I can understand that a bit. The women at the wedding were practically falling all over themselves when they realized I’d brought a Justice man with me. They're like unicorns when it comes to events. No one can ever get them to show up.
“I love the ranch and enjoy it even more when it’s only you and me, but I do love my friends too. I don’t have a big family like you do, Tuck. I wish I did. I’d love it. But that wasn’t the reality of things so I had to make myself one. I don’t need yacht parties every week, but I won’t push my friends out of my life because you’ve finally decided you want me.”
“Cam.” Tucker’s whole body goes solid under me.
Was I too harsh? I don’t want to hurt him, but it’s the truth. I’ve been giving here. Agreed to come out to the ranch with him. I’ll even move there if he asks. I love the ranch, but will it always be me giving? I feel like I’m the one always trying. Even all those years ago as a young girl throwing chess parties trying to find a way in with Tuck. When is he going to find a way in with me?
“You can’t be thinking that if you knock me up that we’re a done deal. That I’ll marry you. My parents stayed married a long time because of me. In the end, I begged them to get divorced. Begged them.”
“I love you, Cam.” He reaches up and cups my cheek. I lean into his touch. For so long, I’ve wanted to hear those words.
“I don’t want your love to turn into something else. That scares me,” I admit. I think at one time my parents loved each other.
“It—” A loud gasp steals our attention. Maria jerks awake as the plane touches down.
“It wasn’t a dream?” Her bottom lip trembles.
“I’m sorry, honey.” The plane slows enough for me to get up and go to her. Tucker reluctantly lets me go.
“We’re in Texas?”
“Sure are. Have you ever been here?” She shakes her head no as she rubs the sleep out of her swollen eyes.
“My dad won't let me go anywhere.” I wonder how Harold is going to take it when he finds out his daughter up and left Italy. She’s an adult. When she asked to come with me, I couldn't tell her no.
“You’re going to love it. The Justice Ranch is beautiful. There is plenty of room for you to stay for a while if you like.” Sometimes a girl needs to get away. I think it will do her some good.
“I’ve heard that before.” She tries to give me a smile. I glance over my shoulder when I hear the plane door open.
“I heard we got us a princess!” Sterling shouts as he comes strolling onto the plane. He shoots me a wink when he sees me. Then his eyes widen when he spots Maria, and his mouth opens and then closes.
“Oh mio,” Maria whispers when she gets a look at Sterling. That is followed by a few more words in Italian.
“Come help Maria with her things, Sterling.”
“Right!” He jumps into action, remembering his manners.
“I’ve got your things,” Tucker says, offering me his hand. I take it. He guides me off the plane and toward one of the waiting vehicles. I’m scared to be alone with him. To finish our conversation. What if he agrees with what I said and sends me away?
The second we’re in the back of one of the SUVs, I kiss him, wanting to hang on to us for a little bit longer.
“You’re really a princess?” Sterling’s eyes could not be bigger as he carries the bags down the hall to the Widow’s Chamber.
Maria blushes and dips her head. “It’s a ceremonial title. My family does not hold any power.”
“Don’t let her fool you, Sterling. They have crowns and everything,” teases Cam.
“We are not allowed to wear them, though. They are just for show!” Maria seems insistent on downplaying her royal lineage, but her denials only seem to intrigue Sterling.
“Can’t say anything’s sat on my head other than my Stetson, so even if it’s only once in a while, it’s still cool.” He drops the bags inside the large suite.
“Oh, this room is bellissima.” Maria clasps her hands to her chest.
“It used to be called the Widow’s Chamber,” Sterling confides. “Old Frank Justice, who built this place, put his wife in here when she was pregnant. She died during childbirth, and he painted the whole thing black. There might be ghosts hanging around.”
“Sterling Justice, you stop that.” Cam swats at my young cousin, who just laughs.
He winks. “Give me a holler if you get scared.”
Maria’s lips twitch. “I’m Italian. We invented ghost stories. Maybe it is you who should call me if you’re scared of spirits.”