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“How did he know where to find David?” Ava asked.

“We knew where they were staying because of the party invitation. I don’t know how he found out that David ran on the beach every morning.”

“Then what happened?” Mason asked gently.

“I did whatever he said. We went from the coast to that cabin that day. He didn’t trust me anymore and kept me tied up for two days. Sometimes he’d be gone for hours.”

“He killed Kaden during one of those times,” Ava said.

“Reuben had also been arguing on the phone with someone else,” Jayne said, rubbing tears from her cheeks. “Someone owed him money. And then the man showed up at the cabin.”

“Tony Schroeder,” said Mason. “He’s lucky he’s going to live. I asked him where Reuben got the guns I found under Kaden’s bed, but Tony didn’t know. He told me Reuben thought Kaden had seen something when he killed Shawn. He told Tony he was cleaning up.”

“He shot Kaden in the head and said that to his father?” Ava was stunned. “His paranoia was out of control. What does it take to do that and to kill your own brother?”

“Tony’s appearance caught Reuben off guard, and he only tied me by one hand,” said Jayne. “That’s when I called you.” Tearful eyes looked at Ava. “I made huge mistakes. Tons of them.”

Surprise filled Ava. Jayne never admitted to mistakes. “What about the baby?” she asked.

“What about it?” Jayne looked confused.

“I’ve asked her to marry me,” Brady said.

Jayne turned to him. “You know I’m not quite ready for that yet. Especially after what I just did to you,” she said earnestly.

But you’re ready for a baby?

“We’re going to live here for a while,” said Jayne. “After the baby comes, we’ll look for our own place. I think it’d be too much to do during my last trimester.”

She almost sounds responsible. Maybe the months off drugs and alcohol have helped.

“I agree with you,” said Mason. “But it will also be hard after the baby comes. Those first few months are a blur.” He caught Ava’s eye but didn’t say anything.

She frowned at him, unsure of what he was trying to tell her.

He took her hand and rubbed his thumb over her engagement ring.

Oh. My wedding attendant.

She considered Jayne as her twin spoke quietly with Brady about where they wanted to look for a home.

What have I got to lose?

“Jayne.” Ava struggled for words. Just say it. “I want you to be in our wedding.”

Jayne’s lips formed an O. “Are you sure? I’ve been so awful. And I can’t promise I won’t do anything stupid ever again.”

“You’re still my sister.” Ava hesitated. “But you have to promise to not make a scene. It’s my day,” she said firmly. She gestured at Jayne’s stomach. “Your day is coming.”

Jayne clapped her hands together. “I’m so excited. What will I wear?” She laid both hands on her belly. “I saw the most awesome formal maternity dress the other day. It was a deep red.”

Ava pictured a red dress next to her gown’s unusual shade. “No. We need to look for black.”

“Black?” Jayne grimaced. “That’s depressing. I think the dress came in purple too.”

“I’m positive it has to be black. Remember—it’s my day.”

Her twin pressed her lips together, the need to argue clear on her face. “It’s your day,” she finally admitted.

Ava took a moment to appreciate the sensation of her sister giving in. She caught Mason’s amused gaze. He knew it was a foreign feeling.



“You look amazing.”

Cheryl handed her a bouquet of white flowers, and Ava smiled at the wedding planner. The two of them were in a large airy room near the back of the winery. Sunshine spilled in through tall windows. Ava couldn’t have asked for better weather. Even the blue skies were happy on her wedding day.

It was almost time.

Family and friends were seated in rows of white chairs on the winery’s large patio, overlooking acres of grapevines and stunning views of the coast range. The winery was more beautiful than she’d dreamed it would be when she first visited the charming French château and grounds in the fall. It was a storybook setting.

“Nervous?” Cheryl asked.

Ava considered. “Not at all. Am I supposed to be?”

“Most brides are. But you are not most brides.” Cheryl raised a brow as she pointedly looked at the dress.

“I absolutely am not.” It had been impossible to find the color of dress she wanted. Wedding gowns came in almost every color, but none of them had been right. She’d finally had a dress professionally dyed. It was perfect.

“Still don’t know what to call that shade,” Cheryl said. “Silvery teal blue? Pale stormy ocean? Icy aqua sea mist?”

Ava didn’t care. It was a dreamy shade and made her happy.

She ran a hand over the bodice of the strapless gown. It was a heavily beaded corset with a peplum that flared several inches over the tulle skirt. Cheryl bent and swished the long skirt at the hem, making it lift and float into place. Dozens of layers of tulle gently draped and flowed behind her. It was ethereal, and Ava reveled in the confidence that came from wearing an incredible dress.


Ava nodded.

“I got a look at Mason. He should definitely wear a suit more often. Made me second-guess my singlehood.”

“Let’s go.”

Ava followed Cheryl down a hall and into the beautiful tasting room, which was set for the wedding dinner. Large windows lined an entire wall, and Ava saw her guests patiently waiting outside. Cheryl paused at the winery’s large iron-and-wood doors, which belonged on a regal home in France. She winked at Ava and pushed them open. Sunshine streamed in and Ava stepped out.

Her gaze went straight to Mason, standing with Ray, the pastor, and Jayne on a slightly raised platform at the edge of the patio, beautifully framed by the mountain range behind them.

Mason’s dark-brown eyes locked with hers. Ray elbowed Mason and leaned close to whisper something. Both men broke into grins, but Mason didn’t drop his eye contact.

It’d been less than two years, but she felt as if she’d known him forever. Somehow he’d always been a part of her, but that piece had been hidden until they met in person.

I sound sappy.

But it was true.

She moved down the aisle between the rows of chairs. It wasn’t a large group, and she knew every single person. A loud sigh caught her attention, and she spotted Henley, the young daughter of Mason’s ex-wife. The girl’s wide-eyed gaze said she was in love with the gown. Henley’s kidnapping had brought Mason and Ava together.

A horrible episode.

But happy results.

Mason’s son, Jake, stood by Henley. He was looking more and more like his father every day.

So many friends had come to share their day. Michael Brody and his wife, Jamie. Gianna Trask, the medical examiner, her husband, Chris, and her daughter, Violet. Chief Medical Examiner Seth Rutledge and his wife, Victoria Peres. The forensic odontologist Lacey Harper and her husband, Jack. Mercy and Truman.

Ava gave Zander a deep smile, delighted to see him happily standing next to Emily. He deserved love.

And then there was her new family. Her father, David’s, two children, their spouses, and their four children. At David’s funeral, Ava had made the decision to involve them in her life. Life was too short and too precious. Her father’s death had taught her that.

Jayne’s near-death experience had reinforced the belief. She looked to her twin, and Ava knew she’d made the right decision—to have Jayne stand up with her today.

She reached Mason, and he took her hand. “About time,” he said.

“I love you too.” She did. Wholeheartedly.

“You take my breath away,” he told her.

“I don’t think my feet are touching the ground,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re finally standing here.”

“I knew we’d make it. All of us.” Mason glanced at Ray and Jayne.

Both of them could be gone.

Ray coughed. “Didn’t know being shot was required to be an attendant today,” he whispered.

Jayne slapped a hand over her mouth, stifling her laugh.

At least we can laugh about it now.

Mason squeezed her hand. “Ready?”

“I’ve been ready for months.”

“Me too.”

Ava’s heart swelled, and she remembered her discussion with Cheryl a few weeks ago. Ava hadn’t believed a ceremony would change the love between her and Mason, but now she knew Cheryl had been absolutely right.

As the two of them stood before their friends and family, proclaiming their vows, she felt their love expand and deepen. It wasn’t logical, what she experienced around him; the happiness resonated in every cell, every nerve, every vessel in her body.

He kissed her. It was done.

Mason enveloped her in a deep hug as everyone applauded and whistled.

“Not letting you ever get away, Special Agent McLane,” he whispered.