The Way I Hate Him: Epilogue


“Why do I feel like I could throw up?” Hattie asks as she walks into the kitchen wearing a pair of blue shorts and a white T-shirt with a small pocket on the breast. Her hair is pinned back so it’s half up and half down, and she’s wearing more mascara than usual. She looks so fucking good.

And she’s all mine.

“I don’t know, babe. It’s not like you haven’t worked there before.”

“I know.” She shakes her arms out by her side. “This is different, though. It will officially be mine.”

“Which is a good thing.” I walk up to her and pull her into my chest, tilting her chin up with my finger.

“I just want to make Cassidy proud.”

“You will,” I say as I press a kiss to her lips. “Now go get your shoes on. You don’t want to be late for your first day. A minute late counts.”

She rolls her eyes. “At least this time, I don’t have to bring a demanding boss coffee in the morning.”

I smirk as she takes off to grab her shoes.

After I begged for her forgiveness in the potato fields, I asked her to move in with me. It took her about three days to say yes, but once she did, I was there with my SUV, packing up her apartment and making sure there was no way she’d go back to that small apartment. She’s mine now.

We’ve spent the past few days reconnecting, and when I say reconnecting, I mean spending every waking moment naked and talking . . . and fucking.

Maggie went back to San Francisco, but not before going into detail about how she was going to meet an island hottie who would bring her to—in her words—O town.

In a surprising and awkward moment, I asked Ryland if he’d ever consider dating Maggie. She is attractive, and he thinks she’s amusing. It was an immediate no from him. And from Hattie. Maggie has a thriving business in San Francisco, and she’s not going to give that up to move to a small town and be a stepmom. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not in the cards with her. So . . . here’s hoping she finds her island hottie.

Abel, Ryland, and I went out for burgers the other night at Provisions. We drank beer, talked about the good old days, and also talked about what was happening in our lives now. Currently, I’m the only one dating someone. Abel has no interest, and Ryland claimed he has no interest either, but I got the impression he’d be open to a grown-up to talk to other than his siblings and Abel. I could see him opening up to someone else, but it would have to be the right person.

Aubree . . . well, she’s as grumpy as always, although with the store switching over to Hattie, I actually saw her smile for a moment. When I pointed it out, Hattie swatted at me, telling me never to point out an Aubree smile or else it might never return. I made that mental note, but seeing her relax for a moment was good.

And as for me and my music, well . . . I’m stockpiling some songs. I wrote one the other day with Mac in mind that I sang to Hattie. She was in tears by the end. But told me it was beautiful and that I needed to finish it as there was so much meaning behind a little girl still feeling her mother’s spirit. I promised her I’d finish it, just needed to find the right special touches to make it perfect. I’m out of my label’s contract, I just have to do a Christmas album for them to fulfill the contract needs, but any new music will be produced through me. And my mom, well, she’s been served, and I won’t be seeing her anytime soon unless she wants to go to jail. Matt was also told that he should remove his experience with me from his résumé because he wouldn’t be getting any glowing reviews. Haven’t heard from him and probably never will.

“Ready,” Hattie says.

I smile at her, grab my keys from the side table, and then I help her into my SUV once we’re in the garage. Since I don’t have any schedule, I told her I’d drive her and pick her up for now, giving us that extra time together in the car.

I pull out of the garage with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on her leg as she adjusts the music to Blondie’s Heart of Glass.

Together, we sing while we make our way to town.

Hattie has a terrible voice, but it’s so fucking cute, listening to her try to hit the high notes and not giving a fuck that she’s singing next to someone who makes millions a year singing for a living. One of the many reasons I love her.

When we reach the shop, I pull in front, only for her to see Aubree, Ryland, and Mac standing by the front door.

“What’s this?” Hattie asks.

“They wanted to wish you good luck on your first day being the official shop owner.”

“Oh my God, they’re going to make me cry.”

I squeeze her leg. “Don’t worry, babe. I have tissues in my pocket.”

I help her out of the car, holding her hand as we walk up toward the door.

Aubree holds out a key to her. “This belongs to you.”

With a wobbly lip, Hattie takes the key and holds it to her chest. “Thank you.”

Ryland steps up and hands her a box of donuts. “Cassidy would have brought these to you to celebrate, so I figured we could all have a donut in her honor this morning.”

“I’d love that.”

Mac steps up now and hands her a handmade card. “This is for you, Aunt Hattie.” I take the box of donuts from her so she can open the card. Inside the folded paper is a stick figure drawing of a woman with wings and a halo over her head. “That’s Mommy watching over you.”

“Oh, MacKenzie.” Hattie squats down to her level and pulls Mac into a hug, tears falling. “Thank you. This means so much to me.”

She squeezes her hard and then lifts up.

She holds the picture out and says, “I’m going to frame this and put it next to the card that your mom made me for my birthday. I’ll hang them by the register.”

“Will you really?” Mac asks as Ryland pulls her into his side.

“Of course.” She stands taller, glancing between her siblings. “Thank you for putting up with me as I navigated through all of this.”

“No need to thank us. We’re here for each other. We’re in this together,” Ryland says.

“And you’ll do great things with the store,” Aubree says.

“And you’ll do great things with the farm.”

She smiles softly. “Now that I can focus my attention on it, I know it will be better than ever.”

On a deep breath, Hattie turns toward the store, and with her key in one hand and a picture of Cassidy in the other, she opens the door to The Almond Store.

I know this woman loves me and will always love me. But this place is her heart, her passion, and an equally important part of her future. Something grown from love. Something that brings joy to others. She’s going to do great things with her life, and I’m going to walk beside her every step of the way. Because that’s what love does. It stays. It protects. It fortifies.


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