Her hand felt heavy. No wonder. When she peeked at the square cut diamond set in a platinum band, she realized the stone was the size of her fingernail. Keely met Jack’s gaze. “Is this for real?”
“What? The stone? Yes, it’s real.”
“Guess you took me seriously about the gigantic ring, huh?”
“I figured ten plus carats would get your attention.”
“And the attention of anyone within a mile.” Keely waggled her fingers, admiring the diamond’s flash of brilliance. “This is spectacular. I don’t know what to say.”
“That’s gotta be a first,” he said dryly. “Thank you, Jack, would be a start.”
Keely angled across the console and placed her hand on his smoothly shaven cheek. “Thank you, Jack.”
His eyes were soft, a luminous green, nearly hypnotic. The moment was so intimate she almost believed it was real.
Her dad knocked on the window and barked, “You comin’ in or what?” and brought a screaming halt to her momentary lapse in judgment.
Jack kissed the inside of her forearm and mouthed, “Show time.”
Nerves danced in her belly. Over the years she’d stretched or circumvented the truth with her parents, but never uttered such a bald-faced lie as, “Jack and I are getting married!”
Keely’s parents took the news like she’d expected: complete and utter disbelief.
Of course, her mother tried to be polite. Show some kind of enthusiasm and not accuse her only daughter of absolute insanity.
Her father wasn’t so tactful. He demanded to know if she was pregnant.
Keely deflected additional questions about their impending nuptials by discussing her purchase of the Brewster Building. In minute detail. She’d droned on so long she’d even managed to bore herself in the highly embellished retelling.
“How’d you keep something this big under wraps, girlie?” her father challenged.
“The usual. Threats. Bribes.” She fluttered her lashes at Jack. “Charm. When it all came together so suddenly, it seemed like…”
“Destiny,” Jack finished silkily.
“It’s too goddamn quick, if you ask me,” her dad groused.
“What? Me buying the building? Or me getting married?”
“Both. How do you know what you’re getting into?”
“I didn’t. That’s why I contacted Jack. He’s the expert.”
Her dad’s eyes darkened further. “Expert? Hell, how many times have you been married, boy?”
“None,” Jack answered evenly.
“Daddy, I was talking about Jack’s restoration expertise, not his marriage expertise.”
“Have you thought about a wedding date?” Carolyn asked.
Jack sent Carolyn a dazzling smile. “I’d vote for immediately, but it depends on our schedules. Keely is anxious to get the clinic up and running, so finishing the building is our first priority.”
“We talking weeks or months?”
Carolyn sipped her tea and cast Carson a sly look. “You thinking what I’m thinking, dear?”
“That this engagement is a sign of the apocalypse?”
“Daddy!” She looked to her mother for support and wished she hadn’t. Shit. This was not going well.
Her mother’s eyes held that calculating squint that never boded well for anyone.
“No. I’m thinking we can throw Keely and Jack an engagement party the likes this town has never seen. Right away.”
Keely stopped stirring her mashed potatoes. “What? No. Ma. That’s not necessary—”
“Of course it’s necessary, sweetheart. Our only daughter is tying the knot with the man of her dreams.
We want everyone—and I mean everyone—in four counties to rejoice with us in the news that the last McKay wild child has been tamed.”
Tamed? Oh for fuck’s sake.
“If that doesn’t call for an enormous party with all the trimmings I don’t know what does.”
Don’t panic. Smile. Act like this is no big deal.
“Besides, sweetie, with so many, many, many family members and friends here, it is the best way to make the official announcement and allow them to congratulate you in person. Don’t you remember how wild and fun Colt and India’s wedding reception was?”
Poor Jack looked positively green. Keely would’ve enjoyed his discomfort if she hadn’t felt a little green herself. Still, she couldn’t resist taking a shot at him. “It’s something Jack and I will never forget, will we? Are you up for this, Jack darlin’?”
His lips curled in a half-smile. “The more the merrier, as you always say, right?” he shot right back.
“I’m sure Jack’s mother has her own list of who she’s inviting. We don’t only want McKays and Wests in attendance, right? Anyway, if you’ll leave me her phone number, Jack, I’ll call her tomorrow.
Between the two of us we’ll have everything organized, so all you two lovebirds will need to do is show up at the party.”
Jack’s glass of milk stopped midair. “You’re calling my mother to help?”
“Naturally.” Carolyn set her teacup in the saucer. “Is that a problem?”
“No, not at all,” Keely inserted smoothly. “It’s very thoughtful of you, Ma, wanting to include Doro from the get-go. Except we haven’t told Jack’s mother about the engagement yet.”
There was that no bullshit glare from her dad again. “Why the hell not? You embarrassed about marryin’ my girl, Donohue?”
“We haven’t told her because we wanted to tell you first,” Keely said.
Her father’s glower lingered on Jack as he passed Carolyn another packet of sugar.
“We’re calling Doro tonight, right honey?” she cooed at Jack.
“Absolutely, buttercup,” Jack cooed back.
“Have you told any of your brothers yet?” Carson demanded.
Keely shook her head.
“Doesn’t seem like you’re all fired up to strap on that old ball and chain if you ain’t tellin’ anyone that matters to you, baby girl.”
“I’m telling you and Mama, Daddy. Doesn’t that count?”
When he squinted, Keely realized he knew she was up to something. The man always busted her.
“Anyway, Jack and I are thrilled you’re throwing us a party,” Keely said with as much false cheer as she could muster. She patted her mother’s hand, making sure she got a good look at her ginormous engagement ring. “I’m putting you one hundred percent in charge of planning the engagement party you’ve always dreamed for me.”
“No!” Dammit. “I mean, why waste all the good games when there are men around? I say let’s save the games for the bridal shower.”
Her mother’s gaze turned shrewd. “Does that mean you’ll wear a dress? A nice dress? Not a jean skirt and boots? Or a miniskirt and boots?”
Hell no. “Well—”
Jack leaned forward, the picture of earnestness. “I promise she’ll look appropriate for the occasion even if I have to dress her myself.”
“Thank you, Jack.”
“My pleasure, Carolyn. Can I help you clear the dishes before Keely and I take off?”
Keely wasn’t sure if her ears were playing tricks on her, or if her father actually muttered, “Suck up.”
While Jack tried to charm her mother in the kitchen, her dad took two shot glasses from the china hutch. He poured Jameson whiskey in each glass and passed one to her.
“Shouldn’t Mama and Jack be here if we’re toasting in celebration of my upcoming marriage?”
“I ain’t celebrating. This whole thing is giving me indigestion and whiskey is better than Tums. Drink up.” His gaze turned crafty when Keely hesitated. “Unless you really have a bun in the oven and that’s why you ain’t drinkin’ my good Irish?”
The cunning coot had played her good. She slammed the shot and poured another and slammed it too.
“Ain’t nothin’ about this situation that makes me happy, punkin.”
The blue eyes she’d inherited pinned her in place. “Because he shoulda talked to me about marryin’ you first.”
For Christsake. That’s why her dad was pissy?
“Might seem old-fashioned, but you are my only daughter.” He knocked back a slug of whiskey. “I’m just sayin’ it woulda been nice to’ve been asked.”
Keely was strangely touched. She moved to where he sat in his favorite chair and wrapped her arms around him from behind. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll chew him out for it.”
“It’d make me feel better if you weren’t marryin’ him at all. It’s too damn quick.”
“I’ll remind you that you proposed to Mama the night you met her. So try again.”
He harrumphed, “Smartypants. He ain’t your type.”
Since when wasn’t tall, handsome, well-built, sarcastic and rich not her type? “Meaning what?”
“He ain’t a cowboy, Keely.”
“You’re the first and only cowboy in my life, Daddy. I wouldn’t think you’d want the competition.”
“Suck up, but I’ll take it.” He pressed his leathery cheek to hers. “Now go on, get outta here and stop drinkin’ all my damn whiskey.”
“An engagement party?” Jack bit off the second she shut the car door.
Keely squirmed. “What was I supposed to say?”