I chuckled. “You did,” I whispered back.
“Are you finally together?” he asked as we stepped apart.
He pumped his fist in the air, then shoved Brock on the back. “Pay up. I won. Little brother has himself a girlfriend.” Brock groaned and pulled out his wallet.
“You did not bet on Tanner and Timberlynn!” Lincoln admonished the two of them.
“Sure as heck did!” Ty stated as he waved his money in the air, only to have Kaylee grab it from his hands.
“Thanks! I can get an early start on baby shopping.” We all watched as Ty’s face went from excited as hell to oh shit.
Everyone laughed again as Ty’s brothers started to take a few teasing jabs at him.
“Okay, into the dining room before breakfast gets cold!” Stella said, motioning for everyone to go and sit.
I noticed Blayze standing off to the side, a stricken look on his face.
“Um, Stella, do you mind if I have a word with Blayze really quickly?”
Stella stole a glance in her grandson’s direction and smiled softly. “Oh no. His little heart is broken yet again.” She reached for my hand and squeezed it. “Take your time, sweetheart.”
I walked over to Blayze and stretched my hand out. He took it and we made our way out of the kitchen and into the living room.
The moment he sat down on the sofa, he let out a long, loud sigh. “Well, looks like I lost the girl again.”
It took everything in me not to smile. This little boy was so much like his father and uncles. And if I had to guess, like his granddad too.
“Blayze, you had to know it wasn’t going to work. I’m simply too old for you.”
He nodded. “Do you like Uncle Tanner? I mean, do you really like him?”
“Yes, very much so. I’ve liked him since I first met him at your Uncle Ty’s wedding.”
He looked at me with a thoughtful expression. “There’s this girl in my class and, um, she said there’s a thing called love at first sight. Do you think that’s true?”
I thought back to the very first time Tanner walked up to me. That cowboy hat, the jeans and button-down shirt that showcased his amazing body. The smile that instantly lit something up inside of me. The countless hours I thought about him, dreamt of him. With a smile, I answered Blayze honestly. “Up until I met your Uncle Tanner, I wouldn’t have believed in it.”
“But ya do now?”
I nodded. “I believe I do.”
He sighed once more and looked down at his little cowboy boots.
“What’s the little girl’s name?” I asked.
Trying to be careful with where this conversation was going, I asked, “Did Lilly mention why she believed in love at first sight?”
He nodded. “Yeah. She said she fell in love with me when she first saw me.”
“Oh dear,” I said softly, frantically looking over my shoulder for Lincoln or Stella. Hell, even Kaylee would be better than me at this.
“I wasn’t thinkin’ I liked her, ’cause you know, you came to town and all.”
Suddenly this six-year-old felt like a little adult.
“I see. But how do you feel about her now?”
He shrugged. “My friend Tommy says we ain’t supposed to like girls. At least not now.”
I nodded, glancing over my shoulder again and whispering, “Help!”
“But I don’t think he’s right. Daddy says girls don’t have cooties like Tommy says. Do you think only girls in my class have them?”
What is the right answer here?! Oh gosh.
“Um…well…no…girls don’t have cooties at any age.”
Blayze lit up like the Fourth of July. Shoot, maybe that wasn’t the right answer. “It’s okay to like her? I mean, I’m pretty sure Lilly will be easy to win.”
I closed my eyes and groaned internally. With a quick prayer to give me the right words to say, I took Blayze’s hands and gave him a sweet smile. “Blayze, the first mistake a young man, I mean, a man can make is thinking he can easily win the heart of girl. She needs to know you like her for her. For who she is.”
“What does that mean, Miss Timber?”
My heart melted at how he shortened my name. “It means you like her for things like her smile or for how smart she is. Girls should always be treated with respect, and one should never assume she’s a prize to be won. Giving your heart to someone is a big thing, and asking for it in return is just as big.”
His little brows drew in closer and I cringed inwardly. Was that too much for a six-year-old to process? Hell, according to Tanner, Blayze had finally stopped using the W sound for his Ls not that long ago, and here I was giving him love advice.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Blayze stood. “Tommy was right. Girls can make a man go crazy.”
My mouth fell open, and I stared at him. He shook his head, gave a half shrug, and then walked back toward the kitchen.
After a moment or two, I found myself laughing.
“That was some good advice you gave him.”
I stood and faced Lincoln, who had come into the room at some point. “Wow. I don’t know how you do it.”
She smiled. “Some days neither do I. You’re really good with him, Timberlynn. Thank you for thinking of him and talking to him. It means a lot to me and Brock.”
“I just hope I didn’t confuse him more. Maybe I should have kept it simple and told him that girls do, in fact, have cooties.”
She rolled her eyes. “He has Shaw blood running through him, so that would never work.”
We both laughed and headed back into the dining room. About that time, Dirk showed up for breakfast, and the moment he caught sight of Ty’s shirt, I saw something I thought I would never see.
He looked at Kaylee, smiled, and let a single tear slip free.
Maybe there was hope for that man yet.
The day after Christmas, I walked into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee, smiling as I watched my mother stir blueberry muffin mix. My father sat reading the paper like he did every morning. Last night, after all the excitement had died down, I announced that I was retiring from roping. Everyone in the family was supportive of my decision, as I knew they would be, but I could especially see it in my folks’ eyes. They were happy to have all of their sons back home, that was clear to see.
“It’s a beautiful morning,” I said before I took a sip of my coffee.
My mother beamed at me. “The best morning ever!”
“I’ll agree with your mother,” Dad said. “I think this has been one hell of a good Christmas.”
He glanced over the paper and gave me a smile. I returned it, then pushed off the counter. “I’m off to do some chores.”
As I walked out of the kitchen, I heard my father sigh in delight. “Yes, indeed, one hell of a good Christmas.”
After shooting the shit with Jimmy and finishing my coffee, I walked into the barn and came to a stop at the sight in front of me. Dirk was standing there in a yoga pose.
“Okay, what the fuck has happened to you, dude?” I asked, making him jump. “First you cried yesterday, and now you’re doing yoga? Who the hell are you lately?”
“You dickhead, you scared the piss out of me. And for the one-millionth time, I didn’t cry. Something was in my eye at that particular moment!”
“You cried. We all saw it.”
He sighed, then rolled his eyes. “Fine. It was a tear of happiness for Kaylee. You know how she’s like a sister to me. It was for her. And I quickly wiped it away.”
“There was more than one…it…and you didn’t wipe it quickly enough,” I mumbled.
“What are you even doing here this early?” Dirk asked as he balanced once again in a one-legged stance.
“Um, ranching. It’s like downward dog, but it’s called feed the horses,” I replied. As I walked by him, I barely touched his sho
ulder with the tip of my finger, causing him to go off balance again.
He put his other foot down and quickly recovered.
“What are you doing yoga in the barn for? Why didn’t you do it up in your room? You know if Brock and Tanner see you doing this, you’ll never live it down.”
He huffed. “Please, Brock is the one who told me how good it would be for my balance on the bull.”
I stopped walking and turned to faced him. “Brock does yoga?”
“Did. Past tense. I doubt he does it now.”