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The first weekend of the Harvest Festival came with frigid temperatures. Declan was actually okay with that, as it meant Livia stayed tucked close to his side while they strolled through vendor tents, examining wares, speaking to the artisans he now knew well thanks to his position managing the Guild. Scarlett was around somewhere, off with Jesse and Dylan. He wasn’t worried about the three of them getting into any trouble. There were enough members of the extended family on both sides prowling around the festival tonight to keep an eye on all of them.
Inside Hale Copeland’s tent, Livia tugged away from him to crouch over a blown glass vase made of fluid reds, oranges, and yellows that bled into a deep dark blue. “Oh! It looks like sunset. This would look amazing on the mantle at home.”
Hale folded his arms. “And it’s heavy enough it should survive the tromping of that elephant y’all call a puppy and stay standing.”
“I want to be annoyed that you’re impugning Hagrid’s parentage, but you’re not wrong,” Declan admitted. “I keep trying to talk the girls into doing one of those dog DNA tests to confirm he’s part wooly mammoth.”
“He’s part Newfie, all sofa hog,” Livia agreed. “How much for the vase?”
“For you, the Guild insider’s discount of twenty percent off.” He named a price.
“Sold.” Declan pulled out his wallet. “Can you hang onto it until we swing back by later?”
After completing their purchase, they stepped back out into the aisle to move on to the next booth. Catching Livia’s giddy smile, he swung an arm around her shoulders again. “What’s that smile for?”
“It’s just really fun buying things for our house. Seeing all the rooms come together as we get all the projects done. It really feels like home, you know?”
The little Victorian—now a bright, cheerful blue with white trim—really did feel like home, complete with that massive grill and the sloppy dog he’d imagined a year ago. And her.
Livia was so much happier and more relaxed than she’d been when he’d first seen her here last year. The bookstore and wine bar, At Your Leisure, was thriving, a central part of the community as she’d envisioned from the start. She’d made friends. Carved out a niche for herself. With a lot of work on communication, the two of them had overcome the hurts and built a rock-solid foundation for their little family. The small-town life was so much what he’d always wanted with her.
Tonight, he planned to secure that for good.
As they approached the midway and the games, he automatically steered her toward them.
“Planning to try your hand again?”
“Redemption is in the air,” he insisted.
Giving the darts a wide berth, he settled on the ring toss and handed over tickets to the attendant. It took three rounds, but eventually he successfully ringed three milk bottles. Livia was snickering with laughter as he proudly presented the monkey with the Velcro hands. She fixed it so it hung around her neck.
The natural flow of the crowd led them to the Ferris wheel, which had been his planned destination all along. “Shall we?”
Hand-in-hand, they waited their turn and loaded into the gondola.
The sun had gone down, painting the sky in a wash of color not dissimilar to the vase waiting for them back at Hale’s booth. As they slowly circled up, Livia tipped her head to his shoulder. “It’s been a heck of a year.”
Slowly, carefully, he worked his hand into his pocket. “Can’t argue with that. Best damned year of my life. That’s all because of you. Because you were willing to give me another chance.”
She lifted her head to smile at him. “Best decision I ever made.”
With his free hand, he stroked her cheek. “I never expected to be lucky enough to share a life with you.”
“It just goes to prove that the right thing will come around eventually, even if you miss it the first time.”
“Well, I, for one, don’t want to leave it to chance that it’ll rotate away again.”
Her lips quirked. “Where do you think I’m going?”
“I hope nowhere for the rest of our lives. At least not without me.” He pulled out the box and carefully flipped it open. “Will you marry me, Livia?”
Declan had expected emotion. Maybe some happy tears.
Instead, she just grinned. “I wondered how long you were going to sit on that.”
“You hid the ring box in your sock drawer. I found it when I was putting away laundry weeks ago.”
“But—” This was not at all how this was supposed to go. “It was supposed to be a surprise.”
She framed his face. “I don’t need the surprise. I just need you. For the rest of our lives. I love that you waited to do it here, so I can say yes and kiss you again as your fiancée.”
“Well… I guess I can’t argue with that.” As the Ferris wheel stopped at the top, Declan held the jeweler’s box in a vise grip and carefully extracted the ring, sliding it onto her finger as the stars winked on above them.
When she kissed him, long and deep, he felt some last little piece click into place in his chest. She was home, and she was his.
From far below, whoops and cheers began to sound. They broke apart and peered over the edge, spotting an assembly of both his family and hers. Laughing, they waved back, and she flashed her left hand.
“About damned time, brother!” Mick shouted.
As the wheel lurched into motion again, Declan tucked his future wife tighter against his side. “I should warn you… there might be a party already planned. I was pretty confident you were gonna say yes.”
Eyes twinkling, she tipped her face up to his. “Forever is the perfect thing to celebrate tonight.”
Was Livia your first taste of Wishful? Did you know I have TWO entire series set there? Get to know all her friends in the Wishful Romance and Wishing for a Hero series. If you’re looking for Riley and Liam in particular, check out Know Me Well. For Autumn and Judd, grab Make You Feel My Love.