“I feel the same way, Tanner. When I’m with you I feel…happy. Content. Sometimes you look at me and I feel so…” I released a nervous chuckle.
“Tell me,” he pressed.
“I feel sexy. I feel desired. I feel wanted. But wanted in more than just a sexual way. I think I was so stuck in my head that I didn’t know if I was dreaming that feeling up, or if it was really happening.”
Tanner almost looked relieved. “I do want you, but not just in my bed. I want to be by your side for whatever life throws at us, Timber. And trust me when I say you’re not the only one who’s scared. I’ve never felt this way in my life. Hell, I’ve had dreams of us walking hand in hand with kids running around us. I’m not entirely positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s not normal for a couple who’ve only been on two dates. And the first one was unofficial.”
My breath caught in my throat. “You’ve had…dreams like that? About us?”
He nodded. “Hell, Timber, I’ve been dreaming about you since I first met you in September.”
My teeth dug into my bottom lip, and I let out a small chuckle. “So have I.”
Tanner took my hands in his, and my stomach fluttered as he rubbed his thumbs over the back of my hands. “I want you to know that I’ll go as slow as you want. As long as I get to see your smile every day, hear your laughter on the breeze, and see those beautiful eyes of yours, I’ll wait as long as you need me to, for whatever happens next. But I need you to know that I’m in this for the long haul, and I will fight for us. And I swear on my life, I will never hurt you, Timber.”
The tears I tried to hold back slipped free and trailed down my face. Tanner watched them fall and then met my gaze again. “I don’t want to say those words too soon, so I’ll just do this instead.”
He placed my hand on his chest. My breath stilled as his heart raced under my touch. His hand landed over mine. With my gaze locked on our joined hands, I finally let the last wall down.
Slowly, I lifted my eyes to his and smiled as I took his other hand and placed it on my chest too. I put my hand over his. “I feel it too,” I whispered.
Tanner smiled and leaned over to kiss me. The moment our lips touched, I heard voices climbing up the steps to the loft and smiled.
With a growl of frustration, Tanner dropped his forehead to mine.
“I heard there was cream cheese fluff up here!” Ty called out.
A soft knock at my bedroom door had me opening my eyes and stretching. I sat up and asked, “Who is it?”
I jumped out of the bed and reached for my robe. A quick glance at the clock on the bedside table said it was only six in the morning.
“One second,” I said as I slid on my slippers and went to the door. I smiled the instant I saw him in his PJs and rumpled hair. Lord, how did he look so handsome straight out of bed?
“Merry Christmas, Timber.”
His voice sounded breathy, and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. “Merry Christmas, Tanner.”
He held out a package, and I let the door fall all the way open. “For me?” I asked, taking the small gift.
“Why are you giving it to me now, Tanner? At six in the morning?” I asked with a slight giggle.
He shrugged. “I didn’t want anyone else to see me give it to you.”
I raised a brow. “Oh? Should I be worried?”
With a shake of his head and a smile, he replied, “No.”
I motioned for him to come into my room, but he shook his head. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
My cheeks heated, and I focused on the gift in my hand. I pulled the ribbon and carefully took off the wrapping paper.
“You’re one of those types of people, are you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, stopping my process of carefully not ripping the wrapping paper.
He gifted me with a brilliant smile and my insides pulsed with desire. I nearly moaned in pleasure. “The type of person who tries not to rip the paper and then folds it up and keeps it.”
I simply shrugged and replied, “Maybe...”
“Go on, keep going. At this rate you’ll have it open by breakfast time.”
I rolled my eyes, then got back to my task. Once the red paper was off, I held my breath and opened the box. “Oh, Tanner!” I gasped as I handed him the ribbon, bow, and paper. I reached in and took out a beautiful key chain with a horse on it.
“This is so stunning.” I looked up at him. “It’s so heavy!” I giggled.
“It’s white gold. I overheard you telling Kaylee you weren’t a fan of yellow gold.”
My mouth fell open in shock as I stared at him. He suddenly looked nervous and took a few steps away from me.
“Do you like it? I thought you could put the house key on it when, you know, you finally purchase the Covey place.” He laughed nervously. “I mean, if you don’t like it…”
“I love it,” I said softly as I looked back down at it. “It’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever gotten.”
My hand came up to my mouth as I stared at the keychain. No one had ever done anything so thoughtful for me before. I was shocked by the feeling of utter joy as it wrapped around my body like a warm blanket. This man was unbelievable. “I’ll cherish this gift forever,” I said as I clutched it to my chest.
A wide smile broke out over Tanner’s face. He let his gaze take in all of me before he locked eyes with me once more.
It was then I realized how I must look. “Geesh, do I look awful?” I said, running my hand through my hair.
Tanner shook his head and replied, “No way. You’re beautiful, even first thing in the morning.”
“I swear, if I had brushed my teeth, I’d pull you into this room and kiss you!”
With a smug smile, Tanner replied, “If I told you I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, would that change the situation any?”
Laughing, I shook my head.
“Damn. Just to be clear, though, I have brushed my teeth.”
I was so light on my feet and over-the-moon happy that I let out a giggle. It sounded like a small child was in my room. “How about you let me brush my teeth, get dressed, and then you and I can get a head start on breakfast.”
Tanner winked. “I like this plan. I’ll meet you downstairs, sweetheart.”
“I won’t be long!” I called out before I shut the door, rushed back into t
he room, and carefully placed the keychain on my bedside table.
No words could describe my excitement at finally being able to share in a Christmas that was normal. One filled with love and laughter and happiness. The little girl in me who hadn’t been able to experience that in so long was itching to come out and enjoy the day.
I heard laughter from the kitchen and paused at the door as I took in the scene before me. Apparently, Tanner wasn’t the only early riser in the family. He and his mom were placing what looked like cinnamon rolls onto a cookie sheet. She hit him on the back of the head and told him to stop eating the frosting, and I had to cover my mouth to keep from laughing. Before I had the chance to step into the kitchen, someone tapped me on my shoulder, and I turned to see Ty Senior standing there. He motioned with his head for me to follow him.
“Is everything okay, Ty?” I asked, unsure of why he would want to speak with me alone.
“Yes, of course. Let me get right to it, sweetheart. I overheard you speaking to Lincoln last night at dinner about finding a place to rent until you close on the Covey ranch and can move in.”
I nodded. “Yes, it looks like it could be a few weeks still, even with how fast everything is moving. They mentioned something about a possible hiccup.”
He smiled, and I was hit by how much his younger son looked like him. The same smile. The same dimple. The same stunning, pale blue eyes.
“Well, I want you to know that you’re welcome to stay here. You’re family now, Timberlynn, and this is your home. Plus, I’d hate to think how Tanner would react if he knew you were leaving the house. With how smitten he is with you and all.”
With a chuckle, I replied, “Smitten?”
He nodded. “Well, I’m sure he’s more than simply smitten, but I’ll just leave it at that. Because he is a Shaw after all, I need you to know that he’ll most likely…to put it bluntly…fuck up something at some point without meaning to do it.”
I brought my hand up to my mouth to keep from laughing.
“It’s true. He’s going to say or do something he thinks is the right thing, and it won’t be, and you’ll most likely want to walk away or kick him where it counts.”