~~ Seven Months Later ~~
“Good morning, beautiful.”
I smile before I even open my eyes. Feeling Wes’s lips on my cheek first thing in the morning is always a good reason to smile. But today there’s more to it.
Today is Christmas morning.
I roll over to my back, slowly opening my eyes to see Wes leaning over me. “Merry Christmas.”
He gives me another kiss, only this time on the lips, and not as deep as I’d like. Probably smart. I know we have a full morning and anything more than that will surely cause us to start Christmas morning late. And that would not go over well with the Taylor children.
“What time is it?” I ask.
“In the morning?”
He chuckles. “Yeah. I told you we started early around here.”
I sit up, though I really wish I was still buried underneath the softest comforter I’ve ever slept under. “I thought you were joking.”
“No joke. The kids have been up for an hour. I’ve kept them at bay for as long as I can.”
“Fine,” I grumble. Though I’m not really mad. I’m just not a morning person. I actually think I’m more excited for this Christmas than the kids. Which is saying something. Hank started making a wishlist in September. “How long do I have before I’m attacked?”
Wes looks to our bedroom door then back to me. “Five seconds.”
More like two. As soon as he finishes, the door slams open as all three kids run into our room and jump on the bed. Well, two. Emerson didn’t run. But she dutifully followed behind, recording each moment like a pro. She’s Magnolia and my producer now. She loves it. And she’s damn good at it.
“Merry Christmas Betsy!”
“Thanks you guys,” I say, giving a hug to each of the kids. “Thanks for letting me sleep.”
“We let you sleep as long as we could,” Hank says. “But six is our limit. We’re usually done by now.”
“Well thanks for that,” I say. “But I’m awake. I’m ready. Let’s go open some presents.”
“You’re not ready,” Magnolia says, giving me a once over. “You’re not in your Christmas day pajamas. Also, we don’t go downstairs first. We wait upstairs. You and Daddy go check and make sure Santa came. And when you give us the signal we come down. That’s how Christmas day works.”
“Yes ma’am,” I say with a little salute. When did Magnolia become Emerson?
“Come on you two,” Emerson says. “Let’s go wait in my room while Betsy gets dressed.”
The two don’t argue. They follow their sister out with no questions asked. And it’s not just because it’s Christmas morning. This is how it goes in this house. Hank and Magnolia would jump off a cliff for Emerson. They love her so much. And she loves them. They haven’t fully realized it yet, but over the past year, they’ve grown a bond that not many siblings have. And when it comes to Emerson, she’s their glue. She’s their leader and a damn good one.
And I’m so proud of her for that. I’m even prouder for how she’s come into her own since moving to Rolling Hills. She’s now in seventh grade, getting straight As, is on student council, and joined the band. She has friends she loves, a style she’s grown into, and I must say, is a pretty badass teenager. She even asked us about signing her up for CPR courses so she can become a certified babysitter.
Hell, I didn’t even do that when I became the nanny. Probably should have. Whoops.
“Get dressed,” Wes says, leaning in for one more kiss. “I’ll go downstairs and get the tree lit.”
“Sounds good.” I smile as I watch him walk out the door, donning this year’s matching Christmas set of red and green striped pajamas. They look ridiculous.
I fucking love them.
I jump out of bed and head to the en suite bathroom, quickly doing what I need to do so I don’t need to make them wait any longer. I know last year I spent Christmas with them—it’s a day I’ll never forget—but this year feels like my first real Taylor family Christmas. And I want it to be perfect.
The presents are already set up around the tree. Wes and I stayed up last night until one in the morning making sure everything was perfect. We could have gone to bed after that, but we didn’t. Wes held me as we sat and took in the glow of the tree and just relaxed after the hectic day. We didn’t say much. I know I was thinking about how far we’ve come in just a year. I have a feeling he was thinking the same thing too.
It’s funny to think about that at this time a year ago, Wes and I were just beginning this. We had no idea what we were in for. We didn’t know if this was a good idea. We didn’t know how the kids would react. We didn’t know anything.
Now looking back, I can’t believe we ever had a doubt.
I give my hair a quick brush and throw on the Christmas day jammies as I head out of our bedroom. I peek across the hall to Emerson’s room, only to see no one there. Did they go down without me? After Magnolia’s emphatic speech?
I check the other rooms only to see no one there. “Where is everyone?”
The house is strangely quiet as I start heading down the stairs. There aren’t many lights on, and with it still being dark outside, the only lights I can see are the lights of the tree and I’m guessing a few of the other decorations we have around the living room.
I’m halfway down the stairs when I almost fall the rest of the way. Not because I lose my footing. No. It’s because of the sight in front of me.
The three kids are each holding a sign.
Emerson’s has two words….
Next is Hank…
Then there’s Magnolia.
* * *
As soon as I can tell that she’s read all three, I lower myself to one knee and hold the ring up for display. She gasps on the staircase as she takes everything in.
I know she’s going to say yes, but that doesn’t make me any less nervous doing this. I don’t know how Oliver did this so often. I do know this though, this is the last time I’m doing it.
Because Betsy and I? We’re for life. That I’m sure of.
Hell, even the kids know it’s a sure thing. When I talked to them about marrying Betsy, they not only asked what took me so long, they demanded to be a part of it. And, it was their idea to do it on Christmas morning. As Emerson so eloquently said, this was the day that we became a family. It only made sense for this day to make it official.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
As for the signs, those were my idea. I didn’t even need to ask Oliver for help. He was mad at me though because I took Amelia and Whitley with me to shop for engagement rings. That wasn’t my fault. He was preoccupied.
That’s what happens when you fall in love.
Speaking of love…
Tears are falling down Betsy’s cheeks as she makes her way down the rest of the steps. The kids don’t move, even though I can tell from the corner of my eye Magnolia is about to jump out of her pajamas. She blows them each a kiss as she walks toward me.
“Merry Christmas, beautiful.”
She laughs through the tears. “This is quite the Christmas morning.”
I take her hand in mine. “There are not enough ways to say how much I love you. And I don’t know if I could even name all the things I love you for. I love the way you love me. I love how you are not just a bonus mom to the kids, but also a friend and a mentor. I love how you love fiercely and unapologetically. I love the way you fight for the ones you love. Sometimes even causing me to have to pay for damages.”
This makes everyone laugh. And yes, it might have been a reference to our summer vacation in California when the kids went to visit Cara. Things were fine for the entire trip, until we went to pick them up. Cara said something snarky to Betsy as we were leaving. I wanted to say something back, but Betsy shook her head telling me not to. And she was right. We needed to be the bigger people.
At least that’s what I thought she was conveying to me.
No, Betsy decided not to use her words. She just accidentally knocked over a glass vase that, knowing Cara, was more expensive than it needed to be.
She sent me a bill for damages.
It was worth every penny.
“Betsy Sullivan, I love you. When I think of forever, I only think of you. Will you do me the honor of being my wife?”
She doesn’t make me wait. “Yes Wes. I’ll marry you.”
I slide the ring on her finger and stand up, bringing her in for a kiss that normally I don’t give around the kids. They don’t seem to mind though judging by their applause in the background.
Her hands cup my face, and I can feel the metal of the ring against my cheek. Knowing I’m going to feel that for the rest of my life only doubles down on the love that I feel for this woman.
I wish I could keep kissing her, but I feel a poking at my side—and it’s coming from someone with tiny fingers.
We chuckle as we pull away. I’m not mad though. The real celebration is going to happen tonight when the kids are spending the night at their grandparents.
“Am I going to be in the wedding?”
I look over to Betsy. “You’d have to ask the bride.”
Magnolia turns to Betsy, who is all smiles. “Of course you are,” Betsy says. “I couldn’t imagine getting married without the three of you in the wedding.”
Magnolia lets out a sigh of relief. “Good. Just no green dresses. It’s not in my color wheel.”
Betsy starts cracking up laughing as I’m left a little perplexed. Magnolia doesn’t seem to mind though. She’s already in front of the tree, inspecting the presents.
Betsy wraps her arms around my neck, which . “Your daughter is a budding fashion icon. Of course she knows her color wheel.”
I just shake my head as I bring her in close to me. “What am I going to do with you?”
“I don’t know. But you’re stuck with me now.”
I lean down and give her one more kiss. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Thanks for reading Wes & Betsy! Now, what's next?
Next up in the Rolling Hills crew is Oliver and Izzy in The One I Need, coming August 2023 (preorder now available). We all know how much Oliver loves proposing, so it’s only going to be fitting for him to end up in an accidental marriage. He is about to go to Vegas after all…
So who’s Izzy? You can meet her in Match Maker. If you liked Betsy, then just wait until you meet this bad ass businesswoman. Read Match Maker for free with Kindle Unlimited!
And, because I love you so much, here's a Rolling Hills freebie for you.
This features Luke and Olivia in The One I Crave, an age gap, instalove romance!