Can’t Fight It Bonus Epilogue – Austin and Tessa’s Surprise Proposal


I check the inner pocket of my suit jacket for the third time in the last five minutes, making sure the ring box is still there. Not that it could have gone anywhere on its own… God, I’m losing my mind. I need everything to be perfect for tonight.

There’s a sound from the bedroom and I fumble to look casual out in the living room, as if I wasn’t neurotically checking Tessa’s engagement ring for the umpteenth time.

Boots saunters out of the threshold and makes her way to me, winding herself around my ankles. I bend down and scratch her under the chin, whispering, “You’re going to get me covered in cat hair, then I won’t look good for tonight. And I want to clean up nice for at least one night for Tessa.”

“I think you look good.”

I glance up, going slack-jawed at Tessa’s toned legs filling my vision, then the navy dress hugging her curves. My gaze gets stuck for a moment on the barest hint of cleavage peeking out from her neckline, then I continue up to the shy smile gracing her face.

She tucks her long, dark hair behind one ear. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she murmurs.

“Because you’re beautiful.”

Her smile grows wider, and she does a little spin, her dress flaring out around her knees. “You like?”

I watch her, enjoying the way she takes pleasure from my perusal. It’s all the more special because she wouldn’t welcome this kind of attention from anyone else.

“I very much like.”

I stand and walk over to her, and she smooths her hands along the lapels of my suit jacket. “I like this, too. I didn’t know how much I’d like you in a suit, actually. I thought your boxing gear was the pinnacle of sexiness.”

My cheeks go warm, loving when she calls me sexy, even if I still don’t fully understand it. She’s the sexy one. “Should I wear it more often, then?”

She nods, her face closer to mine than normal with heels on. “Only if I can take it off you, too.”

Oh, shit. She’s in rare form tonight. I lightly touch her waist, unable to resist myself, but I’m afraid I’ll somehow ruin her pretty dress. She solves my dilemma by moving fully into my arms and kissing me, and I go along with it, never needing an excuse to kiss her back.

Her fingers thread through my hair, sliding through the long strands, and I deepen the kiss until I remember myself and pull away.

“Do you want to make it a late dinner?” she asks, a gleam in her eye I would normally love seeing. Why did she have to pick now to get flirty like this? Any other time, I’d say fuck it and carry her into the bedroom, but tonight is important. I can’t mess this up.

“It’s a reservation,” I tell her, already mourning the loss of her.

She smooths down the skirt of her dress. “Okay, I’m ready, then.”

It takes me another moment to mentally switch gears, and I instinctively move to check for the ring box in my pocket before I drop my hands in a sudden panic. Shit. I can’t do that in front of her.

Thankfully, she doesn’t seem to notice.

“Shouldn’t it be me taking you out?” she asks as she picks up her purse from the side table by the front door. “It’s to celebrate you.”

“Well, I’m getting a nice pay raise.” I’m finally taking over as manager of Marty’s Boxing Gym with my uncle’s retirement. “And I want to spoil you.”

She smiles as she applies some kind of lip gloss that makes her lips irresistibly shiny. “You spoil me enough already.”

I’d do a hell of a lot more if I could. Somehow, she still hasn’t realized she could do better than a schlub like me. But one thing I do know is that no one else could ever love her like I do. She’s my reason for everything.

Tessa drives us to Nouveau, the fanciest restaurant near us, since my motorcycle isn’t exactly appropriate for fancy attire. I ask her about the latest study she’s leading in her grad program, and thankfully her enthusiasm for the subject fills the car ride. If I had to be the one talking, I might accidentally spill the beans about what’s planned for tonight.

I go over the plan again in my head while she talks. Dinner in the private area in the back, a custom dessert of raspberry cheesecake—Tessa’s favorite—and then getting down on one knee and telling her how much I love her and want her to be my wife. I’ve spent weeks writing out a speech and practicing it, praying that I remember it in the moment. Crossing my fingers that she says yes, then putting the ring on her finger.

A shiver runs down my spine imagining it. As primitive as it may sound, I want everyone to know she’s mine. To see my claim on her. That I somehow landed this amazing, gorgeous, intelligent woman. That she’ll be mine forever.


I tune back in, blinking stupidly at Tessa. She’s looking expectantly at me, and it’s then I realize we’re parked at the restaurant. “Oh. We’re here?”

Her brows knit, even as she smiles. “Were you daydreaming or something?”

I chuckle weakly. “Yeah, I guess I was. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I was rambling.”

I reach out and squeeze her hand. “No, you weren’t. It’s me. I’m distracted with this… job stuff,” I end lamely.

She squeezes my hand back, warmth and understanding pouring off of her. “I get it. It’s a big change.”

God, she’s too good to me.

Stepping out of the car, I cross to the driver’s side and open the door for her, my gaze lingering over the flash of leg she gives me as she takes my hand. Her coy smile tells me she knows exactly what she’s doing, and I swallow roughly, hoping she doesn’t tease me all through dinner.

There’s only so much a man can take.

I hold open the restaurant door for her and we make our way to the reservation stand, where a woman stands in an all-black outfit and matching tie. Glancing around the place, it looks like all the staff is dressed like this.

“Hello,” she greets us. “Do you have a reservation?”

“Yeah.” I clear my throat. “I mean, yes. For Austin Langford.”

She does some tapping on the screen in front of her. “I’m sorry. I don’t have anything under that name.”

All I can do is stare at her as my armpits immediately perspire. No, no, no. This isn’t supposed to happen. “Can you double check?”

I glance over at Tessa, who seems unconcerned with the issue. Why should she be, though? To her, we’re only celebrating my recent promotion, not anything else.

“I’m sorry, sir. There are no reservations with that name.”

I give her a tight-lipped smile and consciously unclench my fists. This isn’t the boxing ring. I can’t take out my frustrations here the way I do there. “Could I talk to you over here for a second?”

I point off to the side, and the woman glances between me and Tessa before following me. She eyes me warily, but there’s nothing I can do to make myself appear smaller.

“I made this reservation with the manager, Cathy,” I tell her. “She assured me everything was good to go.” I check over my shoulder to ensure Tessa is out of earshot. “I’m proposing to my girlfriend tonight.”

Her demeanor changes from apprehension to recognition as her eyes widen. “Oh, you’re the proposal?”

I nod. Okay, I’m getting somewhere, at least.

She returns to her station and taps again on the screen. “Cathy put the reservation under Dustin Blameford,” she tells me.

Dustin Blameford? That’s the most made-up name I’ve ever heard.

Tessa grins and mouths the name to herself.

“Well, as long as we have a table, you can call me whatever.”

Tessa wraps her arm through the crook of my elbow as the woman leads us to a secluded area in the back of the restaurant. There are four tables set far apart from each other—not the complete privacy Cathy led me to believe there’d be on the phone—but beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. At least it’s better than proposing smack dab in the middle of the place with a bunch of people gawking at us.

“I’m going to start calling you Dustin Blameford,” Tessa whispers as we’re seated.

A nervous laugh escapes me, louder than I intended it to be. I quickly shut my mouth and shake out my hands, trying to release some of the jitters building up inside. Now that we’re here, my stomach is doing somersaults.

Our server stops by and fills our water glasses, then gives us a minute to look over the menu.

I reach for the glass to ease my parched throat, and somehow manage to spill the contents everywhere. Thankfully, muscle memory kicks in and I grab my cloth napkin without thinking about it to soak up the water before it reaches the other side of the table and drenches her lap. That’d be all I need.

Tessa stares in shock for a moment, then unwinds the silverware from her black cloth napkin and mops up the rest of the water.

“You’ve been so clumsy today,” she says, her brows pinched.


“You spilled Boots’ food all over the kitchen earlier, remember?”

Crap. That’s right. “Sorry. Just nerves getting to me, I guess.”

“Because of the new job?”

I hesitate, then nod my head. I hate lying, but it’s not like I can tell her the truth.

She moves the pile of wet napkins to the side and reaches for my hand, her fingers delicate and soft. As soon as she touches me, the nervousness roiling in my stomach abates.

“You’re going to be amazing, Austin. Marty’s been training you for years.” She squeezes my hand in reassurance. “You’ve got this.”

The urge to get up and pull her from her seat and onto my lap is strong. All I want to do is wrap my arms around her and soak up the comfort she gives me. The faith she continually has in me is staggering.

This isn’t the time or place, though. Pretty sure we’d be kicked out if the server came back and caught her on my lap.

“Thank you,” I say roughly. “It still feels a little unreal.”

“Everyone at the gym supports you. You have nothing to worry about.”

She’s right, and to be honest, I’m not that worried about the job. I’ve gone over everything backwards and forwards with Uncle Marty, and he’s always a phone call away, too.

Asking Tessa to be my wife, though… I just can’t shake this awful feeling something will go wrong. The last three years have been perfect together. How long until my luck runs out?

The server eyes the wet table with confusion when she returns, then grabs a dishcloth to dry off the remaining water and carries the dripping cloth napkins to the back. My ears burn with embarrassment over the whole ordeal. I’m seriously fucking tonight up.

We order and I manage not to screw anything else up when the food comes, overly careful with my plate and silverware. I don’t want to accidentally fling broccoli at her or something.

“Are you okay?”

I glance up from where I was concentrating on cutting my steak into small enough pieces that I don’t choke on it. There’s no way Tessa could do the Heimlich maneuver on me. That would be all I need tonight. “Huh?”

“You’re so quiet,” she explains, twisting her fettuccine around her fork. “More than usual, I mean. If you’re not in the mood, we don’t have to stay for dessert.”

“No,” I bark out, more forceful than necessary. Crap. But we have to stay for dessert. I requested that special cheesecake. “I want dessert.”

She blinks, taken aback. “Oh. Okay.” She gives me a small smile. “You’re never that excited about dessert.”

She’s right. I hardly ever eat sweets. Most of my food intake revolves around protein for boxing. But I have to have a reason for tonight. “I read online they have an amazing raspberry cheesecake here,” I tell her. “I thought you’d like it.”

Her eyes light up with interest. “Really? I didn’t see it on the menu.”

That’s because it’s not on the menu. “It’s, um, on a secret menu, apparently. You have to specifically request it.”

Wow. I’m full of lies tonight.

“Ooh, a secret menu? This really is a fancy place.”

As I’m finally relaxing back in my seat, an ear-splitting shriek sounds from above us, and some kind of strobe-like emergency light on the wall flashes.

“What the—”

“We need to evacuate the building,” our server yells from the entrance to the semi-private area. I can barely hear her over the alarm. “There’s a fire in the kitchen.”

“Oh my God,” Tessa shouts, jumping from her seat.

I’m frozen for a second, unsure what to do. We have to stay for dessert. I’m supposed to propose then.

But it only takes a glance at Tessa’s worried face for me to cross over and wrap an arm over her shoulders, then lead her out of the restaurant. Obviously, we can’t stay.

Out in the parking lot, customers are anxiously waiting, asking the staff how long it will be until they’re allowed back inside. A woman who appears to be in charge tries to placate them, but there are a few Karens who aren’t happy.

“Do you think we should wait around?” Tessa asks me, clinging to my arm.

The place isn’t engulfed in flames or anything, but there was a distinctly smoky smell coming from the kitchen when we passed by it on our way out.

“I have a feeling it’ll be a while.” And I have no desire to anxiously wait in the parking lot for who knows how long while this ring is burning a hole in my pocket. “Let me just find our server so I can pay.”

She comes with me, like she’s afraid to be alone, and I tuck her into my side, not wanting her out of my sight, either. What if it’s an actual fire and it spreads out here?

When I find our server in the group of staff all dressed in black, I ask her about paying, but she waves me off.

“All the meals tonight are comped. No need to worry about it.” Her gaze flicks to Tessa and back to me. “I’m sorry you couldn’t stay for dessert.”

Someone must have given her the heads-up about my plan, then.

Or, Dustin Blameford’s plan.


I lead Tessa back to her car, and the further we get from the restaurant, the more she seems to relax.

“That was crazy,” she says as she buckles herself in. “What are the chances that happens on the one night we’ll probably ever go?”

I keep my initial thought to myself, about how I think I manifested the fire since I was so sure earlier something would go wrong. Was it a sign that tonight’s not the right night to propose?

“Yeah,” I finally say when we’ve already turned out of the parking lot. “Crazy.”

She takes her eyes off the road for a moment to glance at me worriedly, then continues driving.

What the hell am I going to do now? I wanted to do this somewhere special. Somewhere she deserves.

A minute later, she pulls the car into a lot that isn’t anywhere near our apartment. It’s some kind of strip mall, with an ice cream shop on the end nearest us.

I turn to her, about to ask what she’s doing, but shut my mouth at the mixture of concern and exasperation on her face.

“What’s going on with you?” she asks. “You’ve barely talked to me all night.”

“I…” My throat goes dry. Oh, shit. I really did fuck up. I’ve been so far up my ass, I forgot to do the one thing I was supposed to.

Make tonight special for her.

I scrape a hand through my hair as I tell her, “I’m sorry. Really. How about we go get dessert?” I motion toward the ice cream shop. “Maybe they have raspberry cheesecake swirl there.”

She purses her lips. “What are you going to get?”

“Whatever second flavor you want.”

She fights her smile, but it ultimately wins. “Okay.”

We look incredibly out of place in our fancy clothes, but as we’re the only customers, I don’t feel too weird about it. Luckily, they do have raspberry cheesecake swirl here, along with Tessa’s second favorite, chocolate chip cookie dough.

As the worker scoops our ice cream into cones, I hug Tessa from behind, wrapping her in my arms.

“I love you,” I whisper in her ear.

I can feel her smile in the way her cheeks widen, and she turns her head to whisper back, “I love you, too.”

“I’m sorry if you thought I was ignoring you tonight. I was too worried about it being perfect.”


“Because you deserve a great night out.”

She turns in my arms. “Any night I spend with you is great.”

What did I ever do to deserve her? Maybe I was a saint in a past life.

She’s right, though. I didn’t need somewhere fancy to do this. That’s not us, anyway.

Once we get our ice cream, I tell her all about my plans in the upcoming weeks for the gym, talking more than I usually do, wanting to show her how much I care. I never want her to doubt that.

When we get home, I shut the front door behind us, and wait as she takes off her heels, then surprise her as she turns back around. I’m on one knee, the ring box in my hand, and her mouth drops open, gaze flicking between my face and the box.

“I was supposed to propose during dessert at the restaurant,” I tell her.

“This is why you’ve been nervous?” she whispers, taking a step closer.

I nod, ready to give her the speech I’d prepared, but my mind is blank. Seriously, not one line comes to me. I knew this would happen.

Swallowing hard, I say, “I had a whole speech ready, but I can’t remember any of it at the moment. I just…” I struggle to find something to say. Something from the heart. “You make me happier than I ever thought possible and I love you so much, I hurt with it sometimes.”

Tears well in her eyes, but I’m pretty sure they’re happy ones. “I feel the same way,” she chokes out.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you and to be your husband so badly.” I open the ring box, hoping she loves what Danielle and I picked out for her. I wouldn’t have had the first clue without my sister, who’s become like a sister to Tessa, too. “Will you be my wife?”

She’s smiling through her tears, and drops to her knees to throw her arms over my shoulders. “Yes. Oh my God, yes. I love you.”

I’m nearly knocked off balance, but quickly recover and return her embrace. I don’t know if she even saw the ring, but that’s okay because she said yes. Peace floods through me as I hold her in my arms, never wanting to let her go. She’s mine forever.

Her grip on me loosens after I don’t know how long and she shifts back, her gaze once again traveling to the ring box, now in my lap. I pick it up and take out the two carat ring, then slip it on her finger. I wanted to get something as special as she is.

I love her dreamy smile as she studies her hand, satisfaction coursing through me.

“This is too much,” she says, even as she marvels over it. “It’s really mine?”

How can she ask that? “Of course. You deserve everything.”

“Austin…” She shakes her head. “I have everything I need as long as I have you.”

When our lips meet, there’s no chance of this night ending any other way than with us in bed. I want her too much, and it seems she’s feeling the same. The kiss turns bolder, rougher, frantic, to the point where I’m tempted to lay her down here on the front entryway floor and take her.

Maybe not the classiest way to start our engagement, though.

“Bedroom?” I mumble between kisses and she nods, untangling herself from me.

The seductive smile she gives me over her shoulder has me panting after her, and as I catch up with her in the bedroom, I tug her into me, her ass nestling against my erection. She grinds against me, and I squeeze her hips, wanting more. I bend and lift the hem of her dress, sliding my fingertips up her inner thighs until they reach the edge of her panties.

She moans my name, rocking forward into my touch, then back to grind on my dick. I outline her cleft over her underwear and she brings her hands up to twine around the nape of my neck, then sifts through my hair. At the gentle scrape of her nails on my scalp, I push aside her panties to tease my middle finger along her seam, then slip inside.

I love her sharp inhale, the way her body tightens and releases as I work her up, the musk that grows in the air the more turned on we get. As her back arches, my vantage point behind her gives a fantastic view of her cleavage peeking out. I use my free hand to tug the top of her dress down, her breasts nearly spilling out, and I thrust against her still-clothed backside, wanting desperately to be inside her.

No, no. She should come first.

She whimpers when I let go of her, but quickly gets with the program as I bend her over the bed and slide her panties down, then kneel and tongue her from behind.

“Austin, oh my God, yes. Like that.” She lifts on her tiptoes, trying to get a higher angle, but it’s easier for me to just pick her up. As I shift her, her weight resting on me, my tongue sweeping over her pussy, she cries out in relief. Her inner muscles convulse against me as her orgasm hits her hard, and I drink her arousal down, loving her taste. She’s mine to taste every night now, until death do us part.

When she comes down from her high, I flip her over and strip her, handling her boneless body with care.

“I wanted to peel that dress off you as soon as you came out of the bedroom earlier.”

She sighs, the sound full of contentment. “I was half-hoping you would.”

“Was the wait worth it?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

She watches me greedily as I strip my clothes off next, then grab a condom from the nightstand and roll it on.

“You ready for me, baby?”

She nods eagerly and I take advantage of our positions to stand at the edge of the bed and pull her to me, then feed my length into her. Her legs wrap around my waist when I’m fully seated, then she urges me forward, guiding me in a slow rhythm to build her up. I skim my palms over her thighs, loving her softness, how delicate she is compared to me. I cup her ass next, squeezing, and she groans as the angle between us shifts.

Her fingers clutch at the wrinkled bedsheets and she arches again, her breasts gently bouncing each time I surge forward. My gaze is glued to her chest, and under my stare, her nipples bead. I glance up, finding her watching me.

“You like that?” she says, reaching up to circle her nipples in a slow outline.

I nod, too tongue-tied to talk, and watch as she fondles herself, rubbing her thumbs over the hardened peaks over and over.

“Christ, Tessa. You’re going to make me come.”

She bites at her bottom lip. “I want you to.”

Keeping one hand on her hip for leverage, I reach my other hand out to shape the soft weight of first her right breast, then her left.

“Harder,” she whispers, placing her palm over mine and pressing down tight. “Squeeze me.”

God, I love when she gives me direction in bed.

I do as she says, my desire ramping up as her head falls back with pleasure. I release her and flick the tip of her nipple, loving her moan in response, and switch breasts, continuing to do it until her breaths speed up and she comes on my cock, her spasms pushing me over the edge into my own orgasm. I pump into her, unable to contain my grunts. She brings out this animalistic side of me whenever we’re together.

“I loved that,” she murmurs when our breathing’s under control again.

I carefully pull out and scoot her back on the mattress, then sprawl out next to her, tucking her into my side. “I did, too. I love you.”

She smiles as she cups my face. “Love you, too. Fiancé.”

Mmm. I like that.

I pull her hand away from my face and study the ring on her finger. The light that spills in from the hallway is enough to see by, but the diamond doesn’t sparkle as brightly as I want it to. We’ll have to go outside tomorrow in the morning sun to really see it shine.

“I love this being here,” I tell her. “I’ve wanted to see it on you for a long time.”

Her eyes are luminous in the dim lighting. “I can’t wait to be your wife.”

A shiver runs down my spine at her words. I can’t wait, either. And the best thing is, soon enough, I’ll get to call her that for the rest of our lives.

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