“Shit, he loves you something hard.” Jax stands next to me while leaning his weight into the pool table.
“You think so?” I ask, trying to contain my excitement.
“Jace always needs to be able to control and know what the outcome is going to be before his action. Singing in front a crowd?” he chuckles, “Yeah, he’s totally burning up on the inside. This is good for him though.”
“I’m glad you’re doing better, Jaxon. It wasn’t a fun time with you down,” I say sincerely.
“Thanks for picking up some of the stress for Em and still being here, even after Jace was an ass.”
“It feels bizarre talking to you about me and Jace,” I nervously admit.
“I couldn’t be happier for the two of you. Lord knows y’all make more sense than we ever did. Don’t feel weird,” he says and pulls me in for a side hug.
“Lay off my girl,” Jace’s deep voice booms through the speakers. I smile adoringly up at the stage and move closer.
Cassie leans into the microphone and calls out to the crowd, “Jace is going entertain us with Whatever It Is by Zac Brown Band. Get at it, hot stuff.” The music intro begins and I get nervous butterflies in my stomach watching Jace up there all alone. He winks at me but I can see that he’s garnering his confidence.
“He’s going to kill us later,” Cole laughs while clapping for him.
Jace belts out the first few words and the room falls silent. I am absolutely floored by his voice. How did I not know Jace could sing?
“Ho-ly shit!” Lane yells, while hooting with enthusiasm. “Well, that totally backfired on me!”
The third line in the song is fittingly about his ladies’ legs and heaven. Jace exaggerates the line and winks directly at me. I cover my huge smile and then begin clapping along with the beat.
Once he figures out how happy the song makes me, he really gets into it, strutting across the stage and pointing me out in the crowd. This doesn’t stop the girls from dancing provocatively in front of his little stage though. Seeing him up there in his faded blue jeans and button-up shirt, singing his heart out directly to me, is probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Not even the sight of those girls could wipe this smile off my face. His eyes are only focused on me.
Anytime the line ‘I love you’ comes across the screen, Jace clutches at his heart and sings to my soul. In this moment, I know how sorry he is for being cruel. I knew he was truly sorry earlier during his apology when I saw the real pain in his eyes. The song finishes with a few lasting chords and Jace steps away from the edge of the stage. Everyone claps and calls out for an encore. Jace laughs and shakes his head.
“Thank you,” he says into the microphone.
“Marry me!” an excited blonde yells at him.
“Sorry, I’m taken. Well...at least, I think I’m taken...” He looks out to where I’m at in the back of the bar.
“Very taken!” I yell back and his smile lights up the room. A few groans are expressed from the crowd and Jace shrugs his shoulders at them with a cute, bashful smile. He clears his throat and I freeze at the look in his eyes. I don’t know why he isn’t stepping down yet, but when he brings the microphone back to his mouth, my whole body locks up. I grip the edge of the pool table, my fingernails digging harshly into the green felt.
“That beautiful, tall, brunette back there stole my heart a long time ago. We screwed it up and wasted a lot of years. But you know what?” he asks the crowd and then speaks directly to me, “I’d do it all over again, knowing that you were going to be there at the end. I’d walk through the sadness and the loneliness all over again for you. I truly was lonely, because you were always the one I wished I were with. I can’t regret it though. The journey was hard, yes, but falling in love with you was easy. I could never regret falling in love with you.”
With everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve put ourselves through, all the pain we’ve endured, this act alone erases it all with one single swipe. The secrecy and sneaking around is instantaneously forgotten with Jace’s very public display. He finally hops down, sets the microphone on the stage, and squeezes through his audience, his eyes never leaving mine.
When he reaches me, he once again drops to one knee and I cover the sob that rips through my chest. He reaches back into his pocket and pulls out the red leather box again. Then he looks up at me with a question in his eyes before he opens it. I nod my head up and down emphatically, letting him know it’s okay.
“Audrey, you’ve been in my head since the moment I met you and you never left. Baby, I sure as hell don’t deserve you but I can’t imagine anyone else being the mother of my children or being the hand I hold at the end of every day. You’re my lucky penny, remember?” he asks. I dig my penny necklace out from under my shirt and squeeze it tight. His eyes look moist when he sees that I’m still wearing it.
He hops off of his knee and I frown up at him. He must have read my mind because he leans in quickly to kiss me and says, “It’s coming, babe. I just remembered I wanted to give you something else first.” He hands the red leather box back for Jax to hold and my eyes follow it longingly. “Babe, I love you, it’s coming. First...” he digs around in his pockets, “I made something for you while you were out of town.” On top of the pool table, he dumps out a handful of lip balms. I grab one up and he laughs.
“Yeah, I bought a ton of these for you. I never want you to run out. I also got all that coconut stuff you like. I cleared out my whole bathroom so you can have room for your things,” he rambles on. I’m blown away by what he’s saying and the amount of thought he’s put into all of this.
He starts searching the other pocket and dumps out a ton of coins. They clank against each other on the table. I notice that they are all flattened pennies, each one a little different from the next.
“It took me a long time to get it just right so I ended up making about sixteen of them, but this one turned out the best.” He fumbles with the coins and I realize that I love this side of Jace. He’s usually the confident intellect, but every once in a while when he’s around me, he turns into this clumsy fool. It makes me smile to think that I can make him as flustered as he seems to make me.
He reaches behind my neck and unclasps the necklace I’m wearing. “This one has the year we met, the year I picked up my lucky penny for the first time.” Although the penny is smashed, I can clearly make out the year on it. “This one...” He slides a second flattened penny onto my chain and it clinks next to the first. “Says exactly how I feel.” I pull the penny up close and read the words out loud that he’s stamped into the metal.
Lucky to have found you.
Blessed to have you.
“Okay, that’s seriously sweet,” Em whispers from behind me.
He drops to his knee for the third time tonight and grabs the box back from Jax. “I’m all over the place, I know. If I knew you were going to be here, I would have been more prepared...” he rambles on adorably.
“Jace, you’re perfect,” I whisper. The fact that he’s actually been carrying all of this around with him makes me want to jump up on stage and sing to him. But I really hope he doesn’t ask me to.
“Audrey, will you marry me?” he finally blurts out, and the audience enthusiastically starts clapping.
I can’t contain my excitement any longer. I spring toward him and grab ahold of his face. He catches my waist and pulls me in closer. I kiss his lips, his cheeks, his nose, and his eyes. I make my way back to his lips and devour them with need. I’m the one that’s blessed to have him and I’ll never let him go again. I need him in my life always. I’ll stand and fight for him, if need be.
The bar patrons filter back toward their tables. Jace and I remain on the floor, my lips still attached to his. There’s nowhere I’d rather be and he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry for me to stop.
I don’t know how much time passes while Jace and I make out like teenagers in the middle of the bar, but Lane eventually leans down and whispers, “Psst, so what’s your answer, doll?”
Jace looks at me with confusion before he realizes what Lane is saying. “Hey, yeah, you never answered me.”
I push Lane’s face away with my hand and slide my fingers through Jace’s messy hair. “Of course I’ll marry you, Jace Riley.”
I toss my laptop into my bag and check my desk for any paperwork I need to take with me. When everything is in order, I take one more look at the view I’ll never get tired of seeing. The windows behind my desk extend from floor to ceiling and the Dallas skyline shines bright all around. Uncle Logan works mainly from home now and is happy he’s still on track to retire early, since Jax, Cole, and I have been handling everything so well. Everything seems to have come full circle. My name is now on the same door my dad’s name used to be on, Jax is working next to me just like my dad’s twin did, and I’m finally marrying the girl I fell in love with so many years ago.
Right before I reach my office door, I turn back and scan my desk for anything I may need over the next week and a half. Ever since we moved back to Texas, I haven’t gone a single day without stepping foot in this building. The controlling side of me cringes at the idea of losing the ability to oversee all decisions for even a short period of time. Jaxon is always telling me to lighten up, but I feel like I have some pretty big shoes to fill here.
“There isn’t anything left for you to do. Seriously, time to go home,” Josephine calls out from the open door.
“Josie, you’ll call me...” I start to say before my secretary cuts me off.
“I’ll call Jaxon first and then I’ll call Cole. Not even then will I call you, because now I have Lane as well. If for some bizarre reason they can’t solve the issue after a reasonable amount of time, then yes, I’ll call you,” she says, rolling her eyes.
“You have a beautiful soon-to-be bride at home, but yet you’re here...” she trails off while eyeing me.
The second the thought of Audrey enters my mind, I snap into action. My gorgeous fiancée is currently at our newly-built house waiting for me to come home and I couldn’t be happier. Audrey is my peace at the end of a hard day or my excitement at the end of a boring one.
“Tell Audrey I’ll be over bright and early!” she calls out, while turning off the office lights.
I pull into my four-car garage right next to Cole’s Porsche. I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to keep driving that thing now that he has a baby. Quickly, I shuffle inside through the kitchen entrance and search for anyone that’s home. All of their cars are here, but the house is dark and quiet. I navigate my way to a family room where Quinn is lounging on the couch, reading a book.
“She’s sleeping,” she warns sternly. Quinn should know by now that this never deters me. I push forward and make a direct line for the little, pink and white bassinet sitting next to the couch.
“Please don’t wake her, Jace. It just took Cole and I an hour to get her back to sleep,” Quinn begs. As if I didn’t hear anything, I scoop up the prettiest baby girl I’ve ever laid eyes on. She looks exactly like Quinn but has Cole’s blonde hair. I can’t believe how one little person can look so much like two different people. I’m yearning to see what mine and Audrey’s babies will look like. Go ahead and take my man card, I don’t care anymore.
Right after Audrey accepted my proposal, Jax and I started planning our dream homes. Before we knew it, we had blue prints and contractors hired. We built on our family land, with Jaxon and Em’s house backing right up to the pond they love so much. Right across the street we had paved is our house. Cole and Quinn were living in a house out near his family, but soon decided they wanted to live near us so our families could grow up together. Their house should be done within the month and meanwhile, they’ve been staying here.
I hold Chloe up to my nose and take in the smell only a baby can have. When her little, blonde eyelashes begin to move and she peers up at me with those dark forest-green eyes, I’m a goner.
“Jace! You’re ridiculous. Now it’s your job to get her back down,” Quinn huffs.
“Hi, princess. Did you miss me today?” I whisper softly to her. She makes a little squeak as she stretches out and I hold her in closer.
“Oh, hell no,” Cole growls as he walks into the room. “Dude, do you know how long I had to pace this house with her?” I continue smiling down at her, not letting anyone talk me out of holding her after a long day.
“What am I going to do when you aren’t here when I get home?” I coo at her.
“I can see your house from my front windows,” I laugh.
“I know, but I’m gonna miss having you and Audrey’s help with Chloe. I’ll miss Audrey’s amazing cooking skills, and I also won’t be able to hear the two of you have sex every night,” the as**ole says with a fake pout.
“Whoa, jackass! Don’t listen to me and my girl,” I scold.