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Doppelbanger: Epilogue

GINA (6 MONTHS LATER)

“JEFF?” I CALL out into the seemingly empty house after letting myself in with my key. Where the hell is he? He made it seem so urgent when he called and asked me to come over.

“Out here!” he shouts through the doors leading out to the back patio. I set my purse and keys on the table near the front door and follow the sound of little girl giggles out back.

“Do you wike him?” Willow asks, lifting a fluffy white puppy into her arms.

“I love him,” I say, bending to kiss the top of her head and pet the little ball of fluff. “You finally got them a puppy?” I can feel the look of confusion on my own face. Jeffrey is not an animal person. He swore he’d never allow one.

“Us,” Evangeline says, finally lifting her eyes from the cellphone that never seems to leave her hand these days. I’d bet money that she’s talking to my godson.

“I said, y’all, goober. I meant you too.”

“No, her means Charlie is for me and Vangie and you,” Willow clarifies.

“Awwww, are you going to share your puppy with me?” My eyes get a little misty. I’ve always wanted a dog, but my apartment doesn’t allow pets. “That’s so sweet of you.” I guess they figure since I’m always over here anyway, we’ll be spending a lot of time together.

“You have to move in, Gina,” Evangeline says from where she’s still perched on her chair near the wrought iron table with her feet curled beneath her legs. “Dad said it’s the only way we can keep him.”

What the hell is going on? I’m starting to feel a little ambushed and a hell of a lot of confused.

“What my daughter is so eloquently trying to say,” Jeffrey says walking over from where he’s been busily preparing our dinner at the pit. “Is we would love it. All three—”

“Four,” Willow interrupts, pointing to the puppy.

Jeff apologizes. “All four of us would love nothing more than for you to move in with us.”

My entire body starts to shake, and I can’t seem to swallow. “You’re asking me to l—live here? In this house? Like get rid of my place and stay here permanently with you?”

“Gina,” Jeff, coos, lifting my face to meet his. “I love you.”

My head starts to shake of its own accord, and warm, wet tears stream down my face. “I love you too, CEO. Goddamn it. I didn’t want to.”

“I know,” he says, laughing. “I’m just so damn charming.”

“I love them too,” I add, looking to the two little girls who’ve managed to steal my heart. “I love you both so much.”

“I wuv you too, Gigi.” My heart swells, but it’s when Evangeline sets her phone on the table and walks over, throwing her arms around my neck, that I completely fucking lose it. “I love you, Gina. Everything is so much better with you here. Please say yes.”

“Are you sure?” I ask Jeffrey, who’s looking at me like he wants to devour me.

His answer is to drop down on his knee. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh. My. God.

“If there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s not to take a single day for granted. Gina, you make me happier than I’ve been in years. I didn’t think I was capable of loving again so deeply. You burst into our lives like a bomb, when our world needed nothing more than to be shaken up.”

I can’t help but to laugh at his description.

“Tink, you breathe life into this family. If you’ll have me—if you’ll have us—we want to make you ours forever. Gina Bourque, I’m on my knees, offering you everything you’ve ever wanted. Two,” he points to the girls, “and a half,” he gestures to himself with a shrug, “kids and a white fluffy dog.”

My God, I can’t believe he remembered that conversation from all those months back.

“It’s not the Garden District, but believe me when I say this house was bought with you in mind. It has all of the same charm, with your friends and family nearby.”

“I don’t know what to say,” I stammer.

“I will devote my life to giving you everything you deserve. More love than you ever thought possible. Gina, baby, will you marry me?”

“Put him outta his misewy aweady, Gigi.”

Through a torrent of tears, I snort out a laugh, my emotions all over the place. “Yes,” I whisper, nodding my head. I cup my right hand to the side of his face, smoothing away his tears with my thumb, as he slides a beautiful antique diamond engagement ring onto my finger.

“Yes,” I repeat, a little louder. Then I throw myself into his arms, knocking him off balance, and we go tumbling into the yard. Willow decides she wants in on the pile-up, jumping right on top. Then, of course, Charlie follows suit, shaking his fluffy little butt all up in our faces.

“Get in here, Vange,” Jeff urges. “First official family hug.”

As little girls, we have big dreams. Our perfect family. The perfect life. All too often things don’t go according to plan. But if you’re lucky, like me, you just might end up with something so much better, so much bigger than anything you ever imagined.

As I lay here in the arms of the people I love, it no longer matters how we got here. All that matters is that we’ve found a home in each other, and wherever we go, whatever we do…we do it together.


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