Authors: M. Leighton
“No peeking!” Hardy warned, urging her slowly yet steadily forward.
“I wasn’t peeking. I was just adjusting.” After several steps, he heard her sniff. “Something stinks. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally. Did you poot?”
Hardy laughed. She smelled the manure from the horticulture building. “No, I didn’t poot.”
“Did you shower?” she teased.
“Yes, I showered.”
“Is it me? Is that the big secret? That I smell like crap and no one has ever bothered to tell me?”
Hardy sighed loudly, dramatically. “No, the big secret is that you talk too much. Now you’ve ruined the intervention we’ve been staging. Happy?”
“Do I really talk—”
“No, Miracle. I was just joking. Now hush. We’re almost there. Be patient.”
Hardy brought her to a stop right outside the conservatory door. He pulled it open and the hinges creaked loudly, making Hardy grimace. He saw Miracle’s brow wrinkle and wondered if she knew where they were, if the sound had given it away. Not that it mattered; he’d be taking her blindfold off any minute now anyway.
“Mmm, it smells much better in here,” she observed. Hardy smiled. He’d made sure all the candles were lit before going to pick up Miracle. They’d heated the greenhouse and accentuated the aroma of the orchids, filling the entire room with their sweet scent.
Hardy led her down the narrow aisle between all the “normal” plants, as she called them, to the bend that would lead them to the orchids. He stopped and turned her around so that she was facing away from them.
Taking a deep breath, Hardy began, “I brought you here to celebrate.”
“Your mom agreed to let me tell you.”
Hardy paused, knowing it would drive her crazy. He was also smiling so broadly, he knew she would be able to hear it in his voice, so he waited.
He waited still.
And he waited still more.
“What? You’re killing me.”
“She heard back from the doctor.”
“And?” she prompted, practically vibrating with anticipation.
“They found a donor match, Miracle.”
Hardy hadn’t known what kind of reaction to expect, but he liked the one he got. Miracle squealed and threw herself into his arms. She half laughed and half cried as he swung her around and around. When he set her back on her feet, she squeezed him tightly and then leaned back, still smiling widely. “Can I take this off now?” she asked, raising a hand to the blindfold.
“In a second,” Hardy said. “Stick out your hands and cup them for me.”
Without question, Miracle stepped back and did as he directed. Hardy bent and grabbed the small pot from a shelf to his left and placed it in Miracle’s hands. Carefully, he removed her blindfold. As he watched her face, he tried to see his gift through her eyes, praying she would like it.
The violet and lilac-hued blossom of the orchid hung heavily from its delicate stem. Its oval leaves were tucked back, baring the colorful interior for only a few evening hours before closing up again to hide their beauty from prying eyes. A heavenly scent drifted from the petals, teasing Hardy’s nose.
He knew Miracle loved the flower. Her expression was perfectly discernible, even in the soft candle light. His eyes flickered from Miracle to the orchid and back again. Although the bloom was breathtaking, to Hardy, it paled in comparison to the magnificence of Miracle.
“What is it?” she asked, resting the pot in one hand so she could cup the blossom with the other.
“It’s an orchid, silly.”
Miracle was too amazed to take the bait. “But what kind of orchid?”
Hardy was hoping she’d ask that very question, because the answer was the best part. “It’s called a ‘Miracle Orchid’.”
“A ‘Miracle Orchid’?” she asked. “Are you serious?”
“You’re not teasing?”
“Where did you find it?”
“What do you mean?”
Hardy paused for effect. “I had someone make it.” When Miracle looked up at him, confused, he continued. “I talked to Mr. Billson, the horticulture teacher, and he agreed to try and splice two of your favorite orchids into a hybrid. If it grew, he promised to let me name it.”
Hardy could tell Miracle was speechless. She bowed her head and stuck her nose into the center of the blossom, inhaling deeply. Although she closed her eyes, appreciation and true awe were written all over her face. Hardy had never met someone so pleased, so enthralled by the little things. It was one of the many reasons she was so special to him.
When she opened her eyes and raised them to his, they shone with unshed tears.
Hardy was humbled. “Tonight, you got your miracle. The day I saw you, sitting with Mila in the park, I got mine.”
She sucked in her breath, myriad emotions flitting across her face. But one was predominant. Love. Hardy could feel it radiating from her like heat from the sun.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I don’t know what to…I’ve never…I mean, I…”
Hardy reached up and brushed the tip of one finger down her satiny cheek. “Anything for you.” He bent his head and brushed his mouth over hers. Her lips felt like velvet and even that small contact threatened the tight rein he had on his control. Lifting his head a bit, he pressed a kiss to her cheekbone and whispered in her ear. “I’m not done.”
Taking her by the shoulders, Hardy slowly turned Miracle around. When he heard her gasp, he bent his head and kissed the crook of her neck. That was just the reaction he was going for.
Miracle’s mouth had dropped open into a silent O and her eyes were rounded as she took in row upon row of night blooming orchids, all proudly displaying their colorful petals. They were illuminated by the dozens of candles Hardy had set on every available surface.
He saw her gaze drop. There, at her feet, in the center of the floor, was a thick stack of blankets strewn with blood red rose petals.
When she turned to him this time, her face told him that the moment was every bit as special as he’d hoped it would be. He didn’t want her to simply see the night as an item to cross off her bucket list. He wanted to show her how much he loved her, how much she meant to him, how much he wanted to please her.
“You really are the stuff dreams are made of, Hardy Bradford,” she said, reminding him of the time she’d said it once before. They’d come so far since then. “And I’m so glad you’re mine,” she murmured, her voice wobbling with emotion.
are my dream, Miracle, and I love you more than anyone I’ve ever known. I’ll spend the rest of my life loving you. Forever. But, right now, let’s start with tonight. Let me love you tonight.”
With that, Hardy bent his head again and pressed his lips to hers. They parted immediately and he slowly slipped his tongue inside the warm cavern of her mouth, exploring every sweet corner until he felt her fingers work their way into his hair.
Reaching down, Hardy swept Miracle up into his arms, her slight weight like fluff in his arms, and carried her to the thick bed of blankets. Gently, without breaking their kiss, he knelt and lowered her onto her back.
When they were both breathless from passion, Hardy dragged his mouth away and leaned back to look at her. Miracle’s eyes were a dark green in the low light and they glowed with the love and desire she felt for him. It blossomed in his chest like the orchids all around them. He held it tight, letting the sensation etch itself onto the very walls of his heart so that he’d never forget it.
Coming up onto his knees, Hardy reached for first one foot and then the other, removing Miracle’s shoes and setting them aside. When his eyes met hers again, he could see the fire burning there and his body hardened in response. He groaned and Miracle bit her lip, the sexy gesture only adding to Hardy’s discomfort. Closing his eyes against the tempting picture she presented, Hardy collected himself before returning his attention to undressing her.
His gaze never leaving hers, Hardy brought his hand to her stomach and reached for the hem of her shirt. He saw a flash of uncertainty flicker in her eyes. Always sensitive to her, he moved his fingers down toward the waistband of her jeans, slipping them just inside. He felt her stomach contract beneath his hand and, with one quick flick of his fingers, he freed the button closure.
Their eyes remained locked as Hardy slid her zipper down. He was so in tune with her, Hardy thought he could almost hear the blood pumping through her veins.
Hardy tugged on Miracle’s jeans. Obligingly, she raised her hips and let him slide the material down her long legs and pull it from her feet. It wasn’t lost on Hardy when Miracle laid her hands over her stomach, subconsciously preventing him from lifting her shirt.
Hardy paused after setting her jeans aside, tilting his head and looking deep into Miracle’s glistening eyes. Reaching forward, he laid his fingers atop her. “Please.”
He saw her hesitate, could practically see the indecision and insecurity as she debated. But then, purposefully, she moved her hands and laid them on the blankets at her sides.
Hardy said nothing, only reached for the hem of her shirt and slowly peeled it up her stomach. When he could go no further, he took her hand and helped her to sit up while he pulled the material over her head. When she lay back down, Hardy made a point of keeping his eyes trained on hers. He wanted her to see his reaction to the thing she dreaded most.
Slowly, Hardy let his eyes travel Miracle’s beautiful face and graceful neck, making their way down the ample swell of her breasts to her stomach, to the scar that she protected from all eyes, including his. He saw her muscles clench and heard her inhale and hold her breath, as if waiting for him to turn away or to be repulsed by the purplish red line just beneath her ribs. He raised his eyes to hers, saw the fear there, and he smiled before dipping his head to press his lips to the scar.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered as he scattered kisses along the incision line and over to her bellybutton. When he heard her release the breath she’d been holding, he slipped his tongue inside the well of her navel. He heard her gasp again, but this time in a different way, an excited way.
Stretching out beside her, Hardy rested his weight on one arm as he hovered above Miracle. He raised his hand and rubbed the backs of his fingers over her jawline. “I want tonight to be perfect for you. Just know that it’s already been perfect for me.”
He saw her eyes fill with tears just before he lowered his mouth to hers and began the dance that would awaken her body to the fire, to the passion that they felt for one another.
The kiss that began as sweet quickly turned to breathtaking, as it so often did between them. Her hands were in his hair and clutching at his shoulders as his fingers explored her smooth skin.
Tearing his mouth away from hers, Hardy kissed a trail down her neck and chest to the valley between her breasts. Slipping his fingers inside the band of the silky material, he released the front closure and leaned back to take in the treasure he’d just revealed.
She was perfect. More perfect than he’d imagined. Reverentially, Hardy brought his hand up to touch her. He thrilled at the chills that spread across her chest and tightened her nipples. Lowering his head, he had to taste them.
After worshipping her with his lips and tongue, Hardy left Miracle’s breasts to continue his exploration of her body. He nibbled his way across her ticklish ribs and the curve of her hip to the edge of her lacy panties. He slowly slid them down, kissing along behind them until he’d been to her ankles and back again.
When he brought his lips to hers once more, Miracle was moaning and writhing beneath him, softly begging him to touch her, to make love to her.
Hardy felt her arousal. He gritted his teeth against an ache, a physical need greater than any he’d ever known.
Rolling smoothly to his feet, Hardy quickly dispatched his own clothing, hating to have robbed Miracle of the chance to undress him, but too far gone to take the time.
he reminded himself, opening a tiny square package as he moved to kneel between her feet.
Obligingly, Miracle parted her legs to accommodate Hardy as he stretched out on top of her. He could feel the heat and moisture of her touching him, teasing him at his most sensitive point. Supporting his weight on his forearms, Hardy cupped Miracle’s face. He kissed her long and slow and deep as he moved his body against hers. When he leaned back to look into her face, he gave her one last chance to change her mind.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
He thought he might die if she said no, but he loved her enough to honor her decision, whatever it was. It would just mean a few more cold showers in his future.
Miracle raised her fingers to Hardy’s mouth, trailing the tips across his lips. Her eyes were shimmering pools of emerald he thought he could drown in and die the happiest man alive.
“I’ve never wanted anything more in my life,” she said softly. “If I died tomorrow, being with you, like this tonight, will have been the best night of my entire existence. And it’s not because of a stupid bucket list; it’s because I love you.”