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The Darkest Corner of the Heart: Epilogue


Life has a funny way of giving you exactly what your soul needs, even if it’s not what your heart initially wanted.

Ten years ago, I pushed myself too hard to pass an audition I thought would lead me to a dream I never wanted for the right reasons.

Ten years ago, life took my father away and gave me a better version of the mother I never had.

And ten years ago, fate put me in the professional care of some sexy man called Dr. Simmons, and I’ve chosen to put up with (and love) the stick up his ass ever since.

It’s important that I remember our love every day, especially at times like this.

“I promise I only looked away for one second. Two, tops,” the man in question argues, hands up in the air and everything. The sight of this six-foot-five Greek god being terrified of his bedridden wife would amuse me if I wasn’t in so much damn discomfort.

I give him one of my I don’t believe a word you’re saying looks and slide my gaze to the little culprit. “What about you?” I ask as I fight back a grin. He really is a sight to behold. “You don’t have anything to say about this?”

Our three-year-old son, Dylan, looks down at his ruined T-shirt and pouts. That pout. “I’m sorry, Mommy. The bowl fell from my hands.”

James and I exchange a look—he wants to laugh as hard as I do, if not more. Neither of us can resist The Pout, and Dylan sure knows how to use it to his advantage.

I hold out my hand, and my little man is quick to grab it and hug my arm in the process. “You angry with me, Mommy?”

“I’m angrier with your daddy, if I’m being honest.” I mock-glare at my husband, who holds his hands up again.

“I only looked away for a second,” he insists. “Shadow and Mist were chasing each other, and I was making sure they didn’t break anything.”

“Mm.” I run a hand through Dylan’s messy brown curls and kiss the top of his head. “It’s okay. Just tell Daddy to give you more eggs and flour, okay? And change your T-shirt.”

“I was just making Gramma’s cake recipe.” He pouts again, and I melt. “Lila said she liked it last time. I ruined it.”

This time, I’m the one who pouts at James. He pouts right back.

I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve such a sweet little angel, but we couldn’t be more grateful. He might not eat his veggies just yet, but he’s funny and selfless, and that’s all we could ask for.

“You didn’t ruin it, buddy,” James assures him. He sits on our bedroom floor by my side of the bed and rubs Dylan’s back. “We have more ingredients and all afternoon to make the cake. Don’t worry about it. I’ll help you with it as many times as you need.”

That seems to work for him. “Lila coming tomorrow still?”

“Of course she is,” I tell him, booping his cute little nose. “So will your Auntie Gracie and Uncle Sammy, as well as Gramma, Granny, and Pops. They wouldn’t miss your birthday for the world.”

His actual birthday was a month ago, but our family couldn’t get together until now. Even my mother is coming, and I think she’s bringing Dave along. I’ll have to check the details with her later.

Instead of answering, Dylan lets go of my arm and presses his cheek against my swollen stomach, something he’s been doing since we broke the news that he was going to be a big brother. It’s safe to say he’s taking the role very seriously.

“Can she sing happy birthday in your belly?” he asks, so full of innocence and love for his unborn little sister, I want to bawl my eyes out.

“I don’t think so, but she will sing for you at the top of her lungs next year when she’s here,” I tell him.

That makes him smile. “Yes! I want to see her face now. Do you want to see her face now, Daddy?”

James’s face softens at the mention of our daughter, something he’s been doing often since we found out we were having a little girl. I’ve already caught him talking to my brother a few times about what it’s like to raise girls and how Sammy got over Lila and me getting into relationships, so we’re definitely in for an intense ride.

If James is overprotective of our family now, I can only imagine how much worse he’s going to get when she’s here.

Gah. I love him so much.

“I would do anything to see her face now, buddy,” he says, a proud smile on his face as he looks at our son, eyes full of raw adoration. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up, and we’ll go back to the cake. Sound good?”

Dylan cheers and gives my belly a loud kiss before taking his eggs-and-flour-stained T-shirt off and running away to his bedroom, all while squealing very loudly.

Once he’s gone, we finally crack up.

“Fuck, it’s so hard to hold in the laughter sometimes,” James whispers, shaking his head with amusement as he stands up. “He’s so funny.”

“He gets it from his mommy,” I tease.

“Yeah, you’re both brats.”

“But you love us.”

“More than anything in the world.” Just like his son, he rests his cheek against my belly and holds my hand. “How are you feeling, love?”

“My lower back is killing me,” I admit with a small groan. “I can’t wait to push this baby out and go back to the studio.”

James gives me an understanding smile. It was hard leaving my girls at the ballet studio a couple of weeks ago, but my doctor recommended I rest as much as I can until she’s born, so that’s what I’m focusing on.

I love having my own studio and teaching aspiring dancers, but my girl is my priority. My family comes first. Always.

“You’re doing amazing,” he assures me, and it’s crazy how his sweet words always make me want to cry lately. Stupid hormones. “Lila called earlier, by the way. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend along to introduce him to us, and I said yes.”

“God, finally,” I groan. “I’ve been hearing about this mysterious Oliver for months now. I think Sammy’s threatened him once or twice already. I’m not sure he’s a fan.”

He chuckles. “And what does Grace think?”

“Oh, she likes him.” I wave him off. “They met in college, and apparently Grace and Sammy caught them holding hands or something when they went to visit her as a surprise. My brother almost had a stroke.”

I smile at the memory of Lila freaking out over the phone as she told me, and I quote, “The most mortifying moment of my entire existence, Maddsy. Please kill me.”

“I can’t wait to make fun of her some more,” I conclude.

“You’re evil.” My husband—my husband—kisses my belly and gets up. Five years have gone by, and I’m still not used to calling him that. “I’m going to check on Dylan. Do you need anything?”

“For you to wrap it up next time,” I joke. Kinda.

At least he laughs. “I don’t know about that.”

“James!” I whisper-shout, reaching out to slap his arm as he laughs like the little shit he is.

When I try to sit up in bed, something weird happens.

A gush of water comes out of my lower area, and I know it’s not pee because I still have an ounce of control over my crazy pregnant body.

My eyes widen in realization, and James’s face loses all color as he, too, spots my water breaking right here, right now. Just like that.

“Well.” My voice sounds way calmer than I expected it would, given the situation. “This is kind of your fault, you know? You and Dylan told her you wanted to see her face, and she’s clearly eager to meet her daddy and older brother too.”

James opens and closes his mouth several times, like a fish out of water, but nothing comes out.

“I…” he starts, blinking his shock away. “She’s coming? We’re going to hold our little girl today?”

His voice is all love and devotion, and I smile despite the contraction hitting my abdomen and back. “If we’re lucky. But I think she wants her daddy to hold her as soon as possible because she’s literally killing me right now.”

“Right, right.” He snaps out of it, rushing to the other side of our bedroom where we keep my hospital bag. “Dylan!”

“Yes, Daddy?” he calls out from his bedroom.

“Your sister is coming!” His words are met with the loudest scream I’ve ever heard. “You’re going to stay with Uncle Graham and Aunt Sarah today, okay? Only until Uncle Sammy and Auntie Gracie get here tomorrow.”

Our son materializes in our room, a little finger pointed at me. “Mommy! You peed the bed!”

Thankfully he’s put on a clean T-shirt, so James scoops him up and, with his other hand, helps me out of bed.

“Mommy didn’t pee on the bed, buddy. That water means your baby sister is ready to meet you. We’re going to the hospital, and Uncle Graham will pick you up from there, okay?”

He squeals in delight as if I wasn’t dying. Ugh. I love them with all I’ve got.

And after our precious Alice is born six hours later and she’s asleep in her father’s arms as I rest, I know for sure this is the life I was always meant to live.

There’s no other place I would rather be, no man I would ever want to build a family with.

I don’t regret my past, the things I’ve said and done, because every significant and seemingly insignificant decision led me to the happiest, fullest version of myself.

Life is a constant battle of choices, and you won’t know if you’ve made the right one until you dare to take a leap of faith.

This was mine.



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