I shrug. "I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
He leans over and cradles my face with his hands before kissing me. It's so soft and sweet that I feel like I'd float away if he weren't holding on to me. "Don't worry. They love you and they're going to be thrilled for us."
"I know. I'm not worried. I think excited is a better word."
"I agree. Come on. Let's go make Margaret McLachlan's life complete."
Jack Henry knocks on the door but doesn't wait for anyone to answer before he opens it. He ushers me in first and we stand in the foyer. "Mum? Dad?"
"In the living room," I hear Henry call out.
He squeezes my hand. "Let's do this thing."
The scene in the living room is a surreal vision for what life with this family will be like. Henry is sitting in his recliner. Evan is in the floor with the girls and the new baby, Aidan. The women are absent and I assume they're in the kitchen finishing up dinner. Celia squeals with delight when she sees me, "Law-re-ren!" I love the way she says my name and I'm so happy she remembers me.
She races across the floor and I bend down to catch her in my arms. "Hey, girlie girl. Look at you and how much you've grown."
"Where you been?" she asks as only a child can.
"I had to go to my house for a little while, but I'm back and I'll be here from now on."
She claps her hands and screams, "Yay!"
Mila toddles over to get in on a little of the action and I know Jack Henry is having a fit to get me into the kitchen, but I can't resist picking her up for just a minute. "And look at you. You've grown so much and you're walking now." She stares at my face and touches it with her sticky hand. I know she doesn't remember me but it looks like we'll be fast friends again.
"Baby," she says as she points to Aidan on the blanket in the floor and wiggles to get down.
"I see your new baby brother," I tell her as I put her back on the floor.
Evan gets up with Aidan and comes over to hug me and I get my first good look at the baby. He has a headful of dark curls and I can easily see that his eyes are a blue-gray color like Evan's, instead of Emma's brown. "I see we have another handsome McLachlan man."
Evan holds him out for me. "We do. He's ten weeks old." I take him in my arms and he smells so good—that sweet little fragrance that only a baby has.
Henry is up from his chair and hugging me as I hold Aidan. "We had no idea you were back."
He hugs Jack Henry next. "I know, Dad. We wanted her return to be a surprise for Mum."
"It certainly will be and probably couldn't have come at a better time. She's close to giving up on you, missy."
I feel like I need to explain my absence. "I had some things to take care of before I could free myself to come back, but it's all cleared up now."
"Whatever it was doesn't matter now. Please don't waste another second in here with us. I want Margaret to see you. She's going to be thrilled."
I pass Aidan back to Evan and we walk to the kitchen with Henry ahead of us. "Margaret, Jack is here and I hope you prepared enough for an extra guest. He brought company."
She's standing in front of the sink washing her hands. She reaches for a dishtowel. "Henry, I always cook more than we need. Of course, I…" She trails off when she sees me. "Laurelyn!" she says and drops the towel and hurries over to me. She puts her arms around me and squeezes tightly as she plants a kiss on my cheek. "You're here. Finally. I'd almost decided you weren't going to come."
"It took a little longer than I liked, but I made it."
She releases me so she can see my face. "Is this a visit?"
"No. I'm here to stay." It feels good to say the words.
"So, it's official now? He finally asked you the way he should have months ago and you're engaged to be married?" She takes my left hand and brings it up for a look. She reaches for her glasses on top of her head and pushes them to her nose. "A cushion-cut diamond with a pavé halo in platinum. My boy did good."
"Your boy did excellent. His taste is impeccable." I'm very glad he showed some restraint when choosing my ring. We all know he could've bought a diamond the size of my head, but he knew that wouldn't be me. "His choice is perfect and couldn't suit me better if I'd chosen it myself."
Emma and Chloe hug me and look at my ring while Margaret quizzes me. "Have you picked a date?"
"Not yet, but we're keeping it small and want to do it soon, so we were hoping we could depend on all of you to help plan it." I see the sheer joy on her face.
"Of course, we'll help. How soon is soon?"
We look at one another and shrug because we've not gotten that far. I think he has an idea in his head but is afraid to say it, so I speak up. "I know six weeks would be pushing it, but maybe it could be accomplished since it'll be small."
He frowns at me. "That's five weeks longer than I was planning."
Chloe punches him in the arm. "I don't think we can put a wedding together in a week unless it's at the courthouse, dummy."
"I'm okay with that."
Margaret puts up her hands. "Well, I'm not and I'm guessing Laurelyn isn't, either."
"Laurelyn, you have to let me help organize the catering," Chloe offers. "I have all kinds of new and innovative ideas for us to try."
"Absolutely, Chloe. I wouldn't dream of attempting it without your help." And it's the truth. I have no idea where I'd begin.
"Would you mind if I organize a dinner for next weekend?" Margaret interjects. "Just a few friends and family to celebrate?"
Jack Henry doesn't let me answer. "We should've done it in Vegas while we were there."
His mom whirls around on him. "I would've killed you if you had. I want to see my son get married."
"I know, Mum." He's laughing as he elbows her. I love their relationship—it's not like anything I've ever seen before. "I was kidding. And the dinner is fine with me if it's all right with Laurelyn."
I have no objection. "Of course that's fine. I need to start meeting your friends and family."
"Can we take you dress shopping tomorrow?" Emma asks. "You can't really plan anything until you have that because everything revolves around its style."
I'm certain dress choices in Wagga Wagga will be limited, and shopping in Sydney sounds like fun. "Sure. I'd love that." I always thought wedding dress shopping would be something I'd do with my mom, but quite honestly, I think I'd be more disappointed if my future mother-in-law didn't come to help me make my decision. "Will you come with us, Margaret? I'd really love for you to help me choose."
"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it for anything."
Jack Henry is driving us home when he reaches for my hand and gives it a squeeze. I love when he does that. "You're very quiet. Everything okay with you or should I be worried?"
"No worries. I was just thinking about the wedding. How would you feel about having it at Avalon? I think the vineyard would be beautiful and the wine cave would be perfect for the reception with the long banquet tables." He grins, and I suspect he's remembering what he did to me on one of those.
"I think you can have anything you desire. If you want to get married at Avalon, I'll make sure it happens." Will he always be this way? Giving in to my every whim?
"I think it's very fitting to be married there because it's the place so many firsts happened for us. It's where we came to know one another. And where we fell in love." Quite honestly, I can't think of anywhere else I'd want to be married.
"And we don't have to worry about booking it, so that means we can make this happen sooner."
As much as I'd like to, I hope he's not thinking we could do it in a week. "Not five weeks sooner like you suggested."
"Maybe not. What about having it a month from Saturday?"
"The second weekend in December?" I take out my phone and look at the date. "The fourteenth?"
"Why not? If we waited six weeks, that falls a few days after Christmas. I can't imagine that being a good time for anyone." He's right.
"Six weeks is pushing it, and four will be even tougher. But planning a wedding a few days after Christmas would be a nightmare. I can handle the fourteenth." I always wanted a summer wedding anyway. Looks like I'll get one in December.
"And it'll be our anniversary—a whole year since I met you."
I didn't even think about that. "Amazing. I can't believe it's been a year."
"That's because we've spent most of it apart."
So true. "Well, that's never happening again. I don't ever want to be away from you. I'm already contemplating never letting you leave to go to the other vineyards without me. I'll probably go with you every time and you'll be sick of me."
"I could never be sick of you, but I have been thinking about how we'd handle me going out of town for so long." He takes his eyes from the road for only a second and glances at me before he looks back. "I've especially thought about how to handle it after we have kids. I know we have plenty of time before we have to worry about that, but I've been thinking about selling some of the vineyards. I have too many anyway. And I want to spend time with you. All of this money means nothing if I can't be with you and our little ones when they get here."
Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to have him. He says I'm his dream come true, but it's the other way around. "You're absolutely amazing. I'd rip your clothes off and do dirty things to you if you weren't driving."
"This car has pull-over capability," he laughs, but something inside tells me he isn't kidding.