Takes place after the series
“Are you sure you want to take both of them out of the house by yourself?”
Declan smiled at his beautiful wife. “I’ve got this. You relax while the boys and I go out and get some cupcakes and see Auntie Savannah. We’ll bring you back your favorites. Anything else you want us to pick up while we’re gone?”
She smiled up at him from her spot on the couch and shook her head. He could see how tired she was, though she wouldn’t admit it. Their nine-month-old twin sons weren’t very fond of sleeping through the night, and while Declan offered to get up with them, Brooklyn insisted on being the one to take care of the twins most of the time because he had to work early in the morning. But it was obvious to Declan the lack of sleep was taking its toll on Brooklyn, and leaving her home alone to rest while he took the twins out for a while was the least he could do.
Later he’d tell her about the changes he made to his work schedule. He knew she’d try to talk him out of making the change, but what was the point of owning the business if he couldn’t decide he wanted a change of scenery now that he had a wife and kids. The early morning schedule had been beneficial when his daughter Erin was a baby, and he was raising her with only the help of his sister Andi.
These days, he had a much larger support system, including his wife’s family, his sister and her husband, and a group of friends he couldn’t picture his life without. Declan never pictured his life ending up this way. He figured once Erin was an adult and out of the house, his sister Andi would find a life of her own, and he’d be left to live the solitary life he thought he wanted.
Then he met Brooklyn, and it was all over.
He tried fighting it. He tried denying that he was interested in her, that for the first time in his life, he had someone he could picture a future with. Resistance was a waste of time and energy. Brooklyn was the love of his life. Trying to shove down what he felt for her and the joy he felt when he found out she was pregnant was the dumbest thing he’d ever done, and he’d done plenty of dumb things in his life.
“Alright boys, say goodbye to your mom,” Declan said as he pushed the stroller closer to Brooklyn.
Cayden and Wyatt cooed up at their mother as she bent down to place kisses on their chubby faces. When she sat back up, Declan leaned over and kissed his wife, then smiled at her as he backed away. He could see how hard it was for her to let them go, but the rest would do her good, and they both knew it.
Before he could get through the door, Brooklyn raced over and gave them all one last kiss. He laughed at her inability to let go, then quickly made his way outside before she could protest or change her mind.
The weather was perfect for a walk down to Delectable Delights. Declan loved living in West Seattle again after years commuting over from the east side. A quick walk brought him to the hub of the community, where people were always milling about no matter the time of day. Small businesses lined the streets from restaurants to boutique shops, bookstores, and antique stores.
People waved at Declan as he walked along. He’d become a bit of a regular over the last nine months as he got re-acquainted with the area. He already knew some of the people because they were on his delivery route like Arrow and Delectable Delights, but the rest were all new to him. It still amazed him that he’d become a people person since being with Brooklyn, giving up the grumpy, brooding asshole he’d been for eighteen years. The transition had been a lot easier than he ever thought. But that probably had far more to do with Brooklyn’s sunshiney outlook on life than on his willingness to change.
“Look who’s here, the cutest nephews ever,” Savannah squealed the second Declan walked through the door to Delectable Delights.
The door had barely closed behind him by the time she made it around the counter to squat down in front of the stroller. She talked to them in the high-pitched voice women seemed to reserve for babies, then wheeled them over toward the counter so she could show them off to Gretchen, one of Savannah’s long-term employees. He followed behind them slowly, looking around the shop for an empty table he and the boys could occupy for a while.
“What the hell is he doing here?” Savannah practically growled as she stood up, her eyes narrowed at someone behind Declan.
He turned to look at whoever she was looking at and found Brooklyn’s ex-husband standing just inside the door. A memory of the only time he’d ever seen Frank had Declan’s fists clenching at his sides. The man was an absolutely terrible human being, and if he didn’t think it would get him sent to jail, Declan would give the asshole an up close and personal look at his fist.
“You’re not welcome here, Frank.”
“It’s a public place. Are you too good for my business? Maybe I should let people know how rude you are to your paying customers,” he said with a sneer as he walked toward the counter.
“Since you’re not a paying customer, I’m sure your opinion would mean a lot to them. Especially after I tell everyone what you did to my sister.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “No one cares about that bitch.”
“You better watch your mouth, asshole. That’s my wife you’re talking about,” Declan growled.
“Wow, she was able to sucker someone else into marrying her? Did she tell you that she’s a barren wasteland and frigid? I was glad to be rid of her. You will be, too, eventually.”
Declan took two steps toward Frank, then stopped as soon as the other man’s eyes widened. He hadn’t noticed it before, but he was a good five inches taller than the other man, which put him at about Brooklyn’s height. Frank took a step back toward the door, putting more space between them than Declan wanted. He would have loved to get right up in the man’s face as he gave him a piece of his mind.
“Brooklyn is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She was probably the best thing that happened to you too, but you’re such a sad excuse for a human being you wouldn’t know a good thing if it punched you in the face. I don’t know what you expected to accomplish by coming here, but you can turn around and leave now. Brooklyn isn’t here today. She’s at home resting because she spends most of her time taking care of our sons,” Declan said, glancing over his shoulder at the twins. “So if you came in here to try rubbing your so-called happy life in her face again, you’re out of luck.”
“Speaking of which, where is your wife, Frank? What about your kids?” Savannah asked, a knowing look on her face.
Frank’s face reddened, his eyes narrowing as he glared at her. “Just another bitch who wanted to take advantage of me and my money. Those brats weren’t even mine.”
“You don’t say?” Savannah laughed. “Everyone has always known you were the problem, Frank. It just took Brooklyn a little too long to realize her life would be so much better without you. Now, for the last time, get the hell out of my shop.”
“And forget that you’ve ever even heard of my wife. Brooklyn is not yours to toy with, and if I hear that you’ve approached her or contacted her in any way, you’ll be sorry.”
“Is that a threat? My family doesn’t take too kindly to threats.”
With a smile that probably made him look more psychotic than menacing, Declan started walking toward Frank, practically pushing the man toward the door, though he never physically touched him.
“It’s a promise. I don’t care who you are or who your family is. I will ruin you if you hurt my wife. That includes just being in her presence. Now get the hell out of here before we call the cops. You wouldn’t want to explain to your family why you need to be bailed out of jail, do you?”
“Fuck you guys and this place and that bitch who ruined my life. I don’t need any of this,” Frank yelled before turning around and practically running through the shop door that was being held open by an unsuspecting customer.
Behind him, someone was clapping while a few other people were laughing. He turned around to check on the boys, wondering if he should be embarrassed or worried that he’d made things worse by threatening Frank, but when his gaze connected with Brooklyn’s, he realized he didn’t care.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, then laughed when he realized she was the one clapping. “How much of that did you hear?”
“All of it. I came in through the back to surprise you guys and heard him when he arrived. Thank you for standing up for me,” she said as she came out from behind the counter and pulled him into her arms.
His wife looked up at him, her hazel eyes shining with love and amusement. He dipped his head and placed a quick kiss against her plush lips, then backed up a step.
“You’re supposed to be home resting.”
“I tried, but it was too quiet, and I missed you guys,” she pouted. “Plus, if I’d stayed home, I would’ve missed the show.”
Declan smiled. He wasn’t as surprised to see her as he should’ve been. By now, he knew Brooklyn well enough to know she was stubborn and loved her family. She would hate to be away from them for too long, even if she was supposed to be sleeping or binge-watching a show she loved, but he didn’t. And to be honest, he was glad she was there. Not because she got to see him defend her to her ex, but because when she wasn’t with him, he missed her more than he could ever put into words.
“I love you.”
The words were out before he realized he’d opened his mouth to speak. It was always like that when he was with her. He couldn’t keep his hands off of her, and he said those three little words more than he ever did before he met her.
When he told her ex that Brooklyn was the best thing that had ever happened to him, he was speaking a truth that he felt right down to his very soul. Of course, he loved all three of his children, and they were miracles he never pictured being a part of his life, but Brooklyn made everything feel right. She quieted his insecurities and his anger. She was a balm to his very being, and she made him realize that love was a gift to cherish.
He made the mistake once of letting her go, but he would never do that again. No matter what bullshit went through his head, he would hold on to Brooklyn with everything he had in him. Even if she sometimes drove him crazy.
“I love you, too, Declan.”