Evan sat in the dirt, raised the kitten to his face, and stroked his cheek against its soft fur.
The kitten licked his nose.
“Seriously? You’re still living in your trailer?” Rose Bellingham asked, leaning against the reception counter of the Chance Creek Pet Clinic.
“It’s going to take a week or two until the money’s deposited in my account, and I still have to figure out what to spend it on,” Bella said. She could have answered the question in her sleep; the jewelry store salesclerk was the fifteenth person to stop by this morning to question her housing arrangements. At least the flow was down from yesterday, her first day back at work. She’d thought all of Chance Creek planned to come by and ogle the town’s newest millionaire.
“So what was he like?”
“Who?” As if she didn’t know.
“The billionaire! Was he an old geezer on the make?”
“No.” Bella blushed, realizing what her vehemence betrayed. “No,” she repeated softly. “He was actually pretty nice.”
Rose exchanged a look with Hannah, who pretended to check over the day’s client files, but was listening avidly.
“Are you going to see him again?”
“I don’t know.” It had never occurred to Bella that as soon as the closing point ceremony was over she’d be plunked into an SUV and driven straight to the Calgary airport while one of the show’s legal advisors went over the huge list of do’s and don’ts that would govern her behavior until the show aired. Someone had packed up her belongings and the minute she entered the terminal, she was led through a maze of security checkpoints and right to her gate.
She’d assumed Evan was in another car right behind her, but she didn’t see him at the airport and when she asked, the legal advisor knew nothing about it. She couldn’t believe they didn’t get a chance to say good-bye or to make plans for the future.
But maybe Evan wanted it that way.
After all, he needed to race home to San Jose to find a wife, didn’t he? Someone to marry him and secure his company. He’d told her time and time again he’d like her to be that woman, but she’d spurned that idea. So now she was alone.
Bella snapped her attention back to the clipboard she held in her hand. She had a number of appointments this morning, including cats who needed their flea shots and dogs that needed their teeth looked at. She was busier than ever. No time for boyfriends or fiancés or anything of the sort.
“What did he look like?” Rose asked.
Bella didn’t look up. “I don’t know.”
“You just spent a week with him. You must know.”
Something snapped inside her. “Of course I know. He was hot, okay? Totally, smoking hot.”
“Brown hair?” Rose pushed.
“Yes.” For heaven’s sake, couldn’t she leave it alone?
“Tall? Broad shouldered?”
Seriously? She was going to do this right now? “Yes, now if you don’t mind…”
“Is he missing something important? Like a hat? What kind of a man doesn’t wear a hat?” Rose said.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Bella straightened and turned toward Rose, ready to shoo her right out of the clinic if she was going to talk nonsense. Rose, however, wasn’t looking at her. She was gazing out the window.
At the billionaire walking up to the front door.
“Shoot, he is hot,” Hannah said, her files forgotten.
As Evan opened the door, Bella reached for the reception counter to steady herself. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed him, but it hit her now. She felt weak in the knees. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe.
Evan scanned the small room as he walked in and took in Hannah and Rose’s presence. He nodded to them but didn’t slow down. Instead he crossed straight to Bella, knelt down in front of her and pulled a small velvet box from his pocket.
“Bella…” He trailed off, his voice rough and unsteady. He tried to speak again and failed.
Somehow she knew what he wanted to say: That they didn’t know each other well enough to be married. That he knew she was her own woman and had her own plans. That she had enough money to fund her own dreams and didn’t need his. That he still wanted her—and only her—to be his wife.
“Bella,” he said again, taking her hand. “I can’t marry anyone else. I love you. But I have to marry someone within the next two weeks. Would you…please…?”
“Yes!” she said. She tossed her clipboard away and dropped down on her knees beside him. “Yes!” She didn’t care how crazy it was or how little they knew each other. She didn’t want anyone else, either. She loved him with all her heart and that was all she needed to know.
Evan surged to his feet, Bella in his arms, and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe anymore. “Are you sure?” he asked when they finally broke free. “Are you absolutely sure? We can write it right into a prenuptial agreement; if you’re unhappy when a year’s up I’ll let you go.”
“Is that what you want?” She pulled back from him. “Marriage for a year?”
“No.” He tilted her chin up and grazed her mouth with another searing kiss. “I want marriage forever. If I could, I’d put that into our vows. That once you’re my wife, you’re mine forever and ever.”
Bella grinned. “I think that’s in there already.” She placed a hand on his chest, wanting to know for sure that he was real. She felt his heart beating under her touch, strong and steady.
“Better be,” he said. “So what do you think? Will you marry me? Will you be my wife?”
“Yes.” Joy overwhelmed her and she trembled as she gazed at him. Could this be happening to her? Could she really be so lucky? “I know it’s crazy. It’s all happening so fast.” Rose and Hannah still watched them, wide-eyed, and Bella turned their way, feeling like she owed them an explanation. “We got to know each other really well while we shot the show.”
“Obviously,” Hannah said. She grinned. “Oh, my goodness; it’s so romantic. I think it’s great! You deserve to be happy, Bella!”
Rose inched closer, craning her neck until Bella realized she was trying to see the ring Evan had placed on her finger. Bella clutched Evan’s arm with her right hand, but lifted her left hand into view. She knew the jewelry store salesclerk wasn’t evaluating the ring’s worth, although from Rose’s swift intake of breath she figured it was worth a lot. Instead, the woman was listening to the ring, or feeling its emanations, or however her crazy brand of psychic worked. She waited, heart in her mouth, for Rose’s pronouncement on their chances for happiness. She knew too many cases of Rose calling it right to doubt her abilities.