"My morning star," Ethan said as they topped the stairs together. His gaze was soft and he looked as familiar as ever. Inside, they tugged off the outerwear and moved to sit together at the dining table. Drinking each other in through lowered lashes, they watched each other's fidgety nervousness for several long moments before he told Aloria, "This place looks so great." The kitchen was small and comfortable and the house was ever-expanding.
Shyly, she smiled at him and wrapped her arms around herself, lowering her head. "I built it myself," she claimed; the house had cost about three times the cost of her inheritance by that point.
He looked shocked and smiled almost condescendingly. "All by yourself, eh? A big girl now. I'm proud that you're so tough. It's small, but I hope there's room for one more?"
Blushing slightly, she lowered her head. "You're thinking of staying, Ethan?"
"I didn't come all this way just to visit, darling. Isn't there room? There are two chairs, a sofa for two - this place was practically made for us! Just the two of us," he argued, seeming almost desperate...
and when she hesitated, he closed the distance and rested his hand over hers on the table. "My bags are in the car."
Her breath caught in her throat. Ethan was about five years her senior, and he always was able to charm her beyond belief. His soft eyes disarmed her, and in her vulnerability, he leaned slightly to pull her into a hug and wrapped an arm behind her knees. Easily, he lifted her against his chest and stood with her. "Where is the bedroom?" he asked quietly, squeezing her against his chest. Aloria closed her eyes tightly before murmuring that it was down the hall, where he carried her, unwavering and strong.
He lowered her onto the bed when they were through the door, and her protests started immediately. "You can't leave everything behind, Ethan. Not for me
," she claimed, her brows meeting as he hauled his shirt off overhead and dropped his jeans, left in only in his boxers and a tank top. She started to speak again, but he hushed the words with his lips and quietly, gently overpowered her.
He was as gentle as ever.
It was so easy to give in.
Being with Ethan filled the empty spaces inside of Aloria's heart. Each night was better than the one before it...
Not only in the bed, though they did find that they were quite the exhibitionists when they were reunited...
Their nights, for nearly two wonderful years, were made up of extravagant dates and parties. With two money-makers, they were able to expand the house and practically throw away their money with no worries. It was the lifestyle Ethan was used to, though Aloria gained simpler tastes.
But their family was growing, one step at a time. Their charmed life was envied by the others in Aridia. They didn't hesitate to get engaged...
But they were not as ready for starting an actual family of their own.
Aloria realized the truth with dread, and fought with herself for ages about how to handle it.
"How could he not be happy?" she mused one day aloud while Ethan was at work.
"We have a beautiful house now, and more than enough room for kids. The desert is so warm and wonderful," she murmured blissfully.
"Our garden is doing so well. I've never seen healthier plants. It will be so easy to offset the cost of food if we're feeding them healthy things we grew ourselves..."
"Three," she said with a smile. "Three perfect children. We'll send them to college and have such a happy life. Three children will complete our family."
She never even considered that he could be less than ecstatic.
"Aloria," Ethan snapped sharply one night as soon as she came in from work. "Sit down." The harshness in his voice was uncharacteristic, and she complied readily with a shocked expression, looking up dumbly at her fiance.
"I know you're pregnant," he said simply. His voice was sharp and steady. Relief washed over her and she immediately began into a desperate plea-
"I was going to tell you, Ethan! As soon as you were back from this business trip. I just wanted to be in the clear, so to speak - honestly! I was so excited. I have an appointment in two weeks and then we can know what we're having!" She seemed so excited that she didn't notice his lack of enthusiasm.
"No!" he shouted suddenly, cutting her off abruptly. "You didn't even think about what I wanted, Aloria! Maybe I don't want to be a father, not now! I wanted a life, not some brat with my slut fiancee. I don't want to be tied down!"
The words hit Aloria like an avalanche, but they had nothing on the impact of throwing his engagement ring at her. She leaned just in time for it to zip by and clink off of the glass window behind her. As soon as she realized what had happened, she wheeled out of the chair and turned away from him, beginning to sob inconsolably. "You... you're horrible," she whispered through her tears, burying her face against her hands.
He strode toward the door without hesitating and didn't look back.