Nova and Mercy Bonus Scene
One year later…
The cottage we’d rented on Georgian Bay was breathtaking. After the ordeal the previous summer, Mercy had decided to sell his cabin outside of Drysdale, and I’d told my parents I wouldn’t be returning. The crystal clear water and rustic cottage on the island were a mighty fine alternative, and when I’d seen the pictures, I’d been quick to agree to a month-long getaway.
“What do you think?” Mercy asked, bouncing the keys to our new four-door Wrangler in his hand as he stood at the edge of the driveway, looking out over the bay.
“Incredible. Breathtaking. Gorgeous.”
Mercy slapped a palm against my stomach, a smile creasing his eyes as he took my jaw and redirected my attention to the water. “Not me, the view. Look at the view.”
It was hard to tear my gaze from the handsome man beside me, but I scanned the horizon, taking it all in. The setting sun was low in the sky. A wash of oranges and pinks marked the end of another day. The air was crisp and fresh, not nearly as humid as it was bound to get. I inhaled, closing my eyes.
“It’s perfect. I think I can handle this for a few weeks.”
Mercy leaned against my side, and I wrapped an arm around his shoulder, tugging him closer. A few seagulls flew in the distance, dipping and diving at the water. There were boats farther out, and a few kids climbed over the rocky shore with fishing nets over their shoulders and buckets in their hands.
The area wasn’t as secluded as the lake had been in Drysdale. There were several cabins in the vicinity. Although cell service was sketchy, we had a landline and plenty of neighbors within walking distance.
“Should we check out the cottage?” Mercy asked, lifting his head from my shoulder.
“Sure. We need to soak up as much privacy as we can before tomorrow afternoon.”
Mercy chuckled. “If you think a bunch of teenagers are going to hang out with us, you’re dead wrong.”
Cooper and Raelynn were coming up the following day, and they were both bringing friends. Cooper had insisted on driving since he’d recently passed his driving test. With access to a vehicle, he’d informed me they would have freedom to do what they wanted. There were places in the area they planned to explore, and I had the feeling we wouldn’t see much of them.
Over the past year, Cooper and Raelynn had developed a love/hate relationship. It was almost like they were siblings. Cooper still lived with his mom most of the time, but he spent plenty of days at our new place, terrorizing Raelynn and eating us out of house and home.
I wove our fingers together and tugged Mercy toward the cottage. It was built on a rise overlooking the rocky shore of the bay. The knotted pine exterior blended with the encroaching trees. Three bedrooms awaited us inside with an open kitchen, breakfast bar, spacious living area, and high, open-beamed ceiling.
It smelled of fresh-cut lumber and cinnamon that wafted from a hidden air freshener.
We took a lazy tour, peeking into each room, admiring the big windows and all the amenities available to cottage dwellers. A game cupboard, a whirlpool tub I had every intention of taking advantage of, a well-stocked kitchen, and an outdoor seating area. There was even a hot tub on the back deck, something I knew we’d end up fighting with a group of teenagers to use.
We took our time unloading the Jeep and putting things away. When we finished, we’d both found our way into the master bedroom. Mercy stood by the huge window, peering out across the bay. The sun licked the horizon.
I wrapped my arms around him from behind, resting my chin on his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go sit outside and watch the sunset. We only have a small window of time to ourselves. I want to take advantage of it.”
Mercy let me guide him outside. We wandered hand in hand to the rocky shore. Massive boulders lined the water’s edge. The kids who’d been playing there earlier were long gone. We balanced across a collection of rocks until we made it to one with a flatter surface.
“Here,” Mercy said, tugging me to sit.
“The water is so clear.”
“We should go snorkeling.”
“There’s a place we can rent paddleboats.”
“Or we could fish. We never got to fish last summer.”
We both grew quiet. The events of the previous summer were bittersweet. The trip was tainted, but in the end, it had brought our two families together. Despite everything, we’d found love at those cabins outside of Drysdale.
The last rays of sunlight danced and glimmered across the water’s surface.
Mercy leaned against my side and sighed. “This is nice.”
It was nice. The sunset, the sparkling water, the fresh air, and the man beside me couldn’t have been more perfect.
This wasn’t how I’d planned it, but I wasn’t sure there would be a more ideal moment. Plus, I wasn’t sure I could count on two mouthy teenagers to keep it a secret for much longer. They’d almost spoiled my surprise a dozen times this past month.
I encouraged Mercy to sit up as I shifted on the rock to face him. The last of the golden sunlight reflected off his hair, highlighting the various shades of blond.
He gave me a quizzical look as I rooted inside the pocket of my cargos, drawing out something from within but keeping it hidden in my palm.
I brushed a strand of his hair from his face and skated my knuckles down his cheek to his jaw. “Hey, handsome.”
He cocked a brow. “Hey. What’s up?”
I took a deep breath and wet my lips. “Do you know what today is?”
His smile was coy. “It’s the one-year anniversary of the day you sat across from me at a picnic table and told me you were the father of my worst nightmare.”
I chuckled. “Yes it is.” My humor fell away as I took in the beauty and strength of the man beside me. “It was also the day my entire life changed. I had no idea you were going to steal my heart. I had no idea how much I would love you.”
Mercy’s eyes glistened, and he blinked rapidly as he mouthed, “I love you too.”
“Every day with you has been better and better. We’ve merged our lives. We bought a house and made it a home. Our kids are… Well… they try.”
Mercy chuckled when I couldn’t find the words to articulate what I meant.
“They’re more and more like siblings every day, aren’t they?”
“They are, but I can’t say I hate it.”
I took Mercy’s hand and brushed my thumb along his palm. “I can’t imagine a life without you in it.” I placed the gold band I’d been carrying around with me for a month in his hand. “Mercedes Jordan Reed, will you do me the honor of becoming my husband?”
Mercy’s breath caught as he glanced at the ring in his hand. When he returned his focus to my face, there was no more hiding his tears.
“Are you serious?”
“I don’t joke around with marriage proposals.”
He laughed and sniffled, wiping a runaway tear as it trailed down his cheek.
“What do you think? Do you want to attach yourself to a rough and rugged construction worker with a bad habit of forgetting to wear undershirts while on vacation?”
His smile was coy as he picked up the band and fit it over his finger, admiring it. He wrapped his arms around my neck, drawing me closer until our foreheads connected. “Of course I do. Of course I’ll marry you.”
“I just might be the happiest man alive.”
“Join me inside, and I’ll make you even happier.” Mercy nipped my lips, bringing a growl to my throat.
I kissed him, savoring his flavor and everything else about this man I’d met a year ago who had changed my life.
I got a little carried away, and Mercy planted a hand on my chest, laughing when I almost succeeded in crawling on top of him.
“Inside, you brute. I’m not having sex in public. I want to avoid any and all dealings with the police on this vacation if it’s all the same.”
I chuckled. “All right. I submit.” But I kissed him one last time. “I love you.”
“And I love you, Nova.” He held my face between his palms. “I never thought I’d ever get married.”
“You like the idea?”
“I love it.”
We kissed once more. I helped Mercy to his feet, and as the sun dipped down below the horizon, we headed inside to make the perfect start to a memorable vacation.