“I’m trying to get you to move in with me here.” He pulls me back to the topic at hand.
“You don’t think it’s too soon?” I ask, even though I really want this. “There is a lot we still don’t know about each other. I don’t even know what you do for a living now.”
“I took over for my father’s finance company so he could retire and take Mom on the millions of trips he’s been promising her since we were kids,” he says with a laugh. I love that sound coming from him.
“He’d always wanted either Tidas or me to take it over.”
“A job in finance. Sounds fancy.” A bit of insecurity bubbles up inside of me. I’ve always and will always be a small-town girl. College was never in the cards for me. I’m not sure I would have gone even if it was an option. It never held any appeal to me because I love Hollow Oak.
“It pays well, and I don’t hate it. It goes back to trying to play all those what ifs. Life brings you what it brings you. Sometimes you think your world just blew up around you, but when that dust starts to settle you can see the beauty in what’s left.”
“What was your beauty?”
“You. It brought me you.”
“That’s sweet.” I look at his chest because I could seriously cry with how good that makes me feel.
“You’re pulling away from me. I can feel it.” I open my mouth but close it because he’s right. “I don’t want to scare you, Gracie, but what I really see is that leaving the FBI put me on a path right to you. I ended up in Hollow Oak building a home that is clearly meant for a family. I might not have put it together when I was doing it, but you can see for yourself what it is.”
“It really is,” I agree. This home is made for a family. A big one.
“I took over for my father in a job that pays more than well. I can be here all the time for that family. I’m getting a life I didn’t know I wanted. Not until I got a glimpse of it and I got a glimpse of you.”
“Do you really want that? What if you could go back to the FBI?” I wonder if he’s forcing himself to find a silver lining. On some level would I always be his second choice?
“Truthfully?” I swear my heart stops for a beat. “I could go back. I’m healed and finished with my recovery. They’ve even asked, but I turned them down. I want this, Gracie. I want you.”
“I'm just a mail carrier with a high school diploma,” I whisper. The second the words are out of my mouth, I know it was the wrong thing to say.
“That’s all you think you are?” I try to keep the anger out of my voice, but it’s hard.
“No, I just mean I’m nothing special.”
“If you truly believe that then I’m nothing at all.” I sit up and bring her with me so she’s straddling my lap. “Because you are the most special person I’ve ever met in my life. You are kind and gentle and compassionate. You give everything to others and never take for yourself. You don’t even want to really take my love, because with what you’re saying, you’re telling me that you don’t deserve it. And that’s not the Gracie I see. That’s not my sunshine. She is brave and loyal to those she cares about. My sunshine deserves the moon, stars, and the whole goddamn galaxy.”
“Donovan.” She touches the hair at the base of my neck.
“You listen to me, Gracie Hall. You are my life, my future, and my forever. No matter how you try to put distance between us, I’m not going anywhere. Do you hear me? I choose you, and I will always choose you. End of discussion.”
“You’re so bossy.” She smiles as her eyes become watery.
“You’re just now seeing that?” I grin at her when I see her let out a breath of relief.
“I think I’m just worried about you taking me and all of my baggage on so quickly.”
I shrug. “I’ve got plenty of my own.” I point to the scar on my face. “But loving you makes me feel like I can do all things. Even the shit I’m afraid of.”
“You’re afraid of stuff?”
“That you’ll push me away,” I admit honestly. “That’s something that I couldn’t survive.”
“I wouldn’t want you to do that to me either.” Her eyes are so earnest as she holds me tighter.
“Then let me help you figure this out, sunshine. It’s you and me together until the end. Let me help you do this, because you don’t have to do it alone anymore.”
“I love you so much,” she says and hugs me so sweetly that it makes a lump form in my throat and I have to swallow twice to get it down.