Neutral Zone Bonus Scene


I’ve spent the last four years watching Rosie.

And I don’t just mean watching her through a screen.

I’ve watched her stretch in the mornings as the light filters through the window and hangs around her like a halo.

I’ve watched her fall asleep late at night, her mouth hanging slightly open and soft snores filling the quiet night air.

I’ve watched her work her ass off, go to school, and dream up a business, all while maintaining my hectic schedule and working at Scout’s Sweets.

And now, as I stand across the street, my arm resting against a light pole, I’m watching everything she’s worked so far for come to life.

It’s the third day of the opening week for Ro’s Pastry Shop.

She’s been dreaming of this place for years, and now that it’s finally here, I’m thrilled for her.

In fact, I think I like today even more than the day I hoisted the Stanley Cup, and that was a damn good day.

With a smile, Rosie hands a bag to the customer standing on the other side of the wooden counter.

The older woman returns the grin, then steps to the side as another customer takes her place.

This lasts for another twenty minutes as person after person stands in line to get a delicious baked good from my favorite person. Not once does Rosie’s smile falter, not once does she look tired, and not once does she look like she’d rather be anywhere else.


She looks happy and at peace.

She looks like this is precisely where she was always meant to be, running her bakery and being her own boss.

Pride swells in my chest, and my hands physically itch to touch her. To tug her into my arms and show her just how proud of her I am.

Rosie spins toward the window when the last person leaves and looks directly at me. It’s almost as if she knew I was watching her. Like she could feel my stare.

And after so long, she probably can.

She lifts her hand in a flirty wave, and it’s all it takes to have me shoving off the pole I’m leaning against and crossing the road to her.

I yank open the bakery door, loving how the smell of freshly baked goods overwhelms my senses. I’ll never tire of the scent or the woman responsible for it.

I’m on her the moment I cross the shop, hauling her into my arms and slanting my mouth over hers.

She moans against me, and I swallow the sound with a growl of my own. I slip my hands into her hair, dragging my fingers through the long blonde strands perfectly curled to frame her face.

I press against her, letting her know just how much even being near her affects me, and based on the low noise she makes when my hardening cock makes contact with her, she can definitely tell.

When I finally release her, she wobbles back on her heels like she’s dazed from my kisses.

“Wow,” she whispers. “That was a nice greeting.”

“Marry me.”

She grins, lifting her hand and showing off the ring that sparkles brightly in the sunlight. “I already said yes to that question.”

“Now,” I tell her. “Marry me now.”

Her mouth floats open, her eyes growing wide. “W-What?”

“Let’s get married. Today.”

“Ivan…” Her eyes search mine, looking for any hint that this is some joke.

It’s not.

“You’re serious,” she says.

“Dead serious.”

“You can’t… Are you nuts?”

“Only about you.”

She rolls her eyes when I smile big enough to poke my tongue through the gap in my teeth, then wink at her.

“Don’t be lame. Not right now.”

“I promise not to be lame if you promise to marry me.”

“I already did.”

“Today, Ro. Marry me today.”

She steps out of my arms, putting space between us. Space I don’t want. Not right now and not ever.

She folds her arms over her chest, and I do my very best not to let my eyes drift down to her ample cleavage that I so badly want to bury my face in.

Now isn’t the time for motorboating, Fitz.

“You want to get married? Today?”



Not exactly the question I was expecting, but…

“Because I can’t let another day go by without being married to you.”

“We’ve been engaged for several years, and now suddenly, you can’t wait?”

“Oh, Ro.” I take two steps toward her, closing the distance between us as I reach up and tuck a strand of loose hair behind her ear. “I never wanted to wait. I would have married you on that beach in Spain. And if you didn’t want that, I would have married you the second we got back to North Carolina. I would have married you any day, at any time over the last four years.”

She peers up at me with those green eyes I love so much. “Then why didn’t you?”

“Because I knew you weren’t ready. You were focused on school to make your business happen and then on getting this incredible place up and running. And now, you’re doing it. You’re doing it, and I’m so fucking proud of you, and there isn’t a damn thing in this world that I want more than to see my ring on your finger and show the whole fucking world just who you belong to.”

A stuttered breath rushes out of her.

I take another step closer, closing the rest of the already little distance between us, letting my thumb stroke over her cheek. “Marry me, Ro. Today.”


Now it’s my turn to be surprised.


She nods. “Yes. I’ll marry you. But maybe not today. We don’t even have a marriage license. Isn’t there a wait time?”

“Not in North Carolina.”

Her brows lift. “And you just happen to know that little tidbit of information?”

I shrug. “I may have Googled it.”

“Oh. So, you had this all planned, huh?”

“Like I said, I’ve wanted to marry you for a long time.”

“Then let’s do it.” She reaches behind her and unties the apron that’s around her waist. She tosses it onto the counter and grabs my hand, tugging me toward the door. “Let’s go.”


“Yes. Now. Chop chop.”

I laugh, pulling her to a stop. She looks back over her shoulder at me. “What?”

I look around the white and green bakery. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Like what?”

“Like closing your bakery.”

“Oh. That. Now that you mention it, I should do something about it. In fact, I have an idea…”

She reaches into her back pocket and then pulls her phone free. Her fingers fly over the screen, typing faster than I’ve ever seen her type.

As she slips her phone back into her pocket, mine vibrates like crazy against my leg. I pull it out, pressing my thumb against the screen to unlock it as it shakes in my hand.

“Twenty messages?!”

I stare at the screen as they keep rolling in.

It’s all our friends, and they’re all banding together to host us a wedding.

“See? Now it’s all taken care of. Come on.”

She pulls on my hand again, but I don’t budge. I can’t take my eyes off the message thread.

“Ro… What did you do?”

“I rallied the troops.”

“I can see that.” I turn off my phone, tucking it back into my jeans. “We’re doing it, then?”

“Oh, we’re doing it, and we’re getting married.” She waggles her brows, clearly proud of herself for the double entendre.


“Well, not if you don’t get a move on so we can get our marriage license before the offices close.”

I stand there stunned at her momentarily, then shake my head. “You’re crazy.”

“Yeah, but you love it.”

“I do.” I pull her back into my arms, loving how she feels in them—like coming home. “And I love you. More than words could ever say. You’re everything to me, Ro, and I can’t wait to be married to you.”

She presses to her tiptoes, placing a soft kiss on my lips. “Then let’s go get married, Mr. Fitzgerald.”

“After you, future Mrs. Fitzgerald.”

She sighs against me. “I like how that sounds. Rosie Fitzgerald.”

“I like it too. Now, let’s make it official.”

And six hours later, we do.

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