All of You: A Willow Creek Proposal

The following scene takes place after the events of Keeping Score, available now at Amazon and Tulepublishing.com.

November

Cole wiped his sweaty hands on the denim of his jeans as he checked over the gazebo one last time, making sure everything was ready. A cool breeze ruffled his dark brown hair and the collar of his dress shirt, but even with his sleeves rolled up he still felt uncomfortably warm. The sky grew darker as dusk approached, reminding him he only had a few more minutes to mentally prepare himself.

His phone rang in his pocket, and his heart drummed heavily in his chest. Stiff fingers fumbled as he pulled it out and dragged his thumb over the screen. “Yeah?”

“The cake is on the griddle,” a deep voice announced triumphantly.

“The what?”

“The duck is heading south.”

Cole stared at his phone, his brows pinching together. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Man, take all the fun out of it why don’t you?” The voice sighed on the other end. “Lo is on her way to you now.”

“Jesus, Cowboy. Why didn’t you just say that?” His heart started beating even faster. God, he ran into burning buildings for a living, and he didn’t think he’d ever been as nervous as he was now.

“Relax, brother. You’ve got this. She’s going to say yes.”

“You think so?”

“Absolutely…that or she’ll finally realize what a huge mistake she’s made and profess her undying love to me before we run off to the Bahamas together.”

Cole’s lips threatened a miniscule smile. “What kind of odds are we talking here?”

“Hmm. I’m thinking fifty-fifty.”

“That good, huh?”

“Well, after all the work you put in tonight, I may be willing to give you sixty-forty.”

“How generous of you.” Cole took a deep breath and felt his muscles finally start to relax. “Thanks, man.”

“Anytime. Look, I’m going to let you go.” His voice had lost its earlier levity. “But remember this. You two were made for each other. You know it, I know it, and so does everybody else in this town. Including her.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Cole conceded, mostly to help reassure himself. He knew Logan loved him, but it still didn’t stop the doubt from creeping in. “Hey, how does she look tonight?”

“She looks gorgeous, man. And lightyears out of your league.”

The corner of his mouth hitched a fraction, then fell. “But does she look happy?”

“Of course she does. She’s on her way to see you.”

Cole nodded, wiping his sweaty palm yet again. “Do you think she’s figured it out?”

“No way, man,” Cowboy pronounced confidently. “Logan Kase has no idea what’s coming.”

Holy shit, I’m getting engaged!

Logan stared out the window of her daddy’s truck, her mind still reeling over the recent revelation.

She’d had no idea what all lay in store for her when she woke in her childhood bedroom that morning—typical whenever Cole was working. Even after a year and a half of dating, they still hadn’t taken the step of moving in together. Partly because he worked several nights at the station a week, but also because he still lived in that small two-bedroom house with Cowboy. Not that she would mind living there. She’d decided a long time ago she’d be happy to have Cole anyway she could.

And now he was going to propose!

Okay, she didn’t know that for sure. But really, what else could it be after the day she’d had?

She’d come down the stairs that morning just like any other day, but instead of finding Momma and Daddy already starting on her birthday breakfast—so maybe not any other day—she’d found a quiet kitchen, the breakfast table empty but for a single red envelope with her name on it. Inside was a slip of paper with a short sentence scribbled in Cole’s hand.

Head to Byrdie’s for a special treat.

No signature, no “happy birthday,” just a quick set of instructions and the implication of seeing Cole soon. Only when she arrived at Byrdie’s Café and Bakery, it was a different Tucker waiting to greet her.

Tater, Cole’s gorgeous little sister who rivaled even him in beauty, squealed out a piercing “Happy birthday!” just as Byrdie presented Logan with a giant cupcake which she happily devoured with Tater’s help—because who didn’t love cake for breakfast on their birthday?

Logan was getting ready to head to the fire station and tell Cole how much she loved her present when Tater handed her a second red envelope. Another set of instructions in Cole’s writing stating he’d made reservations for her and her momma at the spa over in Dublin.

After that it was a free lunch at Wade’s, the local bar and grill, with her daddy and a round of birthday drinks. Then a trip to the salon to get her hair and nails done with her best friend, Carly.

Envelope after envelope, each one with another surprise. And as much as she loved them, none led to the one surprise she wanted most. The one person she wanted most.

When an envelope finally sent her home that afternoon, she found two boxes of very different sizes waiting on her bed. A stunning pink dress with soft, silky fabric and a flowing skirt and a pair of ankle boots that matched perfectly. With them was another note.

Your escort will be ready downstairs at 7 to take you to one final surprise. Don’t make me wait too long.  -XO Cole

Lo had felt absolutely giddy as she came down at seven. Cowboy stood in the living room, a bouquet of orange and red roses in hand. He kissed her cheek. “You look incredible, Lo. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you.”

Momma stood nearby, her eyes on Logan clouding with moisture. She sniffed, grabbing the roses from Cowboy’s hand. “I’ll just go put these in some water.” Her voice sounded thick and froggy. Geez you’d think she never saw her daughter dressed up before.

Logan sized up Cowboy’s dark pants and clean button-down shirt. “This mean you’re my escort tonight.”

He shook his head. “I’m just here to bring you those,” he clarified, nodding toward the kitchen. “I’m afraid some other lucky guy gets that job.”

“Who?”

“You ready to go, baby girl?” her daddy called as he came down the stairs behind her. She turned, frowning as she took him in. He wore slacks and a dark blue dress shirt he normally wouldn’t be caught dead in except for Sunday church. Why was he—?

That was when it finally clicked. Daddy dressed up? Momma blinking away tears? This was so much more than some elaborate birthday surprise.

“What you thinkin’ about, baby girl?” her daddy asked now as they started down the gravel road toward town in his truck.

She swallowed as she turned toward him, her mouth suddenly painfully dry. “Is Cole about to propose?”

His eyes doubled in size. He glanced at her several times, blinking as he opened his mouth to finally speak. “Well—”

“No, wait!” she shouted over him. “I don’t want to know.” She turned back to the window, and they sat in silence for several minutes.

“You remember when you were a little girl and you told me you didn’t want to get married because then you’d have to stop climbing trees and playing in the mud?”

“I think so.” She’d been maybe ten or eleven at the time, upset after her great-aunt in Virginia told her she’d have to stop all that “foolishness” if she ever wanted to find a man to settle down with. “You told me I just had to find a boy who’d want to play in the mud with me.”

“Ifyou and Cole ever decide to take that step,” he said, heavy emphasis on the if, “I want you to know, I don’t think there’s a man alive who would climb higher or crawl through the mud faster for you than he would. And if you think he deserves you, then so do I.”

She sniffed, and the tension in her stomach eased. “Thanks, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you, too, baby girl. More than you’ll ever know.” He smiled at her from across the cab before focusing back on the road. A couple more minutes and the truck started to slow.

Daddy patted the steering wheel as they came to a stop. “Looks like we’re here.”

Part two coming soon…