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The second time my dad had busted him in a towel in the hallway was the last straw.

And as for me? Well, I’d proposed my book idea to Natalie, and she’d made me an offer last week—their parent company was interested in publishing a book on floral arrangements, and they wanted me to write it. It was my dream realized.

Things were coming up roses all right. And we all felt the effervescent joy and hope that came along with the success.

The Bennets converged around Mrs. Bennet, wrapping her up in a huddle of dark hair and brilliant smiles. And when they broke, Mrs. Bennet was in the center, swiping at her cheeks.

“I’m beginning to think you all enjoy watching me cry,” she said on a laugh.

Mr. Bennet smiled down at her. “Only when it’s with this much joy.”

She leaned into him, pressing her cheek to his chest as he kissed the top of her head.

Everyone began to chatter, the cluster breaking to head back inside. Everyone but me and Luke.

He snagged the last two of his boxes from just inside the shop, kissing his mom on the cheek as we passed. I wrapped her up in a hug of my own.

“Take care of him, Tess,” she whispered.

“Always and forever,” I promised.

And with a smile of understanding, we parted ways.

He carried the boxes like they were nothing, but I could tell by the hard bulges of his biceps that they were heavy.

“I think she liked it,” I said as if it wasn’t obvious.

“I don’t know, I couldn’t be sure. On the Mrs. Bennet scale, those waterworks were lackluster at best.”

A laugh slipped out of me. “Really, a poor showing if I ever saw one. I told you you should have proposed.”

He shot me a crooked smile. “Don’t tempt me, Tess.”

My heart and my stomach switched places, my smile wide and cheeks hot. “Luke Bennet, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you had plans.”

The look he gave me liquified my insides. “Oh, I have plans all right. And when I implement them, you’ll know. But first, move-in day. I’ve got to make sure you can handle Luke who leaves his socks lying around and doesn’t close drawers.”

“You act like we haven’t spent the last six weeks joined at the hip.”

“Joined at the something, definitely in the vicinity of the hip.” He waggled his brows as we reached the door to my building and headed inside. “Anyway, now you’re gonna get the real deal. The unabridged, unadulterated Luke Bennet. The one who never hangs up hand towels and puts dishes next to the sink instead of in it.”

I smirked at him as we climbed the stairs. “Are you trying to scare me off?”

“Nah, but full disclosure—I will leave laundry in the basket for a month if it means I don’t have to fold anything.”

“You’re impossible.”

“I know. What are you even doing with me?”

“I ask myself that every day.”

He pouted next to me while I unlocked the front door.

But I smiled, clarifying, “If I could figure out one reason why you’re with me, I’d be satisfied.”

“Oh, I’ll give you a hundred, Tess Monroe.”

The way he said it was a promise or a warning—I couldn’t be sure. Either way, I wanted every one.

“A hundred, huh?” I turned for my room with him on my heels, hoping at least a few of them involved kissing.

“Mmhmm,” he hummed, kicking the door closed and setting the boxes down. He stepped into me with a predatory look on his face that hit me in every soft spot of my body. “For starters, your lips are the sweetest thing I’ve tasted. Your devotion to what you love inspires me. Forever used to feel like a cage, a trap, but then you taught me that forever is an adventure, and I want to spend every minute of it with you.”

I wanted to tell him all the reasons I loved him too, but he kissed me before I could. Laid me down in the bed we would share, in the room where we’d spend our honeymoon and where we’d conceive our own Bennet brood. I had a glimmer of it then, a tingle of hope, and a rush of possibility for a future that would come true.

I’d live every moment with joy.

And I’d love him with every heartbeat, to my very last breath.


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