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“Maker,” Cullen gasped, rising up onto one hand, digging the fingers of the other hand into Nevena’s hip as she rocked against him. She supported herself with her hands around his shoulders, clutching to the muscles of his back. “You’re beautiful.”

Sweat beaded between her breasts, and trickled down over her stomach and abdomen. He shifted his legs between her thighs for comfort and she lurched forward, giggling. The noise sent vibrations down through her body and they tingled around him like the tiny ripples of lightning magic that sometimes came loose from her fingertips.

Sitting straight, he grasped both her hips and controlled her movement as she pressed her forehead against his, breathing hard. Her arms descended further down his back. She pressed her breasts against him and he could feel the throb of her heartbeat, as familiar to him as his own.

Nevena rolled against him, following the guidance of his hands. Taking him inside her slow and deep. Her heat intoxicating around him, every movement, every clench of her muscles driving him closer to his brink.

The burning, pleasurable twisting in his stomach bubbled and begged to be released. 

Cullen waited. 

He drew on his stamina, on his Templar training and waited, riding out the enjoyment of being inside her just that much longer. Revelling in her being alive and safe and his.

Little moans of pleasure arose from her throat when he scraped the fingers of one hand down her back. Nevena shuddered against him and insistently crushed her mouth to his, forcing quick gasps of air through her nose.

The strained noises she made were muffled, but he heard every single one. They were noises meant for him. Noises he adored because he knew they came from how he made her feel. How his being buried inside her made her feel.

“Love you,” Nevena mumbled against his mouth, breathless. Her eyes were half-hooded but bright, locked with his as she rocked against him. Fire burned in them and her blonde hair clung to the sweat of her forehead, to the back of her neck and to her shoulders. “Cullen-!”

Cullen clenched his hands into the flesh of her backside. “Love you,” he replied, his voice trembling and his control almost completely gone. His muscles tightened, he gritted his jaw, his gut constricted and it was all amazing.

Amazing inside and around her.

Nevena’s smell enveloped him. Her touch ignited invisible flames across his skin as her fingers trailed across the familiar scars that littered his body. Her lips were a welcome torment, muffling his ragged breaths and the words of reverent adoration that fell from his lips like rain with every stolen gasp of air.

Her hands encircled his face and her lips hovered over his as her temple pressed against his. Their breath mingled, and in that instance it was so much better than a kiss because he was able to see the adoration she felt for him in her eyes and on her face.

Adoration he had never expected to see anyone show him or for anyone to feel so completely for him.

“Maker’s breath,” Cullen grunted, adjusting his speed and thrusting into her from below while she rotated her hips in his lap. Her hands slid into his hair, around behind his neck, fingernails digging into the top of his back. “Nevena—”

She gasped a vague response of affectionate words and murmurs that Cullen could barely make out, but the tone of her voice was loving and wonderful and just for him.

“I love you,” Cullen told her again, his voice straining while he arched his head back. Nevena nibbled at his neck, twisting her fingers up into his hair.

He held her body tightly to his and rolled them to lay above her. Her little cry of surprise quickly replaced with laughter and then his mouth smothering hers swallowing further sound.

Her legs hooked tight around his hips as he knelt above her, one arm under her bottom to rise her hips off the bed. He drove into her slowly, biting his lip and breathing deeply to keep a rhythm.

He watched her dig one hand into her hair, the other into the sheets beneath her. The heels of her feet dug into the backs of his thighs as she leaned up on her shoulders arching up towards the ceiling.

One of Cullen’s hands wound up over her thighs, across her abdomen to cup and fondle at her breasts, teasing her flesh with his fingers until her hand snatched his and she squeezed his fingers between hers.

Splayed out behind her, her hair looked like a matted halo, the enchanted glowing lights she favoured shining off of it.

Her skin shone with her sweat, and her gaze up at him was half-hazy and feverish with delight. Her lips curved into a small smile. The smile that came from right inside herself, the secret smile of hers that he adored. Another of the little pieces of her that are meant only for him.

“You are amazing,” he told her, his lips on the flesh of her abdomen, voice weighted and dispersing into a grunt when she tightened around him. “Beautiful,” he added breathless, moaning.

Supporting her hips, Cullen continued to thrust into her as he barely managed to kiss his way up her torso. He bit down gently on the mounds of her breasts, biting and nibbling at the soft flesh. He curved his free hand around the base of her skull.

Nevena’s legs locked behind him, guiding him inside her with every stroke. Buried inside her, she rocked her hips against him with each slow thrust.

He licked her skin, tasting the salt of her sweat on his tongue and continued upwards. He nipped at her collar bone and at her neck, biting down harder on the lobe of her ear and almost growling against her as she arced her head back with his hand enmeshed within her hair.

“I love you,” Cullen gasped kissing her hard. He slid his tongue between her lips and the low moan he was rewarded with caused him to smirk.

His hips bucked and jerked when he reached his height. He buried his face into her neck for a moment, thrusting erratically.

The word he tried to say was her name. What escaped his lips was nothing like it, but just as ardent and impassioned.

“Marry me.” Cullen groaned against her skin, and then raised his head, crushing his lips to hers once more, his body shaking under the intensity of it all.

“Marry me.” He all but begged, between the breaths he stole when their lips parted.

“Marry me.” His hips slowed and came to a stop. He lay between her legs, breathing fast. Her chest rose and fell under his and she returned his kisses lazily.

“I love you.” Cullen sighed, and pressed his sweaty forehead to her, his eyes closing blissfully. “Marry me.”

A moment of pause and then Nevena’s body jerked beneath him.

“What?”

Realisation dawned on him, what he had said. What he had asked and fear suddenly sank into his stomach like a stone. His limbs, that were a moment ago warm and light were suddenly chilled and solid like rock. As if ice was spreading throughout his veins.

Slowly, Cullen lifted his head and met her gaze.

Her eyes were wide, eyebrows risen and her mouth curved into such an expression of  bewilderment and unease that his gut twisted and suddenly he felt sick.

He could feel his mouth open and found himself unable to swallow. His throat closed over, it felt dry and cracked. When he tried to squeeze a word from his vocal chords he managed something akin to the bleat of a goat.

He slipped out of her as Nevena rose to kneel up and face him.

She grabbed a blanket that was tangled around them and covered herself up. Something in his chest twinged painfully. She’d not done that, hidden herself away from him, since the early days of their physical relationship. Her eyes were wide and beyond the shock and the disbelief, there was something like terror within them.

“What did you just say?”

Cullen’s mouth moved, opened and closed several times but nothing came out. He stared at her dumbly and raked his fingers through his mussed hair several times. He pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes until his vision was only different coloured spots.

“Cullen?” Nevena said softly. He could hear a tremble in her voice. Fear? Trepidation? Confusion? “What did you just ask me?” Anger?

He groaned, bending over himself and took a long breath.

“I-I’m sorry. I-I-I didn’t…” His shoulders shook and he started to breath hard. He tried to focus on something, the smell of the sheets, the air around him cooling his skin. Something to ground him and calm him down. “I-it wasn’t— I m-mean… Please— I’m- I’m sorry— sorry…” His words were hard to get out, he could barely think or hear himself think. Forming words was hard, breathing was hard, not feeling like an utter fool was hard.

The silence dragged.

Nevena didn’t speak, and he couldn’t bare look at her. He didn’t know what he would see reflected back at him if he did.

Cullen had wanted to ask her to marry him, that wasn’t the problem.

For weeks he had considered asking, but with Corypheus looming over them, the threat of the end of the world, it had seemed unfair to ask her before battle. To spring something on her so suddenly when they had both been unsure of her survival - it had seemed to him a selfish act.

Her victory had meant his plan could go ahead.

To take her to South Reach to meet his family and then onto Honnleath, to his lake where he had taken her before. He had planned it all, to kneel, what he would say, even down to the time of day.

Twilight, when the moon was rising just right and coloured the water silver as it pierced through the trees. It was Spring, it meant that the flowers were at the perfect stage of blooming and their smell would be in the air.

She deserved moonlight, romance, soft words, flowers and awe stricken veneration. Not what he had just given her. A blurted, clumsy proposal in the heat of climax that hung in the air like a curse.

He had been overcome, that she was safe and there was no longer a risk of her dying. Not now that Corypheus was gone and she had been victorious. She had returned to him alive, breathing, his.

In the heat of it all, in the throes of his feelings the it had simply spilled out of his mouth unceremoniously. No preamble, no loving words, no perfect setting. Just plain, and blunt, and thoughtless - brutish even.

When he felt her fingers in his hair his heart jumped in his chest. He glanced at her through his fingers, not really wanting to see the expression on her face, but too afraid of the dragging silence any longer.

“I-I’m sorry— I really didn’t mean—”

“Shh.” Nevena hushed him.

Her gaze had softened, no longer scared. There was no disgust directed at him, like he had expected to see. No sense of the loathing he had thought she might suddenly feel now she realised what an utter buffoon he was.

He saw her lips twitch to one side, a small smile gracing her features. Her hand trailed down his arm, and along until her fingers wound around his and she tempted his hands away from his face.

“Yes.”

The word rang in his ears and he rose up suddenly, unaware that he clenched his hand around hers. He stared at her, swallowing hard at the lump in his throat. His mouth hung open, now from shock rather than from being aghast at his awful sense of timing.

Had she just…?

“Yes?” He repeated tentatively. “Did you..?”

Nevena nodded, “yes.” She dropped the covers from around her body, enveloping him within her embrace pressing against him when he leaned towards her. She nuzzled his neck, breathing in deeply. “I said, yes.” She murmured against his skin, pressing her lips along his neck and burying her face against him.

Cullen’s arms went around her. His hands settled into their familiar places in the small and the middle of her back.

He couldn’t talk, couldn’t form words even in his mind.

She had said yes.

There were no words. There was nothing to say, nothing else to add.

The silence around them was too perfect, too blissful, to consider breaking. Cullen nestled his face against her shoulder, breathing her in deeply.

They remained nestled together, making lazy, intimate caresses over the other in the warm, contented silence of their room for a long time after.