Elizabeth shifted beneath her covers, sniffling a little before starting to cry. Ethan released CJ and bent to pick the baby up. ‘That cry doesn’t sound good. Is she all right?’
‘She’s been a little unsettled for the past few days.’
‘What?’ He picked her up and kissed her forehead. ‘Are you all right, my darling?’
CJ’s heart melted at the way he genuinely loved their Lizzie. ‘She’ll be fine…now.’
‘We’ve both been a little unsettled for the past few days. We’ve been fretting.’
His concerned look disappeared as he held out his other arm to CJ. ‘Come here.’ He held her close. ‘You’ll never have to fret again. Either of you. We’re a family and we’ll be sticking together for ever.’ Then Ethan kissed her in such an intense and passionate way that she knew their love would last for ever.
The baby slept on.
THE WEDDING WAS the most glorious day of her life. The night before she’d insisted on spending the night at Donna’s place while Ethan had stayed at her home—their home now. They’d made plans to alter the renovations that CJ had not long finished but as both of them enjoyed renovating and restoring old things, it would be a challenge they could do together.
Ethan, as well as covering CJ’s clinics, had already started his own general surgical practice. Consulting at both Pridham and Whitecorn hospitals, his clinics booking up so fast he thought he might need to add an extra day in the future. For now, though, he was more than happy playing Mr Mum while CJ eased herself back into part-time consulting. They both enjoyed their days at home with Lizzie-Jean and doing things together as a family at weekends.
‘Are you sure you’re happy?’ CJ had asked Ethan a few days ago.
‘I’ll be happier when you’re legally my wife.’ He’d hauled her close and kissed her soundly. ‘I love you so much, CJ.’ He’d laughed with such carefree abandon that any minor concerns she’d harboured had vanished. ‘I can’t believe how incredible I feel being here, with you and our Lizzie-Jean and the people of the community.’ Ethan had shaken his head in bemusement. ‘I never thought I’d say it but… I’m glad I had that minor heart attack.’
CJ had shuddered at the mention of it. ‘I’m not.’
‘If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have re-evaluated my life, I wouldn’t have come here, I wouldn’t have found you, I wouldn’t be blessed with another family to love and cherish, for ever and ever, until death us do part.’
‘Practising your vows?’
‘I don’t need to practise them. They’re tattooed on my heart.’
And so when the time came for CJ to marry her beloved Ethan, the ceremony being held at Donna’s small vineyard, her heart had been sure and confident. Ethan loved her. Ethan loved Lizzie-Jean. She loved Ethan and Lizzie-Jean…well, Lizzie-Jean seemed to love whoever was cuddling her. The little girl was a delight and one that had only enhanced the happiness CJ had thought she’d never feel.
As she stood facing Ethan, holding his hands and gazing into his eyes, while Lizzie-Jean slept on nearby in Aunty Melody’s arms, CJ couldn’t help but laugh.
‘What’s so funny?’ Ethan stared at her and slowly shook his head, his own lips beginning to twitch. ‘You’re supposed to be saying your vows, not laughing.’
‘But I’m just so happy.’ She giggled again. ‘You make me so happy, Ethan. You came into my life when I needed you most—and then stayed. You stayed. I want you to know that I will always be here for you, that I will do my very best to always communicate with you, to share my thoughts, my feelings and my concerns with you. Good and bad. Happy and sad… But here’s hoping it’s mostly happy. I think we’ve both had enough sadness.’
‘And I promise to do everything I can to keep that smile on your face, to keep that giggle bubbling up and your eyes shining with delight. I adore you, Claudia-Jean. I love you. My heart is yours for ever…except for the part we share with Lizzie-Jean—’
‘And any other children we might have.’
Ethan nodded. ‘We’ll build a home filled with thoughtfulness, kindness, love, patience and—’
‘And a thousand other good things,’ she interjected once more.
‘Will you let me finish?’ he demanded, and a chuckle rippled through the crowd that was gathered around them, helping them celebrate this wonderful union.