along the sand, laughing and joking with her when another man called her name from up the shore.
"Who is that?" Chase asked.
Presley squinted in the dark but couldn't make out the figure. He moved closer and called her name again; she groaned and hid her face behind Chase's neck.
"You should probably let me down."
"Who is that?" he repeated as he carefully let her feet hit the sand again.
"Jonathan," she answered right as the other man approached them. "What are you doing here?"
"I saw Julie today and she told me you were in town. I wanted to come see you, and when you weren't home at this time, I figured you'd be on the beach." Jonathan extended his hand to Chase. "I'm Jonathan Moore. You must be Presley's new love interest."
"Her boyfriend, yeah. Chase Lennox." Chase shook Jonathan's hand, but stayed standing behind Presley.
"So, how've you been, Pres?" Jonathan asked.
She felt Chase's hand tighten around her hand. "Fine. I went into remission a few weeks ago, so I'm just home for a little bit before I go back to Tulsa."
"You mean the quack doctor actually cured you?"
"He's not a quack doctor, and you know well and good I'm not considered cured until I'm five years out. The trial drug did work, and I'm healthy."
"I guess that's lucky for you, isn't it?" Jonathan snapped.
"Look, I don't think that Presley wants you around, but she's obviously trying to be civil. You're the one making unnecessary comments, all right? Now, let's all just go on our way and we'll call it a night," Chase said. He pulled Presley away from Jonathan and started to lead her back to her house.
"She didn't tell you, did she?" Jonathan called after them. "Didn't tell you that she's letting herself die?"
"What did you say?" Chase replied, turning around.
"Forget him, Chase; he's just trying to get a rise out of us. Let's go," Presley pleaded.
Jonathan sauntered over to where the couple stood and sneered at Presley. "She was never going to go back on chemotherapy. She signed an agreement; no matter how bad things got, she was going to stay in the trial."
He spit in the sand and walked away, finally satisfied with himself. Presley stood there, mortified. She had never intended on telling Chase that it was the trial or death, and she knew he wouldn't be happy now that he knew. Instead of the arguing scene that she expected, however, he tugged on her hand again and headed back in the direction of the house.
"Come on, Presley. Let's talk."
She held her breath all the way back to the house. She didn't know what he would say and worried about exactly what 'let's talk' meant.
"I need to shut everything off upstairs and I'll meet you back down in my room," Presley told him in an almost-whisper when they entered the house. Chase didn't reply, just headed down the hall.
Once all of the lights were off and the door was locked, Presley slowly entered her bedroom. Chase wasn't sitting on the bed and the bathroom door was open with the light off. She looked out to the balcony and saw him leaning on the rail, staring down almost to the exact spot where the entire confrontation had happened. She squeezed through the slider and quietly shut it behind her.
"It was before I met you, Chase. I was twenty-three and I had already beat cancer once. AML patients who relapse, their chances of survival go down with every relapse. Even with it only being my first relapse, I was taking a risk, not accepting a bone marrow transplant. But I was twenty-three and I was relatively happy. I was a very successful photographer; I had this gorgeous house on the beach. I'd seen my parents reach their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary still as happy as the day they were married. I got to see all of my siblings get married and see my brothers have their kids. I didn't love Jonathan, but I wouldn't have died alone – until we got in a huge fight over me signing this agreement and he gave me the ultimatum of going to Tulsa or staying with him. I chose to go to Tulsa. I met you and I fell in love with you. I'm in remission now. Yes, it was a gamble and it was a gamble with my life – but I would do it again if I had the choice because you gave me something to live for again." She wiped the tears that had fallen down her cheeks and continued. "So. I'm sorry – so sorry – that you had to find out like this and that no, I didn't plan on telling you. I just hope you can understand why I did it."
It took a few moments, but Chase finally turned around to face her and Presley could see that he too was crying. She walked a few steps towards him and he met her halfway. He took a slow breath and brought his hands up to her elbows.
"I'm glad you chose Tulsa," he whispered, kissing her forehead.
Presley breathed a deep sigh of relief and let herself rest against his body. Chase looked down at her and cupped her face; he kissed her tentatively at first, and then more confidently. Presley pulled him closer and felt any remaining inhibitions slip away. She felt Chase grasp the material at the back of her tank top in his fist before pushing her back to the slider and pulling the shirt completely off of her.
They both fumbled for the door handle, but it was Chase who was finally able to open the door and push them both inside before sliding it shut again. He had rid Presley of her sweat pants, and she had all but torn off his shirt and jeans before they fell onto the bed together. For the first time since they had started on the balcony, except to remove their shirts, Chase parted his lips from hers. Presley caught her breath while he ran a hand from the top of her forehead, along her cheek, down her arm, over her stomach, and down the length of one leg before bringing his fingers back up the same route on the other side of her body.
"You are beautiful, Presley," he whispered.
She couldn't find the words to answer, just pulled him back to begin their kissing again. Chase eagerly responded, reaching a hand around her back to unhook her bra.
Afterwards, Chase hovered over her with a very big, satisfied grin on his face. He gave her a closed-mouth kiss; Presley giggled uncontrollably.
"What is so funny?" he asked.
"I think it's just leftover nerves," she admitted through her giggles.
"Nerves? Why were you nervous?"
Presley sobered a little, at least able to get out a full sentence before the giggling started again. "It's been a really long time since I've done this. I was nervous."
Chase frowned. "How long?"
"Don't frown like that. I have done this before, but it was back in high school." She shrugged as she pulled the sheet up under her arms and rolled to her side. "I lost it to my high school sweetheart, and I didn't regret it, but I did regret that I didn't love him like I thought I should have."
"But you love me like that?" Chase smiled.
"I love you like I never have, and never will, love anyone."
Presley reached out to him and he pulled her close. As they gave into the urge again, Presley couldn't help but feel as though this was truly the start of the rest of her life.
A/N: My Thanksgiving present to you. : ) I hope everyone has a wonderful day with their loved ones!