"I'm not afraid of anything," she said evenly, using the same response that she used to use when they were kids and he tried to taunt her into doing something asinine, kind of like now.
Taking a chance, a real chance, on him was a huge risk not only because they could wind up killing each other, but if things didn't work out between them, which was a real possibility given their history, she could wind up hating him for breaking her heart. This was a really bad idea, she berated herself inwardly as she looked into his beautiful emerald eyes and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. She should just push him away and end things right now before she got in over her head, but really, when had she ever done the smart thing when it came to Connor?
"I don't think this is such a good idea," she said, needing to at least pretend to show good judgment and think it over, but unfortunately common sense and good judgment were usually never around when it came to Connor. At least this time she wouldn’t have to worry about ending up in jail. Well, she hoped that she didn’t.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said, pressing a kiss against her forehead before he leaned back and focused all of his attention on her broken hand. When he gingerly picked up her hand and pressed something onto her ring finger, she couldn’t help but frown as she looked down, but between the man’s head and the lack of decent light, she couldn’t see much.
“Um, what the hell are you doing?” she asked when she felt him slide something onto her finger.
“Nothing much. Just decided that you and I are getting married that’s all,” he announced with a careless shrug of his shoulders as he turned his head and pressed a swift kiss against her stunned lips.
“I’m sorry, what the hell is this now?” she demanded, sure that she’d misheard him.
“I’m thinking a November wedding. It will give you plenty of time to plan it and get used to the idea,” he explained as if it wasn’t a big deal when it was a very big freaking deal.
“I can’t marry you, Connor,” she blurted out, really not knowing what else to say and wishing that she’d said it with a little more finesse. Then again, she should have known that Connor wouldn’t take it personally.
“Yes, you can. All you have to do is show up, sign the license, and say ‘I do’” he mused as he leaned in to steal another kiss.
“No, I can’t,” she stubbornly said, leaning back away from him, but it wasn’t all that far considering that he had her sitting on a narrow railing.
“I tell you what, Rory,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close until she had no other choice but to put her hands on his shoulders to help support herself and when she did, her breath caught in her throat as her eyes landed on that tiny diamond decorating her finger.
It was so beautiful.
“You give me until November to prove that we belong together and if you still don’t want to marry me by the time the manor is done then we’ll call it off.”
“Oh?” she asked distractedly as she grudgingly accepted the fact that she never wanted to take the ring off her finger. “And how exactly do you plan on convincing me to marry you?”
“I plan on making you fall in love with me, Rory,” he said softly as he leaned in and kissed her in a way that wasn’t fair.
“Wear the ring, Rory and if you don’t fall in love with me by November then we can call the whole thing off and I’ll never bother you again,” he swore against her lips.
After more than two decades of being tormented by this man, the idea of never seeing him again should make her happy, but it didn’t. She honestly didn’t know how she would be able to function without him in her life. But did that mean that she was ready to give him forever?
Everything in her world had changed in such a short period of time that she didn’t know if she was coming or going. The smart thing would be to get some space and ignore his veto, but she didn’t want to do that.
“You really think that you can make me fall in love with you in less than five months?” she asked, trying not to smile and failing miserably when she felt his lips kick up into that grin that she loved.
“I know that I can,” he promised as he stepped away from her only to scoop her up in his arms, turn and head for her bedroom, but he didn’t get far.
“It’s been more than ten minutes,” Trevor announced dryly as he leaned back against the door frame, startling Connor, but thankfully he didn’t drop her and she truly appreciated that.
“And we’re hungry!” Jason yelled from what sounded like her bathroom.
“Who the hell are you?” Connor demanded as he stood his ground, holding her tightly in his arms as he glared at her cousin as if the man didn’t have several inches and fifty pounds of muscle on him.
Trevor’s curious expression turned amused when his eyes zeroed in on her left hand. “Oh, by the looks of it, I would say one of your future in-laws.”
“Why are you glaring at me?” Rory asked, giving him a sweet, too sweet, smile as the two men, no correction, his future in-laws from hell periodically sent him killing glares as they tore through his kitchen and ate every last morsel of food.
“Tell me that you didn’t break the ban, Rory. Tell me that there aren’t two Bradfords beating the shit out of each other over the last slice of cheese in my kitchen,” he pleaded, already knowing and dreading the answer.
It had been a good fifteen years since he’d last seen a Bradford, but that was one experience that he would never forget. He’d been sixteen, pissed and looking for a little revenge against Rory for the bullshit she’d pulled on him the night before at the drive-in. Normally, he would have waited until she came home from her family’s annual summer vacation, but that day he refused to wait to get his revenge. Well, that and his sixteen year old hormone driven mind was hoping to see Rory in a bathing suit.
It was the latter that had him climbing into the back of Mr. James’ truck and hiding beneath a pile of gym bags in ninety degree weather, risking an ass whooping by the James boys if he was caught. Somehow he managed to make it to their destination, a campsite, without getting caught or passing out from the heat. As soon as he felt the truck come to a stop and heard Mr. James order his kids to unload the truck, he jumped out, darted across the rocky dirt parking lot and dove into what unfortunately turned out to be a bush concealing a large briar patch.
Once he managed to untangle himself from the thorns, he followed after Rory, who trailed behind her brothers. It pissed him off that her brothers hadn’t bothered to even offer to carry her bag for her and he made it a point to get back at them later that night by stuffing poison ivy in their bags. He trailed after them in the woods until they came to a small clearing on the pond. While they set up, he went and found himself a little hiding spot. Once that was done, he came back only to get the surprise of a lifetime.
The once peaceful campsite was filled with men, very large men and everywhere he looked there was food, massive piles of it. The tents weren’t up, but they had tables set up with food everywhere. None of them, not even what he suspected should have been little boys, were small. He’d always thought that the James boys were freakishly large, but the men that were beating the shit out of each other over food had been much, much bigger. Most every single one of them had been shirtless and all had been buff, making him feel scrawny and making him wonder if Rory thought he was scrawny.
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