“Callie Sharpe,” he said against her mouth, “marry me.”
She was laughing and crying when she kissed him back, and from behind her she heard her grandma say, “Well, that was more like telling her than asking, but it looks like she’s good with it.”
“I don’t know,” Troy said. “She didn’t really answer, did she?”
“The answer is yes,” Callie said, staring up into Tanner’s warm gaze. “Always yes.”
“Good to know,” Tanner said.
“Don’t forget I’m a minister,” Lucille said. “Got ordained on the Internet. I could marry you! Just think of the wedding you could plan for yourself.”
Horrified, Callie looked at Tanner. “Do you want a big wedding?”
“I want you, babe,” he said. “However that comes. Whatever makes you happy.”
“That’s a good answer,” Sam said to Troy. “You should take notes.”
Callie hadn’t taken her eyes off Tanner. “After all the weddings I’ve planned and all the crazy brides I’ve met,” she said, “I don’t think I want to plan ours. How do you feel about just picking a day and doing it on the beach?”
Tanner grinned and she smacked him on the chest. “You know what I mean!”
He caught her hand and brought her fingers up to his mouth. “Whatever makes you happy.”
“A kiss would make me happy,” she said, and he was quick to oblige.
“But you’ll let me perform the ceremony, right?” Lucille asked over Callie’s shoulder.
Tanner was shaking with laughter when he tore his mouth free of Callie’s and pressed his face into her hair. “This, Callie,” he breathed against her.
“I’ll never get tired of this. With you.”
And with those last few words, she melted into him. “I feel the same,” she said softly. “After a lifetime of not belonging, I found my place, my home, and my heart.”
On the first day of spring, Callie heard the front door open and remained still. Tanner might be a morning person but she still was not. Eyes closed, she listened to him move about his house. He murmured something and then came Troy’s muffled response.
The front door closed again.
It was a Saturday morning, which meant Troy was off to work, prepping the boat for the day’s activities.
She didn’t hear Tanner move toward their bedroom down the hall, but that was the Navy SEAL in him. Silent but deadly.
Deadly perfect for her.
She felt the bed depress slightly and knew he’d put a knee on it.
“I know you’re awake, faker,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. Her eyes flashed open to see it dancing across his face.
“And I know you’re sneaky,” she countered, and rolled to her back. “Why are you tiptoeing in here?”
He fisted the blanket covering her and slowly but inexorably tugged it down, revealing first her shoulders and then her nipples, which puckered in the cool air.
“It’s cold,” she said.
“Liar.” He tore the blankets off her entirely, and when she squeaked and tried to grab them back, he grabbed her ankles, slowly spread her legs, and then made himself at home between them.
She squeaked again because he’d been swimming and was icy cold.
Laughing, he buried his face—and his still-wet hair—into the crook of her neck for a moment before lifting his head and grinning down at her. “So.”
Her breath caught at the look of love in his eyes. She’d never tire of seeing it. “So.”
“Today’s the day you become mine,” he told her.
Her heart sighed. “I’ve been yours all along,” she said, and kissed him gently, teasingly, delicately licking his lips with just the tip of her tongue until he growled, tightened his grip, and took over, crushing her mouth to his.
He slid down her body, leading with his mouth. When he found her hot and wet, he groaned his approval. He took her achingly slow and achingly sweet, building her up until she was begging before letting her fly.
It took her a moment to come back to herself, and when she did, she found him poised between her legs waiting for her to return to planet Earth. Smiling, she rocked her hips against his. A groan shuddered through him as she teased the both of them. She curled her fingers around the back of his neck as she deepened the kiss until they had to break apart to breathe.
“Look at me,” he commanded, and she managed to fix her eyes on his, watching his face as he slid into her in one smooth, hard thrust. All the air left her body as she rose to meet him. “This is forever,” he said, and began to move.
“Forever,” she gasped, and tried to pull him in even further.
He couldn’t get any closer.
But she needed more, needed it desperately but didn’t know what or why, and she whimpered in frustration.
Still holding her gaze in his, he bent low over her. “I love you, Callie.”
That was it, that had been what she needed. Something deep inside her burst right along with her body. She was pulsing, throbbing, tightening around him, and somehow he filled more of her than he had a moment ago, and not just her body. Her eyes flooded with tears but she didn’t try to hold back. “I love you, Tanner.”
Gaze burning into hers, he paused. “I’ll never get enough of that.”