“Yes!” Ty said as Lincoln asked Brock if he could just carry her. She was, of course, kidding. Although, I had a feeling if he offered to do it, she would take him up on it.
An hour later and everyone was at the corral. Even my father had showed up, which surprised me. I rushed over to give him a hug and stopped when I saw the smile on his face. He seemed lighter on his feet, a spark in his eye that made my heart feel happy.
“Dad, you have a look about you,” I said.
He laughed and kissed me on the cheek. “It’s the fresh mountain air here. Does a soul good.”
“The mountain air, huh?” Stella countered. “That pep in your step wouldn’t have anything to do with the rumor going around town that you had lunch with a lady yesterday.”
I spun back around to look at my father. “Dad, is it true?! Did you go on a date?”
He held up his hands and laughed. “Don’t get all excited.”
“Was it a date?” Stella asked. “Betty Lou told me she saw you and Molly Walker having lunch together. I was just teasing, but do tell!”
“Yes, Uncle Frank, do tell!” Kaylee added.
“Goodness, there’s no getting away with anything in this town, is there?” my father said as he smiled and then looked at me. “I was going to talk to you about it. It was just a friendly lunch, but I do like Molly. She’s…nice.”
“Nice?” every woman said at the same time.
“Frank, have I not taught you anything yet about these women?” Ty Senior asked.
“Oh hush, Ty,” Stella said, then motioned for my father to keep talking. “Tell us more, Frank.”
My father blushed, and I was hit right in the middle of my chest with a happiness I hadn’t realized I could experience.
“Daddy,” I said softly as I took his hands in mine. “You don’t have to talk to me about dating anyone.”
He nodded. “I know, but I wanted to let you know first. Guess I better move faster than the gossip chain next time.” He shot a quick look at Stella who pretended not to hear him.
I leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. “You don’t need my permission to date anyone. I’ve met Molly. She’s very nice.”
“Not to mention, hot as hell for her age. You know she teaches the spin class at the community center and she kicks ass,” Kaylee said. Dad’s face turned even more red with embarrassment.
“Enough about me, how are you feeling, sweetheart?” Dad asked as he walked over and kissed Kaylee.
Then he turned to Lincoln and gave her a sympathetic smile. “You look radiant, Lincoln.”
She kissed him on the cheek and said, “Liar. But thank you.”
“Frank! You made it!” Tanner called out from atop his horse.
Dad gave Tanner a thumbs up and shouted, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Miss what?” I asked as I looked between them.
“Can we stop talking and do this? I feel like this is gonna be my lucky run!” Ty shouted.
Tanner laughed. “By all means, brother. Go for it.”
“What do we have here, the Shaw brothers competing?” Everyone turned to see Dirk walking toward the corral.
“Dirk, what happened?” Kaylee cried out as she rushed over to him. His arm was in a sling.
“It’s nothing, a torn ligament.”
“Ouch,” Brock and Ty said in unison.
“Bull riding?” Kaylee asked.
Dirk frowned. “Don’t get me started.”
“I’m so glad you’re home though,” Kaylee said as she kissed him on the cheek.
“My God, woman, you’re huge!” Dirk leaned down to talk to the baby. “Hey, baby girl Shaw!”
“I am not huge. She’s huge,” Kaylee said as she pointed at Lincoln.
Dirk’s eyes grew wide, and he walked over to Lincoln. “Wow. You look…”
“Like a whale.” Lincoln sighed.
Dirk laughed. “I was going to say like a stunningly beautiful woman who is ready to pop.”
She laughed. “I am. One month to go.”
“Don’t let me stop you gentlemen from your roping session,” Dirk called out as he turned and kissed me on the cheek. “Hey, sweetheart, how are you?”
“I’m good. I’m sorry about your injury.”
“It is what it is,” Dirk said with a wink, then walked over and started shaking hands with everyone.
Once Dirk made his rounds, things got back underway.
Tanner and Ty Senior were partners, while Ty and Brock had paired up. Ty nodded for Jimmy to open the gate, then took off.
“He almost broke the line early,” Tanner stated.
We all watched as Tanner roped the calf’s head and Brock got his back leg.
“Five seconds,” Jimmy shouted.
“Damn it all to hell, Brock!”
“Me! You took forever to rope the stupid thing.”
“Last time up, Tanner and Mr. Shaw!” Jimmy cried out.
Tanner looked back at me, and I smiled and blew him a kiss. He winked, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to get the man alone.
They got into position, and a calf was loaded in the shoot. “This is it, Dad. Let’s show him how it’s done.”
Ty Senior tipped his hat toward Tanner, and Trigger stomped around, anxious to be let loose. Tanner gave the nod, and they took off. It was a blur how fast Tanner and his father went.
“Jesus! Holy shit! Oh my gosh!” Jimmy shouted as he looked at the timer in his hand.
Ty groaned, then shouted, “For the love of God, Jimmy, what was their time?”
Jimmy looked at Tanner. “Three-point-two seconds.”
I let out a scream, as did Stella. Kaylee and Lincoln both cried out in celebration.
My father looked around. “What are we screaming for?”
“You broke the record! You broke the world record!” I yelled as I climbed over the fence and ran toward Tanner.
He laughed, as did Ty Senior.
“Damn, old man! Who knew you still had it in you?” Brock said as he rode up and shook his father’s hand.
Tanner leaned down and kissed me.
“You did it, Tanner. You did it and no one will know,” I said.
He winked. “I know I did it, that’s all that matters. And I did it with my dad, which makes it all the more special.”
My cheeks burned as I looked up at him and smiled. “I love you.”
“I love you more, darlin’.”
Ty rode over and shook Tanner’s hand as I stepped out of the way. I turned to walk over to Ty Senior, who was currently off his horse and kissing Stella, bent back in a dip. I laughed and went to say something, but I came to a stop when a rope went around me.
Laughing, I turned to look at Tanner.
“What in the world are you doing?” I asked.
“Do you remember when I told you I’d never roped a woman before because I hadn’t found one worth ropin’?”
“Yes!” I said with a giggle as I took the rope off of me and walked back toward him. He stopped right in front of me, then knelt down on one knee. I sucked in a breath and felt my stomach drop.
“Well, I found her, and I don’t ever intend on letting you go. You have made me the happiest I’ve ever been, Timber, and I cannot imagine my life without you in it. I want to be by your side as every dream you’ve ever dreamed comes true. I want the honor of calling you mine, and I want desperately for you to be my wife. Will you marry me?”
Tears streamed down my face as I dropped down onto the dirt in front of him. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words would come out. The only thing I managed to do was nod and sob like a fool.
“I believe that’s a yes, son!” my father called out.
I smiled and said, “Yes! Yes, I will marry you!
Tanner’s face erupted into the most beautiful smile as he picked up my left hand and slipped on the ring. I glanced down at it and stared. Then I looked up at my father and saw him wiping away his own tears
“Daddy,” I whispered.
“She would have wanted you to have it, princess.”
Tanner leaned in and whispered, “Go to him, Timber.”
I turned back to Tanner, cupped his face with my hands and kissed him. “I love you so much, Tanner Shaw.”
He winked. “I know. I love you too.”
Tanner stood and helped me up. I hugged him tightly, then turned and ran to my father.
He held his arms open and caught me when I ran into them. “I love you, Timberlynn. So very much.”