Originally, True-Blue Cowboy was not a Christmas book! When I reworked Summer and Thack’s story to be a Christmas story, I had to delete the original epilogue. However, if you’ve read True-Blue Cowboy Christmas, I think you’ll enjoy this epilogue (and I think it still works).
Summer could barely contain the giddy excitement. Already Delia and Mel had told her to drink something for the sake of their nerves, but Summer refused.
She wouldn’t alter her mind with anything until her vows were said. For as long as her brain served her, she would have this memory in perfect detail.
“I’m so bored,” Kate whined, kicking her legs against the side of the bench in Summer’s caravan. It was packed to the gills between her, Summer, Mel, and a very pregnant Delia, but Summer couldn’t imagine getting ready for her wedding anywhere else.
It had all started here, it should start here all over again.
“Do you want to open your present?”
Kate perked up. “Okay!”
Summer pulled the little box out of the pantry that hadn’t actually held any food in two weeks, since the day she’d formally moved into the Lane house.
Where she was about to properly belong. She was about to become a Lane. Part of not just one family, but part of two. Instead of just sister and daughter, she now got to be wife and step-mother. But most of all, best of all, she got to be herself and give and receive all the love she’d ever dreamed of.
Kate tore open the box and squealed at the contents.
“A flower crown,” she said, eyes wide with wonder. “Just like my book.”
Summer lifted the crown of yellow and orange wild flowers and daisies and placed it on Kate’s head, slowly pinning it into her barely contained curls. “A fairy princess needs a fairy crown.”
Kate wrapped her arms around Summer’s waist and squeezed, and like every other little reminder of lovetoday, it almost sent her into tears, but she breathed through it.
Kate blinked up at her. “But you need one.”
“Don’t you worry about our fairy queen,” Delia said, lifting the circle of flowers the florist had made out of its box. Summer bent down and, with Mel’s help, they pinned the crown, woven out of a riot of summer wildflowers, into her waves of hair.
She felt like a fairy queen. She felt like she was in a dream, and she would savor this day, this feeling that nothing could ever be boring or hard or painful again.
Bad things were always around the corner, but that didn’t mean she had to expect them, or worry about them. Today was for today alone.
A knock sounded at the caravan, and Mel opened the door to Caleb. Behind him sat Dad in his wheelchair, both dressed in suits.
Summer blinked furiously. They were about as comfortable in formal wear as they were with her crying, but they were suffering both for her.
“Ready?” Caleb asked, offering Delia a hand down from the caravan. He placed a hand on her bulging stomach briefly before helping the rest of them down.
Summer was last, and Caleb squeezed her hand tight even after she’d made it to the ground. “You look beautiful.”
She couldn’t say thank you or she’d cry, so she only nodded. Then she turned to her father, who had agreed to be wheeled by Caleb down the makeshift aisle. Next to her. Holding her hand.
He wasn’t magically healed, physically or spiritually from a few months ago, but he’d…opened a few cracks. He’d agreed to physical therapy for the first time, and she would occasionally catch him holding little Lissa in his lap and whispering stories in her ear. He talked. He attended dinners.
He had his quiet days, moods that settled over him, and they all silently agreed on letting him have those days, those moments, because he was repeatedly coming out of them.
But when she’d asked him to accompany her down the aisle, he’d agreed without hesitation, and she thought maybe there had been a few tears in his eyes.
“I’m glad to see you so happy,” he offered in that gruff voice that was becoming familiar instead of jarring. She took his offered hand while Mel lined Kate and Delia and herself up in front of them.
The procession would lead them around the caravan, to the tree line, where Thack and Caleb had worked together to build a little altar. Mr. Lane and Mrs. Bart, Dan and Lissa, Rose, Thack’s cousin, a few more townspeople who’d helped put the outdoor wedding together would all be seated on a hodgepodge of chairs drug out from both the Shaw and the Lane homes.
Kate disappeared around the corner first, happily throwing flowers perhaps a little too enthusiastically, then Mel, then Delia.
Summer was supposed to count to five, but all she could think standing at the corner of the caravan, waiting to turn and face her future, was that five seconds seemed like way too long.
So she stepped forward, holding her father’s hand, as Caleb pushed him over the rough, uneven ground. Her family stood in front of her, waiting for her.
Everything else faded away. For a few moments it was only him and her, separated by a few yards of green. He was also in a suit, the first time she’d ever seen him in one, and his smile broadened when their eyes locked.
She didn’t even have to think about walking, her feet were moving before she’d thought to make them. Moving toward him. Her about-to-be husband. The man she loved.
She’d found her future in Montana. She’d found her family with the Shaws. And she’d found her heart with the Lanes. Today, it would all be brought together, with a little fairy magic for good measure.
And today, and for every day that came after, love would carry them forward. Together.