“I’m going to protect you. And I’m going to love you. Forever, baby.” Liam covers my hand with his and surprises me by going down on his knee. “Marry me, Amy. I need you in my life.” He reaches under the table again and I gasp as he produces a small velvet box, opening the lid to display a perfect round pale pink diamond that seems to spiral into a star inside. “Delicate and perfect, like you.”
My fingers curl around the journal, tears of joy welling in my eyes. “It’s the most gorgeous ring I’ve ever seen.” My lips curve. “But I’m not delicate. If you think I can’t kick your ass, Liam Stone, you’re wrong.”
He wipes away a tear that escaped. “Marry me, and you’ll have a lifetime to prove it.”
“Since you put it that way.” I laugh. “Yes. I’ll marry you.”
“How about New Year’s Eve?”
“That’s less than two weeks away!”
“It’s too long as far as I’m concerned, but I was thinking New Year, new beginnings.”
“Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”
Liam slides the ring on my finger and we both stare at it for several seconds, as if neither of us can believe we are finally here in this moment. This feels so right.
He leans in, whispering, “I love you,” the rasp of his goatee teasing my cheek, his lips an erotic promise of the kiss that follows. But when his tongue makes a caress into my mouth, it’s so much more. It’s a tender, sweet connection I feel in every part of me, but most importantly deep in my soul, where he has begun coloring that rainbow I know will be our life together.
When his mouth leaves mine, he sits on the couch and indicates the journals. “I know you’re dying to read them. How about I go and make us some coffee?”
Touched, I’m convinced he knows me in a way I never believed another person could. “That sounds wonderful. Perfect, actually.”
He kisses my temple and stands, striding away from me in that graceful, powerful way that he does. I watch him leave, a surreal feeling rolling over me. He’s going to be my husband. I’m going to be his wife. This house is my home. “I love you, too.”
Opening one of the journals, I start to read, immediately lost in my father’s words. I’m sad that my parents won’t be at my wedding, but joyful to have this piece of them with me. And I’m laughing at my father’s words, his bold personality jumping off the page, as Liam returns, handing me a cup of perfect coffee.
“I see you’re enjoying the journals,” he observes, sitting next to me.
“My father called me, Chad, and himself the Three Musketeers.”
“And your mother?”
“The damsel in distress. That’s why I was laughing. She hated it. He did it to egg her on.” I have a flash of finding her kissing Rollin Scott, trying to free my father from a debt he’d owed; my stomach clenches and I shove the image away. “She was . . . strong, too much sometimes.”
He touches my chin. “There is nothing wrong with being strong. You’re strong. She taught you right.”
“Like your mother did you?” I ask, thinking of how she battled an abusive husband, and then struggled as a single parent with cancer.
“Yes.” There’s a hoarseness to his voice. “Like my mother did me.” But he doesn’t elaborate the way I hope. He sips his coffee and sets it down before leaning against the armrest. “Come here,” he says, motioning for me to join him.
I sip my coffee as well and crawl into the cocoon of his body, resting my back against his chest. “Tell me about your family,” he orders.
I welcome the challenge, reciting the passage that had made me laugh, pleased when his response is that warm, rich chuckle I find so sexy. I start reading him random entries, and he encourages me to share my own stories. It’s as perfect as the ring and the man. Because only Liam Stone would understand that the best way to start my future is with a little piece of my past.
Go Bold or Stay Home
THE NEXT MORNING I STAND IN the kitchen, a cup of coffee in my hand, a smile on my lips as I wait for Liam to return from his meeting with Josh. I’m still riding the high from Liam’s proposal yesterday and the fun we’d had decorating the tree. I even put on a pale pink lace long-sleeved top with my black jeans and boots today, to match the diamond on my finger. Liam picked a special ring and I want him to know how much I love it, and him. Missing him, I grab my cell phone from the counter and glance at the time—eleven o’clock—eager for an update on the meeting, now two hours long. I’m remarkably at peace with the decision to bring Josh into this, now convinced it’s the right move.
I’m also unsurprised that we weren’t able to reach Chad to talk about it. My brother believes that staying off everyone’s radar, including ours, will protect us.
My phone beeps with a text, and I set my cup down and quickly push the button, thinking it’s Liam. Instead, it’s a message from Tellar: I’m here. Don’t freak when the alarm buzzes. He’s never warned me before; does he think I’m spending my first few hours of solitude in months running around naked? I’m about to reply when the garage door buzzes with a security warning.
I refill my cup to hear “Morning, Sunshine” behind me, and Tellar rounds the island and makes a beeline for the coffeepot.
“What if I had been naked? You didn’t wait for my reply.”