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The Highlands were gorgeous in the spring. This little patch of heaven especially, because this house, renovations finally complete after several months, would be Charlotte’s first home that was truly hers since she’d left her corporate job in Texas years ago to live on the ranch. No rental. No perk of the job. Raleigh had deeded it over to them both. Her 4×4 was loaded with boxes. Malcolm and Gavin would be following shortly with a truck and trailer full of stuff from both flats, but for just a few minutes, she wanted the chance to walk through and bask.
She and Malcolm would finally, formally, be sharing a bedroom, though they’d been bouncing back and forth between each other’s beds for months, anyway. Their room faced the loch and would catch the sunset each day. She looked out at the smooth expanse of water from the window seat Malcolm had built her. The entire house had been fitted out with clever storage that maximized space, while still giving them places to put things. Gavin’s room was at the opposite end of the floor, looking up at the slope of the mountain. Two bathrooms and a bedroom lay in between, giving them some needed distance and privacy. That middle bedroom would be Charlotte’s craft room—or the room where hobbies went to die, as the boys had affectionally dubbed it. She hadn’t given up on finding the right one yet. The triplets would need shearing come summer, and then she had a whole range of things to explore using their wool. Malcolm and Gavin had built them a little shed and pen behind the house so she didn’t have to be separated from them.
Downstairs was made up of a big, mostly open floor plan, where the massive kitchen with tons of counter space bled into the lounge. There was a mudroom off the kitchen, and another small room that would serve as Malcolm’s office for when he didn’t want to go all the way up to the estate for work. It wasn’t that far, in the grand scheme of things, but it wasn’t walking distance either. Everything down here was bright and clean, a mix of stone and wood, with as many windows as possible to take advantage of the gorgeous views. Once she unpacked, there’d be color. Lots of it. But right now, she enjoyed the relative blank canvas of the space. It left so much room to imagine the home they’d build. The memories they’d make.
Life was good. Gavin was back in school. He’d be doing summer school to make up for that missed semester, but he was excelling. More importantly, he was happy and thriving. She and Malcolm were in a good place. He was more open and more joyful than she’d ever imagined he could be. He was still reserved, and definitely preferred his tiny group of people to crowds, but among friends and family, he was a whole new man. Her man. And that was still a wonder to her.
The rumble of an engine pulled her outside.
She frowned as Malcolm slid out of the driver’s seat, clearly alone. “Where’s Gavin?”
“Back at the flats, helping Raleigh and Connor load the other trailer.”
Noting the lowering sun, she sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t have pushed to move this close to the end of the day.” Everyone had been tied up with work until afternoon, but she hadn’t wanted to wait another day.
“You’ve been waiting for months. We all have. Nobody’s upset about it. But come on. I want to sit wi’ you for a minute to enjoy the view before the circus arrives.”
Though she knew they should get started unloading already, she let him lead her over to one of the benches he’d built along the shore of the loch, exactly for this purpose. They sat, hands clasped, and watched the watercolor sky deepen with the setting sun. Despite his request they sit, Charlotte sensed a restlessness in him.
“You’re being squirrelly.” She bumped her shoulder against his. “Are you nervous about figuring out how we’re going to maintain intimate activities with a teenager living under the same roof?”
He winced. “Dinna remind me. But rest assured, I’m very motivated to solve that particular problem.”
She laughed as he nuzzled her throat and whispered a few creative suggestions they could try later that night if either of them still had any energy left after setting up the bed.
Then he sobered. “But I did want to talk to you.”
The seriousness of his tone had her tensing. “About what?”
“Everything you’ve done for me. I love you, Charlotte. I think I’d have ended up loving you anyway, but you did the impossible. You pulled me out of the dark and brought me back to life. You gave me love and family and a home. I never thought I’d have that again. Never thought I’d want that again.” He took her other hand, squeezed it. “I dinna want to lose that.”
She understood this was forever a point of fear for him and wanted to set his mind and heart at ease. Leaning forward, she pressed her brow to his. “You’re not gonna lose me. You’re not gonna lose us. We love you.”
He smiled that rare, slow smile of his. “I know. But I want to make it official.”
Confused, she pulled back in time to see him pull a small box from his sporran.
He snapped it open. The diamond inside flashed with fire from the setting sun. “Will you marry me, Charlotte?”
Marriage. Permanence. It was the thing she hadn’t allowed herself to want when she’d already been so lucky. But here he was, in his quiet, steady way, offering her everything her overflowing heart still yearned for.
Naturally, she began to cry.
“Oh Christ, is it that bad an idea?”
Charlotte laughed. “If you’re going to marry me, Malcolm Niall, you had better get used to the fact that I’m going to cry. Happy, sad, and everything in between.”
“If I’m going to marry you. Is that a yes?”
She framed his face in her hands, loving the rasp of his stubble against her palms. “That is absolutely, positively, a hundred percent yes.”
Malcolm kissed her, long and deep enough that she was wondering whether they could squeeze in some of those creative suggestions before the rest of their moving crew arrived.
The honking of a horn disabused her of that idea. More was the pity.
Gavin was hanging out the back passenger window as the truck rolled to a stop. “Is it done?”
“Aye, it’s done,” Malcolm announced. “She said yes.”
Gavin whooped. “It’s about time!”
Wiping at the tears, Charlotte glanced down at the ring still in Malcolm’s hand. “Maybe you should put that on me before it gets lost.”
With a tender smile, he slid the circle of gold onto her finger. “Let’s go home, my love.”
:SIGH: I love seeing grumpy healed by sunshine! For more Kilted Hearts goodness, don’t forget to grab your copy of Playboy in a Kilt! If you’re here for more grumpy soft for sunshine action, don’t miss What I Like About You, Book 2 in the Rescue My Heart series!