Well, because of popular demand that made me feel special, here is the epilogue. I can only hope that I'm doing the characters justice. =)
"Things as They Are"
It's July now.
The heat is absolutely sweltering, and the smells of New York City are in full swing; for better or worse. The sun is just coming up and the complete lack of curtains allows it to shine directly into my eyes. After a certain time, closing them doesn't work anymore. It's too hot to sleep, anyway. It's impossible to get a decent night's sleep when you're covered in sweat.
The windows of my apartment are down, but my air conditioner is on sixty degrees and I have the fans going to keep the air from standing still. It's not enough, though, and I kick the blankets off my legs. The movement elicits a frustrated grunt from me and I hear a chuckle from the other side of the bed. I roll over to find Mac already awake, staring at me with clear eyes. He's always up before me, and today is no different. His arms reach out to pull me close and his lips drift over mine.
"Good morning," he tells me and I yawn.
"Not until I get coffee it isn't."
He laughs and runs his fingers through the curly mess of hair on my head. His breath is sweet and mingling with my own; it surprises me to realize that in the few hours I've been asleep I've grown to miss him. I'm smiling as a fingers travels slowly down my face, ending eventually with the curve of my chin. I close my eyes, and I'm considering a late start when he removes his hand and crawls out of my bed. The disappointment is sharp, but I can handle it.
"Come on, get up."
He's standing at the end of the bed, reaching for his shirt. My eyes travel appreciatively over his broad chest and the muscles in his abdomen, my fingertips tingling the memory of them on my skin. My tongue flicks over my bottom lip on its own accord, and I have absolutely no problem objectifying him for a little while. When my eyes finally go back to his face, he's eyeing me.
"I know that look," he says suspiciously. "And the answer is no. Get up."
"Come back to bed, Taylor," I suggest and let the sheet slide a little farther down my bare shoulder. I'm playing hardball, and we both know it. Aware of the fact that I have a serious advantage, I use it. "It's only seven o'clock. We still have plenty of time."
I watch the muscles in his jaw flex and I'm daring to hope that I've won. He walks slowly over to my side of the bed and kneels down to my level, his blue eyes meeting my green ones. Always the scientist, he's considering his options and weighing the benefits versus the potential consequences. I wonder the conclusion he's reached.
"How much time?" he asks and his voice is low. I'm winning.
I run my fingers through his hair, scraping my nails lightly along his scalp. The shiver it causes doesn't go unnoticed. It's a low blow, but I'm okay with it. I like winning, especially when he's the prize.
"We can make time."
Without another word, he stands up to scoop me off the bed. His mouth presses hard against mine and my arms fly around his neck. I grip for dear life, knowing that it's exactly what's at stake when blood starts roaring like thunder in my ears. Mac Taylor, I've found, wakes me up a lot faster than a cup of coffee ever could. Every cell in my body is vibrantly alive and humming in anticipation. Every time with him is like this, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's not until my bare feet feel the cold tile of the bathroom floor that I realize where I am. Unsteady legs barely hold me, but I manage. Forcing my heavy eyes to focus, I watch him open the linen cabinet door and pull a towel down from the shelf. He tosses it at me reaches for the door handle, intending to leave me behind.
"Take a shower," he orders and the mildly satisfied look on his face tells me he thinks he's won something.
"You cheated," I tell him, sounding unintentionally petulant.
"You played dirty."
"You tricked me."
He grins. "I hope you'll forgive me some day."
"And what if I don't?" I ask, narrowing my eyes as I walk toward him. My hands run down his chest and end at the waistband of his sweats. "I'm sensitive, you know. I may never recover."
He raises an eyebrow. "Is that so?"
I nod. "Oh, yeah."
"I'll just have to convince you, then," he says, catching my wrists in his hands. "I wonder how I'll manage to accomplish that."
The look in his eyes leaves no doubt in my mind what he has planned for me. Excitement doesn't even begin to describe the sensations careening around in the pit of my stomach. Surprisingly, the joy of winning a battle gets lost in the excitement of what the victory means. So what do I do? I leave the towel on the floor, close the door behind me, and take a shower just like he asked.
Okay, fine. I might have had a little help.
Do you blame me?
Today is the eighth day of July, and it's the last day of my lease. Most of my belongings are in boxes stacked around the apartment. Almost everything has been packed away already; Mac and I have been working on it for a while now. It's a formality, really; this hasn't been my home in a long time. Everything important to me is over at Mac's—now mine and Mac's—apartment. But now, the smaller parts of my life are the final pieces in the puzzle that's waited years to be finished. It feels incredibly good.
The movers arrive just minutes after we've dressed, and Mac helps them load boxes while I pack the very last of my things and take the frame of my bed apart. The work is tiring and the heat is murderous even with the fans going. I'm a little spoiled, though; I'm not taking furniture down to the truck that's parked outside to move all my belongings. I make a mental note to get the guys something to drink after I've sealed the box I'm working on now.
When we all break for lunch, my kitchen and living room are empty. Everything is in a truck outside, waiting to be delivered to our new home. Mac is tired but smiling, and I'm right there with him. The guys get started again and I realize that leaving this apartment doesn't really mean much to me. It's true, it wasn't mine for long, but having something of my own doesn't compare to the adventure I'm about to embark on by sharing a home with Mac.
The orphan in me smiles, and I know that a home with Mac Taylor is what everything's been leading up to. The anticipation leading up to this day has been a long time coming, and I can't wait to hand my key over and make our living arrangements permanent. Eventually we'll have to make a home elsewhere—his subtle hints about children are getting far less subtle as the days pass—but that will be something to worry about more down the road. He's excited, but I have a little more thinking to do.
We're discussing marriage now, and we haven't arrived at a decision. We know it's going to happen, we just don't know how soon. I've always liked the idea of a fall wedding myself. We've both agreed that it's going to be a small wedding when it happens. The team will probably be there as witnesses, but other than that we haven't written anything in stone. I suppose we will someday, but not today. Today we're moving.
Strong arms circle my waist and I lean back, letting his warm breath shimmer over my neck. A kiss is placed just behind my ear and I can feel myself glow a little. In the five months we've been together, really together, his touch still catches me by surprise if I'm not ready. And here I've lived my life thinking I was reading for anything.
"We have to hurry," I whisper. "My boyfriend could catch us."
He smiles against my skin and laughs.
"We don't want that, do we?" he jokes and holds me a little tighter. My eyes are staring out the window and over the city. It's beautiful, and I'm drawn to it despite never believing I'd stay. Now I can't imagine living anywhere else.
"Having second thoughts?" he asks and I know that his honesty masks his worrying. As if I could ever leave him; that part of our relationship hasn't changed. Every now and then I need to convince him just how much I love him, but I'd do it every day for the rest of my life and never once complain if it meant I'd have him forever.
"Not a single one," I say and it's the truth. As far as major decisions go, this is the easiest one I've ever made. Being with him is so natural now, and that's how I know it's right.