One month later . . .
“I’m staging an intervention.”
“Huh?” Lyla asked from across the counter at Eden Coffee.
“I’m kicking you out.”
“Of here. Right now. You have to leave.”
Lyla studied my face, then looked to Jasper at my side. “Is she drunk?”
“I’m staying out of this. Good luck, Lyla.” He bent to kiss my hair, then walked to a table against the wall, taking a seat.
Jasper didn’t approve of this idea I’d concocted at breakfast. Mostly because it was supposed to be our day off, and instead of being at the coffee shop, he wanted to spend it celebrating.
But he’d let me drag him downtown anyway. Probably because he knew that I was still coming to terms with everything that had happened last night.
After missing my period, I’d taken a pregnancy test after dinner. He’d almost cried when I’d handed him that positive stick. Or maybe I’d just imagined the sheen of tears in his eyes. I couldn’t exactly be sure. I’d been a hot mess, bouncing between panicked hysterics and joyous laughter, crying enough for us both.
I was still utterly freaked. Neither Jasper nor I had planned on this, and my birth control’s epic failure had instantly changed our plans. The idea of motherhood—when I’d just taken over the hotel, when Jasper and I had finally settled into our marriage—was terrifying. Exciting.
My emotions were volleying between happy and scared like a ping-pong ball, so instead of dealing with my fears, I was here, harassing Lyla instead.
“You’ve worked one hundred days in a row,” I told her. “Yes, I counted. You haven’t taken a day off since that Sunday in April when you went to Missoula to get your hair cut.”
She scoffed. “I’ve taken other days off since then.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Oh, really? When?”
She thought about it for a moment, then huffed. “What are you, the work police? Who are you to talk, anyway? You’re always at the hotel. Go away. I’m busy.”
“Nope.” I planted my hands on my hips. “One afternoon. That’s all I’m asking for. You leave here for one afternoon and do something non work related.”
I gave her a sad smile. “Because I’m worried about you. I don’t want you to burn yourself out.”
“But you might.” I clasped my hands together. “Please? Just take the rest of the day off so I can stop worrying.”
“I can’t just leave, Eloise.”
“Why not?” I waved to Crystal, Lyla’s barista, as she came out of the kitchen carrying a fresh tray of scones. “Crystal is here. Jasper and I will hang out and help close.”
Now that the summer rush was behind us, Wednesdays were slow in downtown Quincy. If there was ever a day for Lyla to cut out early, it was now.
“Go home,” I said. “Relax.”
“I can’t go home,” Lyla said. “If I do, I’ll think of everything that needs to get done and I’ll come right back.”
Not all that long ago, when I’d lived in my rental a couple blocks away, I’d been the same way with the hotel. It had taken Jasper to solve that problem. Every night, I looked forward to going home. And while there were always things on my mind, it was easier to ignore them, to save them for the next day. Another in the endless string of perks that came with a sexy husband who kept my mind occupied.
“You could go to a movie,” I suggested.
“I don’t feel like popcorn. Last time I was there I ate too much and it gave me a stomachache.”
“Then don’t get popcorn.”
“Then what’s the fun in going to a movie?”
The movie. I rolled my eyes. “You’re exhausting. Go for a hike then. You love hiking, and I know you hardly went this summer. It’s a beautiful day. Get some fresh air. Disconnect. Do anything. Just leave this building until tomorrow morning.”
“Why?” she whined. “I like it here. Let me stay. I’ll make you something yummy. Chocolate croissants?”
“Tempting. But no.” I shook my head. “This job is becoming your personality.”
She scrunched up her nose. “Harsh.”
“You came into the hotel on Monday and asked if you could get me anything else. In my building. You serve and wait on people every day. Just . . . for one afternoon, do something for you.”
Lyla groaned. “You’re not going to leave me alone until I agree, are you?”
“Fine. I’ll go for a hike or whatever.”
“Yay. Thank you.” I clasped my hands in front of me to keep from clapping. “Maybe you’ll meet your dream guy while you’re out hiking.”
“I’m starting to think my dream guy doesn’t exist.” She untied her apron. “You’ll call me if something goes wrong.”
“There’s plenty of food in the kitchen, but if for any reason cooking is required—”
I held up my hand. “I promise not to go anywhere near an oven. That’s why I brought Jasper. Or I’ll ask Crystal.”
She glanced around, almost like she expected the coffee shop’s walls to rescue her. Until she must have realized that, just maybe, I was right. “All right. You win. I’ll go. Happy now?”
“Yep.” I waited until she disappeared to the kitchen before I fist pumped.
“Thank you,” Crystal mouthed, checking over her shoulder to make sure Lyla was gone. Then she leaned in closer. “You guys don’t need to stick around. I’m just fine on my own.”
“Oh, we don’t mind.” I shrugged. If it would make Lyla feel better that we were here to help close and clean up for the day, we’d stay. “But we might wander around for a while if you don’t mind.”
“Fine by me.”
It had been months since I’d walked aimlessly up and down Quincy’s sidewalks. Not since before the summer rush.
So I waited to shoo Lyla out the back door, lingering on the threshold to make sure she actually got in her car and drove away. Then I found Jasper at his table. “Feel like taking a walk?”
“Sure.” He stood and took my hand, leading me out of the coffee shop.
Like I’d told Lyla, it was a beautiful day. The air was beginning to cool. The leaves were just barely tinted with yellow. Fall was never a long season in Montana. Maybe that was why I liked it so much. You had to appreciate it while it lasted.
“You okay?” Jasper asked as we settled into an easy stroll.
“I don’t know. We’re having a baby. Are you?”
Jasper clasped my hand tighter, leaning down to kiss my hair. “I’m good, angel.”
“Then I’ll be good too.”
We walked for a while, holding hands, staring into windows and smiling at the people we passed. When we reached the end of the block, Jasper turned us around and we meandered back toward Eden Coffee.
“Will you marry me?”
Wait. What? I stopped, forcing him to stop too. No way I’d heard that right. “Say that again.”
“Will you marry me?”
I reached up and felt his forehead with the back of my hand. “Are you sick?”
Jasper chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the sides. “Are you going to answer me?”
“I already married you.”
“But do you want a wedding? A real wedding. Have a party. Invite your family. Have your dad walk you down the aisle. All that?”
Oh. Would I marry him? Did I want the fancy ceremony and lavish party?
I’d thought so. Once. But if we had a wedding, it would overshadow our night at the Clover Chapel. A night that was as imperfect as it was beautiful. The idea of erasing it made my heart sink.
“Do you?” I asked Jasper.
Maybe he wanted a wedding. A new memory to conceal the old. A wedding not tainted by his ugly ex-wife.
“No.” He shook his head. “I don’t want a wedding. But if you want to wear a white gown, if you want me in a tux, just say the word.”
We didn’t need a gown or a tux.
Our love story wasn’t typical. It certainly wasn’t what I’d imagined as a little girl. But it was ours.
“No wedding. But I’d take a honeymoon.”
“Deal.” Jasper clasped my hand again, holding it tight. Holding it the way Dad held Mom’s. Then he started us down the sidewalk again. “Where do you want to go?”
A thousand places came to mind. They were all from that list I’d created as a kid with Mom, places that our hotel guests called home.
Where did I want to go? Anywhere. I’d go anywhere with Jasper.
I lifted our clasped hands, bringing his knuckles to my mouth for a kiss. “Surprise me.”