Things We Never Got Over

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Bonus Epilogue

Five Years Later


Knox


With an abundance of caution, I handed the bundle over to Waylay on the porch and dug out the keys from my front pocket.


She grinned down at the tiny face and long lashes, then back up at me.


“You guys did good,” she said.


She was seventeen now, and I had heart palpitations every time I thought about her leaving us for college in a year. I wasn’t ready. But I knew from the look on her face that she’d be making more trips home than she’d originally planned to be with her sisters.


Sisters.


I watched my wife sway from side to side in one of those long, flowing sundresses that still managed to drive me crazy. I made sure she had a closet full of them.


The toddler on her hip had her thumb in her mouth, eyelids growing heavy.


Naomi’s smile was soft, content, and it was focused on me.


In that moment, I felt it all. Love for the woman who brought me back to life. Who gave me a reason to wake up every morning with a smile. Who loved me enough to smooth out my rough edges.


We’d been through the wringer in the beginning, and then again when building that big family didn’t work out the way we’d planned. But we faced it the way we did everything. Together.


Now, here we stood with our three daughters. Two of whom were the biggest secret we’d ever kept. After years of preparing, the adoption dropped into our laps.


We hadn’t even had time to get their rooms ready when the call came. Three-year-old Bridget and her brand-new baby sister, Gillian.


Sliding my palm over my wife’s cheek, I cupped the back of her neck and pulled her closer. I kissed her forehead, then brushed my lips over our daughter’s hair.


“Mom and Dad and Liza are going to be beside themselves,” Naomi predicted as I fit the key into the lock. “I wish there was a way we could tell them all at once.”


For a second, I wished fiercely that my own mother could have met her grandkids. That she could see how her sons had grown up and the women we’d chosen. But loss was part of love.


“How many seconds are you going to wait before you get on the phone?” I teased.


“As many seconds as it takes for me to pee, get Bridget a snack, and make Gilly a bottle.”


“Snack!” My daughter was suddenly wide awake.


“Listen. About that,” Waylay said, her grin a little sheepish.


“What did you do, Way?” I demanded.


“I didn’t tell anyone anything specific,” she said. “But I did tell them we had big news to share today.”


On cue, the front door was wrenched open from the inside.


“Your father and I have been climbing the walls all day,” Amanda announced, hands on hips. I spotted Lou in the living room, watching TV with Nash and Lucian.


“Just your mother. I’ve been very calm,” Lou yelled.


“What’s this big news?” Stef asked, coming up behind my mother-in-law.


“Yeah? Why all the secrecy?” my brother’s wife wanted to know.


“Did you bring dinner?” my grandmother demanded, appearing next to them.


“Is this about Waylay’s soccer scholarship?” Wraith asked. No matter how long it went on, I still couldn’t get used to the biker dating my grandmother. Even though they seemed to make each other deliriously happy.


“Uh, guys,” Jeremiah said, squeezing Stef’s shoulder.


Sloane peeked over Amanda’s shoulder as I stepped aside. “Look,” she breathed.


Amanda noticed first. Her scream of joy brought Lou, Nash, and Lucian tearing out of the den, looking for a threat. It also woke the baby, who was not pleased about being screamed awake.


Fi came trundling out of the kitchen.


“What the hell is all the screaming—” She cut herself off with a blood-curdling scream of her own.


“Babies!” Amanda sobbed as Waylay handed over the crying Gillian to her. “We have babies!”


“Come to Grandpa,” Lou said, holding his hands out to Bridget. “I promise I’ll always have candy for you.” She balked shyly for a moment, but the word candy worked its magic, and she reached for him.


If I wasn’t mistaken, my father-in-law had to choke back a sob of his own.


“Look how perfect she is,” Amanda said to Sloane as she tickled the baby’s tiny fingers.


“Now, I get why you were texting me with all those girl hair questions,” Jeremiah said with a grin.


I’d been pumping him for the best products and styling techniques because my daughters were going to have the best hair in Knockemout.


Waylay’s boyfriend, Theo, stepped forward and pulled her into his side. I glared at him, but it didn’t have the heat it usually did. “Theo,” I said.


“Mr. Morgan,” he said.


I was definitely losing my touch because he didn’t drop his arm from my daughter’s shoulders.


Naomi elbowed me in the ribs.


“Dad, behave,” Waylay said, rolling her eyes.


Liza was holding Gillian now, and Nash was juggling Bridget, making her belly laugh.


“Well, I think this calls for pizza,” Amanda decided. “Lucian, you order it. Lou, go get Knox’s measuring tape.”


“What for?” Lou asked.


“You and the menfolk are going to go measure the girls’ bedrooms so we can get started on the nurseries. Ladies, to the wine cabinet. We have colors and themes to pick, daycares to research, and shopping lists to make,” Amanda ordered.


“I’m going with the womenfolk,” Stef decided. He paused and gave Jeremiah a kiss on the mouth.


“Save me a glass,” his husband called after him.


Naomi gave me a squeeze around the waist. “I love you, Knox Morgan,” she whispered.


I never got tired of hearing it.


“Love you, baby.” She slipped out of my grasp, and I watched her follow the women into the dining room, her dress flowing around her ankles.


“You did good, Knoxy,” Lina said, lingering in the foyer.


I hugged her hard. “You’re the one with twins,” I reminded her.


“Who are napping in Way’s room right now. Don’t let me forget them.”


A new generation under this roof and our family finally felt complete.


There was a knock on the open door behind me.


“Dad.”


“Am I intruding?” He looked good. Healthy. Steady. All of which still managed to surprise me every time I saw him.


John Wayne Morgan was now three years sober. He lived in D.C. with his girlfriend and their two rescue cats. He worked as a very effective fundraiser for Hannah’s Place, which had expanded with locations in downtown D.C. and Maryland.


“Waylay texted. Told me you had some big news. I can come back when you’re not busy,” he offered.


“Dad,” Nash put down the ladder he was hauling for God knows what reasons and greeted him with a back-slapping hug. I wasn’t quite there yet with our father. But every visit, every call, every unbroken promise brought us a millimeter closer.


“You’re just in time to meet your new granddaughters,” I told him.


Dad’s face brightened. “Granddaughters.”


“The agency called three days ago and said we had two little girls ready to join the family,” I explained. “We didn’t want to tell anyone until we got them home.”


“Granddaughters,” he said again in wonder, like he felt like the luckiest man in the world. I felt another millimeter between us disappear.


“Come on in,” I said, laying my hand on his shoulder and guiding him into the estrogen-filled war room where Amanda and Liza had paint samples and every available laptop and tablet spread out on the table.


Sloane was feeding the baby a bottle while Bridget sat in the center of the table, eating a bowl of cut-up grapes. My daughters were surrounded with love and strong, smart women.


“Duke! I’m so glad you could make it,” Amanda said, getting up to press a kiss to Dad’s cheek. “Come meet your new girls!”


My father was absorbed into the circle of women and Stef.


I felt hands on my belt, and then Naomi was towing me out of the room backwards.


“Where are you taking me?” I asked, amused.


She released my belt and took me by the hand, leading me into the living room, where our wedding portrait hung above the fireplace. It still hit me in the chest every time I looked at it. Naomi—breathtaking and blushing in her gown, the daisies woven into her hair like a crown. She had her arm around Waylay, who had insisted on a floor-length lemon-yellow gown and daisies of her own. They both were laughing. As for me? I looked pretty damn good in my suit. And pretty damn happy as I looked after my wife and daughter.


“I know life is going to be absolutely insane for the next few years,” Naomi said, cupping my face in her hands. “I know we’re going to be exhausted and overworked and scared to death most if not all of the time. But I also know that none of this would be happening if it weren’t for you.”


“Baby, I’m not gonna be able to handle it if you lose it right here,” I warned her.


One upside of infertility issues was that I didn’t have to watch my wife suffer through pregnancy hormones. I’d have handled her tears, but probably not well.


“I’m not going to cry,” she said.


My wife was a dirty liar because I could already see the sheen gathering in those hazel eyes I loved so damn much.


“But I am going to tell you that you make every day the best one of my life. That I’ll never stop being grateful that you—”


“Got my head out of my ass?” I suggested.


She shook her head. “That you decided Way and I were worth it. Thank you for this life, Knox Morgan. There’s no one else who would make such an adventure out of giving me everything I ever wanted.”


Somehow, she’d done it again. It always surprised me when Naomi found another broken piece in me and made it whole again.


“I love you, Knox. And I’m never going to stop being grateful for everything you are and all that you’ve done.”


My throat was feeling awfully tight. And there was a burning sensation at the back of my eyes that I didn’t much care for.


I grabbed Naomi and pulled her into me, burying my face in her hair.


“I love you,” I rasped.


The words weren’t enough. They didn’t come close to the feeling I had in my chest when I woke up to her cuddled up next to me, safe and sleeping. They didn’t do justice to what I felt when she walked into a room and brought the sunshine with her. And they sure as hell didn’t hold a candle to the way I felt when she looked me in the eye and told me I’d given her everything she wanted.


I decided I’d spend the rest of my life making sure I showed her how I felt since I couldn’t tell her.