“First, we welcome Brother Cornelius, our Managing Angel, as you know.” Senior Angel Aaron smiled. He had always liked Cornelius, even when Cornelius had expressed concern over some of Aaron’s exploits or suggestions. In a way, Aaron missed being a Guardian. The supervisory position he now had really cut into some of the other pursuits he enjoyed. However, he couldn’t deny that being a Senior Angel was rewarding, also. “Brother Cornelius, do you have anything you need to address the team about?”
“No,” replied Cornelius, chuckling. “I’ve found that I do best when I just keep my mouth shut and try to look important. However, I am here officially on behalf of the Council. They have expressed interest in a certain topic I think you will be discussing shortly, so please proceed.”
“Thank you,” said Aaron. “And yes, we do have a certain topic to discuss. I’ll tell you what I know, and then Leland will bring us up to speed on the rest. Several days ago, the man Clark entered the town of Prospect. He had orders from Cerberus to kidnap Samantha.” Gasps of concern were heard from Sister Isabelle and Sister Charity. “She was to be bait to lure Justin into Cerberus’s lair, if you will. Unfortunately, though I was informed about it by Leland, the Council forbid any communication on my part or Leland’s to this team. Now you know what I know. Leland, will you kindly fill us in on the rest?”
Leland stood, looking as serious as they had ever seen him. “I apologize for the secrecy,” he told them, “but I was under orders from the Council not to tell anyone except Aaron. For some time now, a small team of Battle Angels-of which I am leader of-has been putting together a plan to take out Cerberus. The only thing we lacked was the right mortal to come along who we could use to help us attain success.”
“Justin Billings,” interrupted Aaron. He looked like a light had just gone on inside his head. “I should have guessed. Extremely brilliant at being a pain in the butt-pardon my earth language-but who would also be extremely brilliant in just the situation you are talking about, provided he got his act together-which he did. Am I right?”
“Exactly on the head of the nail,” said Leland without smiling. “Our problem-our, meaning my small Battle Team-is that he has been a bit too brilliant.” A smile came to his face as he saw heads pop up in surprise. “Let me explain. Then I think you’ll understand. Cerberus is about as evil as they come, in my opinion, but in order to take him out, we have to have two things we can present to the council before they will give their approval: a darn good reason, and proof to back up our darn good reason. That’s why we picked Justin. We thought that by using Justin, Cerberus would do something that would provide us with the darn good reason we needed.”
“Wait a minute,” interrupted Brother Lynn. “Why won’t the council let you just take him out and avoid all that other have-to-have-a-reason stuff?”
“Short version,” replied Leland, “is that we can never violate a mortal’s free agency, no matter what the reason. We can arrange scenarios that offer them a choice, hoping that the choice they make will assure us of success, but we can never force them into anything. We can exert influence on them to take a certain path, but the choice is still theirs. In the case of Justin, we had a made-in-the-shade opportunity to get Cerberus.” Leland told them about an inebriated Justin plowing into Cerberus’ car, and about Justin heaping insults on Cerberus in the jail cell. “Evil never forgives, as you know, so when the Battle Team learned that Cerberus was after Justin, we saw it as a chance to build enough of a case to justify going after him.”
From the look on Senior Angel Aaron’s face, Leland could tell that he had put it all together. “Why don’t you finish for me, Senior Angel,” he requested.
Aaron turned in his chair, so he was partially facing the rest of the team. “Free agency,” said Aaron. “Justin was the ideal mortal for the Battle Team because he was resourceful enough that he had a chance of outwitting and surviving whatever Cerberus tried. Thus the Battle Team could not be accused of violating his free agency, because even in the situations that were placed in front of him, he still had choices-some of which would guarantee his survival. That’s why Leland said Justin has been a bit too brilliant. After receiving his gifts, not only did he learn how to use them better than anyone anticipated, but he made the two hit men look like idiots in the process. I’m guessing that he did the same in the Clark kidnapping. Am I right?”
“Yes,” responded Leland. “He really caught the Battle Team off guard on that one. Clark was parked a short distance from Samantha’s house a few mornings ago, waiting to see how she got to school. When she came out, she sensed him and pointed out his location to Justin. That surprised us, as we had no idea she had developed her impath abilities to that extent. What really threw us, though, was when Justin got in Clark’s car. I don’t know what he said, but within minutes, he was out again, and Clark was speeding away.”
“Well, bravo for Samantha and Justin,” said Sister Charity, boldly. A few hear-hears were voiced by the other team members.
“I understand and sympathize with your allegiance to Justin and Samantha,” said Leland, “but Justin’s resourcefulness isn’t helping the Battle Angels come up with a case against Cerberus. So far-thanks to him and Samantha-the only thing we’ve got on Cerberus is how inept he appears to be. It’s a very frustrating situation for me, especially. I’m rooting for Justin and Samantha, while at the same time hoping that Cerberus will do something my Battle Team can start building a serious case on.”
Aaron raised his hand.
“This may be a little off topic, but something has been hard on my mind for some time now. The more I hear and see of Justin and Samantha, what they have done with their gifts and how resourceful they are, the more I realize what excellent additions to this team they would be. In a sense, they’ve become almost like family to us. So, since Brother Cornelius is in our midst, I’m going to make an official request. As Senior Angel, I would like Samantha and Justin to be made honorary Guardian Angels and be officially assigned to this team, effective immediately. I want to be sure they’re going to be with us and not on some other Guardian team, when their time on earth has ended-however long that may be. ”
“Unconventional as always,” said an amused Leland.
All heads turned to Cornelius, who was showing no surprise at Aaron’s request.
“Show me one rule that says a mortal can’t be a team member, and I’ll withdraw the request,” Aaron stated. “After all, they do have impath abilities, and being mortal, could do things that we as guardians are not allowed to do. And when they pass from earth to here, I don’t want them accidentally assigned to another team by mistake.”
After a long period of thought, Cornelius spoke, amusement in his voice. “Senior Angel, that has got to be the most off the wall request I’ve ever heard, even from you. Trust you to be the one to come up with it. However, I know of no rule excluding a mortal from being an honorary Guardian Angel or a member of a Guardian team. Therefore, I grant your request.” Cornelius chuckled at a sudden thought. “After I’ve informed the Council of what I’ve done, I expect that they’ll draft a resolution preventing anything similar from happening in the future. But, as the saying goes, the damage has been done.”
As he arose to leave, the entire team stood, bowing their heads as a sign of respect for Cornelius. Aaron voiced what all were feeling. “We look forward to having Samantha and Justin among us as fellow Guardians,” he said, gravely, “Until that time comes, we console ourselves with the thought that, though still mortal, they are indeed official members of our team. Thank you, Brother Cornelius.”
“I’ll say one thing about this team,” Cornelius stated before leaving, “if there’s any way to do something totally unconventional and still succeed, trust you guys to come up with it!”
“Always close by, Lady Fair.”
“I may need your help here.”
“Where are you?”
“At my locker.”
“On my way.”
Justin picked up his pace, wondering what was going on. When he rounded the corner and entered the hallway where her locker was, he saw a small crowd of people gathered in a half-circle around it. A guy he had seen around school on occasion was talking to her. From his arm gestures, he looked as if he was pleading a legal case or something.
“Look,” he heard Samantha say, “I’m asking you politely to stop leaving gifts on my home-room desk. I have a boy friend, and I’m not looking for another one.”
“All I’m saying,” the guy replied, “is how can you know for sure if he’s the best one for you unless you have someone else to compare him to-like me.”
“I don’t need to compare.”
“I think you do,” said the boy, confidently. “Because I happen to know that I can offer you more than he can.”
“Reporting for duty, Lady Fair,” impathed Justin.
Sensing a slight interest on Samantha’s part, or so the young man supposed, he burrowed in. “I have a nice car. I’ve seen what he drives you in sometimes. I have to believe you wouldn’t mind something that’s more suited to your class and good looks.”
“I’m going to have a little fun with him,” impathed Justin again.
“Good. He’s become irritating.”
“Ask him what kind of car he has.”
“What kind of car do you have?”
Pleasure was obvious on the young man’s face. Now, he was getting somewhere. “It’s a one year old Ford Mustang,” he said, describing some of the features.
Justin emitted a low whistle of admiration. “That’s one wicked piece of machinery you’ve got,” he said. “It sure out-classes the Hicksville Beater.” Then to Samantha, “Perhaps you should reconsider his offer.”
Startled, the boy turned in Justin’s direction. “So,” he said, “the boy friend shows up. Come here to guard your interests?”
“No,” said Justin. “I’m here to plead your case.”
“Good idea,” replied Samantha. “On his own, he’s been pretty pathetic.”
“Hold on, your Honor, while I consult with my client.” Turning to the boy, he asked, “What have you got to offer her besides the Mustang?”
Flustered at the sudden twist in the conversation, the boy replied in irritation, “What do you care? I’m not talking to you anyway!”
“Just trying to help,” said Justin, acting as if his feelings had been hurt. “No need to get all shirty about it.”
“Unsociable,” said Samantha. “That’s not good.”
“I am not unsociable,” said the boy, upset.
“And a temper to go with it,” pointed out Justin.
“Even worse,” agreed Samantha.
“He’s probably the controlling type.”
Turning quickly and angrily, the boy shot both of his hands towards Justin’s chest, leaning forward slightly as he did so. The intended hard shove, in conjunction with the fact that the chest-and the rest of Justin-had moved quickly and effortlessly to the side, caused the boy to perform a rather awkward stumble. Laughter from those witnessing the impromptu show did nothing to convince him that things weren’t going badly.
“Graceful dancing would be out,” commented Samantha to Justin. “Do you have any more of his qualifications to present?”
“Well, your honor, since my client is not talking to me, the defense will have to rest,” said Justin officiously. “And now, if your Honor would like, I’ll walk you home.”
As they walked away, the boy blustered out one last demand. “Wait a minute,” he yelled. “I’m not through yet!”
Justin stopped. “I’ll be right back,” he told Samantha. “I’m going to talk to him.”
“Don’t be mean,” said Samantha.
Justin stopped about five feet from the boy and stood, looking him in the eyes. “Son,” he said gravely, “you need to learn when enough is enough.” Imprinting the boy’s aura, Justin impathed him a strong feeling of unease about the advisability of initiating a fight between the two of them at some point in the future. When he saw doubt come over the boy’s face, Justin gave him a half-smile, then turned and walked back to Samantha. “I don’t think he’ll bother you anymore,” he said.
“Nice rescue, Knight of Mine,” quipped Samantha. “Very inventive and entertaining.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“I was thinking about taking it on the road.
“There’s already enough suffering in the world.”
“It’s been a long time, old friend. Of what help can I be to you?”
Artimus Daekkin stood before Cerberus, and was probably the only man in the world-of those who knew Cerberus-who did not fear him.
“I regret that I have had no need of your services until now,” replied Cerberus, in what, for him, was close to an apology. “I have a matter of purely personal business that has consumed far more time than I anticipated. After two attempts, the matter still remains unresolved.” Reaching into his desk drawer, he pulled out a thin 9 by 12 envelope. “All the information you need is here. I have wired the requested fee to your account.”
Taking the envelope, Daekkin nodded. “It will be done,” he said, then turned and left. Once in his car, he opened the envelope. “City of Prospect,” he read aloud, noting with interest that the two he would be going after were mere high school seniors. Momentarily, he wondered what they had done to arouse the ire of Cerberus. Not that it mattered, really. As long as he was being paid-and paid well-he was willing to end anyone’s life.
Cerberus’ comment about wiring the fee to Daekkin’s account, brought back memories of the first and only client who had ever attempted to cheat him. The incident occurred very early in his career. The client had paid him half of what his price was, with a promise that the other half would be forthcoming when the job was completed. After fulfilling his part of the contract, he had returned to the client for the rest of his money. His client’s amused reply was, “I gave you your money. If you want more, you’re going to have to sue me for it. ”
Of all the crossroads in his career, that one had been the biggest. He knew that if he were ever to attain any respect in the business, he could not let a client stiff him like that. Such behavior demanded reparation.
Early one morning several days later, one of the bodyguard staff entered the man’s room to awaken him-a daily ritual that had been occurring for years. On this particular morning however, the ritual changed. The man he was to awaken had been put to sleep, permanently. On his chest was a was a small sheet of paper with a hand-written note on it. Bending down, the staff member read the note without touching it. “Honesty is always the best policy,” it said. The rest of the security staff was called immediately into the room. Though the note was not signed, there was no doubt as to who had written it.
How had the man gotten past them in the night?
The security staff, their collective egos bruised, discussed the possibility of retribution against Daekkin. Several minutes later, they received a clear that-would-not-be-wise message in the form of a huge and fiery explosion in the front drive. Running out with guns drawn, they found to their dismay and anger that their new security van had also been put to sleep, permanently. Nothing recognizable, of any size anyway, was left of it. Some of the bodyguard staff saw the explosion for the warning it was.
If there were any staff members who had not caught the warning, they did so 30 seconds later.
With a muffled whump that rattled every window in the house, the bedroom they had just vacated turned into a gigantic incinerator. Amazingly, not much of the rest of the house suffered any damage. Everyone on the staff knew enough about explosives to realize that the man who had set this up was a master of the trade. Letting their professionalism takeover, they looked at each other in unspoken agreement. Daekkin had sent a suggestion to them, and they had every intention of following it.
From that point on, Daekkin demanded payment up front-the funds wired to a certain account with verification by him personally that the funds were there before he agreed to the job. Initially, there were some clients who objected to his money up front policy. To those clients, he calmly suggested that they hire someone else. Some did, and usually regretted it. The majority, however, happy to have gotten the services of a man of his reputation, willingly did as instructed.
Cerberus sat, contemplating. Twice now, Justin Billings had eluded death. Perhaps he, Cerberus, should not have granted Clark a second chance. Cerberus had no doubt of the reason for the second failure. Justin, or the Samantha girl, had recognized Clark from the first encounter, and had somehow bested him. Daekkin’s assistance assured that there would be no third failure. His old acquaintance was unknown to Justin or the girl. More importantly, though, in all his years of bringing life to a close, Daekkin’s record was perfect. He had never failed. Cerberus smiled slightly. If you wanted something done right, you hired the very best.
The results were always worth the money spent.
Justin never went after the cows in the morning anymore. He sent his Vision to the pasture, then called up their auras and impathed them a strong Billings Bovine Bellow. Occasionally he had to harass number 42 a bit to get her up and going. So far, neither Lloyd or Connie had noticed the absence of the early morning Billings Bellow. How he would explain it when they did, though, he wasn’t sure.
“Good morning, Justin.” Connie Barber’s smiling face poked through the doorway that separated the milk tank room from where the cows were being milked.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Barber,” said Justin. “What can I do for you?”
“Lloyd asked me if you would do the morning chores for him. He had to take care of some sudden business in town. He says that he knows it’s Saturday, but he’ll make it up to you.”
“Make it up to me,” replied Justin in what was more statement than question. “After what you folks have done for me, there’s nothing to make up. So, yes, I’ll do the chores this morning. When you tell Lloyd, though, do me a favor and throw in something about him getting old and useless around here, will you?”
Connie doubled over with laughter momentarily. “You two are going to be the death of me yet. But yes, I’ll tell him.”
“Oh, and if you could call Samantha for me and let her know that I’ll be a little late…?” Justin knew he could impath her himself and tell her, but Connie knew they always got together on Saturdays as early as they could, and may have wondered at his not calling her.
“Can do,” Connie said.
“Lady Fair, Lady Fair,” said Justin, impathing Samantha as soon as Connie was gone. “Wherefore art thou, O Lady Fair?”
“Here I am, Knight of mine.” Her reply was immediate, as it usually was.
“I’m going to do the chores for Lloyd this morning after I’m finished milking,” he told her, “so that’s going to delay me for about an hour.”
“I talked with my sisters this morning.”
Justin could feel her pleasure through the impath connection. “And…?” he asked.
“They want to meet with us in the clearing. I told them this morning would be okay.”
“Cool,” said Justin. “I wonder what the reason is.”
“They wouldn’t tell me, but I sensed excitement from them.”
“Well, I’ll hurry on the chores, and see you in about an hour. I love you.”
“I love you too. See ya.”
Arnold Curtis lay awake in bed, mulling over the events that had transpired after school. He had made a mistake, he decided, in approaching Samantha when there were others around. His efforts to win her had taken a hit because of it. Not an unrecoverable hit, but the incident would slow things down temporarily.
What to do next?
Giving up was not an option. When Billings had returned and talked to him, an odd uneasiness had come over him at the thought of ever challenging the boy to a fight. Odd, because he had no intention doing anything of the sort. There were ways of making the competition look immature and small. But challenge or no, there were other events he put in motion also.
A few rumors, for example. He would enlist an eye witness or two, or at least a few people who had heard it from someone “who wouldn’t make something like that up”. If a spicy story was told often and sincere enough, there was always some who would believe it and help spread it.
He would, of course, write an apology to Samantha about how sorry he was for making her feel uncomfortable and how he was just trying to get noticed by her, etc., etc. Girls responded to that kind of thing. Perhaps she would even keep the letter. Who knew?
Also, there would be occasions when Billings could not be with her. He knew they frequented Smiths Variety and Hardware on Saturdays and some week nights. When those situations came up, he would slowly insert himself. Brief and relaxed conversations with her at first, then when the friendship began to form, casually wondering why Justin wasn’t doing-or in some cases was doing-this or that. Little things that would pile up over time and begin to bother her.
Closing his eyes, he smiled in satisfaction. When he compared what he could offer Samantha with what Billings had to give, there was no comparison.
He just had to find ways of making Samantha realize it.
“I always look forward to coming here.”
Samantha and Justin were on the path that led into the clearing.
“So do I,” said Justin. “It’s always so peaceful, especially since our friends met with us here that time.”
Justin sent his Vision ahead into the clearing. Looking around, he noted with surprise and pleasure that the entire Guardian team was present.
“What’s the chuckle for?” Samantha asked him.
“They’re here already-all of them,” he told her, then began walking faster to match her sudden increase in pace.
“It’s my sisters!” said Samantha upon entering the clearing. Yelling with excitement, she ran to greet them. Justin and the three male Guardians watched them in amusement.
“My friends,” said Justin as he greeted Aaron, Leland and Lynn. “I never thought I’d see you again-in this life, anyway. To what do I owe this special pleasure?”
“If we can get the women to settle down, I’ll tell you,” replied Aaron. “Ladies…?”
The team, except for Aaron, found seats either on the log or cross-legged in front of it.
“What’s going on?” impathed Samantha to Isabelle.
“Something very exciting,” replied Sister Isabelle.
“This is a very special occasion for me-for all of us, actually,” began Senior Angel Aaron. “When I was thinking about what to say for this event, I decided to just let what we are about to do speak for itself. So-”
“Am I too late?”
A mild but assertive voice from the edge of the small clearing caused all heads to turn that direction.
“Brother Cornelius?” asked Aaron in surprise.
“None other,” chuckled the Managing Angel, taking a seat on the log next to Charity. “Where are we at?” he asked.
“Just getting started,” replied Aaron. “Samantha and Justin here don’t have a clue, yet.”
“Please proceed then,” ordered Cornelius, politely. “I’ll just be observing.”
“Thank you. We have all come to know Samantha and Justin as very special people. We’ve shared in their happiness. Some of us have cried with them in their sorrows. And now, it’s time for all of us to rejoice with them in what is about to take place.”
The entire team smiled and nodded in agreement.
Walking closer to Justin and Samantha, Aaron addressed himself just to them. “You don’t know this,” he said with a smile, “but I have gotten a reputation in heaven of being somewhat unconventional.”
“Amen to that!” proclaimed Cornelius, provoking laughter from the rest of the team, Justin and Samantha included.
“And now,” continued Aaron, “we are all here to witness, and take part in, what is probably the most unconventional act any of us has been involved with, and gladly so. Brother Justin, Sister Samantha…” Aaron paused for a few seconds, getting his emotions under control. “If you will please come up and face the rest of the team. You can hold hands if you like.”
They did so, their curiosity almost to the breaking point.
“Now if the team will arise and from a half circle in front of these two.”
When everyone was in place, Aaron faced the team. “Team, prepare,” he ordered quietly.
In unison, they all crossed their arms over their chests so that each hand was touching an opposite shoulder.
“Justin Billings and Samantha McCallen,” he said, now facing them. “By my authority as Senior Angel of this team, and with the consent of Supervising Angel Cornelius John, I appoint you as honorary Guardian Angels, and also as official members of this team, with all the rights and privileges of any other team member. This appointment will remain in effect for the rest of your time on this earth. Selah.” Turing back to the team, he said, “Those who accept what has been done here today, please signify in the usual manner.”
As one, the team bowed their heads briefly in honor of their new team members.
“Selah!” yelled Aaron.
All the team members raised their arms high and looked up into the sky. “SELAH!” they echoed, before descending in delight on Justin and Samantha.
Cornelius, who had remained somewhat detached emotionally, watched the joyous celebration. After a few minutes, he nodded his head in confirmation. What happened here may have been unconventional, but by the stars, nothing had ever felt more natural and right to him than this did. The only thing he knew for sure was that there were interesting times ahead for this team.
Dam…ah, Darn interesting times,” he muttered to himself.
The team stayed just a few more minutes. Then, standing as a group at the edge of the clearing and apart from Justin and Samantha, they simply faded from view.
Out of curiosity, Justin sent his Vision into the middle of the team just before they vanished.
Interesting, he thought to himself when he pulled it back a half-a-minute later. Very interesting.
He and Samantha sat back down on the log.
“Honorary Guardian Angels,” said Samantha. “Can you believe that?”
“Does this mean I have to start calling you ‘Sister Samantha?” asked Justin, slyly.
“Sister Samantha would be the second best endearment in the world,” she told him. “I still prefer the best endearment.”
“Lady Fair it still is then,” said Justin.
“And official team members,” mused Samantha. “I wonder if we’ll get assignments or missions or whatever every now and then.”
“According to Aaron, that’s down the road,” Justin told her. “Right now, we’re supposed to finish school and what-not.”
Samantha looked at him sharply.
“What?” he asked, puzzled.
Her face softened as she answered. “Nothing, Knight of mine. At least, nothing that’s your fault. Sometimes I’m too stubborn for my own good. I put off doing the right thing just because I think someone is trying to force me into it. As a result, sometimes my happiness comes later, rather than sooner.”
“I understand,” said Justin idly.
“By the way, my other mother invited me over for dinner tonight.”
“Other…oh, yeah,” said Justin, laughing, recalling Connie Barber’s remark one Saturday morning about them allowing her a mom moment every now and then. “Well, she has sure taken this mother thing seriously with me. But better late than never to have a real mother, I guess.”
One reason why Daekkin had never failed a mission was his meticulousness. He took pride in being thorough to the point of perfection. When he put a plan together, he went through it, dozens of times, applying what-if scenarios. His other ability, and one which he considered equal in importance to meticulous planning, was patience. One had to be willing to pull back and wait, if circumstances did not allow a plan to proceed as fast as anticipated. Plowing ahead against the odds might be the James Bond thing to do, but Daekkin was not interested in action and excitement. To him, the best plan was one whose outcome was boringly perfect. He recalled Cerberus’ comment about two previous attempts that had failed. Since Cerberus was not known for hiring fools, Daekkin had to assume resourcefulness on the part of one, or both, of the people he was going after-something to keep in mind as he was assembling his plan. Every now and then he worked a mission that was more challenging than usual, and this mission was shaping up to be in that category.
Part way through dinner, Samantha rapped her spoon on her glass. “Everyone? I have an announcement to make.”
All talk ceased as three sets of eyes turned on her.
“You have our rapt attention,” said Connie with a smile. “Proceed.”
“Actually, it’s better than an announcement. It’s an official announcement.”
“Not sure my heart can take something that serious,” quipped Lloyd.
“I’m not surprised,” said Justin, poking his chin in Lloyd’s direction.
“All right,” ordered Connie. “You two stop it. Now go ahead, Samantha.”
Grinning widely, she said, “Justin and I are getting married.”
“Well, congratulations!” said Connie with delight.
“Had to happen sooner or later,” added Lloyd.
“We are?” asked Justin.
“Yep,” replied Samantha, the grin still on her face.
“Wait a minute,” said Lloyd, looking at Justin. “Are you saying that you didn’t know about this?”
“Until just now, no.”
Lloyd and Connie looked at Samantha.
“Un-confuse us,” requested Lloyd.
“It’s easy,” said Samantha. “I’m letting Justin know ahead of time what my answer will be when he gets around to proposing.” Looking at Justin, she added, “And it better be the best proposal in the history of mankind, buster.”
“You mean to tell me that you haven’t proposed to her?” Ian looked as if he could bust out in laughter at any moment.
“Yep,” said Justin. “I didn’t hear about it until she announced it at dinner last night. We’ve always known that marriage was in the future, but I assumed that’s where it would remain for awhile. I had no idea she would announce it to someone else without discussing it with me first.”
“So are you going to propose to her?” asked Ian.
“I don’t know,” said Justin with a grin. “Since I already know what her answer will be, I might just skip the proposal part.”
“I would think that one over,” said Samantha, deliberately. “If you recall, I said that I was letting you know ahead of time what my answer will be when you get around to proposing. That means if you don’t propose-”
Interrupting her, Justin said quickly, “After giving this long and careful thought, I’ve decided that there will be a proposal.”
“Wise decision,” said Samantha.