Vivian tried to hide how startled she was at Henry’s proposal. Of course she remembered the quiet boy who she and James had been best friends with since childhood. He was always tall and skinny, but with all the weight he’d lost, he looked like a scarecrow. She wasn’t sure she liked his short army haircut. It didn’t seem like Henry for him not to have an unruly mop of dark, curly hair falling in his eyes.
“You’re talking crazy. Why would you want to do a foolish thing like marry me?”
Henry’s hazel gaze became intense as he started to reach out to touch her then drew back. “I was with James when he died. His last words to me were, ‘Take care of Vivian.’ I’ve always been fond of you.” He bit his lip and looked away.
Vivian touched his arm. “It’s not fair to saddle you with a wife because of this promise you made.”
“I don’t have anyone left. I want a wife and a family. I promised James. Say yes.”
He made it sound so easy, and his pleading eyes compelled her to agree, but they didn’t love each other. “I can’t, Henry. It wouldn’t be right.”
“I don’t know how you could say that.” Henry tipped back on his heels and gave her a slight grin. “People have been getting married for centuries without love entering into it. We are friends. Isn’t that a good start?”
“I don’t know what to say. I’m not ready to even think about caring for anyone else. I’m still grieving James.”
“If you give me a chance, we can make this work.” This time Henry did hold her hand. “We’ll marry, and you can move into my place. I’ll provide for you, but we’ll have separate bedrooms. I’ll give you the time you need. When you’re ready to be my wife…” He blushed. “I’ll give you the time you need.”
Vivian touched her chest. Her breathing shallowed until she’d become lightheaded. “Can you give me time to think on it?”
Henry grinned. “I’ll be back tomorrow.” He descended the stairs and turned down the hallway until he ebbed out of her sight.
His footsteps clacked against the wooden floor, the sound of hope shuffling back into her life. She wiped the tears from her face. She didn’t even know why she was considering this. He didn’t love her, and she didn’t love him. Henry was always in the background, not the kind of man you considered marrying. Maybe she could learn to care for him that way.
When he came back tomorrow, she would say yes.
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