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Garnet Flats: Epilogue

TALIA

One month later . . .

“Daddy!” Kadence raced through Eden Coffee. Her new boots pounded on the floor as her braid swung between her shoulders.

Foster slid out of his chair just in time to catch her and she launched herself at him. “How was it?”

“So much fun.” She giggled when he tickled her side. “Can we go again, Talia?”

“Of course.” I’d taken her horseback riding at the ranch this morning. She’d instantly fallen in love with Neptune.

“Tomorrow?”

“Um, sure?” I laughed. “As long as it’s not raining.” Or snowing.

The April forecast was a gamble. It could be sunny and warm one day with a blizzard and six inches of snow the next. But if the weather was good, I’d happily take Kadence to the ranch and let her ride around the arena.

“Want a snack?” Foster asked, setting her down.

“Okay.”

“Hit up Lyla.” He nudged her for the counter, where Lyla was waiting with a smile. Then he walked over, bending to give me a kiss. “Good?”

“Really good. It was fun.”

It had been Foster’s idea for me to take Kadence alone to the ranch today. Since they’d moved into my house, we’d spent plenty of hours together, but it was rare for Kadence and me to have one-on-one time. So he’d decided to hang back and meet Jasper here for coffee while we had a few hours alone.

“You want something to eat?” he asked.

I scrunched up my nose and shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

“You didn’t eat breakfast.”

“I ate at the ranch,” I lied. Tonight, after Kadence went to Vivienne’s house, I’d tell him why I wasn’t feeling well. But not with people here. “Hey, Jasper.”

“Hey, Doc.” Jasper raised a hand.

“Foster told me you’re going to stick around for a while.”

“Yeah, a little bit.”

“He can’t live without me,” Foster teased.

Jasper shook his head, his chest shaking with a quiet laugh.

I was grateful that Foster’s friend had decided to stay. Foster wouldn’t have made that big of an ask, but when Jasper had volunteered to move, there’d been no objection.

Jasper had approached the owners of the cabin he’d been renting. Instead of extending his agreement, they’d offered to sell him the property. With him here, it meant Foster wasn’t alone so much during the day.

I was working a ton and studying for my upcoming exams. And though Foster was adjusting well to retired life, when Kadence was at school, I was grateful that he had Jasper to keep him company.

For however long Jasper decided to stay.

“I’m going to say hi to Lyla and get some water,” I told Foster, patting his abs before passing him for the counter.

Lyla slid a to-go cup to Kadence, whose eyes widened at the heap of whipped cream on top.

Kaddie lifted it to her lips, taking a sip. A dollop of white clung to her nose. “Yum. You should definitely get hot chocolate.”

“Good suggestion.” I laughed as she carefully carried her cup toward Foster’s table, then I leaned my hip against the counter, my sister doing the same on her side. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she said. “Heard you took her for a ride.”

“Yeah. It was cute.” I smiled as Kadence went to the table and Foster wiped her nose. “What’s going on here today?”

“Not much.” Lyla sighed. “I’m about to head out. I was actually thinking of asking Jasper to dinner.”

“What?” I stood taller, leaning in to lower my voice. “Really?”

“I don’t know.” She gave me an exaggerated smile. “He’s hot. And sort of grumpy and brooding.”

“Just your type.”

“Exactly. But would it be weird?”

“Why would it be weird?”

“He’s Foster’s best friend.”

“So?”

“So . . .” She sucked in a deep breath. “What if we go to dinner and then we start dating and it goes great for a while but then it starts to fall apart until we finally decide to call it quits but I’m still in love with him but he’s not in love with me and it’s not like you can hate him because he’s your fiancé’s best friend so it’s awkward.”

“Whoa.” I held up my hands. “You’ve thought way too far ahead.”

“I really like him. Like a lot. You and Foster disappeared to your hotel room after the fight, but that night . . . we all went out and had a blast.”

“Did something happen?” This was news to me. Granted, I’d been pretty consumed with Foster, so I hadn’t asked. And Lyla and Eloise had left the next day because both had needed to fly home for work.

Lyla opened her mouth to answer but then the bell above the door jingled and we both turned as Vivienne walked inside.

“Hold that thought.” I held up a finger and returned to the table where Vivi bent to kiss Kadence’s hair.

“How was your day?” Vivienne asked Kadence.

“So good, Mommy. We’re going to go riding again tomorrow.”

“That’s great.” Vivienne smiled at her, then looked to me. “Thanks for taking her.”

“My pleasure.”

Vivienne glanced at Foster but he didn’t give her much. “Hey, Foster.”

“Hi.”

She waited for eye contact or a smile or anything, but that was it. That’s how it had been between them for the past month. “So, I, um . . . I guess we’ll just see you guys in the morning.”

“Yep.” He nodded. “Bring her over whenever.”

Kadence was staying at Vivienne’s house tonight. There was no routine or structure to their custody arrangement. For the most part, Kadence spent one day with her mother and one day with us. It was working for now, so Foster and Vivienne hadn’t pushed to make changes.

If there needed to be a set schedule, we’d discuss it when that time came.

My heart pinched as Vivienne looked at Foster. Guilt was etched on her face. It was how she’d looked at me since coming to Quincy. It was odd, being her supporter now.

She’d started calling me more to discuss Kadence’s schedule, even though Foster wasn’t working. But I understood. She didn’t get the anger from me. And Foster, well . . . he wasn’t ready to let it go.

Not yet.

All I cared about was that Vivienne was here because it made Kadence happy. Dex was history, and when I’d asked if she’d heard from him, she’d told me no with tears in her eyes. But Vivienne knew it was for the best. She’d walked away without regret.

Just a broken heart.

Since Foster had retired, the only people who contacted us from Las Vegas were his parents. They were planning to visit this summer.

“Okay, baby girl.” Vivienne held out her hand. “Should we go?”

“Let me get a lid.” I walked to the counter where Lyla had one ready.

A timer dinged and she nodded toward the back. “I need to get that. Will you holler if someone else comes in?”

“Sure.” I took the lid to Vivienne so she could put it on Kadence’s cup, then after Foster kissed his daughter on the cheek, we watched as they left.

“Are you going to be pissed at her forever?” Jasper asked as the door closed behind them.

“No.” Foster dragged a hand through his hair. “Time to let it go, isn’t it?”

I took the empty seat beside his, then held out my hand.

He took mine, his finger touching my engagement ring as he hummed. Time to let it go.

“Since you’re both here. I, um, need to talk to you about something.” Jasper glanced past Foster, to where Lyla had been standing. Then he sat straighter, taking a pause like he was thinking carefully about his words. “I, uh, well . . . I fucked up.”

“What happened?” Foster asked.

Please be nothing bad. It had been a month of bliss. I wasn’t ready for more drama.

“I sort of . . . I, um . . . fuck.” Jasper rubbed his jaw. Then he closed his eyes and blurted, “I married your sister.”

“What?” My jaw dropped. “You married Lyla?”

“Uh, not exactly.”

Another jingle sounded from the door but I didn’t turn. I was too busy staring at the empty counter. How in the hell had they gotten married? When? Where? Why hadn’t Lyla told me? We’d been talking about him minutes ago. That would have been the perfect time to tell me she’d married Jasper Vale.

“Oh, uh, hi.” Eloise stood at my side. When I whipped around to look up, her cheeks were flushed.

“Hi.” I shook myself out of my stupor. “Jasper just told us that—”

“Oh my God, you told them?” Eloise shrieked. “How could you tell them? We agreed to keep this a secret until it was annulled!”

“Wait.” Foster leaned forward, pointing between the two of them. “You two got married?”

“Now everyone is going to find out. Gah! Damn it. I’m never drinking again.” Eloise spun around and jogged for the door.

“Eloise, wait.” Jasper shot out of his chair, running to catch her.

Which left Foster and me staring at each other, dumbfounded.

“Did that just happen?” he asked.

All I could manage was a nod.

Shit. My parents were going to freak.

“Did Jasper leave?” Lyla asked as she came back to the counter with a towel in her hands. “Damn. I guess I’ll have to ask him out another day.”

I cringed. “Lyla, I think you’d better sit down.”


“WELL, THAT WAS INTERESTING.” I tossed my keys to the counter as we walked in the house. Then I checked my phone for the tenth time since leaving the coffee shop. Eloise still hadn’t texted me back.

I set my phone aside and unzipped my coat, but before I could take it off, Foster was there, planting a kiss on my neck as he eased it off my shoulders.

“Got a call from the architect today,” he said.

“On a Saturday?”

He shrugged, taking off his own coat. “Guess he was working on the plans.”

“And?”

“Should have them done Monday. Wanted to see if we could meet and go over them together.”

“I could do it over my lunch break.”

“I’ll find out if that will work.”

A thrill of excitement chased away the unease in my stomach.

We’d wasted no time after coming home from Vegas to start planning our future. My parents had insisted on throwing us an engagement party at The Eloise so more of our extended family could meet Foster. The next morning, we’d gone out to the ranch and asked to buy a chunk of land off it.

Of course my parents had said no—they’d gifted us five hundred acres instead.

We’d hired a local architect to start designing our dream home, and our wedding plans were in full swing for the summer. Knox’s wife, Memphis, was planning it for us.

That was life with the Iron Fist, Foster Madden. Full tilt.

“It’s great he’s working so quickly,” I said. “Maybe if we’re lucky and he gets the design finished, we can get the builder to start earlier than expected. It would be so nice to move in before the baby is born.”

“Yeah, that—” Foster blinked. “What did you just say?”

I smiled and walked to the coat rack to fish out the plastic sack I’d stashed in a pocket this morning. More importantly, the stick inside. “It happened faster than expected.”

Good thing we both liked fast.

After the fight in Vegas, I’d stopped taking my birth control pills. Foster had asked if I was ready, and I’d assumed it would take a while. But here we were, one month later, and it was happening.

He took the stick, looking at the plus sign in the tiny window, then at me. Back to the plus, back to me. He shifted his gaze so many times I was sure he’d give himself whiplash. “You’re pregnant.”

“I’m pregnant.”

He closed his eyes, fisting that bag close. Then he wrapped his arms around me, hauling me into his chest as he buried his face in my hair. “You won’t stop, will you?”

“Won’t stop what?”

He leaned back, framing my face with his hands. “Won’t stop until every dream of mine has come true.”

I smiled, leaning in to whisper against his lips. “Never.”

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