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CHAPTER 46 ~ SUNLIGHT
Morning brought with it a brilliant sunrise and an over-inquisitive son. Gunther cracked open one eye as he heard a gentle tap on the bedroom door. Squinting over Valois's shoulder and propping himself up on both elbows, he saw Mortimer's head peeking warily into the room. Thank god it was too early for them to be doing anything other than sleeping! Nonetheless, he quickly tugged the waist-level covers up a little higher, just to be safe.
Well? Mort mouthed, both eyebrows hitting his hairline.
In return, Gunther just smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, then flapped his hand to shoo him out of the room. The response was a "Yesss!" and a little fistpump, then Mortimer closed the door and left them alone.
"I take it that he was satisfied with the answer?" Valois murmured, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth as he reached to pull Gunther back down into his arms.
"I think so." Gunther kissed him. "I know I am," he added softly. "I was so scared that you might say no."
"What on earth for, mon cœur?" Valois's fingers carded gently through his hair, soothing and stroking.
Gunther shrugged one shoulder, then smiled at himself for unconsciously echoing Valois's own little habit. "Don't know, really. I wondered if it even meant anything to you, what with you having lived for so long."
"Darling boy, an expression of love and commitment always means something, even to a jaded and ancient creature like me." Valois regarded him with a mixture of love and teasing, and Gunther had the grace to look sheepish as he kissed his lover's—no, his fiancé's— hand.
"Sorry," he whispered.
"No apology necessary." Valois nuzzled his cheek. "Will you be going into work this morning?" he murmured as he peppered little kisses down the side of Gunther's neck, along his collarbone, and into the hollow at the base of his throat. "Loath though I am to let you out of this bed after last night, if you must go then I will give you something to bring me to mind through the day."
With a luxurious, catlike stretch, Gunther rolled onto his back. "I'd want that anyway, whether I was going into work or not," he murmured as he pulled his knees up to his chest and watched Valois's eyes spark up with the look that meant he was going to ache for the rest of the day.
Natalie beamed up at Gunther from behind her computer as he walked into the office an hour and a half later. "Hi! Bloody gorgeous day, isn't it? The snowdrops were out in flower in the pots outside my front door when I left the house this morning."
"It's nice to see you so happy," he said softly, smiling at her as he shoved his hands into his pants pockets. Moments later, he carefully pulled them out again and clasped them behind his back, unable to prevent a small wince from crossing his face.
Natalie stifled a giggle, ending up half-choking on an inelegant snort. "You want to borrow my cushion today, boss man?"
"All I need is a coffee." He gave her a pointed look. "You need a ton of typing, secretary?"
Poking her tongue out at him, Natalie set the percolator running. "Okay, okay. Point taken. But seriously, you should check your schedule before you go, er, being enthusiastic like that. You've got to sit through a two-hour R&D meeting this afternoon."
Well, fuck. "Can't we postpone it?"
"Sure, but the guys down there have been working on this proposal for weeks, and I know they all stayed late last night to have it ready in time..."
Gunther sighed. Yeah, he couldn't push that back, not when they'd worked so hard on it. He accepted the mug of coffee that Natalie gave him, taking an absent sip, lost in thought.
"You okay?" Her soft question broke through his reverie, and he blinked at her.
"Fine," he murmured. "Why?"
"It's not like you to be so out of it. Did you get enough sleep last night? And I don't mean that in an 'I want to know all the sordid details' kind of way."
He chuckled. "I got a perfectly good night's sleep, thank you."
"You're up to something." She narrowed her eyes, tapping one finger thoughtfully against her lips.
She snorted. "Even your son would see through that innocent look!" She poked that finger into his bicep. "C'mon. Spill!"
Well, it wasn't as though he'd be able to keep it secret for long, anyway...
"Red and white," he murmured, watching her face closely.
"Red and... OH MY GOD! You asked him? He said yes?!" The coffee almost went flying as she hugged him. "Oh my god, that's just made my day!"
"I asked him and he said yes." He could feel his face heating with a curious mixture of embarrassment and happiness. "We're engaged."
Natalie sniffled, dabbing the back of one finger under her eye as she pulled away. "Fuck it," she muttered. "I didn't put the waterproof stuff on today." For all that, though, she was beaming. "So you're a fiancé now, huh?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "And, eventually, a husband. Again."
"This time to someone who appreciates you." Natalie crossed her arms, her expression fierce and determined. "She never did, if you don't mind me saying so."
"I don't mind you saying so, mainly because it was true. But more so because she never appreciated our son." Gunther heaved a sigh.
"Does Mortimer know?"
At that, Gunther gave her a rueful grin. "He all-but poked me into doing it. I think there may have been victory dancing in his bedroom this morning."
"Good lad! I'm going to send him a fruit basket. Oh, wait. He's a teenager. They don't usually eat fruit, do they? I'll find a chocolate basket or something. And hey, I can now buy you and your hubby-to-be an engagement present!"
"Oh, really, we don't—"
Natalie folded her arms and gave him A Look. He shut up, shaking his head with a grin.
"Well then," he said softly. "Thank you in advance."
"Go in there and get CEO-ing." She poked out her tongue at him again, turning back to her desk.
Gunther had barely reached the door to his own office, when Natalie said, "By the way..."
He turned, and a cushion came sailing through the air at him. Rolling his eyes, he caught it, fumbling to clutch it one-handed against himself without spilling his coffee.
"Thanks," he said drily, as Natalie sat down and demurely began typing.
Just before lunch, Natalie poked her head around Gunther's office door. "You've got a visitor," she said. "Some guy's brought something in for you."
"Some guy's what?" Gunther pushed back his chair and began to stand up, just as a pale hand wearing a red stone ring gently poked the side of Natalie's waist, making her squeak and step aside, laughing. His momentary alarm forgotten, Gunther smiled as Valois walked into the office.
"Hi," he murmured, crossing the floor to meet his lover halfway with a kiss. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything is fine, mon cœur." Valois caressed Gunther's cheek. "I just thought I would bring lunch for you today." He held up a large picnic basket. "Did you want to eat in here, or in your suite?"
Gunther's heart melted. "I don't have a table in there," he murmured. "I can eat at my desk."
"Oh, but this is not desk food." Valois set the basket down on the boardroom table. "I would not bring you a takeout for lunch. I prepared this especially."
"You... you brought me homecooked food?"
"You and Natalie, yes." Valois chuckled as appreciative noises ensued from Natalie's office. "I think she likes it."
Gunther smiled. "You do realise you've just given yourself a job for life, right? She'll never let you stop now."
"I think I could manage that." Valois opened the basket and took out a plate covered in foil. "Especially if it means I can see you more often." The foil came off, revealing a delicate salad that glistened with light dressing. After that came a large platter of meats and cheeses, at which Gunther's jaw fell open slightly as Valois arranged the plate neatly. Then, a small basket of fresh sliced bread. Gunther stared. All this effort, for him? For a work lunch? An elegant, napkin-wrapped knife and fork were set down next to the salad plate, followed by a wine glass.
"Oh." Valois paused. "Can you drink while working? I did not think—"
Gunther kissed him. "Liquid lunches are a part of executive life," he murmured. "I love you so much. Thank you."
"It is nothing. I was alone at home and thought this might brighten your day. May I eat with you?" Valois was uncorking a bottle of champagne. "I brought a plate for myself, but if you do not have the time for a leisurely lunch..."
"I'll make time." Gunther sat down as Valois poured the champagne and set a second place out for himself.
"All we need is a vase of flowers," Gunther began, then laughed as Valois gestured to the table and a small vase containing a single red rose appeared out of thin air.
"How did I get so lucky?" he murmured, unrolling the napkin and setting it across his lap.
"I ask myself the same question every day." Valois sat down, and they both began to eat in companionable silence.