She smiled back. It’d been a great month, maybe the best month of her life. She was teaching, writing jingles, sometimes still playing late at night at the Love Shack. . . when she wasn’t sleeping in Sam’s arms. They stayed at his house sometimes, but more often than not Sam left his place to his father and stayed with Becca in her warehouse apartment.

She loved it.

She loved him.

She loved life.

As a bonus, Jase had just gotten out of rehab. She’d talked to him the day before, and he sounded good, real good. He wasn’t going to go straight back out on the concert rounds but was going to stay with their parents and do some studio work and see how things went.

She was hopeful about that, and as Sam pulled her sunglasses off and kissed her, she realized she was hopeful about a bunch of things.

Thirty minutes later they pulled up to their dock.

Becca had placed an ad in the paper for help at the hut, freeing her up to teach music classes to the rest of the grades in the district. She’d hired someone who was perfect for the job.

“Hey, son.” Mark caught the ropes Sam tossed him and helped tie down the boat.

Becca looked him over carefully. He’d had a rough month health-wise, and they’d had to change up his meds, but he was looking good today at least, and she’d take that. She knew he was happy to be working, and that he loved feeling helpful, and most of the days he was even on time.

“You do it yet?” Mark asked Sam.

“Do what?” Cole wanted to know.

Mark blinked at Cole, then looked at Sam. “I thought you were going to do it today. How did you do it with these clowns with you?”

Sam’s mouth tightened.

“She didn’t like it?” Mark asked. He turned to Becca. “You didn’t like it?”

“Dad, drop it,” Sam said. “Jesus.”

Becca grabbed her small backpack and the tin of ranch-flavored popcorn Sam had given her that morning as she’d boarded. Clutching all her stuff, she stepped off the boat. “Like what?” she asked Mark.

He tapped on the tin.

“Oh, I love it when he buys me the popcorn,” she said. “I just didn’t get a chance to eat any yet. Sam distracted me every time I tried.”

Sam looked pained.

Becca stared at him, wondering what the odd tremor in her belly was. She couldn’t help but feel like she was missing something.

Something big.

Mark looked at Sam and laughed. “You poor, dumb bastard. I almost feel sorry for you.”

Sam scrubbed a hand over his face and let out a sigh.

Becca set her backpack down and opened the tin.


“Becca,” Sam said, and reached for the tin.

She shoved a handful in her mouth, and the delicious flavor exploded against her taste buds. Cole reached into the tin as well, but she smacked his hand away. “Mine.”

“Man, never get between a woman and her popcorn,” Tanner told Cole.

Becca shoved down another few bites, leaving enough room to push the popcorn aside. At the bottom was a little velvet black box, dusted with popcorn crumbs. She stopped breathing.

“I knew you’d get hungry enough eventually,” Sam said. “I was just trying to avoid a crowd when it happened.” He leveled the guys with a look. “I should’ve known better.”

She just stared at him, her heart pounding.

Sam reached into the tin.

“Hey,” Cole bitched. “You’ll share with him and not me? I thought we were friends.”

Tanner wrapped an arm around Cole’s neck, clapping a hand over his mouth.

Sam pulled the small black box from the tin. He nudged a gobsmacked Becca to the dock bench and then crouched at her side. “I might be a little slow,” he said, “but luckily I learn from my mistakes.” He opened the box and revealed a diamond ring that dazzled her and left her speechless.

It spoke of forever and stability and calm acceptance. It was a testament to his life, proof of his love and commitment. “Oh, Sam,” she breathed.

“Is that Oh, Sam, you done good?” Mark asked. “Or Oh, Sam, you’re an idiot? ’Cause there’s a big difference, darlin’.”

Tanner wrapped his other arm around Mark’s neck and muzzled him as well.

“It’s so beautiful,” Becca whispered, throat tight, eyes misting.

Sam smiled at her. “I love you. Be mine, Becca. Marry me.”

Mark tore Tanner’s hand from his mouth. “Son, you’re supposed to ask, not tell.”

Sam slid his dad a dark look.

Mark grimaced. “Right. Don’t butt in. I almost forgot that part, sorry.” He then lifted Tanner’s hand back to his own mouth.

Becca let out a laugh and stared down at Sam, the big, tough, stoic man who was so good at coming in under the emotional radar that she’d never seen him coming at all. He had his heart out on the line, and she knew he wasn’t all that patient about such things. So she touched his face, feeling the rough day-old stubble beneath her fingertips as she leaned in. “Yes,” she whispered against his mouth. “I’ll be yours. And that makes you mine as well, you know. You ready for that?”

He grinned. “It’s all I ever wanted.”