Windswept sailor… Perhaps this is how he used to dress when he was aboard his family’s ships.

Whatever he had done, he looked handsome as heck. I found myself breathless beneath his warm brown gaze.

A smile formed on his lips as, wordlessly, he walked up to me and held out a hand. I took it and he pulled me to my feet. I looked at him questioningly. He just continued to hold my gaze as he slid his hands down my waist and rested them on the small of my back. He leaned in, breathing in my scent deeply as he pressed his lips against the most sensitive part of my neck, just beneath my ear. His kiss was slow, tender, intense, his mouth remaining against my skin even as he began leading me into a dance. I felt my cheeks flush red as he finally raised his head, the expression on his face now serious as he stared deep into my eyes. My heart beat against my chest like a drum. I gulped.

“Uh… Hello, Caleb.”

Still, he didn’t respond. He just remained with his gaze fixed on my face, as though he were committing my every detail into his memory. Since there was no music, I tried to imagine in my head what tune we might be dancing to. Whatever tune it was, when it finished, Caleb slowed us to a stop. His hands slid down my arms and stopped at my hands, allowing me to twine my fingers with his.

I cocked my head to one side. What is all this, Caleb?

Finally, he broke the silence.

“You are my life now, Rose,” he said. “Barely a minute goes by when I’m not pinching myself that I’m here with you. But I want to be here with you. I want to be here with you all your life, however long that might be…”

The blood pounded in my ears as Caleb let go of my hands and lowered himself to one knee. He pulled out the most beautiful ring I had ever seen in my life. Coated with silver and studded with a fiery ruby, it dazzled even in the pale moonlight. My breath hitched. My eyelids grew hot as tears began to well behind them.

“Caleb,” I gasped.

“Rose,” he said, his voice husky, his brown eyes never leaving mine. He took my hand and placed a gentle kiss over the back of it. “Will you marry me?”

My heart drowning in joy, I barely knew what I was doing as I grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet. I hurled myself against him, wrapping my arms around him as tightly as I could and crushing my lips against his, as if trying to meld my body with his.

Clearly, he hadn’t been expecting such a forceful reaction on my part. The sudden weight of my body against him sent him staggering back and we both fell with a splash into the ocean. I feared for a moment that he might’ve dropped the ring, but he hadn’t.

“Should I take that as a yes?” he asked, his voice tinged with laughter.

“Yes,” I choked, even as I swallowed a mouthful of seawater.

A grin splitting his face, he held out the ruby ring and slid it onto my finger. His hands found my hips and, sliding my body against his, he raised my head higher above the waves. I caught his lips in mine and kissed him again and again, the seawater on my face mixing with my tears.

Caleb hauled us both out of the glistening sea. He laid me down gently on the wooden floorboards of the jetty. His hands either side of my shoulders, he crouched down over me and tasted my mouth, his tongue brushing against mine.

Playfulness sparked in his eyes as he drew away and flicked back his soaking wet hair. “Well, Aunty Corrine’s efforts didn’t last long…”

Chapter 37: Aiden

Ever since Claudia had told me that Adelle had broken things off with Eli, I couldn’t stop feeling guilty about it. After all, I was the cause of his pain.

After returning to The Shade, I spent some time with Kailyn, and then I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer. I needed to visit Adelle and, for the first time since I’d known her, have a completely open and straightforward conversation with her.

But I didn’t want to do this without first talking to Kailyn about it. I didn’t want to hide any of this from her any longer.

We were both sitting on the front porch enjoying the view of the island. My arm was wrapped around her while she rested her head on my shoulder.

“Kailyn,” I said softly. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“What is it?” She raised her head and looked at me.

“Everything I’m about to tell you, you must promise to keep to yourself. You mustn’t tell anyone, especially not Eli.”

“You can trust me.”

I breathed in deeply. “It’s about Adelle. She recently broke up with Eli… I suspect because of me.”

Kailyn’s eyes widened.

I placed my hand over hers. “I believe she has affection for me, perhaps has had for some time. When she saw me with you that day on the cliff, I believe it brought her feelings to the surface in a way that she’s finding hard to handle.”

I could tell from her expression what question she had in her mind now: Did I love Adelle?

I saved her the pain of asking. “I… I can’t deny that not so long ago, I was besotted with Adelle. Due to unlucky timing, I never asked her out. I had been intending to, but I was too slow. Eli got to her first.” I leaned forward and kissed Kailyn’s warm cheek. “But then you came along. I choose you over Adelle, Kailyn. And the only reason I’m telling you all this about Adelle is because I didn’t want to hide it from you. I didn’t want you to find out later on somehow and think that I wasn’t being fully honest with you.”

Kailyn nodded, giving me a small smile. “I appreciate that, Aiden… but how do you know that she dumped Eli because of you?”

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