Adette clung to the door of Devon’s pickup as they careened around corners and sped down straight-aways following Carmella’s Kia to Nougat Peak. The short distance seemed to take forever. Would they be too late?
As if reading her mind, he said, “She’ll hang on until you get there.”
He couldn’t know that for certain, but she appreciated the thought.
Upon arrival, Devon leapt out of the truck and helped her down from the passenger seat. The long, flowing gown was a real hindrance with a gimpy ankle and again he lifted her into his arms and carried her across the threshold of the assisted living center. Not the threshold she had dreamed of crossing in a man’s arms, but she appreciated that it got them to Grandma more quickly.
Carmella led them to Grandma’s room and then closed the door, leaving Adette and Devon alone with the patient, who was sitting up and looking awfully chipper for a woman on her deathbed. In fact, if Adette wasn’t mistaken, Grandma was grinning.
“What’s going on?” Adette said.
Devon set her down, but she wasn’t steady enough to let go of this rock of strength standing beside her.
Candy Dunkleman patted the bed. “Sit down, dear. I’m glad you were able to make it here.”
Adette looked back at Devon. He appeared as mystified as she was.
“But I thought…Carmella said that you were…” Adette couldn’t say the words.
“Dying?” Grandma shrugged. “We’re all dying from the day we’re born. What matters is how we use the time God has given us in between.” She smiled at Devon. “I see you two have met.” Then her gaze landed on Adette’s hand—her left hand. “Ahhhhh.”
Adette felt her cheeks heat. “It’s not the way it looks. Devon, uh, well, he found your ring and—”
“And you accused me of stealing it.” Devon chose that moment to find his voice.
Again Adette tried to twist it off. Again it wouldn’t budge. “I just need some lotion, and I’ll get it off.”
“I don’t need that ring anymore, dear,” Grandma said with a wave of her hand. “It was always meant for you—and the man you love.” She looked to Devon with that grin again.
“But we just met,” Adette protested.
Grandma clucked her tongue. “Don’t you remember that summer when you were a girl and that lovely family, the Hersheys, were staying next door? You and Dev—Devon—spent many a day together.”
“Dev?” Adette stared at him. “You’re Dev? You don’t look anything like that scrawny boy who taught me how to shoot an arrow in exchange for cupcakes.”
He looked amused. “I have grown up.” His gaze lingered on her face even as his voice lowered. “As have you.”
“Do you mean to say that you knew about this?” She looked from Devon to Grandma and back again. “Was this a plot?”
“I’m innocent.” Devon held up his hands. “Honestly, I forgot about that summer until recently, and I never put two and two together. After all, your family called you Addie. And I had no idea Candy—your grandmother—wasn’t near death.”
They both looked to Grandma, who was definitely grinning, though she attempted to look remorseful.
“I might have had a tiny part in bringing you two together.”
Adette tried to wrap her mind around Grandma’s Oscar-worthy performance. “Then the house. Did you really sell it?”
“Yes, I did. Devon owns Truffle Manor now. He’s going to fix it up properly, so it’s a home again, like it was in your childhood.”
“Then you don’t need to be here.”
“Oh, I do,” Grandma patted her leg. “Rehabilitation for a twisted ankle. I fell on those rickety stairs.”
Adette could commiserate.
“But you’re coming home once I have a room fixed up for you,” Devon insisted.
“Home?” Adette wasn’t sure she’d heard right.
“To Truffle Manor.” Except he wasn’t looking at Grandma. He was looking into her eyes. “That’s where you belong, where all the Dunklemans belong.”
A warmth started deep inside and blossomed outward. Grandma wasn’t near death and would return home once her ankle healed. Moreover, if she understood Devon correctly, he was inviting her to visit too.
She gingerly stood. He moved to support her, and the warmth of his touch matched the warmth in her heart. “I would like that.”
Devon’s smile could melt sugar. It surely sent her heart spinning.
“I can’t wait to see it when it’s done,” she managed to say, though it came out breathless.
“I was hoping you’d help design the rooms.”
She couldn’t break his gaze. Didn’t want to. He was asking her to be a part of making Truffle Manor a home. “I would like to do that.” Already the ideas swirled in her head.
“Goodness, boy,” Grandma said, “what’s taking you so long? Go ahead and kiss her. You’ve already given her the ring.”
Adette was about to protest that they weren’t engaged, but Devon’s lips met hers, and she forgot all about that technicality. From the first tantalizing preview to the passionate finale, it was everything a kiss should be. She leaned into him, lost in the moment. This was no stage kiss. This was the real thing, filled with promise.
When he finished the encore and gave her the abashed smile she remembered from childhood, she knew Devon was someone very special. Maybe even The One.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he murmured.
“So it is.” Complete with Grandma playing cupid. She grinned at him. “Will you be my valentine?”
In answer, he kissed her again.