She gently touched his cheeks. "What?"
He let his mouth drift to her ear. "I missed you today."
"I missed you too. Thank you for last night. You've taken me out to eat two nights in a row."
"Been my pleasure." She clung to him, which was unusual since they were in public. "Something else goin' on?"
"Just having a moment."
"What kind of moment?" Carson tipped her chin up. "Tell me."
Those beautiful blue eyes locked to his. "I can't believe I've only known you four weeks."
"Is that good or bad?"
"Honestly? Both. Good because I like being with you. If we're not together then I can't wait until we are together again."
"What's the bad part?"
"I don't have experience with this so I don't know if it's…normal."
"Normal," he repeated. "Not sure I follow."
Fire flashed in her eyes. "Is it normal to be in love so soon? Or am I just reading too much into it because you're my first-"
"Boyfriend?" he supplied.
"No. My first lover," she said crossly.
Another growling sound escaped. "First lover? Got news for you sugar, I'm gonna be your only goddamned lover. Ever. No man besides me will ever touch you. Understand?"
"What are you saying?"
"I'm sayin'…" Shit. What was he saying? Everything he'd wanted to tell her just vanished. He closed his eyes.
Think. Focus. Throw it out there even if this isn't the way you wanted to do it.
His heart thumped. He cleared his throat, trying to dissolve the lump of fear blocking his vocal chords. The instant he stared into her eyes, he calmed. "Marry me, Carolyn West."
Her mouth fell open.
"I'm not kiddin' around this time, not that I was when I asked you the first night we met, because I think that's what led us here. To the real deal." He brushed soft kisses across her mouth, taking advantage of her shock, thoroughly tasting the velvety pillow of her lips. "Marry me."
She continued to gape at him.
Jesus. Did he have to hard sell her? "I ain't rich, but we're building up our cattle business a little more every year." He nuzzled her cheek. "I'll make a good husband to you, I promise."
"Why do you want to marry me?"
Carson reclaimed her eyes with his. "Because I can't imagine my life without you in it."
Tears welled and then they spilled free. "For real?"
"For real. Forever." He swiped the wetness away with his thumbs. "Say yes. Say you'll be my wife. Say you'll be mine."
She whispered, "I'm already yours. So yes. I'll marry you."
"Thank God." He managed to keep his kiss tender, despite the urge to give in to the passion that erupted between them. After several soft, sweet kisses, he murmured, "Give me your left hand," against her lips.
Carolyn placed her left hand on the side of his face. The simple, loving touch stirred everything inside him.
Carson kissed the inside of her wrist and stepped back. He shoved his hand in the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out the ring. Taking her hand, he slid the platinum circle on her third finger. "If you don't like it, we can take it back and get you something else."
"I can't even see it with your hat blocking my hand."
She raised her hand to eye level. She gasped, her right hand flew to her mouth and the waterworks started again.
How the hell could she even see the damn thing through her tears?
"Sugar? You okay?"
She shook her head yes, then no… And then she started hiccupping which made her cry harder.
He had no experience with this stuff. What was he supposed to do?
Figure it out because you'll be dealing with this woman's emotions-good and bad-for the rest of your life.
"C'mere." Carson wrapped her in his arms and held her until she calmed down.
She stepped back and wiped her face. "I'm probably a mess. I need a tissue. Just a moment." She rummaged in her purse. She gave him her back as she blew her nose. Then she brushed some sort of powder over her face before she faced him again.
"In shock. Huge surprise, McKay." She smiled shyly and walked back into his arms.
Carson kissed her forehead. "I'd apologize for popping the question in the parking lot of the damn Ice Cream Palace, but it's probably a good indication."
"Of the fact I ain't a romantic kinda guy. I'll try to be that guy. But I ain't good at that hearts and flowers shit."
Carolyn laughed. "I guess time will tell, won't it? I'll forgive you for not being a romantic if you'll overlook that I don't have the faintest idea what it means to be a rancher's wife."
His mouth brushed her temple. "You'll spend a lot of time nekkid in our bed." His lips traveled, skimming the top of her ear. "I can't wait to wake up with you every morning and hold you in my arms every night."
"That was pretty romantic." She studied her left hand pressed against his chest. "The ring is beautiful." She bit her lip and that stemmed another round of tears. "Is it something that's been in your family?"