ROYAL(91)

By: Winter Renshaw



Ever.

No matter how much time will pass, it’ll never get old.

I’ll never take her for granted.

And I’ll never jeopardize our happiness, so long as we live.





EPILOGUE




Demi



{five years later}



“Let’s go see Mama.” Royal’s voice from outside my hospital door makes me instantly forget the searing pain between my thighs from birthing a nine-pound baby at three AM this morning.

Apparently, Royal and I make some big babies. But they’re so darn adorable that it makes up for all the less than pleasant things that go along with that.

“Hey, baby,” I say softly when our three-year-old son tiptoes into the room behind his father.

It’s his first time being in a hospital, and judging by his apprehension, he’s not quite sure what to think of it.

Beckett carries a bouquet of lilies in his hand, the hand attached to the arm that’s currently broken and wrapped in a neon green cast, because two weeks ago, he decided to climb into the old tree house at Nana and Papa’s. He snuck in there when no one was looking and fell when he attempted to climb down the ladder.

I’ve been trying to talk my parents into taking it down. The wood is rotting, and it’s dangerous. But they don’t have the heart. Dad keeps repairing floorboards as they rot, and Mom tears up whenever the subject is brought up.

They watched us all grow up in that thing. Taking it down would be like destroying a living piece of Rosewood history.

“Hey, buddy, want to give those flowers to your mom?” Royal urges him, ruffling the top of his wavy, dark hair.

“Here, Mama.” Beckett hands me the wrapped flowers. I count five white lilies and one pink. “The pink one is for my sister.”

Campbell stirs in her bassinette, and Royal pushes it closer to my bedside before lifting her out and placing her in my arms.

“You want up here, little man?” I ask.

Beckett nods, and Royal helps him.

“Thank you for the flowers, my love.” I lean forward as much as I can and kiss his forehead. He smells like glue and Play-Doh, which isn’t surprising, since he spent most of the day with his cousin, Haven, at Uncle Derek’s house.

“You’re welcome,” he says, in his sweet, little boy voice.

“You’re a big brother now,” Royal says in his best, stern father voice. “That’s a pretty big responsibility.”

I laugh. “I don’t even think he knows what responsibility means.”

Royal shrugs, smiling as he gazes down at his newborn daughter. “He’ll find out soon enough.”

“How much time are you taking off from the firm?” I ask.

Campbell came two weeks early, which is probably a good thing, given her size, but we weren’t expecting her, and it threw off our carefully laid plans.

Royal juts his chin and waves his hand. “Don’t even sweat it. I’ll be around as much as you need.”

I keep forgetting that he was made a junior partner last month, one of their youngest in the history of the firm. His boss, Richard Madsen, was a friend of one of Royal’s old law professors. Hired him fresh out of law school.

Dad was disappointed that he didn’t want to work at Rosewood and Rosewood, but he understood and respected the fact that Royal was called in a different direction.

Besides, it’s nice to get out of Rixton Falls.

The fresh start did us both good.

And it was too depressing to watch over half the town lose everything they had because of Brooks Abbott’s scheming ways. Dad and Derek wanted to take the case on, but it would’ve been a conflict of interest, so they stepped back, and we all watched as the Abbotts lost everything they ever had. Apparently the scheming started with Brooks’ now-deceased father, and the judge ordered Brenda to liquidate everything they had shortly before she left town for good.

It still wasn’t enough to cover everything those poor folks lost. Brooks is spending decades behind bars now. And if he’s lucky, he’ll be out in time to meet his first grandchild. Last I knew, Afton was raising their daughter in the basement apartment of her family’s home in Glidden.

Royal and I live in a sleepy little town now, Crestwood, an hour east of Rixton Falls. When we arrived, no one knew our names or our stories. We settled in, made friends with our new colleagues and neighbors, and left the past behind.

We have a beautiful life together, and now our little family is complete with Campbell. My heart is so full, and just when I think I’m all out of love to give, I look into my daughter’s sweet eyes and my chest bursts with a powerful, unconditional love.

“She’s gorgeous already.” Royal kisses the top of Campbell’s head. “Just like her mother.”

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