“But these last few months when I’ve gotten to know you? How I feel about you has nothin’ to do with Hayden. Besides the fact he’s such a great kid because he’s got such a great mom.”
Tears flooded her eyes. “Kane—”
“Let me finish. Yesterday, as soon as we finished calving, I stopped by Stacy Lynnwood’s office and resigned as a mentor in the Big Buddies/Little Buddies program. I didn’t give her a specific reason.” His eyes narrowed. “I assume Stacy told you about what’d happened with Brandi?”
“Not in detail, just the general gist.”
“Then you understand why I didn’t want our relationship to be dissected by the organization or anyone else?”
“So I resigned. That wasn’t something I was gonna tell you over the phone. I don’t want to be in your life only as Hayden’s mentor. I want to be in your life as your lover and your partner. I want us to be a family.”
“Don’t interrupt.” He dropped to his knees and gathered both her hands in his. “I’d hoped to do this differently, but I ain’t gonna wait for the right time because I’m tired of wasting time. Ginger Paulson, I love you like crazy. Will you marry me?”
Oh dear God. The man wanted to marry her before he knew she was pregnant? She swallowed hard.
But the nauseous feeling that’d been building wouldn’t go away. Saliva pooled in her mouth and she swallowed over and over, but it was pointless. She said, “I’m going to be sick.” She clapped her hand over her mouth and stumbled to the bathroom, barely making it before she puked.
After her stomach emptied the last of the Sprite, she flushed the toilet, wobbled to her feet and rinsed her mouth. Feeling dizzy, she rested against the shower door and slid to the floor, eyes closed in absolute mortification.
She heard Kane enter the bathroom. Water ran. A cool washcloth pressed against her forehead. The warmth of Kane’s body and his familiar scent enveloped her as he sat beside her. Without thought, she leaned into him.
Kane said, “So the thought of marryin’ me makes you physically ill?”
Her eyes flew open. “No. God no. Don’t think that. It’s so far from the truth you have no idea.”
“Then why don’t you tell me what’s goin’ on?”
Ginger lifted her chin. “I’m pregnant.”
Every bit of color drained from Kane’s face.
“Evidently you’re supposed to use alternative methods of birth control when you’re on the pill and taking antibiotics.”
Kane slumped back against the shower door. “I’ll be goddammed. How far along are you?”
“I guess about two months.”
“Guess it ain’t a blizzard baby like everyone one else’s,” he murmured.
“I didn’t plan this. I feel like such a freakin’ idiot. Another unintended pregnancy? I’ve had one.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. But no. Here I am. Thirty-seven years old, pregnant again.”
“How long have you known?”
“Only since this morning. When I heard from Skylar that you’d been in town for two days, and Daphne said you called her last night…‘Hey, you’re gonna be a daddy’ is not exactly news I wanted to break over the phone.”
“So you understand why I wanted to tell you and Hayden in person that I’d resigned from the program?”
“Yes.” Ginger looked at him. “I wanted to tell you this in person too. I love you. You’re only the third man I’ve ever said that to in my life, the first two being my son and my father. You’re too good to be true, Kane McKay, and why no other woman has snatched you up for herself absolutely boggles my mind. I’ve probably fucked this up completely by acting neurotic and jealous and needy. Oh, and let’s not forget about me accidentally getting pregnant.” A small sob escaped.
“Hey. Hey.” Kane trapped her face in his hands. “Don’t cry. It rips me clean apart. The only way you’ll screw this up is if you say no to marryin’ me.” He kissed her forehead. “I love you too, sugar. And at the risk of soundin’ smug, I ain’t exactly gonna be cryin’ in my beer over the fact that I knocked up the smartest, sexiest, funniest, most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.”
More tears leaked out. “You are so sweet. And not so sweet.”
He stared at her.
“I like your rougher edges. Even in bed. It surprised me how much I liked you just taking what you wanted that morning after the snowstorm. I freaked out a little because…”
“Probably because I did like it so much. It scared me to think I could give up everything to you if you asked. But that’s the real truth, isn’t it? You’ll never ask for more than I’m willing to give you and you’ll give me what I need even when I’m not exactly sure what that is.”
“I’m sorry. I never meant to make you think I couldn’t handle it. Or you. I like all sides of you, Kane McKay.”
“Is that a yes to my marriage proposal?”
Ginger snorted. “Yes. As if there was ever any doubt that I’d marry you.”
He beamed a grin that caused her heart to skip a beat. “Wanna know something else?” He laughed a little nervously. “I was busier than you know while I was sneaking around in town yesterday.”
“What did you do?”
“Stopped by your house and asked your father for his blessing to marry you. I wasn’t gonna ask the ornery bugger for his permission and give him a chance to say no, but I didn’t want to spring it on him, either. He’s a big part of your life, which means he’ll be a big part of mine too.”
This sweet, fiery, protective man had thought of everything that was important to her. “Does Hayden know?”
“Nah. I figured we could tell Hayden together if I got you to say yes and had the ring on your finger.”
“You already bought a ring?”
His face flushed crimson. “I’m optimistic. But I never thought I’d be showin’ it to you in the crapper.
Christ Almighty, talk about romantic.”
Ginger touched his jaw. “That you want to be with me forever is highly romantic.”
He rummaged in his vest pocket, bringing out a small black velvet bag with a gold drawstring.
She reached for it and he moved it out of reach.
“Huh-uh. Close your eyes and give me your left hand.”
Cool metal circled her fourth finger.
“Okay. Now you can look.”
Even in dim bathroom lighting the ring sparkled. The round emerald was nestled in the middle of silver vines, connected to clusters of small pink stones surrounded by rectangular diamonds that fanned out to create flowers. She gasped and blinked at him. “Oh my God, Kane. This is exquisite.”
“The green stone reminded me of your eyes.” His thumb swept over the center of the ring. “It wasn’t a custom design, but it seemed like fate when I saw it. The pink diamonds reminded me of the dress you wore when we first met, so I just went ahead and bought it.”
Kane blushed again. “Colt called me a pussy and told me to man up, grow up and marry you. So he and Kade dragged my ass to Spearfish when we had a small break durin’ calving.”
Ginger brought his hand to her lips and kissed his rough-skinned knuckles. “I’m so going to love being married to you.”
“Why? Because I buy you jewelry?”
“No. Because you are the best man, with the biggest heart, that I’ve ever known, and I am the luckiest woman in the world to have found you. I’d take you to bed to prove it, but I’m still feeling barfy.”
His blue eyes clouded with concern. “Is this normal?”
“I think so. It was a blur being pregnant with Hayden, especially those early months.”
“Well, sugar, I’ll be involved every step of the way this time so don’t even think about tryin’ to handle any of this on your own.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
“Although havin’ a baby is gonna be cool, the bonus is I get Hayden as mine. I want to adopt him, Red. Make him my son in name too.”
She’d always suspected Hayden had been Kane’s son in his heart. “Come on. Let’s go talk to him.”
Kane helped her to her feet. He wrapped his fingers around her upper arms and studied her intently.
“How do you think he’s gonna react?”
“Just like me.”
His eyes widened. “He’ll throw up?”
Ginger smiled. “Probably. Then he’ll strut around like he hit the lottery.” She tapped him on the chest.
“He’s going to take full credit for us getting together.”
“Because of the Little Buddies program?”
“No, because of the lucky hat he gave you.”
“It worked. I’m unlucky at cards, but I’m damn lucky in love.”
Two weeks later…
Kane whistled as he scaled the steps to Ginger’s office.
He found himself whistling all the damn time in the last two weeks since Ginger agreed to make him the happiest man alive. So far they’d only hit a few bumps in the road in melding their lives together.
They’d decided on a small ceremony at the courthouse, keeping the attendance to immediate family: Hayden and Dash, his folks, Kade and Skylar and their girls. Ginger’s best friend, Ava Dumond, was flying in from California to stand up for Ginger and he’d tapped Kade as his best man.
But the after party, held at the Golden Boot, courtesy of his parents and Dash Paulson, would include all his McKay relations, as well as relatives from the West side, and all of Dash’s friends and clients over the years. His mother was in hog heaven planning the shindig with his Aunt Carolyn, who’d been through her fair share of McKay wedding receptions. Dash just rolled his eyes and opened his checkbook.