December 1st 2019 by Harlequin Heartwarming
Will an abandoned child bring them together?
Or tear them apart?
Cowboy Jericho Johnson lives a good life working on the Rebel family’s Texas ranch. All he’s missing is a wonderful woman like Anamarie Wiznowski. But Rico’s troubled past and Ana’s disapproving family conspire against them. When Rico is named guardian to a four-year-old boy, he asks Ana for help. And suddenly, he’s falling faster than Christmas snow…for Ana, sweet little Dusty and life as a family man!
“So you’ll be busy.”
“Not so busy that I can’t take care of Dusty.” Why wasn’t he asking her to marry him? They loved each other, didn’t they?
“Well, then.” He placed his hands on his knees. “I guess we should get married. We can go to the courthouse or Wyatt can marry us.”
In all the years she dreamed about someone asking her to marry them, it wasn’t like this. She stood up, anger in every part of her body. “I’m not getting married at the courthouse or by Wyatt Carson.”
“Why not?” He was genuinely puzzled and that eased the anger inside her.
“Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of walking down the aisle on my dad’s arm in a white dress. My sisters and I used to play Bride. We’d walk down the hall with a pillowcase over our heads holding some fake flowers of our mom’s. Sometimes Bubba played dad. I want to get married in the church.”
He frowned. “Anamarie, I’m not into big weddings.”
“It would be just my family and your family.”
“I don’t have a family.”
“Excuse me. Who are the Rebels?”
“They’re my employers.”
He was putting up walls and she had to go at this another way. “Where do you spend your holidays?”
“At Miss Kate’s and on Christmas morning I go to Egan’s first and then to Miss Kate’s.”
“Really? I don’t know many people who go to their employers’ house at Christmas.”
“They’re good to me, but we’re not blood.”
“And that matters to you? Because I don’t see it mattering to the Rebels.” Why was it so hard for him to admit that he was a part of the Rebel family? The walls he had built around himself were getting thicker and she didn’t know if she could get through to make him understand how much she loved him and how much the Rebels loved him.
She sat on the coffee table again, giving him a few minutes. As the clock ticked away, he said nothing. She finally asked, “What are you going to do about Dusty?”
“I can’t let him go into foster care.”
“Then do something about it.”
After a moment, he said, “Okay, I guess we’ll do the wedding thing you want.” His voice held a tinge of resentment that didn’t sit well with her.
She got up from the coffee table. “I’m going to pack my things, but I won’t leave until the morning. I want to say goodbye to Dusty.”
“What? Wait?” As she walked by his chair, he caught her hand. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t want to feel as if I’m forcing you into marriage. It has to be something you want, too, and clearly, you don’t.”
“I’m just trying to get this right.”
“Well, you got it wrong.” She took a deep breath. “Rico, when a man proposes to a woman, she wants to hear more than we should get married. I need more if I’m going to spend my life with you. And you seem very hesitant to offer that.”
“What do you mean? You know I love you. I’ve been crazy about you for years.”
The magic words would have been wonderful if he hadn’t tacked on you know.
She placed her hand over her heart. “I love you, Rico, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
He got to his feet, still holding her hand. “The only person I’ve ever loved is my great-grandmother and it’s hard for me to recognize those emotions after everything that has happened to me. But I know that I love you. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone in my whole life. Will you marry me and help me make a home for Dusty?”
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