We will not fulfill any book request that does not come through the book request page or does not follow the rules of requesting books. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Comments are manually approved by us. Thus, if you don't see your comment immediately after leaving a comment, understand that it is held for moderation. There is no need to submit another comment. Even that will be put in the moderation queue.

Please avoid leaving disrespectful comments towards other users/readers. Those who use such cheap and derogatory language will have their comments deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked from accessing this website (and its sister site). This instruction specifically applies to those who think they are too smart. Behave or be set aside!

Travis: Epilogue

Three Years Later

The breeze rustled the trees, the scent of ripened fruit sweetened the air. I looked out to the horizon where the first wash of lavender spread across the sky, casting the water a deep purplish-blue. A smile tilted my lips as I raised an arm, wiping the sweat that had gathered on my brow. It’d been a long Saturday spent digging in the dirt.

“Hey, handsome,” my wife said, coming up behind me and encircling my waist. “How’s my hard-working man?”

I turned, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and kissing her temple, careful not to rub my sweaty, probably dirt-smeared face in her hair. “Filthy,” I said.

“Don’t I know it,” she murmured, raising her eyes suggestively. “That’s how we ended up in this predicament.” She smirked, running a hand over her swollen stomach.

I grinned. Damn right. She was due any day now. It was a boy. Naturally. We’d named him Ryder. Pride swelled. I was going to have a son.

While I still had a regular job—the town had voted and generously decided to keep me as chief of police three years before, even after I’d made public my manifesto of shame—Haven and I wanted to accomplish the work of getting her nursery turned over for the changing of seasons before our little guy made his grand entrance. It was an all-hands-on-deck weekend at Haven’s Gate, Plant and Garden Center.

“It looks amazing,” Haven said, glancing around at the tiers of violets, dianthus, rosemary, ornamental peppers, and kale, and over to the neat rows of young trees. Easton, Archer, and I had unloaded them just that afternoon, arranging them by type and height. “Thank you.” I knew the small frown that followed was only due to the fact that she wanted to be involved with more of the heavy lifting than her body was currently allowing for. But if I knew my wife, she’d be back at it soon enough, a baby boy strapped to her chest as she helped some client or another plan the perfect garden.

“You’re welcome,” I said, kissing her again, inhaling her intoxicating fragrance, sweeter than any flower that had ever graced this nursery.

In the two and a half years since the garden center had opened, it had grown exponentially. It wasn’t only a wildly successful business, it was a place to gather. To plant the future. To encourage roots, deep and strong. Haven’s Gate had hay rides in the fall and fruit-picking in the summer. In the winter we sold Christmas trees and wreaths, and Bree made trays of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. And in the springtime, we started all over again, lilac bushes and new dogwood trees filling the old red barn that protected them from the frost until they were ready to find permanent ground. And though I only helped out on weekends and when necessary, it was soul-nurturing work, joyful and fulfilling.

Somehow, I knew in my gut my dad would be happy and proud of what his land had become. And someday soon, I’d sit on the dock nearby and fish with my little boy, teaching him to bait a hook the same way my dad had taught me, with patience and with love.

“It looks like you have it all covered here. I’m going to stop at the market and then head home and get dinner started,” she said, leaning in and kissing me once more.

I nodded, smiling. “I’ll be home in an hour or so.” Home. The small house on the lakeshore in Pelion with the creaky hardwood floors, and the original shiplap walls. The one where we whispered in bed in the quiet of night, words of love and tenderness, but also our fears, and insecurities, and the things we sometimes worried about. The one we’d need to add on to once our planned brood began materializing. I didn’t know a lot about what was involved in “adding on” to a structure, but I knew my brother would help me when the time arrived. I watched as Haven walked away, stopping to fuss with the tiered arrangement momentarily, hesitating on a violet that had gone into a bit of shock at being moved. Her face wasn’t visible, but I knew for a fact she was whispering words of care and encouragement. It’s what she did. She loved, fully and wholeheartedly, until withered things that had the will to thrive, found the strength to do so.

Like me.

Three years of loving her. Three miraculous years. We’d taken our time dating—after all, falling in love had been somewhat of a whirlwind. I’d courted her through all four seasons, and fallen more deeply in love by the day, which was exhilarating but not surprising. As Bree had said, when you know, you know, and we’d known.

We’d married at sunrise in the orchard behind the barn, the air redolent with the scent of apple blossoms. Easton had walked Haven down an aisle of clover, delivering his sister to me, as he’d done in more ways than one. My eyes had burned when they’d reached the place where I’d waited, gripping his scarred hand in mine and promising to take care of her always.

As for Easton, he was moving up quickly in the firehouse that served three counties, but despite his busy schedule, he always made time to help at the nursery when asked. For the most part, he’d changed his wicked ways—the respect of the community was important to Easton and motivated him to act accordingly—but he was still very much a single man. 

Only Bree, Archer, their children, and Easton had attended our marriage ceremony, but we’d thrown a big party that evening in the old red barn, decked out with twinkle lights and tables adorned with pots of sunflowers that we later planted along the fence. The sight of those grand, happy flowers still reminded me of that beautiful day filled with love and, thanks to the crew, plenty of homemade hooch.

I had arranged for Mrs. Kim to be there as a surprise and when she’d arrived, she and Haven had sobbed and held on to each other until there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. She’d already been back once since then, to visit and help Haven plan and conceptualize the garden behind our home.

Clawdia limped over, breaking me from my reverie, rubbing her body against my leg. I leaned down, picking her up as I walked toward the barn where more heavy lifting awaited. Clawdia often spent her days at the nursery, lounging in the sunshine of the loft, far out of reach of potentially trampling feet.

“Do you two need help?” I called as Connor and Charlie walked by, each hefting a bale of hay.

“No, we’re good. Thanks, Uncle Travis,” Charlie called. I ran my hand over Clawdia’s fur, turning and watching as they added what they were carrying to the other bales that would be sold to customer’s seeding grass, but also used as part of a display of vibrant red, yellow, orange, and white chrysanthemums. My eyes narrowed slightly as Connor gave a covert head nod to his brother, pointedly looking out to the dock where Juliette Moretti sat at the edge, legs dangling, as she leaned forward watching her feet swish in the water. Juliette’s mother did the accounting for the nursery and often brought her daughter with her if she was only working for an hour or two on a Saturday. Juliette was a pretty girl with a sweet disposition who enjoyed helping plant flowers and arrange displays. But in her innocent smile, I also caught the glint of mischief and perhaps just a dash of devilry. I understood the qualities well. After all, it took one to know one.

Charlie gave his brother a head nod back, and they began slinking toward her in unison, stopping when she turned her head slightly, moving again when she looked away. Clawdia’s purr vibrated, my hand moving idly on her back as I took in the scene.

Something was about to go down.

My nephews moved swiftly behind her, obviously up to no good, likely plotting on pushing Juliette into the water. For a moment I considered stopping the obvious crime in progress, but . . . well, I knew for a fact Juliette was an excellent swimmer and all lake kids needed to learn to expect being pushed in when standing on the very edge of a dock where a mere finger nudge could pitch you in.

The twins made it to her simultaneously when very suddenly, Juliette reached behind her, giving a hard yank to the towel she was sitting on, the one currently directly under the boys’ feet. With dual yelps, both boys went flying off either side of the dock, belly flopping onto the surface of the lake. Juliette turned around slowly, bringing her hands to her cheeks in feigned surprise. “Are you okay?” she asked, her eyes round with faux innocence. And yes, a spark of that devilry. Again, it took one to know one.

“Try to be more careful,” she said, looking down at them, her lips curling into a saucy smile.

Well, well. Juliette Moretti had just taken on both my nephews with apparent eyes in the back of her head and the singular flick of one slim wrist.

Connor and Charlie were very clearly outmatched. 

I worked to hold back a laugh as they glared up at her, floundering with outrage, and what I thought might be a hint of . . . awe. And perhaps love. Uh-oh.

The boys dragged themselves out of the lake, their fists clenched as they walked onto the shore. “No time for a swim when there’s so much work to do, boys,” I said as they approached me. “Better go lay out back in the sun to dry off for a little while and then get back to it.”

“Sure, Uncle Travis,” they said, both attempting a nonchalant smile that Charlie pulled off better than Connor, who still looked, in equal parts, bitter and bamboozled. I waited until they rounded the corner of the barn before breaking out in laughter. Clawdia meowed in agreement.

My laughter dwindled, but the joy remained. I took time to revel in the moment, the beautiful season of life I was living, thinking of Clarice and her prophecy, and realizing the truth it’d contained.

had lost it all.

Willingly. Joyfully. While following my heart.

And because I’d lost it all, I’d gained . . . everything.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode