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Last resort, p.36
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       Last Resort, p.36

           Jill Sanders
Cassey was miserable. Here it was the biggest and best holiday of the year and all she could do was sit in the living room at the big house and sigh. Her brothers were acting up and had been kicked out of the house by her aunt, who refused to let them toss the football around. She’d declined to go with them since she didn’t feel like losing and putting up with their cheating at the moment.

  There was almost an hour before dinner was going to be served, and she just couldn’t stand to be cooped up any longer. Grabbing her jacket, she walked out onto the front deck and watched for a while as her brothers tackled one another and tossed the ball around. When they asked her to join again, she told them she was walking to the water’s edge. Their pond wasn’t as big as Mr. Orsborn’s, but it served its purpose and was an excellent swimming hole, nonetheless.

  As she walked through the tall grass towards the water, she thought about everything that had changed in the last year.

  Her business was still struggling, but she knew that with Luke’s plans for his hotel, and the plans they’d made together for her place, things were going to start picking up again after the holidays. It was just a matter of time.

  She’d gone almost a whole week without Luke being around and still couldn’t figure out why it meant so much to her. She found herself getting more and more depressed.

  Her place felt empty, which it had never felt before. Maybe she needed a cat or a small dog to fill the space instead.

  She made it to the pond’s edge and sat on the large log that her brothers had rolled there one summer to use as a seat. This was one of her happy places. So many fun times had been spent here with her brothers and sister. If she closed her eyes, she could see them all in different stages of their lives. Young, early teen, adulthood. All of them except Marissa. Her sister’s image was frozen on the last day she’d ever seen her.

  When she heard a snap of a branch behind her, she turned, thinking she’d see one of her brothers. Instead, Luke walked down the path towards her, his hands in the pockets of his worn-out jeans. His brown leather jacket was zipped up. His hair was messy from the wind and he looked troubled.

  Immediately, she stood. “What? What’s wrong? Is your father—?”

  “No.” He shook his head. “Dad’s resting fine at home with my mother.” He stopped beside her and she noticed he didn’t reach out to touch her or lean down to kiss her hello. She felt like she’d been slapped in the face.

  Instantly, her mind clouded with reasons. Then it dawned on her. He looked troubled because he was coming here to break it off with her. Her shoulders slumped and she felt like her heart stopped for several moments.

  “Are you hearing me?” He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook her a little.

  “Hmm?” She blinked a few times, clearing the heartbreak she’d created in her mind and head.

  “Where did you just go?” he asked, dropping his hands from her shoulders. Instantly, she felt the loss of the warmth of his touch and wondered if she could continue living without it.

  She shook her head and felt her eyes start to sting.

  “What are you doing here? I thought you couldn’t get away until after New Year’s?”

  He shrugged his shoulders. “I had to leave. I had to come see you.” He turned and walked towards the pond and then stopped after kicking a pebble into the calm water. “If I told you something, would you promise not to freak out?” He turned towards her again.

  She felt frozen in her steps. She knew what was coming. Although she’d never had someone break it off with her—she’d always been the one to run away from relationships—she’d always known this day was coming. The day her heart would break beyond repair.

  She couldn’t speak, so she just nodded, instead.

  He took two steps towards her and reached for her. She felt like jolting away, but stood her ground instead.

  “I love you. I love you with every ounce of my being. Cassey, I want to be with you for the rest of my life. I want to wake up next to you, see your silvery eyes as they go foggy when I touch you.” He ran a finger lightly down her cheek, over her lips slowly, and then down her neck and smiled. “Yes, just like that. I want to know that you feel that way about me, too. I think you do, but I need to know it. Do you feel the same way?” He pulled her close and she could feel his heart beating through their jackets. Maybe it was her own she felt; it was racing like a jackrabbit being chased by a fox.

  Her eyes were trapped in his dark brown ones. When he blinked, she was released from the gaze and her eyes wandered over his face. There were dark circles under his eyes, telling her that he hadn’t been sleeping well. He looked like he could use a haircut and a shave, which only gave him a dangerous, sexy look.

  She knew the answer to his question. She’d known it for weeks, but had been trying to avoid thinking about it. Avoid owning up to it even in her own mind.

  She blinked a few times and realized he was silently watching her, waiting for her reply.

  “I…” She cleared her throat and saw fear jump into his eyes. Shaking her head, she tried to smile at him. “Be patient, this is the first time I’ve ever told someone this.” His smile was fast and deadly. All the fear and doubt left her, making her feel giddy. “Yes, I love you. I love you more than I want to. I don’t think I could ever stop loving you.” She laughed when he pulled her close and started spinning in circles.

  When he was done, he set her down and his smile fell away. “Now, here comes the hard part.”

  A burst of laughter escaped her. “That wasn’t the hard part?”

  He smiled and shook his head, then dropped down on one knee right there by the clear waters of her pond. “Cassey Grayton, my family is selfish and my father runs a business that will do anything it takes to make sure your business goes under so he can take over the boardwalk. I might be tied up for the next few months helping my father run that business. Not to mention trying to get my own business off the ground. I don’t know if I’ll succeed—”

  “Luke,” she interrupted, since he was starting to ramble.

  “Sorry.” He shook his head. “Cassey, will you marry me?”

  She smiled. “I think that’s a great next step.”

  He laughed. “Oh, damn.” He shook his head. “I forgot. Now I’ll have to start all over.” He dropped to his knee again. This time as he did so, he pulled out a small black silk box.

  Her heart skipped. For some reason, she hadn’t thought he’d actually thought about this before today.

  “Cassey, will you marry me?” he asked as he opened the lid of the box. The ring was breathtaking. She’d never seen its likeness. Not only was the diamond bigger than any she’d seen, but the titanium band was twisted in a unique way. She couldn’t talk this time and just nodded as he stood to place the ring on her finger.

  “It’s beautiful,” she whispered, looking down at the ring.

  “I’d like to say it was my grandmother’s, but my mother is still wearing that one. Besides, I doubt my father would give it up under the circumstances.” He frowned a little.

  “It doesn’t matter. It’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen.” She smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck and placed a kiss on his lips, which he took deeper.

  When they walked into the house just over half an hour later, they were both breathless from the walk and the heated passion they’d shared by the cold waters.

  “Guess he found you.” Marcus smiled as he shook Luke’s hand.

  “Yes.” She waited until her father walked into the room. “And we’re engaged.” She held up her finger, showing off the ring.

  Everyone looked surprised except Marcus and her father. Her aunt squealed and rushed across the room to hug her. Cole and Roman shook Luke’s hand and hugged her.

  When her father finally made it over, she thought she saw tears in his eyes. “I can’t believe my little girl is getting married. He’s a fine man,” he said and pulled her aside as Luke talked to her brothers. “You know,
he stopped by a few weeks back to ask for your hand. I was so proud. We sat for almost two hours and talked until I finally said yes.” He shook his head. “Damn if that man doesn’t love you.” He smiled.

  “Oh, Dad.” She hadn’t felt the tears in her eyes until he reached up and wiped one away.

  “I’m so proud of you,” he said and hugged her.

  Later that night, as they lay in the small bed of her youth, they talked about the future. He couldn't wait to really be living with her since he'd been away so much since he'd moved in. But, he had to made sure his father was back up to par or at least make sure his employees were running everything smoothly.

  “I wish I didn’t have to head back tomorrow,” Luke said, running his fingers lightly over her shoulders.

  “Me, too.” She sighed and fell asleep in his arms, dreaming of what life was going to be like in the upcoming weeks.

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