The Easter Egg Hunt of Love – Extended Epilogue

“Run! Run, run, run!”

Johnny hastened over the white fence to get through the yard. His heart pounded in his chest at the thought of trouble. He’d had a long shift on the ranch but found energy to move quickly now. 

“You can do it! Go!”

Even as he heard the laughter that followed, it took him a minute to realize that all was well. Johnny reached the back garden of his home and stopped in relief.

Standing only a few yards away, Bethany turned around. Bouncing in her arms was their perfect little son, Timmy. Dancing around them was Kip, who rolled over onto his belly as Johnny advanced.

“Johnny.” Bethany eyed him with a slight frown. “Is something wrong?”

The boy flailed about. “Dadda! Dadda!”

“No,” Johnny exhaled as he hastened forward with a sheepish grin. “I just thought I heard … never mind. What have you two troublemakers been up to?”

Bethany kissed his cheek before handing over their son. The chubby baby grabbed Johnny’s dirty shirt and buried his face in it. When he looked back up with a wide toothy grin, there was dirt smeared across his chin.

“Timothy,” she scolded, searching for a handkerchief.

The sight only made Johnny’s heart warm. He laughed, giving his son a squeeze. They’d had Timothy in their lives for exactly one year and three days. And yet, sometimes Johnny still couldn’t believe they were so lucky to have him.

Just two years had passed since their wedding. Two strange and wonderful years that changed his life in countless ways. Johnny knew he was no longer the man he used to be. He just hoped he made for a decent man like the one he wanted to be for Bethany.

“He’s learning to run,” she told him at last. “If you thought he could crawl fast, just wait till you see him on his feet. I don’t think we’ll ever catch him again. Only Kip could ever stop him now.”

“Clever boy,” Johnny beamed.

Bethany chuckled before kissing each of their cheeks. “Just like his father. Trouble, too.”

The pair shared a look. Two years had been perfect for them. There had been trials along the way, but everything had been just fine in the end since they had each other.

Like Timothy’s birth. 

Even with his parents around, it had been a nerve-wracking time. Bethany’s father had persistently argued that she should go to a city to have her baby. In the end, it was he and Johnny who helped bring Timothy into the world for Bethany one freezing night when they were trapped in the house during the last winter storm of the year.

Another small blessing that came out of that was how her father never said anything rude to him again. Johnny counted that a win.

Bethany’s pregnancy had brought an end to her work at the ranch, though everyone was sorry to see her go. They tried to have her visit often with Timothy. Since her father had officially gifted them the house once he was born, Bethany now spent her days there taking care of their baby.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, tilting her head to gaze at him.

Her sparkling eyes never ceased to make his heart skip an eager beat. “You. Who else? Off,” he added when Timothy’s flailing hand slapped his mouth.

Giggling, Bethany took the baby back as Timothy garbled his words. “Johnny, you should go get washed up. We’re having the mayor over for dinner tonight, remember?” Their baby grasped at her hair immediately. 

Johnny shook his head as he tried to help Bethany from going bald. Working with his son’s cute chubby hands, he said, “You don’t need to call him the mayor, Bethany. He’s just my pa.”

“But it’s the respectable thing to do,” she reminded him.

“He’s family.”

“I want to be respectful.” Then she added once he had got her hair free and tucked it back into the braid on top of her head, “Thank you very much. Timmy here is also getting much too strong for his own good.”

Kissing the corner of her lips, Johnny promised, “He’ll learn soon enough, I’m sure. He’s your child. He’ll want to do the right thing.”

“He’s your child, too, which means the same thing.” Then she leaned back with a wrinkle in her nose. “I’m sorry, Johnny, but you really do smell. Can you wash up before supper, please?”

“Anything for the mayor,” he teased. He patted Kip’s belly. “All right, get out of here. We have to go soon.”

The dog was beginning to spend more time in the back yard as he grew older. Johnny saw Kip slowing down; Bethany had started bringing him in during the colder nights this past winter. He tried not to think about what this all meant. 

As he dressed for the evening, he thought about the offer made to him while back at the ranch. Since Adam Phoenix was moving to Texas, someone needed to replace him. Or two people.

Apparently, Leslie Heymore had purchased twenty more acres of land. He had seen the weight left on Phoenix’s shoulders and thought to offload that by splitting the work between two foremen. Johnny and Chee would switch on shifts and days anyway they liked.

The memory of the news made him chuckle. He had been delighted to hear about this offer. It would allow for more flexible hours and bring in better pay for their little family. 

Not that they planned to do much with it, though he thought it was time they had a horse of their own. The rest of the money would go to his family, like he and Bethany had discussed many times before. His parents still struggled from time to time, especially since they were always helping their neighbors when someone seemed to need a penny or an extra hand.

“What are you chuckling about?”

Turning, he smiled as Bethany brought in their son, who was crawling toward him. Johnny scooped Timmy up. “I have good news is all. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to share it when everyone is around.”

“Will I like this news?” she asked.

“I think so.”

“Good.” She reached his side and kissed him again. “Because I have good news as well. But I’m not sharing it either.”

His mouth dropped open. “That’s not fair!”

“Isn’t it?” Bethany teased. “We should be going now. I don’t want to be late.”

“It’s my parents’ house, Bethany,” he reminded her. “Are you sure you can’t share your good news yet?”

She swatted his hand that crept toward her. “No!”

“Can I guess it?”

“No!” Bethany had started to turn around and then stopped, looking at him over her shoulder. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Johnny, you can’t possibly know what my good news is.”

It wasn’t hard to know that she adored his particularly silly grin, the one she found charming. Then he moved, leaning in to hover right over her lips. “Are you sure about that, mother of my children?”

Her eyes widened. “Johnny!”

Laughing, he wrapped his arms around her once more and kissed her hard. Then realizing he had left her winded, helped her sit down. Timmy was back on his rump, waving a hand at them. “How did you know? Bethany asked him when he picked up their son. “I barely did.”

“Because I know you.” Johnny told her. “Come on, let’s go.”

Bethany still persisted as they put on their shoes and left the house. She tied a cap around Timmy’s head, fixed her bonnet, then let him lead them down the lane. All the while, she demanded he tell her the truth.

“Well, I guessed,” he admitted. Her mouth dropped open. “You confirmed it with your reaction.”

She huffed. “I can’t keep a single secret from you.”

“All the better, wouldn’t you say?” he tried.

Bethany pouted. “What else made you guess? I thought I was doing very well this time.” The first time she had fallen pregnant, things had changed at once. She was exhausted, moody, and starving for the first couple of months before growing plump, tired, and teary.

“Fine, but you won’t like it … You put extra onions in supper last night, for starters,” he told her, stifling a grin. “You craved them. That, and you wouldn’t stop kicking me in your sleep for the last two weeks.”

Her smile faded. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Shifting Timmy to one arm, he put the other around her. “I think it was adorable. The onions more than the kicking. I have a purple bruise on my shin,” he said before hurriedly adding, “which will heal. I hardly felt it.”

Groaning, she leaned in. “I really am sorry. It’s bad enough I have to suffer through it.”

“The child will be ours, so punish me as you must,” he reassured her. “You know I would do anything for you. Don’t you, darling?”

“I do,” she admitted. “You really are wonderful.”

“All because of you now. Although my parents will certainly attempt to claim some credit, so don’t break their hearts.” 

Talking on their walk made Winter’s Corner go by quickly. Johnny tried to take in the view of the coming spring as they went along. Flowers were beginning to grow, and the snow had melted everywhere but for the mountains in the distance. 

It was a beautiful area, he thought, to raise a perfect family.

“Timmy!” 

Leila met them at the door, squealing for her nephew. Since Arnold and Eliza had moved with her family last summer with their twin girls, Leila only had the one nephew to spoil.

“How’s my favorite boy?” she cooed while grabbing him.

“I’m never letting her have kids,” Calvin said dryly as he moved her out of the way. “Come on in. Pa’s finishing the casserole.”

Leila and Calvin had married late winter the same year Bethany and Johnny married. The couple had saved up during that time to get their own little home near the butcher’s shop where Calvin now helped run with her family. Although there hadn’t yet been children for them, the two remained hopeful but not rushed.

Bethany squeezed Johnny’s hand before letting go. “Let me help!” She barely made it into the kitchen through the doorway before he heard her say, “Father! I didn’t think you would be here early.”

The man’s rough timber sounded loudly. “Bethany, we’ve been waiting for you. I wanted to bring the bread from town that I know you like so much. Where’s my grandson?”

Walking in, Johnny said, “I’m afraid you’ll have to fight for him tonight.”

“Fisticuffs?”

“I think Leila would allow that.”

The men shared a short smile before Bart Walker left the room in search of Timmy. Johnny once again marveled over the changes that had happened over the years. The short-tempered father who rarely said a kind word was now able to serve Bethany and tease Johnny. Although their relationship wasn’t as easy as his family, he had high hopes for them.

Having a baby had helped, he decided. Now, having a second, was surely going to seal the deal.

His pa said grace, and soon he and Mr. Walker were discussing matters about the town. The railroad would be finished soon, and the first train was expected to come through by winter. 

“I have exciting news,” Bethany announced once there was a lull in the conversation. “Johnny’s going to be foreman!”

It was his turn to drop his mouth open in shock while everyone around them congratulated him. “Wait a minute,” he protested. “How did you know?”

“Isn’t a wife supposed to know everything?” she teased.

“She’s right,” Leila jumped in.

“She’s certainly not wrong,” his ma said with a nod.

He shook his head. “But I didn’t say a thing. There was nothing to clue you in …”

Giggling, Bethany patted his hand. “Heymore stopped by this morning. He asked how I would feel if you took on more responsibility and didn’t want me to worry about it hurting our family time.”

“I didn’t think you could keep a surprise,” he admitted, shaking his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable. You keep me on my toes.” He turned to the rest of the family. Speaking quickly in case she tried to win again, he cried out, “Which she’ll keep doing because we’re having another baby.”

“Johnny!” Bethany exclaimed, though she was laughing as well. 

Leila stood to hug them. “I’m so happy for you both!”

“You don’t mind?” Bethany asked, worried that her best friend might be sensitive to the topic.

To Johnny’s amusement, Leila tapped her nose. “Something tells me I might not have to be jealous for much longer. However! In the meantime, I shall be the world’s best aunt.”

She went back to her seat, where she hugged Calvin.

As Timmy had found a way to escape and was now under the table, Johnny jumped to help his ma collect his son. He got up on his knees just in time to see Bethany standing beside her father, embracing him. The older man turned his head to wipe away a tear. Johnny pretended not to see while he took his seat again with his family.

“Hey Pa, remember what you said about blessings falling on us when we’re good?” he asked as he glanced around the happy room.

Putting his fork down, his pa nodded. Thomas Nelson had more gray hair than he’d had two years ago, but he wore it like a dignified mayor. “I recall, yes. Why?”

“Because at this rate,” Johnny said as Bethany sat beside him. She smiled warmly, giving his free hand a squeeze. “Well, at this rate, I don’t think we could be any better than we currently are. I’ve never felt so blessed in all my life.”

THE END


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23 thoughts on “The Easter Egg Hunt of Love – Extended Epilogue”

    1. A beautiful story I loved the characters Bethany and Johnny. The love and forgiveness they had for each other and how they fought for their town and community. Also enjoyed the extended episode, how Bethany father finally made peace with them.

    2. I thoroughly enjoy this story. Bethany’s In laws were a loving family and gave her her first loved home. Her Father eventually learned to love again.

  1. The story pulled me in immediately and I thought about it even when I had to spend spend time away from reading! A joy to read about the struggles and how they were resolved in peace and with love. Thank you.

  2. Loved the book. A hard book to put down. Drew me in from the start. So many emotional ups and downs kept drawing me further into the book. Can’t wait for another book. Love you writing style. Keep it up.

  3. A delightful story. Lots of character growth, and changing in family relationships to keep the reader entertained.

  4. I loved this book!!
    I could not put it down,and found this story continued in my dreams at night.💕
    Thank you

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