When You Are Mine(6)

By: Kennedy Ryan

“Sounds like fun. If you don’t mind me sleeping half the time. Jet lag’s kicking my ass.”

“Sleep as much as you want.” Jo leaned her head against Walsh’s shoulder. “We just want you around. We’ve missed you, man.”

“Yeah, great having you home. Can’t wait to catch up.” Cam turned to Kerris. “But right now, we’re gonna head on out. Ready, Ker?”

Kerris watched the interaction between the longtime friends. The feeling was finally returning to each body part Walsh had so closely inspected moments before.

“Oh, sure,” she said. Cam pulled her toward the door, but she glanced over her shoulder one last time. “Nice to finally meet you, Walsh.”

Before she turned away, Walsh’s eyes held hers for an extra beat of her heart. That same jolt struck right down the middle of her soul. The intensity of that stare left her insides crackling.

* * *

Walsh watched until the crowd swallowed Kerris’s scarlet silk. He felt like someone had shaken him from a coma, and he’d awakened disoriented in a world that was familiar, but changed in ways vast and indiscernible.

“Hellooooo.” Jo waved a hand in front of his face. “What were you looking at?”

“Nothing.” Walsh carefully hid his churning emotions beneath a protective layer of composure. The trick he’d learned over the years didn’t usually work on his sharp-eyed cousin, but it was worth a try.

“I can tell when you’re attracted to a girl, and the look you just gave Kerris was way beyond that. Forget it. She’s taken. By your best friend, I might add.”

“The girl’s beautiful.” Walsh did his best to look directly into the censure of Jo’s eyes. “Can’t blame a guy just for looking.”

“Keep it that way.” Skepticism twisted Jo’s mouth, lifting one side and not bothering with the other.

“You think Cam’s serious about this girl?” Walsh deliberately kept his voice casual and devoid of the rabid curiosity gnawing through his mind.

“Serious? That plan of his?” Jo paused as if giving Walsh time to prepare for what she’d say next. “Tonight he’s asking her to marry him.”

The word “marry” punched Walsh in the throat, the breath soughing through his nose. He had glimpsed a great prize behind the curtain, only to have it snatched away. A cruel sleight of hand. He reminded himself he had exchanged only a handful of words with the girl. His strong response to the possibility of Cam marrying her was because he didn’t know her, and only wanted the best for Cam. For Cam to be happy. That was the reason.

A shame he couldn’t convince himself.

Chapter Three

Cam and Kerris pulled up the cobbled driveway leading to his lovely, stacked stone cottage. A wide front porch with a swing looked like a holdover from a time long gone.

“You’re so lucky to live here rent-free, Cam.” Kerris pulled off her seat belt and eyed the charming house she fell a little bit more in love with every time she visited.

“Yeah, Ms. Kristeene won’t take my money, which is fine with me since I don’t have much.” He angled a grin her way in the dim light of the car. “This cottage has been in their family for probably sixty years, but since they all live at the house closer to town, it works out.”

Kristeene would have done a lot more for Cam if he’d let her. Kerris admired his fierce pride and determination to make his own way. She followed him to the front door and through the house, and couldn’t help but be glad he’d at least accepted this beautiful cottage. He squeezed her hand and smiled over his shoulder every few seconds. Anticipation lit his eyes like it was Christmas morning.

A screened-in porch led to a well-manicured backyard. Small, sand-filled bags lit with votives marked a clear path on the ground, directing them toward the center of the backyard. Looking at the multicolored quilt spread across the grass, with lanterns at each edge to bathe it in warm light, another corner of Kerris’s heart softened.

“Cam, how’d you do all this? It’s beautiful.”

“Jo definitely got involved. The Walsh family cook made the food.” Cam smiled, shy and bold all at once. “I had help, but the idea for a candlelit picnic was all mine.”

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