It's Never too Late - By Tara Taylor Quinn Page 0,1

You didn’t even graduate high school!” The words weren’t unusual; the accusatory tone was.

“I know.” He’d never pretended to be something he wasn’t. Not even to himself. Especially not to himself. “And I’m not leaving, I keep telling you that.”

“You’re going to go, Mark. You’re going to get some fancy degree, and I won’t be good enough for you anymore.”

“That’s just more crazy talk.”

“Is it?” She stared at him.

“Yes!” Rubbing his hips against her, he smiled and then kissed her. A long, wet kiss. “You will always be good enough for me, Ella Holland. Better than me. You’re good enough for anyone. But you fit me.”

“You said you weren’t leaving.” Her kiss was fervent as always. Her passion unrestrained. And then she stepped back.

“You didn’t say you weren’t going to get the degree.” She was trying to trap him into saying something he didn’t mean.

Because he’d been busy saying she’d always be good enough for him.

“I’m going to the pig roast, Mark.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“Bierly’s not a huge place. I want a husband and kids and my choices are limited.”

“I just asked you to marry me.”

“And live with Nonnie.”

Yes. Because that one was not negotiable.

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Of course she does.”

“She doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.”

“Ella.” He grabbed her back, held on, as though by doing so he could hold on to the life she was trying to take away from him. “You are my equal in every way.”

“You’re smarter than I am, Mark. We both know that. You explain things to me all the time.”

“At work, yes. That’s my job.”

“And about finances and world things. You watch the news and documentaries and I like to watch reality shows.”

“Difference between girls and guys, is all.”

“Nonnie wants you to take that scholarship offer.”

“You talked to her?”

“No, but I know.”

“I’m not going to Shelter Valley.” Because Ella was wrong. He wasn’t smart. And he most certainly was not a book learner. “I haven’t read a book since before I quit high school.”

“But you read stuff on the internet all the time.”

A guy had to know about the world around him if he was going to keep his family safe. If he was going to provide.

“Marry me, Ella. Please.” He hadn’t meant to ask yet. Hadn’t really even thought about it. But if marriage was what it took to keep things as they were...

She shook her head. “I can’t, Mark. I can’t sit here and wait for you while you go off across the country and get even smarter on me. I can’t take the chance that you won’t be back. Besides, I want a family now. Another two years and I’ll be thirty years old, Mark. And you ain’t ready. Even without the scholarship. You’ve said so often enough. You want to save first. And if you go get this degree—that would be another four years at least.”

“We’ve got time, Ella. Heck, people have kids into their forties nowadays.”

“I don’t want to be an older mother. I want kids now, while I’m still young enough for them to think I’m cool.”

That was so Ella, wanting her kids to think she was cool. Ella’s mother had been sixteen when she’d had her and the two had been more like friends than mother and daughter.

“Even if I went and got the degree, you’d only be thirty-two when I get back. That’s plenty young enough.”

Her gaze narrowed and he was pretty sure he saw the beginnings of tears there. But Ella wasn’t a crier.

“So you’re thinking about going?”

“No! I keep telling you, I’m not going.” He’d never make it in college. And had nothing to learn there, either. He was a working man. And he was climbing the ladder just fine. He’d just been talking about the age thing. There was no need to rush kids.

“Even if you came back, you’d be different. I’d bore you in no time.”

“You don’t bore me, Ella.” His boredom was a product of an overactive mind. One that had to be kept busy. He’d never been good at sitting around.

“Maybe I just don’t want to live my life with someone who’s smarter than me, you ever think of that?”

She had him there. Because he did think of that—about himself being the stupid one. Or he used to. Before Ella. A high school dropout, Mark had dropped out of the dating scene, too. He hadn’t liked how he’d felt hanging out with girls who were more educated than he was.

“Do you love me, Ella?”

She lifted her chin, in