Lucas woke late the next morning with Randie curled against him. A deep happiness unfurled inside him, and he just lay there, watching her sleep for a few minutes. Then, he quietly got out of bed and went to the kitchen to start coffee. He’d finished his first cup when she came to join him. She was wearing a long Oriental silk robe over her pajamas, and her hair was a mess. She looked beautiful.
“Last night was wonderful,” she said. “I think we should do it again.”
“Tonight?” Tomorrow was Christmas. They both had to be up and about early.
Her blue eyes sparkled. “Unless you have another girl scheduled for this evening.”
“There haven’t been any other girls since I met you.”
She sipped the coffee he offered her and peeked at him over the cup’s rim. “Does that make us exclusive?”
“I’d be happy to be with you for the rest of my life.” There, he’d said it. He waited for her reaction.
She stared at him, and he began to get nervous. Finally, she said, “You could have any girl you want. Won’t you get tired of me?”
“Has your dad gotten tired of your mom?”
She smiled. “No, they just keep getting better and better.”
“There you have it. So could we. Would you get tired of me?”
“You? How could I?”
He spread out his hands. “See? We’re good together.”
That earned him another smile. “Let’s sleep on it tonight. I have to get ready soon to pick up Gram. You’re helping us cook today.”
“I know. Slice and dice.”
She laughed. “Maybe we’ll let you help with the bread pudding, too.”
She went to shower and get dressed, and he poured himself another cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen island, deep in thought. When she whizzed back to him, she was pulling on her winter coat and reaching for her purse and gloves.
“I’ll be back soon. Gird your loins. Gram will be in major-domo mode.”
“I can handle Gram. I just do whatever she tells me.”
Randie laughed and planted a quick kiss on his cheek, then sped out the door. As she pulled out of the driveway, he threw on clothes and headed to his pickup. He didn’t have much time, but if he sped a little, he could beat her back.
- * *
“Is anyone hungry? I have lots of leftovers before we start cooking.”
Both women shook their heads, ready to start cooking. He finished his sandwich and waited for directions. They put him in charge of peeling apples while Gram and Randie got the ham ready and put it in the oven. It didn’t take long before he realized he wasn’t fond of his task, but he faithfully finished peeling an entire bag. Gram sliced them and put them in a large skillet with butter and brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon.
Next, they gave him a mandolin and showed him how to use it.
“Always use the guard,” Gram warned, “or you’ll be missing lots of skin.”
He took the warning seriously as he sliced potatoes—lots of them. Gram layered them in a casserole dish and added milk and seasonings before putting them in the oven.
While he worked with Gram, Randie made the bread pudding. When she saw his glance of disappointment, she said, “Sorry, hon. I’ll let you make the whiskey sauce with me.”
She winked at him. “You’re going to like it.”
The cooking frenzy lasted until supper time.
All of the food disappeared into his refrigerator before Randie drove Gram home. Lucas offered to carry-in food for supper, but Gram shook her head. “I’m eating in the Townehouse’s dining room tonight and then I’m going to bed. I missed my nap.”
When Randie got back, she brought two BBQ rib dinners with her.
“You must have read my mind,” Lucas told her. “I didn’t want to cook anymore tonight, and I wasn’t ready to go out. I love ribs.”
“So I’ve heard.”
They sat at the island to eat their meals, then went to stretch out in the living room and watch TV. They yakked and relaxed until Randie came to snuggle on Lucas’s couch with him.
Could life get any better?
Lucas waited for the right moment before he said, “I bought you a Christmas present. I won’t see you tomorrow, so I thought I’d give it to you now.”
Randie sat up. “I didn’t buy you anything.”
“You gave me last night.”
She put her hands on both sides of his face and kissed him. “That was for me, too.”
“It’s nothing big.” He gave her the cookbooks and magazines he’d bought her.
She made a happy, little noise when she opened them.
“Do you like them?”
“I love them. I can flip through pages during my vacation. It’s perfect.” She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. That led to more kisses, and eventually, they ended up in bed.
When they woke on Christmas morning, he pushed a steaming mug of coffee to her and followed it with a small, velvet box.
She stared at him.
“I saved your big Christmas present for today,” he told her. “Are you going to open it?”
She slowly lifted the lid and gave a small gasp. A square diamond was surrounded by rubies. “I love it! How did you know?”
“Your grandma told me that you planned to wear your great-grandmother’s ring when you got married. She described it, and when I was surprised the ring fit you, she told me its size.”
Tears slid down Randie’s cheeks. “You think of everything. You make it so easy to love you.”
He tipped her face to his. “Is that a yes?”
He kissed her until she had to pull away to catch her breath. Then she slid the ring on her finger to admire it. “This will get everyone buzzing at the dinner table today.”
They both glanced at the clock. Dulcey would be expecting him at her house soon, and Randie had to pick up Gram to finish her family’s meal here.
Randie pecked his cheek. “I love you, Lucas Cainer.”
“I love you, too.”
“I’ll be here when you come home tonight.”
“I’m ready to pack my bags and move in.”
Music to his ears. He picked her up and swung her in a circle. “We can settle you in over Christmas vacation.”
He had to leave soon after that, but he walked to his pickup with a spring in his step. He’d marry Randie tomorrow if she’d let him, but she deserved any kind of wedding that she wanted. That was fine. They were official. And he couldn’t be a happier man.
On the drive to Dulcey’s house, he couldn’t help smiling. He knew a little boy who’d be pretty happy his uncle was going to marry his first-grade teacher. This was going to be a special Christmas for all of them.