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Sidelined Love: Epilogue


Five Years Later

The moment Levi parks his SUV in the parking lot, it’s like stepping into a time machine. I can’t believe we are back on Crestwood’s campus where it all began.

“Feels like eons ago, doesn’t it?” I say, glancing over at Levi.

His confident stride hasn’t changed a bit and I wonder if that came with all of the things he’s accomplished over the years. He’d been drafted by the NHL right after graduation, a dream come true for him. His success on the ice has only grown from there and I’m happy to be along for the ride. My job as an environmental consultant allows me the flexibility to travel so I do attend more hockey games than I would have thought possible, especially as someone who disliked sports only a few short years ago.

But all of that fades to the side as I watch Levi take in the fact that we are back on our college campus. It’s clear the place still holds a piece of his heart.

“Come on, slowpoke,” Levi teases. “Brewed Beginnings is waiting for us.”

“Calm down. It’s not going to close on us,” I say as we walk toward the coffee shop where I used to work and where we first met.

Hand in hand, we make our way into the coffee shop. Though it’s been years since I’ve been here, Brewed Beginnings looks just as I remember. It still has its rustic charm with the exposed wooden beams and the local art is still on the walls.

“Hello and welcome to Brewed Beginnings!” the barista greets us cheerfully. “What can I get started for you?”

Levi orders an Americano while I choose a chai tea latte with almond milk and a brownie. As we wait for our drinks, we find a table by the window, the same table where we used to meet and play chess at.

“Remember how we used to come here when you got me to teach you how to play chess?” I ask Levi.

He grins. “Of course. It is the best idea I’ve ever had.”

“Oh come on. You don’t have to kiss my ass now. We’re already together.”

That makes Levi chuckle. “First off, I do like kissing your ass. And it is the best idea I’ve ever had. You’ve changed my life for the better, Rook.”

His compliment and use of the nickname he gave me warms me from the inside out. Him still being able to do this to me after the years we’ve been together makes me fall even more in love with him.

Before I can respond, the barista calls Levi’s name and he stands up to get the items we ordered. While he’s away, I take the time to scan the shop, noting some of the changes that have happened in the years since I’ve been gone. My observations are interrupted when Levi returns, placing our drinks on the table we decided to occupy.

Levi slides into the chair opposite mine and pushes the steaming chai latte and brownie toward me. “I can’t believe it’s been five years since graduation. It’s still weird to think about.”

I wrap my hands around the to-go cup. “It’s like no time has passed at all,” I reply, taking a sip. When I take a bite of the brownie, I nearly groan. It’s still as good as I remember it.

Levi reaches across the table, capturing my free hand. “I think it’s about time to add a new memory to this place,” he says softly.

“Wait what?” I ask, confused about what he could be talking about.

My heart does a somersault in my chest as he stands up and walks over to me. The chatter around us fades to black as he gets down on one knee right beside our table. When he reaches into his jacket pocket, I swear my world tips upside down and I find myself holding my breath.

“Hailey Reed,” Levi starts, his voice steady despite his hand trembling. “From us meeting for the first time here to you teaching me chess—which was just a ploy to spend more time with you—to supporting me through every win and loss, both on and off the ice, you’ve been my rock, my confidante, my best friend. I couldn’t ask for anyone more perfect for me than you.” He pulls out a small velvet box and opens it to reveal a simple but stunning princess-cut diamond ring that catches the light in the most beautiful way.

My hands shoot up to my face, covering my mouth which dropped open. I can feel eyes on us now, but I don’t care. The only thing that matters is the man in front of me, who has dropped to his knee to ask me one of the most important questions I will ever hear in my life.

“Will you make me the happiest man alive and agree to be my partner for life? Will you marry me?”

My gaze drifts from the ring to the expression on Levi’s face. I’ve known how I would answer this question for a while, but I didn’t know he would ask it this weekend.

“Yes,” I say as I move my hands to touch one of his. There is no use in trying to hide my tears because they are already flowing down my cheeks. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Cheers erupt from the patrons in Brewed Beginnings as Levi slips the ring onto my finger. Of course, much like everything Levi does, it’s a perfect fit.

“I love you,” Levi whispers as he stands up to pull me into his arms.

“I love you too,” I whisper back, as I stand up before tilting my head up for a kiss that seals the promise we’ve just made to each other.

As if on cue, the front door of Brewed Beginnings swings open, and I’m shocked to see some familiar faces. Our friends from Crestwood walk in, their arms filled with balloons and wrapped boxes and gift bags. I assume they are for us because I don’t know of anyone else’s birthday or a big event that is happening right now.

“You did say yes, right? All of this would be for naught if you didn’t,” calls out Jade.

I roll my eyes at her. “Of course I said yes,” I say as I hold up my left hand to show off my latest piece of jewelry.

Jade squeals and runs over to me. We hug, and just as we’re breaking apart, someone else walks into Brewed Beginnings, making my mouth drop open.


“Oh, my sweet girl,” he says as he walks into the coffeeshop. He’s followed by his wife, Angela, and I stroll over to give them both giant hugs.

I lean back, looking up at the man who’s been my anchor in every fathomless storm life has thrown at me. “Dad, you drove all the way here for this?”

He chuckles and ruffles my hair, just like he used to when I was a kid. “Hailey, did you really think I’d miss this? Seeing my girl get engaged? There was nothing going to stop me from getting here today.”

Angela gives me a warm smile that I return tenfold. She’s been more than just a stepmother; she’s filled spaces in our lives that we didn’t realize were empty until she arrived.

I feel Levi’s hand on the small of my back. He leans in close and whispers, “I wanted everyone who matters to us to be here. Your dad and Jade helped me plan it.”

“Thank you so much to all of you. I couldn’t have imagined a better surprise.”

“You’re very welcome, but something else is missing,” Jade says as she appears at my side. She looks at my ring once more before giving me a big grin.

“And what’s that?”

“Champagne! We need to celebrate.”

We all laugh just before Levi pulls me closer to him. He places a quick kiss on my forehead before putting a longer one on my lips.

Here we are, surrounded by the people we love, getting ready to embrace change once more as we shift from dating to being engaged. I think back to years ago, when I would have been wary of anything like this because I liked being in the little box I created for myself.

But times have changed, and I have grown to trust in myself and in my relationship.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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