Bonus epilogue—Josh & Paige
Thanks so much reading Josh & Paige’s second chance, Christmas romance. I had so much fun writing this story—especially the wedding scene since it was based on my own nuptials and hand-fasting ceremony!
As my thanks for supporting this crazy job of writing happily ever afters, here’s an exclusive bonus epilogue that’s only available to newsletter subscribers.
It was July first, Canada Day, exactly six months since Josh and I tied the knot, a perfect reason to throw a big party at our new place in Lily Valley.
Nick and Sophie’s place was a few houses down the road. Josh loved living so close to Nick and the big draw for me was the size of the property we got with our house and the zoning that allowed me to open my own dog training and boarding business. For both of us, Lily Valley felt like the perfect place to start our family.
For now, and the foreseeable future, that family would consist of the Rottweiler brothers who were briefly known as Master Chief and The Nameless One. We were at the shelter before it even opened on January 2nd, fingers crossed they were still there. We would have adopted Sadie, the senior golden doodle, too, but she’d found a home with a young couple who’d just had a baby. Chantal showed us a picture of them, the dad pushing the stroller and the mom with Sadie on a leash. They looked like a perfect family for each other.
With our perfect family also in place, it was easy to cancel my flight back to London. I asked my roommate to pack up a few things and send them back to me—just my journals and my engagement ring—and to either keep or donate everything else to a thrift store.
Naming our boys took a few weeks. Josh didn’t help at all, making suggestions like, Thing One and Thing Two, and Raphael and Donatello after two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He just couldn’t think outside of the ‘famous brothers’ box.
My struggle was coming up with names that fit their personalities and weren’t cliché. In the end, we agreed that the smaller brother would be Horus, named after an Egyptian god of the sun who appeared in Josh’s favorite Lego video game, Marvel Super Heroes 2. The larger brother we named Luke, after the Marvel comic/Avenger superhero Luke Cage.
We sold ‘What A Good Dog 2.0,’ the VR/AI version—which Josh always referred to as my game—for even more money than Josh thought we could get.
That was amazing, of course, but the even better part of the deal was the consultant role Josh negotiated that gave him the freedom to accept projects that excited him and say ‘No’ if he wasn’t interested—which was anything that required him to work more than thirty-five hours a week, with weekends off. He’d decided that, at least for the next year or two, he didn’t want to be the lead on any projects that didn’t include me. And so far, the only joint projects we’d come up with were of the personal nature. Nothing appropriate for a family-friendly video game.
We’d created a schedule with the perfect balance of work, time alone together, and time with family. We had dinner with Nana and my folks once a week, a sleep-over with Olivia every Saturday, and since our house had enough space for Josh’s brothers to crash, a couple of Fridays a month we’d all get together to play pool or cards.
Josh and I both joined the fire department since Nick and Sophie wouldn’t leave us alone about it. And I’m glad we did since it was an amazing way to get to know people and make friends in the village.
And tonight our big backyard was overflowing with family, old friends and new ones. I’d grabbed Josh and dragged him, willingly, behind the tool shed to take a break from all the socializing which, by 10:00 p.m. had become too much for me.
We were otherwise engaged when the music suddenly stopped, pulling my attention away from Josh’s mouth, which was on my collarbone and promising to find its way under my sundress. Then I heard Mom’s voice over the din of people talking and laughing: “If you can hear my voice say, Shhh.”
I found myself saying it along with everyone else. Josh pulled his lips from me and peeked around the small building.
“Uh, oh. She’s handing the mic to Nana,” he whispered.
“Can you hear me?” Nana said too loud.
People let her know they could.
“Well, for anyone who doesn’t know me, my name is Nana Rhodes. And those young men, Nick, Morgan, Chris, Adam, Dylan and… where’s Joshua?”
Josh dropped his hands from my shoulders and stepped out of the shadows. “Over here,” he called.
“What in the world are you doing over there in the dark?” Nana said into the mic.
The laughter drowned her out.
I stepped out from behind the shed and looked Nana in the eye. Understanding dawned, and she lifted a finger but before she could say another word, Josh called over the snickering.
“Nana Rhodes, settle down,” he said, taking my hand and leading me toward the other brothers with their wives and girlfriends.
Nana shook her head, but I could see her smiling. “As I was saying, these boys are my grandsons. And for Christmas last year, they gave me the most wonderful gift—a video of all the years of Christmases we had together.”
As she spoke, Anthony and my dad were unrolling a giant screen behind Nana.
“It’s two hours long,” I whispered to Josh. “She can’t make everyone here watch it.”
Josh answered by pointing to our moms, rolling a projector across the other side of the yard.
I felt sick. “We should never have come out.” I wanted to disappear into the ground.
“It was so lovely,” Nana continued, “I decided to make my own video. One just for Josh and Paige.”
Nick and Adam, who were now flanking Josh, each punched him on the shoulder.
Adam was barely holding back his laughter. “Look at his face. He looks like he’s going to puke. Don’t puke, baby brother.”
“If he doesn’t, I will,” I said, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks.
“Take a breath, Paige. We’ve got your back,” Nick said.
Nana continued, “Everyone find a seat. Isabelle, Betty, is it ready?”
“Ready to roll,” Josh’s mom called, as Josh and I sank to the grass with sixty other partiers.
The video projected, five times larger than life, on the giant outdoor screen. The opening shot was of Josh and me, still in high school, outside Nana’s house wearing our graduation caps and gowns. We were standing like statues, not touching each other. Nick, the guy filming, called, “Put your arm around her. Give her a happy graduation kiss, Josh!” Josh and I both made faces and stepped away from each other, looking horrified while Nick laughed his ass off.
Cut to later that summer. We’re on Adam’s motorcycle, me with my arms wrapped tight around Josh’s waist. Dylan’s voice is loud, “Ah, look at the young lovers.” Both Josh and I give him the finger as we slowly roll up the street.
Cut to my first Christmas with the Rhodes family at Nana’s. I don’t know who filmed this interaction, it was obvious we didn’t know we were being watched as Josh and I exchanged secret gifts for each other. This was footage I’d never seen. Then a quiet voice says, “I can promise those two won’t be staying just roommates for long.” It was Josh’s mom.
Laughter all around us took me out of the moment on the screen. I leaned into Josh’s chest and he hugged me tight. “It was at least another full year,” he whispered.
“A wasted year.” I looked up and met his eyes. “All that time we could have been …,” I paused and Josh finished the thought.
“Doing it with each other, instead of with our own hands.”
And as if on cue, Nana’s voice, through the speakers bellowed, “Joshua Rhodes, settle down,” as a scene of me begging him to stop tickling me played.
We laughed and I turned from the screen to give my man a kiss. It lasted a little longer than I’d planned and I guess we missed something in the video since we were interrupted by loud cheers, cat calls and people yelling, “Finally!” I looked up to catch the last second of our first kiss—at least, the first one that was captured on video. It sure as heck wasn’t our actual first kiss—that was quite private and not appropriate to share at a family gathering.
The ruckus must have woken Olivia since thirty seconds later, Horus and Luke were out in the yard. A small voice with big confidence ordered them to get back in the house. As Adam scooped up Olivia and sat her on the ground between him and Lizzy, I snapped my fingers twice and the boys found us in the crowd. Horus lay down, pressed against Josh’s legs and Luke sat at attention with his shoulder touching mine. I sighed and leaned closer to Josh.
“Thank you,” I whispered to him as my eyes filled with tears.
“You created this.” I nodded my head to dogs and the people in our big back yard. “This is your vision of a perfect future.”
“No, we created this. Without you, I’m just a guy with half-baked ideas. But, you and me together? That’s what’s always made a perfect past, present and forever.”
The next of the brothers to be tamed by a strong woman is Adam. This is a single dad, fake marriage story between a former stunt snowboarder and young woman who’s still figuring out her future.