Two weeks later
“How much longer before them vittles are done, Austin?” Emmett Hill asked for the fourth time.
“Not long. Another two minutes,” he replied, manning one grill while his dad tended the one beside him.
“I hope I last another two minutes. I’m an old man livin’ on borrowed time. I sure as hell don’t wanna die waiting on a hot dog.”
“Oh, yeah?” Austin chuckled. “How do you wanna die?”
“Making love to the ladies.” Emmett cackled. “That’s the only way to go.”
Wearing a sly grin, his dad leaned in. “I don’t think there are enough little blue pills on the planet to make his soldier stand to attention again.”
“Don’t tell him that. He’s liable to mistake you for Bigfoot.” Austin grinned.
“Right.” Duke chuckled.
“How’s the cooking going, cowboy?” Paige asked, sliding in beside him in a yellow flowered sundress, smiling like the sun.
“I’d rather be cooking…with you.” He winked, grinning as her cheeks turned the same shade of pink her ass had been last night.
She dragged a long slow look around the yard and sighed. “This is so amazing. Thank you so much for doing all this. I know you’ve spent a lot of time putting this party together.”
“No, I haven’t, little girl. You and Gina have done all the work.”
“Gina and I didn’t do that much.”
“Watch my grill for a second, will ya? I need to go grab that big platter out of the kitchen so we can eat.”
Without waiting for an answer, his dad hustled away, grabbing a cold one from the beer cooler on his way inside. Austin shook his head, then focused on his girl.
“Uh-huh. How many salads did you two wild women make while you were giggling in the kitchen yesterday afternoon?”
“And how many desserts?” He arched his brows.
“Sixteen.” She grinned.
“That’s nearly one whole dessert for each person here.”
“You can never have too many desserts.” She leaned in and kissed him.
As the familiar warm surge of arousal rolled through him, Austin wanted to forget all about grills, salads, and their engagement party and take his dessert upstairs to their bed.
“Or sex,” he murmured against her lips.
“Get a room,” Houston chided with a chuckle, strolling by with a couple of sodas before joining Al at one of the numerous red-gingham-covered picnic tables dotting the front yard.
Austin smiled as he watched Houston pass his best friend and local librarian, Allison “Al” O’Connor, one of the sodas. Then frowned when Al shoved it back at him with an angry glare.
“Hmm,” Paige hummed beside him. “Wonder what that’s all about?”
“Looks like trouble in paradise to me.
“For sure. Do you think Houston’s gonna figure out he’s in love with her?”
“Nope, and I’m sure as hell not gonna tell him.”
“Why not? He helped us, didn’t he?”
“That was different,” Austin assured. “He knew I was in love with you.”
“You still are, aren’t you?”
“Forever and a day, little girl.”
He checked the food on his grill, then his dad’s before glancing around the yard.
Nate was watching Gina arrange the plethora of salads and desserts on the food tables, while Emmett and Bubba sat near the beer cooler, probably swapping war stories. At the next table over, Jade and Colton, along with his foreman Jeb Bartok, and ranch hands Billy Jansen, and Kyle Jamison were visiting with Raymond.
It seemed unthinkable yet strangely gratifying that the feud was over. Apologies had been given and accepted, then without hesitation, his dad had welcomed Nelson into the family. The gossip guild was still having a heyday with both, Paige being pregnant and Austin being the father, as well as their upcoming nuptials. But most of the curiosity was focused on the demise of the Carson-Nelson feud.
As Jade threw back her head and laughed, Austin smirked and shook his head at the irony. A few months ago, he’d thought Colton certifiably insane for wanting to get married. But now, Austin couldn’t wait for Paige to be his wife.
Jade said something that had Colton fisting her hair before kissing her hard and fast, while everyone around them laughed.
Austin turned to Paige. “You haven’t had a chance to talk to Jade about wedding planning yet, have you?”
“No. I intend to infiltrate their table and interrogate her after dinner.”
Austin’s ears perked up. “Oh, that sounds like fun. Maybe you and I should try a little interrogation and infiltration tonight after everyone goes home.”
“Does your mind ever leave the bedroom?” She giggled.
“Of course. Sometimes it’s in the shower or in my office over the desk.” He growled softly, fighting the urge to sink her plump bottom lip between his teeth and tug. “That was fun the other day. Of course over the island in the kitchen was…invigorating. I can’t wait to strip you down and stretch you out over the top of it again. Why? Are you complaining?”
“Not on your life, cowboy, it’s just…” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “You’re making me—”
“Wet? Yeah, I know. I can smell your sweet—”