The Sweetest Thing Read online

Page 50

  Author: Jill Shalvis

  “No,” Ford said, resisting them both. “Just give me a damn minute. I think… Fuck. I think I’m going to pass out now. ”

  “Okay, that’s it,” Tara said and nodded at Sawyer. “Inside. Now. ”

  “Love it when you’re bossy,” Ford murmured. “Especially in bed. Can we do that again soon?”

  “You don’t listen to me when I boss you,” she said, holding onto him.

  “If you get naked, I’ll try. I swear. ”

  Sawyer looked deeply pained. “Hello, I’m right here. ” When he tried to steer Ford toward the inn, Ford dug in his heels.

  Or heel.

  “Don’t,” Ford grated out. “Not yet. Sawyer—”

  “Let me guess. You need a minute. ”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Ford, you’re hurting,” Tara said, and just sighed when Sawyer gave in and backed away, heading to the porch.

  “My pain meds wore off,” Ford announced.

  “I know, which is why—”

  “I need to do this, Tara. I came here to do this. ”

  “You’re trying to tell me something,” she said.

  “Yes. Actually, I’m trying to ask you something. The last time I asked, you didn’t take me seriously because I was high as a kite. I’m not high as a kite this time, Tara. ” His eyes held pain, but also warmth and affection and love.

  “I know this because I’ve been watching the clock,” he said. “Waiting. ”

  Before she could say a word to that, her sisters and Mia, along with Carlos, came out of the inn. So did their two guests with their picnic basket. Everyone crowded onto the porch with Sawyer.

  Ford looked at them and let out one low oath.

  “Oh, no,” Tara said, ignoring their audience as she gripped his shirt. “No more waiting. You said so. Now ask me, dammit. ”

  He seemed surprised that she’d managed to follow his rambling logic. “Now?”

  “Now. ”

  “I ask you to marry me when we’re alone, and you assume I’m out of my mind and don’t respond. And now you want me to ask you while we’re being stared at by…” He paused to look at all the people on the porch.

  Everyone waved.

  Shaking his head, Ford waved back. “I don’t even know some of those people but the ones I do know are probably going to mock me for the rest of my life. And Jesus, is Chloe videotaping this?”

  Chloe had her phone aimed at them. “For Facebook,” she called out.

  Tara turned her back on them. “Just do it!”

  He stared at her. “You really are the most stubborn woman on the planet. ”

  “Yeah, yeah, I’m working on that. Ask me!”

  “You sure do like to tell people what to do. You know that?”

  “Yes, but to be fair, I’m good at it. Ford—”

  “And impatient,” he mused. “Interrupting me when I’m trying to outline the reasons I love you. ”

  She blinked. “You’re… you mean you love my stubborn, bossy, interrupting self?”

  “Well, I’d say you were more perversely inflexible and mule-headed, but yeah. I also love the way you drop your gs like a Southern belle, and the way you talk to yourself when you’re cooking. And how you think you’re so badass cool, calm, and collected, when really, if you know what to look for, you show everything in your eyes, and usually you’re not cool, calm, or collected at all. ”

  Her breath caught.

  “Yeah,” he said softly. “I know all the secrets. I love them, too. ” He pressed his mouth to her temple. “I love you, Tara. Love me back. Marry me. ”

  She pressed her forehead to his and felt all the little pieces of her heart knit together. “Yes,” she said, and the crowd on the porch erupted into cheers.

  “I did that,” Mia told Maddie and Chloe proudly, pointing to Ford and Tara embracing. “I totally brought them together. ”

  Ford grinned at her, then looked down at Tara. “I even have a ring,” he said. “I’ve had it since right after you poured me a glass of iced tea while you were serving the Garden Biddies. ” He lifted a shoulder. “It was wishful thinking. It’s on my boat,” he said and waggled a brow.

  She laughed. “Are you trying to lure me back to your place?”

  “Yes. Is it working?”

  She thought about it for a beat. “It’ll be hard. ”

  He lowered his voice for her ears only. “I can promise you that. ”

  “I mean I’m no picnic, Ford. ”

  “No,” he agreed, closing his eyes when she slid her arms around his waist, brushing his lips along her jaw. “But you sure taste good. ”

  With a sigh, Tara turned her face, pressing it against his chest. He wrapped her in his arms and held on, although to be fair, she was doing most of the supporting. “How long do you figure until you fall down?” she asked.

  “Maybe ten seconds. ”

  “Sawyer!” she yelled, without taking her eyes off of her new fiancé, who cupped her face and looked deep into his eyes.

  “Forever this time,” he said as Sawyer strode toward them.

  Tara sighed blissfully. “You know what this means, right?”

  “I’m done guessing,” he said. “Tell me. ”

  “It means you’re mine,” she said. “And I’m yours. No more walking away. We are going to get it right this time. ”

  His smile was slow and easy, and just for her. “Well, finally. ”