If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1) (17 page)

BOOK: If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1)
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“What do you say we go back up to your room and celebrate our future to its fullest?”

She leaned up and pressed her mouth to his. He held her tight. Marc had the vague, distant impression that they were attracting a few stares from passersby, but he couldn’t have cared less. The realization had struck him that he held his whole world in his arms. His future…
their
future had never shone so bright.

Epilogue

The following spring

M
ari thought her heart would burst with joy. The child in her arms had never seemed so beautiful to her as she did at that moment, nor had the man who sat beside her looked so wonderful. She squeezed Marc’s hand. He turned to her and smiled.

Perhaps it was the sublime spring day or maybe it was the special event they attended. The priest solemnly continued with his blessing of the lovely memorial fountain Marc had had commissioned to be built at the edge of the woods on Silver Dune.

She glanced down the row of seated visitors and caught sight of Eric Reyes. She smiled when he gave her a quick thumb’s up. She was sorry to see that Natalie hadn’t been tempted out of her solitude to attend the lovely outdoor ceremony.

Rylee Jean Kavanaugh chose that moment to make a
loud, burbling sound in her sleep. Marc and she glanced down in surprise and concern, but Rylee resumed her peaceful nap, her tiny, rose-colored lips making a rhythmic, pursing movement as she slept.

“She’s going to wake up hungry as a horse,” Marc whispered.

Mari noticed his devilish grin and the way his gleaming blue eyes flickered quickly over her breasts.

“She’s got an appetite like you,” Mari whispered back, giving him a mock look of censorship.

Something caught her eye at the back of the seating area. Her smile faded. Marc turned to look where she stared.

“I can’t believe she came,”
she whispered.

They watched Colleen Kavanaugh lead her mother to a seat in the back row. Almost every seat they’d set up in the clearing had been taken. The Family Center had gotten off to an excellent start. Clients attended the ceremony, as did family members, employees and people from the town.

Father Mike continued. “We would like to end this ceremony by having each of you bless this fountain. Those who have survived the pains of substance abuse and those who are trying to find the hope within themselves in order to survive please come to the front, grab a small portion of salt and toss it into the fountain. The salt represents toil and tears, but also stands for hope. Hope is invisible, something we must find within ourselves using the vision not of our eyes but of faith. Your blessings and wishes today may disappear like the salt in the water, but this fountain will be replenished and strengthened by your hope for the future. Please come forward and cast your wishes into this fountain.”

People began to stand and join in a line. Mari glanced back halfway through the ceremony and saw Brigit
Kavanaugh sitting next to her daughter. She looked stiff and uncomfortable, as if she’d gate-crashed a party where she wasn’t welcome.

Things had improved between Brigit and Mari since she had moved to Chicago, obtained a position with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and married Marc. Rylee had been born four-and-a-half weeks ago, and a granddaughter had certainly made Brigit warmer, at times reminding Mari of the woman she used to know. However, Brigit still became tight-mouthed when any mention of The Family Center was made. That was why Mari was shocked Colleen had persuaded her mother to come.

Mari glanced uncertainly at Marc as they came back from dropping their salt into the fountain. He gave her a small smile of encouragement, and her love for him swelled. He’d been so supportive of everything she’d done with The Family Center. She knew he felt bad that his mother kept up a silent opposition to the project.

Father Mike said a few closing words and a prayer, and everyone started to depart. There was a reception following the ceremony in The Family Center. Mari should get inside there to help.

Instead, she stood. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered to Marc.

Brigit and Colleen were standing in preparation to leave when Mari approached. She still held a sleeping Rylee in one arm, but she extended her other hand.

“Brigit,” she said softly.

Brigit seemed confused, but she hesitantly took Mari’s hand.

She led her mother-in-law to the podium that stood in the front. Everyone was milling about or departing, their attention elsewhere, but she sensed Marc’s gaze on her like a reassuring touch. She nodded at the gold bowl containing the salt.

“Take some, Brigit.”

Brigit stiffened at her words.

“This ceremony is for the survivors of substance abuse,” Mari spoke quietly. “That’s what you are, Brigit. That’s what this place is about. It’s about making a future despite the pain of the past.”

She saw Brigit’s throat convulse. For a second, Mari worried she was going to turn and walk away, but then Brigit reached with a trembling hand. Mari gave her a smile and led her to the edge of the lovely, new, stone-and-metal fountain.

Brigit held out her arm. The grains fell through her parted fingers like solidified tears. The hand that had released the salt found Mari’s. Mari felt Brigit’s flesh shaking next to her own. She tightly clasped Brigit’s hand before they turned away.

Mari and Marc stood in each other’s arms later. They stared out at the lake and the sinking sun. Almost everyone had left the reception at The Family Center. Marc had asked her to take a walk with him, and Colleen had happily agreed to watch her niece for a few minutes.

“Every time I think I couldn’t love you more you prove me wrong,” Marc said quietly from above her.

“I feel the same way about you.”

He grinned and lowered his head, nuzzling her nose. “I’m thankful you decided to take the leap, Mari.”

“It’s only half as scary with you next to me.”

“And twice as exciting.”

“Cocky,” she chastised softly. She went up on her toes and kissed her husband in the golden light of the setting sun.

ISBN: 978 1 472 09461 2

IF YOU COME BACK TO ME

© 2011 Beth Kery

Originally published as
The Hometown Hero Returns

Published in Great Britain 2011
by Mills & Boon, an imprint of Harlequin (UK) Limited
Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations and incidents are purely fictional and bear no relationship to any real life individuals, living or dead, or to any actual places, business establishments, locations, events or incidents. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

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BOOK: If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1)
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