Page 69 of Starlit Skies

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“But while we’re on the subject of steps, I heard through the grapevine the other day, that the Patterson place might be coming up for sale.”

“The Patterson place?” Skylar wracked her memory banks. “Oh, you mean the old, converted miner’s shack this side of town?” Skylar had never been to the property, but had heardabout it through the local gossip mill. The house had been built back when the gold-mining rush had brought people in their droves to the area in the early nineteen-hundreds. The original building had been constructed from local sandstone, and was solid, with a period charm to it, but the place had been abandoned and lain empty for nearly twenty years. When the Pattersons bought it, they’d fixed it up and added on more rooms and outbuildings, so by all accounts it was a charming country home. The property had never been big enough to run cattle; it was more of a hobby farm. But Merv and Beryl had been happy to potter around and grow veggies and run a herd of goats on it.

“Yep, that’s the one. Old Merv had a fall a few weeks ago and they’ve decided to move to the city, where they can be closer to their daughter.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.” Old age could be a bitch sometimes.

“Yes, the community will miss them. But I figured that now I’m extending my contract for another three years, I may as well stop renting and buy a place. What do you think?”

“Wait. What?” Skylar sat up. “You’re extending your contract?”

“Yes.” He smiled wickedly up at her, eyes glinting in the firelight. “I told Robinson the other day that I wanted to stay on.”

“That’s great, Nash.” Skylar leaned in and tasted his lips. She remembered him talking about it the night they’d had dinner together in Cairns. Back then, he’d been tossing around a lot of reasons to stay. So, she knew it wasn’t merely her he was staying for. But she also knew she was probably a major factor in his decision. The old Skylar might’ve been a little freaked out by that news. Because the old Skylar didn’t do commitment. Or trust. But the new Skylar allowed herself to be a tad pleased that he’dbe staying. It’d give them a chance to see if this could work. And she wanted it to work.

“When I heard about The Patterson place yesterday, it was almost like fate.”

“Fate?” she repeated, confused.

“Yes. Merv built a huge mechanic shed out the back; he was a bit of a vintage-car buff. It’s got room for up to four cars, and it’s all set up with benches and equipment.”

Skylar thought about how Nash had admired his father, and how they’d bonded over tinkering with cars when he was a teenager, before he’d lost him and then gone off the rails.

“I was even thinking of perhaps running a youth outreach program on the weekend, teaching kids’ basic mechanics, how to repair their own cars, that sort of thing.”

“That’s an amazing idea,” she answered slowly. Country kids often felt isolated and left out, not able to access the same support as city kids could. A place for them to gather and do something constructive would help.

“And there’s room for me to start a veggie garden. And of course, I’d love your input in renovating the kitchen, if you’d like to lend a hand.”

“Are you asking me to move in with you?” What happened to the baby steps he’d mentioned? He was asking her to change her whole life.

“No, babe, I’m not.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t sure if she was happy or insulted by his answer.

“I know how important your role as chef at the lodge is to you. And even if they do eventually send me a constable to help with the work, my job is a demanding one, taking up a lot of my time,” he added. “But the house is close enough that you could come and stay the night sometimes. If you want to.”

Wow, he was good. She made a mental note never to underestimate Nash King. He was a negotiator extraordinaire. He seemed to know what she needed better than she knew herself. And was only offering as much as she was prepared to give.

“I do want to,” she agreed, lying her head back on his shoulder. “And it’s close enough that you could come and stay with me sometimes, too.”

“It is.”

“So, we could spend some nights together and the rest of the time…”

“Lead our complicated lives. Doing what’s important to us,” he finished for her.

“Interesting concept,” she agreed. “I’ll think about it.”

She slithered out from beneath his arm and in one easy move straddled him, so she could look down into his face. “But right at this moment, I have other concepts that need exploring. Like this…” She dipped her head, and he came up to meet her lips. Kissing Nash until he was mere putty in her hands was what she had in mind right now. Until both of them were so out of breath, they lay panting in each other’s arms. She just wanted to stare into his gorgeous face and get lost in his eyes. Forget about time, forget about everything. Just be with Nash.

“I love you,” she murmured.

“I love you too, Skylar.”

They were possibly the sweetest words she’d ever heard.