“I know so. We’ll figure out all the details down the road, but enough about all of these things,” I said, smiling as I stood. “We need to get to Thanksgiving dinner before Big Paw chews both of us out. You’ll start next Monday.”
Her eyes filled with tears as I pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you, Hazel.”
“I love you, Mama, and I’m so proud of the work you’ve done to turn your life around.”
“You’re going to make a great mother,” she commented, placing her hands against my growing belly. I was mere weeks away from delivering my first child, and needless to say, I was terrified.
I wasn’t even supposed to be working anymore, seeing as how the doctors had put me on bed rest, but I couldn’t let anyone else interview Mama. Even though I said she wouldn’t get special treatment, I knew she was going to get special treatment.
Family perks and all.
Since Rosie had been born, she’d lived with Ian and me, but once Mama had gotten herself together, she’d moved in with us too. I knew it was important for her and Rosie to form a connection as soon as possible. She might not have been able to be there for Rosie in her beginning stages, but Mama had every hope she would be there until the very end. Even Garrett was stopping by every now and again to visit Rosie. He’d never seen himself as a father figure, and he thought it was best that Rosie not see him in that role, but that little girl loved crawling all over Garrett, and she loved calling him her friend.
We walked over to the barn house—well, Mama walked; I waddled—where Thanksgiving dinner was taking place, and I smiled as I saw the room packed with people. It was my second year being in charge of the Thanksgiving feast, and I was so thankful for the townspeople helping me with creating a magical event. I hoped Grams was watching from the heavens above, smiling ear to ear at how it had all turned out.
She’d passed away a little over a year ago, but those last few years of her life had been lived to the fullest. She and Big Paw had finally taken time away from work and spent Grams’s last days loving each other fully.
Big Paw had struggled with it for quite some time, but he had his lucky star, Rosie, to keep him on his toes. I swore he smiled so much due to my sister, and he called her the reason he was still around.
“She can’t be getting in the mischief all by her lonesome. She needs me to make some trouble with her too,” he’d told me.
Even though Grams had passed away, Big Paw still left the front porch light on so her spirit could always find her way home to him every morning and night.
“Mama! Mama!” Rosie yelled, hurrying over to our sides. She tugged on Mama’s arm. “Mama, our seats are over here. Come on! Before Big Paw eats all the pie!”
“I ain’t going to eat all the pie, you tattletale!” Big Paw yipped, shooting Rosie a sharp glare.
Rosie stuck her tongue out at him, and he stuck his out at her. Then she rushed over to him and pulled him into a hug, and he kissed her forehead. That summed up their connection perfectly.
Mama hurried over to join Rosie and Big Paw. Seeing Mama with Rosie felt like a gift for us all. She was finally clean and clearheaded enough to be the mother Rosie deserved, and I was more than happy to slip into the sisterly role.
Besides, I had my own bundle of joy coming my way sooner than later.
“Ready for some heartburn?”
Two arms wrapped around me from the back, and I snuggled in as I felt Ian’s body against mine.
“Oh yes. Bring on the bad foods and the antacid,” I joked.
He turned me around to face him, and he kissed my forehead and then my belly. If there was anyone more excited than me about my pregnancy, it was Ian. He was already going to be the father of the century based on how he cared for me and our child.
Each night, even when he was traveling, he’d have me place my phone against my stomach so he could sing the baby lullabies.
I hadn’t known I could love him more each day.
“Everything’s going to change once she comes, isn’t it?” I asked, snuggling up against him.
“In ways, but we’ll still always have this,” he said, gesturing around. “We’ll have our dirt roads, our ranch, and our happiness forever. And we’ll have each other forever. We’re just adding a little more love to our song, and I couldn’t have wished for anything more.”
I couldn’t wait for our bundle of joy to join us.
Holly Renee Parker—she’d be named after our favorite angel.
Ian brushed his lips against mine and kissed me gently. “I love you, darling.”
“I love you too, best friend. Forever.”
First and foremost, thank you to each and every reader who took the time to read Ian and Hazel’s story. I hope they made you smile as much as they made my heart soar. Without all of you readers, I am just a girl with words written down on paper. You are the reason those words take flight.
Next up is my amazing team over at Montlake Publishing. Without the amazing support from my editors, Alison and Holly, this book wouldn’t be the magic that it is today. Thank you for all of the hard work and dedication you’ve given to this project. To the amazing team that helped shape this story—from the cover designers to the copyeditors—THANK YOU! To the publicists and the social media teams, THANK YOU! The team over at Montlake goes above and beyond to make our author dreams come true, and I cannot adequately express my gratitude.