Happiness at Last?
Destiny peered inside the black stretch limo and saw the familiar outline of Hunter's imposing physique. Shocked at seeing him, she began to stammer, "Hunter! Wh-where have you . . . why haven't you . . . w-what happened to . . . why are you in a . . . a ? . . ."
"I think you'd better get in," he said, opening the door.
Destiny gracefully eased her lithe frame into the limo and looked into Hunter's kind, strong face. There were so many things she wanted to ask him, so many questions left unanswered, yet all she wanted to do right now was kiss him. She craved his lips the way she sometimes craved a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with the smooth kind of peanut butter, on whole wheat.
He swept her into his manly arms and kissed her full, noncollagen-enhanced mouth passionately.
"Hunter," she whispered when they finally came up for air. "Hunter. Where have you been? And why are you in a limo--wearing an Armani suit?"
"It's Hugo Boss, actually," he replied. "It's a long story. The important thing is, the charges against you have been dropped. My attorney and I spoke to the DA and explained exactly what happened. At this very moment, Oliver Sneddley is being arrested for kidnapping, drugging us, reckless driving, using a gasoline-powered leaf blower and embezzling corporate funds to pay for his expensive tea habit. Seems he was into the exotic, imported stuff. He's off to the pokey, the big house, the slammer, the black hole, the clink, up the river. . . ."
"He's going to prison, Destiny."
"Oh. What about Chad?"
"Chad's not a bad kid, he's just greedy and obnoxious. He's going to testify against Sneddley, so I'm giving him .015% of Cuppa Joe's and also getting him a job managing the Beverly Hills Ermenegildo Zegna store. He'll start as soon as he can pronounce it."
"But, Hunter," Destiny said, her emerald green orbs burning into his dilated pupils. "Why did you run off that night Sneddley kidnapped us? Who are those men with you in the photographs in your wallet? And why didn't you tell me who you really are?"
"I went to get help, but when I returned you were already gone," Hunter explained. "The men in the pictures? One was my old college roommate; the one by the pool was my cousin. And I didn't tell you who I was when we first met because I was ashamed of my family, Des, and how they ran the business. A few years ago I cut all ties with them and opened the pet store. Besides, all my life I felt people were nice to me because of my stock portfolio. You were the first person who liked me for me. But now . . ." he said, cradling her delicate face in his baseball-glove-sized hand, "everything's changed."
"Oh, Hunter," Destiny sighed as she nestled her head on his broad chest.
The limo came to a stop and Destiny looked up.
"Where are we?"
"At the beach. C'mon, I have something to ask you."
Destiny's heart raced as she followed him out of the limo. "Something to ask me?" she said to herself. "Maybe he wants to know a good place for dinner. Or maybe. . . ."
The sun was low on the horizon, casting shades of apricot, coral and rose upon the billowing clouds. A cool breeze surrounded the pair as they made their way on the sand, past the "WARNING! BEACH CLOSED DUE TO SEVERELY CONTAMINATED WATER" sign.
Hunter stopped, turned toward Destiny and took her hands in his.
"Destiny, I realize that you and I don't really know each other that well . . . but somehow I feel that we were meant to be. I know it sounds crazy, I . . ."
"No, Hunter, it doesn't sound crazy at all! I feel the same way about you."
"You do?" Hunter smiled, relieved, and squeezed her hands.
"Then maybe you won't think I'm a complete psycho-insane-schizo-nut for asking you. . . . Will you marry me?"
With the question barely finished, Destiny suddenly felt as if her knees were made out of Jell-O. But not the green kind. As much as she hoped he'd utter those four little words, she still couldn't believe it. Was this all a dream? Was he really proposing? And they hadn't even had a real first date! And she hadn't even had a chance to use "The Rules" on him!
But there was something bigger looming in her thoughts, something that suddenly clouded her nearly flawless features.
"Destiny, what's wrong?" Hunter asked, dismayed by her worried countenance.
"Hunter, I-I can't marry you. There's something I haven't told you . . . I haven't exactly been honest about my past, either."
"What is it?" he asked, the horrible possibilities racing through his mind. Had she posed for Playboy? Ferret Monthly? Was her name really Bertha? Was that really a perm?
"I-I . . . oh, Hunter, it was a long time ago." The words tumbled out like rocks on a Malibu hillside. "I was new in the city, stuck in a horrible job, didn't know a soul. I was in the depths of depression. So in a weak moment I signed up with . . . Great Expectations."
Destiny was almost sobbing now, staring down at the sand.
"Well, hey, that's not so bad!"
"But that's not all. I began dating a few guys, nothing serious. But then it became an obsession. I went through the whole roster. Every single guy in the county. Tall guys, short guys, bald guys, hairy guys, guys named Norbert and Joe and Dylan and Tiny, guys who drove Porsches and Pintos, guys who were doctors and lawyers and--yes--an Indian chief! Guys who didn't know that Patty Duke ever had her own show! Guys who brought me balloons instead of flowers! Guys who . . ."
"OK, OK, I get it," Hunter said. "So, those guys, you mean you . . . did you? . . ."
"No! I never went out on more than one date with any of them! But I was worried that you'd still think I was . . . easy."
Hunter laughed, tossing his head back so that his tousled locks caught the last rays of the sunset.
"Oh, Destiny, my sweet, sweet Destiny. I don't care about those men. Well, not that much anyway. What matters is you and me, right now. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. And I hope we can spend them together. So I'll ask you again. Destiny Bettencourt, will you marry me?"
Destiny locked her eyes onto his, for an instant seeing infinity and getting slightly dizzy.
"Yes, Hunter French Roast Simone. I'll marry you."
Hunter scooped his bride-to-be up in his arms and twirled her around.
"Whooooo-hooooo! I'm king of the world!" he yelled, scaring the nearby sea gulls.
"I love you, Hunter," Destiny sighed as she kissed him.
"I love you too, boo-boo binky bear," Hunter said, hoping it wasn't too soon for sickeningly cute pet names. "Now, what say we go get a latte?"
"Sounds good to me."
Avoiding the dead fish, washed-up trash and puddles of toxic waste, the two walked hand in hand into the beautiful California sunset.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
"Destiny's Chastity" author Veronique Delacroix-Smith wishes to thank several Times staff writers for their extensive input and guidance (and for writing the darned thing). In order of their chapters: Jeannine Stein (first and last chapters), Michael Quintanilla, Beverly Beyette, Roy Rivenburg, Martin Miller, Lynn Smith, Shari Roan, Chris Erskine, Bill Plaschke and Barbara Thomas.
ON THE WEB
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