Ty lifted his hands and turned to Zane, smiling almost shyly.
Zane gaped at his surroundings. “I’m . . . confused.”
Ty patted the bar. “It used to be a bar.”
“I see that.”
“It has two stories upstairs. It needs complete renovation, so we can gut it and do whatever we want to it.”
Zane glanced up again, imagining all the work that would take. Ty without a job and without any leads on the mole was beginning to be a scary prospect.
He turned back to Ty, still waiting for when this would turn into a good idea.
Ty was still smiling gently. “You see, no matter what we do to the row house, we’ll always know it was mine first. We can’t cleanse it of that and make it truly ours. But here we can start fresh. Build whatever we want.”
Zane bit his lip, nodding. “Okay. What about this level, though? It’s still a commercial district.”
“I realized the one thing Fell’s Point didn’t really have,” Ty said, his voice sincere and hopeful, “was a bookstore.”
Zane’s stomach flipped. He loved old book stores. Loved the smell of them, loved to walk through them, loved sitting in them and reading in a ratty old chair. Ty had known that from the beginning, from the day in New York City when he’d gamely followed Zane into a bookstore and sat there as Zane browsed.
Ty’s lips twitched. “And we could sell black market orchids from the back.”
Zane’s breath left him. He was standing in the middle of the craphole building Ty had bought him, and suddenly he could see what Ty was truly proposing. A life where neither of them carried a gun. A life where Zane could sit in a bookstore all day, could know that Ty would be there when he went home, right upstairs. A life for them, together. A future. Ty wanted them to cut and run.
Zane thought he had experienced love before. Thought he had known what it felt like to be the center of someone’s world.
He had been wrong, because it had never felt like this.
Ty squared his shoulders and straightened himself. He cut quite the figure, his steady presence overpowering the dusty surroundings. His voice was quiet and clear. “Will you marry me, Zane?”
Ty laughed, and his shoulders slumped with relief. He moved toward Zane, reaching out to hook his finger through the bullet hole in Zane’s jacket and pull him close. “Thank Christ, ’cause I was out of ideas after this.”
Zane laughed with him, the sound echoing off the bones of their future home, ringing in a new chapter in their lives like the bells of a cathedral. Their laughter was still echoing off the walls when Ty took Zane’s face in both hands and kissed him for all he was worth. They wrapped around each other, clinging to the promise of the life they could have.