Under the Tycoon's Protection(24)By: Anna DePalo
They began to move together, slowly at first and then faster, while her world dimmed to just the two of them.
When they climaxed simultaneously, her world exploded in spasms of sensation followed by a feeling of completeness and contentment that was total and encompassing.
Afterward, she snuggled close to him.
“You are a wonder,” he growled.
“Allison,” he said.
“Will you marry me?”
She raised her head and looked at him. “You mean, will I spend the rest of my life arguing with you? Disagreeing with your judgment? And, in general, being a thorn in your side?” she asked.
He arched a brow. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
She smiled. She was sure her face was glowing with happiness. “Yes, I will.”
“How the haughty have fallen,” Noah Whittaker said with a grin.
Allison tossed her hair over her shoulder and looked up from the bridal magazine she was perusing. Her brothers and sister-in-law had stopped by the townhouse for some food and conversation on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Having just finished lunch, they were now sitting in the living room with baby Nicholas asleep in his carrier.“Don’t pay any attention to him, Allison,” Liz advised. She shot Noah a reproving look. “Love is a beautiful thing.”
Noah raised his glass in salute. “Right. A beautiful thing that hasn’t happened to me,” he said, his tone practically gleeful.
Allison narrowed her eyes. “Laugh while you can, copper top,” she said using her old childhood moniker for Noah, whose reddish-brown hair was several shades lighter than that of any of his siblings.
After her successful matchmaking with Quentin and Liz, Allison had jokingly threatened to get Noah married off, too, partly because he pretended to be such a cynic. Instead, with no apparent effort on her brother’s part, she herself would be the one walking down the aisle next. Noah was obviously relishing the fact that events had panned out the way they had, and he’d escaped the marital noose—for now.
Connor walked into the living room holding a couple of open beers, one of which he handed to Matt. “What’s going on?”
As usual, Allison’s heart swelled at the sight of him. It wasn’t every woman who got the chance to marry the star of her teenage dreams. “Noah is just gloating over the fact that I’m going to walk down the aisle before he does.”
“Well, it’s not as if he didn’t try to give matters a helping hand,” Connor said as he came to sit on the couch next to her, giving her a lecherous look when no one else could see.
She felt herself blush even as she shot him a reproving look. “What do you mean?” she asked distractedly.
“Er, Connor—” Noah said.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Noah make a slashing motion across his throat while amusement lit Quentin’s face.
“Yes, what do you mean, Connor?” Liz piped up, shooting Noah a look of curiosity.
“Well, let’s just say Noah and I had an interesting conversation at the Memorial Day barbecue. Something along the lines of—”
Noah groaned and let his head fall back against his leather chair.
“—doing your family a favor by marrying you,” Connor finished.
Liz gasped while Allison let her mouth open in surprise.
Still staring at the ceiling, Noah asked, “Whatever happened to the concept of brotherhood? Men sticking together?”
“Out the window once you’re going to gloat about it,” Connor replied, amusement coloring his voice. “Besides, pal, your plan to get Allison hitched meant I’d be getting hitched, too. There had to be a payback for that.”
“Noah, how could you?” Allison asked, then added, answering herself, “Never mind. That was a rhetorical question. I’ve known you for thirty years. I think I know exactly how you could.”
Quentin laughed. “You’ve gotten a dose of your own matchmaking medicine, Ally. How does it feel?”
“The difference is that I knew you and Liz were meant for each other,” Allison sniffed.
Quentin and Noah exchanged looks, but it was Matt who spoke. “I hate to tell you, sis, but you and Connor had lovebirds written all over you lately. Bickering lovebirds, but lovebirds nevertheless.”
Allison flushed. They’d been that transparent?
“Well, that I’ll agree with,” said Liz.
“And let’s not talk about that case of puppy love that you used to have,” Noah teased.
Allison ignored Noah’s teasing and turned to Connor, pasting a look of mock offense on her face. “And, you, what do you mean there had to be a payback for trying to get you married?”
Connor raised his arm from the back of the couch and stroked her hair. “Just that, I knew that if I told you about Noah’s little suggestion, petunia, you and Liz would double your efforts to get him married so he can be almost as blissfully happy as I am.”
Noah guffawed and Quentin chuckled.
Matt raised a brow. “Laying it on thick, aren’t you Rafferty?”
“I’d say that he’s already developed the right attitude for marriage,” Quentin disagreed.
Liz nodded. “He’s good.” She turned to Noah. “You, on the other hand, will wise up soon, I hope.”
Noah gave a mock shudder. “Yeah, well, if the gossip columns are to be believed, I’m doing a good job of dating every woman under the sun to find the right woman.” He frowned. “There’s this one columnist in particular who, I swear, seems to think I’m a cross between Casanova and Rudolph Valentino.”
Allison laughed. “Love it.”
“Anyway,” Noah went on, “what’s the problem? By his own admission, Connor is blissfully happy and I haven’t seen you this cheery since—” he pretended to scratch his head “—uh, since—”
Allison tossed a pillow at him, but Noah ducked.
Yet, Noah was right.
She looked at Connor, knowing that love was written as plainly on her face as it was on his. “You know, brother dear, you may be joking but you also happen to be right in this case. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy.”
As Connor closed in for a kiss, Allison sighed and let her eyes flutter shut. Yes, love was a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing that had finally happened to her.