Against the Heart(32)

By: Kat Martin


It wasn’t until that night after supper than she sought him out. "Ian, I...I need to talk to you."

He nodded, his gorgeous blue eyes on her face. "We definitely need to talk. I’ll be leaving in a couple of days and there are things I need to say, things we need to work out."

Her eyes burned. He was going to offer her the job taking care of his father, try again to persuade her to stay here where he believed she would have a good home. As much as she cared for Daniel, she needed to make a life of her own. And she had hoped, in some tiny part of her heart, that she meant as much to him as he meant to her.

"Let’s walk out to the pond, okay? It’s nice and quiet out there."

She just nodded. Her heart was squeezing. She should have left as she’d planned. If it hadn’t been for the police and their reports....

He stopped in the shadows behind the barn, drew her into his arms and kissed her. She could feel the tears welling, tried but couldn’t keep them from slipping over onto her cheeks.

"You’re crying," he said, worry darkening his features. "Why are you crying?"

Meri swallowed past the lump in her throat. "I can’t stay here, Ian. And I’m not sure your father even needs me anymore. I think Heddy will take very good care of him. I think they’ll be perfect for each other."

"So do I."

"You do?"

"Yes, I do."

She brushed at the wetness on her cheeks. "Then what...what did you want to talk to me about?"

"Do you remember what I said last night?"

She remembered. The words were etched into her heart. "You said...you loved me. I understand you probably didn’t mean them exactly that way. Things were happening. You were worried about Lily and me."

"I meant them exactly the way I said them. I love you, Meri. I want you and Lily to be part of my life."

Her throat closed up.

"Do you love me, Meri? Because I’m over the moon in love with you."

"Oh, God, Ian." Meri threw her arms around his neck and clung to him, just hung on and let the tears roll down her face. "I love you. I love you so much."

She felt his muscles relax as relief slid through him. Ian eased her away enough to kiss her, then dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled a blue velvet box.

"I wish I had time to do this right. Propose to you over some fancy dinner in Seattle, but I’m afraid you’ll slip away from me, and I couldn’t stand it if that happened."

He opened the box and held it out to her. "This is my mother’s wedding ring. Dad wanted me to have it. Will you marry me, honey? I love you so damned much."

"Oh, Ian, yes! Yes, I’ll marry you." Her hand shook as Ian slipped the ring on her finger. The small, perfectly cut diamond looked just right for her hand.

Ian kissed her, a long, slow, deep, heart-shattering kiss she felt all the way to her soul.

"Meri..." he whispered, holding her in his arms as they stood there looking at each other in the moonlight over the water.

"Are you sure, Ian? Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Honey, nothing I’ve ever done has felt as right as this." Ian brought her hand up and kissed her ring finger. "Let’s go in and tell Dad and Lily." He smiled. "But don’t be surprised if they already know by now."

Meri laughed as they walked hand-in-hand back to the house.



EPILOGUE



They were living in Seattle, Ian back to work at Brodie Security. Since his main office was in Bellevue, he and Meri were looking at homes in the area.

They were married. Meri had no real family and he hadn’t seen any point in waiting. His own family had turned out in force for the wedding. Even his cousins, Dylan, Nick, and Rafe had flown down from Alaska.

Once he got his head on straight, it hadn’t taken him long to figure out what he wanted. To realize his dad was right--he was in love with Meriwether Jones, and she was the perfect woman for him. Seeing her face up to a pair vicious thugs like a lioness protecting her cub had only intensified his feelings.

As far as he was concerned, he couldn’t get the woman to the altar fast enough.

A lot had happened in the weeks since their marriage, first and foremost, Kowalski and Bandini were both in jail. Besides the kidnapping charges both men faced, turned out Kowalski was wanted for armed robbery in Los Angeles, and though Bandini had accepted a plea bargain, he wasn’t getting out of prison anytime soon.