Have an important client meeting at 4:30. I’ll be home no later than 6. I promise. I’ll bring supper. Love my girl.

Chessy’s heart sank, dread tightening her chest. When she looked up, her friends had worry in their eyes. Chessy forced a bright smile. After all, how long had it been since he just texted her with his plans much less to say he loved her and that he’d bring home dinner. She’d revel in that aspect and set aside her paranoia. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin a perfectly good day when things had gone so well the past two days.


“Oh, that was just Tate telling me he was bringing supper home.”

She left out the rest because she didn’t want to see knowing looks in their eyes.


AT five minutes after six, Chessy was pacing the living room checking her watch. A worried frown tugged at her lips. Surely he wouldn’t be late the very first day back at work after their come-to-Jesus anniversary weekend.

She sucked in a deep breath and tried to talk herself down. He had a client meeting at four thirty. Then there was rush-hour traffic. Not to mention he was picking up takeout. There were plenty of perfectly normal reasons he could be a few minutes late.

She checked her watch again. He was only seven minutes late. Not the end of the world. Damn her for being so paranoid. She could be flexible. He didn’t have to be at her beck and call every waking moment, nor did he have to be accountable to her for doing his job.

But it worried her. What if this weekend had been him hitting the panic button and saying and doing whatever it took to appease her? What if he had no intention of changing his routine?

Guilt crushed through her chest when she heard the sound of his car pulling up. How could she have doubted him? She forced herself not to rush to the door to greet him. There was no way she wanted him to know how worried and paranoid she’d been with no reason.

A moment later, the front door opened and Tate appeared holding a plastic bag with the take-out containers inside. He was juggling his briefcase and his suit coat as he kicked the door shut with his foot.

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Chessy hurried over to him to take the bag and then leaned up on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek.

“Sorry I’m late, baby,” he said, regret lining his brow. “The restaurant messed up my phone order and I had to wait for them to remake it. I got your favorite.”

Her heart melted at the very real worry in his eyes. She felt so guilty for doubting him, for worrying that he wouldn’t keep his word.

She carried the bag containing the take-out order to the breakfast nook where she’d already set out plates and silverware while Tate tossed his suit coat over the back of the sofa.

“You want wine?” she asked. “I put a bottle out a little while ago, but if you’d prefer something different, I’ll get it.”

He snagged her waist and pressed a kiss to her lips. “Whatever you picked out is fine. Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?”

A giddy thrill assailed her. Her heart turned over in her chest as she smiled broadly up at him. She wrapped both arms around him and leaned into his embrace.

Her smile became dreamy, love surging through her heart. “I’ll never get tired of you saying so.”

“Mmm, what about I love you and you’re my girl?”

She sighed. “Even better. Sit down while I pour you a glass of wine. Tell me about your day and your client meeting. Did it go well?”

A brief look of discomfort crossed his face before he turned swiftly to pull out his chair. When he was settled, he met her gaze again, no hint of the previous discomfort evident, leaving her to wonder if she’d imagined it.

“Oh, the usual,” Tate said in a casual tone. “The meeting was with a potential client who’s considering transferring a large portfolio to my firm. It would be quite a coup if it comes to pass.”

She set his glass of wine in front of him and then slid into the seat next to him. “That’s wonderful, Tate. You’ve worked so hard. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re landing bigger and bigger clients.”

He caught her hand and pulled her over to sit on his lap. He thrust a hand into her hair, cupping the side of her head as he tugged her down to meet his lips. “Your confidence in me and support of me means everything. Knowing my girl is behind me makes me feel like I can own the world.”

She smiled and cupped his face in her hands, returning his kiss with one of her own. “I have no doubt you could do just that if you set your mind to it.”

“I’d much prefer to own you.”

“You do, Tate. I belong to you. Always. Heart, soul, body and mind.”

“I have a surprise for you,” he murmured. “Well, two actually.”

She couldn’t control the surge of delight that made a broad smile curve her lips. She adored surprises and Tate well knew it. It didn’t matter how simple or elaborate. Anything Tate gave her was treasured and met with utter delight.

“Tell me!” she said, all but pouncing on him. She jiggled and bounced on his lap in excited anticipation.

He laughed and patted her hip. “Hop up so I can get the first one. It’s in my jacket pocket.”

She scrambled off his lap and perched on her chair, waiting impatiently as he strolled leisurely over to the couch to retrieve his coat. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a beautifully wrapped small box with a shiny silver bow. Her eyes widened and she nearly bounced out of her chair when he walked back over.

He slid the box along the tabletop until it rested in front of her.