This was the original epilogue for STAND (Shift Series #4). I omitted it in favor of the existing epilogue between Drake and Topher for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being that I loved giving people a look into that relationship) but this scene stayed in my heart just the same. So here it is for your reading pleasure!
As usual with these bonus content posts, please note that this is pretty much unedited. You’re seeing writing that is only one step up from raw first draft–no beta readers’, no editors’ eyes have graced these words 🙂
I fidgeted with my earring once more, making sure it was hanging just right—making sure it hadn’t fallen out though there was no reasonable way it could have.
“They’re still there, Lee,” my Dad said.
I looked up and saw him in the mirror, behind me.
He smiled and crossed the room. He looked funny in a suit. “Touching them makes it feel like she’s here though, huh?”
I nodded with a smile. “But I should stop messing with them—lord knows how old they are.”
“Only Cecelia would own a pair of antique sapphire earrings and keep them in a random jewelry box in her room—not somewhere safe.”
It wasn’t worth explaining that she could have kept them on her kitchen counter and they would have been safe, given the middle-of-nowhere location of her house. My house. No, that didn’t feel right. I still hadn’t moved any of her furniture, though technically, I’d owned this place for years now.
Drake and I hadn’t been able to bring ourselves to live here at first. We’d said the reason we hadn’t moved in was because we needed to finish school—and that was true—but, the other reason was because, at first, it had been too hard to be here. It was better now though, the sorrow less acute. Now this house was full of memories, bittersweet and tangy like lime sherbet. But it was also sitting, waiting to be made full of new memories. At first, Samantha and Harris had kept an eye on the house, keeping it dust-free and in good repair. Then, when Harris retired, and they’d decided to move back to California, I’d paid a property management company to look after it while we finished our Bachelor’s degrees. Now, Drake and I were getting ready to move in. After today.
“You’re almost up,” Dad said as he glanced out the window. “Everybody’s seated and Yumi’s about to wet herself she’s so excited—you better get out there before she spins off into the aether and takes all the flower petals with her.”
I laughed and joined him at the window, my dress rustling softly as I went. Sure enough, Ferris and Collin’s daughter was spinning in place, watching her red-orange dress with the teal ribbon flare as she turned. Her black hair showed blue in the bright sunlight. Ferris crouched down in front of her to grab her attention.
Dad let the curtain fall back into place. “See what I mean?”
“We should probably get out there before everybody melts, regardless,” I agreed.
I took his arm though it wasn’t necessary just yet, and together we walked down the short hallway, then across the living room to the front door.
“So,” Dad said as we waited. “After today, Mrs. King, huh?”
I shook my head. “Ms. Brayton-King, Dad. I told you that.”
“That’s right.” He sighed theatrically. “Hyphenating…that’s very modern of you. How does Drake feel about that?”
“He’s fine with it.” Especially when I’d explained to him why I’d wanted to do it: to preserve the Brayton shifter lineage. I was the last Brayton shifter, after all.
“I know,” Dad replied. “I’m just diffusing the situation with humor—it’s a coping mechanism.”
I laughed quietly.
“See, it works every time.”
A knock on the door meant the flower girl was on her way down the aisle, which was my cue.
My eyes found Drake’s the second the door opened. And while I knew there were people sitting in the white chairs on either side of the aisle—Samantha and Harris, Mallory, Terry and Michael, Sol, Poi, Nina, Wyck, Gabriel, even Felix, an empty chair beside him in honor of my aunt—Drake was all I could see.
We couldn’t have known, when we met, all the things that would happen. Just like we couldn’t have known, standing there that day, that it would take five years before we would refer to our house as ours and not Cecelia’s. Or that, in that time, we would have a daughter named Cressida and a son named Joaquin. We had no way of knowing those things as we stood, staring at one another, exchanging the vows we had already been living for years on that sweltering, sunny day under the tree in my aunt’s front yard.