I pressed my lips together and wiped my eyes again.
“But you’re not here. So I’m finally finding another way to be happy, like I know you would have wanted. Even when you got divorced, I never doubted you both loved me and wanted me to have the best. And I found him.”
I put my hand over the hand Hunter had on my shoulder and smiled at him.
“I know both of you would like him,” I said.
When I thought of my father’s expression if he were to ever meet Hunter, a laugh bubbled up in my chest. He had always been so hyper-focused and business-like. I knew he would come around on Hunter, but his first impression probably wouldn’t have been the best. “Even you, Daddy.”
I chanced a glance over at Hunter. He cleared his throat. “I’ll take care of her,” he said solemnly. He readjusted his crutches and put an arm around me.
Leaning into him, I turned back to the headstones. “I love you both. I hope wherever you are, you’re at peace.”
I put my head down for a moment of silence. Hunter followed suit, and we stood there together, paying our respects to my parents. So much had happened since my father took his life. Since I’d met Hunter. Since I’d left Arrowhart. My life had turned on its head more times than I could count, but I’d pulled through. It was mostly because I’d had Hunter by my side.
After a moment of silence, I kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for coming here with me. Let’s get back to the car.”
We walked, or swung on crutches, or whatever, back to the car. Side by side.
Hunter’s head popped up from under the water. He was just a small dot out on the blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. His long muscular arms started to beat against the water as he swam back towards the shore.
Hunter had started walking without his crutches over a year earlier. Even though he was done with PT, he still worked on his legs regularly at the gym, and they were already almost back to normal strength. We were both incredibly grateful that his disability had only been temporary. His legs had healed remarkably quickly, the doctors said that it was a combination of his overall health and positive outlook.
I leaned back my towel, the heat of the hot sand seeping through it, and let the sounds of the beach wash over me. Seagulls screeching in the distance. Children chasing each other around sand castles. The soft lapping of the waves against the shore.
When I looked back at the shore again, Hunter was already out of the water and walking up the beach in his red trunks.
His ripped body glistened with droplets of water, from his huge shoulders to his chiseled chest. It made his sexy tattoos stand out even more. Even though I couldn’t help but notice other women staring at him, he only had eyes for me. He gave me a little wink and I grinned back.
I had my art history book closed next to me. When we were getting ready to come down to the beach, I had made plans to study, but I hadn’t even cracked it open since we’d gotten here. It would be okay, I only had half a semester left before graduation anyway. I was closing out the end of my final semester at the UCLA Arts and Design Program. I had to take a lot of extra classes since I hadn’t taken many art classes at Arrowhart, but some of my credits transferred so I didn’t need to stay for the full four years.
A shadow blocked out the sun and I looked up to see Hunter’s grinning face, his wet hair draped across his face.
“Hey Snorrie, don’t tell me you’re going to just keep sitting in the sand. You haven’t swam at all today!”
“Yeah?” I asked, feeling playful. “Are you going to make it worth my while if we get in the water?”
Hunter raised an eyebrow and lowered himself over me, leaving a soft, tender kiss on my lips. I could smell his scent even underneath the salty water. “Maybe, you’ll just have to come and find out,” he breathed into my ear.
I giggled as his breath tickled the side of my face.
“Okay, let’s go,” I agreed. I got up, taking his hand as I rose. We walked slowly down the beach towards the water.
I smiled at the attention we were getting. Even though Hunter wasn’t fighting anymore, he still stayed in very good shape. On top of that, he was a lot more tan. I guess I was too. Hunter was coaching at a popular MMA gym downtown. He had been able to use his experience working for Clint to get the job. Sometimes I went to see him, and he always had a smile for me when I came in.
The progression of Hunter’ MS had been managed pretty well too. He was really taking good care of himself, watching his diet and stress levels, and being prompt with his treatment regimen.
Hunter slapped me playfully on the butt. I tiptoed up and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Aw, thanks. What was that for?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Just because.”
He kissed me on the cheek in return and I grinned so hard my face hurt.
Looking up at the sun beaming down on us, I hoped that Daniela was having as good of a time as I was. She had gone off to join the Peace Corps with Kyle. Now they were both serving their two years in Peru before Kyle went off to med school and she went to get her Ph.D. in Psychology.
I didn’t talk to Aunt Caroline nearly as much as I used to, but I still checked in from time to time. Bones and Frida were fully grown now and getting into all sorts of mischief. My cousins had been really happy that they were able to keep two of the cats.
As for the rest of the litter, we gave Iceman to Gary?who had since apologized to me for some of things he’d said at Hunter’s last fight. It was harder to be forgiving towards Ada, but even I realized that she did care about Hunter, in her own way. She did seem to be a lot friendlier to me after we gave Georgia to her. Maybe cute kittens were the solution to many of life’s problems.
And then there was Taylor and Rampage. They were at home in the small one bedroom apartment I shared with Hunter. Hopefully they were only scratching at their new cat castle, and not the furniture. The four of us made our own weird little family.
Cool water lapped at my toes, and I realized that we had reached the shore.
“Tag, you’re it,” Hunter said, tapping me on the shoulder and sticking his tongue out at me. Then he ran into the water all the while doing his best impression of a maniacal evil genius laugh.
I laughed and chased after him. When the water was too deep to keep running, I started swimming after him, taking long slow strokes. The temperature of the water was just perfect and it felt refreshing against my skin.
When Hunter finally slowed down, I was able to reach him. We both tread water about fifty feet away from the shore. I stared into his gray eyes and gave him my best bedroom stare. He gave me a goofy grin, and I brought my face closer to his. Leaning in, I left him a sensual wet kiss on the lips.