My Cowboy Valentine - Page 20

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“Cade!”

“—and I’m not sure how to be a dad, but I want to try.”

“What are you saying?” she whispered, staring up at him as her heart thumped a mile a minute.

He crouched down next to her and placed his hands on either side of her hips on the wooden swing. “I’m a rodeo cowboy, Rache. I get thrown a lot. I spend a lot of time falling on my ass and my head, but I’m not a quitter. And I want another chance. I know I can make this work, Rache, and maybe I haven’t got it right yet, but I’ll learn. I can. Give me a chance to be the man you deserve.”

Rachel stared deep into his eyes, unable to think of a single thing to say. Did he mean it? Could he do it? Could she?

The door opened and Tommy stepped out, a pillow under one arm and a tub of LEGO under the other. “Cade house. Go.” He struggled to smile. “Mama. Go. Cade house. House. Home.”

Rachel looked from Cade to her son and back again. “You don’t understand, Cade. If we go with you to your house, you’re never going to get us out again—”

“Good.” His lips curved but his eyes didn’t smile. Instead they burned with a fierce blue light that made her heart stutter and her tummy flip over. “Because I don’t want you anywhere but on my ranch with me.”

She searched his eyes some more, and even though part of her wanted to go with him back to his ranch house, she couldn’t. She wasn’t ready. They weren’t ready. There were things they had to work through, things that needed to be discussed. “We can’t go home with you,” she said quietly, regretfully. “It’s too soon, and if things don’t work out, it’ll just confuse Tommy more.”

“Things will work out.”

“How do we know that? We haven’t even had a real date...and you did promise me one. You promised me dinner, dancing, the works.”

“Fine. Let’s do it.”

“When?”

“Wednesday?”

“Wednesday?” Her nose wrinkled. “Why Wednesday?”

“It’s Valentine’s Day.”

* * *

MRS. MUNOZ, HAVING BEEN given a clean bill of health, watched Tommy so Cade and Rachel could go out Valentine’s Day evening. Rachel dressed simply for their date, wearing a silver-gray turtleneck with dark jeans and a pair of gorgeous gray cowboy boots Cade had given her years ago for her nineteenth birthday.

After picking her up, Cade drove her to one of his favorite restaurants outside Mineral Wells, a folksy place known to locals for its ribs and barbecue. Strings of colored lights glimmered in the oak trees outside the restaurant, and the sound of an amplified fiddle greeted them in the parking lot.

The hostess seated them in a booth not far from the country-and-western band and the sawdust-covered dance floor.

They ordered appetizers and iced tea but barely touched either one. “Not hungry?” Cade asked her as she sipped her iced tea and avoided the food.

“Not really,” she confessed.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’m too excited just being here with you.”

He studied her for a long moment from across the wooden table. “So what do you want in life, Rache? If you could have anything, what would it be?”

Her slim shoulders shrugged. “Family. Love. Happiness.”

“Could I be part of that family?”

“I hope so,” she said softly.

“You mean that?”

“Tommy already thinks you are.”

“And you? What do you think?”

She took her time answering him, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. “You’ve always been the only one for me.”

“Good answer,” he said, smiling at her. Then he stood up and reached for Rachel’s hand. “Come on. We’ve got some catching up to do.”

She put her hand in his, and Cade walked her backward onto the dance floor, his hips bracing hers. Heat rushed through her, and her cheeks burned hot. Nervous, excited, she tipped her head back to see his face, and his gaze locked with hers. “Remember how to two-step?” he asked, drawing her into his arms.

“I think so,” she flashed.

For the next fifteen minutes they danced, dipped and twirled around the dance floor, boots kicking up small clouds of fresh, fragrant sawdust. Cade had always been a good dancer, and in his arms, with the band covering popular country-and-western songs, Rachel felt the years fall away. It was easy being with him, and fun.

Fun.

Good Lord, it’d been a long time since she’d had fun.

The last fast song left them both breathless. Cade spun Rachel around, and she fanned her face. “No more,” she begged, struggling to catch her breath and trying desperately to smooth wild tendrils of hair back from her face. “I’m out of shape.”

“No, you’re not. You feel amazing to me.”

Laughing, she batted away his wandering hand. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it!”

He laughed, too, and it was a deep sexy sound that rumbled from his chest. The band changed tunes, slowing the tempo, and he drew her back into his arms. “Think you can manage a slow one, old gal?”

She snorted with outrage, and then gave way to a fit of giggles. “I’ll try.”

“Good girl.”

Rachel sighed as he adjusted his stride to hers, fitting her body snugly against his. He knew her so well. It’d been years since they danced, and yet it felt absolutely right...as if they had been made for each other.

But then, they had been made for each other. They’d always been right for each other. Unfortunately, they’d allowed life to get in the way but life had brought them back together, and this time they were both older and wiser and they knew what they had.

She knew what they had. And it was good. Better than good. It was special. Magical.

She lifted her head, looked up into his face, and his unwavering gaze met hers and held. “I know what you’re thinking,” he said, his deep voice so low and husky it felt like fingers caressing her spine. “But I’m not going away, Rache. I’ve bought a ranch and built a house and I may be a novice when it comes to kids, but I can learn. I can learn to be a good dad, and I am determined to be a great husband, and I’m ready for a family. I’ve changed, Rachel, I have—”

“I know you have, and I owe you an apology, Cade. I haven’t been fair to you—”

“No apology needed. You’re a mother, a very good mother, and you’re a proper mama bear, and I love that about you.”

“You know he already loves you,” she said. “Tommy’s never had a father, but he loves you already like you’re his daddy—”

“I’m glad, because he’s my boy now. And no matter how many kids you and I have, he’ll always be my first son.”

“You really mean that?”

“Absolutely.”

Rachel stopped moving and stared up into his face. “We’re going to have kids?”

“Oh, yes. At least, I hope so. I’d love some babies...girl babies that look just like you.” Suddenly he was drawing her off the dance floor and out a patio door into the garden where they huddled beneath one of the heat lamps.

“It’s freezing out here!” she said, shivering.

“I know, but it’s quiet, and I want to be sure you hear every word. Are you listening?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” He backed away from her to drop down on one knee. “Rachel James, I love you, and I want to be part of your life, and Tommy’s life. I want to be there

for you and with you, each day, every day, for the rest of our lives. I want you to be my wife and the mother of my children. Marry me, Rachel,” he said, drawing a ring from his pocket and slipping it onto her finger.

The white diamond glittered even in the patio lights. She stared down at the ring in shock and then at Cade. “You really mean it?” she breathed.

He rose and drew her into his arms. “More than I’ve ever meant anything.” He caught her by the hips and pulled her more securely against him. “So is that a yes, Rachel? Are you going to marry me?”

She smiled up into his eyes, her heart so full that it bubbled over with love and hope and possibility. “Yes.”


Tags: Jane Porter Romance
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