Five, ten or twenty minutes could have passed when Tyce pulled his mouth and hands off her but was keeping her plastered against his long frame. Sage rested her cheek against his chest and nodded. This was where she belonged.
Tyce’s hand stroked her hair. “We still need to talk, sweetheart.”
Sage wrinkled her nose. “Do we have to? I’m kind of liking this.”
Tyce smiled, pure sunshine in his eyes. Yeah, those shadows were gone and it was about time.
“I am too but we have a bunch of people in the back room and they are getting anxious.”
“What? Who? Carol and her assistants?” Sage asked, thinking of the gallery owner and her staff. She gestured to his art. “And is this a real exhibition? Are you going to sell your portraits?”
Tyce looked around. “Yeah, I think so. Should I keep it low-key like this or give it to a high-end gallery?”
“I like this,” Sage replied, walking into the middle of the room but keeping her hand in his. “I think the portraits need a smaller, more intimate space. I think you should keep it as it is but—” she pointed to the ruined abstract in that prominent position “—that goes.” She sent him an amused look. “I thought we had an agreement about you not exhibiting anything that had any connection to our love life.”
Tyce wrapped his arm around her waist. “It stays. It makes me laugh.”
“It’s awful, Tyce,” Sage protested.
“Yeah, but everyone will wonder why it’s there and will concoct all sorts of crazy ideas about it and only you and I will know the truth.”
For him to leave that awful painting hanging on the wall was his way of telling her, and the world, that he was finally secure about his talent as an artist, his place in the world. “But why does it have a hole in it?” Sage asked.
“I was standing in front of it, thinking about you, and I was so pissed off that I punched it.”
“Talking about punches, why do you have a bruise on your jaw?” Sage asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Oh, that’s courtesy of your brother,” Tyce replied, his tone blasé.
“Jaeger punched you?” Sage shrieked.
“Linc, and it happened five minutes before he told me that you Ballantynes are repaying me for Lachlyn’s shares. Was that your idea?”
Sage wrinkled her nose. “If Connor had known about Lachlyn then that’s what would have happened. The money should be with you in a month or two—did Linc explain that?”
Tyce’s hand caressed her back. “Some of the money will be in my back account. Not much but more than I had before.”
Sage stepped away from him and put her hands on her hips. “What do you mean by that? I know that we all signed papers to transfer our share of the assets, to liquidate the cash.”
Tyce’s hands slid into the pockets of his pants. “Yep, but I’m diverting some of that money back into the Ballantyne coffers. Well, Linc and I are still arguing about this. He says that the object in question belongs to you, that it’s right for you to own it, but I’d still like to pay for it.”
Object? What object? What on earth was he talking about? Tyce opened his hand and Sage looked at a small square of white tissue paper resting in his palm.
“Trying to buy a ring for a jewelry designer is a bitch so I thought that I’d try something else.”
“A ring?” Sage asked, knowing that she sounded stupid but not quite believing what she was hearing.
Tyce flipped open the tissue paper to reveal the brilliance of the red diamond flower ring. “Like this stone, you are rare and precious and you take my breath away. Will you please, please marry me?”
Sage stared at the ring, tears burning her eyes. “My mom’s ring. Oh my God, Tyce, that’s my mom’s red diamond!” Sage reached out to pick up the ring but Tyce snapped his fist closed. Sage jerked her head up and saw the mischief in his eyes.
“You Ballantynes... You see gemstones and everything instantly goes out your head.” Tyce waved his closed fist in front of her face. “Say yes and you can have the ring.”
“Are you bribing me?” Sage demanded, smiling, her hand holding his fist.