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Every Time We Fall in Love 18


  On the dock, Stanley helped tie up the ferry, then said hello. "It's good to see you back so soon, Harry."

  "I'd like to show him the archives," Molly said. "If you don't have a tour booked for this afternoon, I was hoping we could go over there on my lunch hour."

  "Why don't you go now? Kendra needed more hours to help pay off a car loan, so the store is well staffed today."

  "That would be perfect, Stanley." Molly paused for a few moments. Harry couldn't quite read her expression when she looked at him, then said to her friend and boss, "Actually, would you mind coming with us? I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I wanted to talk with you about something." She turned back to Harry. "I'd like you to be there for this conversation too."

  Stanley shot Harry a look over Molly's shoulder that said, Do you know what's going on?

  Harry shook his head. Though he and Molly had shared a great deal since getting their feelings out in the open, he was currently in the dark.

  The Boldt Castle archives were stunning. Surrounded by the thick stone walls, the space encapsulated a library on one side, a dozen or so display cases that held maps and plans and other historical documents relating to the castle, and a large wooden desk and leather chair.

  While Harry was impressed with the parts of the castle that he'd seen so far, he could happily have moved into this room.

  "Stanley," Molly said, "I was hoping we could talk about your job offer."

  Harry's eyebrows went up in surprise, a mirror to Stanley's.

  "As you know," she continued, "I was concerned about the longer hours and added responsibility of managing the archives. But now that Harry's here--" She smiled at him before turning back to Stanley. "--I'm ready to take on the challenge. That is, if you haven't offered the position to someone else."

  "Of course I haven't!" Stanley pulled her in for a bear hug. "I'm so pleased you've agreed to take the job. You're going to be a phenomenal resource and representative for Boldt Castle."

  Harry couldn't have been happier for Molly. She was the best person for the job, but that wasn't the only reason he was happy: This decision meant that she trusted him not to leave her in the lurch.

  Gaining her trust was the best feeling in the world.

  "Thank you," she said, beaming at Stanley's praise. "I'm really excited about it. Although I was hoping we could do a slow transition, if that's okay with you. I don't want to leave Greta or anyone else at the store feeling like I walked away without making sure they had everything they needed to proceed without me."

  "You can transition however you'd like," Stanley said, "but Greta has been preparing for this day for some time now."

  "She has? Even after I kept turning down the job?"

  "We always held out hope that you would take it. That somehow one of our arguments would sway you. Little did we know it would take this guy showing up--" Stanley gestured to Harry with a smile. "--to seal the deal."

  "You and Greta are both so good to me, and to Amelia. I don't know how I can ever repay you."

  "You know you're the daughter we never had, Molly. Your happiness means the world to us. Family doesn't ever need to repay family."

  Molly reached for Harry's hand. "That's exactly what Harry is always saying."

  Stanley's grin grew even wider as he looked at their linked hands. "Am I right to assume that you have more than one thing to celebrate today?"

  Molly's nod made Harry feel even happier. "Yes. Harry and I are making a go of it. With Amelia's blessing, of course."

  "All of this good news deserves a proper celebration," Stanley said after he hugged Molly again, then gave Harry's hand a hearty pump. "I'm going to find one of those bottles of champagne we stashed away after the last donor dinner. We can all toast you and your new position as head of the archives."

  As soon as he was gone, Molly took both Harry's hands in hers. "I should have talked with you about this first, since it's a decision that will impact both of us, but as soon as we stepped off the ferry, it hit me what I wanted to do. What I needed to do."

  "You know how much I want you to take this job. And how I intend to do whatever I can to support you and Amelia as you go after your dreams." He drew her close. "I'm so proud of you for taking the leap, Molly."

  He kissed her, a kiss full of all the promises he was making to her. To stay. To support. To love.

  She drew back, framing his face in her hands. "Actually, this is my day to take not just one big scary leap, but two." She took a deep breath. "I love you, Harry."

  Harry's breath caught. "Say it again."

  "I love you. I never stopped."

  He crushed his mouth to hers with a kiss that possessed at the same time that it gave. Gave everything he was to her.

  Stanley, Greta, and a good dozen staff members were standing in the doorway when he finally let her go. "We didn't want to interrupt," Greta said with a cheeky smile. "In fact, we could come back later if that would be better."

  Molly's cheeks were pink as she laughed and said, "Come in and pop the cork. I was just about to show Harry the treasures in the archives. You guys can help by showing him your favorites too."

  Soon, they were all enjoying the impromptu celebration, clinking their glasses together and munching on chocolate chip cookies from a tin Greta had found in the break room. Each person showed Harry the map, or book, or piece of original molding that they found to be the most interesting.

  Harry had always loved working on a college campus--the intellectual stimulation, the support from his peers, the ability to make his living by digging deep into fascinating subjects. When they were eighteen, Molly had also wanted to be a professor of history who taught and studied her subject with great passion.

  The more time he spent at Boldt Castle, though, the more he realized that was exactly what she'd found here. In her own perfectly unique and brilliant way, she'd created the life for herself that she'd envisioned, without letting any hardships or struggles hold her back.

  With visitors soon arriving on the island, everyone had to go back to work, leaving Harry and Molly alone.

  "I'll need to leave for the store in a few minutes," she said, "but there's something I want to show you first." She handed him a pair of gloves, then opened a locked drawer and pulled out a fire box. She put on a pair of gloves herself before opening it. "These are George and Louise Boldt's love letters."

  Harry could see the reason for Molly's reverence. The paper was faded and wrinkled, the handwriting old-fashioned, and when he picked a letter up, he swore he could actually feel the love in it.

  "Aren't they amazing?"

  Her voice was thick with emotion as she silently read the lines she must have read many times before, but had never made her jaded. If Harry hadn't already been head over heels in love with her, he would have fallen right then and there.

  "They're absolutely beautiful, Molly. Just like you."

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  The next morning, Molly woke in Harry's arms, feeling more contented than she could ever remember.

  Her birthday had always been slightly bittersweet, even before things had gone so wrong with Harry, but this year there was only joy. She already felt as though she'd been given the greatest gifts in the world.

  Amelia had a father who loved her.

  Harry had a daughter he adored.

  And Molly?

  She smiled as she nestled in closer to Harry's warm, strong body. She had everything.

  Only her lingering worries that his soon-to-arrive family would be angry with her marred what would otherwise have been perfect happiness.

  "Happy birthday." Harry's lips were warm on her neck. "I love you."

  She couldn't get enough of hearing it and couldn't say it enough either. "I love you tooohhh..."

  While he kissed her neck, his hand was roaming over her naked curves. She felt insatiable, wanting to make up for so many years of lost lovemaking as quickly as possible.

  Last night, they'd made lov
e in the shower, then again in bed. Needing to be quiet only made things feel more intense as Harry captured her gasps of pleasure with his kisses, and they held on to each other so tightly, loving each other with fierce passion.

  Though it had been only a matter of hours, she wanted him again. Wanted him to touch her with his big, strong, sinfully talented hands. Wanted him to make her gasp with pleasure and beg for more.

  Oh yes. This was the perfect way to wake up, with Harry pressing kisses to her neck and shoulders, making her arch into him when he played over her breasts, then moaning low in her throat as he slid his hand down between her legs.

  Last night, they'd teased each other. Learning every inch of each other's bodies, and pleasure, all over again. But this morning, she didn't want to wait, couldn't bear the anticipation.

  Thank God, he must have felt exactly the same way, because the next thing she knew, he was gripping her hips and moving inside of her.

  "Harry."

  Wanting to forever remember the beauty of being so close to him, she closed her eyes and tried to memorize every moment, one glorious rush of pleasure after another in Harry's arms. But in the end, all she could do was gasp, and crave, and beg for more as they drove each other higher and higher. Until all that remained was total ecstasy.

  And a love so big it took her breath away.

  Her heart rate was only just beginning to return to normal when Molly rolled over to wrap herself around him, feeling blissfully happy. "That was hands down the best birthday present I've ever received."

  *

  Forty-five minutes later, it was the usual rush off to school for Amelia, who had only just emerged from the shower. Aldwin had finally forsaken his spot waiting for her outside the bathroom door to lie beneath the kitchen table instead, in hopes that bacon or eggs would soon be falling into his waiting mouth.

  "Happy birthday, Mom!" Amelia gave Molly a hug. "I know I usually give you your gift at breakfast, but this year, I'm going to give it to you tonight. I don't want you to think I forgot because of the musical, or because of how excited I am about my aunts and uncles and grandpa coming to the show."

  "Thanks, sweetie. I know you would never forget. And I'm excited about those things too."

  Amelia picked up one of the bacon and egg sandwiches Harry had put together, breaking off a piece of bacon for Aldwin. "Thanks for making this, Dad." Her mouth was half full as she said, "I'll eat it on the way to school."

  She was rushing out the door, her tennis shoes only halfway on, when she stopped. "There's a letter here." She picked up an express delivery envelope. "Looks important. There's a sticky note on it from Mrs. Bronwyn next door. She says they delivered it to her house yesterday by accident and that she's sorry she forgot to drop it by before now." Amelia jogged back inside to hand the package to Molly.

  "Wait a second, honey." Molly's hands shook slightly as she held the envelope. Sensing excitement, Aldwin got up to sniff it. "I think you're going to want to see this. You too, Harry."

  As he'd been loading the dishwasher, she waited until he had wiped his hands on a kitchen towel before ripping open the pull tab at the top of the envelope. "Amelia, you should do the honors."

  Amelia reached inside, her face a picture of total surprise as she pulled out the piece of paper. "It's my birth certificate. With Dad's name on it!"

  Molly didn't even try to keep her tears from falling as she reached for her daughter and Harry, pulling them into a hug. "This is the best birthday ever."

  "It really is," Harry agreed.

  And as Molly wiped her tears away, she saw that she needed to wipe away his too.

  *

  "I wish Amelia could have been here to greet all of you," Molly said to Harry's siblings a few hours later out in her back garden. Aldwin, of course, was making the rounds from person to person, getting pats and begging for tasty tidbits.

  Upon hearing that Harry's family was coming to Alexandria Bay to see Amelia's show, Stanley had given Molly the day off, telling her to consider it a bonus for taking the new job. This meant that she and Harry were able to put together a family picnic that afternoon.

  Not wanting to hide anything from him, she'd admitted that she was nervous about seeing his siblings again. He'd tried to persuade her that they weren't holding any grudges, but she doubted they would have told Harry if they were. After all, why would they want to upset their brother when he already had so much on his plate? Even with her, they might try to hide what they felt, thinking that was what Harry wanted them to do. But she couldn't let anything fester. Not anymore.

  His family had arrived in a big SUV, missing only their father, who would be arriving on his own a little later. Harry had frowned at that news, but they had assured him everything was fine.

  Drake, Suzanne, and Alec had smiled as they greeted her with a hug or a handshake, saying how good it was to see her again. They'd even brought birthday presents, which was going way above and beyond.

  And yet, even after she'd fetched everyone a drink and made sure they had enough food to eat, she still couldn't settle...but at the same time, she didn't quite know how to bring up her concerns.

  Seizing the excuse to go inside for a new bottle of wine, she stood for a few moments at the kitchen window and watched Harry with his family. She could see how happy it made him to be with them and how much they all loved each other.

  For all their troubles, she knew none of them would have traded families with anyone else. Alec, Harry, Suzanne, and Drake had always been tight-knit. And now, with the addition of their partners, they seemed closer than ever.

  She couldn't help but marvel at how grown-up Suzanne and Drake were. In Molly's head, they'd forever remained high school kids, but now Suzanne was CEO of her own digital security company and Drake was a world-famous painter. She marveled yet again at how Harry and his family could all be so talented and driven, while managing to be totally unassuming about their achievements. As were their partners.

  Suzanne's fiance, Roman, was every inch the tough bodyguard...and he was also utterly besotted with Suzanne. From what Molly had seen so far this afternoon, he knew exactly how to make her laugh and also how to make her blush like crazy.

  As for Drake's fiancee, Rosa--she definitely didn't fit the profile of a self-absorbed reality TV star. If anything, she'd gone out of her way to ask Molly about her life, her career, and Amelia.

  And then there were Alec and Cordelia. Truthfully, Molly still could hardly believe her eyes. Alec had been the very definition of the wild and untamed bachelor. Now, though he still had plenty of edge, he was also the most devoted husband imaginable--while his wife, who clearly felt the same way about him, constantly kept him on his toes.

  "Molly?" Harry walked into the kitchen. "You okay?"

  She almost nodded, but she couldn't go through with it. Because though the gathering was a whirlwind of chatter and laughter, and no one had glared or scowled at her, she still couldn't stop worrying. She and Harry had forgiven each other for the mistakes they'd made, but that didn't mean his family had.

  Before this week, she would have tried to bury her fears, only to have them run rampant. She knew better now, though. Knew that facing her worries head on, and telling people how she truly felt, was the only chance she had for true, lasting relationships.

  "I need to apologize to your family."

  "You know I don't think that's necessary." Harry drew her close. "But I can also see that you're not going to have any sense of closure until you do."

  "Thank you for supporting me." She pressed her lips to his. "Even when you think I'm wrong."

  "As long as we're honest with each other, I'm pretty sure we can handle anything."

  Hand in hand, they walked into the yard and sat down with everyone. "Could I say something?" Molly felt foolish and shaky, but she had to press on. "First, I want to thank all of you for making the long drive here for Amelia's show. I know how busy you all are and that you probably changed plans to be here. Amelia is on c
loud nine knowing you're her family now." Molly's emotions were so close to the surface they nearly spilled over. "I am too. But I understand if you're not nearly as thrilled about me. You have every right to be angry over missing out on Amelia's life until now. I'm so sorry for hurting you. All of you. And I hope that one day you'll be able to forgive me."

  "I, for one, am not mad at you." Suzanne reached out to lay her hand over Molly's. "From everything I've seen and heard, you did your best in a difficult situation--and made the same assumption about Amelia's paternity that I know I would have made in your position."

  "I agree," Drake said. "And the truth is that if anyone should be apologizing, it's us."

  Molly was stunned. "Why would you say that?"

  "Because Dad was a mess back then." Alec answered for his siblings, speaking in his blunt way. "So was I a lot of the time. And those two," he said as he gestured to Suzanne and Drake, "were young enough to still need someone to look after them. As the oldest, I did whatever I could to help keep our family together, but the biggest burden of all fell on Harry." He shot a rueful glance at his brother. "Dad was beyond me. I couldn't deal with him, could barely talk to him. I left Harry to deal with him, and I shouldn't have."

  "You don't have to apologize to me, Alec. You did your best." Harry looked at Suzanne, then Drake. "We all did." He turned to Molly. "And we all made mistakes. The kind of mistakes I'm not planning to make ever again."

  She leaned into him, knowing he needed her warmth as much as she needed his. "Neither am I."

  A beat later, Alec asked, "So...are we all good now?"

  Cordelia smacked her husband on the shoulder. "That's it? That's as much of a heart-to-heart as you're going to allow everyone to have?"

  He didn't look the slightest bit chastened, especially given the way he smacked a kiss on her lips even while her eyes flashed fire at him. But he did turn to the group and say, "If anyone else wants to lay out their heart about something, I guess now's the time."

  Suzanne rolled her eyes. "If I did, I don't anymore."