Follow Me Back Exclusive Bonus Scene
Thank you so much for reading and loving Kale, Hope, and Evan’s story! I fell absolutely head over heels in love with these characters, and I’m excited to bring you a special continuation bonus scene of their story. My mind kept wandering with what would have happened the night after Kale returned and proposed to Hope and fully committed himself to both of them. I hope you enjoy!
You sometimes had to wonder how many chances a man could be given. If he was worthy of them. If he would finally grow wise and gather up that chance and hold it close to his heart, fight for it with everything he had, or if he would again squander it away.
Consume and waste and ruin.
I looked over at Hope who was sitting in the passenger seat of my car. I’d wondered once if that was always right where she had belonged. Now I knew the answer.
Red hair all around her and wearing this black dress that promised she was every bit the siren I’d known she was that first night out on Olive’s balcony.
The prettiest thing I’d ever seen.
The best thing I’d ever seen.
But even that seemed overshadowed by the fierce entity that lived in the darkened cab of my car, illuminated and stoked by the flashes of light that flickered through the windows as we traveled the streets of Gingham Lakes.
Her face still soaked by the tears she couldn’t seem to quit crying. By the magnitude of what we’d just stepped into.
I reached my hand across the console and threaded my fingers through hers. Holding on tight. I just needed reassurance that she was really there, that she was in this with me the way I was with her, my thumb running over the ring I’d just placed on her finger.
She squeezed back.
“I can’t believe I’m sittin’ here right now,” she whispered.
My heart clutched when I glanced at her and saw the shadows playing across her face.
“That all of this happened tonight. It feels like I’m in some kind of dream.”
I turned my attention back to the road.
“A dream or a nightmare,” I attempted to tease.
She danced her fingertips across the back of my hand that was twined with her left. “The only thing that would make it a nightmare is if I woke up and it wasn’t real.”
“I was just thinking the same thing.”
I could feel the weight of her question burning into the side of my face.
I cleared my throat. “I can hardly believe this is real.”
She slowly shook her head. “It’s real, Kale. It’s always been real. You just had to get to the point where you were ready to accept that it was. You had to get to the place where you were willing to accept the risk that is love.”
“The best things in life are the riskiest, aren’t they?”
“They definitely are.” There was no missing the implication in her words.
I tightened my hold on her hand. “I’m going to be worth that risk, Hope. I promise you that. I won’t make you regret taking this chance on me.”
For a moment, she shifted to look at Evan who sat in the backseat of my car, his head lolling to the side where he’d fallen asleep. She turned her warm gaze back on me. “That’s the thing about risks, Kale. It doesn’t matter their outcome. They’re always worth taking.”
I peered through the rear-view mirror at her son—the boy who’d completely reshaped my heart—then took in the girl from my periphery, my words earnest when they hit the air. “Or maybe we just get to the point where something or someone no longer feels like a risk anymore. They become the only choice.”
She gasped a sweet little sound, almost as sweet as the smile that took to her face. “Then you know exactly why there was no other choice than to say yes.”
“I’m it, huh?” Didn’t know if it was supposed to be a tease. Or maybe it was just my spirit begging for it to be true.
She giggled though it was filled with sincerity. “There’s no need to worry. You’re it for me, Cowboy.”
I made the last turn onto her street, the silence growing thick around us as I made the left turn into her driveway and parked beside her SUV.
Because just like this girl was made to be sitting in that very spot of my car, I knew I’d been made to be right here.
That this was where I belonged.
That I hadn’t really had a home until I found her.
Until I found Evan.
For a few beats, we sat in the stillness of it, swam through the awareness, through the promises that had been spoken and the ones that remained silenced.
I will live for you.
I will fight for you.
I will die for you.
I could see all of hers play through her eyes.
I trust you.
I love you.
You are our home.
Finally, I cracked open the door. “I’m going to walk through your door tonight, Hope, and I’m not ever going to leave.”
“I know,” she murmured, no reservations in her voice.
I climbed out and went directly for the backseat and gathered Evan into my arms.
My chest filled so full I was sure it might burst.
The kid was getting so big.
Thriving after his surgery.
Becoming the amazing little man he was destined to be.
I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.
Hope led the way, the same as she always did, shining all her light like a beacon that would forever welcome me home. I climbed the porch steps behind her and angled to side when she opened the door to let us through.
I carried Evan back to his room and laid him on his bed before I moved to grab a pair of pajamas from his dresser. He stirred when I worked the tie from around his neck, the adorable kid all dressed up for his big night.
With a sleepy smile on his face, his little hands sluggishly moved through the air.
YOU’RE REALLY HERE.
I studied the action, my crash course in ASL leaving me filling in the blanks and my responses choppy.
But I would always hear Evan, listen to him, no matter what that took.
I sank down onto my knees at the side of his bed.
I’M REALLY HERE. ARE YOU OKAY WITH THAT?
He blinked up at me with those mossy, earthy eyes.
Just like his mom’s.
MORE THAN OKAY. MY HEART FINALLY FEELS RIGHT.
Emotion thickened. I had no idea if I would ever get used to it. How much I loved him, and the intensity that gripped me every time I looked at him.
YOU HAVE THE BEST HEART, I told him.
He grinned the sweetest grin. BECAUSE YOU MADE IT BETTER.
He glanced behind me, to Hope who I could feel watching us from the doorway. YOU MAKE US BETTER.
I PROMISE I’M ALWAYS GOING TO TRY TO DO THAT.
YOU JUST HAVE TO BE HERE. WITH US, he signed.
I swore, this kid was always way smarter than me. Saw things in the simplest of ways. In the ways that mattered most.
OKAY, I signed.
GOOD, he gestured.
I pressed a kiss to his temple before I stood, and Hope wound around me and leaned over him, kissing his forehead and murmuring, “My heart.”
He set his hand over his mom’s and mouthed, My heart.
The softest smile pulled to my mouth because these two had become mine.
Hope slowly pushed to standing, her gaze slow as it washed over me where I was standing in the doorway.
Like she was memorizing the moment.
Because I think that might have been the moment she realized it, too.
That this was it.
That a commitment had been made that couldn’t be undone.
There comes a moment when two people become one. When one no longer exists without the other. When every breath one pulls into their lungs belongs to the other, and every beat of one’s heart beats for them.
I wondered if that moment hadn’t occurred when I’d stood at Ollie’s bar.
When I’d turned around and was struck by eyes that were the greenest green.
A grassy plain.
Mossy, warm earth.
Because just like in that moment all those weeks ago, with her looking at me now, I again lost my footing.
Emotion thrummed between us.
Twisting and twining.
A bond profound.
Hope crossed the room and flicked off the light switch on Evan’s wall, pulled his door shut, and left it open a crack. She led me to her room.
Because in that moment, both of us were aware of that, too.
There was no longer any separation between us. No longer any boundaries. No longer any walls.
She slowly shifted around to face me, flashing eyes and full lips and dimpled chin.
“I love you.” The words scraped from my throat. Raw and hungry. “I’m so fucking in love with you, Hope. These last weeks . . . I’ve never felt so empty or lost.
Not in all my life.”
I snapped the door shut behind me and took a step her direction.
The air grew thick, need filling up the room and bounding from the walls.
I swore, I could feel the pound of her heart, the thrum, thrum, thrum latching onto mine.
“Did you know? Did you feel it?”
One corner of her mouth trembled. “I felt it everywhere. A vacancy that was aching. Yours. Mine. Evan’s. You gave me back my life, my soul, Kale, and somehow, all along, that very soul belonged to you.”
I took another step toward her, her breaths becoming mine. “I stopped myself a million times from coming over here.”
“Maybe all those times you were hearing my heart callin’ out for you.”
“You never stopped wishing for it? For me?”
Her brows pinched together, tight emphasis in her words as she looked up at me. “How could I? My heart has always been hung on hope.”
I set a hand on her face, thumb smoothing out over the soft skin of her cheek. “I never thought to hope for you, never imagined I could possibly deserve it, deserve you, and somehow, the best thing found me anyway.”
She blinked through the shadows. “I think I’d always been looking for you.”
I brushed my lips across hers. Softly. Tenderly. Whispered, “I’m right here. I promise, I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Framing her face in both my hands, I kissed her a little deeper, feeling the intensity of her smile against my lips. Those delicate hands came up to wrap around my wrists, locking me to her. “I love the sound of that,” she murmured.
Our bodies began to sway.
Moving to the beat that thrummed between us.
Something so big it was going to last forever.
“Sweet girl,” I said before I let a smirk climb to my mouth. I grabbed her around the waist and tossed her to her bed.
She yelped in surprise, her sweet body bouncing on the bed, that red, red hair splaying all around her, her smile so bright.
She laughed toward the ceiling, and I knew I’d never heard a better sound in all my life.
So much joy.
“What are you laughing at?” I teased as I was tearing the bowtie from around my neck, quick to work through the buttons of the white shirt, tossing it to the floor.
She tilted her gaze my direction. “You make me happy.”
My chest tightened. “You make me so goddamned happy, too. I’m going to spend my whole life making you feel that way.”
I ticked open the button on my dress pants at the same second I was kicking off my shoes. “Just about as much time as I’m going to spend making you feel good.”
More laughter, and she squirmed on the mattress. “I’m pretty sure those two go hand in hand.”
“Is that so?” I asked her, shrugging out of the pants and kicking them from my feet, loving the little hitch of her breath as she took me in standing there hard and bare.
“Mmhmm,” she hummed, pressing her knees together.
I let a chuckle slide free. “You aren’t going to get shy on me now, are you, Princess?”
She giggled, the resonance coming from the depths of her. “Oh, I’d always known you were gonna be trouble, Cowboy.”
I climbed over the top of her, lifting her up so I could work free the zipper on her dress, all the hair wound up in one hand as I let my mouth move up her jaw as I slowly lowered it. “Little did I know you were going to be everything.”
Chills flashed across here flesh, that feeling spilling over to me. She edged back a fraction, looking at me with that sincere gaze. “Kale.”
That’s exactly what she was.
“I need you,” she whispered. I inched back to peel her dress from her body, nestled myself between her thighs, gathered her up while I started down at her.
“You have me. Forever.”
Her lips parted as I pressed into her.
Falling into forever.
Thank you for reading!
I am excited to bring you the next stand-alone in the Fight for Me Series, LEAD ME HOME.
Coming This Spring