FIRST AND AGAIN, my small town, second-chance-at-love romance. My editor at Carina Press felt I’d already tied up all the loose ends in the last chapter, and that this epilogue wasn’t necessary. And after reading again in the editing stage, I had to agree. I guess I loved these characters so much that I wanted to see them happy in their new lives. She suggested I use the deleted scene on my website, and I might still do that, but I wanted to share it here with you first:
Bridget set down the receiver of the phone and smiled at her sister.
“That was Mike. He and Megan just picked up Leslie at the school in Bismarck and they’re on their way home.”
“Okay, so we’ve got about an hour to get everything ready,” Celia said, looking around the restaurant. They’d gone a little overboard with the pink and purple streamers, Leslie’s two favorite colors. “We should be fine. I’ll finish icing the cake. Tell Jack and Gavin it’s time to fire up the barbecues. We’ve got practically the whole town coming.” She grinned at Bridget. “This is a little different from most of the events you cater.”
“It’s the best one so far,” she said with a smile. She glanced at the huge banner Megan and Shawna and Rebecca had made declaring, “Happy 11th Birthday Leslie!” in bright neon pink and purple. “I think she’d going to be so surprised.”
“In more ways than one,” Celia laughed. “Go check on the guys.”
Tina stopped her before she could make it out the door. She held out a plate of cookies. “What do you think?”
Bridget laughed when she saw that she’d created happy faces on each of Leslie’s favorite oatmeal cookies with pink and purple M and M’s. “I’m sure they’ll be a big hit.” She pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you for everything.”
Tina hugged her back. “Hey, it’s not every day a girl turns eleven. I hate to bring up business at a time like this but we need to talk to the Smiths by Thursday and nail down the menu for their anniversary party.”
“You might have to talk to them because I’ve got to get my supplies on Thursday for the wedding on Friday night.”
“Okay, I can do that. Remind me to mark it in the calendar of my new Iphone.”
She grinned. “Have you figured out how to use it yet?”
“It’s coming. You’ve got to get with the new technology, Bridge.”
“I’m doing fine with my pencil and my calendar, thank you very much.”
“Suit yourself.” Tina smiled and threw her free arm around Bridget. “Congratulations, sweetie. I know you’re going to be very happy.”
“I already am,” she replied.
It was true. Between the growing catering business and the restaurant that she and Tina had just reopened, she was working harder than ever before. But somehow it didn’t seem like work. It felt like she was having a good time with her best friend doing what she loved.
If someone had told her a year ago that Tina Wilson would become her best friend, she would have asked what he was smoking.
“Mom!” Rebecca stood in the doorway to the restaurant looking frantic. “Can you come here a minute?”
She held out a silver necklace. “My fingers are all thumbs. I can’t do up the clasp.”
“Here, let me get that for you.” Bridget took the necklace from her daughter’s hand. “Turn around and lift your hair.”
Rebecca obediently made an about face. “I’m so nervous! I’ve never been a bridesmaid before. How come you’re so calm? I thought brides turned into Bridezillas before the ceremony.”
She laughed. “I guess I’m calm because I know I’m marrying the right man. I know Jack and I are going to be very happy.”
“I think so too, Mom.”
She squeezed her shoulders. “There. Your necklace is secured and you’re all set.”
Rebecca turned to face her once more, smoothing the skirt of her dress as she did so. She wore a simple sundress with spaghetti straps in a bright yellow that set off the flames in her auburn hair. “How do I look?”
She smiled and touched her face. It was hard to believe her baby was sixteen years old. “You look all grown up, and completely, and utterly stunning.”
She hugged her. “Thanks Mom. I love you.”
“I love you too, baby.”
Mavis came in through the back door to the restaurant carrying two large vases filled with flowers.
“Aren’t these nice?” Mavis said. “They’re from Jane’s garden. Where would you like me to put them?”
Bridget glanced at the two long banquet tables they’d set up for their guests. “Maybe on either end of the head table.”
“Jane’s bringing two more bouquets when she comes.”
“Even better. We can have one on every table. Rebecca, can you help Grandma and Jane seat people as they arrive?”
“Here Rebecca,” Mavis said, handing her one of the vases. “Put this on the table for me, will you.”
“Okay Grandma.” She walked toward the banquet tables with her arrangement of gladiolas and lilies.
Mavis kissed Bridget’s cheek. “Be happy, honey.”
“I am, Mom. I will be.”
“I see George and Don are here already.”
She waved at the two older gents as they made their way into the room. Don wheeled Martha in her chair. “I promised them apple pie if they got here early. Can you cut them each a piece?”
Mavis laughed and shook her head. “Those two are incorrigible. I’ll take care of them.”
She made her way outside. The coolness of the air conditioned restaurant was a sharp contrast to the hot July afternoon. Jack and Gavin had borrowed a couple of gas barbecues in order to cook up enough hot dogs and hamburgers for the hungry crowd that was on its way.
“Mike phoned. They just picked up Leslie. If we cook the burgers now we can put them in the warming tray till it’s time to eat. I don’t want you two slaving away out here and missing the all the fun.”
“I’ll go grab the burgers and dogs from the freezer,” Gavin said. “You start up the grills.”
Jack gave him a salute. “Aye, aye Captain.”
After the grills began to heat he turned to Bridget. “Is everything under control? Do you need me to do anything else?”
“No, we’re fine,” She said with a smile. She placed her arms around his waist. “I wouldn’t want to wear out one of the guests of honor. At least not yet.”
He kissed her with a passion that hinted at delights to come. “Good idea. We’ll need a little stamina for our wedding night.”
“Our wedding night.” She laughed. “Can you believe it?”
He kissed her nose. “Believe it, sweetheart.”
“I hope the justice of the peace keeps the ceremony short and sweet.”
“That’s the best kind.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Not a bit.”
“Me neither,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having fun with all our friends and family.”
“You’re sure you didn’t want a fancier wedding? Maybe something on a Caribbean island or a cruise ship? We can still do something like that later if you want.”
She shook her head. “Nope. I’m getting married exactly where I want and how I want, on my step-daughter’s eleventh birthday. And most importantly, I’m marrying the man I want. I couldn’t be happier, Jack.”
It was true. She was surrounded by the people she loved in the town she’d come to love. She felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
She knew without a doubt she belonged in Paradise.
Thanks everyone! I hope you enjoyed this deleted scene!