Hey everyone! This is the last chapter... I feel like I just started this! Thank you all of you for staying with this. =] It means a lot. I love you all!
~Ouaysis. P.s. I'm working on book three (Fatal Inheritance) right now, but I'm not sure when it will be posted. Probably closer to this winter, maybe even later than that. It all depends. Thank you again!
Culpeper, Virginia: Eight years later
The cool air blasting through the car vents felt amazing against the humid Virginia heat. Sophie turned down the radio as she glanced into the back seat and noticed that her six-month-old daughter was asleep in her car seat. She couldn't help but smile at the peaceful look on Bella's face. The tan-and-white house was peaceful as well—the same house that used to belong to Joseph and Abigale Sullivan. Pulling into the garage, Sophie wondered what Ethan and the twins were up to. She unlatched the lock on Bella's car seat and carefully carried it inside, placing her on the counter before going back out to get the groceries. After three trips, the plastic bags all filled the available counter space.
Sophie started to put the food away and looked out the large window above the sink. A smile spread over her lips as she saw Ethan playing with their seven-year-old twins, Nickolas and Joslyn. He was chasing them around the yard with a giant squirt gun. By the sopping wet state of all of their clothes, she knew they had been out there for a while. Once she was done putting away the food, Sophie unbuckled the straps of Bella's car seat and picked her up gently. She cradled her daughter against her chest and made her way upstairs. Kissing her forehead first, Sophie placed Bella in her crib. She grabbed the baby monitor before going back down stairs and pouring three glasses of the fresh lemonade from the refrigerator. Then she placed them on a tray and headed outside.
"Ethan!" She yelled when she realized that her husband had stopped playing with water and was now teaching their children the Binger Hold and Mason Maneuver. He looked up and grinned at her. He jogged over and took the tray from her after giving her a small kiss.
"What?" He asked innocently.
"Don't give me that." She said, giving him a stern look. But she couldn't help the smile from forming on her lips. She sighed in exasperation and shook her head. "You know what."
"It's so they can protect themselves—strictly for defensive purposes."
"Mmhmm. Sure. Next time I'm sending you to explain to the principle why our seven-year-old can flip his classmates when he gets into a fight. Seven-year-olds shouldn't even be fighting!"
Placing the lemonade on the bench, Ethan turned and circled his arms around Sophie's waist, pulling her close to him.
"Come on," he said, kissing her slowly. "You know they're destined for the family business."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
"What if they don't want to join the family business?" She asked. Ethan chuckled.
"Those two? Are you kidding? I think J.C.O. would fight us for them to attend."
Sophie sighed. "I know. That's what I'm worried about."
"Hey, we still have eight years. Don't worry, everything will be fine. Where's my Baby Bella?"
"Where I wish I could be." Ethan said with a grin, but Sophie didn't miss the wistfulness there. He'd returned two days earlier from a month-long mission and he hadn't caught up on sleep yet.
Sophie was about to respond when the twins approached.
"Ewww. Mommy, Daddy, stop being gross!" Lyn protested.
Both Sophie and Ethan laughed as they let each other go.
"Okay, okay." Sophie said. "Look what I brought you; Grandma Abi's lemonade."
"Yay!" the twins chorused, each reaching for a glass. Sophie chuckled and ruffled Nick's hair as he drank a few swallows. Ethan drank his own glass down in several large gulps then placed the cup back onto the tray. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"I think I'm going to take a shower and then a nap." He said, Sophie nodding in agreement.
"Ahhh! But, Daddy!" Nick protested.
Sophie shook her head. "No buts. Daddy needs to sleep. Besides, he's been with you all morning. You two ready for lunch?"
"I'm ready, Mommy." Joslyn said.
"Okay then, let's head back to the house. Nickolas, pick up the water guns please. Joslyn, help your brother."
After sighing, Nick and Lyn nodded. "Yes, Mommy." They said and then started on the task. Sophie picked up the tray with the empty glasses and walked up to the house to start lunch. She still wasn't as good a cook as Abigale, but she wasn't bad. Five minutes later the twins came into the house.
"Mommy, is lunch done yet?" Nick asked, coming into the kitchen. Sophie shook her head.
"Not quite yet, but it will be once you're done changing into clean, dry clothes. But be quiet because your sister's sleeping."
"Okay!" Lyn yelled excitedly, starting to skip towards the stairs. Then she stopped and realized that she'd been too loud.
"Sorry Mommy!" She said in a whisper, giggling as she went upstairs. Sophie shook her head as she continued to make grilled cheese sandwiches. She had never known it was going to be such a challenge to raise kids. It was the biggest test of patience she'd ever had. And even though she could hide her anger or frustration from them, it was still hard to control it. Although they mostly listened to her and Ethan, both Joslyn and Nickolas had inherited her rebellious streak and were constantly getting into trouble at school. Not to mention juggling missions in between all that.
When the twins were first born, Sophie had taken off a year from work. After that she and Ethan took turns taking leave from work until they were old enough to attend school. She was grateful that The Director rarely gave them missions at the same time. And the rare times he did, both Sophie and Ethan's parents were ready and willing to take care of their grandchildren. Nickolas and Joslyn—and even little Isabella—loved spending time with all of their grandparents. Just as she placed the grilled cheese sandwiches and grapes on the table the twins came back down wearing clean, dry clothes.
"Mommy, are we doing anything today?" Lyn asked as she opened the fridge and took two juice pouches out, handing one to her brother.
"I don't know. I have some paperwork to catch up on." Sophie told them.
"Ahhhh." They complained in unison.
"Hey," Sophie said. "Daddy's been playing with you all morning."
Nick sighed and took a bite of his sandwich. "But that was this morning!"
"I'll see what we can do, okay?" She said, wiping the counters off with a rag. "And don't talk with food in your mouth."
Her son swallowed his bite and was about to say something when the back door opened.
"Anyone home?" The voice of Sophie's father said. Moments later he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.
"Papaw!" The twins chorused, jumping from their seats and launching themselves at their grandfather. Jayson wrapped an arm around each of them and chuckled.
"Hey kids. Finish your lunch and I've got a surprise for you. What do you say we go play some baseball in the park?"
They both nodded, trying to eat their food as fast as possible.
"Thanks a lot," Sophie joked. "If they throw up from eating too fast, you're cleaning it up."
She shook her head and chuckled. Her father just grinned at her, giving her a side hug and kissing the top of her head.
"How are you?"
"Good," she said with a nod. As she said it, the sound of Isabella's soft cries came from the monitor on the counter. "Be right back."
Jayson nodded and sat down at the table across from his grandchildren while Sophie went upstairs. She picked up Bella, calming her down and taking her back downstairs. When she arrived, Joe had joined her children and father in the kitchen. He smiled at her and held out his arms for Bella.
"Hey Joe," she said as she handed him her daughter. He kissed the baby's head and bounced her up and down gently. After the twins were done eating Jayson helped them with their shoes and then they left, along with Joe. Sophie ate her own lunch and fed Isabella. She cleaned the house, at least all that she could do without waking Ethan. Then around three-thirty she put the baby on her hip and headed to the living room. Placing Bella on the floor with several toys, Sophie pulled the laptop onto her lap. Director Hans had given her many assignments that she could easily do at home without leaving. It wasn't anywhere near exciting as field work, but Sophie gladly sacrificed her own preferences for her children. Just as she was about to start her finishing report, there was a small knock on the front door, followed by someone entering the house.
"You home, Sophie?" Angela's voice called from the foyer. Sophie stood up and made her way to the front of the house.
"Hey!" She said, pulling Angela into a hug. "What are you doing here so early? Dinner's not for another hour and a half."
Once a month on Sundays everyone met at Ethan and Sophie's for dinner, made by Abigale. Angela nodded and sat the drinks she and her husband were in charge of bringing on the counter.
"I know, I know. But I couldn't take it anymore. I have to tell you. But you can't tell anyone else, because Trace and I are supposed to be waiting until dinner tonight."
"Okay…." Sophie said, wondering what her friend was going on about. "I promise."
Angela paused, building up anticipation.
"Ang!" Sophie said and Angela laughed.
"Okay, okay! I'm pregnant!"
Sophie's eyes went wide in surprise and then she squealed in delight and hugged Angela again. Angela's face practically glowed with happiness.
"Congratulations!" Sophie said, happiness for her friend filling her. "This is great! I'm so happy for you!"
"Thank you! I'm so excited! We both are." Angela practically jumped up and down. Sophie laughed.
"It's definitely worth it."
"I hope so."
"Hey, could you wipe the table down for me?" Sophie asked as she started to pull things out to start preparing dinner. There was no way she'd be able to finish that report now. Just as she did Abigale and Katelyn entered the house from the back door.
"Hey Mom, Abi!" Sophie said with a small wave and a smile.
"Hey Abi, hey Kate." Angela said, hugging them as well.
"Hello, girls." Abigale said with a smile. "Is everything ready to start for supper?"
Sophie nodded. "Yes, it is."
It wasn't much later when Connor and Madison showed up, with their three kids. The oldest, Ashley, came running into the kitchen.
"Aunt Sophie, Aunt Sophie!" She said, tapping Sophie's arm until she looked down at her.
"Are Nick and Lyn here?"
"Actually, they went out with Grandpa Joe and Papaw. They should be back shortly, alright?"
"Ahh," she complained, but went to go play with Justin and James. An hour later everyone was home and dinner was nearly done.
"Where's Ethan?" Connor asked as he picked at the salad and Madi slapped his hand away.
"Upstairs," she replied after licking brownie batter off of her finger. "I'll go get him."
She peeked her head into their bedroom, only to find Ethan fast asleep. Sophie approached his side of the bed, saying his name. He didn't respond, so she put a hand on his bare shoulder and shook gently. As a last resort, she leaned down and put her lips to his, kissing him several times in succession. She sighed, smiling, and shook her head before starting to straighten. But then he grunted in protest and slowly opened his eyes.
"Why'd you stop?" He wanted to know, reaching up to catch a strand of her long hair in his fingers.
"Because you need to get up," she said. Sophie let out a short, startled scream when he unexpectedly grabbed her, twisting as she fell onto the mattress. He was suddenly leaning over her, his muscles rippling as he shifted, grinning down at her. She laughed and shook her head. When he leaned down and kissed her, long and slow, she snaked her arms around his neck. Ethan finally lowered himself to the bed beside her and slid his arm under Sophie, who turned on her side to face him.
"You have to get up," she said, her hand sliding down his chest and to his stomach, where she gently ran her finger along his scar. "Dinner's almost ready and everyone's waiting for you."
"Can we have dessert fist?" He asked playfully, his voice low and seductive, and Sophie smacked his shoulder.
"Ethan!" She scolded. He just laughed.
"Alright, I'm up. Besides, why would I want to dream of my beautiful wife when I could have the real thing?" He asked, giving her another quick kiss before pulling the covers off of himself. He pulled a pair of jeans out of his drawer and slipped them on.
"I'll be downstairs." Sophie said, sliding off of their bed and started towards the door.
"Wait." Ethan grabbed her wrist gently and pulled her close to him, linking his arms around her lower back. She rested her hands on his strong chest, looking up at him.
"I haven't seen you in over thirty days," he said gently.
"You've been home for seventy-two hours," she said, just as gently, but understood.
"I know," Ethan said as he pressed her closer to him, lowering his lips to meet hers. He smiled through the kiss, and when he finally pulled away framed her face in his hands.
"But I've been sleeping most of that time. And this is the first time I've got you alone." Sophie grinned up at him.
"Kids kill privacy," she agreed. "But we really need to go back downstairs. Before they send someone to check on us."
Ethan chuckled and nodded, releasing her from his arms. Sophie kissed him one last time, looking back at him as she went through their door and back towards the stairs.
"Took you long enough," Connor joked. "Were you doing a security sweep up there? Cavity search, perhaps?"
"Ha ha, very funny." Sophie said, punching her brother in the arm though she smiled. Sophie picked up the salad to take to the large table setup outside and Ethan came down the stairs wearing a black v-neck shirt that accentuated his toned chest and arms. She never realized how much she missed seeing Ethan on a regular basis until he came back.
Just as she reentered the house he spotted Bella on the playing floor. She stopped to watch, her smile growing bigger as his face lit up. Stooping low, he scooped their daughter into his arms and then launched her into the air, creating her tinkling, infant laughter. After tossing up and catching her a few more times, he put her on his hip and grinned at Sophie. She loved it when Ethan played with the kids. It was absolutely adorable.
She turned to continue setting the food on the outdoor table. During her trips in and out of the house she saw him hug his mother, Joe clap him on the arm as a welcome home, and Ethan talking with the others. After placing the potato salad on the table, Sophie looked out into the yard to see her two eldest running around and laughing with their cousins.
Sighing in content, Sophie went back into the house and found her place at Ethan's side. Slipping her hand into his, she thought of how perfect her life had turned out. There would still be horrors to face—they weren't to be avoided in her line of work. But she also knew that with Ethan at her side, with her three children and possibly more in the future, there was nothing that could harm her. She had found her parents, found her family. This was where she had always wanted to be. And through all the lies, deception, dangers, and secrets, she had finally found exactly where she was meant to be. With that knowledge, she would be able to face and conquer any hardship that life threw at her. Sophie smiled. There was nothing more in the world she could wish for—for her, life was absolutely perfect just the way it was.