BONUS EPILOGUE for LUKE’S REDEMPTION
Are You Asking Me To Marry You?

Encinitas, San Diego
August, Two Months After Luke Got Shot 
Katya

I’d been awake for a while. I didn’t mind. I loved lying in Luke’s arms, the weight of his strong body relaxed in sleep against mine. I did this often. My habit of waking early had not stopped. But instead of waking with my heart pounding in fear, now I woke with a smile. I was safe. Loved. And it was during these quiet early mornings I took stock and remembered to give thanks.

Thanks that Dani and my papa were alive.

Thanks that Lily and I were alive.

Thanks that Luke was alive.

And most of all. Thanks we were all together. Happy. And I was happy. Gloriously happy.

Luke’s body shifted and he pulled me tighter against his warm length, his leg moving to cover mine. I curled my fingers around his forearm and caught sight of it. My ring! Even in the low morning light it gleamed, unmistakeable. Delight tingled through me. Luke and I were getting married.

Oh my God! Im going to be Mrs Hunter. Mrs Luke Hunter.

We’d arrived in Encinitas a week ago. Luke, Lily and I. Luke was almost fully recovered, except for the occasional headache when he overdid it at work. But it was Lily we were most concerned about. After Luke got shot, she’d been skittish. She’d follow him like a faithful puppy, getting grumpy if he was away for more than a few hours. And she refused to be without one or the other of us. Sometimes I’d see a dark look in her eyes, haunted. I hated that. She had several sessions with Judith Crawford, the trauma therapist she saw after Dani got shot. She was always more settled after these sessions. Judith was also an excellent support for Luke and I, offering guidance on how best we could help Lily heal.

Encinitas was the perfect place to bring Lily. She loved the Molina Flower Farm. It was where she grew up. And she loved the Molina’s. Carmen, Antonio, Dani, Hector. Even Rosa and Daisy. They were family. In the last week, Luke and I finally breathed easier as the shadows haunting our beautiful daughter faded. She giggled and chatted non-stop, her laughter ringing out over the flower fields. As the days passed, she had no problem leaving us to spend time with Dani and Carmen, and last night, she’d begged to have a sleepover with her best friend from school. Luke and I dropped her off, and as she trotted off with her small overnight backpack, I’d burst into tears. I couldn’t help it. It was like a black cloud had lifted. Our sunshine child was back. Luke wrapped me in his arms and whispered in my ear, ‘Breathe, baby.’ God, I loved how he said that. He didn’t laugh at me or mock me. He understood how I felt. I knew this, because when I looked into his midnight-blue eyes, I knew he felt the same way. Exactly the same way!

We were leaving today. All our stuff was packed, ready to be shipped to New York. I wasn’t sad. Encinitas had offered me a safe haven when I needed it most. And it would always have a special place in my heart. But Luke was my home now. His house in Bay Ridge beckoned. I wanted nothing more than to be home with him and Lily, putting down roots, building our future.

And last night, like he read my mind, Luke planted the seed to make that dream come true. As soon as we returned from dropping Lily at her friend’s house, Luke took my hand and led me out to Carmen’s favorite spot on the ridge. Over the last week, I’d tried repeatedly to show him this spectacular view that meant so much to me, but we’d been too busy packing and visiting with family. Not last night. Luke made sure of it.

As we crested the small ridge, my breath caught and warmth flooded through me. Acres and acres of lily fields stretched out below us. I’d forgotten what a breathtaking sight it was.

“Fuck me,” Luke murmured, and his hand squeezed mine. “It’s even more beautiful than you described, baby.”

I breathed deep, the air rich with the perfume of lilies. “It is, isn’t it.” The view was truly majestic. The sun a blazing ball against a sunset sky of pinks, oranges and magenta. “I used to come here when I was pregnant,” I confided. “Sunrise and sunset. I think it helped me hang on to my sanity.”

“It kills me I wasn’t here for you.” I could hear the pain in his voice, and let go of his hand to hug him tightly. He turned into me, both arms pulling me against him. “Tell me you know I’ll never let you down like that again.” His slid his hand up to cup my face. “Tell me, Katya.”

“I know it, Luke.” I covered his hand with my own, and pulled it down to settle over my heart. “I know it right here. Deep inside.” I pressed down harder, until I could feel the warmth of his palm burning through my dress. “And I trust it. I trust you.”

Our eyes locked and moments passed. Beautiful moments. My friendly butterflies fluttered lazily in my belly, and I smiled at Luke. His hand curled round to clasp mine.

And he slipped a ring on my finger.

I froze as the butterflies took off in cartwheels. “Luke!” I gasped.

“Yeah?” His voice was deliciously husky.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like.” The corner of his mouth quirked.

So wickedly sexy. “That’s a ring.”

“Yeah.”

I stared at the ring. It was a princess cut diamond surrounded by dark amethysts that glimmered with a violet hypnotic sparkle. And it was stunning, a perfect fit. Swallowing hard, I dragged my eyes away and looked into his gorgeous face. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“Fuck yeah.” He let go of my hand, and cradled my face, forcing me up on tiptoes. My hands flattened against his chest. “Katya Molina Dalca, will you please take pity on me.” His lips brushed mine and I clung to him, letting him take more of my weight. “I’m head-over-heels fucking in love with you. And there’s nothing I want more, than to spend the rest of my life making you happy. Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” My heart pounded wildly and I pressed my mouth against his. “Yes! Yes!”

His mouth opened and he deepened our kiss. Desire entwined with love, sending coils of need rippling through me. His tongue swirled around mine, his addictive taste sinking into my body.

God, I love him!

His fingers combed through my hair, and he eased back, nibbling on my lips. “You need to get busy, baby,” he murmured against my mouth. “You’ve got a month to sort the wedding.”

My chin jerked and I nearly bit my tongue. “What?”

“Your dad has his first weekend furlough in a month.” He grinned. “If I’m not wrong, he’s gonna insist on walking you down the aisle.”

My fingers clutched his shirt. “Are you crazy? One month to plan a wedding.”

“I’ve waited six fucking years.” His hands tightened in my hair and he bent down until his forehead rested on mine. “Yeah,” he said, his voice softening. “You get one month. You got a problem with that?”

I searched his beautiful eyes. They were glinting. Not with challenge, but with a desperate plea. Luke needs this. “Okay, honey,” I whispered against his sensual mouth. “One month.”

And we did it. We got married one month later in New York. On a beautiful catamaran. I insisted. I didn’t want Lily’s only memory of boating and the sea to be of blood and fear. I wanted to replace the nightmare of Julian’s madness with something beautiful. And what could be more beautiful than our marriage?

Luke’s entire family from NJ came. When Luke was released from hospital, he introduced me to his family. His Uncle Bruce and Aunt Margie. Their children and their partners. And his Uncle Colin. And I even met his Aunt Lorna and her wife, Susan. I liked them all immediately because it was obvious how much they loved Luke, how proud they were of him. I promised we would see them more often. And we did. Luke didn’t say, but I knew it meant a whole lot each one of them made it to the wedding.

Of course, Gray was Luke’s best man and Dani was my maid of honor. She and all the Molina’s flew in for the wedding. Carmen insisted on bringing heaps of different types of lilies. She used them to festoon our huge-ass catamaran. Yes! We had Flowers by Carmen.

Frank and Mary came. I’d spent a lot of time with them over the last three months. The shock of learning Julian had murdered their daughter had aged them. They were reserved and spent most of their time visiting with Lily, but I didn’t mind. If Lily could warm them with her sunshine spirit, I was happy.

King, Eva, Mira and the rest of Luke’s hunka-liscious team were also there, except for Matiu. When I asked Tane where he was, he shrugged and said Matiu had gone walkabout—whatever that meant.

The next day, Dani, Carmen and Antonio moved into our house for five days. They and Gray were taking care of Lily, while Luke and I left for New Orleans on our honeymoon.

Now that was something special! But I’m going to share that with you another time …

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GRAY’S Promise – COMING SOON

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