Zayne nearly jumped at the sound of a gasp from the living room. He’d been so lost in his thoughts that he’d nearly forgotten he was not alone.
“Oh my God!” Hope cried. It was impossible to tell whether it was from alarm or excitement.
He abandoned his knife and cutting board, approaching his girlfriend uncertainly. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes!” She replied, beaming. “Sorry… I may have gotten a little over-excited. Peter just sent me the proofs from that shoot in Paris a few weeks ago. Remember that one?”
Zayne nodded, smiling. It was the shoot that had fallen on the weekend of Dahlia’s birthday. He didn’t know all the details, but he knew a shoot like that was huge for Hope. That Elle cover had changed everything, it seemed. He’d never seen her get as many high-profile job offers as she’d been getting lately… And he’d also never seen her happier. He loved it.
“You have to see these. I told you this guy’s a genius…” She continued, jumping up from the couch and closing the distance between them. Zayne leaned close to her as she held out her phone, and looked down at the images on the screen. They were breathtaking. “Beautiful, right?” Hope grinned.
“He did an amazing job. You look stunning.” Zayne replied seriously. “Of course, you’d look that way no matter what.” He added, smiling.
Hope laughed. “Trying to butter me up or something?” She teased.
“Just telling the truth.” He gave her a small smile. “But yes, those pictures are incredible.”
She leaned forward to plant a soft kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for indulging me. And sorry for interrupting the master at work.” Hope laughed.
Zayne glanced over his shoulder at the abandoned beginnings of their dinner. “It can wait.” He shrugged. “I, um… I actually had something I wanted to talk to you about anyway…” A sudden twisting sensation crept up in his stomach. You’re gonna have to tell her eventually. Guess I should get it over with…
“Oh?” Hope sat back onto the couch, looking up at him expectantly.
“Yeah, I was gonna wait til after dinner, but I guess now’s as good a time as any…” Zayne let out a small, nervous laugh as he took a seat beside her.
The smile slowly faded from Hope’s face. “Zayne, is everything okay? You’re making me kind of nervous.”
“It’s nothing bad!” He assured her quickly, forcing a small smile to alleviate her fears. “Well… I hope it’s not bad, at least… I mean, it could be. We’ll see.” Zayne muttered.
His girlfriend shook her head, chuckling slightly. “Just tell me!”
Zayne took a deep breath. “I gave my notice at work today.”
“I quit.” He explained. “I just… can’t work there anymore.”
To his surprise, a bright smile spread across Hope’s face at his words. She reached forward, pulling him close for a moment and pressing her lips to his. “This is amazing. I’m so proud of you!” She said as they broke apart.
“You… You are?”
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” She asked. “You were miserable, and you finally did something about it. That’s awesome!”
For a moment, Zayne almost laughed. He really should have known better than to be so nervous. Of course Hope would support him – she always did. “Thanks.” He replied at last, relieved. “I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be a mistake or something… I kinda have no idea how I’m gonna do it, but…” Zayne took a deep breath, his smile widening. “I think I wanna open my own restaurant.”
Hope’s entire face lit up. “I was hoping you’d say that. This is perfect!”
“You really think I can do it?”
“Of course!” She smiled. “I know much you’ve wanted this.”
“And…” Zayne hesitated for a moment. “You’re not mad? About money, I mean…” He muttered uncomfortably. “I know we split everything now… And I can probably still help out…” He thought of all the money his parents had left for him, still untouched after all these years. It sounded like so much on paper, but Zayne knew how deceptive that could be, once expenses started piling up. Still, he was sure he could spare some to help shoulder the burden of their living expenses.
“Are you talking about your inheritance?” Hope shook her head. “Save it for the restaurant. I can take care of things for a while.”
She nodded. “Just pay me back in lobster tortellini and grilled salmon and we’ll call it even.”
“Deal.” He beamed at her. “Though tonight you’ll have to settle for stir fry. Sorry.”
“I think I’ll manage.” Hope laughed. “God, I’m just so happy you’re doing this, Zayne.” She continued seriously. “This is going to be the best decision you’ve ever made. I know it.”
“Well thank you for helping me make it.” He replied. “I don’t think I ever could have worked up the courage to do this on my own. Not without you helping me.”
Hope just shrugged. “I may have done a little poking and prodding… But you’re the one who was brave enough to actually take the plunge.”
“I’m definitely glad I took it.” Zayne laughed. “This sure as hell won’t be easy though…” He sighed. “I’ve already done a little research, and it all sounds so complicated. I know it’ll be worth it, but I’m definitely gonna have to work my ass off for this.”
“Like you said though, it’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” She assured him. “Just promise me one thing?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“Don’t get too carried away while you’re busy working your ass off.” She teased. “Make sure there’s a little left for me.”