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An Armored Heart
Bonus Content

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An Armored Heart,


Six months after Chapter 85

“This the perfect night.” With a happy sigh, I add softly, “Perfect weather. Perfect dinner.” Turning to Steele, I smile up at him. “Perfect boyfriend.”

“Mark that down in the calendar.” With a smirk, he draws his arm more snug around me. “Ella called me perfect.”


A little laugh spills free of me as I return my attention to the view. Seated on “our bench” overlooking the St. Johns River, the reflection of moonlight casts over the water as it gently laps along the shoreline.


He presses his lips to my temple in a gentle kiss. “You know what I’m wondering?”


“What’s that?”


“I’m wondering what the night might look like when I finally convince you to marry me for real.”


There’s an odd quality to his words that I can’t quite put my finger on, and I turn to study him.


With a furrow of concentration between his brows, he stares at the waterfront. “You’ll probably want to sit here on the bench for a bit. And we’ll talk.”


I lean in and press a kiss to his cheek, receiving a grunt in response. When I press another to his bearded jaw and one more to the corner of his mouth, a smile tugs at his lips.

I nudge him playfully. “And then I’ll convince you to come back to my place for some”—I wiggle my brows suggestively—“naked snuggles.”


When he tips his head back on a laugh, his mouth stretching into a wide grin, my heart gallops in my chest. God, I love this man.

“C’mon.” I tug on his hand, starting to rise from the bench. “Let’s get to it.”

When he holds me in place, I dart him a questioning glance and sit back down. He merely tips his head to the side, an odd gleam in his eyes. “But I wasn’t done yet.”


Peering at him curiously, my words emerge slow and cautious. “O-kay. What weren’t you done with?”


“On the night I finally convince you to marry me, I’d probably end up wearing work clothes, minus the tie and jacket.”


Before I can respond, he continues. “And it’s only because I’ve been overthinking the entire thing so much that I just said to myself, “Fuck it. Ella won’t care what I’m wearing anyway.””

He exhales a long breath. “And you’d probably be wearing that red sundress that you love because it’s comfortable and has pockets.”


I blink, my mind cycling through his words as I look down at what I’m wearing. Wait a minute…

My head snaps up, my eyes locking with his.


“Marry me, Ella.” His words emerge without an ounce of hesitation, his features earnest and intent.


My mouth parts in surprise. I mean, sure we’ve talked about the future here and there, and I still wear my engagement ring, but he's never actually proposed…


“Marry me, Ella Marchetti. Because I’m madly in love with you and want to spend the rest of my life showing you.”


My throat grows tight at his declaration, at the raspy, heartfelt quality of his voice. When he tugs something from his pocket and holds it up for me to see, my breath catches.

It’s a wedding band in the exact shape of my engagement ring, with tiny diamonds spanning the circumference.


“As long as I get to call you mine, I honestly don’t give a shit if you want a big wedding or want to get married in the courthouse.”


“You’re serious,” I say on a shaky breath.


“Yeah, I’m serious.” A smirk graces his mouth before he murmurs, “And before you ask, I can give you more than one good reason why you should marry me.”


A little laugh spills free from my lips. “Really? Like what?”


“Because I want to grow old with you. I want to make pasta with you and talk while we do it. I want to have coffee with you each morning and come home to you each night. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms and wake up to you hogging all the covers.”


I shove him playfully, but he continues without missing a beat, stealing all oxygen from my lungs with what he says next.

“And most of all, I want to have a family with you.”


My stomach flips as I imagine having a son or daughter with this man. I can picture him showing them how to sketch plans for a future building site or taking them about boating. He’d teach them to swim and I’d teach them to cook and bake.

But both of us would teach them how to love with their whole heart.


“What do you say?” Steele’s husky voice interrupts my thoughts. “Marry me?”


I reach up, placing my palms on either side of his face and bring my mouth to his. Speaking against his lips, I murmur, “I say yes,” against his lips before our mouths meet in a kiss.


His hand cradles my nape as he takes control of the kiss, emotion pouring through it. Once we finally part, we rest our foreheads together.


“I love you, Ella Cunningham.”


“Hey,” I tease softly. “Not yet.”


He grins. “Soon.”


I match his smile with my own. “Soon.”



* * *



It seems like it’s taken forever to get here. But it’s been worth every fucking minute.


I stretch my neck from side to side, attempting to assuage the nervousness eating away at me.


“Don’t worry, man. I have good vibes that she won’t be a runaway bride.” Dylan mumbles this under his breath from beside me.


“Dude. That’s not helpful,” Lucas scoffs. To me, he says, “Don’t worry. I’ve seen the heels Ella’s wearing and there’s not a chance in hell she’ll be running off in them.”


Heaving out a breath, I pinch the bridge of my nose and grit out, “Neither of you are helping.”


Luckily, everything quiets down and the wedding planner signals for the string quartet to begin playing.


Once those large wooden doors draw open, I catch my first glimpse of my woman and suddenly it’s nearly impossible to breathe.


On the arm of Kirin, Ella is fucking breathtaking. She looks like a damn princess as her friend escorts her down the aisle.

She’s marrying me. This is all for real. She’ll soon be Ella Cunningham.


My eyes sting as I think about how none of this would’ve been possible if I hadn’t purchased her building. How, even though I hate that I was just like she said—a “tin man”—I wouldn’t change a thing. Because I ended up here.


Everything brought me to her. The woman who changed my entire fucking world for the better.


The woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.


Once Kirin and Ella draw to a stop beside me, he hugs her before shaking my hand. His eyes crinkle slightly on his usual stoic expression, but even I detect the pride shining through.


When I take Ella’s hands in mine and the officiant begins speaking, I struggle to pay attention to anything but the woman in front of me.


I don’t even give a shit about how sappy it is—I do it anyway. I mouth, I love you.


The way her face brightens and the love shining in her eyes makes me feel ten feet tall. Even more, when she mouths it back.


But the most incredible feeling is when we’re pronounced husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Steele Cunningham.

Nothing can ever top this feeling.

* * *

I was slightly mistaken. It turns out, something can tie with that same feeling of bliss I had on our wedding day.

It’s the day Ella gave birth to our baby girl, Mia.

Ella Marchetti has always been a force to be reckoned with. I knew that from day one. I could’ve never predicted how much joy she’d bring into my life, however.

And now, I have two ladies who continue to show me what living is all about.


If I could go back and tell the former version of myself anything, it would be to enjoy the journey. To embrace all the changes and the unknown yet to come.


But most of all, I’d say to be on the lookout for the gorgeous spitfire of an Italian with a heart of gold.


Because all that tin surrounding my heart caved beneath the sweetness of one woman. The most incredible woman I’ve ever known.


The woman who broke through the barriers of my armored heart.

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