In Annie, E.J.'s found his North Star. In E.J., Annie's found someone who truly loves her for just her. Everything's great, right? Wrong! Despite their obvious feelings for each other, somebody’s intent on tearing down the foundation they've built. And E.J.’s the target. First his career is derailed. Then his reputation is sullied.
Annie’s determined to find the culprit. But how’s she going to do that when, as her alter-ego Cassandra Lawrence, she has a new album to record and a tour to plan? E.J. desperately wants to prove he’s worthy of Annie. Is it even possible when every time things are headed in the right direction, disaster strikes?
Can they figure out figure out who is so intent on driving them apart and put a stop to it before irreparable damage is done? From Northern California to New York and points in between, our lovers struggle to keep their unlikeliest of relationships alive amid joy, heartache and everything in between. But it's not until all appears lost once and for all that they learn faith--in themselves and each other--is what matters most.
When our wine glasses were empty and our plates had been taken away, Annie sat back in her chair. She nodded to the quartet, who gathered their materials and made a quiet exit.
"I can't believe I went on all through dinner. You must be rubbing off on me."
I laughed. "You act like talking all night long is a bad thing. It was fun listening to you. But if you don't mind, I'd like to shift to a different country for a minute or two."
"Oh? Isn't France romantic enough for you?"
"It totally is. But I'd like to give you your Valentine's present and it's not from France. It's from Ireland."
She arched an eyebrow.
I withdrew a black, felt-covered box from my pocket and placed it on the table.
Annie drew in a little breath. "E.J.?"
She picked up the box, and as if she was afraid it was booby-trapped, opened it ever so slowly. Her eyes widened and she put one hand over her mouth when she saw the contents of the box.
"Oh, E.J., it's beautiful. It's a…don't tell me. Oh, I can't think of the name."
"It's a Claddagh. Some folks call it the Irish Wedding Ring. Do you know the story of the Claddagh?"
She shook her head, her eyes riveted on the ring.
"Take it out and let me tell you a story."
She did as requested and held it by the gold band between her thumb and forefinger. I went around behind her so I could point out the facets of the ring.
"There are three parts to the Claddagh. See these two things on either side of the face that look like fingers?" She nodded. "Those represent hands, which symbolize the first part--friendship.
"And above the hands, what do you see?"
Annie tilted her head to the side for a second. "Well, the two gems appear to be sitting on top of something so it looks kind of like a crown."
I gave her shoulder a little squeeze. "Exactly. That's the crown, which symbolizes the second part--loyalty. And now for the third part there in the middle."
"Oh that's easy. The gem in the middle's a heart."
I stepped to face her and took the ring in one hand and her right hand in the other. I looked into her eyes.
With wide eyes, she nodded.
"The heart is the third, and most important part." I slipped the ring on.
"It symbolizes love."
The ring in place, I took her hand and kissed it. "Those are the three parts of the Claddagh--hands for friendship, crown for loyalty, and heart for love. This ring symbolizes my pledge to you. It's a pledge to be your best friend, to be loyal to you and to love you unconditionally. Happy Valentine's Day."
She held her hand out so the ring could catch the light from the candles and the tea lights. "Oh, E.J. It's absolutely beautiful. The heart, is it--"
"And the clear stones in the crown?"
Annie's eyes moved from the ring to me. She started to say something and then stopped. Instead, she eased her seat back and stood. She blinked a couple of times and took a deep breath. Then she threw her arms around me and buried her head in my chest.
"Thank you E.J. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it." She looked into my eyes then kissed me, a long slow kiss that between the candles and the setting, was the most romantic kiss I'd ever shared.