Thankfully, she was alone.
“Sarah,” he said. He knew his tone had been harsh and was wishing he’d softened it when she spun toward him. He saw the joy she felt at seeing him, just before she reined her emotions in. I’m an ass.
There isn’t anyone else.
He closed the distance between them, rehearsing exactly what he’d say to convince her to give him a second chance. He’d start with an apology. He’d tell her how much he’d missed her, how much he needed her. And then, he’d tell her what had taken him weeks to admit to himself.
I love her.
She took a step toward him and he swung her up and held her slightly above him, kissing her with all the passion that had been building within him since he’d last seen her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and settled into his arms as he lowered her slowly against his chest. Her tears mixed with their kiss. He buried his face in her hair and held her to him.
“I was a fool,” he said urgently, hugging her closer.
She pulled back so she could look into his eyes and said, “No, I was. I pushed you when I should have given you time.”
He cupped her face in his hands and said, “I didn’t need more time, I needed a swift kick in the pants, and you leaving me did that. I was trapped in the past. You set me free.”
Still crying even though she was smiling, Sarah said, “Are you really here?”
He kissed her lips lightly, tenderly. “Yes, and I hope you can pack fast because you’re coming home with me.”
She cocked her head to one side. “Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
“I know what I want and that’s you, Sarah.”
Her beautiful brown eyes searched his face. “For how long?”
He ran a light thumb over her bottom lip. “Forever.”
She launched herself onto her tiptoes and kissed him, and the world around them receded. All that existed, all that mattered, was the two of them and their hunger for each other. They kissed until the desire to rip each other’s clothing off, right there in the driveway, almost won.
Tony broke off the kiss and rested his forehead on hers, their mutual labored breathing blocking out all other sounds. “Do you have anything inside that you can’t get later? You already have Scooter loaded. Let’s go home. We’ll come back for my truck and your things tomorrow . . . or the next day. I want you in my bed, and once I have you there I can’t imagine we’ll be leaving it anytime soon.”
Flushed and looking a bit bemused, Sarah said, “That’s not Scooter in the trailer.”
“You bought yourself another horse?”
Sarah touched his cheek softly. “No, I bought you one.”
He looked at the trailer but couldn’t see more than a shadow of what was inside. “You bought me a gift? Does that mean you were coming back?”
“No,” she said, her eyes brimming with emotion. “I was going to have David deliver her to you.”
“I don’t understand,” Tony said.
“Go look at her,” Sarah suggested.
The last thing Tony cared about right then was a horse, but Sarah seemed to care an awful lot about her gift, so he went to the back of the trailer and opened it. To his surprise, it wasn’t a quarter horse or even a young horse.
Sarah opened the side door and unclipped the horse’s harness. An aged white mare backed off the trailer. Tony’s gut clenched painfully as he recognized her profile. It couldn’t be.
He put out his hand for the mare to smell. She whinnied into his palm, then rubbed her head roughly against him. His voice came out in a whisper. “Missy?”
Emotion flooded him as he tried to make sense of what he’d never dared to think possible. Sarah had found the horse his father had sold when he was twelve. The only horse he’d ever let himself love.
Did she remember him? Before Sarah, Tony would have said she didn’t. He would have dismissed her greeting and the way she was nuzzling against him as learned behavior—something she associated with any human contact. But as he looked into those wise equine eyes, he saw recognition and love.
“Where did you find her?” He put his hand out to Sarah and his heart swelled when she took it between both of hers.
“Dean found her. The people that owned her bought her at an auction in your town. They remembered your father. She’s been at their farm since. All their children learned to ride on her, but they retired her when their kids moved out. If I hadn’t told them your story, they would have let her graze in their back field for the rest of her life. They loved her, Tony, just like you did. And they would like to come visit her at your ranch if you’ll let them.”
Whatever wall had been left around Tony’s heart crumbled, and he pulled Sarah into a bone-crushing embrace. He didn’t even try to hide the happy tears that ran down his cheeks. He didn’t know that he’d ever done a single thing to deserve a woman as kindhearted and loving as Sarah, but he knew he’d spend the rest of his life trying to. “I love you, Sarah Dery,” he said.
Sarah wrapped her arms around his waist. He loves me! “It took you long enough to realize it.”
He pulled her to his side, kissed her upturned lips softly, and said, “From the moment I found you in my shower, I knew my life would never be the same.”
“In a good way?”
He kissed her cheek. “In the best way. When do you want to get married?”
Sarah laughed. “You’re not going to ask me first?”
He kissed the tip of her nose. “I’m not giving you the option of saying no. But you can pick the date as long as it’s soon.”
“You are one pushy cowboy,” she teased.
For a long moment, he looked down into her eyes ,and she glimpsed the sadness that had originally drawn her to him. “I love you, Sarah, and I am a better man because you came into my life.”
Sarah hugged him possessively. “Well, don’t change too much. I have a few things left on my list, and I don’t think they are nice-guy approved.”
A huge smile spread across Tony’s face. “List?”
Looking down at his chest, Sarah said, “It’s a bucket list.” Or more accurately titled: My Fuck-it List. Sarah chuckled at the thought that she wasn’t quite brave enough to share that out loud. I should write that joke down.
Tony held her back from him and waited until she looked up at him. “Tell me.”
My notebook can wait.
“Let’s go home,” Sarah said playfully and whispered seductively against his lips, “I’d rather show you.”