The Marcelli Bride

Page 40

Paige had pointed out that she, Mia, was a civilian. She couldn’t be expected to know. But Mia was used to being smarter than that. No one had ever fooled her so completely.

She reached for her backpack and pulled out her wallet. Tucked inside was a plain white business card. There was no name on it—just a phone number. She’d been given the card one of the many times someone had approached her about becoming a clandestine operative for the government.

She stared at the number for a long time before dialing it.

It rang twice.


“Hi. I’m, ah, Mia Marcelli. I was given this card a few months ago.”

“One moment, please.”

Mia heard the man typing on a keyboard. “Yes, Mia. I have your file. How can I help you?”

File? She had a file? “I’m interested in what you do. In being, you know, a spy.”

Paige sat by Alex and held his hand. He was still pretty out of it, but she wasn’t going to let go. Not until he told her to go away, which, based on how out of it he was, wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

He stirred slightly. She rose and leaned over him.

“Hey, big guy. How are you feeling?”

His eyelids fluttered. “Paige?”

“I’m right here. You had surgery. They poked around and made sure you’re going to be okay. Apparently you got lucky. The bullet didn’t damage anything you couldn’t live without.”

“Good to know.” He stared into her eyes. “Where will you go?”

“After I leave the service?”


“Texas. There’s a little house I’ve been looking at outside of Austin. I’m thinking of getting my credentials and teaching.”

“You’d be good at that.” He opened his eyes and drew in a breath. “How small is the house?”

“About twelve hundred square feet.”

“Not much room for anyone else.”

Her heart stopped. She felt it stutter, then still completely. “I didn’t think there would be anyone interested. I haven’t bought the house yet. I could get something bigger, if you wanted.”

He squeezed her hand. “I remember when you told me you didn’t regret losing me. I want to be someone you’d regret losing.”

She bent down and kissed him. “I was mad,” she whispered. “I did regret losing you.”

One corner of his mouth turned up. “I doubt that, but it’s nice of you to say it. I want to change, Paige. I want to matter to you.”

Emotions flooded her. They came on so quickly, she didn’t know which one to experience first.

“You do matter. I love you, Alex.”

The curve turned into a smile. “I love you more. Because you’re a pain in the ass.”

“You act like you’ve got a stick up yours.”

“You’re too emotional.”

“You’re too by the book.”

He gazed at her. “Don’t ever change,” he said. “Promise.”

“I won’t, except I think I want to love you a little more each day. Are you all right with that?”

“Never better.”

Joe wasn’t sure what the other patients in the small hospital thought about the invasion. There were Marcellis everywhere, Secret Service agents, military personnel, the president, and his two daughters.

He’d been excused from his debriefing to visit Brenna, who’d just given birth. As he left her room, a marine stopped him and said the president would like to see him. Joe followed the man to a busy office on the ground floor of the building. But instead of hospital staff manning the phones7, there were agents and military officers.

Joe walked up to the president and saluted.

Ryan Jensen looked him over. “You’re the man who rescued my daughter.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, done. Now, what exactly are your intentions toward her?”

The room went silent. For a split second, no one spoke, no one pretended not to be listening. Then a phone rang and the various staff members returned to their work, although Joe had a good idea they were all still waiting to hear his answer.

Joe squared his shoulders, looked his commander in chief in the eye, and said, “I love her and I intend to ask her to marry me, sir. I don’t know if she’ll have me.”

Jensen didn’t blink. “I see. And if she were to agree, where would you live? On base?”

“No, sir. I’ll be leaving the navy to help run the Marcelli winery. I thought we could build a house near the hacienda. Darcy likes it there, sir. She likes my family. It’s a good place to raise children.”

Jensen’s gaze narrowed. “My daughter is an extremely special young woman. You’d better take damn good care of her.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“Oh, Daddy.”

Joe turned and saw Darcy standing in the doorway. She looked from him to her father and sighed.

“Stop interrogating Joe. What if he doesn’t want to marry me? You can’t make him.”

“Want to bet?” the president asked.

“I doubt it’s an executive order any of us would be proud of,” she told him, then turned to Joe. “Don’t worry. I’ll get my father off your back.”

He crossed to her and took her hands in his. “I don’t want him off my back,” he said, staring into her eyes and knowing he would never get tired of looking at her. “I want him monitoring everything I do because then he can see how happy I’m going to make you. And because you deserve that. I love you, Darcy. I want to marry you. I want you to have the wedding of your dreams and a life so filled with happiness, you can’t stop telling people how lucky you are.”

A single tear trickled down her cheek. He brushed it away with his thumb. “Why are you crying?”

“Because I’m already so happy.” She threw herself at him. “I love you, Joe. I want to marry you. I want to get married in the gazebo on the winery grounds and have a dress made by the Marcelli women. I want to be a part of your family, and I want you to be a part of mine. I want to have kids and dogs and learn about wine and live with you until we’re older than Grammy M and Gabriel.”

He kissed her. “That’s a pretty big list.”

“You up to the task?”

“Absolutely. I can’t wait to get started.”

They kissed again and went on kissing until the sound of someone clearing his throat interrupted. Joe pulled back. “Think I should ask your dad’s blessing?” he asked with a grin.

Darcy nodded. “He’ll say yes, but it would be a nice gesture.”

He turned to the president, who eyed him with two parts suspicion and one part acceptance.

“Oh, did you hear about Brenna?” Darcy asked.

Joe chuckled. “Oh, yeah. Twins. Brace yourself. They run in the family.”

“We can handle it. We can handle anything.”

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