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“Fine,” she said, sounding tired as she buckled up. “Can we please stop for a cup of hot chocolate before we head home?”

“That’s a good idea,” he said, not mentioning that he’d already planned on doing just that.

To be honest, he was exhausted as well. It had been a very long night and it was barely eight-thirty. All he wanted to do was enjoy this quiet time with Rory, steal her hot cocoa and hold her in his arms for the rest of the night, but he knew that the night wasn’t over quite yet. There were a few things that they needed to clear up before any misunderstandings formed and screwed with his plans to make Rory his wife.

Keeping his eyes on the road, he reached over and carefully took Rory’s broken hand into his. When he felt his ring on her finger he couldn’t help but smile. It had been a long time coming and to be honest, he never really expected this day to come. Granted, he had to earn her agreement to marry him, but he would. Now that he knew that she cared about him, nothing was going to stop him, not even the stubborn woman that he loved.

“We’ll move your stuff into my room tomorrow night,” he said quietly, hoping that she was too exhausted from the hell her cousins put her through to catch what he said, but of course this wasn’t going to be easy.

“Why would I do that?” Rory asked, pulling her hand away from his so that she could toy with her new ring.

“I just thought it would be easier,” he said offhandedly as he took a right on Oak Street.

“Why would that be easier?”

“I just thought it would be easier if you started to move in with me now. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about moving you out and selling your house after we get married,” he calmly explained as he pulled into Brennigan’s parking lot.

“Ah, I’m not selling my house, Connor and I’m not moving in with you,” Rory stubbornly argued.

“Rory,” he said, sighing heavily as he shut the Jeep down, “keeping two houses after we get married doesn’t make sense. I suppose we could rent it out, but that’s a pain in the ass.”

“I love my house, Connor. I’m not selling it,” Rory said, shooting him a glare as she threw open her door and jumped out.

He chuckled darkly as he climbed out of the truck. “I know that you don’t expect me to sell my house,” he said, shutting the door behind him and moving to join her on the sidewalk.

“That’s exactly what I expect if you want me to marry you,” Rory said with a shrug, effectively dismissing him and headed for the small coffee shop, leaving him to trail after her as he did his best to reign in his temper.

He should sell his house?

Bullshit.

That was not happening. He’d worked his ass off for that house. He’d taken on extra jobs to pay for it and to fix it up. Did she have any idea how hard he worked to restore his house? She had help, he hadn’t. He’d worked his ass off and he wasn’t about to sell his house. But for now, he’d drop it. There was plenty of time to deal with the simple misunderstanding after they were married. Right now it was more important that he convinced her to take a chance on him and if that meant biting his lip and keeping his mouth shut until she was his, then that’s exactly what he was going to have to do.

* * * *

“Large hot chocolate?” Beth, the senior barista, asked as Rory stepped up to the counter.

“Make it an extra-large please,” Rory said, pulling a ten dollar bill out of her pocket and tossing it on the counter. “I’ll be right back,” she said, fighting back a yawn as she headed for the bathroom.

As soon as she got home, she was going straight to bed. She’d deal with Connor and her cousins tomorrow. Normally she’d be worried that her cousins were hitting a buffet so close to home, but tonight she just didn’t have the energy to care. She’d worry about how she was going to keep them in line tomorrow. Tonight she was-

“Oh my God, did you hear the news?” a vaguely familiar feminine voice asked, sounding excited and drawing Rory’s attention as she went to push open the women’s bathroom door. She looked down the small hallway and realized that she was alone and that she was hearing a private conversation coming from the manager’s office behind her. Deciding that it was none of her business and that she really didn’t care about the latest town gossip, she moved to open the bathroom door when the next words stopped her dead in her tracks.

“Connor proposed to Rory!” the excited woman practically squealed, making Rory cringe as her eyes shot down to the ring on her finger. She should have taken it off before she went out. She cursed softly when she realized that her father and brothers probably already heard the news. That was just great.

“No, he didn’t,” a voice that she knew all too well said, laughing off the news.

Cindy, one of the most annoying women in town, was unfortunately the manager of this place. Not because she had a degree, had experience or had worked her way up to the position. No, Cindy became the manager of the best coffee shop in the area for one very simple reason, she screwed old man Webster.

Rumor had it that old man Webster called Cindy into his office on her very first day, within the very first hour because customers and staff alike complained about her attitude and inability to get off her ass and do anything. As soon as old man Webster finished firing her, Cindy started negotiations to keep her job and kept it up until Mr. Webster stumbled out of his office a half hour later, smiling and looking more relaxed than he had in years. Cindy walked out of the office looking smug and still very much employed. A year later, Cindy was the manager and still hadn’t served a single cup of coffee and Mr. Webster no longer bothered coming to the coffee shop since Cindy started making house calls. Normally she didn’t pay attention to rumors, but a few years ago she’d walked in on Cindy giving the owner of the Donut Shack a reason to smile.

“Megan called and told me that she saw Connor and Rory at Sam’s Club and that Rory was wearing this really tiny diamond engagement ring.”

“So?” Cindy demanded with a sneer.

“So? So, everyone knows that she’s been dating Connor! What do you mean so? This is huge! It’s also so sweet!” the other women gushed. “Don’t you think it’s sweet? I wonder how long they’ve been in love.”

Cindy let out an indelicate snort as she demanded, “And what makes you think that they’re in love?”

“How could you miss the way he looks at her?” the other woman asked, sounding confused.

“Oh, and just how does he look at her?” Cindy demanded, mockingly.

There was a slight pause before the other woman answered, “Like she’s everything that he’d ever dreamed of and he can’t quite believe she’s real.”

“Oh my God, you’ve been reading too many of those romance novels! He doesn’t look at her like she’s anything special!” Cindy said with a sneer.

“You’re the only one that doesn’t see it then.”

“Really? If he loves her so damn much then why did he f**k me last week?” Cindy demanded.

Rory stood there for another moment, feeling numb and barely registering the rest of the private conversation as her mind worked through everything she’d heard. When she settled on a decision, she turned around and walked back down the hall to confront Connor.

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