The Proposal

     Molly DuVal had been flying under Henderson’s gossip radar for a good year, ever since she’d showed up in the same clothes she wore to her Aunt Genevra’s wedding the next morning as everybody was heading to church.
     Not that she and Josh McCourt weren’t seen around town, they were. But if she had anything to do with it, tonight they would cause a ruckus. It wasn’t everyday a girl made a public declaration of love and asked her boyfriend to marry her. In fact, to her knowledge it had yet to happen in Henderson.
     She’d been hinting something fierce that she’d be agreeable if Josh ever wanted to pop the question. And the man may be hella-smart when it came to all things tech-nerdy, but he clearly wasn’t picking up the signals she was putting down.
     She wanted to marry Josh.
     Josh worshipped the ground she walked on.
     This shouldn’t be such a big deal, but boy, now that push was coming to shove, Molly was feeling all kinds of nervous about taking this to the next level. Especially trying to pull this off in front of everyone at the Mixed Grill. Everyone being her family, Josh’s family, and all of their closest friends. They were all gathered in the dining room behind Josh, who was seated at the bar, obliviously playing some new game on his phone.
     The man was truly clueless sometimes.
     She’d asked him to meet her here. And since he was Mr. Punctuality, she was able to herd their people into the back of the Mixed Grill while he was otherwise engaged. Harry sent her a wink and held up the bottle of champagne he had on ice.
Molly was supposed to arrive, drop down to one knee—which wasn’t going to happen because the skirt she’d decided to wear was too tight—and offer up her hand in marriage.
     She didn’t have a prop, like a ring box to pop open. She’d thought about a new computer or a football with the words, Will you marry me? painted on it. (He relished his job as assistant coach after all.) She thought about creating something cute with her ceramics, or having her business partner Piper bake him a pie in Molly’s now-patented Big Pie Plate. She even thought about buying him a ring but all the old biddies who loved to mock everything she ever did would have a heyday with that, she was sure.
     So, instead, her plan was to share a bottle of bubbly and see what the moment inspired. And as much as she wanted all their people there, ready to blow it into an impromptu engagement party, she’d had the wherewithal to ask them not to make her nervous by gawking at them, but to mingle and act as if they didn’t know what was about to go down.
     Molly sucked in a deep breath and crossed the threshold, nodding to Harry.
     “Ah, Miss DuVal,” he welcomed her as if he hadn’t been watching her gather her nerve.
     Her hot Poindexter immediately stood, shoving his phone into his back pocket. She smiled because Josh was good like that. She walked into the room and whatever game he was playing was turned off. Immediately.
     That’s the kind of man she wanted to marry.
     “Molly.” His grin made all her fears dissolve. It was like he was surprised and delighted every time they met. “You came.”
     “I asked you to meet me here,” she teased, moving into his arms for a kiss. “Of course I came.”
     “I know. Here, have a seat. Or would you like to just head to a table?” Josh started to turn toward the crowd behind him, but she caught his arm and pulled him back around.
     “No,” she cried. Then she added more calmly, “A drink first. I have something I want to ask you.”
     “You do?” he said, retaking his seat. “I’m all ears.”
     “Harry?” she called.
      Harry came over with two tall flutes of champagne and set them before Josh and Molly. Molly picked up hers and turned to Josh.
     “This is interesting,” Josh said, sporting his sexy grin. “Are we celebrating something?”
     “I hope so.” She gave him her best smile. She really did love this man.
     “Lay it on me,” he said, picking up his flute in preparation of toasting her.
    “There are a lot of things I love about you,” she told him. “Obviously your brain, and how you see things, and how you work stuff out in that brilliant mind of yours. My business would be struggling without you taking care of my website and all of the streamlining suggestions you’ve given me on getting the Big Pie Plate production up and running. But even if you didn’t have time, or the brainpower to do all that, I’d love you anyway.”
      He smiled.
     “I love how you look at me. Accept me. Want me. I love how you never judge me. My past or my present. I love how you show up, on time, always, even when I have a tendency to be late. I love how you think that you’re the lucky one in this relationship.”
      He laughed, his eyes glistening with emotion, because he could read her so well. She realized then, she didn’t have to worry. Josh McCourt knew what was coming.
     “I’m the lucky one, Josh. No one has ever simply accepted me for the craziness that is me. Not until you. And I’ve given you a year to figure out that for better or worse, this is me. This is who I am. And you seem to be able to handle that, or at least take it in stride.”
     “Molly,” he breathed. But she held up a hand.
     “My heart is so full with what I feel for you. I want to be your wife. I want you to be my husband. I want us to have a family together.” She set her drink down and took hold of both his hands. “Do you want that too, Josh?” She looked into his eyes. “Will you marry me?”
Josh grabbed onto her face with both hands and brought their lips together in such a dynamic way it was obvious his answer was going to be yes. “I can’t believe you’re mine,” he whispered as he peppered her face with kisses. “That you want me.”
     “Of course I want you, I’m asking, very formally, if you want me too.”
     He held up a hand, whether to gather himself or to stop her from saying more, Molly couldn’t be sure. He rose from the barstool and swallowed a few times before he dug into his jacket pocket and then proceeded to kneel down on one knee.
     Molly gasped. “What?”
     Josh looked up at her with his molasses-colored eyes and swallowed again. Then he brought up the square wood box and popped open the lid. A large emerald cut diamond was flanked by two smaller emeralds.  “I inherited the center stone from my grandmother. I added the emeralds because they are the color of the dress you wore to the wedding the night you became mine. I’ve been carrying this around for months now. Just waiting to get up the nerve to ask the girl of my dreams to marry me. Seems like now might be the right time to do it.” He reached up and took hold of her hand. “Molly, I’m sorry you beat me to the punch. But yeah, no doubt I want to marry you. Bad. So let me ask you. Will you make me the happiest of men by agreeing to become my wife?”
     “I will,” Molly blurted along with a tiny laugh and a whole lot of happy tears.
      The crowd behind them erupted into applause.
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