Authors: Shawna Delacorte
She pulled back from him and looked up into his face. “You can take care of me?” She stepped out of his embrace. As long as he held her in his arms she knew she wouldn't be able to think straight.
“Having someone take care of me is not what matters. It isn't what I want out of life. I can take care of myself.”
He reached out for her again, but she sidestepped his efforts. He furrowed his brow as the confusion swept across his face. “Then why are you going back to him? Back to Caufield?”
A moment of stunned silence hung in the air before she could muster a response. Her surprise clung to her words. “What makes you think I'm going back to Caufield?”
“Wellâ¦you told me he went to Seattle and checked into a hotel and that he had come here to take you back to Portland with him. When Mac said you were packing up and leaving, that you intended to catch the ferry to Seattle, I naturally assumedâ¦well, what else was I to think?”
Angie glanced toward the horizon, at the Seattle sky
line and the ferry dock growing closer and closer. She took a steadying breath and plunged into what had been left unsaid when she and Ty were last together. There was no reason to hold back, no reason to hold out hope that he would willingly offer what she wanted most to hear.
“Caufield offered me a commitment, a promise for the future. But what he wouldn't do was allow me to be who I am, to pursue my career, to find fulfillment within myself and my capabilities. He wanted me up on some sort of ivory pedestal where my activities could be controlled by him which would include going to the country club, donating my time to his mother's favorite charity and being a decoration on his arm when the occasion called for it. It was a suffocating prospect.”
She paused for a moment as she shook her head and pursed her lips. “It's not exactly what I'd call the basis for a lifetime partnership of equality or a happy marriage. I couldn't live with that type of a relationship, with the restrictionsâ¦” she made eye contact with him “â¦any more than I could live with a relationship that didn't include a commitment.”
Ty swallowed hard. He wasn't sure exactly what to say or how to respond to her words. “Then where are you going?”
“I'm going to find a job and my own place to live. I have a couple of appointments tomorrow and I've circled several apartments for rent in the newspaper that I need to look at.”
Again confusion clouded his thinking. “But what does that have to do with right now? Where are you going to stay tonight?”
The announcement came over the loudspeaker sys
tem telling all drivers to return to their cars immediately.
Angie looked toward the dock, then at Ty. A sense of urgency surrounded her words. “I need to return to my car. You need to get to your car, too. We'll be docked in a couple of minutes.” She turned toward the door going from the outside deck to the inside area of the ferry.
“Angie, wait. Where are you going? Where can I find you? Where will you be tonight?”
She ran from the deck, past the cafeteria area, then headed for the stairs leading down to the vehicle level. She disappeared in the crowd of people attempting to return to their cars, but Ty knew where she had parked. He had to get to her car before she was able to drive off the ferry. If he missed her on the vehicle levelâ¦well, he didn't want to think about it. It was not acceptable. He could not allow it.
He shoved his way through the crowd toward the stairs. As soon as he reached the vehicle level he skirted his way around the parked cars, most of them with occupants and the motor running waiting for the car ahead of them to move forward. He reached her car, yanked open the door and slid into the passenger seat. The shock spread across her face at his sudden appearance.
He gulped in a couple of deep breaths to calm his breathing. “I don't care where you're going, but wherever it is I'm going with you. We have to talk.”
“What about your car? You can't abandon it here where it will be blocking the other cars trying to leave.”
“I had to leave my car in the restaurant parking lot across the street from the ferry dock on Bainbridge.
There wasn't time for me to get on with my car so I boarded as a foot passenger.”
The car in front of them started moving forward. She put the car in gear and followed. Her mind raced to put together what was happening. Ty had followed her on the ferry, but for what specific purpose? To ask her not to leave? But without a commitment, it wouldn't matter. She knew she had to stand firm on that point. It was very important to her.
He interrupted her thoughts. “As soon as you get out of here, pull over on the first side street you come to. We have to talk right now. It can't wait.”
“Talk about what?”
“About usâ¦” He took a steadying breath in an attempt to calm his inner fears and shove aside his anxieties. “About the future.”
“That's what I'm doing here, Ty. I'm taking care of my future. I've explained it to Mac. He understands.” Her insides quivered and trepidation welled inside her. She felt trapped. At that moment, as much as she wanted a commitment from Ty, she needed to get away by herself and clear her head of the stifling confusion.
“Well, I don't understand. Maybe I'm just too dense. You're going to have to explain it to me. I want to know where you're going and exactly why. If you explained it to Mac, then you can explain it to me, too.”
Her hackles stood on end. He sounded as if he was dictating to her, telling her what to do. How had everything gotten so out of control and gone so wrong? Every step she took put her in a bigger mess than she had been before. The last thing she wanted was a painful confrontation, but she didn't seem to be able to escape it. Perhaps confronting him now would be better
than later. Now would allow her to make a clean break of it. She knew she couldn't handle a long drawn-out confrontation. She loved him too much.
Leaving without talking to Ty, however, had been the coward's way out. She had been suffering misgivings about the way she had handled the decision. She turned into a parking lot a couple of blocks down the street from the ferry dock.
Angie turned in her seat until she faced Ty. “Okay. What do you think we have to talk about?”
Ty tried to swallow his fears so that he could appear calm and in control. But as much as he wanted it to be so, he knew he had failed miserably. His fear of losing her, of her no longer being part of his life and his future, totally overshadowed his deeply held fear of making a commitment.
He grasped her hand. He craved the physical contact, the warmth and security of her touch. He needed the courage it gave him, the courage to say what he should have said long before then. To say what was in his heart.
“Angieâ¦” His throat went dry. He was about to say the most important words he had ever spoken, words that would have an impact on his entire future and the rest of his life. He had to say them and say them quickly before he lost his nerve again. He pressed the back of her hand to his lips.
“Angieâ¦I love you.” Once those most important and feared words were out of his mouth it was as if the dam had burst. Words tumbled out in an almost frenzied manner as if he couldn't say them fast enough. “I love you very much. I'll work very hard to make sure you're never bored. You'll never feel neglected or be taken for granted or patronized. I would never hold
you back from being all that you can be, from accomplishing whatever you want.”
Angie's insides quivered so violently that she was sure her entire body must be visibly shaking. No words had ever sounded as marvelous as what Ty had just said. The jubilation rose inside her, shoving everything else aside. Tears of joy filled her eyes and threatened to overflow.
“Are you sure, Ty? You're not just saying that because it's what I want to hear?”
“I'm saying it because I mean it. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together. When Mac told me you were leaving I was so scared. I have never been as panicked before in my life. I knew I had to do everything in my power to stop you. I can't imagine what the future would be like without you.”
He leaned forward and kissed her. “I love you, Angie.” His voice dropped to a whisper, the words coming directly from his heart. “Come home with me. Be part of my life and let me be part of yours for all the years ahead.”
Total elation bubbled inside her. “Oh, Tyâ¦I love you so much. I've been so scared, so afraid that you didn't love me. And when you wouldn't make a commitment to us, to our relationship and our future, I felt I had to leave so I could make a clean break and get on with my lifeâa life I knew would always be empty without you.”
“I'm so sorry, Angie. I didn't mean to hurt you like that. I tried to convince myself that a verbal commitment wasn't necessary, that we both knew we would always be together, but that was wrong. A relationship needs a firm foundation in order to last and that requires clearly stating what that foundation is.”
He squeezed her hand. “I want this relationship to have the strongest foundation possible and that includes marriage.”
He brushed another kiss against her lips. “Marry me, Angie. Do me the honor of being my wife.”
“Yesâ¦oh, yes! I'll marry you.” She flung her arms around his neck. “I love you.” She had never been happier in her life and the future had never looked brighter.
“There's only one thing left to do.”
She looked at him quizzically. “What's that?”
“We have to tell Mac right away so he can get this entire thing settled in his mind and stop jumping down my throat in that over-protective big brother way of his.”
“You're right. Let's turn around and take the ferry back.”
He flashed a teasing grin. “And maybe get my car out of the restaurant parking lot before they have it towed away.” The grin slowly disappeared to be replaced by a look of total adoration. “I love you so much.”
She placed her hand against his cheek. “Forever.”
ngie replaced the phone receiver in the cradle, then turned toward Ty and Mac. “Well, Mom cried, then said we had to start immediately on wedding plans even though we haven't set a date yet. She's envisioning a large ceremony with the invited guest list equaling the population of Portland.”
Mac scrunched up his face. “Ouch! That sounds expensive.”
“Yes, and much too elaborate for my tastes. Ty and I have discussed it and we both want a small, simple weddingâ”
Ty quickly added his thoughts. “And a month-long honeymoon.” He turned his attention to Mac. “That's going to leave you solely in charge of everything until we get back.” He flashed a teasing grin. “You know, all those
that you always try to avoid.”
“I'll manage to muddle through.” Mac paused as if
a thought had just occurred to him “âbut you can't be gone any longer than a month.”
“I hate to interrupt the wedding and honeymoon discussion,” Angie said, her gaze darting between Mac and Ty, “but I'd like to change the topic.”
She adopted a very businesslike persona. “We have company expansion plans to deal with, decisions that need to be made so that we can go forward smoothly with as little disruption to the work flow as possible.”
A soft chuckle escaped Mac's throat. “I knew you were going to be a tough taskmaster. You haven't been a partner in this for even a week yet and already you're calling the shots.” His expression turned all business. “All right, boss. What do you suggest we do first?”
Angie shot a teasing grin toward her brother. “My first executive decision is to declare it lunchtime. I'm hungry and you're buying!”
Mac beamed at his sister. “It will be my pleasure.”
Ty pulled her into his arms. “That was an excellent decision, Mrs. Farrell.”
“I'm not Mrs. Farrell yet.”
“I know, but I like the way it sounds.” Ty brushed a soft kiss against her lips.
Angie's whispered words were for Ty's ears only. “So do I.”
IN FORBIDDEN TERRITORY
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