He was tempted. Very tempted. But there was still something left to do. He flipped the blankets away, exposing her to the cool morning air. Her yelp was full of amused indignation.

'Not before you see the tree and unwrap your present.'

'There's a present? Why didn't you say so in the first place?'

She sat up, planted a fierce kiss on his mouth, then grabbed her robe and bounced out of bed. He followed her from the room, feeling a little like a scrap of paper drawn into the wake of a cyclone and loving every minute of it.

Her soft gasp made him smile. She'd stopped in the middle the room, her face tilted upwards as she viewed the massive and ornately decorated Christmas tree. He stopped behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, drawing her close.

'Merry Christmas.' He kissed her ear, her neck, but resisted the temptation to do any more. Not yet.

Not until she'd unwrapped her presents—the one under the tree, and the one in his pocket. The one he'd carried all the way home from Ireland.

'It looks like one of those department store trees.'

'It is.'

She tilted her head and met his gaze. 'How on earth did you manage to get something like this on Christmas morning?'

He smiled. 'I can be a very persuasive fellow when I want to be.'

Her smile was saucy, stirring his already aching body.

'Yeah, I know. But that doesn't answer my question.'

'No, but right now, it doesn't really matter.' He dropped a kiss on her nose then moved around her and over to the tree. He picked up the long, brightly wrapped box and handed it to her. 'Open your present.'

Her expression was that of a kid in a candy store. She plopped cross-legged onto the floor and began unwrapping the gift. He sat down in front of her, amusement stirring as she tossed aside the paper and ribbons he'd spent so much time over and hurriedly opened the box.

Her gasp was soft. 'It's beautiful.' She lifted the delicate ivory silk nightgown from the box and held it up.

'Well, you were always complaining you didn't have any decent nightwear. I took it as a hint.'

She grinned. 'It was. Thank you.' She leaned forward and kissed him briefly, then said against his lips, 'How about I put it on and we see how long it takes you to get it off me again?'

He touched a hand to her face, caressing her cheek with his thumb. 'I have something else to give you.'

She raised an eyebrow and said archly, 'Yeah, that's exactly what I was talking about.'

Heat surged between them. He battled the urge to take her right there and then and said patiently, 'I mean another present.'

'Two presents? Why didn't you say so?' She sat back, amusement and love evident in her expression.

'Well, come on, stop teasing and give.'

He reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the small velvet box. 'It comes with a question you must answer.'

She raised an eyebrow. 'Christmas is a time of giving and receiving presents. I can't ever remember it being a time of twenty questions.'

'Not twenty questions, just one.' He withdrew the velvet box from his pocket and offered it to her.

She went still, her gaze darting from the box to his face and back again. She reached out, taking it from his palm then carefully opening it. The band inside was simple, plain. His family had been poor farmers, and had the simple tradition of taking the stone from their homeland to fashion it into rings for those that they loved. His grandfather had done it for his grandmother, his father for his mother. And he, who had outlived them all by many centuries, had finally fashioned a ring of his own for the woman he loved.

Disbelief, excitement and love surged through the link, burning his senses, encasing his heart. He didn't really need to ask the question, because he had it right there in that rush of emotion. In the tears and affirmation that glittered in her beautiful eyes when her gaze rose to his again.

But he asked it anyway.

'Nikki, will you marry me?'

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