These are the bonus scenes for readers who have already bought Merrying in Alaska or Merrily Matched. I had fun revisiting the two couples (and Noelle the dog) to see what had happened in their lives. I hope you enjoy these.
Merrying in Alaska
The next Christmas
Holding up the new Christmas ornament, Leah went to the right and then the left around the Christmas tree to find the right place for it. Cocoa followed her around the tree as she tried to decide.
The view out the wide wall of windows behind the tree caught her attention. That they’d managed to find this bed and breakfast not far from Anchorage—and buy it—still amazed her.
Cocoa pawed a tree branch. “Hey, stop that, you scamp.” Then she realized she’d found the perfect spot directly above that branch. After moving an adorable moose a bit to the left, she hung this one on the tree.
Baby’s first Christmas.
Ben entered the great room, with baby Ellie soundly sleeping in his arms. “I didn’t think we were going to make it before Christmas.” He leaned over to kiss Leah’s cheek.
“We seem to do everything fast, so it isn’t a surprise. Get married a couple of months after we meet. Have a baby nine months later.”
He chuckled. “I guess there wasn’t much chance of you going over on your due date, was there?” When the baby fussed, he adjusted his hold on her.
Ellie’s gaze caught the lights on the tree and she gave a toothless grin. Some people had tried to tell her that babies didn’t really smile because they were happy, but Leah knew she did.
“Let’s sit on the couch and look out on the tree and our view.” He turned that direction and she added, “Or would you rather that I made some cookies?”
Ben froze in his footsteps. “That’s a tough question. Should you be moving around that much a week after the baby was born?”
“Yes. If I spend one more minute in bed being coddled, I will scream. You don’t want that.”
Ben grinned. “You’re right. All things considered, I wouldn’t want to hamper your healing process by stopping you from making me something sweet and warm and wonderful from the oven.” He pointed to his chest. “That wouldn’t be right of me as your husband, would it?”
Leah chuckled. “I wonder sometimes if we would have even gotten together if it wasn’t for your love of homemade food.”
The doorbell rang.
She looked over at him.
He shrugged. “I’m not expecting anyone. But with your family and extended family, anything is possible. That chime might be signaling a package delivery or ten people on our doorstep.”
“Very true.” And I loved it. “After being alone so often when I traveled the world, it’s wonderful to have people here.”
“My work didn’t allow me to stay long in one location before I was moved to another property. That didn’t give me much opportunity to build relationships.”
She opened the door and was instantly embraced by Bree, her brother Michael’s wife.
“We came to see the baby,” she said with excitement in her voice. “I hope that’s okay.”
Leah rolled her eyes. “The pediatrician is asking me if it’s okay?”
“From a medical standpoint, it’s okay for you to be moving around and have guests.”
Leah looked over her shoulder and called out to Ben. “See, the doctor says it’s okay for me to be doing things.”
She turned back toward Bree, who asked, “Was there an issue?
“Let’s say that he’s been taking very good care of me for the last week.”
Bree gave a short nod. “And it’s starting to drive you just a little bit crazy, isn’t it?”
Leah leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. “More than a little bit.” She heard a car door slam and looked up to see Jemma and Holly walking toward the house. “You guys are here, too?” She laughed at herself. “That’s a stupid question. Of course, you’re here, or you wouldn’t be standing there.” Leah stood to the side so they could enter. “I’ll rephrase that to welcome.”
Jemma stepped into the house after her sisters. “I had to finish up a call with a client. I’m not parked where a guest needs to be, though, am I?”
“We decided to take a few weeks off around the baby’s birth. We blocked it out in the calendar, and fortunately she came when I expected her to, so it worked out perfectly.”
Bree narrowed her gaze. “I thought she was about eight days early. How could that be when you expected it?”
Leah laughed. “Look at the two of us. Everything happens quickly. I knew she’d come early. I was about to go into the kitchen if anybody wants to join me while I bake cookies.” She put a hand over her mouth. “I shouldn’t have mentioned sugar around you, should I?” Dr. Bree was known for healthy eating and for encouraging everyone around her to eat healthy too.
Holly answered. “I’d love to help you bake. We’ll pretend that Bree isn’t here.”
Bree said, “Even I have to admit that avoiding sweets goes out the window when it comes to the holidays.” She looked fondly at the baby in Ben’s arms. “Can we take baby Ellie in there with us?”
Ben brought the baby over and put handed him to Bree.
“Oh, she’s so cute!” Bree ran a finger gently over Ellie’s downy soft, brown hair.
They went into the bed and breakfast’s large kitchen. Built for commercial use, it had a large center island, easily cleaned solid surface countertops, and an oversized refrigerator with an equally sized freezer next to it.
That had come in handy when she’d made muffins ahead for breakfast, just in case the baby didn’t come when she was expected. Their bed and breakfast had already developed a reputation for wonderful breakfasts that almost always included homemade muffins.
Cocoa jumped on the island. “Not on the counters. You know that.” Leah picked him up and set him on the floor. After getting her a treat—for no reason other than the fact that she was adorable—Leah washed her hands and got to work on the sugar cookies she enjoyed making this time of year.
“It’s hard to imagine how much my life has changed in the last year. Or just over a year to the fall before that, when I include Bree and you two. I have a bigger family, a husband, a bed and breakfast near Anchorage, and my sweet little girl. And Cocoa,” she added when the cat bumped her leg.
Leah added sugar and butter to the bowl. “I wonder what the next year will hold.”
Later that year
Driving down the Homer Spit, the blue skies over the Kachemak Bay met the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Molly shivered as she stepped from her mother’s car, and the brisk breeze—typical for October on the Homer Spit—blew through the lace on the sleeves and neckline of her wedding dress, teasing strands out of the elegantly styled hair her mother had insisted on for her.
Then she saw Joe waiting for her on the beach and nothing else mattered.
Her mother and stepfather helped out Noelle and then Bandit, her recently adopted Alaskan malamute, both dogs with leashes in burgundy to match the wedding colors of burgundy and pink.
Joe’s family, her friend Aimee, and a few of their other friends, stood lining her path toward the shoreline where her husband-to-be waited for her. Aimee’s new husband, Jack, had agreed to be their wedding photographer.
Molly and Joe had debated about having chairs but decided that fall temperatures would dictate a quick ceremony with no lingering outside for conversation. Summer crowds had made this popular-with-tourists location out of the question then, but she’d had her heart set on marrying here where they’d had their first date.
The minister moved beside Joe as Molly started up the wedding aisle, walking on the runner her friends had somehow stretched out over rock, sand, and seaweed. Noelle and Bandit led the way—both dressed for the occasion, her with a lace collar that had the wedding bands securely clipped to it, and him with a burgundy bow tie.
The traditional vows they’d chosen to use moved quickly, and she soon heard, “Do you Molly take this man to be your wedded husband?” When she agreed, her groom unfastened her wedding band from the collar as Noelle patiently waited, and he slipped it on Molly’s finger.
After Joe repeated the words of commitment, Molly retrieved his ring. Her breath hitched as she moved toward his hand with it.
A moment later, she heard, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
Noelle chattered with Bandit joining in.
Joe kissed her and melted away all the cold from the day. “Hello, wife.”
“Hello, husband.” She sighed. “That sounds odd . . . but perfect.” When she leaned in for another kiss, Noelle nudged her. Laughing, Molly leaned down to rub her dog’s ears. “Are you telling me it’s time to leave?”
Aimee shifted on her feet and rubbed her arms. “If she isn’t, I am. Let’s get off this beach and go to your house. We can get the fireplace going and warm up.”
Her house. Their house. She’d been there for a year. She and Joe had signed the papers to buy it from Mrs. Jacobsen last month, and Joe had been bringing his things over this week.
She and Joe sat in the back seat of her mother’s car. His dad was driving both dogs home in Joe’s truck. They’d sat on the seat beside her on the way over—and behaved as though they knew this day was special—but two adults, both in formal wear, and two large dogs that had been on a beach might not combine well.
The scene when they pulled up her driveway wasn’t what she’d expected. A dozen or more cars filled the open area in front of the house. Burgundy and pink ribbons wound around the stair’s handrail and along the porch railing, except for the section where a “Just Married” sign fluttered in the breeze.
“Dad, what’s going on?”
He parked the car and stepped out, opening the door and offering his hand to assist her. “This is a surprise reception.”
Molly stayed where she was. “But we couldn’t afford one after buying the house.”
“And you wouldn’t accept help.”
“We’ve been adults for a while. It didn’t seem right.”
“Your parents and friends made it right.”
Joe exited the other side, walked around the car, and leaned down to look into her eyes. “Are you getting out?”
With a sigh, she stepped out. “I didn’t want anyone to spend money that they shouldn’t.”
Her new husband kissed her cheek. “Let’s thank them for their kindness.”
He was right. She needed to accept graciously and enjoy this. Inside, she found everyone who had been at the beach, along with Mrs. Jacobsen. Noelle paused for a second, then raced over to her former owner and swiped her tongue across the older woman’s face.
Laughing, Mrs. Jacobsen hugged the dog. “Molly, you’ve done a good job taking care of my Noelle. Thank you.”
Molly set her bridal bouquet on the coffee table. Then she leaned down to hug Mrs. Jacobsen. “I have you to thank for so many good things in my life. I could never repay you.”
Mrs. Jacobsen’s gaze swept over the room and back to Noelle. “I can tell you love Noelle, and this house is a home again. You’re already repaid me many times.” Bandit stepped over. “And who’s this?”
“We got Noelle a friend. He’s a male malamute named Bandit.”
He chattered as a greeting. Then, in an action that had earned him his name, he grabbed the bouquet and shot off toward the door, sliding past one of her regulars at the bakery as she stepped inside. Like Noelle, Bandit never went far, but that bouquet wouldn’t survive to be tossed to her single friends.
At first, Noelle hadn’t been sure she liked Bandit, but he’d quickly stolen her heart. And he’d learned to fit into her life with Molly. Now that her owner and Joe were married, and he would be there all the time, everything would be even better. Not to mention the fact that veterinarians had the best dog treats.
When Bandit grabbed Molly’s pretty wedding flowers and ran past her, Noelle howled at him. Sometimes he forgot to behave himself.
She sat and watched him for a few seconds. This was a party. Besides, she’d heard Molly and Aimee talking about the bouquet. Whoever caught it would be the next to get married. Noelle raced after Bandit to make sure it was her.