Epilogue - WillowMature

--Six Months Later--

"Finally!" I cried when we pulled up to the new house.

Nathan and my father laughed.

"Jeez you're impatient," Nathan teased.

I led the way in. It was amazing. On the upper floor was the kitchen and dining room. A bathroom was on the left and, on the right, stairs leading down. I stepped to the side as the movers carried our things down, then ran down, excited to see what it looked like next.

The stairs led into a living room where we would put a large TV and leather couch. We had three bedrooms: one for my dad, one for me and Nathan, and one for any guests we'd manage to have. Each room had its own bathroom and I couldn't wait to try out the tub after seeing it had a whirlpool setting.

Down on the third floor was the laundry room and what my dad and Nathan claimed as their 'man cave'. I rolled my eyes as they excitedly talked about what they would put in there and went back up the stairs and outside. We had put a tarp over the pool. It was April and we weren't ready to open it just yet.

With the money Matt had given us, we were able to make the barn even better. November had been colder than normal so the first thing we did was insulate the stalls. It was good because we had a really harsh winter. The trophy room had been rebuilt and all the kids brought in the trophies they kept at home to refill it. I missed all my trophies but, with the five Nathan had saved in the center of it all, it looked perfect.

The investigation of who attacked us came up with startling results. Unlike our suspicions, it was not a group of teenagers. Instead, it was the woman whose camera I broke at the bake sale. She said that was her only motive behind doing it but I had a feeling there was more.

We added another corral so that we could teach Nathan how to break Little Bit. She was old enough to start learning it all and Millie would soon be riding Little Bit at the classes. Carson was just too large for her and she wanted to go to the junior competitions soon.

I wandered down to Spirit's grave and sat cross legged. As a surprise, Nathan had planted some white rose seeds around the grave and, during a windy November, some had spread on top of the grave, too. It was gorgeous and I came down regularly to make sure weeds didn't take over. For some reason, though, we didn't have to worry about weeds.

"Hey, Spirit," I said, sitting down. "Things have gotten so amazing here. I wish you could see it all."

I looked around. The movers were still bringing things in the house and one of our new teachers was down at the corral with a new batch of kids.

"Dad finally retired and passed it on to me and Nathan." I sighed. "You know, I love him a lot but I'm too afraid to tell him. It took a lot but we finally got our lives back." I inhaled the scent of the roses deeply. "God I miss you," I whispered, starting to cry. "I can't do competitions anymore. Not without you. I tried with Flame but it just wasn't right."

I stopped talking and just caressed some of the roses. I heard footsteps and looked up, beaming as Nathan stood beside me.

He had changed a lot in the last six months. He was more muscular and tanned. He kept his hair cut short after last summer's heat.

"Come with me?" he asked, holding out his hand.

"Of course," I said and blew a kiss to Spirit. "See you soon, old girl."

Nathan laced our fingers as we walked through the forest path to the very back pasture. We hadn't been able to ride down there because of the media circus that became our lives again after the court date was set. We ended up not suing the Bankers. Our message came across loud and clear and the truth finally got out there.

Ever since then, their museum's popularity had dropped. I felt guilty for a while there until Polly came by the barn with another bribe. We kicked her off the property and my dad built a simple fence to put a no trespassing sign on it.

"Okay, close your eyes," Nathan said, standing in front of me.

"I don't wanna," I whined but did anyway.

He took my hands and led me forward. I felt the grass tickle my ankles. Finally, he stopped.

"Open those beautiful eyes of yours," he said, wrapping his arms around me from behind.

I gasped. "You finished!"

The whole pasture, all 50 acres of it, was cut. The grass was at an even height and it was as green as it could be. He put his chin on my shoulder while I looked around.

"I'm thinking about planting some flowers out here," he said, pointing along the edge of the pasture. "Maybe some daffodils. Kind of like how I did with Spirit's grave. What do you think?"

"I think it would look beautiful," I said honestly. "Are you sure you won't let me mow?"

"I'm sure," he said. "It's my job. You're not stealin' it from me."

I giggled then sighed, leaning into him. "I'm really happy, Nathan," I whispered.

He turned me in his arms and kissed me deeply. "So am I," he whispered into my lips.

"I have a secret," I said, kissing him a few times.

"Oh yeah?" he asked, lacing his fingers behind my back. "What kind of secret?"

"Mm, the good kind I think," I said and he arched a brow. I bit my lip. "I've been keeping it mostly because I'm a chicken shit." He snorted. "I also... with everything going on... it's been hard to find the right time to-"

He cut me off and kissed me. "I love you, too."

I beamed. "You do?"

He nodded, brushing his nose against mine.

"And it's a good thing you do," he whispered.

"Why's that?" I asked, putting my head on his chest.

"Well, while you were being horribly rude while being on your period last week, I went out shopping."

I laughed. "I warned you that sometimes I get a little-"

"Bitchy?" he suggested and I giggled. "Anyway, I got you a couple gifts."

"Ooh," I said, leaning back. "I love gifts."

He laughed and got a long, thin box out of his pocket.

"I know you do. Here's the first one."

He passed it to me and I opened it excitedly. It was a crystal rose with the petals painted red. I beamed and stood on my toes to kiss him.

"I was going to get a real one," he said, "but real ones die." He put an arm around my waist, and ran his finger down my nose. "This won't. Just like my love for you."

"Aw, you're making my heart melt," I said and he smiled.

"The second one, I think you'll like even more," he said.

"Yeah?" I asked, bouncing a little in excitement.

"One thing I know about women is how much they love jewelry," he said.

"Well of course."

He beamed and got another box out of his pocket. This one was smaller and he opened it. I gasped. It was a diamond ring. I looked up at him. He was smiling tenderly at me, caressing my cheek.

"I love you a lot," he said quietly, "and I want you to be my wife."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. So?" he whispered. "What do you say?"

I laughed and kissed him.

"I really want you to be my husband," I whispered and he grinned. "Shouldn't you be on your knee, though?"

He chuckled and took the ring out of the box.

"Nah. There are chiggers and stickers down there." He slid the ring onto my finger and I beamed. "Besides, I remembered the rose."

I laughed and threw my arms around his neck and kissed him. He laughed and lifted me off my feet.

The End

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