I took care of the contracts that needed my attention right now and moved the others to February. I wanted to have as much time with Al as possible. Lastly, I called my lawyer.

“Allen, I need you to change my will. Add Allyson Marie Yates Ross as my immediate beneficiary.”

“No, there’ll be no prenup. This is Texas after all. If she leaves me again, she can have everything I own, because it’ll kill me.”

There was a knock at the door, “Hold on just a second, Allen.”

“Come in,” I called.

“Hi, may I come in?” She asked.

“Come here, beautiful,” I said. She walked to me, and I pulled her into my lap. “I have my,” I stopped and looked at her, “no, our lawyer on the phone. I’ll just be a minute more.”

“So how soon can you get that paperwork done?”

“New Year’s Eve at 2 p.m.”

“Okay, I just want her covered. Life’s too short to not be prepared.”

“Thanks, Allen. Call me when they’re ready. We’ll be in Fort Worth tomorrow through Sunday,” I hung up the phone.

I turned all my attention to Al, “So, at 2:01 p.m. on the 31st you’ll be my sole beneficiary.”

She turned almost white, “What about the others?”

I kissed her neck. She smelled like rain on a summer day, “I’ll trust you to be fair to them. They each have a trust fund that contains both money and land. I hope we’re a close enough family that it won’t matter whose name is on the papers.”

She kissed me, “Okay, I think.”

I took her hands in mine, “Let’s go to dinner, so we can have dessert!”

She stood up with me and walked in front of me to the door, “I’ve always liked dessert.”

Dinner was chicken, potatoes, green beans, salad, and homemade rolls. “Matilda that was great as always.” I took Al’s plate along with mine and put them in the sink, “We’ll leave for Fort Worth sometime after breakfast in the morning.”

I walked up behind Al’s chair and put my hands on her shoulders. I looked at each one of them before I spoke, “Half Pint and Angus already know what I’m about to say. I also know that you, Matilda, have surmised as much. So, for Fred and to make the official announcement,” I squeezed Al’s shoulders. “Al has agreed to marry me. We’re going to get married at 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Reverend Jones will do the officiating. I hear the Rusty Nail has been rented for the reception. The reception will be open to the town. Wedding, family only with a plus one.”

Half Pint was just about to jump out of her chair, “Sandy will make the cake, and she has offered to help you, Half Pint and Matilda, with all the work. Angus, I would really like it if you would stand up with me.”

“Patty,” Al spoke up, “would you do the same for me?”

That did bring her out of her chair. She came around the table to hug Al, “I would love to Allie.” She looked to Matilda, “Between the three of us we can get this done.”

Matilda came over and hugged us both, “I’m so happy the two of you have found each other again.” She was crying. In all the years I’ve known Matilda, I’ve never seen her shed a tear, “We’ll make it perfect for you both.” She turned to Al, “What colors would you like dear?”

Al looked up at me. I shrugged my shoulders, “You choose, I’m just along to make you my wife.”

“Well, New Year’s Eve, and then a party after, blue and silver maybe,” She said.

“Blue and silver will be great,” Half Pint said. “Mac, you, Angus, and Randy will need blue cummerbunds for your tuxes.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Angus said.

“Okay, so if we leave for the rest of the week, y’all can take care of everything without us, right?” I asked.

“We got this, big brother,” Half Pint looked at Matilda, “but you’ll need to answer your phone if we call.”

I helped Al to her feet and tucked her arm into mine, “Will do. I’ll at least call you back within a few minutes.” I wiggled my eyebrows, “If you get my drift.”

I turned us to the hall, “Hey, one more thing, Mac,” Angus stood up with his plate. “Do you want us to give the others a heads up?”

I stopped and laughed, “You know it would serve them right for not coming home until Christmas Eve, but yeah, will you call them for us.”

Before he could say ‘no’ I turned us back to the hall of the west wing. I had some dessert to get to, and dessert was my favorite part of the meal.

As we walked up the staircase, I thought about Randy, “Maybe you should call Randy and ask him officially to give you away to me.”

She looked up at me, “You don’t think he got that message this morning?”

I smiled as we came to the door of our private den, “I don’t know. He was kind of shook up this morning.”

“Oh, yeah, he was. I’ll call him tomorrow on the way to Fort Worth,” She followed me to the bar, “Whatcha’ got back there cowboy?” She was leaning over the bar to see.

“Well, I picked up a few things in town today to help us get reacquainted a little.” I pulled out the box with the cupcake inside and slid it to her.

She opened the box and pulled out the cupcake, “You remembered I like cupcakes and purple is my favorite color.” She started to lick the icing.

I stopped her, “Not yet. Before you can have your cupcake, you have to know the rules.”

She frowned, “There are rules for eating a cupcake?”

“For tonight there are, yes.”

 

 

“Okay. What are the rules?”

I smiled, “Take your cupcake and go sit on the couch. I’ll join you in just a minute.”

I got a bowl of whipped cream, a bowl of cleaned strawberries, and a bottle of Dom Perignon out of the mini fridge. I carried it all to the coffee table and arranged it at the end. I sat on the table with my knees touching hers.

I smiled as she touched my face, “So, rules for eating my cupcake?”

I kissed the palm of her hand, “You have to let me tell you what happened to me after you left.”

She started to pull away from me, but I held the hand that was on my face, “You need to know what happened after you left because it’s what made me the man I am today.”

She was shaking her head, “I don’t want to know.”

I wiped the tear rolling down her cheek, “You need to know. I need to tell you.” I stopped, took a breath, “Please, let me tell you.”

After a few minutes, she nodded.

“Good, now you may have a bite of the cupcake. Just one.”

“When you left me, I lost it. I quit going to classes. I locked myself in the barn office, but I wasn’t working on ranch business.

You were the only reason I still had to live, and you weren’t coming back.

In my last semester, I was in trouble academically. My advisor called me into her office and asked what was going on.

I told her everything.  About Mom and Dad dying, me trying to keep my siblings together and with me, and trying to keep the ranch going.”

I looked up into the most beautiful eyes, “I told her about you. That nothing meant anything without you. That you were never coming back.  So why would I care about anything?

She asked me if we had been sexually active. I told her yes.

She then gave me two choices:

One: Give up everything I love in life; my family and my ranch

Or

Two: Get my head out of my butt and face life head-on and move on.”

I smiled. The look on her face was priceless, “I chose door number two.” I ran my thumb over her lips, “You can have another bite.”

She nodded, “So, how did she get you back on track?”

I moaned as she licked her lips, “Well, she wrote a contract. We both signed.”

I dipped a strawberry into the whipped cream and held it to Al’s lips, “Eat!”

“In the contract; I had to get my school work done, graduate on time, and never say any form of your name. I also had to get back to work on the ranch.

Her part of the contract was to talk with my professors and have an open door for me. I used that open door a lot.

If I failed to graduate on time, keep the ranch running, or if I ever said any form of your name, she would close her door. I would be on my own.”

I dipped another strawberry, put it in my teeth, and leaned into Al. She bit off the end, and I ate the part left. Our lips touched for just a second.

“Okay. So, you graduated, then what?”

“Before I graduated, one of my last classes was Ranch Economics. We had to invest a fake thousand dollars into the stock market and follow its progress for the semester,”

I dipped another strawberry, this time I got a kiss out of it. I moaned.

“I came home, looked at the books, and invested a real 10k in a small dot-com. My adviser was duly impressed, but my professor wasn’t impressed in the least. I just made it out with a C-.”

She took a piece of her cupcake and moved it to my lips. I opened and sucked her fingers into my mouth. She moaned.

“So, what happened with the investment?”

I smiled. Opened the Dom Perignon the pop of the cork rang around the room. I took a drink and gave the bottle to her, “I forgot about it. After I graduated, I still had a ranch to run and siblings to raise. Two years went by before I got a phone call from my lawyer, Allen. He asked me to drive to Fort Worth and meet with him.”

Her eyes lit up as she drank the Dom, “When I got to his office he had papers for me to sign. The dot-com that I had invested in was sold to a major corporation and they wanted to buy me out to the tune of millions.

That was my first experience with stock shares and how they work. I was hooked. Allen hired an accountant and a stock trader, and we reinvested the money. Today, some of it’s in long-term investments and some is liquid. It’s also in the low billions now.”

I took the bottle from her and sat it on the table, “Then Cindi showed up… Looking back, I should have put two and two together. I tried to stay out of the light, but a few newsgroups did a write up on my new-found wealth.”

Al put her hand on my knee, “That’s when Cindi showed up?”

“Yeah. Al, I still missed you so much. I just wanted to feel something besides hurt.”

I covered her hand with mine, “At first she covered the hurt, but by the time I realized…”

Al stood up, took my hand, and walked us up the stairs to the bed, “I think I can fill in the rest without you having to tell me the details. I tried to cover the hurt too. Just take me to bed.”

I’m not a stupid man. If the love of your life asks you to make love to her, well…

 

 

Al was laying on top of me, we were both about to fall asleep, “Mac, do you ever see this advisor anymore?”

I ran my hand down her back, “Yes, every day.”

She looked up at me, “Matilda?”

“Yes.”

She was now sitting up, “Okay, I think I need to hear this story.”

I moved my thumb over her nipple, she sighed, “Short story and it’s Matilda’s to tell, but she came to check on me and met Frank.”

“Oh!”

I rolled over on her, “Enough talking, more kissing.”

 

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