I’ve learned one thing about romantic love in all my years. It takes two people. Those two people must want to make it work. During my first year of college, I asked my mother how you know if a man was the right one to marry. I remember clearly, she said “you never know.”
So, falling in love is always a risk. We romance authors write plenty of stories about heroes and heroines hurt by love. We also strive to make our endings “happily-ever-after.” No such thing in real life, but sometimes we come close to it.
When I opened the door to a blind date after four years single and no dates, I had no clue that five years later, I’d marry the guy and twenty years after that, we’d still be together. Our first conversation around dinner was about his two nearly grown children and mine. Our kids were the same age. Then we talked computers. I was a technical writer and he was a computer programmer. We had something in common.
What do you remember talking about to your significant other when you first met?
In my Ghost Mountain Ranch series, the first FREE book is called Hank. It was originally published as a Christmas novella for the Montana McKennas series written with Maddie James. I had always intended to take Hank away from the McKenna Ranch to work at one across the mountain. The ending of Hank’s story in the book that bears his name is anything but happily after. He had to wait until the next book Darby to get his romantic happy ending. Here’s an excerpt.
Darby drew a breath before speaking. “What did you say to me that night at the hospital?” She paused. “You know, when I left.”
Hank ran a hand through his thick head of hair and swallowed hard as if he suddenly grew nervous. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Grinning, Darby shook her head. “You know very well what you said, but it was so faint, I was afraid I’d heard you wrong.”
He offered a bemused smile. “Oh.”
Was he sweating? He’d never said he loved her. She’d just gone on the assumption years ago. But as the saying went, assuming something was never wise.
“I think you said the L word,” she teased.
He blushed, turning as red as his red flannel shirt.
“If you meant it, you need to convince me. It’s time to cowboy up, buster.”
Hank’s jaw clinched. He hesitated a moment, then placed his hands on the desktop and pushed to his feet. There was a new determination in his eyes.
“Darby York, you know damn well I love you.”
She tucked her chin, playing coy. “I do?”
He came around the desk and pulled her into his arms, holding her in a great big grizzly bear hug. They stood that way, drawing warmth from each other, feeling each other’s heartbeat, until Darby slipped her arms around his neck.
“I always thought you knew,” Hank whispered, “but I could never say it.”
“I did know, but it’s always nice to hear it said.”
“Biggest mistake I ever made. Not telling you.”
Darby drew back a little to gaze into his eyes. “My biggest mistake was running from the ranch and you.”
“No,” he said firmly. “There are reasons for things. You’ve had a good life. You’ve got your two kids.”
Yes, she had her kids, and she’d had a wonderful life. But her life wasn’t over. A new chapter was just beginning.
“What if I stayed at the ranch, too,” she ventured. “But I won’t stay unless you agree to marry me.”
His mouth dropped open.
“Because I love you, too, Hank Slade.”
Then she stood on tiptoe and kissed his lips so completely that the past was forgotten. Only the present mattered. They would make a new future together.
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