Mistaken Bonus Scene

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Brandon extends an elbow to me, and I try to ignore the thudding in my chest.

Is this real?

He doesn’t talk about it, but I know he doesn’t remember the small ceremony we had in the military hospital. I remember it, and it’s always been enough for me. And we haven’t really talked about it, not since everything happened.

He thinks I don’t know about how careful he is. How he’s constantly checking and rechecking to be sure we’re safe. And maybe I’ve become a little too complacent—the place we live is somewhat secluded. We have neighbors, sure, but not many and most of them keep to themselves, just like we do. But I have made a few friends, particularly with the older woman who lives next door. Of course, I don’t tell her who I am or how we came to be living in Costa Rica, but it doesn’t seem to matter much to her or to anyone else, really. Isn’t that the point of living in a place like this? We all came here to run from something—I don’t pry into their lives and they don’t pry into mine.

But a wedding… I’m not so sure it’s a great idea. Or if I need it at all.

I shift the baby in the sling closer to my other side so I can take Brandon’s elbow.

He grins down at me. “Are you ready?”

I shake my head. “No. Are you sure we need to do this?”

He nods. “I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”

My heart is still racing in my chest, and I’m not nearly as sure as he seems to be. But I can do this—I can do it for Brandon.

I look down my sleeping son. I can do it for him, too.

My lips curl into a smile and I look back up at Brandon. “Okay.”

His grin widens, and he clasps his other hand over mine. “Then off we go.”

We walk to the door and he guides me through. “Where exactly are we going?”

He shakes his head, the grin never leaving his lips. “If I told you, it would ruin the surprise.”

We walk down the stairs and around the short hedge that separates our yard from the grassy dunes behind it. It’s a familiar journey, one we take as a family nearly every day.

As we walk over the last of the steep dune that leads down to the beach, I see what he’s planned.

There are about a dozen people milling about—most of them the neighbors who live in the houses next to us and across from us. There’s also a small gazebo-like thing on the stand where one of our neighbors is standing, dressed in a suit.

“Is that…Mr. Akers?” My brows draw together. “Is he…?”

Brandon grins at me again. “He’s a retired minister. But I checked, he can still marry us.”

“But…but do we actually want to be married? I mean…won’t that draw too much attention?”

He lets out a small sigh as we draw closer to the gathered guests. “Jen, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you—”

“But…but that doesn’t mean we need a piece of paper. Besides, we already did this.” I gasp as I realize what I’ve said. “I mean…I know…maybe you don’t remember.”

“I don’t. I don’t remember, Jen. And I want to have that memory. Even if it is only a piece of paper. Even if it is only a ceremony. It means something to me. And I want to be able to remember it.” He smiles. “I love you. And being with you for the rest of my life is more than enough. But I want us to have something to be able to share together. Something real. Something that holds meaning for us both.”

“Well,” I say. “I suppose there’s no way I can say no to that.” I grin.

We walk up to the gazebo, and Mr. Akers—Father Akers—gives a little speech before the ceremony, but I barely hear it. I can’t believe I’m here. With Brandon. Surrounded by people who care about us—and without any sense of danger. It all seems so…normal. And so unusual for us.

But as soon as we say each say I do, I know it’s for real. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be—here with my husband with our baby in my arms. Together.

Our friends clap as we walk back down the aisle hand in hand. Our neighbor, Mrs. Hooper, asks if she can take the baby, but I shake my head with a smile.

Her brow furrows with confusion. “But don’t you want to go off on your honeymoon, dear?”

My grin widens. “We already have.”

And we really have. This life is my honeymoon. My fantasy.

Our forever.