Chapter Twenty-Two – Happily Ever After

"Ty, will you please just tell me what we're doing?" I begged, carefully navigating my way around a fallen tree branch.

He grinned at me in the growing darkness as he took my hand; his palm was warm and slick with sweat. I was beginning to worry that the exertion was too much for him. "Absolutely not," he answered, "That would ruin the surprise."

"Well I wish you would have warned me at least," I grumbled, "I didn't exactly wear shoes made for hiking."

Ty had parked his car at the bottom of a trail and we had been climbing the rough path for nearly fifteen minutes now. I was glad my blouse was sleeveless. The night was warm and sweat was beginning to bead on my forehead. Ty had left his suit jacket in the car and rolled the sleeves of his button-down shirt up to his elbows. He looked amazing in the light of the crescent moon, his tie loose and the top button of his shirt undone.

"Are you sure you're strong enough for this?" I asked him. His breathing was labored and I thought I saw him limping slightly. "Maybe you should have waited a few more weeks before trying to climb a mountain. Your physical therapy didn't exactly include hiking."

"Stop worrying," he told me as he helped me up and over a large outcropping. "I'm fine. Besides, this couldn't wait. I wanted to do it tonight."

There was a strange edge to his voice and I saw the hand I wasn't holding curl into a tight fist in his pocket. "Are you okay?" I asked.

He flashed me a smile. "Of course. Why?"

"You just seem nervous. You're not dragging me all the way out here to kill me are you?" I joked.

"Maybe," he answered lightly. "I guess you'll just have to wait to see."

His phone suddenly rang shrilly in the still night air. He quickly pulled it out. "Hello… Yeah, almost… Perfect. Did you get everything?… Uh-huh. What about the… Yeah. Okay, thanks man." He snapped the phone shut.

"What was that about?"

He looked down at me and gave my hand a squeeze. "You'll see…"

I rolled my eyes. "Fine, fine, whatever. Exactly when will I see though?"

"In about thirty seconds."

The footing had at last leveled out and, as we rounded a rocky corner, I could see the lights of the distant city laid out before us. On the cliff, facing the beautiful view, a large blanket was spread out and covered with an array of food. A large candelabra sat burning in the center of the blanket next to an ice bucket containing a bottle of wine.

My hand flew to my mouth and I looked up at Ty. He was beaming back down at me, looking extremely pleased. Without a word, he tugged me forward towards the candlelit picnic. We sat on opposite sides of the candlesticks in front of two plates already filled with food. The settings included wine glasses and two smaller plates each holding a slice of strawberry cheesecake – my favorite dessert.

"Where did you get all of this?" I asked, gesturing at the picnic spread while Ty grabbed his knife and fork and immediately set into the food.

He swallowed before answering, "Jay. He made it."

I grinned. "I tend to forget he's a gourmet."

Ty nodded and poured us each a glass of wine. I started eating; the food was delicious, but I couldn't seem to focus on it. Everything around me was just so breathtaking – the view, the stars, the moon, Ty. I caught myself staring at him several times. He caught me too.

"What?" he asked, self-consciously running his hand through his moonlit red hair.

I smiled. "Where did I go right?"

He cocked his head to one side – his familiar inquisitive look. "Huh?"

I carefully leaned across the candlesticks and kissed him gently. "I must have done something wonderful in another life to deserve you," I whispered.

He smiled and kissed me back. "I think you're confused. How much of the wine have you had?"

I laughed. "I haven't even finished my first glass, so I am perfectly coherent thank you very much."

"No," he chuckled, "You must have had more than that. Otherwise you would recognize that I'm the one who is getting much more than he deserves."

"Or much less."

He rolled his green eyes heavenward. "Oh shut up." And he kissed me again.

I sat back from him and took another sip of wine. It was much less intoxicating than he was. As I watched him take a large bite of his cheesecake, my old worries came back to me.

"Ty," I said quietly. He looked up. "Can I ask you something? And I want you to be completely honest with your answer."

"Shoot."

"Do you really want to quit Last in Line?"

He sighed and shook his head slowly. "No. I love the band. I love our music and I love performing…"

"But…?" I prodded. I could tell there was still something more he wanted to say.

"But I love you more," he answered firmly, "Much, much more. So, it's not really that hard for me to know which to choose."

"Did you ever think that maybe you don't have to choose?"

"But the band takes me all over the country. You have your job in Berkeley. I couldn't be away from you for months on end."

I looked down at my wine glass, spinning it in my hands and watching the moon reflected in the dark liquid. I hesitated before speaking, hoping I wasn't sounding too forward. "I could… come with you?" My words lilted upward at the end, making it sound like a question.

Ty smiled, but shook his head. "You shouldn't have to give up your career for me."

"Neither should you."

He didn't answer.

"To be honest," I continued with a sigh, "I never had a huge desire to go into publishing. I just picked it because it was something I was good at. I never admitted it, but… I was just trying to find something to fill my time until…"

"Until what?" he asked.

I bit my lip. I was kind of embarrassed to admit it. I hated sounding like Judy Cleaver. "Until I could have my own family," I finished.

He smirked. "Let me get this straight. You're telling me that you've only ever wanted to get married and be a stay-at-home mom?"

I gave a short sheepish laugh. "Yeah. Kinda lame, huh?"

This time, Ty was the one who leaned across the candles to kiss me. He pulled back and kissed my forehead briefly before saying, "Look in the picnic basket."

"What?"

"Look in the basket," he repeated, sitting back on his heels.

I rose to my feet and walked over to the picnic basket that sat on the edge of the blanket. Reaching in, my hand closed around something small and velvety with a rounded top. I pulled it out and found a black velvet ring box in my hand. My heart started slamming itself rapidly against my ribcage.

Holding it out in the palm of my hand, I walked back to where Ty was now standing beside the food. "What is it?" I asked breathlessly, feeling almost too frightened of the little box to even open it.

"You're supposed to open it," he answered, his hands shoved down into the depths of his pockets.

I carefully lifted the lid. The moonlight glinted off the bit of silver nestled in the black. It was a small, oval-shaped charm with my name scrawled across it in beautiful black cursive. I felt my heart drop into the pit of my stomach with a strange sense of disappointment.

"Oh," I breathed, trying not to sound my disappointment, "Thank you. It's beautiful."

"Turn it over."

I looked up at him. "What?"

"The charm," he urged, "Turn it over."

I picked up the small silver oval and looked at the other side. There were two words written there in the same writing. I tried to gasp, but the breath strangled in my throat, coming out as a squeak. There, the black cursive read:

Marry me?

I lifted my eyes, which were now filling with tears, to look at Ty. I found him in front of me on one knee, a matching black box opened in his hand. There was not a charm in this one. A beautiful diamond ring winked at me in the moonlight, the stones shimmering even more because of my tears.

"Jess," Ty said, and his voice was trembling with apprehension, "I don't want to spend another day away from you. I want you with me every day for the rest of my life… for the rest of forever. Will you marry me?"

I took several sharp, gasping breaths before I managed to speak. "Yes," I whispered, nodding, "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!"

Next I knew, Ty had leapt to his feet and was pressing me to him, crushing his mouth against mine. The box with the little silver charm slipped from my hand as I wrapped my arms around his neck and laced my fingers through his hair. His arms tightened around my waist and he lifted me off the ground, spinning me through the air, still kissing me.

When he finally pulled away, he tilted his head back and laughed at the moon. I could see tears sparkling in his own eyes. He released me momentarily to pull the ring out of the box. He cast it aside and carefully slipped the silver circle and set of sparkling stones onto the third finger of my left hand.

"You really mean it?" he asked.

"Yes," was all I could say back.


Three years later

I sat back on the couch with a deep sigh. My feet were killing me. I had no idea that they would get this bad. Link leapt up onto the couch beside me.

"No, no!" Lily cried, waving her hands at the golden retriever. "Down, Link!"

"No, it's okay," I reassured her, reaching over to scratch Link's ears. Lily was extremely protective of me these days. I gently took Link's face in my hand and placed his head against the large bump in my stomach, his floppy ear against my abdomen. "Link likes to listen to baby Andrew, don't you boy?" Link wagged his tail across the couch.

Lily smiled at me. "Okay, Mrs. Landon," she teased me; I had never gotten tired of hearing that.

Link's head jerked away from my belly as a car pulled up the long curved driveway. He jumped to the floor and skirted towards the front door. That meant it was Ty. I heaved myself to my feet, waving away Lily's efforts to help, just as the front door flew open.

Ty shrugged off his denim jacket and hung it by the door, scratched Link on the head, then headed straight for me. "There's my beautiful wife," he said with a bright smile – another word I had never gotten tired of hearing. He kissed me, then crouched down so that he was level with my large stomach. "And how's my little man?" he asked giving the swollen belly a kiss.

"Active," I groaned as he stood, placing a hand on top of my stomach, "I think we have a soccer player on our hands." Even as I said it, I felt another kick. "Here, feel." I took my husband – can you believe it? – by the hand and placed his palm against the tight skin. After a short pause, there was another strong kick.

Ty beamed at me and kissed me firmly. "I love you so much," he said, sounding breathless with excitement. You would have thought it was the first time he had felt his son kick. It wasn't. Any time I mentioned something about the baby kicking, Ty insisted on feeling it.

I smiled back at him. "One more month," I told him excitedly.

"One more month," he repeated happily.

He kissed me again.

"Thank you," I said when he pulled away.

"For what?" he asked with a laugh.

"For making me believe."

"In?"

"In fairytales."

He laughed. "Does that make me Prince Charming?"

"Maybe. I didn't think about that."

"Well if I'm not Prince Charming, then what am I?"

I smiled softly and brushed his lips with my own. I rose to my tiptoes so that I could whisper in his ear.

"You're my happily ever after."

The End


A/N- So, it's finally over. I couldn't stay away from this story when I had only one chapter left, so that's the reason for the super fast update this time. Time to step away from this series for good. I think I tied up the ends pretty well. So, yes mistress_tee, this is completely the end. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thanks so much for your reviews and I hope you check out anything else I'll come up with in the future. If you like fantasy/romance, try The Rising Sun. Thank you for all of your support!

Love Always,

E. Liz Collins