I clasped and unclasped my hands repeatedly as I kept walking down the hall. Holy hell, where was this cafeteria? On the other side of the planet?

“Can we talk about anything other than Grams right now? It’s too heavy and hard.”

She nodded. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Us. Let’s talk about us. What was the hardest part of being apart to you?”

“The hardest thing in the world was not being able to reach out to you when I had a bad day. Or talk to you when things went well. I missed you so much, Ian, and for a long time I convinced myself my missing you was one sided. I convinced myself that you were happy and living your dreams to the fullest. I needed to do that in order to keep myself from reaching out. But I’ve written you a million messages in my notepad, updating you on things. Letting you know what was going on in my world.”

“I still want to know everything, and this time, I’m not going to let you go. We will have our forever kind of love story. The kind of love Big Paw and Grams share. I’m going to grow old with you, Hazel Stone.”

She stood there completely still, her lips parted as if she were stunned by what I’d just said. I knew it would probably take her some time to wrap her head around it all. I knew she’d need time to let it settle in, but I didn’t care.

She was going to be my happy ending, and I was going to be hers. I didn’t have plans on going anywhere anytime soon.

“Hey, you guys,” a voice said, snapping us from our conversation. We looked down the hall to see James holding a sleeping Rosie in his arms. “Holly’s awake if you want to go see her.”

“Okay.” I nodded, and before we started heading in the direction of Grams, I lightly placed my hand on Hazel’s forearm. “Just to be clear, Hazel, you’re beautiful. You’re so beautiful it makes my chest ache. I love you. Fully, hopelessly, greedily.”

Her lips parted, and a small sound escaped her. “I love you too.”

“I’m doing okay,” Grams said repeatedly as we all stood over her hospital bed. She looked so tired and weak. It broke my heart seeing her in such a state. But the nurses informed us that it was good that she was talking. Even though she wavered in and out of sleep.

“You don’t have to lie. If you’re not good, say it, and I’ll get these doctors to do their damn jobs,” Big Paw grumbled, sitting close to Grams’s bed as he held her hand in his.

Grams smirked and looked my way. “Please don’t tell me this old fart has been giving all these kind folks at this hospital hell.”

“You know Big Paw. All bark and some bite,” I joked.

“Well, I heard the nurse saying you’ve all been here all day. Go home and get some food and rest. Lord knows you’re tired.”

“I’m not leaving your side, Holly Renee,” Big Paw argued.

“Yes, you are. Go home and get some sleep. I can tell by your bags you haven’t slept in days. And take a damn shower. I could smell you from down the hall earlier,” she joked; then she had a coughing fit, making everyone alarmed. “Really, you guys. I’m in good hands here. Just go get some rest. Please. That will make me feel better. I can’t get better if I’m worrying about Harry’s health.”

He frowned and pressed his lips to her hand. “You’re too good for this world, Holly. Too good for me.”

“I know.” She smiled. “Now, go home and listen to your wife.”

“Eric and I will stay with her while you guys go get some rest,” Marcus offered.

“I’ll stay too,” James added in. The three of them were like grandsons to Grams. Of course they’d offer to watch over her.

“See, Harry? I have a slew of people looking after me. Go get some rest, and come back by morning.”

“I love—” he said, leaning in and rubbing his nose against hers.

“You,” she finished, rubbing her nose back against his.

Hazel and Rosie headed out with Big Paw and me back to Big Paw’s house. As we pulled up, Hazel took control, making sure everyone was fed and cared for and making sure Big Paw got into the shower and headed to bed. She was so good at the mothering role. It came so naturally to her—the same way it came to Grams.

We stayed in Big Paw’s guest room that night, because I didn’t want him to be left alone. The guest room had been set up with a crib for Rosie, who was now down for the night.

After I took a shower of my own, I headed back to the guest room, where Hazel was sitting at the desk, studying.

“When do you take a break?” I asked.

She snickered and yawned. “From studying or from life? Because the answer to both of those questions is never.”

“Maybe take one now?”

She looked over to me and bit her bottom lip. “Okay.”

“Meet me in my old bedroom so we can talk without waking Rosie?”

“Will do. Let me grab the baby monitor, and I’ll be right over.”

“Sounds good. And Hazel?”


“Check your Instagram.”



After Ian left my bedroom, I hurried over to my cell phone to open Instagram. My heart was flying at a million miles per hour, wondering what it was that I was supposed to be witnessing. Then I saw it. Ian’s newest post.