“You’re a complicated woman. I had no idea. You left. That confused me.”

“I wanted to leave before you could dump me. I couldn’t have my heart broken again.”

“I’ll never leave you,” he promised. “I love you. I want to be with you always. Marry me?”

It was as if someone had injected fizz into her blood. She felt light and bubbly and more happy than she’d ever been.

“What kind of dogs do you like?” she asked.

“Whichever ones makes you happy.”

She smiled. “Good answer.”

The first time Hunter Palmer had gone into the light, he hadn’t known what to expect. Until he’d been diagnosed and told he had weeks to live, he’d never thought about having a soul or what it meant to die. Now, ten years later, he had all the answers. But there were still questions. Questions only his friends could answer.

He moved through the reception celebrating the dedication of Hunter’s House, unseen, unfelt but very much there-for his friends. Once they had been the Seven Samurai-men who had vowed friendship forever. After he’d died, they’d gotten lost. Now they’d found their way back.

Hunter moved close to Nathan Barrister.

Six months ago Nathan had never heard of Hunter’s Landing. Now he was married to Keira, the mayor of Hunter’s Landing, and dividing his time between a house in Knightsbridge, London, and Keira’s house here in the mountains.

His life was rich and full and more than he could have ever imagined. And he owed it all to Hunter. All of them did. Nathan closed his eyes and whispered his thanks to the friend who had somehow made all of this possible. And somehow he was sure Hunter heard him.

“What’re you smiling about?” Keira asked, leaning into his shoulder, tipping her face up to his.

“You,” he said, wrapping his arm around her and holding on tightly. “I’m smiling because of you.”

“Ooh, that’s what I like to hear.” She turned to look at the remaining Samurai and the women who had saved them-loved them. “It’s a wonderful day. I think your friend Hunter would have approved.”

“Are you kidding? He would have loved this. All of us together again. Whole again.” With Keira in his arms, Nathan looked out at his friends and the women who had become the heart of the Samurai. They weren’t the same, any of them. Somehow, through the magic of this place, they’d all become more. Smiling down at his wife, Nathan said, “I just don’t think it’s possible to be any happier than I am at this moment.”

“Wanna bet? I have a surprise for you,” she said, wrapping her arms around his middle and staring up into his eyes. “And I think today is the perfect day for this announcement.”

“Yeah?” He looked at her and thought about the coming night, when he could hold her close in their bed, lose himself in the wonder of loving and being loved. “I love a good surprise.”

“We’re going to have a baby.”

“We’re what?”

“You’re going to be a daddy.”

“When?” His heart jolted, then kicked into a gallop. “How? What?”


She looked so happy. So beautiful. And she’d given him everything.

“I love you,” he said, cupping her face between his palms. “Thanks for loving me back.”

“My pleasure. Believe me.”

He did. He believed her. Just as he believed that his life, his world, was only going to get better and better. Holding on to his wife, he tipped his head back, looked to heaven and said again, “Thanks, Hunter. I really owe you for this.”

Hunter touched his friend’s shoulder and moved on…to Luke.

It was just the kind of event Hunter would have enjoyed, Luke thought. Plenty of cold beer, good food and beautiful girls.

Make that beautiful women. Their time in the house had brought each of the remaining Samurai a lover with whom the men intended to spend the rest of their lives. Hunter couldn’t have known that would happen…or could he?

Luke grinned at his fanciful thought, then caught Lauren’s eye. “Hey, do you think we’ll have time later for a round or two at the Game Palace?”

“Pool during the reunion?” She twisted one of her blond curls around her finger.

“Why not? We’ll invite Matt and Kendall along and we can kick their butts. How much do you want to bet she’s never played?”

Lauren frowned. “I thought you were giving up your competitive ways.”

Luke snagged her in one arm and drew her close. “You know that won’t happen. I’ve just learned to temper them with a little perspective. And with a lotta love from you, honey.”

“And from Matt.”

Luke gazed over the top of her head at his twin brother, who looked equally relaxed and equally loved by his Kendall. He and Matt had spent a lot of their lives as each other’s enemies, but their time at Hunter’s House had resolved their conflicts and returned them to a brotherhood that Luke appreciated more each day.

From across the room Matt looked up as if he’d heard Luke’s thoughts. Like many twins, they could communicate without a sound. His brother lifted his sweating beer in a little toast, and Luke returned it. Then he directed another toast heavenward.

Thank you, Hunter. I vow to live a better, fuller life.

Then he looked back down at the woman who owned his heart. “Speaking of vows…”

She tilted her head. “What?”

“A little birdie told me that a couple in this room is planning on sneaking off to Reno on Sunday to tie the knot.”


He nodded, then captured her left hand so he could rub his thumb over the engagement ring he’d placed there. Yes, he was living a better, fuller life, but oh, how he still enjoyed winning. “Now, if we make a quick dash tonight, my sweet, sweet Lauren, we could just beat them to the altar…”

Hunter laughed quietly as he moved away. Luke would never change. Of course, Lauren didn’t want him to, which was why they were so happy together.

He looked around the room and saw Devlin Campbell looking uncharacteristically worried.

As happy as Devlin was to see his old friends, he was more anxious to get home. Nicole’s obstetrician had forbidden her to travel by plane with the baby so close to being born, and he missed her.

Ryan wandered over, Devlin’s best man and the same guy who had declared he was swearing off women for the month he was to be at the lodge. But the Love Shack had weaved its magic on Ryan as it had the rest of them. He’d found true love, too.

“What’s right with this picture?” Devlin asked Ryan as they glanced around the room.

Ryan smiled. “Yeah. Amazing. And you’re missing Nicole, I’ll bet.”

“As much as I’ve liked getting together with all the Samurai, I want to be home.”

“Think we’ll do this again sometime? A gathering of the clan?”

“We should. Maybe a golf weekend somewhere once a year.”

“It would take some doing, coordinating our schedules.”

“One thing I’ve learned, Ryan-you have to make time for what’s important. My wife, the Samurai. You’re important.”

“Let’s go propose the idea while the wives are around to hear. They’ll force the issue. Women like that kind of bonding stuff.”

As if on cue, Devlin’s cell phone rang. Panic struck him full force when he saw it was Nicole. Had she gone into labor without him?

“You okay?” he asked.

“I love you. I miss you. That’s all.”

He relaxed. She loved him and missed him. That’s all. Such an elemental part of his life now. His beautiful wife, her love and devotion. But that’s all?

On second thought, maybe it was that simple. Maybe that was the secret of life. The best things weren’t

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