“Are they done macking on each other?” Troy asked.
“Yep,” Cole said, and dropped his hands. “It’s safe.”
Callie felt her face heat as she hopped off the counter. “We were just…”
“We know what you were just,” Sam said, laughter in his voice, the guys filling Lucille’s tiny kitchen with testosterone.
“What the hell are you all doing here?” Tanner asked.
“The kid insisted,” Cole said. “Called me for a ride.”
“I wanted to make sure Callie knew it was my fault that you forgot her,” Troy said. Horror crossed his face. “Wait! Forgot is the wrong word. He didn’t forget you,” he said to Callie. “Forget I said forget, okay? He got busy kicking ass and taking names at the school and—”
“It’s okay,” Callie said, and hugged him. “Not your fault.”
Troy wrapped his lanky arms around her in return. “So you forgive him, right?” he asked, his voice muffled against her. “You’re not going to dump him because of me?”
“Never.” Choked up again, she squeezed him tight. “I’m not dumping him. I’m keeping him. I’m keeping you too, if you’ll have me.”
Troy pulled back to stare at her and then turned to his dad. “You haven’t asked her yet?”
Callie looked at Tanner. “Ask me what?”
Cole turned to Sam, palm out. “Pay up.”
“Hell, no,” Sam said. “He hasn’t asked yet. The deal was fifty when and if he asked.”
“One hundred, not fifty,” Cole said. “And he’s going to ask. So pay up.”
“Jesus.” Tanner pinched the bridge of his nose and then pointed at the door. “Everyone out.”
“You sure?” Cole asked. “You might not do it right and need backup.”
“Do what?” Callie asked, heart thudding in her chest.
Tanner closed his eyes, muttered something that sounded like “fucking nosy bodies,” and then reached for Callie’s hands to pull her into him. “I told you I had things to say to you.”
“I thought you said them. You told me what you feel for me.” She hesitated. “Right?”
“Right.” Tanner wrapped his arms around her and pressed his jaw to hers because she looked so damn anxious. “And—”
Tanner gritted his teeth and turned to his son to give him a this-better-be-good look.
“You can’t just say ‘right,’” Troy whispered. “You have to use the words. The three words. With the biggie. You know, the L-word.”
Tanner opened his mouth, saw that Troy was utterly earnest and serious, and bit back his pithy response. He gave a short nod and turned back to Callie. “I love you,” he said, and knew he’d never get tired of the immediate response she gave him. She lit up from within, as if he’d just given her the moon. “I also told you my world doesn’t work without you in it. I—”
This time it was Sam interrupting. “You’re supposed to be on a knee,” he pointed out.
Callie put a hand to her chest as if she were trying to keep her heart inside it.
A gasp came from the other side of the kitchen door, and then it was opened and her grandma and Mr. Wykowski squeezed into the kitchen. “If they’re here, I get to be here,” Lucille said. “I can’t miss this!” She pushed her way through the big bodies until she had a front-row view. “Okay, go ahead, Tanner. Ask her.”
Tanner sighed. When he caught Callie’s gaze, she was staring at him wide-eyed, her hand over her mouth. She let out a low laugh and shook her head.
He had no idea if that was “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” or “please God, don’t do this.” Taking his chances, he sank to a knee.
Callie’s hand dropped from her mouth and she gaped at him.
“Callie,” he said. “You’re the love of my life and my closest friend.”
“Wait a minute,” Cole said. “What am I, chopped liver? Whatever happened to bros before—”
Sam wrapped an arm around Cole’s neck and covered his mouth. “Got him,” he said to Tanner. “Carry on.”
Jesus. Tanner looked at Callie again. “You’re it for me,” he told her. “To the bone. And I want to be it for you. The end of the line.”
Callie’s eyes filled but she was smiling. He was going to take that as a good sign. “You’ve said you never felt particularly special,” he said, “but you’re the most special woman I’ve ever met. You’re smarter than me, far prettier, and frankly, I’m not going to lie—you should really give this some serious thought because you could do better.”
She choked out a laugh.
“Dad! Don’t tell her that. You might make her think.”
Tanner did his best to ignore the peanut gallery. “No one will ever love you as much as I do,” he told her.
“Nice,” Sam said.
Callie yanked Tanner up and threw herself at him. “Yes. God, yes!”
“Um, honey,” Lucille said. “He hasn’t actually asked yet.”
“Oh, my God.” Callie tried to pull back, but Tanner wouldn’t let her. No fucking way. He was grinning when he kissed her.