"And the happy bunnies danced on the happy bunny lawn," Melanie Lewis read to Callie Malucci. The eight-year-old's face lit up at hearing her favorite childhood story. "This is such a cute story."
"I love it!" Callie smiled, and Melanie leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
"And I love you, Callie," she said. Melanie truly loved Dave and Callie. She hoped that they would always be a part of her life. Dave entered the room at that moment.
"Callie, you got Melanie to read you 'Claire's Bunny?'" Dave was surprised. Callie usually liked reading out loud to him and Melanie.
"I decided to spoil her a bit tonight," Melanie said as she rose and Dave put his arms around her.
"Time for bed, Cal," Dave stated, then leaned in and kissed Callie on both cheeks. "I love you, pumpkin."
"Love you too, Dad," Callie said. She was spending the weekend with Dave and was overjoyed at having Melanie join them. She secretly wished every night for her dad to marry Melanie and someday, make Callie a big sister.
"Sweet dreams," Melanie kissed Callie on the forehead and tucked her into bed. As she and Dave left the room, Melanie turned on the nightlight and closed the door.
Melanie and Dave collapsed onto the sofa, both tired after a long day at work. Dave once again wrapped his arms around Melanie and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I could stay like this all night long," Melanie sighed. Dave kissed her cheek.
"Why don't you stay over tonight?" he asked. Melanie wrinkled her nose, as she often did when she was pondering a thought.
"I'm not sure," she said. "What about Callie? I don't think it would be right for me to be here, Dave."
"Callie loves you, Mel," Dave replied.
"And I adore her," Melanie stated. "But we're not married. We're not even engaged. I don't think it would be right for me to stay over night. I don't want to set a bad example for Callie." Dave smiled and wrapped his arms tighter around Melanie.
"That is one reason I love you so much," he said. "You always think about others first. And the fact that you love Callie so much...I can't tell you what that means to me." Melanie entwined her fingers with Dave's and smiled.
"I wish she were my daughter," Melanie said softly. She was surprised to hear herself state that out loud. Many times, after spending the day with Dave and his daughter, Melanie had wished to have a little girl just like Callie. "I mean, Stephanie is a great mom to her...I didn't mean that she wasn't - "
"I know what you meant," Dave interrupted, and kissed her on the lips. He stroked Melanie's hair. "Do you ever think about the future?"
"All the time," Melanie replied.
"Am I part of that future?" Dave asked. Melanie turned around and grinned.
"You," she began, "are my future. You and Callie." Dave kissed Melanie.
"I love you," he said. Melanie relaxed in his arms.
"I love you, too," she said. She turned around and looked at Dave again. "You're exhausted."
"Long day in the ER," he replied. He stifled a yawn and Melanie rose from the sofa.
"I should get going," she stated. "It's dark out already." Dave walked Melanie to the door. He held out her coat and she put it on, and then opened the door. "Thanks for dinner."
"Thanks for reading to Callie," he said, and laughed. "She loves that bunny book so much." Melanie smiled.
"It was my pleasure," she said. "I'll call you tomorrow, okay? What time does your shift start?"
"Weaver was actually nice enough to give me tomorrow off," Dave said. "She knows that Callie is here for the weekend."
"Ahh, see, I was right, she can be nice," Melanie said. "Susan is off too, so maybe we can get together for lunch."
"Sounds great," Dave said. "I owe your cousin and Luka a lot. They're the ones who introduced me to the love of my life." Melanie blushed. Even after dating Dave for months, she was still a bit shy when he flattered her. Dave leaned in to kiss her once more that night. "I love you, Melanie Lewis. I hope one day that'll be Melanie Malucci."
"I love the sound of that," she said softly, and stroked his face. "I love you, Dave." The two leaned in for another kiss that night. Dave walked Melanie to the elevator, which was near his apartment door. They kissed one more time and then Dave watched as Melanie until the elevator doors closed. Dave looked up the ceiling.
"Thank you, God," he said. "I don't know what I did to deserve Melanie, but thank you!! I'm in love!!" Dave practically skipped back to his apartment, happier than ever.