As we headed over to my father’s truck, I chuckled. “Seems Blayze has high hopes that his hat is still in the ring.”
Timberlynn giggled and shook her head. “He is such a sweet little boy. Did you see him singing that hymn? He was practically shouting to the heavens.”
I smiled. “Yeah, he’s a special little man.”
“He’s a lucky little man to have such a loving family. Parents and grandparents who love him, and of course, you and Ty.”
“Yeah, he’s blessed. We’re all blessed to have parents like my mom and dad. When they love, they love fiercely. It’s a Shaw trait, really.”
Her eyes met mine as we came to a stop at the passenger side of the truck. “I can see that. I mean, it’s obvious how much your family means to each other. And I didn’t believe for one minute that Brock and Lincoln needed your folks’ help in the truck.”
I rubbed the back of my neck and sighed. “She isn’t subtle, is she?”
Timberlynn laughed. “No, she isn’t.”
“She cares, that’s all. I hope you don’t mind her butting in.”
“Not at all,” Timberlynn said as she allowed me to help her up into the truck. I shut the door and jogged around to the other side, climbed in, and started up the engine.
“It’s pretty obvious how much your family loves and takes care of one another,” she said. “That’s not something I’m used to at all.”
“Yeah, it’s nice when they’re not all trying to meddle and butt into your life.”
“I guess that’s fair enough.”
“There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for each other, though. Family or not. That’s the funny thing about love. It looks past all the faults, forgives easily, and has a way of changing people.”
Timberlynn stared at me for a moment or two before she sighed and looked out the window. “Well, some of us haven’t experienced that type of love, so…”
I took her hand in mine and kissed the back of it, breaking the intensity of the moment and causing us both to laugh.
“Okay, that must be bred into you guys!”
I winked. “Must be.”
Timberlynn Holden didn’t know it yet, but she was about to experience that type of love…and a hell of a lot of it.
Christmas Eve Dinner
It was something that was in abundance with the Shaw family. Even at a fancy country club filled with uptight, rich people, this family seemed to be at ease. Not one of them seemed to have a care in the world.
“Does the whole family belong to this country club?” I leaned over and asked Tanner.
He laughed. “Yes. Hard to believe, right? A bunch of ranchers belonging to a country club.”
I shook my head. “No, it just doesn’t seem like your dad or Ty—hell, even Brock—would fit in here.”
Tanner leaned in closer and the smell of his cologne filled the air around me, causing me to take in a long, deep breath. I’d missed that smell more than I had wanted to admit. “You’ll find this hard to believe, but my granddaddy formed this country club.”
“What?” I asked, surprise in my voice.
“Yeah, he and one of his good friends. Of course, back when they started the club it was mainly just a place for the guys to go and play some golf and some poker, and God knows what else they did. Granddaddy’s best friend was the one with the money to back it all, pretty much. Granddaddy did put in a good chunk, though, and my father is still part owner to this day.”
“No!” I said again, peeking over at Ty Senior. He looked ready to crawl out of his skin. He kept tugging on his tie and asking Stella if he could take it off, to which she simply glared at him and said no.
“They had the golf course designed and built before they even had the main building started. Then it became a place for Howard to entertain his business partners, and less of a place for them to escape and sit and smoke cigars and hit a few rounds of golf.”
“So was your mother joking when she said Brock was treating for dinner?” I asked.
Tanner laughed. “Yes. We don’t get charged for anything here at the country club, and honestly, we don’t ever really come here. My dad will maybe play a few rounds of golf, but my brothers and I never picked up the game.”
“Too busy riding bulls and roping calves?”
“Something like that,” he said with a wide grin.
My eyes immediately went to the dimple in his cheek. His smile made it even more pronounced. My entire body tingled with how close he was to me.
Tanner picked up his glass of beer and took a drink. Something made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle up. I took a look around the country club and nearly choked on my own tongue. Sitting a table down from us was Lindsey. Our eyes met, and she flashed me a fake smile. I forced my own smile back. I looked away and attempted to focus on what Tanner and Ty had been talking about, but every single time I glanced back her way, she was staring at Tanner.
Her gaze slipped to mine and I glared at her. I wanted to hold up a sign and tell her to back off, he was mine. The sound of Blayze’s voice made me look away before I did something I’d regret.
“Miss Timberlynn, is it true you’re buying a house here?” Blazye asked.
I could feel Tanner’s gaze on me, and I realized I had yet to tell him. I was positive someone in his family had already told him by now, but I had hoped to tell him myself tonight.
“It is. I won’t be living very far from y’all’s ranch, as a matter of fact.”
Blayze’s little blue eyes lit up. “How far will you be?”
“Maybe twenty minutes or so from your front gate,” I answered with a shrug.
“The Covey ranch, is that right?” Tanner asked.
“Yes. I, um, I went and saw it a few days ago with Kaylee. It was perfect for what I need. It’ll be a wonderful fit for me.”
Tanner flashed me a smile as he said, “I’m really happy for you, Timber. I think you’re going to love it here.”
My heartbeat picked up when he used the nickname once again. He genuinely looked happy for me. It wasn’t like I didn’t think he would be happy; I just didn’t want him to be upset that I hadn’t mentioned it yet. “I think so as well. What about you?”
“What about me?” he asked as he finished off his beer and motioned to the waiter for another one.
“You mentioned Chance not wanting to go back out on the road with you. What are you going to do?”
“I’ll be your new partner, Uncle Tanner! I can do it, you know!” Blayze announced.
Tanner leaned forward and looked around me at his nephew. “I do believe you could do it, buddy. You have to stay home and finish school, though.”
Blayze leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. “Stupid school.”
/> Tanner chuckled, and so did I.
“I loved school,” I said, causing Blayze to look up at me.
“Yep. I was involved in a few extra things at school that made me love it even more.”
“Extra things?” Blayze asked. “Like what kind of extra things?”
“Well,” I said as I set my napkin down on my empty plate. “I loved horses, and we had a 4-H club.”
“What’s a 4-H club?” Blayze asked.
“It’s sort of like a club for people who love animals and raising animals and showing them,” I replied.
“Showing them?” Blayze asked.
“Abort. Abort! Abort this now!” Tanner said in a whispered voice as he hit me on the leg.
I glanced back at him with a confused look.
“Trust me, Lincoln will have your head on a plate if you don’t stop now.”
“Daddy, what does it mean to show an animal in 4-H?”
Tanner closed his eyes. “Shit. It’s too late. The seed has been planted and is taking root.”
I turned back and looked across the table at Brock who had his fork frozen in his mouth. Lincoln stared at me with a not-so-happy look on her face.
Without even thinking, I reached down next to me and grabbed Tanner’s hand. “Oh no. Oh. No. The pregnant one is giving me the death stare,” I softly said as he squeezed my hand.
“Don’t worry, I have lots of places on the ranch we can hide you for a few days.”
I snapped my head to look at him. “Are you serious?” I asked with a laugh that was more filled with fright than humor.
He nodded with a somber look on his face. “Do you not see the way Lincoln is boring her crazy mom eyes into you right now?”
Slowly, I turned back to see her doing just that. Clearing my throat, I tried to fix my mistake. “Well, it’s when older students, much older students, like high school age, um, they get an animal and then raise it. Which is a very difficult thing to do. They have to get up early in the mornings, and by early, I mean way before the sun gets up. Then they have to brush them and feed them and then walk them.”
“Walk them? Like a dog!” he said, getting excited.