Read My Sunshine Online

Authors: Catherine Anderson

My Sunshine (39 page)

Laura had had time to sort it all out now. Her hands were no longer shaking. Her thoughts had cleared. It was time for Isaiah to leave, but he sat on her chair as if he'd put down roots, looking so handsome it made her ache.

Laura knew she should tell him to go. Only it was much harder to do than she'd ever thought it would be. “I'm fine now, Isaiah.”

He smiled slightly and nodded. “That's good.”

Laura set her teacup aside and unfolded her legs to sit forward on the cushion. “I'd like you to go now.”

“Don't lie to me, Laura. You're lousy at it.” He sat forward, too, which made her want to retreat. “You love me. I'm the guy you were waiting for. Remember? You're thirty-one years old, and you'd never slept with another man. That's pretty telling, in and of itself. How can you expect me to walk away from that?”

Laura passed a hand over her eyes. She would do this, she told herself. For him, she would say the words that would drive him from her life forever.

“It was about time I had sex, don't you think?” She pushed to her feet. For an awful instant she felt a little dizzy. But her head soon cleared. She went into the kitchen to resume putting away her groceries. “I have things to do, Isaiah. It's over. Both of us need to move on.”

“You're absolutely right.” He stood up and sauntered slowly toward her. “We need to move on—together. The Christmas party is tonight. I won't go without you. And what about Christmas Eve and Christmas day? Without you to share it with none of it will have meaning for me.”

Laura's chest felt as if a vise were tightening around it. “Go away. Please. I don't want you here.”

“I can't do that. I love you, Laura.”

She chanced a glance at him. Bad mistake. He was so beautiful—tall and dark, his hair tousled from the wind. He wore a green shirt with a button-down collar. The sleeves were rolled back to reveal his tanned, corded forearms. His Western belt buckle flashed at his lean waist, a preface to his long, powerfully muscled legs and a masculine stance to make any woman's heart skip beats.

“I know you overheard Tucker's tirade yesterday,” he said softly. “But you obviously didn't listen long enough to hear what I had to say. I love you so much, Laura. I honestly don't think I can face life without you. Tucker left the house
understanding that, glad to know that you'd soon be his sister-in-law.”

Laura shook her head. “He was right at the start. You need someone smart and charming and accomplished. Someone who can help you re-alize your poten-tial. If you go into research, you'll need a wife who can charm people into giving you grants.” She lost her grip on the eggs. The Styrofoam carton hit the floor with a loud report. Laura knew without looking that she'd just broken every shell, and she closed her eyes in frustration. When she bent to collect the container, egg yolks and whites streamed to the floor, forming slimy puddles. “I'm none of those things any-more.”

“Forget research. I'm interested in that end of veterinary medicine. I won't deny it. But what really vitalizes me, what makes it all worthwhile, is actually working with the animals and making them well. I'd never be happy in a lab, and I'll never want to teach at a university for precisely the same reason.”

Laura's heart surged with hope.

“As for my potential, I'm perfectly capable of realizing that by myself, without the help of a wife. That isn't to say I'd turn down some help. Only it would have to come from the right woman, someone who loves animals as much as I do, someone who can still smile while she's getting her hands dirty, someone who'll understand when I come home worried about a patient, and will worry about that patient with me.”

Laura gulped and struggled to breathe, blindly smearing the broken eggs around on the floor with
paper towels. Finally she gave up on it and tossed the slimy wad in the trash. “Sooner or later I'm afraid I'd ruin your life.”

“What life? You're the woman I just described, Laura. You love those damn puppies so much, I'm afraid you'll want to keep all thirteen, and I love you so much, I'll let you.”

That brought her head around.

“Remember me, the guy who never remembered to eat? You keep me centered.” He took a step toward her. “Do you have any idea how long I went without reading a novel or watching a movie before you came along? Years!”

“Then you need to change that.”

“I'm trying, but I need your help.”

The sincerity in his voice had her searching his eyes.

“With you,” he went on, “I notice things I'd never notice otherwise—how the air smells after it snows, and that no two snowflakes are alike, and how sweet the breath of a puppy is.” Tears sparkled in his eyes. “Do you really want me to revert to my old habits? I'll forget to eat. My socks will never match. I'll go to work with a fabric-softener sheet stuck to the back of my collar and wear a purple polka-dot tie with a red striped shirt to receive the Vet of the Year award.”

Tears sprang to Laura's eyes, too, even as a smile touched her lips. It would happen, she knew. Isaiah was nothing if not preoccupied and distracted.

Isaiah glimpsed the slight smile that touched her mouth. That was all he needed to see. He was
across the kitchen and gathering her into his arms before she could protest.

“I love you. I need you in my life. What must I say, what must I do, to make you realize that?”

Laura leaned her head back to search his dark face, and in that moment she needed no more convincing. She saw his love for her in his eyes.

“You said you'd marry me,” he said fiercely. “I'm holding you to it. I want you to have my babies. I want to grow old with you. You talk about my potential and my realizing my dreams? What's it about if all I do is work and never enjoy the everyday business of just being alive?”

“Oh, Isaiah,” she said shakily. “I love you, too.”

“I know you do,” he whispered.

And then he kissed her. A sweet, tentative kiss that soon turned deep and hungry. Laura was incapable of resisting the delicious draw of his mouth. She curled her arms around his neck and went up on her tiptoes, accepting what she should have known all along—that she belonged exactly where she was, in his arms.

Epilogue

January 8, 2005

T
he cork shot from the bottle, and French champagne spewed like a geyser, drenching the sleeve of Jake's dark suit jacket. He laughed and reached across Isaiah's dining room table to fill the crystal flutes of the bride and groom.

Laura and Isaiah intertwined their arms, gazed deeply into each other's eyes, and took their first sip of champagne together as husband and wife. Laura was almost giddy with happiness. Everything in her world was exactly right. After her accident, she'd believed that her life had been destroyed. Now, lost in her husband's shimmering blue eyes, she realized that she'd had to lose her life in order to find it. And perhaps, in a much different way, he had as well.

Over the last couple of weeks, they had both come to understand so many things, namely that happiness wasn't about success or money or a brilliant future. It was about right now, today, and how well they lived each moment.

Bearing that in mind, they had chosen not to
waste any of their moments together and had planned a quick wedding at a small church with only the people they loved present to witness their vows. Because Laura's parents were retired and living on a fixed income, she had handled all the details herself—making her own dress, doing her own flower arrangements, and simply phoning everyone to invite them. Natalie, Zeke's wife, had provided the music, and, best of all, had composed a song especially for Isaiah and Laura that they would cherish all their lives. The wedding feast had been potluck, with everyone bringing dishes, so there had been plenty of food, served family style, with very little fuss.

“Toast!” Hank yelled.

Laura's father raised his glass and turned toward her and Isaiah. Laura expected him to say the usual sappy stuff about losing his little girl and gaining a son. Instead he winked at her and said, “To the bride and groom. May they live happily in peaceful harmony until death do they part. If by chance, however, all doesn't go well, I have one im-portant request, Laura. If you ever come running home to your mother, don't bring all fourteen dogs.”

As if on cue, Hapless came bounding into the room and gave a happy bark. All thirteen rottweiler puppies wobbled in behind him. Everyone in the room burst out laughing. Laura had no intention of keeping all the dogs, of course, only Frown Face, but she was still glad to have puppies darting every which way at her wedding reception. Frown Face latched onto her father's pant leg, gave a gleeful
growl, and braced his stout little legs to tug with all his might. Why not begin the first day of their life together the way they meant to continue, with ani-mals playing a major role?

“Who let them loose?” Isaiah asked.

Jake's son, Garrett, skidded to a stop on the hardwood floor, glanced guiltily at his mother, Molly, and said, “Sly did it.”

Isaiah chuckled and hooked an arm around Laura's waist. “Now, there's a chip off the old Coulter block. Blame it on the other guy.”

Molly and Carly began trying to catch the puppies. Bethany followed behind in her wheelchair, ready to hold the furry little captives on her lap while her sisters-in-law captured the rest. Tucker and Ryan went to lend their assistance.

“Now you know why they held the reception at their house, Mom.” Tucker glanced back over his shoulder to wink at Mary. “Leaky puppies and your carpet wouldn't go well together. You can thank your lucky stars.”

Mary glanced over at Laura's grandmother, Etta, and smiled. Mary was indeed thanking her lucky stars, but for an entirely different reason than Tucker thought. Seeing the happiness in Laura's and Isaiah's eyes when they looked at each other was enough to warm any mother's heart, especially when she knew it had been partly her matchmaking scheme that had gotten them together. Isaiah was relaxed. Laura fairly glowed. They were perfect for each other.

But, then, hadn't Mary known that all along?

Smiling with smug satisfaction, Mary returned
her gaze to Tucker. It occurred to her in that moment that he was her only son who still wasn't married. She sighed. He always had been her most difficult child, doing just the opposite of what she wanted or expected him to.

Mary frowned slightly. Tucker's cavalier attitude toward women would make it tricky to find him a wife, but she felt equal to the challenge. He needed a young lady with plenty of spunk—that would be an absolute must—someone as beautiful as he was handsome, with enough steel in her backbone to go toe-to-toe with him and give back as good as she got.

Luckily Mary just happened to know a young lady with four older brothers who might be a perfect match for her willful, stubborn son.

Ah, yes, she thought as she sipped champagne. There might be some very interesting possibilities there.

Other books

Boyfriend in a Dress by Louise Kean
The Bass Wore Scales by Mark Schweizer
Seduced by Sunday by Catherine Bybee
Blackout by Thurman, Rob
Soul Conquered by Lisa Gail Green
Juxtaposition by Piers Anthony
Bennington Girls Are Easy by Charlotte Silver
Manifiesto del Partido Comunista by Karl Marx y Friedrich Engels
Demonology by Rick Moody