Scroll down to read your exclusive bonus epilogue!
Want to download the bonus epilogue to your device instead? Click the button below to access the Bookfunnel download page.
IT’S ONLY BEEN A YEAR since Serena proposed to me, but a lot has happened. We got married only two months after that conversation and found out she was pregnant the following day. Our wedding was a simple courthouse affair, with an afterparty at the airfield. We vowed to have a big celebration in New Haven with the scores of family members she has over there, but the baby put a wrench in our plans.
The simplicity of our wedding didn’t make it any less special, though. In a way, I think the fact that we did what we wanted, and not what the rest of her family expected, made the whole day more special. Serena and I entered our life together on our terms.
Serena wore a simple white dress that showed a subtle blush of pink whenever she moved. The boat-neck dress hugged her curves and made my heart jump whenever I looked at her. She put a flower in her hair, pulling the thick, black curls away from her face in a twist that ended at the nape of her neck, and wore simple, dangly earrings. She looked like a goddess.
And I was marrying her.
When I tell you that my heart felt like it was going to explode, it’s the understatement of the century. My heart was so full of happiness that I didn’t think mere ribs could contain it all. I pinched myself throughout the day, hardly believing that I was lucky enough to be with a woman like her. I’d watched her grow into herself, become more comfortable with her own confidence, and my love swelled.
I know, I know. It’s cliché to say that my love for her grew every day. But what are clichés but common truths? All it took was a sleepy smile from the pillow next to mine, or a glance at her serene face as she meditated in the corner. Sometimes, it was just the sound of her laughter, or the obstinate frown on her brow when she was mad at me, and my heart tugged. My love for her has always been endless, boundless. Now, I realize that it grows, too. Ever-expanding, like the universe.
The morning after our wedding, Serena told me she was a week late for her period. She said it in a shy voice, like it was something to be embarrassed about. My ribs ached as my pulse thumped against them, and I went with her to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test. We bought three.
I saw the fear in her eyes when she showed me the three tests—all positive. All I could do was wrap my arms around her and hold her close, tears spilling from my eyes. The tension left her body, and her face shone with the most brilliant smile I’d ever seen.
Those first few months of the pregnancy were hard. Serena was worried about everything. She had horrendous morning sickness—which was really just all the time sickness. She had a bout of depression that accompanied really low energy, and I worried that something was wrong, but felt powerless to help.
Then, her second trimester started, and everything lifted. It seemed like overnight, I got my Serena back. Happy, wild, meditating perfection. The woman who stole my heart and still refuses to give it back—not that I want it.
NOW, AS I RUSH to the hospital, my heart is in my throat. The past year feels like a haze. The only thing I know for sure is that the baby’s coming. Finally. Everyone talks about nine months of pregnancy, but forty weeks is really nine and a half months. Coupled with the fact that this is our first, the doctors told us our baby might take its sweet time coming out.
So, here I am, nearly ten months after my wedding, about to become a father.
I haul the bag Serena prepared weeks ago full of her clothes, baby clothes, diapers, toiletries, a hair brush, underwear—everything we thought she’d need, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel, hardly seeing any of the traffic around me.
When I finally pull into the hospital parking lot, my heart is in my throat. Somehow, I manage to mumble coherently enough to be directed to Serena’s room, and I find her pacing her room with her hand on her back.
The rest is a blur. Kind yet direct nurses tell me what to do, where to stand, what to say, and I listen, unable to do anything different. It takes hours, but it feels like it takes no time at all. Serena is in pain, and I wish I could take it away. She’s so brave. So strong. I love her so fucking much.
Then, I’m a father.
My heart. My God.
Our son is born healthy and screaming, and I feel like I’m about to pass out. My fingers are numb from where Serena was squeezing them, but it doesn’t matter. The baby is put on her chest and tears stream down my face. I touch his head, taking shallow breaths, equally terrified and exhilarated.
Serena’s hand strokes the baby, her face as wet with tears as mine is. Her eyes flick to mine, and I’m not sure it’s fair to be this happy. To have so much love inside me it feels like it’s spilling out.
SERENA IS DISCHARGED about twenty-four hours later. I bring our brand-new car seat up to her room, clicking baby Robert into his seat with gentle reverence. We agreed on the name almost instantly, knowing that her twin brother is the reason we’re together. He was the one who introduced us, who encouraged us to get over ourselves and admit our feelings. He was the only one who stood by Serena’s side when she was going through hell before I met her.
I owe Robbie everything, and it makes me happy to honor that with a name—well, we dropped the ‘o’ from Roberto, but the meaning is there.
Our baby is awake when I put him in the back seat of the car, his skin so impossibly soft, his fingers so incredibly tiny. Big, brown eyes like Serena’s. Thick, black hair that they say will fall out. Apparently the baby’s eye color can still change over the next few weeks, but somehow I know it won’t. He has Serena’s eyes.
My wife slides her hand over my back, leaning a tired head on my shoulder. “Let’s go home,” she says, and I lean over to press my lips against hers. My heart still isn’t beating exactly right. It stutters when it should be steady, and sometimes it feels like it’s not beating at all. As we drive back across town, I glance in the rearview mirror every five seconds to make sure our son is okay. He sleeps peacefully all the way home.
The first week passes in a daze. Finn and Esme come over with their own baby, just a few months older than ours. I see the way Finn holds their daughter, and in his face, I recognize my own feelings. Fierce protectiveness, unwavering loyalty, and so much love it could fill the ocean twice over.
Baby Robert cries a lot. The doctors tell us six weeks is the peak of the crying, but six weeks seems so far away. Both Serena and I are so tired we can hardly see straight, the only thing keeping us going is an adrenaline-like sort of love. I don’t take the plane up during those weeks, content to do paperwork and work from home with my wife and child.
Lydia comes to stay with us for two weeks, and her help is invaluable. When I was a teenager and she was my father’s new wife, we didn’t always get along. Now, though, I don’t think I could do it without her. She knows exactly what to do with the baby, how to hold him, and gives Serena and me time to sleep and hold each other. When she leaves, Serena’s mother arrives in town, and I see Serena go through the same realization. Her mother loves us, loves the baby, and doesn’t begrudge Serena for moving away.
A baby has a way of bringing people together.
OVER THE NEXT COUPLE of years, I feel so incredibly grateful that Finn and Esme have a child, too. Their little Caitlyn and our Robert are best friends. They’re cousins, but they might as well be siblings. It feels special to share all these firsts with not only Serena, but Finn and Esme, too. It cements the bond the four of us have and drives home the fact that I never could have stayed mad at them. Never in a million years.
I may have lost my father and my mother, and thought I was alone in the world, but I was wrong. I realize it every night I drape my arm around Serena’s body. Every time our son throws his arms around my neck. Every time I see Finn and Esme with their daughter, and the same savage love in their eyes, I know I’m not alone. Never have been.
When Robert turns two years old, she lays her head on my chest and draws small circles over my skin. Glancing up at me with those big, magnetic brown eyes of hers, she gives me a tiny smile.
“What do you say we try for number two?”
In that moment, I know her fears have been banished. The grief of her first loss may never be completely gone, but it’s healing. She’s happy here, with me, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I lay a soft kiss on her full lips and nod, nuzzling my nose against hers. “The least we can do is try,” I growl. My hand slides down her curves and palms her ass as she moves to straddle me. Serena gives me a wicked, sexy grin, grinding against me as I let out a breath.
“I love you,” I say, sighing. “I love you so much, Serena.”
“Together forever,” she whispers, dropping a kiss on my lips. “You and me.”
My heart flips. I nod. “Forever.”
Wrapping my arms around her, I pull her close and give her what she wants, tangling my fingers in her thick hair and showing her just how good she makes me feel.