Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8)(16)


by Abigail Roux

“Kind of like someone else I know,” Zane added. He raised an eyebrow. “I sense mischief brewing.”

Ty stood and joined Zane by the doors. Zane turned, and Ty stopped in the doorway, facing him with the same crooked smile still on his lips. It felt like he had something important to say, but the surroundings seemed to be outdoing him. Beyond the manicured gardens below, a sheer cliff stretched in either direction, ushering the angry sea along its way.

“Ty?”

Ty took a deep breath and grasped Zane’s hand.

“What are you up to now?” Zane asked, even more suspicious.

“Marry me, Zane.”

Zane’s breath caught. His hand involuntarily tightened on Ty’s, and all he could do was stare into Ty’s eyes. He’d never dreamed he’d hear Ty say those words, especially not so soon after returning home. He’d never dreamed he’d experience half the things Ty had offered him. He brought Ty’s hand to his lips and kissed his fingers, inhaling deeply to calm everything that was suddenly churning inside him.

Zane did want to marry Ty. But he didn’t want it yet, not when they still had so much to learn about themselves and each other.

“No,” he breathed.

“No?”

“No,” Zane repeated shakily. Ty huffed. Thank God he looked bemused instead of upset, one eyebrow cocked and a gentle smile on his lips.

“You’re not even going to think about it?”

“No,” Zane repeated, more confident this time. He was relieved Ty didn’t appear to be hurt, but he also knew how well Ty could hide his feelings. He took Ty’s face in his hands, hurrying to explain. “I know you, Ty. And I know the thought probably just popped into your mind. You haven’t thought it through. You haven’t looked at it from any angle other than the one we can see from our balcony.”

“That doesn’t make it any less sincere,” Ty said, frowning.

“I know, doll.” Zane took a deep breath, wishing he had the words to explain just what Ty meant to him, how much he really did want what Ty was asking. The time just wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right saying yes, not after they’d been apart for so long, not after all that had happened to them. Not after they’d both changed so much. Nothing seemed like an adequate explanation, though, not when so much of him wanted to just say yes. Instead he sighed. “Let’s . . . let’s get to know each other again first. And you give it as much thought as I do everything. And if you can convince me you’ve done that, then when you ask me, I’ll answer as fast as you always do.”

Ty’s lips quirked up, and he didn’t take his eyes off Zane’s when he leaned back. “You’re saying no?”

Zane stepped closer and kissed him. His lips moved against Ty’s when he murmured, “I’m saying no for now.”

Ty cupped his cheek, his fingers playing with the tips of Zane’s curls. “I’m going to keep asking until you say yes.”

“I look forward to it.” Zane grinned, drawling when he added, “Try to be creative next time, huh?”

Ty kissed him one last time, then shoved at his chest and patted his cheek hard. “Asshole,” he grunted before turning away.

Zane reached past Ty on both sides to grasp the doorframe, trapping him in place. “Don’t be mad,” he growled.

Ty smirked, jutting his chin out for a kiss. Just before their lips brushed, there was a loud rap on the door.

Zane pulled back, and Ty huffed in irritation. “And so it begins.”

Zane chuckled and let Ty loose, going to his suitcase to unpack and to find clothes for dinner. When Ty opened the door, Mara Grady threw herself into his arms and hugged him tightly.

He laughed in surprise and returned the hug. “Hey, Ma.”

“Don’t you ‘Hey, Ma,’ me! Why the hell didn’t you come see me as soon as you got here? Gone a year—”

“Less than six months.”

“—and can’t come see his mother,” she scolded, holding him by his broad shoulders and shaking him. Then she hugged him again, pressing her cheek against his chest and patting his back.

“Missed you too, Ma.”

Zane chuckled and moved closer.

Mara released Ty and practically shoved him aside as she stalked into the room. “Don’t you think you can hide from me,” she told Zane. “Get over here and give me a hug.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Zane said, and the smile on his face was honest when he hugged her.

“You boys both look so handsome!” Mara said, even though Zane was still wearing his robe and Ty was in a ratty pair of sweatpants.

Ty laughed, rubbing a hand over his chin as he closed the door. “Where’s Dad?”

“Still trying to convince your grandfather that we did not just hit the shore of Guadalcanal and he should not hit anyone on the head with that shovel.” Mara released Zane and put her hands on her hips.

Ty was biting his lip hard as he tried not to smile. “Did you come for reinforcements?”

“Well, no,” Mara said thoughtfully. “Might not be a bad idea.”

“Did he really bring the shovel? On the plane?” Zane asked, not suppressing his laughter very well.

Mara shrugged. “He wouldn’t come otherwise.”

“He should make an impression on the in-laws anyway,” Ty said under his breath. “Do you know where your room is, Ma?”

“We’re in the other wing. Old farts and married folks are over there. Young troublemakers are shacked up on this side.”

Zane laughed before he could stop himself.

“Speaking of troublemakers, where’s Nicholas? I’ve got a hug for him, too.”

“He and Doc are in the next room,” Ty answered.

“Doc? Which one was that?”

“The one who lost his parents when he was young. I brought him home for Thanksgiving one time. You told him you wanted to wrap him up and bake him in a pie and he never came back.”

“Oh, that one! Oh, he’s a cutie. Little skittish. Well, make sure Nick comes to say hello to me and your daddy, got it? Earl was asking after him.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay. I just wanted to come get a hug before you got into trouble,” she told them as she headed for the door.

“Why does everyone assume I’m going to get into trouble?” Ty asked, his brow creasing with frown lines.