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An Unexpected Proposal (Treasured Dreams Book 4)
 

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An Unexpected Proposal (Treasured Dreams Book 4)


  An Unexpected Proposal

  by

  Susan Hatler

  An Unexpected Proposal

  Copyright © 2015 by Susan Hatler

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  License Notes

  This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  _________________________________________

  Cover Design by Elaina Lee, For The Muse Design

  www.forthemusedesign.com

  Titles by Susan Hatler

  Kissed by the Bay Series

  Every Little Kiss

  The Perfect Kiss

  Just One Kiss

  The Sweetest Kiss

  Better Date than Never Series

  Love at First Date

  Truth or Date

  My Last Blind Date

  Save the Date

  A Twist of Date

  License to Date

  Driven to Date

  Up to Date

  Déjà Date

  Date and Dash

  Treasured Dreams Series

  An Unexpected Date

  An Unexpected Kiss

  An Unexpected Love

  An Unexpected Proposal

  An Unexpected Wedding

  An Unexpected Joy

  An Unexpected Baby

  Young Adult Novels

  Shaken

  See Me

  Praise

  “It totally made me smile.”

  -Getting Your Read On Reviews on An Unexpected Date

  “An Unexpected Date is a wonderful and perfect release to a stressful or crazy day.”

  -Cafè of Dreams Book Reviews

  “Susan has a knack for light hearted dialogue and describing the zing in the connection between Holly and Dave….Be on the look out for this delightful morsel.”

  -Tifferz Book Reviewz on An Unexpected Date

  “Susan Hatler has a knack for writing books that draw me in from the very first page!”

  -Books Are Sanity!!! on Love at First Date

  “Ms. Hatler has a way of writing witty dialogue that makes you laugh-out-loud throughout her stories.”

  -Night Owl Reviews on Truth or Date

  An Unexpected Proposal

  by

  Susan Hatler

  I paced back and forth in front of the trailhead and inhaled deeply, the crisp morning air serving as a tragic reminder that the perfect life I’d been enjoying in my peaceful mountain town was about to shatter into pieces. It was late in May and the chilly weather we’d had all month made this time of year feel more like early spring, but today there was a hint of heat shimmering in the air that whispered summer would be here soon.

  Unfortunately, my nerves were too raw to care.

  My boyfriend, Dave, would arrive any minute to hike up Big Mountain with me, per our usual routine, and I really needed to pull my emotions together before he arrived. I couldn’t let him know that his unexpected proposal was ripping my heart to shreds. No, I had to be strong.

  Dave had supported me unconditionally when my business had expanded and he deserved the same respect from me now, even if his fantastic work opportunity meant our relationship was about to end. My heart squeezed in my chest.

  Our past eight months together had been beyond amazing—snowshoeing in Glacier Park, skiing the backside of Big Mountain on perfect powder days, debating which movie to watch on a Saturday night, endless cuddles and kisses—so, as a practical woman, you’d think I should’ve had some inkling that life couldn’t go on this ideally forever. Nope, not a clue.

  I pressed the heel of my hand to my forehead and squeezed my eyes shut.

  Dave and I met at the Falling Leaves Festival last year when he’d approached my jewelry booth, Treasured Creations. I remembered how sweet and thoughtful he was when he’d purchased a lovely topaz bracelet from me as a gift to his mother.

  I’d gazed into his beautiful blue eyes as we chatted, feeling an immediate connection with him—not to mention sparks galore. Ooh, baby! To say I’d been thrilled when he asked me out to dinner would’ve been putting it mildly. A colony of butterflies had fluttered in my belly.

  I quickly fell head over heels for Dave. In addition to the electric chemistry between us, he and I had a lot in common: we both moved here from the city, shared the same passion for the outdoors, and deeply loved our small resort town of Whitefish, Montana.

  My dad had taken me camping nearby in Glacier Park as a little girl and I became immediately hooked on this area. We’d had the best vacation ever: swimming in the lake, watching the bald eagles soar, and roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Even though my dad passed away four years ago, I still felt his presence amongst these mountains.

  Dave’s affection for Whitefish came from spending spring breaks skiing on Big Mountain with his friends back in college. He told me he felt a sense of peace here that he’d never experienced anywhere else, and I could so totally relate to that feeling.

  Unlike my past relationships, Dave was the perfect boyfriend. He was smart, fun, kind . . . and about to move away for an amazing business opportunity. How could he possibly be considering leaving our beautiful town? Oh, right. His former boss had supposedly offered him the proposal of a lifetime. Just my rotten luck.

  I opened my eyes, gazing past the dirt-covered parking lot to the scenic view of the Flathead Valley below. The blue water on Whitefish Lake shimmered, stretching out beneath the jagged tree-lined Mission Mountains, and puffy white clouds floated like cotton balls in the pale morning sky. But even the magic in this picturesque slice of Earth couldn’t stop the pain that slammed into my chest, since I could be losing the love of my life.

  Dave had been in Seattle this past week being wined and dined by his former boss and some of his former boss’s colleagues as they discussed the business proposal they had for him. I knew he had to be downplaying his excitement for my benefit—or at least that’s what I suspected when I found out later that this opportunity included him moving out of state. He had to know that losing him would crush me, but he also knew I would never move away from here. Ever.

  This serene mountain town and all of its magnificent outdoor beauty fed my soul like nothing else in this world and I knew with every fiber of my being that I belonged here. On the other hand, being with Dave made me feel complete in a way I’d never known was possible. So having to choose between moving away to be with Dave or staying here in Whitefish felt like making a choice between food or water. I needed both to survive, didn’t I?

  Expelling a heavy exhale, I dropped my head back and stared up at the sky.

  When Dave had first mentioned his trip to Seattle he’d casually said, “My old boss wants to talk with me about a business proposition. I’ll be gone for a week of meetings.”

  Unaware of the little detail that this possible new venture would tear my life upside down, I’d foolishly smiled a
nd said, “Good luck!”

  Stupid, stupid me.

  Now, knowing this was not a job he could do from his mountaintop home here, I knew that instead of wishing him luck I should’ve begged, “Please don’t go. I can’t lose you. Just stay here with me. I can be your dream. Right?”

  I didn’t say any of those things, though, because I loved Dave so much that I wanted him to have his dream job—which was exactly how he’d described the opportunity during our quick phone conversation between his meetings. So I’d kept my worries to myself each time he’d checked in even though the thought of him moving away was tearing me up inside.

  When he called last night and told me he’d be taking an early flight home this morning so we could go on our hike, tingles had rushed up my spine just hearing his voice. I was still amazed at the sparks between us even after all of these months together. He truly felt like my soulmate.

  I started pacing again, then my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I knew before I checked the screen that it was Dave. We were connected psychically, or at least we joked that we were. I felt beyond scared to hear the outcome of his trip and what decision he’d made about their proposal, but somehow I managed to press the answer button.

  My heart pounded against my rib cage. “Hello?”

  “Hi, angel,” Dave’s husky voice came through the line.

  I melted at the warm sound of his voice, and gripped my phone tightly to try to stop my hand from shaking at how excited I was to hear from him. “Where are you?”

  He chuckled softly. “Right behind you.”

  Butterflies went wild in my belly as I spun around in time to see Dave’s green SUV pull into the spot nearest the trailhead. A smile spread across my face. I had started to think of that as his personal parking space. That’s how often we hiked this mountain. I tilted the phone closer to my mouth. “I missed you.”

  “Missed you, too,” he said, killing the engine. “Ready to celebrate?”

  My heart sank, and I couldn’t find the words to ask him what we had to celebrate. I already knew, though. He’d accepted the proposal and would be moving back to Seattle. I fought to stuff my own disappointment. I loved him too much to be selfish. I needed to celebrate his success because he was my boyfriend, my one true love.

  “Absolutely,” I said, even though a lump formed in my throat. I kicked a fallen pinecone, which tumbled across the dirt. “I’ll see you in a minute.”

  We hung up, my brows knitting together. There was no avoiding reality. Time to find out if he was leaving or not. Taking a deep breath, I trudged toward Dave’s car as he jumped out the driver’s side and slammed his door shut. My belly did a flip. He looked ruggedly handsome in a navy long-sleeved shirt that complimented his deep blue eyes, and his dark hair was brushed back away from his face. His gaze connected with mine and an electric current jolted through me.

  A huge grin stretched across his face. He bounded over, scooped me up in his arms, and spun me around as he laughed with joy. Squeezing me tight, he finally set me back down, and planted a soft kiss on my lips. Then he snaked his arms around my waist, pulling me close in a way that made me feel safe and secure—if only for this one last moment.

  “I’m so happy to see you,” he murmured into my ear.

  “You’ve only been gone a week,” I said, my voice catching. I’d intended the words to be light and funny, but instead they betrayed the nerves vibrating through me. I let out a shaky breath, resting my cheek against his hard chest. “It seemed like a lifetime.”

  “For me, too,” he said, his voice firm.

  My stomach knotted. I wanted to scream that if his words were true, then why would he even consider moving away from me? I was equal parts frustrated and sad as he pulled back, twined his fingers through mine, and led me toward the trail.

  He slung his backpack over his shoulder and I pushed his impending news out of my mind by focusing on what goodies he might’ve stuffed in his bag. He always packed the most delicious, gourmet meals for our mountaintop picnics. Besides being smart, sweet, and handsome, Dave was an amazing cook, a computer whiz, and a natural outdoorsman. How I’d ended up lucky enough to find him, I had no idea. But I did know enough to cherish and savor every day we had together. Now, every second.

  I squeezed his hand, unable to let the inevitable be postponed any longer. Best to just take the ax to my chest now. “What’s the verdict regarding the proposal?”

  “I’ll give you the rundown on everything,” Dave said, winking at me. “But first, tell me what’s been going on around here while I’ve been gone. What did I miss?”

  I couldn’t help but laugh. In addition to all of the other wonderful things about him, I’d discovered Dave had a huge social side. He reminded me a lot of my grandmother in that regard, always wanting to know how everyone was doing.

  “Well . . .” I hiked up the first bend, thinking back over the past seven days. “Mrs. Ripley over at the insurance agency announced she’s closing up shop to become an actress in Hollywood. And mysteriously, Burt over at the post office has randomly decided to move there, too.”

  “Nice,” Dave said, swinging our laced hands back and forth. “I always suspected they had something secret going on. They make a cute couple. And it just shows how much he must be in love with her if he’s willing to uproot and follow her out of state as she pursues her dreams.”

  I chewed my bottom lip and thought about what he’d just said. If I looked deeply, I’d note how their story could apply to us as well. The corner of my mouth rose as I gave him a side-glance. “You’re a hopeless romantic.”

  His face lit up. “That’s what you love about me.”

  “I love lots of things about you,” I said.

  “I love you more,” he countered, rubbing his thumb against the sensitive skin between my thumb and index finger as he smiled.

  Gazing into his happy face, the corners of my mouth automatically curved upward. Being with Dave made everything brighter and almost made me forget about his old boss’s proposal.

  I cleared my throat. “So what did you pack for us today?”

  “You’ll see . . .” His tone held a teasing lilt and he squeezed my hand before releasing it as he increased his pace up the incline.

  I immediately missed the warmth of his touch. The cool air around my fingers felt wrong, so I stuffed my hand in my pocket. Maybe I’d be doing that a lot from now on. . . .

  We tromped on in silence, and putting one hiking boot in front of the other took extreme effort in my distraught mood. Trying to clear my head, I breathed in the musty scent of dust and pine combined with the lingering moisture in the morning air. I treasured the smell of the outdoors, but it couldn’t comfort me today. Through a break in the trees I saw the pattern of dry ski runs climbing up the mountain, and in the winter those runs would be covered in white. Right now, I didn’t want anything to change.

  “I’m sorry we were hardly able to talk this week.” Dave turned to me, pulling me out of my dismal thoughts. “When we did have a minute on the phone, I selfishly only talked about my meetings. So tell me about you. How have things been with your business? Are you still feeling overwhelmed by the high volume of orders coming in from Moxie?”

  Moxie was a successful shop downtown that carried several lines of my beaded jewelry in their store and online. Since I signed a contract with them last year, my business had been booming and I’d barely been able to keep up with their orders.

  “I’m still swamped. But it’s a good problem to have,” I said, tilting my head. For so long I used to live paycheck to paycheck, and even though I’d been working an unconscionable amount of hours lately the financial reward was a fulfilling payoff. “My savings account is certainly appreciating all of my hard work. Just made another deposit today.”

  He touched my arm. “That’s great. Congratulations.”

  “Thanks,” I said, grasping the bald eagle charm around my neck to give me strength to talk about work when all I wanted to do was find out ho
w Dave’s meetings went. “Some cool custom orders came in after you left, too. A woman contacted me, who had purchased a jewelry set for her daughter off Moxie’s website a couple months ago. Now she wants me to make her daughter a matching tiara for her sixteenth birthday party. It’s really fun creating such a magical piece. There are a lot of intricate parts.”

  “I’m sure you’ll make it exquisite.” Dave bent down and scooped up a jagged rock from the path then glanced my way. “Are you working on anything else?”

  I thought through the myriad of items I’d been working on this week. “There is one project I sort of became attached to . . .”

  His forehead wrinkled. “Tell me about it.”

  One of the many things I loved about Dave was that he often just asked me to tell him about what was important to me, instead of bombarding me with questions I found hard to answer. And this particular piece had meant a lot to me, but I found the reasons difficult to put into words.

  “It’s a little silly . . .” I thought it was only fair to warn him that his girlfriend had become overly attached to one of her client’s orders. Again. Since I designed and created each and every piece for my business, a lot of my heart went into each bracelet, necklace, or whatever I made. “A new client emailed me, requesting a personally designed engagement ring for his girlfriend. He said she loves my work, which I found super flattering.”

  He smiled. “Who wouldn’t love your work?”

  “You’re my boyfriend so you have to say that,” I joked, wiping a trickle of sweat from my temple. I pushed up my long sleeves, noticing we were already halfway up the trail. “The man asked me to create a unique ring, designed from my own inspiration, like something I’d wear myself. I’ve never had a client give me such creative freedom before.”

  He squeezed the rock in his hand. “Sounds ideal for a talented person like you.”

  I flushed at his compliment, picturing the final piece in my mind. “But putting so much of myself into the piece also makes it hard to let go and the ring turned out stunning. Absolutely beautiful.”

 
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