This is a future scene revolving around Cara and Wes from ALL I AM. I would suggest reading the book first for maximum enjoyment.

****

Cara Pruitt loved her boyfriend very, very much, but she was about to punch him. Hard. Possibly in the nuts.

“You cannot say no to this, Wes Stone,” she said, hands on her hips, most intimidating expression on her face.

Wes didn’t even blink. He frowned right back at her as he leaned against the kitchen counter. It was late summer, and he had his hair short and even his beard trimmed. If she wasn’t so mad at him she’d be tempted to lure him into the bedroom.

“Well, I already did.”

Well,” she said repeating his damnably obnoxious level tone. “Find a way to fix it.”

“I’ll pass,” he said, turning his gaze to the over where he was cooking some dog treats.

She made a choking sound of rage. “The interview would be here. And I would be here.” She swept a hand to encompass their little cabin. “The dogs will be here, and Phantom could be right by your side.”

His frown deepened as he continued to study his treats. “I don’t see the point. Anyone in Millertown already knows about the farmers’ market. A little write up in the paper is hardly going to drum up business.”

“You don’t know that, and it’s stupid to say no to something that could potentially bring you more customers at the market or online. It’s a simple interview.” And he deserved the recognition, the attention, no matter how much he didn’t want it.

He was a man who’d built a business on the heels of a tour in Afghanistan and an injury that had ended his dreams of becoming a veterinarian. He deserved people’s respect, people’s gratitude, and nothing quite irritated her as much as when he refused those kinds of opportunities.

“I wouldn’t…” He shook his head and returned his gaze to her. Irritated, yes, but a little…almost guilty too. “Cara, come on. You know me. I’d stammer over every question and who knows what she’d write. It’s too spontaneous, an interview. It isn’t the right kind of thing for me.”

“So we’ll tell her to give you the questions before hand, then we’ll practice your answers together. It doesn’t have to be spontaneous.”

Finally, finally she got something besides stoic refusal. He scratched a hand through his hair. “That sounds…”

“Reasonable? Sensible? Genius? Wonderful? Yes, I know. And if you’d told me about it before you’d refused it, I would have been all of those things then, and you could have your comfort and your attention.”

She expected him to bristle or huff, but instead he did the oddest thing.

He laughed.

She’d gotten to know Wes rather well over the past almost year of living together. She could predict his moods, and she could even navigate them well…when she wanted to.

She could tell in the morning if his hand was bothering him, or his hip, or—as it had been happening more and more since his surgery last year—when he woke up with no pain at all. She knew when to give him space, and she knew when to press.

But she did not know for the life of her why he was laughing at her demands or sarcasm. She’d known he’d fight her on this. Though he was not the same hermit of a man she’d initially met at the farmer’s market what felt like forever ago, neither was he a man particularly prone to feeling comfortable around strangers.

He often sucked it up for the sake of their business, but a one-on-one interview was intimidating. She softened a little at that, at how easy it was to think of his dog treats and her pies as theirs, not just separate entities.

She really did love the jerk.

“Why are you laughing?” she asked, not content to be mollified quite yet.

“Because I love you.”

She could only frown at him, puzzled. “I don’t know why that’s funny.”

“Because you’re a bulldozer, Cara Pruitt, and I love every inch of being flattened, and I never, never in a million years thought I’d get that, let alone want it.”

Well, that about softened her completely. “Are you trying to distract me?”

“No,” he said, a little more seriously than the conversation warranted. “I’m not sure it will ever stop hitting me a little sideways, that you’re mine. That you care. That you want what’s best for me, for us.”

Well, now he was just fighting dirty. She blinked back the silly sheen of tears. “Well, you don’t have to get all romantic on me.”

He cocked his head, studying her for a second. “Maybe I do.” He turned, opening a cupboard. He moved some things around on the top shelf, pawed around a little bit more, and then pulled out a box.

A jewelry box.

Cara froze, her eyes too wide, her mouth too open. “What…what the hell is that?” she squeaked.

“Should I put it back?” he asked, not answering her question at all.

But she wasn’t dumb, and she knew what this was. What he was doing. What he was offering to do by putting it back.

If she wasn’t ready, he’d wait. He’d hide the jewelry box up in his cupboard—their cupboard and he’d wait—because while he was still gun shy with people and spontaneity, commitment hadn’t exactly been her thing.

Except this was the happiest she’d ever been. Sharing a house with him. Sharing businesses. Loving him. Fighting with him. Pushing each other to do better, be better, and comforting each other when they just weren’t ready for it.

“No, d-don’t put it back,” she managed to whisper.

His mouth curved. “Are you sure?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, don’t give me a chance to back out,” she breathed. Except she wouldn’t. Not now. Not with this man. Her rock. Her solid, quiet comfort.

He stepped toward her, box in hand. When at last he came to stop, close enough she could smell the dog treat batter and delineate every last unfairly long eyelash, he opened the box.

It was a flashy ring. Not just a diamond at the center, but a rainbow of tiny jewels encrusted around it.

“You brought color into my life, Cara. I love you in ways I never thought possible. You make me better, and I want to have you by my side for the rest of my life.”

She’d never considered herself much of a crier, but the words pierced straight through any control she might have thought she had. A tear rolled down her cheek, and then another.

“That was my allotment of words for the day, so if you could go ahead and say yes or no, that’d be—”

“Yes!” she managed on a little laugh-sob, and then she buried her head in his shoulder. His arms wrapped around her, tight and strong.

“You know we’re going to have a big ass wedding, right?” she croaked into his shoulder.

He chuckled into her hair, running a hand down her spine. “I never had any doubt.”

“And as soon as I stop crying, I am going to have my wicked, wicked way with you.”

“Well, I was hoping for that.”

She pulled away just enough to tilt her head back so she could look up at him. She framed his beautiful face with her hands, traced the little indent of a scar under the short whiskers. “I love you,” she said, as earnestly as she’d ever said anything in her entire life.

He kissed her forehead and then tugged her hand into his, slipping the ring onto her finger before discarding the box. “I love you too,” he said, just as solemnly once the ring was settled on her finger.

She looked at the beautiful symbol, breathing deeply in an effort to remember this moment and cherish it always.

And then… Well, and then she pulled him into the bedroom and had her very wicked way with him, indeed.