A Forest Between Us Bonus Epilogue – Owen and Harper’s Big Decision

Harper

Could I be…

I push down the bowling ball floating around in my belly. It’s probably nothing. I’m being silly. Paranoid. Ridiculous.

Except I’m three days late. That’s a fact.

But women are late all the time, right? It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Doesn’t mean that I’m…

Shutting my laptop, I get up and pace, restlessness coursing through me. Confirming Owen’s latest delivery order can wait till later. I should check if Aunt Flo has arrived.

I cringe, hating that I think of it as that. It’s what my mom always called it.

Heading into the bathroom, I confirm my period is still MIA. Should I tell Owen? No, I need something more concrete first. I need to know one way or the other. I need a pregnancy test.

I settle a hand over my stomach at the sudden rush of butterflies that swirl around. Is it nerves? Or something else?

Well, I can’t get a test in town. Even if they sold them at the general store, I’d never give Ruth that kind of ammunition. It’d be all over Crescent Pass in a matter of hours.

There’s a CVS in Kirwood, though. That should be discreet enough.

Grabbing my purse, I stop in the workshop before I leave and pause in the doorway. Owen is deep in concentration as he chisels at a large slab of wood, the muscles in his arms bunching and flexing as shavings fall to the floor. How does he manage to make woodworking look so sexy?

Duke pads over to me and whines softly as he sniffs at my stomach. Does he sense something? Can’t some animals detect that kind of thing?

More like I’m going crazy.

“I’m heading to Kirkwood to pick up a few things,” I say before I blurt out a question about whether dogs can tell if a woman is pregnant. “Need anything?”

He wipes a bead of sweat off his forehead.

“Where are you going?”

“CVS.”

He rubs at his beard. “Uh, maybe a new razor. Fred was out of them last time I went into town.”

I walk over and smooth a hand over the bristly hair on his jaw. “You’re not getting rid of this, are you?” He wouldn’t be my rugged mountain man without his beard.

He grins before leaning down to lay a soft kiss on my lips. “I just need to clean up my cheeks and neck.”

“Okay, good.”

His smile turns more sly. “Don’t worry, I’d ask your permission before doing something major like that.”

“You wouldn’t need my permission.”

The deadpan look he gives me has me laughing.

“Okay, maybe I’d like to be included in the decision,” I concede.

He kisses me again and I breathe in the scent of evergreen woods and clean sweat. I love the way he smells.

The kiss deepens and I get lost for a moment in his lips moving over mine, already so familiar, yet still exciting. Every day with him is an adventure I haven’t tired of.

His palm dips under the hem of my shirt and smooths along my back as he draws me closer, until my breasts brush his chest. “Did you want to…” He trails off, a little breathless.

It wouldn’t be the first time we fooled around in the workshop, and as much as I’m tempted, I’m also in the middle of a mission. Besides, isn’t this how I ended up in this situation to begin with?

“Later,” I promise him. “I want to get back home before it’s dark.”

“Later,” he whispers, a low note in his voice I love hearing.

I get out of there while I still have the willpower and drive the truck over to Kirkwood, the time alone on the highway doing nothing to ease my rising nerves. What if I actually am pregnant? Are we ready for that? We’ve mentioned kids offhand in the abstract, but haven’t made any concrete plans.

Though technically we may have been married for six and a half years, it’s really been a little over a year and a half together. The best time of my life for sure, filled with more love and acceptance than I ever thought possible, but this would shake everything up. And would it be for the better?

Or for worse?

After pulling into the CVS parking lot, I take a moment to grip the steering wheel and center myself. I don’t know anything definite yet. I shouldn’t get all worked up over something that may end up being nothing.

I spend way too long studying the different pregnancy tests, unsure if some brands are better than others. HcG levels, accuracy percentages, control lines… it gets to be too much and I grab a random box, hoping it’ll work out for the best. It’s just peeing on a stick, right?

Clutching it tightly, I make my way to the register, my heart racing. Should I take it at home? Or go to the bathroom here? I’m not sure if I can wait.

“Harper?”

I freeze, panic setting in until I recognize the voice. It’s only Kristen.

Turning toward her, I stop as her eyes widen, and I follow her gaze to my hand. Busted.

“Oh my God, are you—?

I cut her off by pulling her into a deserted aisle, glancing around to see if there’s anyone else I recognize. Kirkwood is far enough away that it’s rare I run into someone from Crescent Pass.

Except today, apparently.

“Are you?” she asks again, this time quieter.

“I don’t know,” I admit. “That’s what the test’s for.”

“But you think you might be?”

“I’m a few days late,” I hedge.

She moves closer. “Have you been nauseous?”

My hand travels to my stomach before I drop it. “I don’t know. It’s probably nerves.”

“Does Owen know?”

I shake my head. “I wanted to be sure before I say anything.”

She bites at her bottom lip. “This is so exciting.”

I throw my hands up. “It could be nothing.”

“I know, I know. Sorry.”

I cross my arms, curiosity getting the better of me. “How did you find out you were pregnant?”

She gives me a soft smile. “I threw up after eating a bowl of oatmeal. I remember thinking there was no way in hell oatmeal would make me sick, so it must be something else.”

“And then, surprise! Twins.”

“Yep.”

My stomach does a strange flip, but I suspect it’s more from the thought that crosses my mind than anything going on internally. “Do twins run on your side of the family or your late husband’s?”

She grins. “My maternal grandmother was a twin. My mom’s cousin also had twins. I’m not sure if that’s enough to mean it runs in the family or is just a coincidence.”

I nod, not sure either. “I’m going to go home and take this.” Exhaling deeply, I look down at the test in my hands. Such an innocuous box, but one that could change my life forever.

“Will you tell me when you find out? Whatever the result is?”

“Of course.”

I return the hug she gives me, nerves coursing through me.

This suddenly got a lot more real.

***

Three minutes.

That’s all I have to wait to see what the test says.

I didn think three minutes could be this long, though. This is worse than waiting for the school day to end. Seconds aren’t normally this slow, are they?

I pace the fours steps from the bathroom door to the toilet and back, then stare at the stick again. Just one line. A second one is supposed to show up if I’m pregnant, but there are still two and a half minutes left. Thank God Owen’s in his workshop and not here to witness my craziness.

I grab a paper towel and wipe down the sink and counter, trying to keep busy, then use the dustpan and brush to sweep up all my stray hair on the floor. When I’m in the middle of reorganizing my skin care products by color, the timer on my phone beeps.

It’s been three minutes.

Taking a deep breath, I study the stick, but there’s still only the one line. I peer closer, not even a hint of a second one.

Guess I’m not pregnant.

I slump down on the closed toilet seat, a wave of disappointment washing over me. My eyes well with tears and I quickly wipe them away, unable to believe myself. Am I for real right now? I didn’t realize I was late until I looked at the calendar this morning. We weren’t trying for a baby. We haven’t even discussed it. I should be relieved.

But it seems I’m… not.

The front door opens and shuts and I frantically stuff the test back in the box and shove it in the cabinet underneath the sink. I’ll get rid of it later. Owen doesn’t have to know about any of this.

I wipe under my eyes one final time and open the bathroom door, colliding with a hard wall of muscle. Owen steadies my shoulders, his hands warm as he runs them down my arms.

“Running a race?”

There’s a smile in his voice, but I can’t quite return it.

“Sorry.” I tilt my head down so he doesn’t see my face. Who knows if my eyes are red or something?

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just need to get back to my email. Someone bought that table you finished last week.”

“Harper.” He intertwines his fingers with mine. “What is it?”

I sigh. That’s the problem with being with a man who knows you inside and out. You can’t get anything past him.

“I’m fine.”

“Fine never means fine. You told me that yourself.”

My lips press together tightly. I did say that, didn’t I?

“What’s going on?”

“Just an issue came up. Everything’s good now, though.”

“Did something happen in Kirkwood?”

His imagination is going to get the better of him, isn’t it? I didn’t want to worry him and here I am doing exactly that. “I… I realized my period was a few days late this morning. So I went to Kirkwood to buy a pregnancy test.”

He takes a step back, eyes widening. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

“Did you take it?”

I nod. “I just did.”

He swallows hard. “What’d it say?”

“It was negative. No pregnancy.”

He doesn’t seem relieved. Or disappointed. His face is carefully neutral. “Did you want it to be negative?”

I take a deep breath. “I don’t know. I haven’t seriously considered having kids yet. But when I thought we might have one…”

He moves in closer again and brings me into his arms as an ache settles in my chest. I rest my head over his heart, listening to the steady thump.

“What did you think?” he asks, still that evenness in his tone.

“I liked the idea,” I whisper.

“I like it, too.”

I look up at him, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiles, and my breath catches. “Are we seriously discussing this?”

“Yeah, we are.”

I move away and into the living room, rounding the coffee table, then the couch, unable to help pacing. “Should we prepare or something first? Read parenting books or baby-proof the house?”

“That’ll come later,” he assures me. “But I think we’re ready. We’re financially stable, we have plenty of land to build an addition to the house, and we’ve got a built-in babysitter with Mom. She’ll be ecstatic.”

I chuckle. “She will, won’t she?”

He nods. “We need to get started on those three kids you wanted.”

A laugh escapes me. He still remembers that from Vegas? “I was drunk when I said that.”

He moves to me again and takes my hands in his own. “We did the best thing we’ve ever done when we were drunk.”

I can’t argue with that. I let go of his hands so I can reach up and draw him down to me, his lips warm and soft as they touch mine, his palms sliding around my waist, pulling me into his body.

“You want to have a baby with me?” I whisper.

He nuzzles at my neck, pleasant shivers racing down my spine in response. “I do.”

“Should we start?”

“Start… trying?”

Chances are low, but not impossible if my period starts soon. You hear crazy conception stories all the time. Hell, there’s even a chance I could be pregnant right now and my body doesn’t have enough of the pregnancy hormone for an at-home test to detect it if it’s early stages. I’ve learned way too much about trying to conceive from Kelly.

I give a shaky nod. I want a family with this man. There’s no one else I can imagine embarking on this crazy adventure with.

He bends low, skimming his hands down the backs of my thighs, then lifts me, encouraging me to wrap my legs around his waist. “Anything you want.”

He carries me the short distance to the bedroom and lays me down, slowly stripping my clothes off me.

“Do you remember that first time at the hot spring together?”

He groans. “Do you know how fucking hard it was to resist you?”

I keep my grin to myself. “Can you imagine if you hadn’t? And I’d gotten pregnant then?”

“We’d have an almost one-year-old already.”

I sit up and remove his shirt, then unbutton his pants. “You said if we had a kid, they’d be your whole world.”

He shucks his pants, his boxers following. “Along with my wife,” he adds. “My beautiful, sexy wife I can’t get enough of.”

I squeal as he lifts me unexpectedly and lays me back down, then covers me with his big body. I love his weight atop me, pressing me into the mattress, and as he kisses me, I wrap my legs around his hips, encouraging him to rock against me.

Under normal circumstances, this position would be dangerous, his dick sliding along my seam, close enough to seriously work each other up without actual penetration. But today, we don’t have to stop for a condom.

The kiss turns deeper, wilder, and there’s a tug in my belly, that desire that’s always at a low simmer for him bubbling up and spilling over as I tell him I want him.

He leans on one elbow, bracing his weight as he brings his free hand to one breast, then the other, shaping me, a thrill running through me at the quick contact.

“You sure?” he asks, his deep voice filled with a steadiness that has me certain this is the right decision.

“Yes.”

He reaches down and grips his cock, bringing it to my pussy. We both groan as the head slides along my arousal, and he pushes inside, that sensation of fullness better than any drug I can imagine.

He feeds himself in until he’s fully seated, then pauses, giving me time to adjust.

“Holy shit,” he breathes. “We’re actually doing this.”

I grin, my lips trembling the slightest bit. “We are.”

He leans down, the kiss he gives me making my heart pound. “I love you.”

God, this man has no idea what he does to me. “Love you, too.”

He rocks against me, once, twice, each time a little harder, and I bring my legs up more, changing the angle. Both of us moan as his strokes deepen, slick and hot inside me.

“I’ve always imagined what it’d be like inside you this way, nothing between us,” he says.

“You like it?” I clench around him, and he makes this low, growly sound in my ear that has me swooning.

“You know I do. You feel so fucking good.”

He pumps into me, rougher now, and I match his pace, gripping his shoulders tightly. He builds us up over long minutes, higher and higher, passion flooding through me.

“I can’t wait until you come inside me.”

He falters in his rhythm, making a pained noise, and I glance up, discovering his face set in a grimace.

“What is it?”

“You can’t say that,” he chokes out.

I’d laugh if I didn’t want him to continue so badly. “Why not?”

“Because without a condom, it’s even harder not to come.”

I shift my hips, encouraging him to move. “That sounds like a challenge.”

He groans, dropping his head to my shoulder. “Let me at least get you there first.”

Well, I certainly won’t argue with that.

He snakes a hand between us and finds my clit, my legs opening wider in anticipation as fresh arousal swirls through me.

“There, Owen. With your thumb—”

I moan, my hips bucking as the climax unexpectedly steals over me, my cries getting louder the longer he continues. His hand drops away, bracing against the mattress as he makes a guttural sound and releases into me, hot jets that fill me up in a way I didn’t expect to be so satisfying.

“I love you,” he whispers over and over, kissing me with abandon.

He doesn’t pull out like he normally does, instead rolling me to my side and settling in beside me, still inside me. I love the intimate connection, already looking forward to the next time we try.

He brushes a rogue curl away from my face. “I don’t tell you enough how much I love you.”

I smile, unable to help myself. “You tell me it every day. Multiple times a day.”

“Yeah, but… God, I’m so lucky I have you. There’s no one else I’d ever start a family with.”

I soothe a hand down his arm. “I feel the same way.”

He kisses me again, sweet and slow, not a prelude to something more, but simply an appreciation of each other. I wrap my arms over those broad shoulders, reveling in his presence, of being in this moment, about to embark on a new adventure together.

Pretty soon, there are going to be little Owens and Harpers running around this cabin getting into all sorts of mischief, especially if they take after me. But I’m ready for it. I never thought that night in Vegas would lead me to a life as different and wonderful as this, but here I am, anticipating what the future holds.

As long as he’s by my side, I can face anything.

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