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A 'Sincerely, Thatcher Hayes' bonus scene

Daisy sighed in her sleep, and I reached down to stroke her sleek fur. Her body was warm against my legs, and the soft snores coming from her snout added a layer of familiarity to the faint noises of the night.

Every once in a while, a snippet of conversation or a tinkle of laughter would roll down the hill from the country club to the marina. Sometimes someone would stroll down to their boat and climb aboard, then sail off into the cool dark night.

But most of the time, it was quiet and peaceful. Daisy and I had a spot we'd worn out in the last few years. Just behind the picnic tables, there was grove of trees with more sand than grass under the canopy of leaves. 

I was taking a big chance asking Pressly to meet me here tonight. I planned to ask her to take our relationship to the next level. I’d rented a boat, and I had a ring in my shirt pocket.

I’d intentionally chosen the spot where we were supposed to meet all those years ago, hoping to rewrite the past.

I was terrified she wouldn’t show up.

Part of me knew I deserved it if she didn’t. But the other part of me knew she wouldn’t let me down.

I was working on letting the past go and reaching for what I wanted. And that was Pressly.

Over the last few months, we’d settled into a nice routine of having dinner together a few times a week and enjoying a sleepover whenever Summer spent the night with a friend.

But I wanted more. I wanted to wake up every morning knowing she was mine, preferably tangled in the sheets with me.

I wanted us to be a family. Maybe even have more kids. We weren’t too old.

I’d always wanted a houseful of kids. I pictured us with a chaotic house full of noise, laughter, and love.

“Hey, man.”

The familiar voice snapped me out of my fantasy. I lifted my gaze and saw Jay Sanchez crunching down the gravel path toward me. I did a double take and then schooled my expression, trying to hide my surprise.

It was odd seeing him outside the gym, dressed in a button down shirt that covered all his tattoos and long pants instead of athletic gear. Even odder was seeing him with the

“I didn’t realize they let just anybody in this club,” he said. “I may have to reconsider my membership.”

I chuckled and got to my feet to greet him. His dog growled at me, and I backed off, raising my hands in the air. Daisy came to my side and looked at the barking dog as if he was the most annoying creature on earth.

“Enough Rocky,” he said to the ball of hair with legs.

“Rocky?” I laughed, because Rocky was about as ferocious as a dandelion.

“He’s not mine,” Jay said. “My sister went to Spain for a month and left him with me.”

I wanted to laugh at the sight of former heavyweight champion boxer Jay “Savage” Sanchez with the tiny fluff ball, but it was never a good idea to laugh at Jay.

He was the grumpiest man I knew.

And also the most loyal.

“I’m not actually a member of this club,” I confided.

“Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t figure they’d let you in.”

“How are things going with Cassandra?” I asked.

Jay and the stunning media promoter had  started dating not long after my victory in the ring over Logan The Hitman Malone.

“Don’t ask,” Jay said in an irritated growl.

I raised a brow, not asking, but dying to know more.

“Let’s just say we didn’t want the same things.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

“She wasn’t really my type,” he said. “Too high maintenance.” He shook his head. “She’s a ten, but she takes pictures of her food for social media.”

“Could be worse,” I said.

Jay frowned. “I don’t have time for that shit. I just want to eat when they put the food down, you know?”

“Sounds reasonable.”

Rocky began barking wildly and tugging at the end of his leash. Jay bent and scooped him up, tucking him under his arm. “Rocky can tell a male dog from a mile away,” he said, frowning down at the fluffy dog. “He’s such an alpha.”

I laughed at the tiniest alpha I’d ever seen.

“Isn’t that your woman?” Jay asked, nodding over my shoulder.

I turned and caught sight of Pressly’s slim figure walking toward us, Aslan pulling at the end of his leash. My woman.

I liked think of her like that.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her as came toward us. As soon as she was close enough, I grabbed her hand and tugged her into my embrace, not caring if Jay or anyone else saw.

No matter how many times I saw her, I still couldn’t believe we were together. That I was lucky enough to kiss the woman of my dreams on a daily basis.

I settled my lips on hers, claiming her in front of the entire country club.

The chorus of loud barks drew us apart. Aslan and Rocky were engaging in a battle of alphas while Daisy looked on with disdain.

“Jesus.” Jay rolled his eyes at the dogs. “My sister owes me big.”

I put my arm around Pressly’s shoulders and pulled her tight to my side as Jay said goodbye and carried his dog away.

Her arm came around my waist and she snuggled closer. “I can’t believe I used to think he was scary.” She watched Jay and Rocky walk away. “He’s so sweet.”

I laughed. “Jay is not sweet. He’s the grumpiest person I know. He walks around with a literal black cloud over his head.”

“You should work in the hotel industry.”

I dipped my face to hers for another kiss. “I’m glad you came.”

She raised a brow. “Did you have any doubts.”

I shrugged, aiming for nonchalance. “It’s just nice to see you.”

“You saw me this morning.”

I cleared my throat and thought of the ring in my pocket. “It’s just the two of us tonight, and I have something special planned.”

“The four of us,” Pressly corrected, glancing down at our entourage of dogs.

I started toward the docks and the boat I’d rented for our special night. I’d already come out early and left a picnic basket full of Pressly’s favorite foods. Wine was chilling in a cooler, and blankets were tucked away. Once we got to our secluded destination, I was going to pop the question.

The proposal wasn’t going to be the most glamorous, but it was going to be heartfelt. My stomach clenched as I helped Pressly onto the boat. I could hardly believe this was my life.

Everything had changed since Pressly had moved back to Mossy Oak. I’d thought I’d spend the rest of my life as a bachelor, but now I couldn’t imagine a world without Pressly and Summer.

Pressly made herself comfortable on one of the bench seats as we pulled away from the marina. I dragged my gaze away from her profile long enough to steer the boat into open water. As we gained speed, my heart swelled.

I’d always known I wanted Pressly, and now I couldn’t wait to spend my life with her.

I  found the small cove I’d visited often in the past few years and stopped the boat. Joining Pressly on the blankets, I grabbed the picnic basket and laid out all of her favorites.

“Thatcher,” she said, her voice breathy. “This is amazing.”

I took a deep breath and reached into my pocket. “Pressly, you know how much I love you, right?”

She glanced down at her lap and then back up at me, her eyes suddenly serious. “I love you, too,” she said.

My hand stilled as I reached into my pocket. Pressly was chewing her lip, which was a sure sign of her overthinking.

I tried to gather my courage, but I could tell something was on her mind. She had a worried look on her face. It was one I’d learned to know and love.

Reaching for the wine bottle, I uncorked it and poured two glasses. Maybe some liquid courage would help.

Pressly took her glass and gazed down into the wine, her expression almost sorrowful. “I don’t want to ruin this beautiful night you’ve planned.”

Uh-oh.

“But?” I asked, my jaw clenching as I waited for the hammer to drop and shatter my hopes of a future with Pressly.

“But I can’t drink this.” Pressly handed the glass back to me.

“I’ve got red, too,” I said, getting up to grab the bottle of red wine I’d brought just in case. “Or beer.” I rummaged in the cooler. “There’s beer, too.”

Pressly shook her head. “You better sit down,” she said, glancing at the blanket.

When I didn’t immediately sit, she grabbed my hand and tugged me down beside her.

“I know I’m a little past my prime,” she said.

I wanted to laugh at the absurdity. She was only thirty-six. Two years younger than me. “You're not past your prime.” 

Her eyes softened. “So says the man who only improved with age.”

I pulled her into my lap and buried my nose in her hair to nuzzle her neck. She smelled delicious. “I’m more attracted to you now than ever.”

“Thatcher.” She pulled my face from the crook of her neck and looked at mer, her face gravely serious.

“Is everything okay?”

She shook her head, tears swimming in her blue eyes. “No, it’s not.”

My grip tightened on her. Now that we’d found each other again, there was no way I was letting her go. “What is it?”

She tried to wiggle out of my lap but I held her firm. Chewing her bottom lip, she looked up at m with tear-filled eyes. “I went to the doctor today.”

My heart sank, and I felt the rush of my own tears. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs in protest. I couldn’t imagine a world without Pressly. A chill ran through my entire body.

“Whatever it is, we will fight it. We’ll get the best doctors. Beckett probably knows someone.”

Pressly winced and shook her head. “I’m not sick.” She pulled in a deep breath. “I’m pregnant.”

My heart stopped for a full beat and my jaw dropped. I tried to form words, but my tongue was thick in my mouth.

“I’m so sorry,” Pressly said. “I don’t know how this happened. We were being so careful.” Her face was a desperate plea. “Thatcher? Say something.”

I swallowed roughly, finally finding my voice. “Are you sure?”

She nodded gravely. “I’m sure.”

We stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment. I still couldn’t find the words to express how I felt. My heart was in my throat and my stomach clenched. “But you’re okay?”

A small smile lifted the corner of her lips. “I’m fine.” She shifted closer, concern on her face. “Are you okay?”

“You’re absolutely sure?”

“One hundred percent. I didn’t want to tell you until I saw the doctor.…”

I crushed my mouth to hers, cutting off her words. A little moan escaped her mouth as I deepened the kiss. She clasped her hands around my neck and kissed me back.

We kissed for a long time. Then lay back and looked at the stars as they began to take over the darkening sky. The dogs lay peacefully beside us as we held each other and whispered excitedly about our future.

“Summer’s gonna be a big sister,” I said.

“I hope it’s twins,” she said. “I always wanted twins.”

“I can’t wait to tell Lacey.”

“And Beckett.”

It was a long time before I remembered the ring in my pocket, and when I did, I was suddenly nervous all over again.

Clearing my throat, I assumed the position on one knee and reached anatomy pocket.

“I want you to know that you are the love of my life. You are my one and only and have been since the first time I laid eyes on you when I was eighteen years old.”

Pressly started crying, tears sliding down her cheeks in earnest. I reached out and swiped the tear away. “Will you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife?”

She nodded and reached up to kiss me. I slid the ring onto her finger and then cradled her fa chin my hands, kissing her like it was the first time.

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