Not wanting to interrupt, I give him some privacy and walk through the cabin and out the sliding glass door off the living room. I lean against the banister at the edge of the deck and breathe in the crisp fall air. The view is amazing. There are nothing but treetops and twinkling lights as far as the eye can see. I love the beach; it’s one of my favorite places in the world. But I could definitely get used to being surrounded by the forest.

The sliding glass door opens behind me, and Tyler comes out. Judging by the look on his face, the phone call wasn’t a good one. “Is everything okay?”

“Dad’s pissed at me for the way I spoke to Mom. He wants me to apologize to her.” I bite the inside of my cheek. He was harsh with his mom, but I understand why he was. I hope his mom and dad do too. He comes closer, fitting his front to my back. “He also said that no one but family will be at the house tomorrow. That I shouldn’t worry about that, and neither should you.”

“That’s good, right?” I ask, feeling that his muscles are still tight with tension.

“Yeah, except he didn’t say anything about Mom being sorry for the way she acted toward you, so I’m not sure what we’ll be walking into tomorrow.” He sighs, and I turn around to face him, holding on to his waist.

“Whatever happens, it will be okay.”

He closes his eyes and drops his forehead to mine. “I won’t put up with anyone disrespecting you, Leah, and that includes my mom.”

I give his waist a squeeze and wait until he looks at me. “Let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just see how things go tomorrow.”

“Are you always so optimistic?” he asks, pulling his forehead away from mine and curving his hand around my jaw. He runs his thumb across my chin and the edge of my bottom lip.

My nose scrunches. “No . . . or I haven’t been before.” I give a slight shrug. “With you, things are different. I don’t want to think about the bad stuff that might or might not happen; I just want to be with you and enjoy each moment we have together.” I rest the side of my head against his chest and slide my hands around his waist, holding on to him tightly. “I have to believe things will work out and that your mom will come around. Not for me, but for you, because you deserve that from her.”

I feel his lips at the top of my head, then listen to him whisper, “Fuck, I love you.” I tip my head back and kiss his jaw. “Let’s go eat.”

“Finally,” I sigh dramatically. “I thought I’d have to beg you to feed me.”

He chuckles, and we go into the house. After helping me with my coat, he gets his on; then we get in his truck. The drive into town takes about fifteen minutes longer than it should, because I point out a street to Tyler that’s already lit with Christmas lights, and Tyler turns in so we can take in all the houses and decorations.

When we finally reach the center of town, Tyler parks in one of the empty lots. He explains that we’ll have to walk, because there will be no parking where we’re going. After we both get out, he takes my hand in his and leads me down a busy sidewalk packed with people. I’m surprised by the number of people out and about, shopping and eating at the local restaurants the night before Thanksgiving. My hometown is a ghost town the night before a big holiday, and the only place people seem to be is at the grocery store, getting last-minute supplies so they won’t have to go to the store in the morning before it closes for the day.

“This place is amazing,” I tell Tyler as we head down Main Street. The silver light poles every few feet are wrapped with red ribbon, making them look like candy canes, and each and every shop we pass has the windows painted with holiday scenes as Christmas carols are heard coming from overhead speakers.

“You like it?” Tyler looks down at me when we stop at a red light.

“It’s magical.” I glance around. “I feel like I’m on the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie.”

He looks around, and I wonder what he’s thinking. “I never thought of it like that before. I guess I got so used to it I didn’t really see it for anything more than the town I grew up in.”

“I get that.” I squeeze his hand. “After living in Mount Pleasant for so long, I don’t really think about the fact that one of the most beautiful beaches around is a stone’s throw away from my house. I think we all tend to take things for granted when they’re available to us anytime. For instance, I have a friend who lives in New York, and she’s never been to see the Statue of Liberty. I tell her all the time she needs to go. People save their whole lives to vacation in New York just so they can see it, and it’s just a cab and boat ride away for her.”