Temptation Series Bonus Scene
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I hope you enjoy one last scene with Lachlan and Julia.
The ocean breeze wrapped around me from the open windows of the beach house on the windward side of Oahu, boisterous chatter filtering up from the lanai, the voices belonging to the few dozen guests Lachlan and I had invited to be here for this special occasion.
One that was a long time coming.
One I didn’t think I’d ever want again.
Until Lachlan changed my mind.
Now I couldn’t wait to wake up every morning for the rest of my life…with him as my husband.
I shifted my eyes to the full-length mirror, studying my appearance. My hair wasn’t nearly as dark as I once colored it in order to separate myself from the woman I was when I was married to Nick.
I no longer felt the need to distance myself from that woman. To pretend the past never happened.
Instead, over the last few years, I did what Naomi had encouraged me to do from the beginning.
I embraced that woman.
Celebrated that woman.
Appreciated that woman.
If I didn’t go through everything I did, I wouldn’t be here today, minutes away from getting married to the man of my dreams.
And this time, I wasn’t getting married because of some misplaced desire to gain approval or feel accepted. This time when I walked down that aisle — or beach — I was doing so because I couldn’t imagine going another minute without being Lachlan’s wife.
Without him being my husband.
A knock on the door cut through my thoughts, and I snapped my eyes from the mirror.
“It’s me, Jules,” Naomi called out. “Are you decent?”
“Of course. Come on in.”
The door opened a crack and Naomi slipped inside, her sea blue dress flowing behind her. When her eyes fell on me, she sighed, covering her heart with her hands.
“Oh, Jules.” She pulled her lips between her teeth, shaking her head. “You look…” Her voice caught, emotion filling her gaze.
“You better not start or you’re going to make me cry,” I admonished, my words coming out choked.
“I can’t help it.” She strode toward me, wrapping me in her arms. “I’m just so damn happy for you. This is how it’s supposed to be.” She squeezed me tightly, then held me at arm’s length. “And I’m thrilled you can finally experience what being in love, what being with the right person feels like.”
“Now we need to work on you finding the right person,” I chided in an effort to cut through the emotions filling me. “Unless you already have.” I waggled my brows, urging her to open up and come clean.
I wasn’t stupid. In the past year, Nikko visited Lachlan in Atlanta more than he did in the previous five years combined. While he insisted it was to visit us — especially Imogene, who he started referring to as his favorite niece — I couldn’t shake the feeling it was to also visit Naomi.
Just like I couldn’t shake the feeling all the supposed business trips to Hawaii Naomi had taken weren’t to meet with clients for her new market research and public relations company she started after I sold the Mad Batter.
Instead, it was to see Nikko.
To do more than see Nikko.
I simply couldn’t prove it yet. Both of them were stealthy, not even so much as passing a sly look between each other when in public.
But I wasn’t one to berate her for wanting to keep anything going on between them a secret. I did the same thing with Lachlan. I had my reasons, though. What were hers?
“Today’s not about me,” she reminded me in an attempt to change the subject. “It’s about you, Lachlan, and Imogene. About the three of you officially becoming a family. Becoming ohana.”
“Look at that.”
“Look at what?” She peered at me quizzically.
“This is the first time I’ve heard you use a Hawaiian term.”
“What can I say?” She shrugged, averting her gaze. “The islands are rubbing off on me.”
“Or perhaps a certain someone from the islands is rubbing off on you.” I passed her a devious grin.
“The only thing rubbing off on me is Mr. Powers.”
I furrowed my brow. “Mr…Powers?”
“The name I gave my vibrator.”
I barked out a laugh. Only Naomi would give her vibrator a name so it sounded like a real person.
“Now, are you ready?” She glanced out the windows, and I followed her line of sight, seeing our guests making their way out to the chairs assembled in the exact spot Lachlan and I met nearly two years ago.
Returning my gaze to Naomi, I drew in a deep breath.
But it wasn’t out of nerves.
More out of excitement.
The last time I was about to get married, I was so riddled with anxiety, I’d thrown up. The entire ceremony was a blur. One minute, I’d considered escaping from the hotel room and disappearing. The next thing I knew, a justice of the peace announced I was married to him.
But today, there weren’t any second thoughts.
Only excited anticipation about the prospect of standing in front of our friends and family, promising to love and cherish Lachlan for the rest of my days.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life.” I beamed.
She grabbed my hand. “Me, too.”
I held her gaze for several moments, then pulled away, turning toward the full-length mirror and smoothing a hand down my dress.
I chose a gown that was a bit unconventional. Not because I’d been married before, but because I didn’t feel the need to wear white. Didn’t feel the need to adhere to other people’s expectations of me.
So instead, I chose a dress with elaborate pearl detailing throughout the fitted bodice before it flowed out at the waist with layers of silk. And instead of being the traditional white, the entire dress was in an ombre style, starting with champagne at the top before slowly transitioning to sea blue at the bottom.
It was the perfect dress to wear for a beach wedding, the shades matching the sand and the Hawaiian sea.
Content with the gown, I checked the flowers woven into my hair, the yellow and honey color the perfect compliment to my copper and blonde hair.
Then I faced Naomi, smiling wide. “Let’s go get me a husband.”
I linked my arm through hers as we made our way down the stairs and into the living room. At the sound of my bare feet padding on the hard wood flooring, Imogene and Wes looked my way.
“Oh, Mama,” Imogene breathed, eyes glistening as she approached me. I wrapped her in my arms, kissing the top of her hair, mindful not to disturb the flowers woven through her golden curls. “You look beautiful.”
I pulled back, admiring my little girl, even though she wasn’t so little anymore. Not only was she taller than me by a good half-foot, at sixteen years old, she was becoming a woman more and more every day.
It felt like just yesterday I was sitting in the NICU, watching her tiny body fight to survive. Now here she was, thriving.
“You look beautiful, too, baby.” I pushed a tendril of hair behind her ear, admiring her soft features.
“That dress is stunning, Jules.”
I turned from Imogene, dropping my hold on her, and met Wes’ eyes as he approached carrying little Ellery, who would fill the role of our flower girl today. Since she was only fourteen months and wobbled more than walked, Imogene would be helping.
“Thanks, Wes. And thanks for coming all the way out here with a baby.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He gave me a sincere smile as he admired Ellery in his arms. “What do you think, little one? Ready to go with your cousin?”
He didn’t even have to ask her twice, Ellery’s dark eyes lighting up the instant Wes mentioned Imogene.
“Mo Mo!” Ellery said, reaching for her.
Imogene took her from Wes, placing her on her hip as if she were an old pro.
“You got her okay?” Wes asked, always the concerned father.
“She’s fine,” Imogene assured him. Then she looked at Ellery. “Aren’t you, peanut?”
Ellery clapped her hands, blowing raspberries, her excitement about being with Imogene obvious. “Mo Mo! Mo Mo!”
“That’s right.” Imogene rubbed her nose against Ellery’s. “You love your Mo Mo, don’t you?
“Mo Mo!” Ellery giggled.
“Well, shall we?” Wes held his elbow out for me.
After taking my bouquet from Naomi, I looped my arm through his. “We shall.”
I followed Imogene, Ellery, and Naomi out onto the lanai, Wes and I lingering out of view as the short processional began, consisting solely of Naomi as my maid of honor, and Imogene and Ellery. Nikko was already in position next to Lachlan on the beach.
When everyone was in place, Nikko’s brother, Isiah — who agreed to be our officiant — brought a conch shell up to his mouth and blew into it, first to the north, then to the east, south, and west, as was the tradition in many Hawaiian ceremonies. A way of appeasing the gods of fire, land, sea, and air, as Lachlan explained to me.
Once the sound of the fourth conch blow dissipated with the ocean waves, Isiah gestured for everyone to stand. Butterflies swam in my stomach, excited energy filling me.
“Ready?” Wes asked one last time.
He held my gaze for a beat, then squeezed my hand hooked in his elbow and led me from the lanai and onto the beach.
With each step I took, my pulse increased a little more, a myriad of emotions filling me that I couldn’t even begin to label. But above them all, one shone brightly.
My love shone brightly.
And it only increased when I turned the corner and stood at the end of the makeshift aisle, my eyes meeting with Lachlan’s for the first time, My heart skipped a beat at how incredible he looked in the light beige suit that was perfectly molded to his muscles. But that was nothing compared to the look of awe crossing his expression as he raked his gaze over me.
He blinked, his lips parting, tears welling in his eyes. It was the way I always dreamed my husband would look at me on my wedding day. As if he were so mesmerized by the sight of me, he couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t speak.
When I finally reached the end of the aisle, Wes leaned toward me, brushing a kiss to my cheek. “Happiness looks good on you, Jules. I love you.”
I smiled, doing everything to keep my emotions in check. “I love you, too, Wes.”
He pressed a kiss to my other cheek, then turned toward Lachlan. The two most important men in my life shook hands before Wes pulled Lachlan in for a quick bro hug. Then Wes went to sit beside Londyn, Ellery, and Eli, Naomi taking my bouquet from me.
Now that it was just us, Lachlan didn’t waste any time, gripping my cheeks and pulling me toward him, resting his forehead on mine. I closed my eyes, breathing him in. In an instant, it was just us. Just this connection. Just this love.
“Julia, you…” Pulling back, his eyes locked with mine as he struggled to find the words he needed. “You look… Just… wow.”
I blew out a laugh through my tears, taking the tissue Naomi offered and dabbing at my eyes. “Happy to see you’re still a man of few words, just like that fateful morning you came to my rescue in this very spot.”
“And just like that morning, you still take my breath away.” He leaned toward me, eyes unwavering. “You will always take my breath away, love.” He cupped my cheeks, drawing my mouth toward his. “Always.”
As he was about to press his lips to mine, Isiah cleared his throat, forcing us away from each other.
“Keep it in your pants for a few more minutes, cousin. I’ve got words to say first. I’ve been practicing.”
My cheeks heated as polite laughter rippled through the early evening air, the sun setting on the other side of the island casting a beautiful glow on us.
“Aloha, E Komo Mai, and welcome,” Isiah began, addressing our guests. “We’re here today to celebrate the wedding of Julia Blaire Prescott to Lachlan Keone Hale.”
Cheers and applause rang out, our guests as excited about today as we were.
“Marriage is one of the greatest and most challenging adventures you can ever embark upon,” Isiah continued. “The purpose of a wedding ceremony isn’t to create a new relationship between you. That already exists. Instead, today is merely a symbolic acknowledgment of how far you’ve come together and of the promise that you will make to stick by each other’s side, no matter what the future holds.”
I didn’t know Isiah all that well, but his words resonated with me. Today wasn’t a beginning for either of us. It was simply a continuation of the relationship we’d built from that first word, first touch, first kiss.
Lachlan kept my hands gripped in his as Isiah continued going through the ceremony, only releasing his hold on me briefly when we exchanged leis, as was another custom of a Hawaiian wedding ceremony.
“Julia and Lachlan have decided to write their own vows,” Isiah announced once we were draped in gorgeous leis consisting of green ti leaves and purple orchids. “So I’m going to hand it over to them.” He nodded toward Lachlan.
Nikko pulled a glittering band from the inside pocket of his suit, then handed it to Lachlan.
He grabbed my left hand in his, bringing the ring up to my finger.
While I certainly never wanted to receive jewelry as a gift for the rest of my life, this was different. I wanted the world to know I was happily married to a wonderful man. Which was why I insisted on us getting rings. And why I’d also happily allowed Lachlan to buy me an engagement ring, after which he proposed all over again.
“When I first met you,” Lachlan began, his voice trembling, “falling in love was the absolute last thing on my mind. I didn’t think I wanted to fall in love again. Didn’t think I deserved to fall in love again.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, chin quivering as he attempted to reel in his emotions.
It was a stark contrast from the brooding man I first encountered in this very spot. I barely recognized that man anymore. Not now that I knew who Lachlan Hale truly was.
“But that’s the thing I’ve had to come to terms with these past few years. Love doesn’t care about what we want. We can try to say we don’t want to fall in love all we want, but the heart has a mind of its own. And the second my eyes met yours after you tried to peel a jellyfish off your leg, I knew my life would never be the same. Because that was the moment my heart started beating again. Or maybe it was when my heart starting beating for the first time.
“We may not be the most traditional couple. But I don’t care about any of that. Today, in front of God, our friends, and our ohana, I promise to love you for who you are. And for who you are yet to become. I promise to be patient and not as much of a hot head as I can be when on the mound. I promise to support your dreams and do everything in my power to help you reach them, regardless of how big or small. And I promise to love your daughter as if she were my own.”
He shifted his gaze, meeting Imogene’s eyes as she stood beside Naomi.
“Imogene, our skin may not match. We don’t have the same eyes. Or smile. And I’ll never be able to look at you and see pieces of myself when I was younger. But from the moment I met you, when you flung your arms around me and accepted me, approved of me as good enough to be with your mum, you stole my heart. And I promise to always treat you as if you’re my own. Because in my mind, you are a part of me.”
“You’re a part of me, too,” she said shakily, then added, “Hale.”
Polite laughter filtered around us, a welcome break in the emotion-filled tension. Once it died down, Lachlan turned his eyes back to mine.
“When I’m with you, everything’s quiet. Calm. Peaceful. I’ll never understand what I did to deserve you, for you to choose me. But I promise you, Julia Blaire, today and every day forward, I will always choose you. Will always crave you. Will always love you. My heart. My soul. My wife.”
Tears trickled down my cheeks as he slid the ring on my finger.
But unlike when Nick slid his ring on my finger, I didn’t feel weighed down. Like the ring burdened me. Like it was a shackle binding me to something I wanted no part of.
Instead, it felt as if the last piece in the puzzle of my life finally snapped into place.
Pausing a moment to settle my emotions over the significance of today, I then turned to Naomi, taking the titanium band Lachlan chose. Facing him once more, I brought the ring up to his finger.
“My Meemaw often said that life is what happens when you’re too busy to notice. But I think love is what happens when you’re too busy to notice. Because that’s exactly what happened with you. I was so busy fighting the idea of loving anyone that I didn’t realize the truth until it slammed into me.” I pushed out a laugh. “Or technically until Naomi smacked some sense into me, as she’s prone to do more often than not.”
Another wave of polite laughter sounded as Lachlan looked over my shoulder at my best friend.
“Thanks Naomi. I owe you one.” He winked.
“Just treat my girl well and your debt is paid,” she remarked.
“Always,” he promised, then returned his gaze to mine, love swirling in his deep blue pools.
“As much as I fought it,” I continued after a beat, “there are some forces too strong to resist. My love for you is too strong to resist. It has been since the day we met. And every day I spend with you, I fall in love with you all over again. Fall in love with your soul. With your heart. With the way you so easily loved me and Imogene, accepting her as yours without hesitation.
“Lachlan Keone Hale, you complete me in ways I never knew possible. You love me in ways I never thought possible. And the truth is, I love you in ways I never thought possible. From this day forward, I promise to support you, inspire you, and love you with everything I have. Your love and trust make me a better person. You stood by my side through some of the worst times of my life. You truly are the best part of me. You made me believe in myself when I’d lost my way. Because of you, I’m the person I am today. And from this day forward, I’m honored to call myself your wife. And for you to be my husband.” I slid the ring onto his finger, tears cascading down both of cheeks, neither one of us caring to hide our emotions. “I love you,” I managed to choke out.
“And I love you.”
Isiah stepped back into the center, Lachlan and I staring at each other through tear-stained eyes as he wrapped up the ceremony, offering his well-wishes for a happy marriage.
“By the power vested in me by the beautiful state of Hawaii, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” He turned his gaze toward Lachlan. “Now you can kiss your girl.”
“It’s about damn time,” Lachlan replied, his voice almost like a needy growl, the tone setting my insides aflame.
But I didn’t have time to think about that. In an instant, Lachlan looped his arm around my waist, yanking my body against his. His lips claimed mine, possessive, needy, loving, and a thousand other things all rolled into one scintillating, heartfelt kiss.
Cheers and applause circled us as I basked in Lachlan’s first kiss as my husband.
And my first kiss as Julia Hale.
When Lachlan brought the kiss to an end, he pressed his forehead against mine once more, both of us breathing each other in. Then he pulled back, reaching for Imogene’s hand and pulling her against him, wrapping her in a hug with one arm while pulling me against him with the other, the three of us celebrating this new family we found when we least expected it.
My journey to this point in my life was anything but easy. For the longest time, all I wanted to do was forget the past. Pretend it never happened.
But my past made me into the woman I was today. If one thing was different, I wouldn’t be where I was, married to the most incredible man, and mother to the most amazing young woman.
They say hindsight is twenty-twenty. That knowing what you do now, sometimes you’d make a different decision, take a different path.
Despite the struggles and obstacles I’d faced, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because this path led me to this moment. To this man. To this family.
And I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Thanks so much for reading this bonus epilogue. Stay tuned for more information on Imogene's story - Cruel Saint.
In the meantime, if you're in the mood for another suspense-filled age gap romance, check out the Inferno series!
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