In the Never series, Anie Michaels has written an absolutely swoon-worthy BBF named Porter. He is absolutely delicious. He has a knack for romance and saying just the right thing. We were thrilled when Porter and Ella found their happily ever after in Never Giving Up and now Anie has given us an exclusive bonus Valentine’s Day scene to enjoy!! So get ready to swoon.
The jarring sound of the table saw tapered off, leaving only the sound of the crashing waves from the ocean. I loved evenings like this. It was chilly and cold, but it was silent. February was not a warm and balmy time of year on the Oregon Coast, but it was always calm. Only die-hard Oregon Coast natives stuck around for the rain and the cold.
I had been working in Lincoln City that day and Ella was driving out to meet me with Mattie when her day was finished in Salem. I smiled to myself as I made some notes on the plans I kept on the table in my workshop. I’d been trying to build this boat for years and for a while it sat with little progress being made. Things were happening, more important things than boats. Ella and I had eloped and then Mattie had come along. There was nothing more time consuming than a new baby, except perhaps a toddler.
Mattie was now two and a half years old.
My eyes flitted up to the picture tacked up to the corkboard above my work table. It was Mattie, standing ankle deep in the Pacific Ocean, wearing rain boots, a hoodie, and a stocking cap, a wide smile on her face, her eyes crinkled up from her chubby cheeks, her little hand wrapped tightly around a finger that I knew was Ella’s.
I couldn’t see it for the cap, but I knew there was a mop of brown curly hair atop her head, striking against the bluest eyes in the world, next to her mother’s. Mattie seemed to be the best parts of both of us, combined, and improved upon. She was serious when she was trying to accomplish something, her eyebrows crinkling in the cutest way, but she had her mother’s laugh and it melted my heart every time I heard it echo through our house.
Today was Valentine’s Day and I was anxious to see them both and spend the evening at our beach house. Our evenings were pretty typical at the beach: dinner, TV, then bed. I was sure if we called my mom she would happily have Mattie over for the evening so Ella and I could be alone, but there was nothing better than laying on our couch, both my girls cuddled up to me, cozy in pajamas, watching whatever movie Mattie was obsessed with that week.
Tonight, however, we would put Mattie to bed and then I’d break out the special-occasion cheesecake, coupled with the champagne and diamond bracelet I’d bought her. I’d like to think that I took every opportunity to express to Ella how much I loved her and how much I admired her for being the best mother to my daughter I could ever imagine, but I’d gladly take an evening to show her exactly how I felt; I was anxious to, in fact.
I brought a piece of rough sandpaper to the wood I’d just cut, trying to soften the edges, when I heard a car pull up our gravel drive. I smiled knowing my girls had made it safely to the house, and told myself I’d finish what I was working on and head inside. I heard car doors opening and closing, and then a few moments later I heard Mattie’s sweet voice ring out through my workshop.
“Daddy!” I turned and saw her running to me from the open doors, Ella nowhere in sight.
“Hey, sweet girl,” I said as I leaned down to catch Mattie as she launched herself into my arms. She always trusted me to catch her and I always would. She wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling me in for a tight squeeze.
“Missed you, Daddy.” Her tiny voice always made my heart clench.
“I missed you too, baby. Where’s your momma?” Mattie silently pointed her finger toward the door.
“You build boat?” Her eyes wandered over the still unfinished vessel.
“Yeah. Let’s go find your momma.”
“No!” She yelped so loud it caught me off guard. “Momma says you take off my coat.”
“What?” Mattie was a great talker, but sometimes she said things that made my head spin. I spent a good portion of my time trying to translate her fluent toddler into English.
“Take coat off.”
“You want me to take your coat off?”
“Yeah,” she said, exasperated. She apparently thought I wasn’t fast on the uptake. I sighed and put her down, grabbed the zipper of her jacket, and pulled it down. She quickly grabbed the jacket and shrugged it off, sticking her chest out to show me the shirt she was wearing.
I looked down and my heart stopped, but just for a moment. Then it pounded, hard. Thumped and drummed, quickening its pulse, pushing blood frantically through my body. My lungs started working overtime, and my hands shook.
“Baby, where’d you get that shirt?”
“From Momma. Pretty?”
“Yes, baby. It’s beautiful.” I looked down at her again and let my eyes linger on the words drawn onto her shirt in bright magenta sparkles.
I heard footsteps at the door and turned to see Ella leaning up against the frame of the door, arms crossed, with a smile almost big enough to mirror my own.
“I wanted to give you a special Valentine’s Day present,” she said, shrugging. “Mattie wanted to help.”
“Are you serious? Does this mean what I think it means?”
She stood up straight and walked toward me. “Would I joke around about something like this?”
I stood up, keeping my hand on Mattie’s soft hair, looking Ella in the eye as she made her way to me.
“I hope not.”
When she made it to me, her arms wrapped around my waist and my free hand came to cup the side of her face.
“I’m pregnant,” she whispered.
My smile grew wider. “Say it again.”
I leaned down slowly and gently moved my nose just over the tip of hers, then I pressed my mouth down to hers, slowly kissing her, trying to wrap my mind around what she’d told me.
She laughed, her smile shining brightly at me. “Yes, I’m pregnant.”
“Momma have baby in her tummy,” Mattie said sweetly, winding one of her tiny arms around my leg and giving her mother’s leg the same treatment.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Ella said softly, locking her gaze on me.
I ran my thumb along her chin, taking in the look on her face at that moment, the moment she told me I was going to be a father again. So beautiful.
“My present sucks in comparison,” I whispered.
“What is it?” She asked, smiling.
“Shut up,” she said, deadpan.
I laughed, recognizing the comical desire my wife has for my mother’s cheesecake.
“I love you,” I said softly, letting my free hand find her stomach, running my fingers gently over the non-existent baby bump.
“I love you, too. Hoping for a boy this time?”
“I think a boy would make everything perfect.”
“Me too,” she said, smiling. “Me too.”
Never Close Enough (Never #1)
Never Far Away (Never #2)
Never Giving Up (Never #3)
Never Standing Still (Never #4)
Never Tied Down (Never #5)
Never With You (Never #6) – Releasing July 18th!