Jeb stood only inches away, looking deep into her eyes. “I told you I was going to ask you again once the house was done. Well, it’s done and you need to make up your mind.”
“Jeb, I—” Beth’s heartbeat sounded like thunder in her ears, and she wondered if Darcie could hear it. She’d never felt so flustered in her life. She knew she needed to be doing something. . .she was at work. She turned around and found Darcie watching the two of them, several lines in her hand waiting to be plugged into sockets. “Can this wait? I’m working. I—”
“I’ve waited long enough.” Jeb pulled her close with his good arm. “I need an answer now.”
Now. He needed an answer.
Beth looked back to see her switchboard lighting up all over the place and Darcie trying to take care of both switchboards while trying not to miss a thing going on in the office. For the first time since she’d come to work here, Beth decided some things were just more important than the Roswell Telephone and Manufacturing Company.
“An answer to what?”
“You told me that if I finished the house by Christmas, you just might marry me. Back then, when I asked you to marry me, we barely knew each other and it was for the children’s sake. This time I’m asking simply because I love you. . .with all my heart, and I can’t imagine not seeing you every day. I want you out at the ranch with me and Cassie and Lucas. I know you may never love me like you loved Harland, but Beth, will you please marry me?”
It suddenly didn’t matter if the whole town would soon know what went on here. She turned her undivided attention to the man she loved. “Oh, Jeb! I. . .you. . .”
Beth stopped and took a deep breath. She had to tell him everything. “I thought I could learn to love Harland. I truly did. But I’d been having second thoughts about marrying him for weeks before he died. I was going to tell him the next time he came into town, only I didn’t have a chance before he was killed in the stampede. I promised myself that I would never marry a man I didn’t know and didn’t love after that. Then, you came into my life, and I’ve felt so guilty over the growing feelings I’ve had for you. I—“
Jeb shushed her with a finger at her lips. “I understand. I’ve had my share of guilt over falling in love with you. But I have. Deeply and completely. And I want nothing more than to marry you, if you’ll have me—”
Beth’s heart seemed to have wings as it rapidly beat in her chest. “Oh, Jeb. You are the only man I’ve truly loved. . .and yes, oh yes, I will marry you.”
Beth tried to be careful of his bad arm and sore ribs as Jeb pulled her closer and bent his head toward her. Their lips met and clung in a kiss that turned the challenge of a moment into a promise of a lifetime.