alexis morgan



Alexis Morgan
© 2024.

alexis morgan

If there was one thing Abby loved, it was waking up to the combined scents of fresh coffee and bacon wafting their way up to her bedroom on the second floor. That could only mean one thing—Tripp was already up and about and making breakfast for everyone.

No wonder Zeke was nowhere to be seen. He usually didn't drag himself out of his bed or, more often than not, off of hers until Abby had showered and gotten dressed. He figured there was no use in getting up before she headed downstairs to fill his bowl with kibble. However, one whiff of bacon always drew him like a magnet.

Not wanting to be late to the party, Abby hustled into the bathroom to shower and throw on some clothes. If she hurried, she could get downstairs just as the coffee finished brewing. It was always easier to face the day—not to mention Tripp's parents—after her first dose of caffeine. Fifteen minutes later, she headed downstairs only to find Tripp waiting at the bottom of the steps with her favorite mug filled with coffee just the way she liked it. The man definitely knew how to please a woman or at least this one.

The first sip was hot and perfect. "Thank you for this. To what do I owe this concierge service?"

"It's just a small token of appreciation for putting up with all of the Blackston family drama over the past couple of days."

She set the mug on a nearby table before giving Tripp a hug. "No tokens are required. Heaven knows you've dealt with far more problematic situations because of me and my troubles."

That reminder earned her a rueful smile. "True enough, and I have the gray hairs to prove it."

"Very funny. You're quite the comedian, especially considering how early it is."

"Yes, I am."

He gave her a quick kiss, something else that always got her day off to a great start. "On a more important subject, how do you want your eggs?"

By that point, she'd realized that she, Tripp, and Zeke were alone in the house. "Shouldn't we wait for your folks?"

In fact, she was surprised they weren't already there. For sure her own mother would've already taken charge of the kitchen and insisted on cooking for everyone.

"Actually, they were waiting for me when I got back from my morning run. They wanted to borrow my truck for the day to do some sightseeing on their own. I think they planned to start with breakfast at the diner and go from there. They said not to expect them back until after dinner."

Abby wasn't about to admit it to Tripp, but she figured he was as relieved as she was by that news. After all, he'd just spent a lot of time visiting them in his hometown only to have them follow him back to Snowberry Creek. While it was nice that they and Tripp had finally started really talking, she suspected Tripp could use a break from their company.

So could she.

She tangled her fingers with his and led the way down the hall to the kitchen. "To answer your question, either scrambled or fried would be fine, whichever one is easier."

"Scrambled with cheese and bell peppers sounds good to me."


Half an hour later Tripp dried the skillet and put it back where it belonged. While he worked, he listened as Abby sat at the table and muttered quiet nonsense to Zeke as she stroked his soft fur. The dog soaked up her attention like a sponge. Tripp knew exactly how he felt. There was simply something about her that brought peace to his soul during the quiet moments like this.

Like he'd told his folks, peace was something that had been in short supply through much of his life in the army. He didn't regret his service to his country, but that didn't mean it hadn't cost him. Moving to Snowberry Creek had been his first real step back toward normal. From the beginning, spending time with other veterans had helped. Volunteering for the various projects the group took on had slowly restored his sense of purpose.

But it had been Abby who'd quickly become his touchstone. Her bright smiles, stubborn loyalty, and easy acceptance had helped him put down some roots for the first time since he'd left home at eighteen. He'd already claimed Snowberry Creek as his home, but now he wanted to claim Abby for his own. Maybe today was the right time to get the ball rolling on that.

As if sensing his scrutiny, she looked up to smile at him. "Since I don't have to cover for Bridey at the coffee shop this morning, is there something you'd like to do today?"

"Yeah, there is."

He pulled out his wallet and dug out a small piece of paper and carefully unfolded it. Inside, was the diamond from his grandmother's engagement ring. "Let's go pick out a setting for this."

She slowly rose to her feet and crossed the room to stare down at the glittering stone. Stopping just short of where he stood, she asked, "You carry it with you?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, I do. Figured I'd keep it close at hand for when we decided it was time."

"And you think that's today?"

"Don't you?"

Abby swallowed hard, but then nodded. "I want more mornings like this with you, Tripp. A lifetime of them."

"Then grab your keys. I've been investigating local jewelers who do custom work. There's one about twenty-five miles from here. She has a large selection of settings that are ready to go, but she'll also design something different if none of them are what you want."

Abby looked up at him with such warmth in her eyes. "I don't need fancy, Tripp. I just need you."

He trailed his fingertips down her cheek. "Right back at you, lady."

He stopped to return the diamond to his wallet before hauling Abby into his arms and kissed her like his life and future happiness depended on it. That was because it did.

"Let's go."


An hour later, they parked a block away from a small jewelry shop tucked away in a corner of a nearby town. While Tripp's stomach was tied up in knots, Abby looked amazingly calm. He took her hand in his as they walked down the sidewalk toward their destination.

Struggling to stop the whirl of the thoughts in his head, he blurted out the first thing that made sense. "I never asked—do you have a preference for white gold or yellow gold?"

Abby blinked up at him. "You know, I never gave it any thought, but you should have some say in the decision, too, since you'll need a ring, too. Which color do you like?"

"I never got that far in my thinking. I've been focused on how to convince you to take a chance on me."

He meant that as a joke, but she didn't take it that way. "I count myself lucky that you would even consider spending your life with a woman who has dragged you into half a dozen murder investigations."

"None of that was fun, and I hated seeing you put yourself at risk like that. Even so, those adventures were proof of how far you'll go to protect those you love. I know you'll bring that same fierceness to caring for any kids we might have."

She stopped walking long enough to ask, "You want kids?"

He cupped the side of her face with his hand. "Yeah, I do. A couple would be nice."

Her eyes glistened with a sheen of tears. "I can't wait."

"Another reason to get married as soon as possible. We'll pick out the rings and go from there. As far as the color goes, let's check out the options and see what jumps out at us."

"It's a deal."

In the end, it didn't take long to choose the rings. Abby looked at several different sets that came with the engagement ring with two matching wedding bands—one for her and one for him. She had quickly reduced the possibilities down to five finalists. While she kept going back and forth between them, Tripp already knew which one she really wanted. Even when she was trying on one of the others, her eyes would go back to that same one.

He suspected the only reason she hadn't admitted to herself that it was the only one she would really be happy with was that it was the most expensive. Finally, he took charge of the situation by picking up the box that held all three rings and handed it to the jeweler.

"We'll take this set."

When Abby started to protest, he cut her off. "Let me do this for you, Abby. We're only going to get engaged and married once. Let's do it right."

He knew he'd done the right thing when she immediately surrendered. "It's so beautiful."

The jeweler held out her hand. "If you two want to go across the street for a cup of coffee, I'll get the diamond polished up and set. Come back in an hour, and you can take them with you today."

Tripp handed her the folded paper with the diamond tucked inside. "Great idea. Would you like us to bring you anything from the coffee shop when we come back?"

The woman smiled. "I would love a tall latte."

"See you soon."


As they drove back to Snowberry Creek, Abby held out her hand to admire her ring. "It's beautiful, Tripp. Thank you."

"You're welcome, but I still owe you a razzle dazzle moment.

She laughed. "I'm not much of a razzle-dazzle kind of girl. Spending today with you picking out our rings together was perfect."

"Yeah, it was." He glanced in her direction. "So, here's another question for you. Are you a fan of long engagements?"


"How about big fancy weddings?"

She'd already had one of those and had no desire to go through all of that stress and expense a second time. Right now, all she wanted was to claim Tripp Blackston for her own. Her pulse abruptly switched to a double-time cadence. "Not particularly."

"Me, either." He reached across the console to take her hand in his. "Since my folks are here, what do you say we swing by the church and talk to Pastor Jack and see what he has to say on the subject?"

"I'll give him a call and tell him we're on our way."