Less than an hour later Vin knocked on the door. JD, holding the food, was behind him. Ezra stood behind them holding a large flower arrangement. Not roses.
Buck raised an eyebrow at the sight of all three of his friends. Are you going to invite us in Mr. Wilmington? It is rude to leave guests on the doorstep, especially when they come baring gifts.
Yeah, well, the Greeks also bore gifts.
JD and Vin both smiled at Buck turning it back on Ezra, who really had walked into that one.
Come on in, greeted Buck as he stepped out of the way.
Inez was now sitting on the couch. Sorry to just drop in, but we wanted to see for ourselves that you were alright, greeted Vin.
That is fine, Vin. As long as you brought my food. Otherwise. . . Inez let her voice trail off, but smiled so Vin would know she was teasing. Her ability to smile reassured Vin as to her condition, and he smiled back.
Got dinner right here, Inez. JD assured her. Ill put it in the kitchen.
For you, my dear. Ezra said as he held the flowers out towards her. She smelled them but did not take them. Could you put them in some water for me? The vase is in the kitchen.
It would be my pleasure, Ezra assured her as he followed her towards the kitchen. All three newcomers noticed how carefully she was walking with her hurt ankles.
Vin held something out to her. Heres some painkiller. Nathan said you should take it with food. Thats why he didnt give it to you before. Plus, he had to write out the prescription.
Inez smiled as she thanked him. JD had the two bowls of soup and Bucks sandwich set out on the table as Buck held her chair for her.
Well leave you to eat, now that we have seen for ourselves that you are as well as can be expected.
Thank you for the flowers, Ezra.
Bye, Inez, Buck. Call if you need anything else.
We will, JD. Thanks.
Good night, Vin.
Buck walked to the door with his friends. Thanks for coming by. Ill call the office in the morning. The Thompsons are taken care of?
Yeah. Theyre taken care of. And they arent going anywhere, so right now you focus on Inez. Leave them to us.
Buck nodded, willing to accept that- - for the moment. Thanks, Vin.
As they drove away Buck returned to the kitchen. Inez had begun eating her soup and Buck, feeling hungry, started in on his soup and sandwich. The meal was quiet and comfortable. When they were finished Buck threw the paper bowls and wrappers in the trash.
So what would you like to do now?
I know youre going to think this is silly, but would you read to me? Nothing sad. I want a story with a happy ending.
Buck smiled and walked over to the bookcase. How about The Three Musketeers?
Well, if it were the Seven Musketeers it could be Team 7. That sounds good. I really just want to listen to the sound of your voice, she admitted.
They, again, ended up in the large recliner and Buck began the story. The pain pills shed taken at dinner made Inez tired and after 3 chapters she was falling asleep. Buck closed the book and lay it aside. He then carried Inez into her bedroom.
Inez untied her robe's belt and shrugged out of it before getting into bed. Buck drew the cover up over her. Youre staying, right? You wont leave me?
Ill stay as long as you need me, Sweetheart. I promise.
Well, I dont think Ill need you once Im dead, but until then . . .
Thinking it was the drugs talking, or her recent trauma, Buck didnt realize that Inez was serious. He smiled and leaned in to kiss her forehead, unwilling to lie to her. He would stay until she was well, then she wouldnt need him anymore and he would leave her to live her life in safety. But she didnt need to hear that yet. Not until she recovered.
As Inez drifted toward sleep she realized Buck had taken to calling her sweetheart more often, and that she'd never really heard him call any other woman that. Usually it was, Darlin', or sometimes Honey, but never sweetheart.. She wondered if it was significant. Inez soon drifted off and from his chair near the bed Buck watched her sleep. A few hours later he was beginning to doze off when Inez sleep became troubled and her restless movements woke Buck. He heard her begin to mumble, but couldn't make out the words. He sat on the edge of the bed and softly called to her. When that didn't work he reached out and rested his hand on her shoulder. In the grip of her nightmare Inez free arm swung towards him. Only his quick reflexes kept Buck from getting a split lip or black eye of his own.
INEZ - Wake up, Darlin'. Wake up. He called to her as he held her still, being careful to avoid the bandaged wrists. He hated having to restrain her after what she'd been through, but worried she might hit her injured wrists on something.
Inez did wake up. Buck? She asked in a lost tone.
He moved to hold her close and she snuggled into him, needing the warmth and comfort. It's OK, Darlin. I've got ya. It was just a nightmare. You're safe now, Sweetheart. I've got ya. You're safe.
Tears began to flow down her cheeks and she buried her face in his chest. Lifting her into his lap he moved to lean against the headboard. He hated that she was hurting, but knew the crying was a healthy reaction. He continued quietly reassuring her, but was careful not to tell her to hush, or quit crying.
Eventually she calmed down. Secure in the strength of his arms, protected by the force of his spirit. Thank you.
You know you don't need to thank me. Feeling any better?
A little. I'm tired.
Good. You still need a lot more sleep tonight.
Will you hold me?
Of course. Are you sure that's what you want? I mean, being so close to a man, after what they did to you?
I feel safe with you. Please.
As long as youre sure. I just don't want you to feel trapped. Buck explained.
Moments later Inez head was resting on his chest with his arms loosely around her. After several minutes she began to unbutton his shirt.
Inez, what are you doing?
I. . . I want to hear your heartbeat. I can't hear it very well through your shirt.
Soon Bucks shirt was pulled open and Inez fell asleep listening to the strong beat of his heart. Both slept the rest of the night in peace.
As Buck awoke he felt like he was still dreaming. Waking up with Inez in his arms was a dream come true for him. He then remembered why she was sleeping in his arms and felt relieved that she hadnt had any more nightmares. The sun was just beginning to come in the window and Buck enjoyed the chance to watch Inez. Soon the light woke her. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled up at Buck. He leaned down and whispered, Good morning. Against her lips. Liking the good morning kiss Inez returned it. She began to wrap her arms around him but stopped when the pain in her wrists registered.
Buck immediately sensed the difference in her mood and pulled back a little.
My wrists. I forgot.
Lets get you some breakfast so you can have a couple more of the pain pills, suggested Buck.
Inez nodded in agreement. Buck climbed out of bed and told her hed be in the kitchen. As she dressed it occurred to Inez that she had likely had a unique experience. She had spent the night with Buck in her bed and they had not made love. She doubted any other woman could say that and it made her fell special. After they ate Buck got the things to redo her bandages.
As she watched him work Inez focused on his hands. How could something so beautiful, capable of such tenderness, be so deadly? She wondered. She knew that the long fingers that could melt her whole body with a touch could just as easily crush a windpipe with a single blow. The thought should have unsettled her, but it didnt. It made her feel safe.
An hour later they walked into the office area of Team 7. The other six men quickly gathered around.
Ever the gentleman, Ezra brought a chair for Inez to sit in.
How are you feeling this morning? Asked the teams medic.
Im feeling better, Nathan. Thank you. Thank pain killer you sent over is very effective.
Good. Looks like Buck did a good job with those bandages.
Yes. He did.
Are you feeling up to giving a statement? Asked Josiah in a gentle tone, making it clear that it would be perfectly acceptable for her to say no.
Yes. Buck? She said looking up to make eye contact with him.
The meaning of the look was so clear that all the men could read it. She wanted Buck with her while she made the statement.
Of course, Darlin. I just need to talk to Chris for a minute first.
Well get some coffee and meet you in the conference room, responded Josiah.
Chris, well aware of what his friend wanted to talk about, headed to his office with Buck a step behind.
Instead of sitting behind his desk Chris leaned back against the front of it. He did not want the distance, and formality, of the desk between them. No, Buck, you can NOT go question the Thompson brothers again. You will not see them again except in the court room.
Why are you protecting them? You saw what they did to Inez.
Chris answer was simple. Its not them Im protecting.
The back of the chair in front of Buck splintered as his hands pounded down on it. DAMN IT, CHRIS! I DONT NEED YOUR PROTECTION!
Chris ignored the damaged chair. You mean you dont want my protection. Theres a difference. And whether you want it or not youre stuck with it. Chris paused, then played his trump card. Think about Inez. She needs you with her right now. Not in jail for assault and battery.
That finally got through to Buck.
Sensing that his friend was calmer Chris filled him in. DA Travis is handling the case personally. That in itself will get the Judges attention.
No kidding it will, noted Buck.
The Thompson brothers are saying that all the injuries came from Inez when she tried to fight them off. Youre safe there.
Thank you, Buck said as he met his friends eyes. He knew Chris had likely threatened them into agreeing to that.
Chris allowed a slight smirk to form on his lips in acknowledgment. Go take care of Inez. You two need anything?
Actually yes. I wanted to ask if I could take her up to your Ranch for a while.
Its yours for as long as she needs it. A change of scenery will probably be good for her.
Thats what I was thinking. Thanks.
No problem. You know that. Im sure Nathan will be out to check on her.
I dont doubt it. Id better get in to Inez.
Once Buck had left Chris began gathering the scattered pieces of the chair. He didnt mind at all. Buck had picked up the pieces after his loss of temper enough times that his doing it for Buck this time didnt even come close to making them even. While he hated what had happened to Inez he was glad to have a chance to, in a small way, repay Buck for all hed done to help him after The Fire. He would always think of it as THE fire. As if no other fire had ever happened or mattered.
Seeing the worried look on JD's face when he walked into the main area Buck detoured over to his friend. What's up JD?
I heard some sort of crash and you yelling.
Oh. That. Well, one of the chairs is going to need replacing, but otherwise things are OK.
So Chris told ya you aren't allowed to see the Thompson's?
Yes, he did.
Could you tell Inez that tomorrow I'm going over to supervise the guys putting the new security camera's in at the bar? Ezra doesn't really want her to know, but he's paying for it.
Thanks JD. I appreciate it and so will Inez.
You're both welcome. She's my friend, too.
I know, Buck said and then headed towards Ezra.
Ezra. Thank you.
For what, Mr. Wilmington?
JD told me you're paying for the new security cameras. I'll try to keep Inez from asking to much about where the money came from.
Thank you. That boy needs to learn how to keep a secret.
Ah, give him a break. When it's really important he can. From anyone except us. He's just to honest to lie or hide things from his friends. Now, I seem to remember you promising I could dismantle that snitch Jess after we got Inez?
And since you arent allowed near the Thompsons you believe he would be a suitable replacement?
Well, theyd never have found her and hurt her if he hadnt told them.
I usually meet with him once a month. Next time you may join me. That will give you time to calm down a bit, and time to care of a more important person. Now go see to your lovely senorita.
Don't let her hear you call her that. She ain't mine yet. Buck joked to hide his pain as he turned away so the, all to perceptive, undercover agent wouldn't see the pain in his eyes. Now Inez never would be his. But she'd never be hurt because of him again either, he rationalized. The rationalization did little to ease the ache in his heart.
As he watched his friend walk away Ezra had no doubt that Inez heart already belonged to Buck, and that the rest of her would soon follow.
Josiah was far to skilled at what he did to miss the look of relief that entered Inezs eyes when Buck entered the room. He pushed a cup of coffee toward the younger man as he took his seat by Inez. Buck took her hand in his and picked up his coffee with his free hand. Josiah was careful in how he worded the questions and didnt rush her when she needed time.
As she gave her statement Bucks hand became Inez lifeline and she held it tightly. Buck felt the pain in his hand from her strong grip but ignored it. Instead he concentrated on controlling the rage he felt at the Thompsons for what theyd done to the woman he loved. He calmed himself by planning what he was going to do to Jess Garrett.
Finally the report was done. Im sure DA Travis will try to arrange things so that you dont have to testify, but if he cant will you be OK?
Yes, Josiah. As long as I have a bit of time first. She looked over at Buck and both men heard the silent and Buck there with me. She did not want to be in the same room as her attackers without Buck, and preferably the rest of the Team, present, as security.
Well ALL be there, promised Josiah.
Having been sure of his friends permission they had already loaded a couple bags for Inez in his car so they were ready to go directly to the Ranch. Buck had spent enough time at the Ranch that he had clothes and everything else he would need there.
Inez had never been to the Ranch and found herself enchanted as they drove up. Buck grabbed her bags and carried them to the door. Using his key he showed Inez in. Even this many years later she could see the remnants of Sara Larabees touch. Muted by the frequent presence of seven men, but still there. Buck showed her into one of the guest rooms.
Over the next week all the men came to visit. Josiah came with Nathan. The next day JD visited. After that it was Vin and Chris followed by Ezra. Realizing Inez, and Buck, would see through any excuses they simply admitted they were there to make sure she was healing well and that there was nothing the couple needed. Upon his return Ezra suggested a friendly bet on when an engagement and wedding would be announced. Chris immediately put an end to the idea of a bet.
For Buck the time alone with Inez was bitter sweet. He loved her company and the time with her, but it also showed him even more clearly what he would no longer be able to have. Hed decided that once she was back home hed tell her about his decision to end the relationship. For Inez the time with Buck only worked to deepen her love for him. He was considerate and kind, a perfect gentleman. He also kept her smiling and laughing. She could now easily imagine spending the rest of her life with him.
After a week at the Ranch Buck drove them back to the city. While she had completely enjoyed the time Inez was glad to be getting home. Seeing that she was tired Buck decided that their talk could wait until the next day. . .or week. He quickly convinced himself that she wasnt completely well yet, since he did not want to lose her. But part of him knew that putting it off would only make things harder.
Thank you, Orinn. Inez will not be happy to hear that. And neither will Buck.
As Chris hung up the phone he heard the almost amused, Im sure he wont.
Chris headed out into the main room, walking over to his best friends desk. The others tired to act like they werent listening, but not very hard.
That was Travis. Sorry to do this on your first day back, but he thinks it would help if Inez testified. He wants the jury to see her. Put a face to the victim. A couple of us will also need to testify. Nathan, youll need to explain about her injuries. Ezra, youll explain how they found Inez though Jess Garrett. Buck, you know youre going to be up on the stand.
Sure. I just wish Inez didnt have to be.
Well all be in the room as well. Shell be safe.
I know. Its not that they could hurt her in a court room anyway. Thats not what Im worried about.
From nearby Josiah nodded his agreement with Buck. The brothers would be unable to cause Inez further physical pain, but seeing them again would cause some serious psychological pain. He reminded himself that Inez was a strong woman and would have Buck and the rest of them there. He also decided to pay the two a visit before court. Just to lay down some ground rules. No leers, no winks, no staring, no comments, no NOTHING that might upset her further.
A week later it was time. Experienced at giving testimony in court none of the three members of Team Seven were up on the stand for long. Chris was proud of how well Buck kept his temper while he described the phone calls hed received from the Thompsons, and the state they had found Inez in.
That afternoon it was Inez turn. Orin was as gentle with his questions as he could be and Inez impressed the jury with her ability to keep herself together. They also noticed her frequent looks at Buck. The public defender representing the brothers was also careful in the few questions he asked her. He had laid into the guys a bit, believing in doing his best, but he did not believe that included causing more distress to a victim. He also realized that going after her to harshly would not win his side any points with the Judge or Jury.
The brothers were wise enough to follow the rules Josiah had given them when hed paid them a visit the day before and behaved, throwing nervous glances over at him, as if to be sure he saw that they were doing as instructed. Chris knew Josiah had visited them, and saw their glances at the profiler. He repressed a smile as he imagined what Josiah had said to put the fear of God into them.
When Inez was done Buck followed her out of the courtroom. As soon as the doors shut she was in his arms. He quickly led her to an empty room nearby where they could have a few minutes. Locking the door behind him he sat down and she sank into his lap. She was grateful for the warm, strong presence of his body holding her close and after a few moments was feeling better.
Thank you. Can we go?
Of course. Lets get you home.
A knock sounded at the door. Gently setting Inez on another chair Buck went to open the door, knowing only one of his teammates would dare disturb them.
JD was on the other side. Hey, Buck. I thought Inez might like this, said the young man holding out a large Styrofoam cup. The smell coming from it told Buck that it held hot chocolate. He gave his little brother a grateful smile.
Come on in, he invited stepping aside.
You did great, Inez. I thought you might want something to drink after all that talking, JD said in a rush as he handed her the cup. Still feeling a bit cold inside Inez was grateful for the warm liquid, especially the chocolate. Her favorite comfort food. She had to admit that JD was learning the best lessons from Buck as far as knowing how to treat woman and understand what they wanted. Also how to be tactful about giving a gift. He wasn't bringing it because he thought she was thirsty.
Thank you, JD. This is just what I needed.
JD said nothing but directed a shy smile at her.
The others were waiting in the hall and they all walked out of the building together. A few people at the courthouse wondered what kind of witness protection the lovely woman must be under to reserve that sort of protective escort. All of the woman decided that she was one very lucky woman, as they noticed the care all the men seemed to show for her, and especially the tall handsome dark haired man.
A few days after going to Court Bucks internal struggle of when and how to end things with Inez had become so great that it showed and while they sat in her front room Inez asked what was upsetting him.
Buck looked at the floor, unable to say the words while looking at her. I. . .I think it might be best if we didnt see each other any more.
Inez felt her heart freeze at his words. She was completely confused. A few weeks ago she would have believed hed lost interest in her. But after the events of the last two weeks she felt sure he loved her just as she loved him. That didnt stop the agony she felt at his words. Best for who?
Buck continued to look at the ground and didnt see the heart breaking pain in her eyes, so he began to explain. You. You were hurt because of me. I can't let that happen again. As long as we're together you're in danger. The best way I can protect you is to stay away from you. I can't let what happened to Sara and Adam happen to you. I won't let you get killed 'cause of me.The determination in Buck's voice was unmistakable.
Inez suddenly understood his fear and the ice that had formed in her heart melted. He'd seen what losing the woman he loved had done to Chris. Buck, I've heard you tell Chris it wasn't his fault. And you are right, it wasn't his fault Sara and Adam died, and it's not you're fault I got kidnapped.
You never saw Chris when he was at his worst. I don't know how he survived it, but I do know that I couldn't.
I do know how he survived it. You. You got him through it. And he, and the others, would get you through it. But they aren't going to need to. Nothing is going to happen to me. If you want to protect me then stay with me and protect me. Don't do this. Don't leave me. The only one's to blame are the two lunatics who kidnapped me. Besides, you promised. You promised not to leave me as long as I needed you, and I still need you. There is one good thing that came of this mess. It made me realize that I love you. I hadn't planned to tell you like this, but since you're talking crazy. . .
Buck interrupted. Inez, you where trapped, thought you could die. I'm not sure you were thinking straight.
I told myself the same thing. I didn't believe it from me, so I'm not going to believe it from you. Yes, it was an extreme situation, the kind that makes a person face the truth. I love you. I have for a long time, but I was afraid to admit it. Then I suddenly had a lot better things to be afraid of. Usually you are a very smart man, but at the moment you're being stupid. What is it with men that they think they can control everything? Inez finished in frustration, and no small amount of annoyance.
I dont know. But believe me, I do know I cant control you. I wouldnt want to control you. But I can control whether or not youre in danger because of me.
If you can look me in the eye and tell me you dont love me Ill agree to end the relationship. If you cant do that, you must keep your word and stay with me as long as I need you, which Ive already mentioned is the rest of my life.
Knowing hed never be able to tell her he didnt love her Buck tried to distract her. Youre not being fair.
Neither are you!
Im not trying to be fair. Im trying to keep you safe.
Is that more important than keeping your promise to me? Inez asked.
qq Keeping you safe is more important to me than anything.
Inez was far from satisfied with that answer. Well, it isnt to me. Being with you is more important than anything. And it is the best way you can protect me. There are plenty of other, much more real, dangers out there. Stay with me and keep me safe from them. I somehow think youre the only one who can.
Inez. . .
Buck, you say you dont want to lose me. If you do this you lose me. You really arent making any sense.
Men in love dont have to make sense, Buck retorted without thinking.
So you admit you love me! Inez stated in triumph.
Yes, I love you! Buck went silent realizing that what had just happened. Hed told Inez hed loved her during a fight, and almost shouting. Not how the usually smooth ladies man had planned it. Hed also just lost the argument. He couldnt very well admit he loved her then leave her.
Inez knew him well enough to read his thoughts in his eyes and smiled in happiness, and triumph.
I love you, too.
Right now Im not sure why you would, admitted Buck.
Im not going to list the reasons and make your ego bigger, its big enough all ready, she teased him. I understand your fear. You think Im not scared when you and the others go out on a dangerous assignment? I dont want to lose you either. Youre in a lot more danger than I am a lot more often.
But you arent the reason Im in danger, Buck persisted.
Inez was just as stubborn. Does the reason really matter? No matter what caused the danger the end result is the same.
Buck suddenly found himself unable to argue with her, or his own need to be with her, any more. Forgive me?
Si. This time. . . She let her voice trail off and leaned in to kiss him.
I need you, Inez. I need you desperately, and I am not a desperate man. Be mine tonight.
Not if it's just for tonight, Buck. Inez voice shook a bit. She knew that wasnt what he meant, but needed to hear the words. To hear him say it.
Buck immediately realized his mistake and what she needed. You know it's not just for tonight. Tonight is only the beginning. Please don't say no. Be with me. Tonight and every night for the rest of our lives.
Inez eyes went wide. Are you. . . are you asking me to marry you?
Yeah. I. . . I guess I am.
But you didnt mean to? Inez asked, somewhat afraid.
I meant to break up with you tonight, he reminded her. But I do want to spend the rest of my life with you. And that means getting married. But you dont need to answer now. Ill get a ring and ask you the right way. The way you deserve.
That's sweet, but the answer is yes. I will marry you.
For the first time in his life Buck Wilmington was speechless. He leaned over an kissed Inez. By the end of the kiss they were both lying on the couch, with Buck's body half covering Inez's.
As he pulled back slightly so they could each catch their breath some rational thought returned to Buck. With thoughts of marriage inevitably came thoughts of the wedding night. He sat back up.
Inez misunderstood his action. What's wrong?
Nothing, sweetheart. I was just thinking about our getting married, and the wedding night. Maybe we should wait until our wedding night to make love.
Why? If we know we're getting married, why wait? She asked in confusion.
I want our first time together to be . . . different, special.
And for that we have to wait until our wedding night?
Buck tried to explain his thoughts. No. Of course not. But. . . I've been with a lot of woman without being married to them. And while you could never, never be just another woman to me, I'd like to do things right this time. You're worth it.
Inez now understood, but disagreed. She was also wise enough to know that talking was not the best way to convince Buck to change his mind. She leaned in and whispered Thank you, against his lips. Then began kissing along his jaw line and down his neck. Her hands moved to unbutton his shirt.
Part of Buck wanted to take what Inez was offering, but another part of him held back. Buck found it so very difficult to take - especially from those he loved. The people he loved he wanted to guard and protect - treasure - and no person stirred that feeling more deeply than Inez. Are you trying to seduce me? he asked in a husky voice.
Si, Inez admitted. Is it working?
You don't need to seduce me. I belonged to you the first day we met.
Then why are we talking instead of making love? She asked in frustration. She couldn't believe she was having to try and convince the ladies man to be with her, especially since he'd admitted he loved her.
Buck moaned softly as Inez shifted closer, then gently lifted her away from him. As he did so Buck couldn't keep the sudden smile from his face.
What are you grinning about? demanded Inez, confused.
Just the way things have worked out. I've been trying to get you into my bed for years and now I'm the one saying we should wait and you're the one trying to get me into your bed.
And you don't like the change of roles, Inez said.
Buck heard the uncertainty in her voice. It's not that. I love that you care enough to want to seduce me. But having the tables turned, on both of us, does seem kind of funny.
Inez thought for a moment then also smiled. Yes, I guess there is some humor in that, or at very least irony. None of your friends would believe this.
Buck suddenly got nervous. You aren't going to tell them are you?He knew his friends would never let him live it down.
Not if you quit being stubborn, replied Inez.
Don't Darlin' me Buck Wilmington. That's never worked on me and you know it. Inez pretended to scold him.
I really should go, Buck said, but did not move.
Inez relaxed again, knowing that Buck wasn't leaving. That he couldn't make himself leave her. What you should do, mi amour, is take me to bed, she informed him with a seductive smile.
I will, he promised. On our wedding night. You need to get some sleep tonight so that I can take you shopping for a wedding ring tomorrow morning, Buck tried as a distraction technique.
Very well. I can see you are determined to be stubborn. But on our wedding night you had better make it worth the wait, she mock-threatened.
Oh, I will. Believe me I will, Buck promised then bent his head to seal the promise with a kiss.
Early the next morning Buck called Chris.
Chris, it's Buck.
What's going on? Inez OK?
Yeah, she's fine. But I'm going to need the morning off. I'll come in this afternoon and explain.
Alright. But it had better be good, Chris threatened.
Buck laughed. Oh, it is. It's real good. Thanks, Pard. See you this afternoon.
The line went dead before Chris could ask anything else.
After choosing a ring and having lunch together Buck and Inez went to the offices of Team Seven. The men had all just returned from their lunch breaks. Buck was happy to see that even Ezra was there, instead of on an undercover assignment. Chris had told them that morning that Buck would be in that afternoon with some good news and none of them wanted to miss it.
Hearing JD happy greeting to Buck Chris walked out of his office into the main area were the others were. You promised me an explanation?
Sure did, Pard, Buck agreed then fell silent, wanting to tease his best friend.
So what is it? Prompted Chris in a low growl that belied the gleam in his eyes. He didn't think he'd ever seen Buck so happy.
I had to take Inez shopping this morning. Buck couldn't hold in the laughter at the confused looks on his friends faces.
Inez shook her head slightly and explained. He took me shopping for a wedding ring. We are going to be married.
The men quickly gathered around the couple. They took turns giving Buck a handshake or pat on the back and Inez received a kiss on the cheek from each of them.
I suppose I'm going to have to get used to that, grumbled Buck, halfheartedly.
You get to kiss her the rest of your lives. This is our only chance, JD shot back before placing a kiss on Inez cheek.
The only exception was Ezra, who raised her hand to kiss it in a courtly gesture. Once the congratulations were finished Ezra looked at Inez. May we see the ring?
Inez held her left hand out for him, and the others, to look at. The diamond was large, but not gaudy. The white-gold setting was beautifully designed and shown against her bronze skin. Ezra let out a soft whistle. A most extraordinary ring. May I compliment you on your taste, my dear.
You may compliment Buck on his taste. He's the one who first noticed it.
Mr. Wilmington, I am impressed, drawled Ezra.
So when's the wedding? asked Vin.
We haven't decided yet, but you will all be the first to know, Inez replied.
There will be a third story to complete what has become a trilogy. It will have Buck and Inezs wedding and maybe even kids.