Sugar Free Page 57

When he steps out onto the deck, my breath catches.

It happens almost every time I’m away from him for more than a few minutes, and when he reappears, it’s as if all my senses are on hyperdrive. In my opinion, he’s gotten infinitely more handsome over the past year, and that’s because his new life agrees with him tremendously. There’s not a man who is more relaxed, happy, and content with his life.

“I’d like to make a toast,” he says as he steps through the door onto the deck. My dad sort of jerks upward at the noise, blinking his eyes. All of us look at Beck expectantly. He takes the new bottle of wine and tops off everyone’s glasses before setting it down on the deck railing.

He walks over to me and holds his hand out for me to stand up. I do as he urges, holding my wineglass as he rests a casual hand on my shoulder. “I’m just really happy to have everyone here in our home. Everyone seated here tonight is my family…Sela’s family. A man would think he has everything right here that he could ever want, but sadly…there is one thing lacking in my life.”

I turn my face to him quizzically, because I thought this was going to be a happy-go-lucky toast of friendship, but it turned very serious all of a sudden.

Beck turns to me, takes my wineglass from me, and sets it down on the deck rail near the bottle. His hands then take mine, where he squeezes them briefly before bending down on one knee.

I pull one hand away from him involuntarily and put it to my mouth on a gasp.

Holy shit.

Just…oh wow.

Beck reaches into his pocket and pulls out a gray velvet box, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out it contains a ring. He flips it open and holds it out for me to see in the glow of the firelight. It’s beautiful, a simple round solitaire not too big and not too small. “Sela, you and I have been through hell and back, and those fires did nothing more than forge our bond as strong as steel. We’ve started a new life together and it’s damn good. The only way to make it perfect is for you to be my wife.”

He pulls the ring out in a suave move and has it on me before I can even take in a breath.

“Would you do me the honor?” he asks, so very formalized and traditional and even a little bit dorky, but it’s one of the reasons I love him so much.

“You bet your ass I will,” I tell him before I throw myself into his arms. “And no big ceremony either. Everyone we love is already here, so we should head to the county courthouse tomorrow and get it done.”

Three and a half years since the charges were dropped…

“This has to be the longest two minutes in the history of the world,” Beck says irritably as he paces back and forth.

“In the history of the universe,” I retort tensely.

“Universe means space and time moves differently in space, right?” he asks, well, blabbers.

He’s nervous and I get it.

The alarm goes off on his iPhone and we both rush over to the kitchen counter, shoulders touching as we bend down to peer at the pregnancy test we’d placed there after I’d peed on it in the bathroom.

A “positive” sign.

It’s positive.

“We’re going to have a baby,” I whisper.

“We’re going to have a baby,” he yells as he picks me up and spins me around. My hand swings out and catches the pee stick, sending it flying across the counter and to the floor. I watch it skitter across the old, worn linoleum that we’ve walked across for what seems like ages and I think to myself, we should replace the flooring before the baby comes.


We’re having a baby!

Seven years after the charges were dropped…

My back aches and I don’t remember it hurting this much when I was pregnant with Sophie. I press my fingers down into the muscles and arch my spine trying to relieve the pain. I do this with a smile on my face as I watch Beck and my dad down on the beach with Sophie. Even from here I can make out the muscled definition of Beck’s broad back, and the darkened form of this dragon tattoo that he’d had completed after we got settled into our new life in Florida.

I had thought Sophie, at four years of age, might be a little young to learn how to boogie board, but they think not. Maria watches them from under an umbrella that covers her in complete shade as she lounges back in a beach chair. Turns out, retirement to Florida wasn’t such a bad thing for her, and I think that had something to do with my dad finally asking her to marry him.

I’m happy for them both.

I glance at my watch and note that Ally and Caroline should be here soon. They drove over to the mall on the mainland to shop for a dress, as Ally’s attending a dance at her middle school in a few weeks. I’m glad they got out together, as I’ve been worried about Caroline. While her transition to becoming a Floridian went as well as could be expected, I think that had a lot to do with having Dennis by her side. Granted, he didn’t live here permanently because his job took him all over the world now, but his visits had steadily become more infrequent until they only saw each other a handful of times a year.

It was no way to maintain a relationship, and Caroline finally called it quits two months ago.

I want to smack Dennis around and ask him what the hell he’s doing, but Beck told me to stay out of it.

“Sela,” he’d said somberly. “That man has too many demons and he doesn’t want them resting on Caroline’s shoulders. It’s probably for the best.”


Caroline and Dennis are made for each other, but he’s too stubborn to give himself completely to a woman. I’d kill to get my psychotherapy hands on him. I’d make him let go of those demons with some hard work for sure.

But I’m staying out of it as requested.

Sighing, I turn from the sliding glass doors and pick up a box I’d set temporarily on the coffee table so I could rub my aching back. Little Sebastian is due in six weeks and I’m in my nesting mode. It happened with Sophie’s pregnancy, where I ended up decluttering the house and purging all of our pack rat items. I’m not sure how in the four short years since her birth we accumulated more crap than I know what to do with.

I bring the box into the kitchen and set it on the counter before reaching in and pulling out a handful of items. Mostly papers of various sorts, a binder with recipes, and oddly, a Rubik’s cube. I set that aside, as Sophie might want it, and start leafing through the paper items.

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