“Side by side, Nathaniel.”
He nodded. “I’m really sorry for taking this long to tell you.”
I closed my eyes, resting my forehead on his. “I’m sorry for not believing you could love me.”
“That’s over.” He tipped my head back up so I could see him. His thumbs returned to my mouth, moving under my bottom lip. “Can I unofficially propose to you now?”
Fireworks were going off in me. Sparklers, too.
I smiled at him, feeling light-headed. “What does that mean?”
“That you’ll be my partner for life and my partner in helping raise Nova? That we can have more babies? That you’ll marry me? And that I’ll propose officially later with a ring and probably your whole family and mine to be there because that’s kinda a thing with my group?”
I was nodding even before he finished. “Yes, yes, and yes. Yes to all of that.”
“Yeah?” His eyes darkened, falling to my lips.
“Yeah,” I whispered right before his mouth found mine.
There was a clicking sound.
I heard it. I felt it, and I knew what it was.
I was complete. Everything was how it should be.
Everything was right.
I had found my family, but so had Nate Nathaniel.
This was why, Q. He’s always been yours.
We celebrated Nova’s second birthday privately.
That was due to a couple of reasons. One was because of my very recent stay at the hospital and my injuries. The other reason, because this was our first birthday as a family. We wanted it private and almost sacred because that was how we felt. Nova was a miracle for both Nate and me. Having said that, we went all out.
Stuffed sloths in many sizes.
Nate ran in wearing a blow-up T-Rex costume, which was Nova’s latest obsession.
There were rainbow balloons everywhere.
Confetti thrown in the air.
The whole thing was just for the three of us.
The following month, we went all out again once my injuries were fine and the doc gave us the go-ahead to travel.
Nate decided it was time we went to Fallen Crest. I met his parents, who I’d been nervous about meeting, but was surprised. His mom gave me a hippie vibe, which Nate said was a part of her new transition in life. His father was reserved but warm. Both parents were transfixed with Nova. They were almost literally wrapped around her finger from the start.
His mom wouldn’t stop holding Nova’s little finger. She followed her everywhere, and Nova enjoyed telling her grandmother everything they encountered in the house. His dad, who was Gah-pa, sat on the couch with her in the evenings. She crawled all over him, plopping in his lap, crawling around his neck, trying to sit on top of his head a few times. I was pretty certain Nova was attempting to impersonate a cat, and by the time we left their house, it wasn’t their house. It was Nova’s house. Stuffed animals were in every single room, piled up in the corner and placed in baskets. I finally met Miss Sandy, and she fell in love with Nova as well. This was becoming the norm.
You are now owned by Nova.
It was the pattern.
Miss Sandy fussed over Nova, getting her food ready for her. She would’ve done everything for her, if I had allowed it, but I was firm. Bathtime was my time—well, mine and Nate’s.
After Fallen Crest, we went to Boston.
Nate had shared a house with Logan, so we stayed there, but there was a lot of time spent at Samantha and Mason’s home. There were many story nights and laughter. Lots of laughter. Nova loved Maddie, Sam and Mason’s eldest, who was practicing her babysitting skills. She did magnificently, and both Mason and Logan commented this was a new side to Maddie. She was very gentle with Nova. Sam explained that Maddie was not usually gentle. She was the personification of her father and her uncle in a little girl’s body. Everyone laughed at that description.
“Have you and Nate talked about the future at all?” Sam asked me as we went on a walk one of those evenings. It was just the two of us and a German Shepherd they’d recently rescued. Sam introduced her as Gagely, who was pulling on the leash, trying to memorize every smell in the world.
I shook my head. “We talked about it in terms of where we’re a family. We know that, and I know he misses being here with you guys.”
She cast me a look, Gagely still pulling on the leash. She made a tsking sound, and Gagely reacted, falling in line next to her side. “I have a feeling that Logan is going to move wherever you and Nate settle down.”
She went back to watching their dog, who looked in love with Samantha. I couldn’t read her expression. She had closed down a bit after sharing that.
I felt a pang.
I didn’t want to pull Logan away from these two, but I also knew Nate and I would do what we needed to do for our family. I wasn’t dancing at the moment, and I hadn’t made a decision about what I wanted for the future.
I thought I’d miss dancing, but I was surprised at how much I didn’t. I was content at the moment.
As for Nate, he had investments all over. He could travel, or he could not. But my family was in Seattle, and there’d been growth that I didn’t want to halt by moving away.
Calihan was coming to terms with me being in the family more, though that was heeded dramatically and a lot quicker because Nova was attached with me. As for Stephanie and me, that was a mixed bag. I knew there was a lot of emotional work I needed to do because my relationship with my mother wasn’t an easy one. It was filled with so many thorns put in place by Duke, and while I felt guilty about that and so much shame, I also needed to realize that I couldn’t blame myself for what my father did. But she and I would be good, and it was starting, and I was excited. It was a new feeling for me, letting my mother love me and realizing that love had always been there, just waiting for me.
I blinked a few tears away, thinking about it now.
I shared with Samantha, “I think I need to be in Seattle for a while. There’s a lot of healing that is just starting.”
She looked over, studying me for a moment in silence before saying softly, “I’m gathering that.” A beat later, she continued, “Mason’s contract is up for negotiations not long from now.”