MAKE IT LAST

She wakes to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, facing away from her. He's hunched over, and she can tell from the scratching of a pen and the crinkle of paper that he's writing.

"Working on the next Nikki Heat?" she asks, reaching over to run her fingers up his spine.

He shivers and leans almost imperceptibly into the touch, turns to look at her over his shoulder. "Not today."

His eyes are bright, the lines around his mouth speaking his joy. Their joy.

She lets her hand drift to the waistband of his boxers and tugs. He laughs. "Again?"

A flush of warmth infuses her skin, but she just smiles, lowering her eyelashes. "What's the matter? Not up for it?"

He sets down the paper and turns around fully, leaning back and wriggling until he rests on his side, his head sharing a pillow with hers, desire flashing in his eyes. "I'm always up for it with you."

"What were you writing?" she asks, and though he pouts for a moment at the change in subject, he rolls over and retrieves the papers from the nightstand.

"My list," he answers, and there's something soft in his voice, a little vulnerable.

She raises an eyebrow. "What kind of list?"

He slides the paper toward her across the narrow space between them and she reads the heading written in his distinctive scrawl.

Bucket List

Her eyes skim across the first page, noting with interest both the items that have been crossed out and the ones that remained yet to be done.

She already knows the stories - or, at least, perhaps as much as she wants to know - of many of the crossed-off items. Her heart clenches at number six: raise an amazing daughter. He's done that for sure.

She laughs as she reads some of the things he still wants to do. Some are funny - they seem very much in character for the boyish man who reclines at her side. Number Nine - SPACE! ! ! catches her eye, and when she looks up at him, he's grinning.

Others are more serious. Career goals. Places he wants to travel. She hopes she can do some of them with him. Maybe that year in Paris.

The detective flips to the second page and she reads each item one by one. Her stomach twists at number thirty-two: Live to have great-grandchildren.

Alexis is almost old enough to have children of her own, and Kate promises herself that she'll keep him safe - keep him alive long enough to see his grandchildren, and yes, hopefully his great-grandchildren.

She pauses at number thirty-four. "You know how to juggle chainsaws?"

He lifts an eyebrow, one side of his mouth quirking upward. "Yes. Yes, I do."

Hmm...she's a little glad she missed watching him cross off that particular item.

She reads through the others, eyes flicking back and forth, chuckling at times.

And then she reaches number fifty-

Get married and make it last

She lifts her gaze to find him watching her silently, solemnly. She says nothing, but he lifts his hand from where it was curled under his chin and sets it over hers, pulling the papers down between them.

"There was a time," he says quietly, "when I thought that might be the one item I'd never cross off my list."

Her breath quickens, and she closes her eyes, feels the moisture rising beneath her lids.

"Kate," he whispers, running his thumb over the thin band of gold that circles her ring finger. It feels so foreign and yet so right.

She opens her eyes, blinking back the tears to focus briefly on his face as she leans in to press her lips to his.

"This is it for me," he says when she pulls back. "This is the one that lasts."

She nods. "Me too."

"I'm gonna need your help with the last one."

She turns back to the list, her eyes lingering still on that number fifty, written in black but crossed off in blue. And then she reads the item below, also in blue - the one he must have added this morning, their first morning as husband and wife.

51) Stay married for fifty years.

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