“And for us, Kahlúa, whip, sprinkles, and a peppermint stick,” she said, winking at Pierce as he claimed his Witcher mug.
“Thanks, babe,” he muttered, giving her a kiss.
Avery arched her brow. “Hmm, for someone who’s always complaining about all the lovey-dovey affection around here, it seems like you’re the worst,” she declared cheerfully.
Taylor shot her a warning glare. “There’s mistletoe over us,” she explained. “And I do hate that stuff.”
She tried desperately to assume her usual cranky face, but it was harder with Pierce grinning and blowing her air kisses in his adorable way. God, she was happy. Down-to-her-bones happy. Who would have thought she wouldn’t fight the feeling anymore and would just embrace it?
She took a seat on the couch, and Pierce settled on the floor at her feet, leaning against the cushion. The song “Frosty the Snowman” chirped from the speakers. Zoe drank her hot cocoa and chattered about snow and if she’d finally get the puppy she dreamed of for Christmas. Taylor had gotten a sneak peek at the sweet, mischievous golden Lab puppy Gabe and Bella had already picked out from the local rescue shelter. Santa was going to blow Zoe’s mind when she opened up the red box Christmas morning. Taylor couldn’t wait to see it.
“What’s the plan for you guys?” Carter asked, holding his wife’s hand, his thumb sliding over the shimmery wedding band on Avery’s finger.
“I’m going to finish up this new series, which is going well,” Taylor said, her hand dropping to Pierce’s shoulder. “Luis already booked the gallery for the March exhibit.”
“Which is solo,” Pierce said, his voice full of pride. “She’s already got a long client list waiting for inventory. I bet she’ll sell out within the first few hours.”
“We’ll see,” she said with a laugh. “Then Pierce wants to spend a few weeks in Italy for his next blog piece. And we’ll be back to spend the summer here. Who knows, maybe I’ll even help out with a wedding, for old times’ sake.”
“Funny you should mention that,” Gabe said. “We may need an extra hand around here. Things are gonna get nuts next summer.”
“Oh no,” Taylor groaned, shooting a look at her sisters. “Did you guys overbook again? Honestly, am I the only one in this family who has no problem saying, ‘Hell no’?”
“I couldn’t say no to this one,” Bella said with a sigh.
“My bleeding-heart sisters. What’s this one gonna be? Another Dr. Seuss–themed wedding? Or did some sappy bride get you all teary, begging to fit her in so she can marry the love of her life?”
“The last one,” Avery said firmly. “Don’t you think, Bella?”
“Absolutely. Zoe, honey, why don’t you tell Aunt TT about the summer wedding we’re going to plan?”
Zoe lit up, clapping her hands and jumping up and down in her seat. Her nose held a dollop of whipped cream. “Mama and Gabe are gonna get married!”
Taylor blinked, stunned. She turned to Bella, whose cheeks turned pink. “Seriously?”
Bella nodded. “Gabe asked me this past week. I wanted to wait to tell you in person.”
Gabe grinned. “Zoe helped me with the whole thing. The ring, the proposal, the flowers—”
“And I told you not to be nervous because Mama was going to say yes!”
Everyone laughed. Taylor hugged her sister and grabbed her left hand. “No wonder I didn’t know—you’re not wearing your ring!”
“It’s being adjusted at the jeweler’s.”
“So I was the last one to know?”
“Yep,” Avery said. “Now I’m the most important sister.”
Taylor sighed. “Fine.”
“But I’d like to ask you to be my maid of honor, Taylor,” Bella said.
Taylor tried not to whoop with victory, but she ended up doing a happy dance while Pierce laughed. “You’re so bad,” he said to her, eyes lit with humor and love. “It doesn’t matter who the maid of honor is. It’s an honor to be in the wedding party.”
“Absolutely,” Carter said. “So, Gabe, I’m going to be best man, right?”
Pierce frowned. “Hell no. I’ve known him longer. I’m going to be BM. Right, Gabe?”
Gabe stuck his face in his mug and doused himself in whipped cream.
Pierce and Carter continued arguing until the girls broke up the fight and said Gabe would give his final decision at a later date. Pierce’s face reflected determination to win the nomination. There was nothing better than some wedding fights, and this one was going to be epic.
As the night wore on and the hot cocoa was drained, Taylor snuggled up with Pierce and realized that sometimes the things you pushed away the hardest were the things you loved the most. Whether it was a career calling or a family member, friend, or lover, she was happy she’d finally learned to embrace it all, even if it wasn’t in the original plan.
Sometimes the roughest side roads led to the most magical, hidden treasures.
It didn’t matter where Pierce and she ended up, as long as they were together.
Because that would always be home.