Tanner laughed, hard. “God, no, Timber. I mean, let’s move into a house together.”
This time I smiled. “You want to move in together?”
I sighed, my happy bubble deflating as real life poked its ugly head back in. “My father, he’s…”
“Wait…before you say anything, I have an idea that I want to run by you. I’ve already spoken to my parents about it. It’s actually what Merit was talking about.”
“I’ve asked my folks if we can purchase the cabin on the lake.”
His words rattled around in my head for a few moments. “The cabin? You mean the house on the lake? Because it’s not a cabin, Tanner.”
“Yes,” he chuckled. “The house on the lake.”
I shook my head. “Wait, you said we. As in, me and you?”
“Yes. I know it’s a huge leap on your part, and a big risk. But I don’t really see us breaking up, so…”
I put my hand to my forehead to ward off the instant headache. “Tanner, wait. This is moving way too fast.”
He stared at me like I just said the craziest thing. “I just told you I wanted to spend my future with you, what difference does it make if we start early? If we purchase this land from my parents, your father won’t even know about it because it’ll all be done in-house. He can’t interfere or outbid anyone.”
I swallowed hard and looked out one of the windows toward the lake in the distance. His thinking made sense. But a million what-ifs ran through my mind. I pulled in a deep breath and faced him.
“Buying a house together is a huge leap in any relationship. But buying a house that sits on your family’s land is altogether insane. Tanner, as much as I want a future with you, what if things don’t work out? Then what would I do? I’d have all of my money invested into a house and land that was sitting on your family’s property. I can’t do that. It’s not that I don’t trust you or trust us, but we’re still so new in this relationship. I just now got control over my future, Tanner. I don’t want to risk losing it again.”
After a few moments of thinking, he nodded his head. “I can understand your worry. There’s about two-hundred acres that separate the cabin…”
I raised a brow.
“Fine, the lake house from the next ranch. The Peterson’s own it.”
“Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?”
“When Brock and his first wife got married, my folks gifted him the house my granddaddy had built. It sat on the edge of the ranch’s perimeter, so it was easy for them to simply cut off a small portion of the ranch and give it to Brock and Kaci. Well, Kaylee and Ty now own it. There’s a couple hundred acres of land with it. Then Brock had a house he built on the ranch. Again, my folks carved out a piece of the ranch and gave it to him. What if I talked to the Peterson family and asked them if they‘d be interested in selling you some of the land that butts up to the land that I’m going to buy from my folks?”
My heart started to beat a little faster in my chest. “Do you think they’d be willing to sell some land? And do it privately?”
“We could ask them. Or the other option is, you hang onto your money and start your business now on the land I buy. Plus, you’ll have full use of the entire ranch. If things work out, then we make it all legal with your name on it.”
I chewed on my lip and thought about what he was saying. “Will you give me some time to think about it?”
Tanner smiled. “Of course, but I’m still buying the cabin, er, lake house. So even if you didn’t want to buy it with me—and I totally understand why you would have reservations about it—you could still move in with me. You said so yourself. You could see yourself living there.”
I laughed. “It is a beautiful spot.”
He nodded. “I wanted it before you came into my life. And us making love in that house for the first time only sealed the deal for me. Brock and Ty are fully on board and happy to see someone’s actually going to move into the place.”
“So, no matter what, you’re buying it?”
He nodded. “And you can move in with me.”
I rolled my eyes and laughed.
“If you think for one minute I don’t intend on falling asleep next to you every night and waking up every morning with you in my arms, then you are crazy,” he said.
“That’s moving supersonic fast.”
He smiled and his dimples were on full display. “Sweetheart, have you never seen me rope a calf before? Supersonic is the only speed I know.”
The most beautiful smile appeared on Timberlynn’s face before she laughed. “You’re serious. You’re really going to buy the house on the lake? And you want me to move in with you?”
I cupped her face in my hands. “I wasn’t just talking out of my ass when I said I was falling in love with you, Timber. I want to be a part of your life in every single way. And I want you to be a part of mine.”
“So, what you’re saying is, I’m your new partner?”
With a chuckle, I nodded, then pulled her face to mine and kissed her. Her fingers laced into my hair, and she let out a moan so sexy it shot a bolt of electricity straight to my cock.
I walked her back slowly until she was pressed against the door.
“Tanner,” she whispered against my mouth as she pulled on my hair gently. “We already desecrated your daddy’s office once.”
With a quick look around, I laughed. “Good point. So you’ll think about everything I said?”
She nodded. “I will. I promise.”
“We better get back out there, or someone will come looking for us.”
As we headed out the door, Timberlynn reached for my hand and pulled me to a stop. “I want you to know something.”
“I trust you with all my heart, and I don’t think we’re going to fail.”
With a soft kiss on her forehead, I nodded. “I know. My folks tried to tell me to wait a bit before I talked to you about my plan, but I really wanted you to know how I felt and what I wanted for our future. I won’t hold you back from your dreams, Timber. I swear to you. If you want to purchase your own place, I’ll support you a hundred percent.”
She placed her hand on the side of my face. “You really are so amazing, do you know that?”
“Midnight is in fifteen minutes!” someone shouted.
“Come on, let’s go grab some champagne and get ready to start the New Year together. You and me.”
With a smile, she repeated, “You and me.”
As Timberlynn and I made our way back to the crowd, I realized that people had started to make their way outside. “Let’s grab our coats and join them.”
Timberlynn stopped walking. “Outside? It’s freezing out there!”
I gave her a wink and said, “Trust me, it’ll be worth it.”
Ty was headed our way, both our coats in his hands. Kaylee followed behind him.
“Thought you might want these,” Ty said as he handed us our jackets.
“Why are we going outside?” Timberlynn asked. I helped slip her coat on.
“You’ll see!” Kaylee said. “Here, at least one of us can drink the new year in!”
Timberlynn took the two glasses of champagne from Kaylee and handed one to me. “Now I’m curious!” she said with a slight giggle.
As we stepped outside, I noticed the fire my dad had started in the pit. Brock stood next to our parents with his arms around Lincoln. Blayze sat on top of my father’s shoulders, and my mother seemed to have a glow about her that I could see thanks to the fire’s light. I knew she was happy to have us all home and together.
I did a quick sweep of the outstretched ranch before us. The moon hit the snow and lit it up like a nighttime candle. Damn, I loved this place, and I knew I had made the right decision in staying. Every day that passed, working alongside my father and brother
s, I knew in my heart that this was where I needed to be. And the woman standing next to me was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I didn’t have a doubt in the world about that.
Timberlynn leaned into me, so I wrapped my arm around her waist. Ty and Kaylee had joined us and stood between Timberlynn and my folks. My mother turned to see us all there and smiled so big I couldn’t help but smile back. “I’m so happy to have all my kids home. I love you all so much! I’m sure Beck is looking down smiling on us this evening. Happy to see all of his brothers are home safe and sound.”
Ty leaned down and kissed our mother on the cheek, followed by Brock, then me.
Timberlynn smiled up at me.
“What?” I asked.
“I just love your family is all.”
“You’re a part of it now, darlin’.”
Her cheeks turned slightly pink, and she jumped when Dad shouted, “It’s almost time! Grab the person you want to ring in the New Year with!”
“Where’s Dirk?” I asked Brock. We both searched the crowd. He always rang in the New Year with us when he was home.
“He probably can’t find anyone to kiss at midnight!” Brock said with a laugh.
“What about Merit?” Timberlynn asked.