Here is a VERY SPOILERY epilogue for my book Smoky Mountain Dreams. I wrote it and it just didn’t fit as an ending, so, snip! It was cut from the book itself. But as a Christmas gift, I’ll share it here on my blog for those who might be interested.
I’m going to put it behind a Read More cut. Hopefully that will work, so those who don’t want to be spoiled can look away now.
Okay, here we go, everything below this? SPOILERY!!!
Show You The World
Friday, June 3, 2016
“More pain au chocolat?”
Christopher laughed softly as Jesse pulled another piece of the delicious bread off and fed it to Christopher. They were alone in the pastry shop, which seemed almost miraculous given the line earlier in the day, but he supposed the price of missing the fireworks show was paying off in precious alone time with Jesse and delicious snacks.
The small table didn’t allow much room, and their legs tangled beneath it. They finished off their snack, grinning at each other, and touching fingers. The heat of the day had slipped away and the night air felt cool as it poured through the open doors.
“Want to go see the Eiffel Tower?”
Christopher licked chocolate from his fingers. “Sure. We’re meeting Nova, Tim and the kids in the UK, right?”
Jesse nodded and crumpled up the tissue paper and napkins, rising to toss them in one of the many trash receptacles.
Outside, they walked close together, the Jardin à la française swirling on their left, low lights making it visible even in the darkness.
“Well, what do you think?” Jesse asked, motioning toward the Haussmann apartments butting up against a stone building of some older style.
“Well, to be truthful, I didn’t imagine Paris being quite so small,” Christopher said, turning around as they walked toward the Seine.
Jesse chuckled and knocked his shoulder. “Next year, I’m taking you to the real thing.”
“I’ve already put in for a month off, so I’m counting on it.”
“And Monte Carlo. And Tokyo. And Moscow.”
“Save something for the next year,” Christopher laughed.
Jesse grabbed hold of his hand and pulled his close, growling in his ear. “Can you blame me for being excited? I want to show you the world.”
“Oh, Aladdin, you dreamboat, you.”
Jesse laughed and kissed his cheek. Christopher noticed the glances from the people walking around them, but it was far from the outright gaping he and Jesse sometimes got a back in Tennessee in exchange for a lot less obvious behavior.
This life is even better than I dreamed for you, baby.
Christopher smiled at Gran’s voice in his head. It’d been hard to let her go, but Nova and Tim, Jesse and the kids had made it easier. Jackie and Joe had helped, too. They’d brought their kids up to see him at SMD a few times, and even spent the night at Jesse’s place once in what had ended up being a fun springtime family weekend of tubing and barbequing .
“Tomorrow, we should come back here. Just the two of us,” Jesse said. “We’ll drink our way through the countries.”
“Beer in Mexico. Wine in Italy.”
“Sake in Japan.”
“Sounds like we’d end up with a terrible hangover, especially if the heat is anything like it was today.”
“We’ll take it slow. Make it last all day.”
Christopher shot him a flirty look. “Why don’t we send Nova and Tim back here with the kids and we stay at the resort and ‘make it last all day’.”
Jesse grinned. “How about I send them to Animal Kingdom and we do a little bit of both?”
“Perfect. I knew there was a reason I fell in love with you.”
“I’m just grateful you did.”
Christopher’s chest ached, full of happiness, and he flung his arm around Jesse’s shoulders and they kissed by the Seine, the Eiffel Tower looming up behind them, and the “Pont des Arts” bridge directly ahead leading into the United Kingdom.
“Have you had a good vacation?” Jesse asked as they started across.
“It’s been amazing being here with your family and—“
“With your family. Our family.”
Christopher flushed and nearly pulled Jesse into his arms again. “With our family, then. I love going to another theme park and seeing how they do things, and what theme park does it better than Disney? There’s just something beautiful about theme parks to me, even after working in one for years. The way they function, the joy people have, the laughter—even the sugared-up screaming kids. I just love it.”
“Then I’m glad we came. We could hit Disney France next year if you want?”
“No, not this time. I want to see your France. The one you wanted to show me.”
“So you’re ready to be bored to death by visiting all my old teachers I apprenticed with?”
“I am. I can’t wait to hear all about the latest trends in gold filigree or whatever.”
Jesse chuckled. They walked together a few more steps and Jesse said, “I thought maybe you’d want to quit at SMD once you got your Gran’s house fully converted to the recording studio, but I’m glad you want to go on working there. I would miss seeing you on stage.”
“I’d miss it way too much to ever give it up. I’m lucky to work there. I’ll never be the headliner, but I don’t want to be. I just want to be your headliner, and for everyone else I just want to be Christopher Ryder—the surprisingly good performer. I like to make the crowd love me.”
“I’m so proud of you, babe. When you’re on stage, I want to stand up and shout to the audience that you’re my guy.”
Christopher laughed. “That’d be quite the interruption.”
As they stepped off the bridge into the tiny version of the United Kingdom set up in the World Showcase of Epcot Center, they spotted Will, Brigid, Tim and Nova waiting for them by the Rose & Crown Pub. Brigid’s arms were around Nova’s waist, her dark hair streaming free in the night air. Will came running at them.
“Chris! Dad! The fireworks were awesome! So cool! There was one big explosion that I felt my chest!”
“That sounds cool,” Christopher said. “Maybe your dad and I will see them tomorrow.”
“We’re coming back tomorrow?” Will looked ready to pout.
“We’re coming back alone. You guys are going to go to Animal Kingdom,” Jesse explained.
“Yes!” he exclaimed doing a fist pump. Will darted back across the street head of them to announce this to Brigid and his grandparents.
“Hey,” Christopher said, stopping in the middle of the street, looking at Jesse’s family—no, your family, baby—talking, hopping, smiling, and waiting for them. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Jesse said.
Christopher wanted to say more, but didn’t know how to express how happy he was, how much everything meant to him. “I really love you. And the kids. I love our family.”
Jesse seemed at a loss for a moment, but then he leaned over to whisper-sing in Christopher’s ear. He sang the lyrics to “You Are My Sunshine”, the same ones Christopher had asked him to inscribe on Gran’s locket the autumn before. Christopher swallowed the lump in his throat, pulled Jesse close, and kissed him quickly. Will’s groan of disgust drifted across the street, as did Brigid’s whining rejection of their public show of affection and Tim and Nova’s gentle chiding of the children’s reaction.
“Come on,” Jesse said. “We can talk about how stupid-in-love we both are when we’re alone tomorrow.”
“In Norway, and Canada, and China, even.”
“Damn, Christopher Ryder, stop making me want to kiss you again.”
“Sorry, but I hope I never stop doing that.”
Jesse groaned. “You did it again.”
Christopher grinned and kissed him fast and hard. Then he took Jesse’s hand, leading him toward their family who still waited in the Rose & Crown Pub’s doorway. He was laughing already anticipating the teasing that undoubtedly awaited them there.