“Go, Jack!” I shout, throwing my arms in the air.
Number 28 passes it to Jack as he skates into the right wing, and two seconds later, he scores the winning goal against the Wolves.
“Woo!” Alec shouts with his arms wrapped around my waist.
The rest of the New York Nighthawks erupt in cheers and hoots for Jack and the Warriors, Jack’s hockey team.
Char and Josh couldn’t make it; they had to deal with some plumbing issues at their apartment. They don’t live in Duluth anymore. They decided to brave the long move to New York. They still live together, and they have a gorgeous apartment in the city. Char found a new club to work at even though Reed insists on paying for everything. Char lets him occasionally but only when she feels the need to be spoiled.
Josh was excited to get out of Duluth. He lit up when Alec and I told him about the move. I think he might have stayed all that time in Duluth just for Charlotte and me.
Jack’s team barrels into him, and the coach claps proudly from the bench.
Jack started playing for the Warriors once we moved in with Alec in New York. Jack has never seemed happier. He even has a boyfriend, and his name is Ethan. It must be something about those E named boys. I laugh to myself.
Ethan is sitting next to Alec, asking all the questions about hockey and how it works. Alec is lapping it up, and I’m so thankful that he has never once made Jack or Ethan feel anything less than acceptance and pride. I turn to look behind me and smile at Ethan’s parents, who are lost, watching the game.
Jack introduced us to Ethan at his last parent-teacher conference. Thankfully, Ethan’s parents are as supportive of their relationship as we are.
Jack never really came out per say, but he didn’t exactly need to. I have always told him that it is okay to love who you love shamelessly. So, when he came home from school and told us all about Ethan, we were thrilled he felt comfortable to share with us fearlessly.
Of course, after the game—and occasionally during—Alec and his teammates get ambushed for autographs and pictures. But that has just become our new normal. After the wave of press, we say our good-bye to Ethan and his parents.
The Nighthawks have been Jack’s biggest fans at his games. The new coach has even made it to one. When the owner, Jameson Havemeyer, found out what the old coach had pulled—threatening Alec’s professional career over his personal affairs—he was let go. I was impressed.
And now, I get to call Mr. Havemeyer my boss. After I graduated with my bachelor’s, Mr. Havemeyer gave me a call, offering me the position of marketing director for the Nighthawks. He said he saw my marketing campaign with The Crooked Spine and was very impressed with my innovation and creativity.
I get to work from my laptop, which is the greatest thing. I have an official office at the arena, but I’m hardly ever in it. Between Alec’s schedule, Jack’s schedule, and my own, I normally get most of my work done next to the ice.
My flexible schedule also allows us to travel back to Duluth to visit my mom. We are catching a flight today, headed to see her. After his game, we quickly load up and before I know it, we are pulling into the airport.
The driver slows to a stop, and we hurry out, already late for our flight. We grab our luggage and take off running to get through security as fast as possible.
Luckily, the line moves very fast, and before we know it, we are handing our carry-ons to the flight attendants and boarding the plane.
We’ve traveled back home about once every other month since the move. It’s nice for Jack to visit Mom, and I miss her all the time. So, any trip we make never seems like enough. Alec normally distracts Jack enough to give me a few minutes alone with her. We’ve never used words to communicate this, and we’ve never needed to. Alec just knows.
This trip will be a quick one; we are only going to be there for the night. Alec’s next game is tomorrow night, and we have to get on our flight back at six a.m.
I offered to change our tickets, but Alec wouldn’t budge. Even though this seemed like a lot more work for him for no reason. But I gave in and stopped pushing it because I get to visit my mom again.
Thankfully, the flight goes smoothly, and when we land, it’s only four o’clock. Plenty of time for dinner and a good visit with Mom.
Alec leads our aisle out of the plane, and we grab our carry-ons as we exit. When we get out of the secured area, a man is waiting with a sign for Kostelecky along with a plethora of paparazzi.
You’d think I’d get used to the drivers and the cameras, but sometimes, it still catches me by surprise that this is our life. We follow the driver to the limo, and when we get inside, Alec pours me a glass of champagne.
“Are we celebrating?” I ask him, taking the glass.
He squints his eyes at me. “Of course. Jack just had the game-winning shot.” He fist-bumps Jack.
I reach over and squeeze his knee, pride coursing through me. It wasn’t too long ago that he was getting fitted for skates for the very first time.
He’s learning so fast, no doubt due to the intense training schedule that Alec and his trainer created. But Jack seems serious. This is what he wants—to play hockey for life. So, we will make sure we give him everything he needs to get there.
A glass, or two, or three later, we are pulling to a stop. The driver opens the door, and I instantly look at him, confusion flooding me.
“Um, sir, this is not the cemetery.” I glance back to Alec, who does not seem surprised in the least at our change of destination.
He just smirks and turns to the driver. “Thanks, Tom. Give us twenty.”
“Alec, what are you—”
Alec’s hand clamps over my mouth. “Shh. For once in your life, no questions.”
I roll my eyes at him but give him what he wants. The driver follows Alec’s unspoken orders and leads Jack inside to get some food.
When I turn back to Alec, he is pulling something out of his pocket, a folded up envelope.
“Now that we have the same address, I can’t really sneak it into your mailbox.” He hands me the folded in half envelope and my heart swells.
My cheeks burn as I ask, “Is-is this a letter? Like our old letters?”
He nods. “Read it, please.”
I lick my lips and carefully remove the letter and set the envelope on the seat next to me.
I have loved you for what feels like my entire life. I fell in love with you when I was sixteen years old.
And I don’t know what happened to the last letter you wrote me all those years ago, maybe the mailman stole it, or the mailbox blew open and the wind took it, we’ll never know. I wish I could have that time back with you, with Jack. But who knows, maybe we wouldn’t be where we are today if I ever got that letter. If I didn’t move across the country, I would have watched your stomach grow with Jack inside and I would have known that you were pregnant and I would have convinced you to be with me again. There are so many what if’s that have run through my mind.
But I don’t care about what if’s anymore, Lu, because we’re together again and that’s all that matters to me. I get to watch Jack grow and fall in love with hockey. I get to watch him love you, I get to see how he looks at you when you don’t even know he’s watching. I get to hold you in my arms every single night, I get to love you every single day. We may have lost some time together early on, but I choose to be with you, to love you every day. And that will never change, my love for you will never waiver. Because, Lu, I fell for you the day you were pushed off those steps and into my arms, and I’ve never stopped.
I love you when you’re sad, when you’re mad, when you’re scared. I love you when you love Jack. I love you when you love me. I love you in the hot summer days. I love you in every scenario, in every way.
And I will love you, even in the storm and even in the rain.
Tears roll down my check as I fold the letter up and set it on top of the envelope.
My love for him swells in my chest and I throw my arms around him, squeezing as hard as I can.
With my face pressed into his chest, I say, “I love you.”
His hands grab my waist and he pulls me into his lap, “I love you too, Clumsy.”
I adjust in his lap and he pushes his hips up, rolling against me.
I smirk, “Well, you said twenty-minutes right? We have to have at least fifteen of that left.”
Alec looks at me with a look in his eyes that I have come to know oh-so well. His hand fists into my hair and he pulls me to him as our lips crash together.
He pulls away just to watch my lips part as he slides my skirt up my legs, a devilish smile dancing on his full lips.
“Laura Young, what am I going to do with you?” Alec teases as his lips and tongue find that sweet spot on the base of my neck.
Alec’s fingers graze my entrance and then quickly slip inside, taking me by surprise. He begins pumping in and out furiously, and my hands grip the seat tight to keep my hips from bucking.
Alec pulls his torturous kiss from my neck, and with his free hand, he turns my face to his, our lips inches apart. “You are so wet and ready for me.”
His fingertips lift up, hitting all new nerves inside me.
“Always.” The word falls breathlessly and desperately out of my mouth.
“Good girl.” Alec’s fingers pull out, and in one swift movement, I’m straddling his lap, holding myself up by his shoulders.
He hastily undoes his belt and shimmies his pants down past his rock-hard erection.
I lick my lips at the sight, craving to feel him again.
He lines his tip up with my entrance and with impeccable control, his hands grab my hips, and he slowly lowers me onto him, gradually filling me inch by inch.
Alec’s voice is deep and chock-full of unbridled need as he asks, “Are you ready?”
He throbs inside me, and I moan, “Yes. Please yes.”
His hands on my hips lift me up slightly, allowing a few inches of space between us with his full erection still inside me.
The anticipation builds when he doesn’t immediately take control.
Alec’s voice calls to every cell in my body. “Look at me and don’t ever stop.”
And with that, his control snaps. His hands slam my hips down, and he lifts me back up. But this time, he doesn’t pull me down; he thrusts up.
And with each thrust, he gets harder and faster. Within minutes, I’m close to the edge, and as my name drifts from his panting lips, we dive into pleasure together.
After a few moments of calm and coming back to reality, Alec says, “Come on. I have something to show you.”
I let him take my hand and lead me around Al’s Barbecue to the small pond we grew up skating on. The pond where we shared our first kiss.
We round the corner, and two pairs of skates sit on the bench on the edge of the frozen pond.
Alec grabs the smaller pair and hands them to me. “Here, put these on.”
I hesitate wondering where in the hell these came from. But Alec seems to always have a trick up his sleeve. So I don’t say a word as I grab the skates and quickly lace up. Alec does the same.
“You ready?” he asks, offering me his hand.
I accept it, and we glide onto the ice, skating hand in hand. Just like we did years ago.
“Do you remember the first time we came here?” he asks, twirling me under his arm.
My heart warms at the memory of one of our first dates. “Of course. It was great until we raced, and I fell and broke my ass.”
He laughs. “You didn’t actually break your ass.”
“Well, it felt like I did.” I nudge his arm, skating into him.
He reciprocates. “Okay, well, now that you’re basically a pro, let’s try again.”
He turns around and finds his place next to me.
Competition ignites in my veins. I know I won’t beat him, but I might be able to trip him and win. I laugh to myself at my scheming tactics.
Alec grabs my hand and spins me around, pulling me against his chest. His fingers brush my hair out of my face, and my heart skips a beat as he leans down and kisses me.
“Not fair!” I shout at him, knowing he’s just trying to fluster me. I retake my spot by his side.
“You ready? From here to the edge.” He nods across the small pond.
I crack my neck. “Ready.”
He counts down. “Three, two, one, go!”
I take off, digging the blades into the ice. He’s in my peripheral vision, but I think I’m slightly ahead. Only five more feet to go.
I drop my focus on Alec and give the last few feet everything I have before quickly stopping, reaching the edge.
Holy shit, I won!
I spin around to rub it in his face, and all air huffs out of my lungs. My hands fly to my mouth, which has dropped open. And my eyes become blurry from the tears welling as I look down to Alec on one knee with a black velvet box in his hand.
His smile is so big as he speaks, emotion thick in his voice. “Laura, the first day I brought you to this pond, I told myself, I’m going to marry that girl one day. We got lost somewhere along the way, but you were brought back to me with the best gift the universe could have ever given me—Jack. Through a lost letter and years apart, I never stopped loving you. That day that I saw you at Fireflies, I vowed I wouldn’t let you go again. And I will uphold that vow for the rest of our lives. There has never been anyone other than you, Lu.”
He lifts the lid of the box, showing an elegant ring with one large diamond and a plain platinum band. “Will you marry me?”
Nothing could have prepared me for the heartache I faced this last year. And nothing could have prepared me for the love that I found again. But that’s the beauty of life. It’s messy, and it’s hard, but if you have someone special by your side, nothing else matters.
I fall to my knees, taking Alec’s hands in mine. “Of course. Of course I’ll marry you.”
He takes the ring out of the box and slides it onto my left ring finger, and it’s a perfect fit.
He throws the velvet box on the ice and grabs my face, his hands sliding around my jaw. He brings my lips to his, sealing our fate.
All of a sudden, I hear cheers coming toward us. I turn and see Charlotte, Josh, and Jack carefully running our way.
Plumbing issues, my ass. I laugh.
They slide into us, wrapping their arms around us. And in that moment, I feel like I just scored the game-winning shot.
A raindrop hits my cheek, and I look up just in time to see the sky split, rain pouring down on us.
And in that moment, I can’t help but think, Those are my mom’s tears of joy, her way of letting us know she’s right here. She always has been and always will be.