Though this chapter has now been added to the book itself, I originally decided not to do an epilogue in Bend for two reasons: I didn’t want to make a long book even longer, and readers will get to see plenty of Mia and Jay in my next two books, so their story is far from over. That being said, it seemed perfect to write an epilogue to post as a bonus scene, and so here it is for anyone who bought/read the book before the epilogue was added. Hopefully this will tie up any loose ends. Enjoy!

Warning: This contains spoilers for the book.

Duh. :)


EPILOGUE

MIA

Bend

I’m alive. I’m awake. That’s all I know.

It’s as if my head is filled with bricks. I can hear the mechanical whirr and swoosh of air conditioning blasting on high, and the sheets wrapped around me feel starched and cool.

It takes so much effort to pry my eyelids apart that I almost surrender to the urge to go back to sleep. I’m blinking like I have sand in my eyes, squinting at the murky and unfamiliar surroundings, my gaze drawn to the sliver of light peeping in through the gap in the blackout curtains.

I’m in a hotel room.

And I’m not alone.

I hear the movement behind me before I sense it, the rustling of sheets as a body shifts on the bed, and then comes a sleepy puff of breath.

Jay?

A jolt shoots through me, and any last hint of grogginess disappears as I roll over.

He’s veiled by shadows, but it’s unmistakably him, sprawled on his stomach next to me. His dark hair is tousled, his eyes are closed, and his stubble-darkened face looks still and serene. The white sheet covers him only to the waist, and it takes all my willpower not to reach out and touch the muscular expanse of his arm, his shoulder, his back.

He’s mine now. For real, with no uncertainty or ambiguity. I love him so much that it feels like it must be a tangible thing—a visible glow or a distinct aroma or an audible hum, the perceivable signs of perfect happiness.

Yesterday seems surreal, a dizzying emotional rollercoaster that started with Grandma’s funeral and ended with getting Jay back. Going from one extreme to the other—crushing grief to absolute bliss—has left me so exhausted I’m pretty sure I could sleep for days.

What time is it? I twist around to grab my phone off the nightstand and find that it’s barely eight o’clock.

And I have a message from Paige, sent just after midnight, way past the the time I’d muted my phone and lost awareness of anything or anyone beyond this room. All that existed was me and Jay—my fiancé—and our naked bodies on this bed, tangled between these sheets, making up for the past three months apart and taking our sweet and sweaty time about it.

My toes curl at the memory.

Well? my sister texted late last night, probably thinking she’d been patient long enough. How did it go?

Biting my lip, I send her a reply I know she’ll find maddening: a grinning and blushing emoji.

By now she probably knows I didn’t come back last night, so I’m sure she can fill in the blanks.

Beside me Jay stirs, and I turn toward him as he opens his eyes. It’s hard in this light to see his expression, but from the way he blinks at me, I’m guessing he’s suffering the same disorientation I did when I woke up just a few minutes ago.

Smiling, I reach out and put my hand on his shoulder, brushing his cool skin while saying in a near whisper, “Hey, you.”

“Hey,” is his slightly raspy reply, and the deep baritone of his voice drapes itself over me like a warm blanket.

Rolling off his stomach and onto his side, he catches my hand as it falls off his shoulder. Then he’s pressing his palm against mine and weaving our fingers together.

“Sleep well?” he asks, his thumb caressing mine.

“Like a rock.” I squeeze his hand tighter, loving the strength in his grip and how it wraps mine completely. “I feel like it’s the first time I’ve slept in months.”

I can see his lips quivering, and his voice turns husky and teasing as he says, “You’re welcome.”

I’m welcome?

Yeah, right. I let out a scoff even as heat flickers in my core at the memories of all the ways he apparently thinks he tired me out yesterday.

I’m about to snap out a comeback when he cuts me short by pulling me into his arms. And then we’re lying there in the semi-dark, skin on skin, our limbs entwined.

“This is definitely the best way I’ve ever woken up,” he murmurs next to my ear.

My nose buried against his neck, I close my eyes and inhale the smell of him.

My Jay.

“Bet an art lesson would be better,” I say playfully as I graze his earlobe with my teeth.

I can feel his spine straightening, can hear his breath rushing out. Digging his fingers into my hair, he inches his head back so that we’re nose to nose.

“Still wouldn’t beat seeing your beautiful face smiling at me,” is his soft reply.

A warm and melty sensation floods my chest, but I can’t help releasing a snort-laugh. “Liar.”

“Only a little bit,” he says with a grin before capturing my lips.

The kiss is sweet and soft and lingering—and close-mouthed, because…well, morning breath. Yuck.

He’s right. This is the best way to wake up.

Our lips stay locked for what feels like an eternity that passes in a split second, and when he lets me go to vault out of bed and head to the bathroom, my heart is still singing, my head as light and airy as a balloon.

Yesterday morning seems like such a long time ago, only a distant memory of waking up to get ready for a funeral and thinking I’d lost both my grandma and Jay forever.

However much he was joking about taking credit for helping me sleep so well last night, there’s probably some truth to it. And that’s not because of how many times he made me come, even though I’m feeling flushed as I realize at some point I totally lost count.

No, it’s because in between those rounds of make-up sex, we talked. And talked, and then talked some more.

Turns out when you haven’t spoken to your best friend for months, there’s a lot to catch up on. I expected it to be hard to describe to him what it’s been like, the long good-bye to Grandma and trying to make the most of my remaining time with her.

But I was wrong. With him, I finally felt like I could get everything off my chest, knew that he would just listen and that I didn’t need to worry about upsetting him the way I have with my family.

It was so freeing to let it all out. While he held me, I could let the tears flow. Could allow myself to mourn without fearing it would drown me.

Then Jay told me about his parents and his childhood and about the day his dad was executed. He seemed so much calmer about it than that day at the beach on our drive home—somber, yes, but not nearly as angry.

This time I was able to just listen and empathize without feeling any resentment about how long he kept it all a secret from me. Because I get it now, why he did. But I still asked him not to hide shit from me anymore, and he agreed.

Well, he promised to try, anyway.

Baby steps.

My phone buzzes, and I pick it up and see another message from Paige. God, you’re so annoying, it says.

I laugh to myself and start typing a response, but another text arrives before I get very far: Come home as soon as you can, please. Grandma’s attorney will be here at 11 to go over the will.

Oh, right. I knew that. And just like that, my euphoria dissipates, my stomach twisting into a knot. I send a quick reply saying I’ll be there, and then Jay comes back out of the bathroom.

He walks around to my side of the bed to grab his own phone off the nightstand. I watch him as he starts tapping on the screen, standing there in his boxer briefs, which are still hot as hell.

“When’s your flight?” I ask.

“Three-ish,” he says absently, frowning at his phone. Then he puts the device back down before sitting on the edge of the bed.

“I’m working tonight,” he says. “How long are you staying?”

“Until Sunday.” Which means I’ll be spending the next two days helping my parents get started on cleaning out Grandma’s house and packing up her stuff. A lump forms in my throat. I swallow it down, but it’s not easy.

He starts stroking my hip on top of the sheet. “Need a ride home from the airport?”

“Sure, but I’m flying into LAX.”

I’m warning him out of politeness. Only douchebags ask a person they like to brave that kind of traffic.

Jay grins at me. “That just shows how much I love you, then, doesn’t it?”

Rolling my eyes, I counter with, “Still not as much as I love you.”

“Prove it,” he says, squeezing my hip lightly.

I squint at him as I try to figure out how to reply in kind. “You can censor my iTunes playlist if you want to. It’s not a deal breaker.”

At his snort, a snicker escapes me. My amusement drains almost right away, though, and I put my hand on top of where his is resting on my hip, saying emphatically, “There is no deal breaker.”

He’s quiet for a drawn-out moment, regarding me solemnly.

“Keep your playlist, baby.” He bends down and presses a light kiss against my lips before saying, “From now on, I’m all about making you happy.”

“Yeah?” I say breathlessly, my heart doing flips in my chest.

“One hundred percent,” he reassures me.

I cup his cheek and ask, “You have a rental car, right?”

“Uh-huh.” He slides his mouth down to my neck, and a shudder skips down my spine.

“Take me back to my parents’ house?” I toss the question out quickly, before he makes me forget how to speak.

Pushing himself up to stare down at me, he hesitates before asking, “Do I have to go inside?”

“Yes,” I reply, reaching up to stroke his chest. “Please.”

After the way my family ganged up on me yesterday, I’d rather not face them alone. If I show up by myself, they’ll want to know what happened. But if Jay’s with me, hopefully they’ll keep their nosy questions to themselves.

Jay sits up straight again, and his voice turns glum. “Is your dad going to be there?”

I bite the inside of my cheek. “He’ll be nice. He said he was going to apologize to you.”

“That’s kind of what I’m afraid of,” he says with a grunt. “It’ll be so awkward. I might prefer it when he’s being an asshole.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake. I resist the urge to roll my eyes. What am I getting myself into here? I’m imagining having to continue playing mediator between these two men for the foreseeable future, and my life flashes before my eyes.

“You’ll live,” I tell Jay impatiently. “Might as well make peace with him sooner rather than later. He’s going to be your father-in-law.”

While he chews on that in silence, I replay my last sentence in my head. It sounds weird and crazy and wonderful, and I suddenly couldn’t care less that the two of them are going to drive me nuts.

Jay heaves a sigh. “I’m going to need a reminder of why that’s worth it.”

I kick aside the sheet, curl my leg around him, and slide my foot down to his crotch. Under the rubbing pressure of my heel, I can feel him hardening, and I flash him a grin as I say, “Pretty sure I can manage that.”

“Jesus, Mia,” he groans out.

And then he climbs back into bed, hovering above me with dark desire glittering in his eyes, a look that feels like a reflection of the hunger that winds and coils itself through me, tightening every muscle in my body.

Guess my phone’s going to stay muted a little while longer.

 

JAY

Foreboding gnaws at me as I park my rental car in the Waters’ driveway and leave the engine running while I stare at their large, fancy house.

It’s stronger than ever, the sense that I don’t belong here. Inserting myself into this family’s midst as Mia’s friend is one thing. Showing up like this, with her wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and stepping through those doors to tell them she’s mine and I’m one of them now seems…presumptuous. Ridiculous. Maybe even a little bit insane.

I blow out a sigh as I turn off the ignition, and I hear Mia unsnapping her seat belt, and then I feel her head against my arm and her fingertips stroking the back of my neck, sending tingles down my spine.

“Hey,” she says in that half-teasing, half-serious tone of hers. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

Twisting my head toward her, I find her watching me with amusement tugging at her luscious lips and twinkling in her beautiful green eyes.

Did I really ask her to spend the rest of her life with me? And did she really say yes?

It’s not that my memories of last night are fuzzy; it’s that all of it seems too good to be true. Even with the apprehension that’s trying to choke me right now, it just takes one look at her to know that everything about keeping Mia forever is right and perfect and that I’m never going to regret it.

“You realize,” I tell her lightly, “the last time I talked to your dad I came really close to punching him in the face, right?”

With a burst of laughter, she says, “Happens to me all the time.”

Her hand on the back of my head, she pulls me down and presses a soft kiss against my lips.

Which reminds me that less than an hour ago I was inside her. With her on top, giving me a full and staggering view of her toned and curvy naked body as she straddled me, rode me, fucked me with so much heat and urgency I almost lost my mind.

She shoots me a playful smile as she pulls away and leaves the car. Before I join her, I take a few moments to close my eyes, brace myself for what’s ahead, and wipe anything involving Mia and sex from my thoughts. Which is easier said than done, because apparently there’s no end to how much I can lust after her.

All right. Time to get this over with. I get out of the car, and then we walk up to the house while Mia digs around for her keys.

“You’re wearing the ring,” I say as she unlocks the front door. It hits me that we haven’t discussed what or how much we’re telling her family right now, but apparently she’s not planning on keeping anything a secret.

“Yeah,” she replies, glancing at me before dropping her keys back in her purse. “Everyone will love the story of how Freya gave it to you.”

Sure, but the ring was pretty much just a joke. She gets that and is wearing it, anyway. I don’t know that her parents will think it’s funny, though. Especially Frank.

I had no idea I’d even see her last night—though I guess I had a faint glimmer of hope after telling Paige my hotel room number—and I definitely hadn’t planned on asking her to marry me.

But I suppose if she were the type of woman who put a lot of importance on a big rock and a big production of a proposal, she wouldn’t be my Mia, and I wouldn’t be so stupidly in love with her, wouldn’t want her above everything.

And I definitely wouldn’t be entering this house to face her family right now.

As we go inside and I shut the door behind me, I hear voices and the clinking of dishes and silverware from the direction of the kitchen. Mia grabs my hand, clutching it tightly as she leads the way there.

Her mom, sister, and brother are seated at the oversize, round kitchen table. Cameron is the only one facing the archway, so he notices us first.

“Oh, hey,” he says casually, cheerfully. “Look who’s doing the walk of shame.”

Paige and Gwen whip their heads around in almost comical unison. Their razor-sharp gazes follow us as we approach them, hand in hand.

They’re not glaring at us. I’m right for Mia. I belong.

I swallow hard. Maybe if I repeat those words enough in my mind, I’ll eventually believe them?

“That term is only used after a one-night stand,” Paige says with a glance at her brother. “Do they teach you kids nothing these days?”

Cam smirks. “Well, there’s no better teacher than personal experience, right? Clearly you and Mia have a lot more of it than I do.”

Paige and Mia both let out huffs of disgust.

“Cameron…” Gwen scowls at her son over her shoulder. “Do you have to start already? We’re barely done with breakfast.”

When he responds with a shit-eating grin, she rolls her eyes, grabs her empty plate, and stands up.

On her way over to the sink, she stops for a second to rub Mia’s arm and say, “Good morning. Have you eaten?”

Mia says no with a shake of her head, and within seconds, her mom is rummaging around at the kitchen counters, preparing food for us.

As Mia and I sit down at the table, the patio door opens and her dad steps inside. I stiffen, steeling myself.

Might as well make peace with him sooner rather than later. He’s going to be your father-in-law.

Yeah. And at the very least, for Mia’s sake, we can pretend to get along, right? How hard can that be?

I swallow hard. God dammit.

“Oh.” Franklin Waters catches sight of us and freezes in place on his way into the kitchen. “You’re here.”

It’s hard to interpret the emotions that pass over his face, because mostly the man just looks tired, with bags under his eyes and lines across his tanned face.

“Well, good.” He clears his throat, tugging off his gardening gloves while addressing Mia. “Your grandmother’s attorney is coming this morning.”

“Yeah,” she says in a faintly strained tone. “Paige texted and reminded me already.”

Frank only gives a nod at that, and as he joins us at the table, the conversation turns to their weekend plans of going through Lily’s house, figuring out what to keep and what to get rid of, and getting the place ready to sell. Mia’s aunt and cousins are apparently in town to help, as well.

Regret twists through me, because I want nothing more than to stay and be at Mia’s side while she goes through her grandma’s stuff, which is going to be so hard on her. I already swapped one shift at the last minute to be here, though, and I really can’t push my colleagues’ goodwill any further.

Gwen sets plates with waffles, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit in front of me and Mia, and after thanking her, we dig in. While we eat, the talk around the table remains easy and matter-of-fact. Even though their mood is understandably somber, it’s clear that the practical tasks that need to be done are helping them deal with their sorrow, not hindering it. Lily would approve, I’m sure.

This family feels incomplete without her. There’s a void now that will never be filled. With a twinge, I realize I’m going to miss her, too, and that my own grief goes beyond empathizing with Mia’s pain. The loss of Lily Waters feels more real and poignant than that of my dad, whose death was mostly a relief. Probably because I’d already spent twelve years mourning the loss of him.

“Hey,” Paige says suddenly, sharply. “Mia? What’s that ring you’re wearing?”

I almost swallow my mouthful of maple-syrup-drenched waffle wrong. As I chase down the food with a big swig of orange juice, everyone’s attention zeroes in on Mia. Apparently the mundane topics so far lulled me into a false comfort.

“What’s it look like?” Mia sounds nonchalant while scooping a forkful of scrambled eggs up to her mouth. “It’s an engagement ring.”

Paige snorts. “No, seriously. It looks familiar.”

“Freya gave it to me when we were here in May,” I cut in to explain, because I can tell my fiancée is in one of her devilish moods, and if she pisses off her sister, this conversation will go downhill faster than an avalanche.

“Oh,” Paige says with a frown at me. “Must’ve been one she really liked. Usually she loses or forgets about those kind of toys five minutes after she gets them.”

I let my shoulders relax a little. Seems like I extinguished that fuse before it was even lit. It’s definitely clear to me now that this is not how I want her family to find out. Her dad especially.

I can’t help sneaking a glance at Frank…and find him not paying attention at all, being absorbed in reading the news in an honest-to-God real paper newspaper. Seriously. What does the guy use his smartphone for? A doorstop?

“Okay,” Gwen says slowly, “why are we not asking why Mia is wearing it?”

Shit. Guess I patted myself on the back too soon there.

Cameron obliges his mother by asking in a butter-wouldn’t-melt tone of voice, “Why are you wearing the ring, Mia?”

Quietly, I put down my fork and wait with bated breath for the love of my life to answer her brother’s question. Should I take her hand? Would that make things easier for her?

No, she doesn’t need my help. My girl can hold her own.

“I already said. It’s my engagement ring.” She sounds kind of smug. Almost bratty. I want to grab her and kiss her. Partly to shut her up. But mostly because I always want to grab her and kiss her.

Paige stares at her sister with squinty eyes full of doubt. Then she looks at me and asks, “Is she serious?”

I release the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. All right, then.

“I’m gonna get her a real one at the earliest opportunity, I promise,” I say, flashing my best and most sincerely disarming smile at Mia’s big sister, who I definitely don’t want to mess with.

Paige’s eyes go wide, and a little squeak comes from her throat. “Oh, my God!”

She does a pregnant lady’s imitation of jumping out of her chair. Gwen shoots out of hers, too, with a beaming look on her face, and Cameron follows suit, though a bit more leisurely.

And then there’s Frank.

Deciding to be a man, a goddamned grown-up, I meet his eyes across the table. He’s not reading his newspaper anymore. He’s looking at me, his eyes narrowed, considering.

Hundred bucks says he’s replaying my words in his head: Your daughter doesn’t want to marry me, Frank.

Of course, I said more than that. I’m sure he remembers those words, too.

I clear my throat, avert my eyes, and push my chair back to stand up. Mia’s getting hugs from her mother, her sister, and her brother. And then it’s my turn. Paige reaches me first, followed by Cameron, and when Gwen’s arms enfold me, she says in a muffled voice, “It’s about damn time.”

I smile as I return her quick squeeze, my chest tightening at how obviously and genuinely happy they all seem to be.

Well, almost all of them.

As Gwen lets go of me, Frank gets to his feet, his expression inscrutable as Mia watches him expectantly. Then he throws his arms wide, and she doesn’t hesitate to accept his invitation. It lasts longer than just a perfunctory hug, and I see their lips moving but can’t make out what they’re saying.

I release my pent-up breath. However much he gets on her nerves, Mia loves her dad, values his opinion, and craves his approval. She’d roll her eyes if I pointed that out to her, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Once he lets his middle child go, Dr. Franklin Waters fixes his gaze on me. He starts rounding the table, and without really thinking, I do the same, so that we meet about halfway. I take his outstretched hand, returning his firm grip as he pats my other arm.

“Congratulations, Jay,” he says in a voice I can only call neutral—not thrilled, not angry. “Can’t complain about having another physician in the family. I’ve been outnumbered by lawyers for too long.”

“Thank you.” A smile tugs at my lips, and I slant a look at Gwen and Paige to see their reactions, but together with Mia they’ve begun clearing the table while chatting animatedly.

Frank gives a small cough before continuing with, “In any case, I wanted to apologize for what I said the last time we talked…”

“Don’t worry about it,” I interrupt in a rush, hoping to cut him short, because this is exactly the conversation I didn’t want to have with him.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch sight of Cameron near the kitchen island, smirking down at his phone. If he’s trying to be subtle about eavesdropping, he’s doing a piss-poor job.

“No, I was way out of line, and I’m sorry.” Mia’s dad releases a sigh, his mouth flattening. “We’d only just gotten the report back from our investigator, and I overreacted.”

Be a man. Be a goddamned grown-up.

“I get it,” I say with a nod, looking him straight in the eye, “and I’m over it. I’m not exactly proud of myself, either. I should’ve told Mia years ago.”

“Hm,” is Frank’s response, and he doesn’t argue.

Wincing inwardly, heat fanning up from my chest and into my face, I add, “Plus, that last thing I said to you was obviously a lie.”

Your daughter doesn’t want to marry me.

She just wants to fuck me.

“Well.” A grimace passes over my future father-in-law’s face, and he shakes his head, obviously dismissing whatever he was about to say. Instead he just comments briskly, “As long as you know I’ll be happy to call you my son-in-law.”

While, a few feet away, Cameron snickers sarcastically, I acknowledge Frank with a bob of my head. And that’s that. He gives my shoulder a pat and goes back to his seat and his newspaper.

Over by the sink, Gwen suddenly breaks from her conversation with her daughters to say, “Jay? Weren’t you planning to join that humanitarian organization your uncle works for? I think you mentioned that, years ago.”

Out of the frying pan…

While drying off a kitchen knife with a dish towel, Mia’s wincing and throwing me an apologetic look. Clearly, while I had the joy of talking to her dad, she was over there being grilled by her mom and sister about our future plans. Which is something we haven’t exactly figured out ourselves yet, so I’m sure she’s sorry she couldn’t stop her mom from asking.

With a quick shake of my head, I try to let her know it’s okay. Then I tell her mom, “Yeah, I was, but—”

“He is,” Mia interrupts. “And I’m going, too.”

Uh. What?

My jaw drops. The rest of the room kind of fades out, and I’m just standing there, staring at her with a buzzing sound in my ears.

Does she mean it? Or is she just saying it because…well, why? If she’s trying to stop the questioning, she should’ve let me finish talking.

And yeah, we discussed all of this some more last night, but that ended with her reiterating that she needed to give it more thought, and I definitely got the sense that she wasn’t nearly ready to get on board with the idea.

Her family seems as stunned as I am, and the silence that follows her announcement is heavy and long.

“What?” Paige finally bursts out, her eyes wild as she darts them between her sister and me.

“I’m going to get my midwife certification while he finishes residency,” Mia explains, “and then we’ll go together.”

There’s another loaded pause, and I shift my weight from one foot to the other while I try to get a handle on how I’m feeling about this. If she’s serious—and she seems to be—then I’m over the fucking moon about it. I meant every single word when I told her I wasn’t going to leave her, that she’s more important to me than anything.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t dreading the possible disappointment of her deciding she didn’t want to do it.

“Don’t they operate in war zones?” Gwen asks at length with worry in her countenance.

“And places where there’s Ebola and plague and shit,” Cameron supplies, helpful as always. “Like, literally, shit. Dysentery, cholera—”

While Mia rolls her eyes at her brother, I point out, “We don’t have the experience to be stationed anywhere truly dangerous.”

“And what happens when you do get the experience?” This chilly inquiry comes from Frank, who’s put down his paper and is glowering at us, his arms crossed at the chest.

“All right, stop.” Mia puts her hands on her hips. “Can we not do this right now, please?”

Frank’s mouth clamps shut, his nostrils flaring. When Mia only narrows her eyes at him, daring him to continue, he transfers his piercing glare from her to me.

I’m right for her. I’m good enough.

I have no patience for this. I really don’t. I’m not going to spend the next few decades butting heads with this guy. Mia’s not his little girl anymore. He needs to get over it.

“I would never let her get hurt,” I tell my future father-in-law coldly, my heart racing.

“Jay!” Mia throws her hands up, looking exasperated and annoyed.

Yeah, I get it. She thinks I shouldn’t indulge her dad’s obvious need to argue about this. And maybe she’s right, but I can’t stop myself. Because enough already. As I meet her eyes across the room, I try to silently communicate that to her before I turn back to Frank.

Something shifts in his expression. I can’t really describe the look he’s giving me, except it reminds me of a dog that lies down to show obeisance—slowly and reluctantly, yes, but he does it, and he’s not trying to hide it.

So I guess my measured and emphatic tone gave him exactly the message I intended. She’s mine now. Mine to love, mine to live with, and mine to keep safe.

And that’s the end of that topic. Frank returns to his newspaper, Cameron says he’ll be upstairs and to text him when the attorney arrives, and Gwen goes off to probably do one of the multitudes of chores around the house that seems to keep her happily busy. Paige stays, though, leaning back against the counter and staring pensively into space.

Mia comes across the room, and as she reaches me, she wraps her arms around my waist. “You’re amazing,” she whispers, tilting her head back to gaze into my eyes. “I love you, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”

One hand on her back and one behind her head, I pull her closer as I murmur, “No matter where we end up?”

“Yup.”

She says it casually, even though she knows as well as I do that this isn’t a small thing.

I lean down to rest my forehead against hers. “When exactly did you make that decision?”

“About one point three seconds before I said it,” she replies with a self-deprecating chuckle.

I close my eyes and shake my head. Typical Mia.

“Can I take a picture of both of you with you showing off your ring?” comes Paige’s voice from over by the window. “Freya will love it.”

Mia pulls back to turn her head in her sister’s direction. “Why don’t we video chat with her later so we can tell her about it?”

“She doesn’t know how to do that,” Paige points out.

“Um.” Mia leaves my arms, making a face across the room. “Logan could help?”

Paige’s lips twist, her nose twitching, obviously not thrilled with that idea. Because that’s more communication than she wants with her husband right now? It’s a sobering thought. If the two of them are actually having serious problems, it’ll be pretty devastating to everyone in this family.

“Just the picture will be fine,” Paige says firmly.

With a shrug, Mia agrees, and then we’re posing arm in arm with Mia’s left hand outstretched, showing off the ridiculous toy ring while her sister snaps a photo with her phone.

“Wait,” Mia says when Paige thanks us and lowers the phone to look at the pictures. “Let’s do another one where we’re kissing.”

“That’s probably not necessary.” Her sister sounds exasperated.

“No, she’ll think it’s so gross,” Mia argues. “It’ll be funny.”

That brings a smile to Paige’s face, even though she shakes her head while bringing the small device back up, her gaze darting expectantly between us and the screen.

Mia turns to me and tilts her head back, devils dancing in her eyes.

“You’re killing me,” I growl quietly.

A giggle escapes her, and my lips start twitching, a glowing heat settling in the pit of my stomach. God, I love her.

“Just try to remember why I’m worth it,” she says in a near whisper.

My heart skips a beat, and I cup her cheeks. “I could never forget.”

Then I kiss her, and all is right with the world.

 

 

Copyright © 2016, Kivrin Wilson

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