complicated.

Hunter nodded. He touched Devlin’s arm to ease his worry. Nicole would be fine. Then he followed Ryan across the room.

His arm draped around Kelly’s shoulders, Ryan looked around at the Seven Samurai who’d finally gathered together again. He said seven because he knew Hunter was here in spirit. In fact, Hunter had brought about this reunion, thanks to his will.

Hunter had always been the glue that had bound them together, and now they were his legacy.

Ryan looked down at Kelly. They’d been married just weeks, but they’d been the best damn weeks he’d had in a long time. Since before his mother and Hunter had died, in fact. He felt alive again.

They’d gotten married in an intimate ceremony in California’s Napa Valley. Erica and Greg had served as the matron of honor and best man. Because it was summer break, he’d been able to fly them in, along with their kids, for a family vacation. He grinned thinking about how thrilled Kelly’s friends had been to get away to a romantic place, even if it was with the kids in tow.

He and Kelly would be in the same situation in a few years, especially if they kept having the same steamy nights they’d been having the past few weeks.

Kelly glanced up at him. “Why are you grinning?”

He bent and murmured something sinful in her ear.

She went still, looked embarrassed, then swatted him playfully. “Behave.”

He laughed as he straightened because she’d given him exactly the reaction he would have predicted.

“Impossible with you, Venus,” he responded irrepressibly.

Hunter chuckled, patted his friend on the back, then walked toward Luke’s twin.

It was strange, Matthias thought, seeing all six of them together again after so many years. Even stranger that they were here without Hunter. Though, in a way, maybe Hunter was here with them. Maybe he’d been with them all along. And it was fitting that Hunter had been the one to bring them all together again, since he’d been the one who’d united them in college. They were still the Seven Samurai, Matthias supposed, but now one was missing. And somehow the Six Samurai just didn’t seem right.

Then he realized they weren’t six anymore. They were twelve. And they weren’t Samurai anymore, either. Samurai were warriors, always prepared for death. Matthias, Luke, Ryan, Jack, Nathan and Devlin were family men now, focused on their lives ahead with the women who had made them complete.

That was what Kendall had done for him, anyway. Completed him. Filled in all the empty places that he hadn’t wanted to admit were empty.

As if she’d sensed something, Kendall looked up at him, narrowing her gaze thoughtfully. “What are you thinking about?” she asked. “You look…happy.”

“That’s what I’m thinking about.”

“Not the Perkins contract?”

“Nope.”

“Not the Endicott merger?”

“No.”

“Not the Sacramento conference?”

He tightened his fingers around hers. “I’m thinking about our life together. And I’m thinking about how we need to get right to work on that.”

“You’re the boss.”

He shook his head. “No. We’re a newly announced partnership. One that’s going to take the world by storm.”

She pushed herself up on tiptoe and brushed her lips over his. “I’ll prepare the memo at once.”

“We’d better make it a PowerPoint demonstration,” he told her. “This is going to be big.”

Hunter nodded with pleasure. Everything had turned out the way he’d hoped. The possibilities had been there, of course, but his friends had been the ones to take the right steps.

Last he turned to Meri, his sister. He’d missed her, but he was proud of the woman she’d become. It had taken her and Jack far too long to find each other, but at last they had.

He eased close, wishing he could hug her and tell her how much he loved them both.

“There’s something about the house,” Meri told Jack. “All these people falling in love. It’s almost scary.”

“You scared to be in love with me?”

She smiled. “Never. I’m used to it. I’ve loved you a lot longer than you’ve loved me.”

“Have not.”

“Have to.”

Jack grinned. “Are all our fights going to be this mature?”

“I hope so.” She leaned close to him. “I love you, Jack. I think Hunter would be very happy to know we’re together.”

Jack nodded. “I agree. I know it’s strange, but there’s a part of me that thinks he wanted this all along.”

If Hunter had eyes to roll, he would have done it. Then he cuffed his friend on the shoulder. What else would he have been talking about when he’d made Jack promise to take care of his sister?

It had all worked out in the end. For each of his friends. When he’d known he was dying, he’d vowed to find some way to make sure they stayed together-brothers. He’d been afraid that guilt and time and distance would pull them apart. On a sleepless night weeks before his death, the idea of the house had been born.

Now, ten years later, he was content. His sister was finally where she belonged and his brothers had become the men he knew they could be. He would tell them everything…eventually.

He smiled at them. His work here was done. He would wait for them on the other side, in a better place than they could begin to imagine. Hunter turned then, moving into the light…this time to stay.

SUSAN MALLERY

***
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