My heart squeezes painfully as I stare at my brother on the stand, the judge passing a life sentence, his punishment the same as Jade’s and my father’s.
Their trial took almost four whole years, and they nearly got away with what they did—until Alec revealed the last judge’s corruption, and a new judge was assigned, putting us back at square one. My mother’s case was practically unheard of, and that delayed their judgment even longer than I would’ve liked, but it didn’t prevent it.
I glance at my husband, my heart overflowing with gratitude. Without him, my family would have gone unpunished. My mother would have died.
And I? I’d have lost my reason to live.
He looks at me as though he can read my mind and wraps his arm around my shoulder, offering me silent support. I drop my head to his shoulder, a bittersweet smile on my face.
Mom grabs my hand and squeezes tightly, her eyes on Matthew. He’s led away, and I don’t see an ounce of remorse in his eyes. There wasn’t any in my father’s eyes either.
Part of me was hoping that maybe, just maybe, my father was innocent in this. Maybe he just didn’t realize what Matthew and Jade were up to.
Naive till the end, I guess.
My mother’s old doctor testified that my father was the one that instructed him to keep her in a coma. Since the payments were all traced back to Rousseau corporate accounts, I assumed it was all Matthew, but it wasn’t. Matthew and Jade might have caused the accident, but it was my father that left her in the state she was in for so many years.
“Come on,” I tell Mom. These trials have done more damage to my mother than her coma did. She’s heartbroken. Every testimony she heard tore her apart, over and over again. I hold her hand as we walk out, and the way she trembles pains me to no end. “It’s over now, Mom.”
She nods, forcing a smile onto her face. Alec glances at her, the concern I’m feeling reflected in his eyes. He holds the car door open for her, and Mom smiles at him.
“Shall I take you home?” he asks.
“No,” she says, shaking her head. “Your mother is expecting me to join for lunch. You know what she’s like. She’ll just worry if I don’t show up. Besides, she’ll make me feel better.”
Alec nods and opens the passenger door for me. He buckles me in, his touch lingering, like it always does. The way he looks at me brings a smile to my face. It’s been almost a year since our wedding ceremony, but he still makes me feel giddy.
Alec holds my hand as we walk into the restaurant, and Sofia and Lucian rise from their seats, their eyes on my mother. Mom smiles, and the relief in their eyes is instant.
All eyes are on Mom as we sit down, and she’s visibly uncomfortable.
Alec wraps his arm around the back of my chair and clears his throat. “So, I think Elena and I won’t make it for our family trip,” he says, instantly agitating both women. “I want to go on a second honeymoon.”
They glare at him, both of them crossing their arms over their chest. “You went on a honeymoon last year! You promised us that we’d do a family trip together.”
Alec nods and glances at the two of them. “Yeah, but you two can’t even decide where to go, so Elena and I aren’t going at all.”
Our moms look at each other and immediately start to bicker about the location of our family trip.
Alec winks at me and leans in to kiss me, his lips lingering on mine. “Thank you,” I whisper against his lips, grateful he managed to draw attention away from my mother.
“You can thank me in bed,” he says, and I laugh.
“Come to think of it,” Sofia says, straightening. “It’s about time that we add to our family, just in time for our family holiday.”
She reaches for her bag, her eyes on Lucian. Alec’s grip on me tightens when she takes out a manila folder, and Luce blanches, pure devastation filling his eyes. I raise my brows, confused.
Sofia pushes the folder toward Lucian, and he takes it with shaking hands. “It’s about time you get married too. Your brother is so happily married,” she says, glancing at us. “I want that for you too. I want you to have everything that I never had.”
Lucian closes his eyes, and the despair he emits goes straight to my heart. I place my hand on Alec’s thigh, indicating for him to do something, and he straightens.
“Mom,” Alec says. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Lucian is still quite young. There’s no need to rush into it. Besides, Grandpa abolished his marriage requirement, so Luce doesn’t need to marry if he doesn’t want to.”
She smiles at him and shakes her head before looking at Lucian pointedly. “Open it.”
“Mom,” Lucian says, his voice breaking. “I—”
He shakes his head, swallowing down his words, and instead, he opens the folder.
Lucian glances at the contents and then buries his face in his hands, visibly emotional, but Sofia smiles.
I glance over at the folder, shocked to find only one single thing in it. A photo of Elliot.
Lucian inhales deeply, trembling, and then he smiles. He looks at his mother with such gratefulness that it brings tears to my eyes.
“Lucian, I can’t think of a better son-in-law than Elliot. Don’t you think it’s about time that you formally introduce him to me? I promise I won’t scare him off with marriage talks just yet, but for now he’s the only candidate in my folder.”
Lucian smiles even as he blinks back tears. I can’t imagine how much of a relief this must be to him. He’s been wanting to tell her for over a year but just didn’t know how.
“I love you, Mom.”
She smiles at him and grabs his hand over the table. “I love you too, sweetheart.”
Alec gently brushes my hair behind my ear and Lucian grins at me. “Elena,” Luce says. “I’m so happy right now… I think now would be the perfect time to make Mom just as happy. Both our moms, actually.”
Alec kisses my shoulder and nods, a pleased smile on his face. I grin nervously as I reach into my bag, taking out two identical envelopes. I’ve been carrying them everywhere with me, waiting for the perfect time. So far, we’ve only told Lucian, and only because he was ready to call an ambulance last week when I spent an entire morning throwing up.
“Today does seem to be a day of new beginnings,” I say, smiling at Alec. I push both envelopes toward our mothers, and they both pick them up at the same time. They open their presents, and Mom starts to cry, while Sofia tries her best to blink back her tears.
“Is this real?” Sofia asks, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
Alec nods and wraps his arm around me protectively. “Yes,” he says, smiling at the sonograms in their hands. “You’re both going to be grandmothers.”
Alec presses a kiss to my temple, and I look around the table filled with my loved ones. A few short years ago, I was desperate and all alone. I was on the verge of losing my mother.
And now she sits in front of me, smiling at a sonogram of her grandchild. I’ve got my husband’s arm wrapped around me, his eyes filled with love.
“I love you,” he says, and I smile.
“I love you too, Alec.”
He’s not just made my every dream come true. Every single day, he makes it so that I don’t even want to fall asleep, because my dreams are no longer as good as my life with him is.
Alec smiles and brushes my hair behind my ear. “Tell me you’ll always love me.”
I nod, grinning. “Always.”
Alec leans in and presses a kiss to my forehead, and I can’t help but tease him. “Though… I thought you didn’t believe in forever?”
He chuckles and shakes his head. “I do, if it’s with you. You’ve got me believing in forever, after all.”
Forever with Alec isn’t nearly enough, but it’ll have to do.
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