Not taking my eyes off of her, I said, “Very beautiful, indeed.”
A day had passed since the morning ride I took with Tanner. We had walked the horses back since it was snowing and neither of us wanted to risk them slipping. Tanner went to help his father on the ranch, and I met Lincoln and Kaylee in town for some last-minute Christmas shopping. Whatever Kaylee wanted to show me had been pushed off for reasons she didn’t share. Interesting…
The stores in Hamilton were darling, and I quickly fell in love with the town all over again. I could easily find myself living here, and knew I had already made my decision. If I was honest, I’d most likely made it weeks ago.
When I came for Kaylee’s wedding a few months back, I hadn’t been able to stay long. With just having graduated school and being new at work, I wasn’t given many days off, so the trip was short. I wasn’t able to look around like I had in Park City. But what I had seen today had pretty much sealed Hamilton as my new home.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Kaylee said as she bumped my arm.
We were sitting on the living room floor of Stella and Ty Senior’s house, where Lincoln was knee-deep in present wrapping. Kaylee and I were helping her wrap Blayze and Morgan’s Christmas gifts. “Sorry, I was thinking about how cute Hamilton is.”
“Isn’t it?” Kaylee said with a wide smile. “Tomorrow we’re going to see the little surprise I have for you. Sorry we had to bump it out a few days.”
“You like to torture me because you know I hate surprises.”
“Lincoln, can you come too?”
Lincoln glanced up at the mention of her name. “I wish I could, but I need to go into the office tomorrow. I’ve got a client who wants to redo her living room, dining, and kitchen, and I’m presenting the drawings to her. If she likes them, I’ll be able to get a number of things ordered before the holidays and get a jump start.”
Lincoln was an interior designer who had once owned her own business in Atlanta. From what Kaylee told me, it sounded like Lincoln had a controlling father who was hell-bent on making her successful, even if that meant paying for—and sometimes threatening—people to use her for their design needs. Once Lincoln found out how much her father had been stepping into her business, she sold her company and moved across the country to start over on her own.
“What time are you meeting them?” Kaylee asked.
“That’s perfect! I’ve got an appointment at nine tomorrow morning. You’ll have plenty of time to get back home and head into work.”
Lincoln nibbled on her lower lip as she thought about it. “I can’t ask Stella to watch Blayze and Morgan all day. I really do want to come, but I think I have to pass.”
Kaylee tossed a crinkled-up piece of wrapping paper at Lincoln. “Boo. You’re no fun.”
She smiled, then stopped suddenly. “Oh no.”
Lincoln suddenly stood and ran out of the room. I’d never seen anyone move so fast in my life.
“Morning sickness?” I asked as Kaylee got up and made her way after her.
“Yep, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was with Morgan.”
I laughed and reached for another present.
“Keep wrapping, I’m gonna check on her,” Kaylee called out.
“No rush!” I replied as I searched for which wrapping paper to use next.
The air in the room suddenly felt charged with a delicious electricity, and I didn’t even have to look up to know he was there. “Don’t tell me my sisters-in-law left you with all the wrapping?”
With a smile, I cut a piece of red-and-white-striped paper and answered him. “I wouldn’t step foot in this room unless you’re ready to commit to helping.”
When I looked up at him, my breath caught. His large frame leaned against the wall, and the smile he wore made my insides tingle. The cowboy hat was gone, and his brown hair looked slightly messy, as if he might have run his hand through it a number of times. Those blue eyes seemed to light up the entire room. It should be against the law for a man to be that good looking. Tanner simply grinned and walked closer to me, where he surveyed the pile of toys. “All of this is for two kids?”
I laughed as I let my gaze take it all in. “Yes, but to be fair, it isn’t just presents from Santa. Some of these are from your parents, as well as from Ty and Kaylee.”
“Well, I think I’m going to have to go shopping. I only got Blayze and Morgan one gift each. It was what my mom told me to buy them.”
Laughing, I went back to wrapping a toy that was clearly meant for Morgan. “I’m sure it’s okay. I don’t think Ty and Kaylee got them very many. Maybe two…three presents total?”
“Shit. That’s two more than I got them.” He reached for my hand and pulled me up.
“What in the world are you doing?” I asked as I attempted not to fall over the pile of toys and clothes.
“I’m forcing you to come help me shop. I have no clue what to get them.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “And what in the world makes you think I do?”
“You’re a woman. Isn’t that like…bred in you, straight from the womb?”
My hands went to my hips. From the look on his face and the way he took a step back, he clearly realized he had said the wrong thing.
“No, wait, that came out all wrong.”
“Did it now?” I asked.
“Yes. What I meant to say was, I could really use the advice of a pretty lady who clearly is good at gift giving.”
It was my turn to frown. “That didn’t make it any better, Tanner.”
“Fine.” He gave me a pleading look. “I want to spend some time with you, Timber, so will you please go shopping with me? I really do need to pick up a few more things.”
Despite my annoyance, I couldn’t help but smile. “You want me to go shopping with you?”
“Yes, I really do. I’ll even take you to lunch.”
“Well, when you throw food into the equation, how can I refuse?”
He winked and I suddenly got dizzy, positive the room had shifted slightly.
Kaylee walked back into the living room and smiled when she saw Tanner.
“What’s going on?” she asked, glancing between the two of us.
I pointed to him. “Tanner here has asked me to go shopping with him. Apparently, he needs my womanly advice on a few things.”
Kaylee glared at Tanner as he held up his hands and laughed. “Honestly, I need to buy my folks something, and maybe another gift or two for the kids. But I more or less just want her company.”
That seemed to spark something in Kaylee’s eyes, and she nearly pushed me into his arms, offering me up as some sort of sacrifice. “Then, yes, y’all should totally go shopping. Don’t worry about this. We’ve got it covered. Stella should be back any minute now to help.”
I glanced down at all the presents. “Are you sure? How is Lincoln feeling?”
“She’s already back to her normal self and mixing a bowl of chocolate ice cream and pickles.”
Tanner gagged, then asked, “Are you serious? That’s really a thing? Pickles and ice cream?”
Kaylee shrugged. “I guess so. She’s currently making herself a giant bowl, and not even moments ago she was hurling in the toilet.”
“That’s disgusting,” Tanner and I said in unison.
He smiled. “Great minds think alike,” he said as he reached for my hand. “Let’s go put that to good use.”
I took his hand and let him lead me through the pile of wrapping paper, bows, and presents.
“You two kids have fun, but not too much fun! And sex in the back of a truck is not all you think it is, Timberlynn!”
I glanced back at her, positive I had a shocked expression on my face. Tanner wrapped his arm around my waist and said loud enough for her to hear, “Don’t listen to her, sweetheart. Besides, I’d take you in
the bed of my truck, not the back seat.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at Kaylee’s expression, not sure if he was teasing or not—and not wanting to admit that I hoped he wasn’t.
“Tanner Shaw!” Kaylee cried out, but she was cut off as we rounded the corner.
“I don’t know what I should be more disturbed by,” I said. “The fact that my cousin had sex in the backseat of Ty’s truck and I have to sit back there, or the fact that you’ve used the bed of your truck as an actual…bed.”
He chuckled and wrapped his fingers around mine, guiding me through the house while holding my hand. I knew I should pull it away so I didn’t give him the wrong impression, but my goodness, it felt good to have a man treat me like this. The skin-to-skin contact did things to my body that I rather enjoyed. “Do you need to get anything out of your room?” Tanner asked.
I swallowed hard, suddenly feeling like I desperately needed water for my dry mouth and throat. “No, my purse is by the front door with my coat.”
His blue eyes danced with excitement, or maybe it was mischief. I couldn’t tell. But he smiled ever so slightly, and I tried not to look at the small dimple in his right cheek. I failed. My heart hammered in my chest, and I had the sudden urge to turn and run from him. Or maybe it was an urge to ask him to touch me. Anywhere. Everywhere. I needed to feel his hands on me, and I had never longed for that before. Not that I didn’t enjoy a man’s touch—I had, but only when I was in full control over it all. With Tanner, I had no control, and that was slowly starting to not bother me. Lord, what was he doing to me?
“Don’t knock it until you try it,” he said, dropping my hand as we reached the door. “I lost my virginity in the bed of a truck.”
“Are you serious?” I reached for my coat that was hung up at the front door. My scarf and gloves were sitting on top of my purse. Tanner reached for the scarf, wrapping it around my neck and pulling me to him. Our faces were so close that his breath mixed with mine, and I found myself searching for air.