Across the table, Sage gave an audible sigh.
TJ turned his attention to her. “Everything okay?”
“Hmm?” She met his gaze.
“She’s talking about bubbles, watermelon bath bubbles. It’s such a wonderfully ordinary thing.”
“She’s come a long way the past few weeks.”
“Thank you,” Sage said to him.
“You don’t have to thank me. You need to stop thanking me. I don’t even know what you’re thanking me for.”
Sage laughed at that, and the sound of it warmed him. “Everything. Nothing. I don’t even know. I just know that Eli’s getting better and Heidi’s settling in.”
“I’m as happy about that as you are.”
“I know,” she said.
The strains from the band came up on the gazebo. They’d installed a temporary wooden floor on the grass and strung hundreds of tiny white lights overhead. Couples were moving toward the dance floor.
TJ couldn’t have imagined his life could ever feel this rich. The house was full of sounds and clutter. Sage was fitting in with the community. Eli was making friends on the baseball team. He’d even started doing a little practice with them. And Heidi was a delicate jewel. He couldn’t help but imagine how much Lauren would have loved a little girl like Heidi.
But then he reminded himself that if Lauren was here, Heidi wouldn’t be here. It would be him and Lauren and possibly Eli, but even Eli would be here only part-time, because TJ would share custody with Sage. His eyes focused on her profile.
He tried to picture himself with Lauren and Eli. But the image wouldn’t come. For the first time, he wondered how Lauren would have felt about Eli. Would she have loved him the way TJ did? Could she have brought another woman’s son fully into her heart?
Melissa and Noah approached the table.
“Highest attendance ever,” Melissa said gleefully to Sage.
“Congratulations!” Sage returned.
“To you too.”
Sage waved away the praise. “I didn’t do much of anything.”
“The drudge work.” Melissa looked to TJ. “All that thankless, behind-the-scenes financial stuff, Sage knocked it out of the park. She negotiated prices and found savings. You have her to thank for the awesome sound system.”
“It was better this year.” TJ had noticed that.
“Clear as a bell,” Noah said.
“And her work’s not done yet,” Melissa said. “The rest of us can stand down after tomorrow, but Sage will have invoices coming in for the next month.”
“Not a problem,” Sage came back easily. “I may not be good at much, but numbers I can do.”
The words surprised TJ. How could Sage sell herself so short?
“Do you want to sit down?” Sage asked Melissa.
Melissa shook her head. “We’re going to dance.” Then she turned her attention to TJ. “Come on, TJ, get your wife up on the dance floor. She deserves to enjoy herself.”
Sage didn’t look his way.
They hadn’t danced in a long time, and it had the potential to be awkward.
But he was willing to risk it. He wanted to dance with Sage.
He came to his feet and held out his hand. “Let’s give it a try.”
“That’s the spirit,” Melissa sang, wrapping her hand around Noah’s arm and turning him toward the dance floor. “The night is young.”
Sage grinned at Melissa’s exuberance. Then she met TJ’s eyes, and the grin faded.
He didn’t let himself second-guess. He moved around the table to snag her hand, helping her to her feet.
* * *
Sage had never danced so much in her life. They laughed through fast songs, swayed through slow songs and stopped intermittently to have a drink and look at the stars. Jules and Caleb left early to get back to the twins, but Melissa and Noah stayed, and even Tasha—while telling them she was more easily tired in her pregnancy—made it through the last song.
There was nothing left but the fireworks, and the crowd made its way to the cliff overlooking the harbor. The fireworks were being set off at the far end of the public wharf.
“This way,” TJ said to her, taking her hand again as they moved to the edge of the crowd and around a set of high boulders.
They came out at a small clearing with a sweeping view.
“This is perfect,” Sage said.
The noise of the crowd had faded to a murmur, blocked by the wall of rocks.
The first starburst cracked the night, eliciting oohs and aahs. It burst white, then blue, then purple in the sky above.
“Wow,” Sage said, watching the flashes and tracing lines.
“Have a seat,” TJ offered, gesturing to a rock ledge.