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Juliette’s blood fizzed with so much excitement she all but bounced off the wall as she fell through the door and into the kitchen of the little house she and Mick had bought. “Mick!”
She knew he was home. His truck was in the garage.
Derp struggled up from his dog bed in the living room, and she stopped. He was grayer around the muzzle and half blind now, but he still greeted her with an enthusiasm that never failed to melt her heart. Sweet old pupper. The pause to love on him alerted Juliette to the sound of the shower running. Well, at least she knew where Mick was.
After paying the appropriate toll, she left Derp with one of his favorite cookies and went to corner her boyfriend in the bathroom. This news couldn’t wait any longer.
He’d just stepped out of the shower when she burst into the bedroom. A towel was draped around his hips, and rivulets of water dripped down that chest she knew so well. “Hey, babe.”
Heedless of the wet, she threw her arms around him and captured his mouth in a smacking kiss.
“Mmm. To what do I owe this enthusiastic greeting? Is it the towel? Because I can totally arrange to be in one every day when you get home.”
“The towel doesn’t hurt, but no.” She sucked in a breath, trying to contain her excitement long enough to speak clearly. “We got it.”
He blinked. “Who got what?”
“The grant Vicky and I applied for with the Calico Foundation to fund the start-up costs for our clinic. We got it!”
His face brightened. “That’s awesome!” On a whoop, he scooped her up and spun her around.
Laughing, Juliette clung to his shoulders. “I mean, it’ll take time to sort out all the details. We’ve got to find a space and get the equipment and so on and so forth. And I’ll be probably in my last semester by the time all that is dealt with. But it’s really happening!”
“This is definitely worth celebrating.” But there was something in his tone and expression as he let her slide down his body.
“What is it?”
His smile was contemplative as he looked down at her. “I was just thinking about how far you’ve come. You were so closed off, so insular. Now your mom and Tiny are married. Skylar’s looking at college. You’re almost done with your next degree. We bought this house. You’re just missing one thing.”
She couldn’t think what that could possibly be. “Feels like I have everything I need and then some.”
“Not quite.” Releasing her, he strode past her into the bedroom to dig through something in the closet. A few moments later, he came back, something in hand. “This.”
She didn’t understand what she was looking at until he opened the thing with a little snick and she spotted the flash of fire.
A ring. She was looking at a diamond ring.
Unable to speak, she covered her mouth with her hand.
“I hadn’t really planned to do it this way, but nothing that I originally plan ever seems to work out exactly that way. And however it happens has always been for the best. So…” The towel around his hips slipped perilously low as he knelt and looked up at her, heart in his eyes. “Will you marry me?”
Stumbling toward him, Juliette dropped to her knees and reached to frame his face. “Yes.” She peppered kisses across his cheeks, eyes, and lips. “Yes.”
They both watched as he slid the ring onto her finger, and then they were kissing again. As he toppled over backward, the towel finally gave way, and she laughed. “You know, it really kind of works for me that you did this in a towel. It just speeds up the celebrating.”
His hands reached for the hem of her shirt. “I know how much you value efficiency.”
He understood her in every way, and that was why they were going to live happily ever after.
* * *
I hope you enjoyed this collection of Christmas hijinks! If you’re new to Ari’s matchmaking shenanigans, feel free to start with When You Got A Good Thing, Book 1 in The Misfit Inn series, where she first appears. You can find her in basically every single book set in Eden’s Ridge, which includes The Misfit Inn, Men of the Misfit Inn, Rescue My Heart, and the Bad Boy Bakers series. She also makes an appearance in Single Dad in a Kilt, Book 5 in the Kilted Hearts series.