Page 141 of We Were Once

“Well, that is a surprise,” a woman’s voice says, startling me.

Holy. Shit. I scramble to catch myself but lose traction on the towel and slip off the side. My body thuds to the floor just as I hear Joshua yell, “Chloe!”

That’s going to leave a mark. I rise to see Patty staring at me. “Are you all right, Chloe?”

“Fine. God, so good. Fine.” I try to pierce Joshua’s heart with my glare. “I wasn’t expecting company.”

His big arms come around me and kisses my head under deep chuckles. “Sorry, baby. I didn’t—”

“Yeah, I know.” An embarrassing heat runs through me. “My cheeks probably match the beets.”

The professor is brought into the fold. “I finally found a place to park—” He stands in shock and then turns around. “What’s going on?”

Patty says, “Why don’t we go put our stuff in the bedroom?”

As soon as they’re gone, I ask, “They’re staying?”

“We have a lot to talk about, you and I. Things have moved fast.” With his arm around me, we walk down the hall. Well, I limp, but we get there eventually. He closes the bedroom door, and says, “I bought the diner.”

“What? I, uh—”

“Yeah. I couldn’t let her sell it. Now that they’re married, they want to travel the country.”

I sit on the bench, still stunned, and I’m not sure I’m grasping the concept. “But you own Salvation.”

“I do. I have investments everywhere now.”

“Okay, this is a lot. Guess that economics degree is helping you spread the wealth around.”

“One day, I’ll finish my degree,” he says with a fire under him. “I can apply with my work experience. As for Salvation, I was thinking about letting Todd take over as head chef and giving him a percentage of the profits. He’s earned it.”

Wait. Does this mean . . .? “That’s fine. I’m sure he has, but does that mean you want to move back to New Haven?”

“It didn’t occur to me until you weren’t working at the hospital anymore. I’ve been unhappy with the hours at the restaurant for a long time. What if we both go to New Haven?”

I lean closer, letting doubt sneak in. “Would you go without me?”

“No,” he says with a reassuring smile as he kneels in front of me. “I go where you go, Chloe. They do have great hospitals, though.”

“Yeah. They do.”

“So you’ll consider it?”

He looks so hopeful, and he’s right; I can work wherever there’s an ER. Holding his cheek, I say, “How could I not? If you want to run the diner, I’ll support you however I can. We’re a team, after all. Worst case, I’ll be your new Todd.”

When he stands, I stand, and we hug and then kiss. He says, “You looked incredible on that island, and you really nailed that landing. Todd wouldn’t have.”

“Just the sous chef part. Not the rest.” I start laughing. “I’ll be feeling that fall for days.” I go to the closet to get dressed. “So, uh, we have company, and they’re staying?”

Leaning against the doorframe, he says, “She brought the paperwork for the diner. We can stay in or go out. Whatever you want.”

“It’s good to see your mom again. I just wish it would have been under better circumstances than me sprawled out naked on the countertop.”

He’s chuckling. “She’s happy for us, by the way. Started talking grandkids already. Too soon for that.”

Pulling a blouse from the hanger, I shrug. “Maybe.” I start to get dressed under his watch. “Which room are they sleeping in? I can get it ready.”

“The master. It’s ready.”

I stop with my skirt halfway up. “I thought this was the master bedroom?”

“No, it’s on the other side of the entryway. It’s a hidden door that you have to push.”

“You have a secret room?” He nods, smiling with pride. “Then why do we sleep in here?”

The smile softens, but it doesn’t disappear. “Because my dad set this room up for me. Granted, he did it when I was thirteen, but it still works.”

Going to him, I hug him. “It works perfect.” When we let go, I say, “Let’s go out. We have a lot to celebrate.”

“A whole new life ahead.”

“New adventures.”



Two Months Later . . .

“Don’t seek perfection because you’ll never find it. Happiness is a nobler mission.”

My mom was right.

I still have a few regimented tendencies to break, but the happiness I’ve found when I let some things go and hold tighter to what matters far outweighs the task.

Looking behind me at the plants secured with seat belts, I double-check them, again, just to make sure. Turning to catch Joshua’s amusement, I say, “Don’t make fun of me.”

He’s still laughing when he leans over for a kiss. I meet him in the middle. “One day, Chloe Evans, you’re going to make an amazing mother.”

Not wanting to waste another minute without each other in it, our destiny was sealed three weeks ago by the lake outside of New Haven. Holding a bouquet of handpicked flowers from Joshua, we stood with our closest family and friends and exchanged our vows, saying, “I choose you,” instead of I do.

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance