Strange Couple in a Strange World

Authors: Foster-Dallion4ever

Hosted by

1: Appreciation

Ryan looked up from his comic book and let out a low appreciative whistle as he watched Micki come down the stairs.

She smiled and did a quick spin at the base of the steps, her full, black skirt twirling around her creamy white calves, I take it this outfit's a keeper?"

Ryan's smile widened as he set down his comic book, "You're gonna knock his socks off in that dress. You are absolutely beautiful, Micki."

He felt a pang of jealousy even as he said it, suddenly irritated at the thought of Micki having dinner with her latest boyfriend.

Micki, meanwhile, looked pleased, yet slightly surprised at Ryan's comment. But, as usual, she chalked up the words to Ryan's near constant and harmless flirtations.

After all, they were both the first to admit that they were far too different from each other's usual "types" to ever consider dating. Let alone starting a relationship. They were polar opposites.

There was a honk from outside and the two of them went to the front door of Curious Goods in time to see an attractive, well-dressed man in his early 30s bounding up to the door.

Micki opened the door and kissed her date.

Ryan looked away from the scene.

"Oh," Micki exclaimed, smiling, "I'm sorry...Ryan, this is Chad. Chad, this is Ryan."

The two men shook hands, "Nice to meet you, Ryan."

"Yeah, you too, Chad," Ryan lied.

His glance then shifted to Chad's shiny, new car that was parked out front of the shop, "Nice set of wheels you got there."

Chad looked back at his vintage Corvette, "Thanks. Cost me a pretty penny, but I'm worth it. Besides, no ride is too good for my Michelle."

Ryan fought the urge to roll his eyes, since Micki was watching him.

"So," Chad started, taking Micki's arm, "We should go. I have reservations at La Scala at 7. We don't want to be late. Nice to meet you, Ryan."

"Yeah...yeah, you too." Ryan watched as Micki's delicate, curvy frame disappeared into the car.

He sighed, turning and heading back to his desk where Jack now sat looking over the manifest.

"Something wrong?" Jack asked, looking up. Ryan looked serious now, something Jack didn't often see.

Ryan shook his head, picking up some papers that lay on the desk, ", everything's fine."

Jack smiled in his usual, reassuring way, "Money isn't everything, Ryan."

Jack stood at the sound of the tea kettle whistling and headed for the stairs, "And you'll never know unless you ask her," he added in an all-knowing, father-like tone as he disappeared up the steps.

A small grin spread across Ryan's face. Jack always knew what Ryan had on his mind.

"Must be all those years of magic," Ryan thought to himself as he started going through the stack of papers in his hand. All the while, thinking about Micki.

2: Impossibility

Ryan flipped through the last of his second stack of papers as he thought.

'I'm not her type...and she is definitely not mine. End of story. She goes for rich, sophisticated, suave guys who drive sports cars...'

Ryan shook his head, in an attempt to clear his thoughts, and went back to work, searching for the cursed slippers that they had been looking for over the past few days.

A few hours passed and Ryan finally heard the purr of a well-maintained engine. The car stopped in front of the shop and a few minutes later, Micki walked in the front door, humming to herself.

Ryan glanced up at the clock - 12:30am - before looking back towards the direction of the door, "Hey," he said absentmindedly, still flipping through papers, "How was dinner?"

Truthfully, Ryan wanted her to say it was a complete disaster. That she had realized what a pretentious pretty boy Chad was and that they were through. It's not that he didn't want to see Micki happy...just not with Chad.

There was something about the guy that Ryan just did not like.

Ryan's heart sank when he heard her answer.

"Oh, it was wonderful! Chad is amazing, you should hear his stories, and the champagne he picked was exquisite..."

Ryan stopped listening, not wanting to hear any more of the wonders of Chad.

A few minutes later, Micki finally looked around and noticed the mountains of paperwork that were piled on the desk.

"Hey, what's all this?" she asked, picking up a few papers and looking over them.

Ryan motioned to the large stack to his right, "Well, this is the stack of papers that I've gone through looking for any information about a pair of silk slippers."

Micki's brow furrowed in thought, "And this stack?" she asked pointing to the toppling folders to Ryan's left.

Ryan took a sip of his coffee and leaned back in his chair, sighing, "That is the stack that we get to go through by the end of tonight."

Micki raised an eyebrow, "Tonight?"

Ryan nodded, giving her a small smile, "'Fraid so. It should go faster with two of us, though. Jack was helping me out, but he had to leave to go to some magician's conference thing with Rashid. Anyway, there's fresh coffee, so...let's get to work."

Micki sighed and dropped her purse onto a nearby chair, "Splendid."

She grabbed Ryan's coffee and took a long sip before picking up her own set of folders.

After an hour and a half of research, Micki stood up, "That's it for me. I need a break. I'm going to get some more coffee and some of those leftover cookies. Want anything?"

Ryan nodded, stretching, "Yeah, I'll come up with you and get myself a refill or something."

They made their way upstairs and Micki began rifling through the pantry in search of something to have with the cookies.

"So," Ryan started, "Are you going to go out with Chad again?" He didn't want to hear the answer. He hoped that he had sounded casual even though he was more than curious.

"Without a doubt. What woman in her right mind wouldn't go out with him again?" she answered, still halfway in the pantry.

Ryan tried to hide his disappointed look. "Well, I mean, you could do so much better."

Micki stopped what she was doing and popped her head out of the pantry, "Ryan, what's this all about? You're not trying to set me up with one of your friends again are you?"

She let out a small laugh, "Ryan, can you imagine me and one of your friends?"

Ryan looked irritated by now, "What's wrong with my friends?"

Micki shook her head, "Nothing, they are great, it's just that...well, we come from different worlds, and I don't think..."

Ryan stood from where he sat at the table, "You know, Micki, just because my 'kind of people' don't drive Corvettes and honk for their girlfriends and overpay for bland food doesn't make them bad people. Maybe if you could loosen up and step outside of your little world you would see that you may be missing out on a lot of fun."

He stormed downstairs and Micki stood there, mouth agape, wondering what had just happened.

It couldn't be, could it?

Could Ryan actually have a crush on her that was more than harmless?

No, not Ryan...She and Ryan; that would be impossible.

3: Revelations

Micki heard footsteps on the stairs.

It was Jack; he had finally gotten home from his magician's convention.

"What was that all about?" Jack asked, looking confused.

Micki shook her head, looking stunned. Then, her stunned look was replaced by anger at having been verbally ambushed by Ryan, "I don't know!" she exclaimed.

"One minute we're going through paperwork and he's asking me about my date, the next minute he's badmouthing Chad and telling me that I do not know how to have fun! Maybe he's just turned into an irrational jerk because he's tired."

By now Micki was fuming...and hurt. For some reason, Ryan's words stung.

They hung heavy in the air and made the room thick with tension.

Micki was also surprised at a another feeling that overcame her as she had watched Ryan storm off - sadness.

She missed him. As strange as it sounded, even in her own mind.

The fact that he had left her and stormed downstairs made her feel empty and she felt an unexplainable longing for him.

Now she had wished that she had gone after him.

Jack shook his head, a slight smile touching his lips, "Ah, Micki. You don't mean that. And you know Ryan didn't mean what he said either."

"Then why the sudden mood change? I didn't do anything to deserve that, so why would he act like that?"

Jack smiled and patted her shoulder, "Come now, Micki, you must now how Ryan feels about you by now."

Micki raised an eyebrow and gave Jack a hard stare, "Jack, you can't be serious. We're nothing alike. What would we possibly have to talk about?"

Jack sighed, pausing before saying, "Micki, you should have seen him the night...that night with the coin."

Micki took a deep breath, thinking back to the bad memories and wanting to know what had happened.

"Ryan was a mess after you..."

Micki looked surprised, "Really? Well, Ryan is sensitive..."

Jack shook his head, "No, Micki, it was different. I've never seen him so upset...He loves you, and the thought of losing you sent him over the edge."

Micki blinked back tears, shocked at Jack's revelation. She knew Ryan cared for her, but this was a side of him that she had not expected.

"Micki, sit down for a minute, let me tell you a story from my long lost youth."

The two of them sat at the table and Jack patted her hand, "Many years back, just after the war, there was beautiful young lady...I couldn't take my eyes off of her...she was amazing. Funny, beautiful, smart. She had her pick of men. She worked at the local theater and I used to see a film every day just to see her. Just to have her usher me to my seat."

Micki smiled. Somehow the image of Jack as a young, smitten man was adorable, and it cast him in a whole new light.

"So what happened?" Micki prodded, wanting to know the outcome of the romantic tale.

Jack continued, "Well, after months of seeing films to catch a glimpse of her, I invited my friend to come along to see her magnificence. A few weeks later, I discovered that they were dating."

Micki frowned, "Jack, I'm sorry, that's awful."

Jack shook his head, smiling, "My friend was your Uncle Lewis, and the girl I had been so smitten with was Grace."

Micki looked surprised and Jack sighed, "I loved her, and because I was too scared to act I lost her to Lewis...Just think about it, Micki. You could do much worse than a man who adores you."

He patted her hand again and stood, walking downstairs.

Micki got up from the table and went into her room. This was a lot of surprising information and she needed time to think.

4: Dreaming

Micki had fallen asleep to Ryan's soft drumming as he tapped the case of his walkman. Something he always did when he was listening to his music at night.

She had been able to hear it practically every night through the wall since the day that they both moved into the shop.

At first Micki had found it kind of annoying, but now she couldn't imagine falling asleep without it.

That night, as Micki slept soundly, she began to dream.

She was standing in a snow bank, surrounding by darkly clad Amish figures. Off in the distance, Ryan stood beside Laura, the Amish woman that Ryan had been smitten with.

She called to him, but Ryan didn't hear. He just kept smiling, holding Laura's hand, and whispering softly to her.

Micki's blood boiled as she started towards the couple. She was furious, and was not certain if she could control her rage this time.

When she finally reached the pair she froze. Ryan and Laura were not just standing together side by side. They were getting married.

"NO!" Micki screamed out, making every guest at the wedding turn to face her.

She rushed forward towards Ryan.

Laura had nearly taken him from her once, and she couldn't bear the pain of losing Ryan again.

Micki grasped his hand and yanked him away from Laura, pulling him roughly to a nearby barn so that they could talk in private.

Once they were in the barn, Micki locked the door and turned to Ryan, tears in her eyes.

When she spied the ring on his finger, she grabbed the ring, yanking it off of his finger and throwing it across the room.

"Why, Ryan?! Why would you hurt me again?!"

Ryan shook his head, "Micki...I'm marrying the woman who loves me. What is the matter with you?"

Micki shook her head and began to cry, "No, Ryan. Please don't do this! I love you!"

Micki practically lunged forward and pressed her warm lips against Ryan's. The kiss was desperate and Micki's tears poured between their faces as they kissed.

"I want you, Ryan. Please..."

Micki reached up and practically ripped the shirt from his body, quickly studying his muscular physique.

He grinned, "Micki, I love you too. I've wanted you since the day we met," Ryan breathed as Micki worked his pants off of him. "Laura means nothing to me, she never has."

Micki smiled, kissing Ryan's neck as he unbuttoned her blouse and let it fall to the cold floor below. "You're beautiful," he said as he reached under her full skirt and slipped her panties off of her slender frame.

He pressed his large, dexterous fingers against her warm, moist flesh and began to rub gently.

A soft moan escaped from Micki's lips and Ryan eased her back onto the cool pile of hay that lay at their feet.

Micki let out a small cry as Ryan's tongue flicked against her innermost warmth. His tongue expertly darted in and out of her moist folds of skin, and with each motion Micki gasped or cried out in sheer ecstasy.

The icy air stung her skin, but it only added to the intense feelings that were washing over her body.

"Oh, Ryan," she moaned, spreading her legs further apart for him.

Ryan's tongue moved rhythmically, pushing Micki's feelings of pleasure further until finally her slim back arched up and her whole body shook as she cried out in ecstasy.

When she finished, Ryan moved up to kiss her, "I love you, Micki."

"I love you, too," she said softly, pulling him closer.

She studied his face, noting how handsome he was, especially in the soft light that filtered in the barn. He had aged a bit and his older, slightly more serious face took Micki's breath away.

She had always known he was an attractive man, but this was the first time she realized how gorgeous he truly was. His smooth skin and muscles moved as she pulled him on top of him.

"I want you inside of me, Ryan."

Ryan looked surprised at her directness, but smiled. A smile that always made Micki happy.

He pulled off his boxers and Micki's eyes widened at his large erection.

She had always guessed that he was well endowed and now she was certainly not disappointed.

"Wow," she remarked, eyes cast downward.

He grinned, "I take it you're not disappointed?"

Micki blushed and shook her head, smiling, "Not at all."

Ryan's eyes met hers and he pressed himself against her warm opening, teasing her, before thrusting deeply into her.

She let out a gasp, then let out a moan.

He was a large man and she felt stretched and full; a feeling that sent shockwaves of pleasure all over her body.

He began thrusting in and out of her quickly, listening to her soft squeals of delight with each motion.

Micki wrapped her long legs around Ryan's toned back, pulling him deeper inside of her.

"Oh, Ryan..."

Micki sat up fast in her bed at Curious Goods, sweat covering her body.

She looked to her side, but that side of the bed was empty; Ryan was sleeping soundly on the other side of her wall, in his own room.

She took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from her face, "It was just a dream," she said quietly to herself.

"Just a dream...didn't mean a thing...did it?"

5: Wondering

A few weeks went by, the dream still fresh in Micki's mind.

On occasion she would be studying Ryan from afar, wondering what he was like in bed or how he looked without his clothes on.

Then Ryan would ask her what she was thinking about and Micki would blush, making up some excuse about the antiques or business being not as profitable that day.

They had talked about what had happened the night before, and Ryan had apologized for flying off the handle and snapping at her.

He had blamed it on the late night and the fact that he was tired.

But the truth was that he had just been frustrated about his chances with Micki being so slim; he could never manage to ask her out and she wouldn't say yes if he did work up the courage to ask.

Little did Ryan know that Micki had been thinking and wondering about him constantly after her dream.

She began to notice all of the things that she really liked about him. The way he made her laugh, his cute smile, his earthy aftershave, the way he always let her know how special she was.

She always felt protected and loved with him, and she was starting to wonder if her feelings were growing more romantic than friendly.

Not that there was anything she could really do about it now. Ryan had asked out a girl named Cathy who had come into the shop a few days ago.

Micki wasn't thrilled at the idea, but, after all, they were not a couple. Ryan was free to date whomever he chose.

But Micki still didn't like it.

One night Ryan came downstairs, ready for his date with Cathy. He was wearing a dress shirt, tie, and slacks.

Micki rarely saw him so professionally dressed, and she had never realized quite how handsome and confident he looked in these types of clothes.

She stepped forward to help him with his tie; a skill Ryan, the typically casually dressed artist, had never mastered.

"You look so nice, Ryan. Cathy's a lucky girl."

He grinned and gave Micki a peck on the cheek, "Thanks, Micki. You don't look bad yourself. In fact, it looks like you're in for a night out."

She nodded, "Yeah, Chad and I are going to the country club again for dinner."

Micki was heading out with Chad that night, but deep down she couldn't help but think about how much fun Ryan and Cathy were probably going to have on their date.

Deep down Micki wondered what it was like to date a man like Ryan.

6: Wanting

Micki stared at Chad over the rim of her champagne glass. She stifled a bored sigh, listening to him talk about the wonders of his well-paying job.

Micki had finally made up her mind, after weeks of thinking about it...Chad was boring.

She could count, on one hand, the number of times he had made her laugh.

His stories were self-serving and dull, and his only real concern with the world was how he could get more money from its inhabitants.

Micki thought about the last time she and Ryan had gone to dinner. It hadn't been a date, just the two of them grabbing a bite to eat after a long day of chasing down an object.

They had spent a good portion of the meal laughing and joking. Despite the rough day they had, they were still able to have a lighthearted, fun meal together. Never a lull in their conversation.

And Ryan had a way of putting her at ease. Maybe it was his genuine, dimpled smile, or his aftershave, or his strange (but funny) comic book character impersonations.

Whatever it was, Micki liked it a lot better than listening to Chad arrogantly prattling on about himself.

Now here she sat with Chad. Listening to his tale of financial conquest, and how he traded his stocks at just the right time, allowing him the opportunity to purchase his second summer house.

Micki couldn't take it anymore and finally interrupted, "Chad, I'm so sorry, but I'm not feeling too well. Would you mind taking me home?"

He looked surprised, mildly irritated, and tried numerous times to convince her to stay, but he finally gave in and drove her home.

By the time Micki arrived back at the shop, the atmosphere was tense. Ryan had found out that Cathy, his latest girlfriend, had been killed by the KAHN news anchor and he was miserable.

Micki tried to comfort him, as did Jack, but he had taken it pretty hard, and felt responsible for what had happened.

Ryan felt cursed, as if everything he cared for was ripped away from him.

And, as usual, a cursed object was involved.

By the time the evening was through, Cathy was dead, Jack had almost gotten killed, and the shop was in temporary chaos as news vans and reporters swarmed the area. Each reported asking the same questions, looking for a juicy story about the death of the famous KAHN news anchor.

By the time it was all over the time was nearly 3:00am and everyone was exhausted.

Jack had his usual cup of tea, despite the time. He claimed that, after all these years, it was the only thing that helped him sleep. They all sat around the table looking exhausted, but relieved that everything was over and the camera was safely in the vault.

Finally, Micki got up and headed towards the bathroom, "Well, if you two don't mind, I'm going to shower so that I can get to bed before sunrise."

Jack and Ryan nodded sleepily in agreement, and Micki went in to the bathroom to take a quick shower before heading to bed.

Steam quickly filled the cold bathroom and Micki leaned back into the hot streams of water that pummeled her aching muscles.

She thought about Ryan and how genuine and compassionate he was. Unlike anyone Micki had ever known. He had seemed so upset earlier, and Micki wished that there had been something she could have done to ease his emotional pain, but she hadn't known what to say. Or what to do.

Micki reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, letting the water run through the thick, red strands. Suddenly her mind shot back to her dream and she closed her eyes remembering.

Ryan's touch had been so warm, like electricity that jolted her senses alive.

Her nipples began to harden as she thought about Ryan's warm tongue enveloping her most sensitive areas.

When there was a knock at the door, she nearly jumped.

A voice came in from the other side of the door, "Hey, Micki, I'm heading down to use the downstairs shower, so take your time in there."

"Thank you, Ryan," she choked out softly, still reeling from the thoughts that swirled around in her head.

By the time Micki finally emerged from the bathroom it was nearly 30 minutes later. She had wanted to compose herself before she faced Ryan again; an attempt to clear her head of the arousing thoughts that she couldn't seem to escape.

When she saw Ryan, all of her thoughts came flooding back to her even stronger than before. There he sat in a pair of boxers shorts and a t-shirt with the arms rolled up.

He was listening to music and sketching, his firm, muscular arms flexing with each movement of the charcoal pencil.

He looked up and smiled, "Like what you see?" he asked playfully.

If only he knew.

7: Ecstasy

If Micki had known what Ryan had really been thinking, it would have made even her, experienced as she was, blush.

Ryan subtly eyed Micki up and down. She was wearing her white, silk nightgown that was soft, feminine, sophisticated...just like Micki.

It clung to her body in all the right places, and Ryan could make out her gorgeous form beneath the rich cloth; especially since the light from the bathroom filtered the nightgown, making it almost see through.

Micki smiled, trying to hide her thoughts which, by now, she was convinced were as audible as the strong heartbeat that pounded in her chest.

Micki turned to walk to her room, " go to bed. It's late..."

Ryan smiled, "Micki?"

She turned to face him and nearly jumped. He had stood and was now inches away from her.

"Thank you. For making me feel better, for helping me out when I need it...Just for being there for me." He leaned in, and kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger on her skin for a few extra seconds.

Then Ryan leaned down so that his face was just inches from hers, "I don't know what I'd do without you. I love you."

Micki let out a breath, tears nearly forming in her eyes, "I love you too."

Suddenly, all logic was gone. Micki's heart knew what it wanted, despite what her head was telling her. She leaned in, eyes closed and pressed her lips to Ryan's.

Ryan put his strong arms around her and pulled her closer to him, so that their bodies were pressed together. By now Micki was warm and throbbing, and she could feel Ryan's large hardness pressing against her.

She opened her mouth and felt Ryan's tongue plunge into the warm space, a certain desperation evident in his movements.

When they finally pulled back from the kiss, both were breathing hard.

"Please...stay with me tonight, Ryan." Micki said softly, looking towards her room then back at Ryan.

He smiled and nodded, "Believe me, Micki, there is nothing I want more."

The two of them clumsily made their way to Micki's room, tearing at each other's clothes until both were completely undressed.

The moonlight flooded into the room and both looked appreciatively at one another.

Micki's dream had not been wrong. As attractive as Ryan was dressed, seeing him without clothes made him even more attractive; he was a large man, in every aspect.

Micki cocked an eyebrow as she looked down and Ryan smiled, kissing her, "You're beautiful."

Micki smiled, "You're not too bad yourself, Mr. Dallion."

He grinned, easing her onto the bed, and taking one of her soft, full, pert breasts into his mouth.

His tongue swirled around her hard nipple, eliciting pleased gasps from Micki as he moved from one breast to the next.

Ryan's warm lips planted small kisses along the length of her body, from her breasts all the way down to her lower stomach. When he stopped suddenly, and started all over again, she let out a small moan.

He was a tease, and she was practically begging for his tongue inside of her. He grinned, "Good things come to those who wait," he teased, kissing her entire body, inch by inch.

Finally, after several maddening minutes, he was kissing her thighs.

Micki's thighs were spread wide apart by now, the throbbing between her legs was enough to drive her crazy, "Please, Ryan..."

He grinned, taking a few maddening seconds, before thrusting his tongue deep inside of her.

She let out a small, pleasure-filled cry followed by a low moan.

He grinned, flicking his tongue in and out of her, around her most sensitive of spots.

Micki moaned and squealed with each motion, breathing deep, and arching her back as he worked.

"Mmmm...Oh, Ryan..." He grinned at her pleasure, plunging two of his fingers deep inside of her. He curved them upwards and pressed, eliciting a squeal of delight.

Only a few seconds later Ryan grinned as Micki tightened up around his fingers, her back arched impossibly high, as she shuddered and writhed in intense pleasure.

When she had finished, he moved up to kiss her. "That...was...unbelievably..." she said, still out of breath.

He grinned modestly, kissing her, "You are beautiful, Micki..." She smiled and rolled over so that she was now straddling him.

Now it was her turn to tease. She hovered herself just above him and moved up when he tried to enter her, "Hmm? You want something?"

He let out a soft chuckle, "Don't be a tease." She smiled, hovered for a few more seconds, then lowered herself quickly on top of him.

Ryan let out a loud gasp. Micki was tight, his large erection barely squeezing into her warm moistness. "Oh, Micki...uhnnn..."

She moved up and down quickly, and then slowly, in alternating rhythm. By now Ryan was grunting and moaning with each thrust, "Oh, Micki..."

She looked down at him, smiling at his serious, yet gentle expression as he writhed beneath her small frame.

She reached back, squeezing gently at him as she kept moving herself around him.

He felt amazing inside of her, even better than she had dreamed about. He was large, wide enough to stretch her to to the point of ecstasy. She felt herself coming and Ryan felt a sudden throbbing, tightening sensation that made him lose it almost instantly.

When Ryan came, he let out a loud moan, thrusting himself in and out of her
as hard as he could, sending them both over the edge.

Hours passed as Micki and Ryan stroked, teased, and caressed one another.

Micki had disappeared below the covers, surprising Ryan, and giving him something he would never forget. He, again, returned the favor, just as dexterously as he had before.

When they finally finished, they lay there in each other's arms, panting, their bodies glistening with sweat in the early morning light.

By the time Ryan finally got the courage to ask Micki what all of this meant for them, she had fallen asleep in his arms.

8: Confusion

Micki and Ryan awoke hours later to find the late morning sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains.

Jack had gone out of town for the day and Micki wondered if it had been because he had heard them the night before. Maybe he was giving them some privacy.

Micki and Ryan had spent the last few hours busying themselves with lunch, everyday business tasks, and other mindless duties that covered up the otherwise awkward silence that filled the room.

Ryan had begun to bring up the question of what their having slept together meant to the entirety of their relationship.

They knew they loved each other, but would that be enough?

There was no denying that they were polar opposites in many ways. She was caviar and champagne, he was beer and hot dogs.

But there were other things that had recently surprised Micki.

For one thing, until now she hadn't noticed how in touch with the arts Ryan really was. She had always known he was artistic, but he knew more about art appreciation and art history than any of her stuck up, snooty boyfriends ever had.

And his sense of humor was enough to keep her smiling throughout the day.

Still, she had a hard time imagining her and Ryan as a couple.

Last night had been amazing...magical. But did it mean anything, or was it just lust?

Micki and Lloyd had an ugly breakup; one that left her nervous when it came to commitment.

Lloyd had treated her poorly when they had been dating, and while they were engaged, so Micki wasn't quite sure why him treating her so badly during their breakup should have come as such a surprise. But it did.

He had demanded the ring back, and called her practically every derogatory name he could think of, then he stormed out.

Even during the relationship Micki remembered Lloyd calling her names when they would fight or when he got drunk.

He could be an arrogant ass, and a selfish lover, and sometimes Micki found herself wondering why she was even with him to begin with.

There was one time when he had been rude and disrespectful at the country club and when Micki had asked him quietly to stop, he flew off the handle and left her stranded there alone.

Ryan would never do that. Micki couldn't imagine him being so callous.

"Micki?" Ryan's voice broke through her thoughts and she looked over at him.

"Did you say something, Ryan?"

He smiled, "It's getting late. Do you want to go grab some dinner?"

Micki looked nervous all of a sudden. She was shaking inside, but she wasn't quite certain why, "You...mean like a date?"

Ryan chuckled, "Yeah, I guess I do. So how about it? We made some extra money at the shop this week. Let's go someplace nice."

Micki paused for a second, then nodded, still not certain of the wisdom of going out on an official date, "Why don't we go to a place you like?"

He thought for moment then nodded, "Okay, but it's pretty casual. You sure you're all right with that?"

Micki smiled, then nodded, "Yeah, casual sounds good right now."

9: Happiness

Micki and Ryan went out to a small BBQ place a few miles from the shop. It wasn't fancy, there were dingy pictures of western movie-stars that lined the walls, the rodeo blared out from one of the televisions high on a shelf, and Bluegrass style songs filled the room.

But it was nice. The food was magnificent. And being there with Ryan, laughing, smiling, and acting like their old selves was comforting.

It made Micki happy.

Ryan, meanwhile, was ecstatic. He was here with the girl of his dreams. They were eating some of his favourite food and having a great time.

He was in love. And he remembered the moment it happened. It was the day they first met.

That day long ago at the shop when Micki had come in, determined to sell everything off and go back to her old life with Lloyd.

He loved her then, and by now he adored her.

They sat at the old, picnic style table for hours. Talking about what it had been like growing up, old hobbies, new interests, and past relationships.

Naturally, the subject gradually shifted to Lloyd and Micki found herself talking away about what it had been like to be his fiancé.

"So, how did he propose?" Ryan asked, taking a sip of coffee.

Micki looked surprised by the question, then shook her head, "It was terrible. He arranged for everyone we knew to be at a party, then he got up on stage, took the microphone, and proposed in front of the whole group of people."

Ryan cringed, knowing, from listening to her talk, that Micki was a true romantic who valued privacy in matters of the heart.

"I had told him that if we ever got engaged I wanted it to be something just between the two of us. Something quiet and romantic...He didn't care...Anyway, of course, with hundreds of eyes on me, I pretty much had to say yes. And the rest is history."

Ryan shook his head, "Sounds like him."

Micki chuckled, "Yeah, I guess it does, doesn't it? Anyway, good riddance."

Ryan smiled, taking her hand, "Good riddance."

10: Bliss

The past few weeks had practically flown by.

Micki and Ryan had begun dating, and Jack couldn't have been happier about it.

"It's about time," he had said. "Too much angst isn't good for the soul," he had chuckled with a smile, asking them when to expect the wedding.

Even when chasing down cursed antiques, Micki and Ryan were happy because they knew that eventually the object would be safely in the vault and they would be safely in each other's arms at night.

One morning, after retrieving a particularly easy item, Ryan had asked Micki if she would like to go grab some lunch. Jack had agreed to watch the shop, and it wasn't a busy day.

"Sounds great," she said, giving him a small kiss on the lips. Just let me run up and get my purse and we can get going.

He grinned and waited patiently at the base of the stairs.

The two of them drive for quite some time until they reached a picturesque spot near the lakefront.

Ryan slowed the car to a stop and Micki looked confused, "Don't tell me. The chariot died again?"

Ryan laughed, "Oh ye of little faith! No, this is our lunch spot. I packed us a picnic."

Micki's eyes lit. She loved picnics, but hardly ever got to go on them Her parents didn't feel them dignified enough as a dining venue.

She dived forward, smothering him with a kiss, "Oh, Ryan, thank you!"

Micki practically jumped out of the car and went around to the trunk to get the picnic basket.

The two of them strolled over to a nearby spot by the water. From there they could see miles of lake, a small flower garden, and a little white gazebo just out of view.

Micki sighed as they laid the food out, "Oh, Ryan, it is absolutely breathtaking here. Thank you, I love it."

He smiled, setting out the last of the food, "Nothing is too good for my Micki."

She leaned forward and kissed him, then looked over the food and drinks, "Mmm, everything looks delicious. When did you have time to do all of this?"

He grinned, "Oh, well, you know...I had some help."

Micki smiled, taking a grape from the nearby bunch, "Jack knew about this, too?"

Ryan looked down smiling, but nervous, then began fumbling in his pocket, "Micki...before we eat..."

She looked up from pouring the drinks, "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, um..." Ryan fumbled with the ring in his pocket, too nervous to pull it out to show her.

They had only been dating a few weeks, but he loved her more than anything, and he couldn't imagine waiting another day to be her husband.

Micki and Ryan had seen the ring a few weeks ago and she had fallen in love with it.

It was a simple estate piece from the early part of the century and, in its centre, was a small stone. The sides were intricately detailed and the overall ring was delicate, feminine, and one of a kind...just like Micki.

Suddenly, just as Ryan was working up the nerve to give it to her, there was a loud rumbling from overhead. A crash of lightning illuminated the now cloudy sky. Rain hadn't been expected, but sudden storms like this weren't too rare for this time of year.

The two of the sprang up, trying to rescue some of the food, and headed to the shelter of the gazebo laughing as they ran.

When they finally go there they were out of breath and still laughing.

Micki's hair clung to her face, and her dress was soaked and practically translucent.

Laughing, and relieved that the tension had been broken, Ryan kissed her. Then he pulled out the ring, took a still giggling Micki's hand, and placed the sparkling jewelry on her ring finger, "Let me be your husband."

Micki stopped laughing, but the smile never left her face as she sprang forward, nearly knocking Ryan over as she smothered him in hugs and kisses, "YES!" she practically shouted.

He had remembered. Ryan had listened to her talk about her dream engagement, and now he had remembered. He had made this moment everything she had dreamed about.

He smiled and gathered her small frame up in his arms, "I love you, Micki."

"I love you too, Ryan."