Youre the One that I Want | Chapter 19 of 30

Author: Susan May Warren | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1543 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 10

“SPILL THE BEANS, SCOTTY. Do you or do you not have the hots for my brother?” Eden sat cross-legged on a twin bed in the alcove of her old room, dressed in pajama pants and one of Jace’s oversize T-shirts. “Has he kissed you yet?”

“Eden, leave her alone. That’s none of our business.” Grace had just created a bed for her daughter, Yulia, on the floor. Scotty had tried to protest kicking Yulia out of the third bed, but Grace wouldn’t hear it.

“What’s perfectly unjust is the fact that Jace and Max have to sleep in the boys’ room when there’s a pullout in the den. I haven’t seen Max in nearly two weeks,” Grace said as she pulled the quilt over Yulia. “If only we weren’t full, I’d talk Darek into renting us a cabin.”

“Jace isn’t thrilled either, Grace. They just got back from three days on the road. But Mom seems to think that this is more fair —and with the entire family here, she’s probably right that there will be some late-night game viewing in the den on the agenda.”

Grace rolled her eyes. “I can’t wait until we close on the house. I’m sure you’ll be glad to get Max off the sofa in your living room.”

“I am a little tired of going to bed alone, listening to them yell at the screen.”

And as if on cue, a whoop ascended from the den downstairs, where the guys clustered around a Minnesota Wild game.

“Owen seems to be okay with having Max here,” Eden said to Grace, then glanced at Scotty. “Max was the one who caused Owen’s injury.”

“It wasn’t on purpose!” Grace said, shooting Eden a dark look before coming to sit next to Scotty on the bed. “They were in a fight and —”

“Owen told me,” Scotty said. “And he’s made peace with it.” Well, after today on the ice, maybe she couldn’t be sure of that, but none of his breakdown had included blaming Max. “He’s just trying to figure out what the rest of his life looks like.”

“Did he really dive into the ocean to save you?” Eden asked.

“Yep. And then, in the raft, he kept me alive by trying to get me to hope. Which is why he proposed. Your brother is a little —”

“Crazy?” Eden said.

“Passionate?” Grace suggested.

“Charming,” Scotty said, feeling her face redden. “And no, he didn’t kiss me on the raft.”

“Oh, my inner investigative reporter is kicking in,” Eden said. “You did kiss him. Just not on the raft.”

More laughter from below, and Scotty thought she heard Owen hooting as the Wild scored or perhaps simply stole the puck and made one of those breathtaking shots she’d seen from him.

Which only conjured up this afternoon and being caught in his arms. And wishing . . .

“Oh, you’ve got it bad,” Grace said.

“Why not? Owen is a charmer,” Eden said. “There’s a reason Hockey Today named him one of the most eligible rookies.”

“Wasn’t Jace also listed as one of the most eligible bachelors?”

“Not anymore,” Eden said. “But Owen —he has this way of getting under your skin. You can’t stay angry at him, at least not usually. I can admit we had a pretty good run there over the past year. But now that he’s back, I’m just so glad he’s okay.” Her eyes warmed. “Grace tells me we have you to thank for that. You gave him CPR? Kept him alive?”

Scotty nodded, dismissing the memory of her panic, the way she’d so completely crumbled and started begging heaven for help.

Apparently that’s what Owen did —made her break her own rules.

“So that’s when he proposed?” Grace said. “As he was dying?”

“I don’t think we should take that too seriously. We both agreed that it was impulsive. I am not the marrying kind of girl.” There, she said it, and maybe it would shut down the way these two were grinning at her.

“I didn’t think Jace was the marrying kind, but he is an amazing husband.”

“And Max said he never wanted to be a father, but he is putty around Yulia.”

“Love changes things, Scotty,” Eden said. “It’s changed Owen. I see the way he looks at you. Like when he came in tonight and you were making cookies.”

“He looked like he’d just walked onto the ice in his underwear in front of a hundred thousand fans. Totally flummoxed,” Grace said.

Scotty had to grin at that. Yeah, the poor man had stared at her as if he didn’t recognize her. For a while there, she hadn’t recognized herself. Cooking with Grace, with Ingrid, who simply handed her hot pads and a spatula like she knew exactly what to do in a kitchen.

“I’ve never made cookies in my life.”

“Really? You and your mother didn’t do holiday baking together?” Grace picked up a bottle of nail polish, shaking it. She put her foot on the bed.

“My mother died. In childbirth.”

Silence. See, that was why she didn’t go around making that announcement. “But it’s no big deal. My dad raised me. Red was . . . Well, I have to give him credit for trying. He didn’t exactly know what to do with a girl.”

She watched as Grace applied the polish, one red toe at a time. “Red is a fishing boat captain. Salty. Briny. He isn’t much for emotions and girlie things. And we had to survive. So he taught me how to clean and fry fish, how to make a fire, how to tend wounds, and how to stay alive in the wilderness. When he would go out fishing, he’d leave me with his best friend, my uncle Gil, and his wife. They had two sons who thought it might be fun to teach me how to hunt and throw a punch, and mostly I grew up as a boy. If it weren’t for my aunt Rosemary, I would have completely freaked out when I became a teenager and started looking like —and becoming —a woman. Even then, I thought like a guy. I started fishing with Red when I was nine, hanging out in the wheelhouse. I joined the crew, started working the deck when I was thirteen, although not the long shifts. By the time I was eighteen, I could captain a boat, throw line, reel in pots, sort crab —he made me his first mate.”

Grace had finished one foot and moved on to the other. “You really know how to sail one of those big boats?”


“But I thought Owen said you were a cop.” This from Eden.

“That was because of Red too. He had a heart attack a few years ago and I had to take the boat back to port during a winter gale. It knocked him out good, and he missed two seasons. I wanted to get a job on another boat, but he sort of reminded me that the captain being my father protected me from . . . Let’s just say that it’s not a great idea to be the only girl on a boat full of young, hardworking men.”

“I’ll bet,” Eden said.

“Uncle Gil is the Homer police chief, so Red talked him into hiring me. I attended officer training and started working for the Homer Police Department. Made detective last winter. By that time, the boat was in hock for his medical bills and Red was trying to regroup. He went out for the opie season —and that’s when he hired Owen on. I took a sabbatical from the force this fall to help him put in a final catch but . . .” She found herself looking out the window as the night fell through the trees. “Red is selling the boat. He was already thinking of selling, and although he won’t say it, I think it completely freaked him out when Owen and I went overboard.” She shook her head. “I keep telling him I can take over —that I should take over, but he won’t listen. I don’t have the money, really, to buy the boat, but he won’t even consider it.”

“Almost losing someone you love can undo you,” Eden said quietly.

“Which also accounts for why Owen went after you.” Grace closed the nail polish, waved her hands over her toes.

“I don’t think . . . I mean, Owen doesn’t . . .”

“Love you? Huh.”

“Here’s a tip about guys, Scotty,” Eden said, reaching for the bottle. “You gotta read between the words to the action. Diving into an icy sea? Yeah, that’s true love.” She unscrewed the top and began touching up her already-lacquered toenails.

“If that were true, he would have kissed me today when he had the chance.”

In the silence that followed, Scotty glanced at Grace, who had stopped waving her hands. “He had a chance to kiss you and didn’t?”

“Well, it wasn’t . . . He was . . .” She stopped there, not wanting to betray Owen and the way life had suddenly seemed to manhandle him. “We have these rules.”

“Rules?” Eden switched feet. “What kind of rules?”

“No kissing. Or holding my hand or impulsive overtures designed to make me fall for him.”

“And Owen is abiding by those rules?”

“I guess so.” She didn’t mean for it to sound . . . appalling. “Which is good. The last thing I need is to get confused about why I’m here.”

“Which is —”

“To clear your brother.”

Eden handed the bottle back to Grace. “Listen. Casper is going to be fine. Max and Jace brought up a lawyer, and he’s got this handled. According to Bryce, the evidence is circumstantial.”

“I heard the evidence. Yeah, it’s circumstantial, but with Casper’s history with Monte Riggs . . .”

“Like Owen said to Mom. Have a little faith,” Grace said. She handed the bottle to Scotty. “Your turn.”


“Get some polish on those naked toes.” Grace pointed to Scotty’s feet.

Scotty just held the bottle. “Um . . .”


“I’ve never . . . I don’t wear nail polish. Or makeup or . . .”

Grace’s hand touched her shoulder. “Give me your toes.”

Scotty frowned but put a foot up on the bed. Grace rolled up the cuffs of Scotty’s jeans, glancing at Eden. “Get my makeup bag.”

“What are you doing?”

“I get your rules, really. I mean, Owen has had some issues with self-control, but I think . . . well, I think you need to break your rules,” Grace said, opening the bottle. She looked up, wrinkled her nose. “Sorry. But you do. You like my brother. He likes you. And enough of you thinking you’re a boy. You’re a woman, a gorgeous one, and you’ll just have to convince Owen that you’re worth breaking the rules for.”

“How am I going to do that?” But she put her other foot on the bed, rolled the other cuff.

Grace grinned as she began to apply the polish. “We’re Christiansens. We know what our brothers like.”

Eden sat down beside them and began fishing through Grace’s bag. “Where do I start?”

“Maybe just a little mascara. We don’t want him to lose his ability to speak.”

Eden stood, poised above Scotty with a mascara brush. “Look sultry.”

“Look how?”

Grace laughed. “Look down your nose at me. And don’t flinch.”

With Eden tugging at her lashes, it seemed an impossible request.

“Your eyes just got ten times bigger.” Eden stepped back to survey her work. “Wow, I’m good.”

Grace had started on the other foot. “Lips. Just a little gloss, I think.”

Eden fumbled through the bag again, and Scotty just stared at them. True Christiansens, they had decided to dive in and rescue her from herself. Whether she needed, or wanted, rescue.

Although, when Eden pulled out her iPod and scrolled to a song, it felt suddenly like one of those weird, girlie slumber parties she remembered from Grease.

And she was Sandy, getting dolled up for Danny Zuko.

Except she’d willingly submitted. Maybe even enjoyed it.

“‘For all those times you stood by me. For all the truth that you made me see.’” Eden grabbed a hairbrush.

“Sing it, Celine!” Grace said, turning up the volume. Across the room, Yulia had sat up, grinning as her new mom joined in with Eden.

“‘You’re the one who held me up, never let me fall . . .’” Eden held out her hand. “C’mon, Scotty, let’s hear it —”

“I don’t know —”

“‘You were my strength when I was weak . . .’” Grace pulled her from the bed.

Wait, maybe . . . yes, she knew this. Scotty found her voice and joined in. “‘I’m everything I am because you loved me.’”

“That’s right!” Grace said and gestured to Yulia, who bounced out of bed, catching her hand. Eden pumped up the music as she and Grace harmonized on the next verse, their voices rising to fill the room.

“Hit the high note, Grace!” Eden said.

Scotty laughed when Grace hit a wobbly “‘I was blessed because I was loved by yooooou!’”

She caught onto the last chorus, and Eden launched into background embellishments, belting as if she were on a Vegas stage. “‘Because you loved meeeeeee.’”

The music faded out and Yulia clapped her hands, laughing.

“Okay, it’s back to bed for you, little miss,” Grace said.

Eden dug into the makeup bag as another song came on. “Stick out that pouty lip,” she said to Scotty.

Scotty obeyed, and Eden doctored her lips.

“So?” Scotty said, batting her eyes, a smile finding roost.

“Let’s put your hair up. Turn around.”

Eden pulled Scotty’s long hair into a messy bun. She finger-curled a few errant strands around her face. Then she took Scotty’s hand and led her over to the full-length mirror that stood in the corner. “You rule breaker, you.”

To her own eyes, Scotty’s neck suddenly seemed impossibly delicate, her eyes insanely huge, her lashes dark and long, her lips glistening with just a touch of pink.

Eden came back with a makeup brush. “Hold still,” she said and blushed Scotty’s cheeks. “Not that you’ll need it when Owen takes a look at you but . . .” She winked.

Scotty just stared. “I can’t believe . . .”

“That’s you? It is, but if it’s too much —” Grace suddenly wore chagrin on her face. “We didn’t mean to take over.”

“I like it,” Scotty said. “I just have never . . . I never had a reason to wear makeup.”

“What, you never went to prom or homecoming?”

“No. Red was . . . Well, I wasn’t allowed to date. Ever.” Scotty caught her lip in her teeth, turning away from the girl she didn’t recognize in the mirror. The girl who seemed pretty, feminine even . . . maybe marriage material. “Besides, who wants to go out with a girl who smells like crab or spends more time learning how to hunt than flirt?”

“You don’t need to flirt. Just be yourself. Because one thing Grace and I both forgot is that you —the fisherwoman, police officer version of you —are exactly the person Owen fell in love with. You don’t need any of this to get his attention. This is . . . icing on the cake.” Eden had gone to the closet. “How about a dress?”

“Ah, I think this will do,” Scotty said before things got too far out of hand.

“Okay, listen, I’m going to go downstairs and distract Max. Eden, you do the same with Jace, and you’ll have Owen to yourself,” Grace said.

“And then what do I do?”

“Let Owen handle the rest.”

Oh, boy.

Grace came up to her, turned her to face the mirror again. “Let’s say tonight you throw out your rules.”

“Within reason,” Eden added. “This is Owen we’re talking about.”

Scotty shook her head. “Owen’s changed. He’s not . . . He’s a gentleman. You should have seen him on the boat. He didn’t swear, kept the other guys from talking crude around me. And when he had a chance to kiss me, he didn’t. I didn’t even think he liked me until . . . well, the raft. And that was just because he was freaked out. Pure emotion, and . . . that’s not . . . real.”

She sighed as she looked in the mirror. “Neither is this. I can’t help but feel like I’m manipulating him.”

“You are,” Eden said. “That’s the fun part about being a girl having your man look at you like you turn his world inside out. Have you never read Song of Solomon?”

“Song of what?”

“Ignore her,” Grace said. “Listen, you’re not manipulating anyone. And emotion is a good thing. Emotion gives meaning to your actions. Love, fear, duty —they’re the power behind every sacrificial act, every grand gesture, the reason men go to war and women die for their children and yes, why Owen threw himself overboard. Don’t be afraid of it, Scotty. No, you don’t need any makeup to attract Owen —my guess is you already have his heart. You had it before he jumped into an ocean after you. But . . .” She reached over and grabbed a bottle of perfume. “It doesn’t mean you can’t wow him.”

She raised an eyebrow and Scotty gave a nod, letting Grace mist the perfume onto her skin. Grace added it to her own wrists, then pulled up her hair, reached for the lip gloss, and spread it on with her pinkie finger, smacking her lips.

Across the room, Eden had pulled on a hockey sweater over her belly. “It’s Jace’s.” She winked and reached for the perfume.

“Yulia, you go to sleep,” Grace said, covering her daughter with the quilt, then kissing her forehead. “I’ll be back later.”

Then she hooked her arm through Scotty’s. “C’mon. They’ve seen enough of that stupid hockey game anyway.”

section divider

The Minnesota Wild were in the last fifteen seconds of a two-minute power play, trying to score against Arizona.

“That has to be over twenty shots on goal, and they still can’t get it under the crossbar.” Owen sat propped on the edge of the sofa, nearly on his feet. “C’mon, man.”

“Smith is an amazing goalie,” Jace said. He leaned forward in the recliner, his arms folded. “We’ll need to learn to clean up on the rebound if we want to score against these guys.”

The buzzer for the end of the second period sounded. Max threw his hands up, sat back at the other end of the sofa. “Not that I care about the Wild winning, but sheesh.”

It felt easy, like old times, to be sitting with his teammates, watching the Wild —or any team, for that matter. Dissecting shots, deflections, checks, hits.

Owen could almost forget that his life had derailed.

That’s about enough of that. His father’s words hung in his brain. Yeah, he’d managed not to dredge up the past with Max. Had managed to talk hockey with Jace, his hero, like he hadn’t nearly cost the guy his career the last time he was on the ice. Sometimes, the image of Jace taking the check for him, the one that would have destroyed his eye, the one that nearly killed Jace, still shook him.

In truth, maybe he had cost the guy his career. But both Max and Jace seemed to have moved on, and if his dad’s words were right . . .

And I’d bet they each thought God couldn’t use them before His grace tracked them down, brought them back to His purposes. You can never outsin God’s love, Owen. Or limit what He can do with you if you let Him.

“I feel a little guilty sitting here watching the game with Casper in jail,” Owen said.

Jace glanced at him. “We went by to see him on our way here. He’s hanging in there but is pretty freaked out. Of course, your mother is keeping him well-fed, and I think Raina has just about camped out there, but yeah . . .” He clicked Mute on the remote. “This feels a little sacrilegious.”

“Listen, we’ll all be in court in the morning, and he knows we’ve got his back,” Max said. “Trust me, I know about not wanting people’s pity. The last thing Casper needs is us over here crying for him.”

Owen frowned at him. Pity? “What are you talking about, Max?”

Max shot a look at Jace, then at Owen. “You don’t know? Your parents didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what? You’re still playing for the Blue Ox, right?”

“For now.”

“You up for a new contract?”

Max shook his head. “Three years left. And I’m praying I can play all three.”

“You’re at the top of your game, Max. You’re the last person I’d feel pity for, trust me.” He gave a harsh laugh that seemed to echo against the silence in the room. Jace looked down, his jaw tight.

“What am I missing here?”

“I’m going to die, Owen. Sooner rather than later.”

Owen froze, examining Max’s face for the joke, the Just pulling your leg, bro. His voice fell. “What are you talking about?”

“I have the gene for Huntington’s disease. It hasn’t kicked in yet, but my brother is showing symptoms and I figure I have about six, maybe seven years before I start getting shaky, needing help walking. And then it’s a long, downhill slide toward . . .” He looked at his hands. “I know I shouldn’t have married your sister, but . . . I guess I’m weaker than I thought. I need her.”

Oh. Owen felt the air empty from the room. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. But we all have our handicaps. You made yours look pretty boss.”

Owen reached up, touched the eye patch. “Grace never said anything.”

“Grace is living in the now, hoping I never get sick. We’ll just keep it that way, okay?”

The now. Talk about not wanting to look ahead. Owen might have decimated the future before him, but at least he still had one, even if he didn’t exactly know what it would look like.

“I’m getting some of those cookies Grace and the girls were making today,” Max said abruptly. “If I’m relegated to sleeping on a bunk bed tonight, I’m going to need cookies. By the way, I call dibs on the bottom.”

“Oh, right, like I’d even fit on the top bunk? Not a chance, pal. I’m pulling rank,” Jace said.

Max rolled his eyes. He turned to Owen. “Maybe you should sleep in the basement, let me and Grace have the den, and Jace and Eden have the boys’ room.”

“What, so she can sleep on the top bunk? No, we’ll be fine here for the weekend,” Jace said. “We’re not here for . . . We’re here to support Casper.”

Max grumbled something and was getting up when he stopped, eyes on the door. “Oh, we’re in trouble now,” he said. “Are we being too loud?”

Grace came into the room, looking pretty, her blonde hair up. She put her arms around Max’s neck. “Way too loud,” she said and kissed him.

Owen averted his eyes, glancing at Jace, only to see Eden slide onto his lap, her arm around him.

“What’s going on?” Jace said.

“I want to take a walk,” Eden said.

Jace leaned around her to pick up the remote. “We have twelve minutes before the next period.”

Owen smiled at that. It was always all about hockey with Jace.

Then Scotty entered the room, wearing her jeans rolled up and a pink T-shirt. She sat on the ottoman. “What’s the score?”

Score? Words fled as he took in her long neck, her dark hair dripping down, thick and full, from a messy tangle at the back of her head. Her lips glistened as she smiled gently in his direction. Her eyes —something about them could pin him to the sofa.

He couldn’t breathe.

She raised an eyebrow as if expecting something, and shoot, if she wasn’t completely annihilating his resolve to follow her rules. Those stupid rules that held him hostage and kept him from doing something ridiculously impulsive like kicking Jace and Max from the room and pulling her into his arms.

He turned to the television. Just don’t look at her. “The Wild are up, two to one. Uh, we netted a power-play goal in the first period, and then Parise got a wrist shot in just inside the left post, but Arizona came back with a quick goal. We’re not getting the rebounds, and it’s been pretty messy, so we’ll have to pull ourselves together in the third period.”

He looked up to find Eden smiling at him. “C’mon, Jace,” she said, climbing off his lap.

“Where are we going?” He glanced at the television. “Okay, but we have ten minutes —”

“Shh.” Eden took his hand, and Owen nearly laughed at the power his sister had over the six-foot-four former enforcer who could still make grown men cry with a growl. Eden cast a look at Scotty as she left.

“Max, how about a cookie?” Grace said, tugging him out of the room. Max caught her at the door, one hand going around her waist.

“Max doesn’t want a cookie,” he growled, pressing his lips to her neck, and she giggled as they left.

Awkward. Owen blew out a breath, ran his suddenly wet hands over his jeans. He shot another look at Scotty. She was barefoot and his gaze caught —too long —on the sight of her toes all dolled up with siren-red polish.


“Sounds like a good game.”

“Mmm-hmm.” He tore his gaze away and focused back on the television, where the announcers were rounding up recaps of other games around the league.

He didn’t even hear her move, just felt the sofa dip, the sense of her beside him. He stiffened, glanced at her, sitting so close to him that he could lean a little her direction 

Oh, man.

“Did you have fun with my sisters? We thought we heard you singing.”

“Mmm-hmm,” she said. She met his gaze, her mouth tipping up in a smile.

Lips. Pert, shiny lips.

He found his voice. “They’re a little . . . Well, Eden has this tendency to never mind her own business. I lived with her for a while during my early years, and she’s like the queen meddler.”

“She’s nice. I like her.”

“And Grace is a dreamer. She seems to think that if she makes cookies, everyone will live happily ever after.”

“Not a bad way to solve the world’s problems.”

“I think you’d really like Amelia. She’s the most levelheaded, or well, she’s . . . Actually, I don’t know. Amelia was only fourteen when I took off for the juniors, and even then we didn’t hang out that much.”

“Owen, about today, on the rink —”

“Oh no, let’s not talk about that, thanks. In fact, if you could go ahead and forget the entire thing . . . Just leave it, okay?”

She fell silent beside him.

Now he felt like a jerk. A jerk whose heart seemed to be lodged in his throat. “Not that I wasn’t . . .” He cleared his throat, trying. “Glad, you know, that you were there. And . . . thanks for . . .” Wow, was she wearing perfume? It reached out to him, sweet and floral, and gave a little tug.

He couldn’t take it. “Are you okay? There’s something . . . Is there something different about you?”

Her jaw tightened, her smile vanishing. And it had the effect of the cold ocean washing over him.

He knew he should be scrambling here, for something, anything. “Scotty —”

“No. This is stupid. I knew this was stupid. I’m not like your sisters. I’m just not . . .” She got up.

What —?

“Wait, Scotty —wait!” He lunged for her, grabbing her arm. “What’s going on? Are you upset?”

“No!” She shook out of his grip, wrinkled her face as if to rein in a rush of feelings. “I’m fine.”

“You’re wearing mascara?”

“No —yes —whatever.” She turned away. “I’m so stupid.”

Stupid? “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.” She headed for the door, but he wasn’t about to let her get that far. He ducked past her, propped his hand over the doorway.

“Get out of my way.”

“No.” He put his hand under her chin to lift her face. “What’s going on?”

She blew her nose, then wadded the tissue into her pocket. “I was trying to . . .” Shaking her head, she looked at the ceiling. “Flirt.”


He couldn’t help the laughter that burst out. “Flirt?”

“See, even you’re laughing.” She put her hand on his chest.

But he shackled her wrist and pulled it away, growing solemn. “Easy there, I’m still a little sore.”

And now she looked stricken, trying to jerk her hand away. But he held it. “Scotty, tell me why you were trying to . . . flirt . . . with me.”

Her expression betrayed defeat, her voice wavering. “I don’t know. It’s because of . . . this afternoon. You were looking at me like . . . I thought you were going to kiss me, and then you didn’t and I thought maybe . . . And then your sisters put all this gunk on me and acted like your head would pop off —”

“My head is popping off,” he said, a strange, wonderful warmth spreading through him. He reached up to run his thumb over the bones of her face, softly tracing them. “In fact, I haven’t a thought left in my head except how utterly beautiful you are.”

“I’m not. I probably have mascara running down my face —”

“You do. And it’s very, very cute.”

She bit her lip.

“You have gorgeous eyes. And your hair . . .” He reached up, loosened it, and it fell over her shoulders. He tangled his fingers into it. “You take my breath away, Scotty. You have since that first day on the boat, when you made me call you sir. And yeah, you’re pretty amazing right now, but you’ve always been amazing. I don’t care if you’re dressed in overalls or a grimy thermal shirt, smelling of fish, or . . . well, I wouldn’t exactly mind you in a dress.”

Her eyes widened, her mouth opening.

And he didn’t care one iota about her inane rules. “Scotty, your flirting totally works.” He curled his hand around her waist. “In fact, I’m going to have to kiss you.”

He’d imagined this, imagined kissing her —really kissing her —since that moment on the raft. Tasting the Scotty who’d saved his life and believed in him even when he couldn’t believe in himself. And the kiss they’d shared in the car had only whetted his appetite.

Now he pulled her to himself, one arm around her waist, backing her against the wall. Then he braced a hand over her head, bent down, and met her eyes for a lingering second —one where he let her see his intentions —before he pressed his lips against hers. With nothing of hesitation, just so she knew he had no intention of holding back.

She tasted sweet, her lips soft under his, and if he wondered whether she really wanted to be kissed, she answered in the way she slipped her arms around his waist and molded her body to his, lighting every inch of him on fire. Yet her kiss was cautious, hesitant.

And that only made him love her more.

Love. The word crept into his brain, but once it got there, it spread through his entire body. Yeah, he loved her. He loved her bossiness and the way she refused to give up on him. Loved how she could flip from all business to holding his hand, caring, understanding. Around her, he forgot he was broken; he felt whole and as if he did have a future. A bright, brilliant future filled with the love of this beautiful woman.

The thought broke him away from her, and he stared at her, his breathing hard as he caught her eyes.

She blinked up at him. “Um . . .”

“Scotty. Please tell me that this isn’t an impulse. That my sisters didn’t talk you into doing something you didn’t want to do. Because I’m so crazy about you I just might —”

“Propose?” Her mouth lifted up on one side.

She must have seen the panic on his face because she pressed her hand to his cheek. “Shh. Just . . . kiss me.”

Right. Okay, yeah. Because even though he wasn’t proposing, there he was, running ahead of himself, grabbing on to a future that he still didn’t have a clear view of.

Except for her, right in the middle of it.

So he bent down and kissed her again, wrapping his other arm around her, losing himself in her sweet sounds, the way she became his with her surrender.

“Is it game time?” Jace’s voice parted them. “Whoa —hey, sorry, dude!”

Owen glanced over to see Jace turning to block Eden’s entrance.

At the sound of a giggle, he looked back at Scotty. He tucked her hair behind her ear. I love you. Wow, he wanted to say that, but it might be akin to Will you marry me? and he didn’t want to freak her out.

“And that’s how it’s done,” Eden said, pushing past Jace into the room. She patted Owen’s shoulder, and he stared after her, bewildered.

Scotty ducked out from under Owen’s arm, leaving him to lean against the wall, watching as she plunked down beside Eden, who handed her a bowl of fresh-popped popcorn.

“C’mon, Wild!” Scotty shouted.

Owen sat next to her, put his arm around her, and miraculously, she snuggled right in.

As if she’d always belonged.

Suddenly everything in his life seemed to fit exactly into place.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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