She studied the small package.
When she didn't move, Matt sat up and reached in for the box. He held it out. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Colleen stared, her throat catching. "Happy Valentine's Day?"
"You're supposed to say 'Happy Valentine's Day to you,'" Matt replied, one corner of his mouth twisted up in a grin.
"I don't have anything for you," she whispered hoarsely.
"Yes, you do," Matt whispered back.
Colleen's heart thumped so loudly she feared Stan and Olivia could hear it at the house. The very thing she had dreaded, the very thing she had hoped for, the very thing she had...
"I am afraid, Matt," she blurted. "I'm not afraid of much in life but this...this scares me to death."
He dropped to one knee in front of her. "What are you afraid of?" he asked, his voice soft. He set the box on the blanket then cupped her face with his hands. He tilted up her face until they were eye to eye. "Tell me...please."
Colleen sighed. "I'm not the right person for you, Matt. I'm older, I'm independent, I don't know anything about agriculture..." She shrugged. "And quite frankly, after all those years of not fraternizing with younger personnel, I just don't feel right about being with a younger man."
"Colleen, it's not your decision."
She scrutinized him. "What do you mean, it's not my decision?"
"It's not your decision to decide what is right for me. For you, sure, and I hope you think I'm right for you." He smoothed a reddish strand of hair away from her face. "You've spent your entire adult life helping people make decisions...the recruits, your sisters...but I'm not a young recruit, Colleen, and I'm old enough to know what's right for me, and I'm looking at her."
He pursed his lips. "I've made my decision. Now it's your turn." He placed the box in the palm of his hand. "As for not knowing anything about agriculture...you just learned about the bees, didn't you? You can learn new things. As for fraternizing with younger personnel, well...you're not in the military anymore, Colleen."