Just South of Heaven
A Sweet Home Alabama Novella
(Lawson & Emelyn’s Wedding!)
*It’s best to read Mine Would Be You before this book*
Lawson has been the love of my life since the moment we met when I was just eight years old. We’ve had some bumps along the way—heartbreak, followed by years apart, and then found ourselves falling back in love. Even though we both know we never really fell out of love. The four years apart were the hardest of my life. But, fate works in mysterious ways. I think the years separated only make us appreciate each other that much more. I love this man with all of my heart and wouldn’t want to spend forever with anyone else.
For anyone just discovering our story, here’s a quick recap of our journey.
We met when we were kids after I moved in next door to Lawson and his sister, Delilah. She and I instantly became best friends over our love of the show Rugrats. We have been inseparable ever since. I found myself, even at the young age of eight, crushing hard on her brother. Fast-forward a few years and, finally, my crush turned into my high school sweetheart when Lawson and I start dating. We became the ‘it couple’ of our high school, Lincoln High, in Lincoln, Alabama.
Even when he went away to the University of Alabama, we made our relationship work. Distance was hard, but before he left for college, he proposed to me, promising we’d spend forever together. I was over the moon!
But, sadly, our happiness was cut short, and my happily ever after I thought we were working our way towards, when Delilah and I started college at Alabama University. Then, when we least expected it, tragedy struck our simple, carefree lives. After a night of being normal college students, partying at a fraternity house, we left in Lawson’s truck along with our friend, Lilly. Lawson was drunk, but we thought nothing of it. We had been going to parties since high school. Lawson would always drink a few beers and then bring us home afterward. We always thought he was okay to drive, because he wasn’t ‘drunk’, or what we thought drunk was.
We were teenagers thinking we were invincible. You always hear about drunk drivers killing people because they chose to get behind the wheel after a night of partying. We heard the entire spiel from our parents, teachers, television commercials—but we, like many teens, thought it would never happen to us. It was something that happened to other people.
Sadly, after that evening, we learned the hard way life is short and anything can happen in the blink of an eye.
Lilly died that night. Our lives were forever changed.
Lawson especially changed, and not for the good. Which, in turn, lead to us breaking up and me believing what we had wasn’t meant to be.
Then four years later, we got our second chance. A chance to get the happily ever after with the other half of our souls.
I believe wholeheartedly that Lawson McCoy is my soul mate. I was destined to move to Lincoln at eight years old and meet him.
Now, fast-forward to July 22nd, 2014, eight years to the day from when Lawson first proposed to me. We’re the proud parents to a beautiful baby girl and renovating our dream house, and the only thing missing is a ring on my left ring finger.
That all changes today.
The sun is shining, the sky is full of white puffy clouds, and the humidity is at an all-time high, but we’re not letting it get us down. Nope. Instead, we’re soaking up the rays and enjoying the beautiful sunny afternoon by hanging out in Delilah and Grayson’s backyard by their in-ground pool. Lila’s floating in her little baby floaty, with an inflatable canopy shading her from the sun, and having a blast.
We call her our little mermaid, because she loves the water.
I still can’t believe our baby girl just turned six months this week. It just doesn’t seem possible. You’d never know she was a preemie, seeing her today. She is Mommy’s chunky monkey, with chubby little legs and arms. She is seriously the cutest thing on the planet.
She spent a week in the hospital, due to her lungs needing more time to get stronger before we could take her home. Nothing broke my heart more than on the second day, leaving the hospital without her. But Lawson and I spent every day at the hospital with her until she was cleared to leave.
After everything that happened with my premature labor, Lawson and I sat down and talked a few nights after we brought Lila home to my condo. He told me that after the scare we went through, he feels safer with us staying in Lincoln. He doesn’t like the idea of me in Tuscaloosa alone, with everyone back home. Especially with how his work schedule is and all the traveling he does.
I was ecstatic when he told me we’d start looking for a house to buy as soon as possible. The commute to his garage is almost an hour and a half every day to and from work, but he never complains. He was able to cut back his hours to three days a week at the garage, because he promoted Dallas, having him run the place on the days he isn’t in.
So far, things are working out perfectly.
We bought a house down the street from Delilah four months ago, but it was a fixer-upper, so we’ve been staying at my condo until it’s ready. I love being able to go with Lawson to Lowe’s to pick out everything for our home. We’re designing our dream home together, and I couldn’t be happier.
Every day, I swear I fall a little more in love with him. All of the bumps along the way only make what we have together that much more beautiful.
I’m lounging on the large tiled stairs that lead into the pool, when I hear the rumble of Lawson’s truck pulling up to the house.
“Lila, I hear Daddy!” I say with an excited tone.
I always laughed when I saw parents talking like this to their kids at work and thought it was the silliest thing ever. Now, I’ve become the damn president of the Baby Talk Club.
I can hear Lawson singing along to whatever song is stuck in his head at the moment. Leaning back on my hands, I kick my feet lightly in the water, playing with Lila, who’s giggling uncontrollably as she smacks the water, splashing her aunt, who’s pushing her around the pool, in the face.
“Hey, hot stuff!” I shout over my shoulder as I spot him rounding the corner.
I still get butterflies in the pit of my stomach every time I see him. My eyes slowly roam over his body, from his shaggy brown hair that’s peeking out from under his ball cap, to his muscular and tanned arms, down to the nice bulge in the front of his board shorts. I feel my body flush as his eyes lock onto mine and he gives me the same onceover with a smoldering gaze.
“Hey, yourself, sugar lips,” he teases as he kicks off his flip-flops and walks down the stairs into the water. I slap his ass as he walks by me and straight to his daughter to give her a kiss.
“Geesh. What am I now, chopped liver?”
He lets out the sexiest laugh as he turns away from Lila and bends down, cupping my chin in his large, strong hand and tilting my head up toward him. “Never, darlin’. I just like to save the best for last, is all.”
“Good save.” I reach up, fist his shirt in my hand, and pull him down to me. The feeling of his lips on mine sends a tingle of desire shooting from my mouth, to straight between my thighs. I love kissing him. I especially love being able to kiss him anytime I want, now that we live together fulltime.
“Enough with the PDA, you two!” Delilah yells at us before a splash of water smacks us in the face.
“Hey!” I squeal as Lawson stands up and turns around to splash his sister back.
Delilah grabs Lila’s floaty and pulls it in front of her, all while Lila is blowing raspberries and squealing as she continues to flap at the water, fascinated that her hands can make it splash everywhere.
“That’s just wrong. Using my baby as a shield!” Lawson’s voice booms across the backyard as he squawks. He’s trying to act disgusted with her, but he can’t hide the smile on his face or in his words.
Delilah simply smiles up at him with a look of satisfaction on her face. “I learned how to fight dirty from only the best.”
Lawson rolls his eyes at that one, deciding she’s a lost cause, and turns his attention back down to me.
“On your feet, LaClaire. We have places to go and things to do.” He holds his hand out and I take it, letting him pull me to my feet.
His eyes zero in on my breasts that are practically bursting out of my bikini top. They went up a cup size from a B to a C since I started breastfeeding, and Lawson seems to have a certain fascination with them. He’s constantly trying to fondle them every chance he gets.
“God, woman. I swear your tits get bigger every day.” His words come out raspy as he tugs my hand, pulling me into his arms.
“You two! Seriously…you’re worse than horny hormonal teenagers.”
Smacking Lawson’s chest, I wiggle out of his grasp and grab my towel off of my lounger, wrapping it around my body, hiding my boobs, and hopefully helping Lawson focus. “What’s going on? Since when did we have things to do today? You do know it’s like 95 degrees out, right?” I ask, looking from him to Delilah.
Neither of them is giving anything away. The only conclusion I’m coming to is that these two are up to something, and I’m going to figure it out soon enough.
“Delilah has already agreed to watch Lila for us. Thanks again, sis.” He flashes a big, fake, overly chipper grin at her before turning back to me. “I have something special planned for us. But we need to get on the road pronto, because we’re on a tight schedule.”
“You sure you don’t mind, Dee?” I feel awful just bailing on her like this, when we had planned to hang out for the whole afternoon.
Splashing her hands in the water at Lila, she laughs while slightly distracted. “No problem, you guys. You know I love spending time with my precious goddaughter. I’m getting lots of practice for when this one finally enters the world,” she says, rubbing her tiny baby bump.
You can’t even tell the woman is pregnant, but she claims every second of the day that she feels as big as a house.
“Alrighty then. It’s settled. Lila is staying here, and you are coming with me,” Lawson says matter-of-factly before taking me by surprise, scooping me up into his arms bridal style, and carrying me to the truck. I wave goodbye over his shoulder to Lila and Delilah.
“Bye, baby. Mommy and Daddy will be back later!” My words come out laced with laughter as Lawson playfully nibbles at my breasts bouncing around in front of his face.
As soon as we get to the truck, he sets me back on the grass and opens the passenger door for me. “Buckle up and put this blindfold on.” He tosses it onto my lap and I stare at it for a few moments before picking it up and slipping it on.
“What exactly is it you have planned?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
I hear the door shut beside me and the sound of Lawson’s flip-flops smacking off of the pavement as he runs around the truck to the driver side and climbs in next to me.
“You know I’m all for you channeling your inner Christian Grey, but I prefer that to stay in the bedroom,” I tease as I hear the truck roar to life and feel him begin to back out onto the street.
I feel his fingers slide up my leg, leaving a path of tingling heat in their wake. “Believe me, baby. I love playing the Christian to your Ana. But I promise you I have no plans whatsoever to add fucking you while blindfolded in public to my list of favorite pastimes. Now sit back, relax, and sing along to the radio like I know you love to do when we go on roadtrips, because we’re going to be in the truck for well over an hour.”
“Where is this so-called surprise?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
He turns up the radio, blasting my newest obsession, Chase Rice’s “Ready, Set, Roll”. I decide to do as he suggests and enjoy the anticipation of my surprise.
Kicking my feet up on the dashboard, I sink into the passenger seat and sing along with the radio. I feel the truck turn onto the highway, and the windows go up and the air conditioner comes on. So I know wherever we’re going, we have to take the highway to get there.
I feel Lawson’s fingers slipping in between mine, and then our hands come to rest on his thigh.
Time passes quicker than I thought it would, and soon enough, Lawson is slowing down and telling me, “We’re almost there. Only a few more minutes.”
I don’t feel the sun warming my skin through the windshield anymore, so I assume it’s now setting behind the mountains. The truck windows roll back down, and I immediately feel the warm night air blowing through my damp hair and the smell of woods and lake water fill the truck.
Shifting in my seat, even though I can’t see him, I look toward where I know he’s sitting. “Are we at the lake?”
His thumb rubs circles on my hand, but he doesn’t answer me.
“Fine then, don’t give me any hints.” I try to sound mad, but I’m so darn excited I can’t hide the excitement in my voice.
I feel the truck begin to bounce along a rough road and hear people saying hello to Lawson as we slow down to almost a crawl. After a few more minutes, I feel the truck come to a stop and the engine turn off.
“We’re here. Stay put and I’ll come around and get you.”
I unhook my seatbelt as I hear his driver’s side door open and then shut. My heart is beating hard and fast against my chest as my excitement builds.
Without warning, my door opens and I feel Lawson scooping me out of the truck again.
“You know, I can walk,” I tease playfully, laughing as I lock my arms around his neck. I press my cheek to his chest and inhale deeply, breathing in his cologne. I love the way he smells. One of my favorite things is sleeping in his t-shirts and snuggling with his pillow when he leaves for work in the mornings.
“I know you can walk, but I enjoy carrying you. It gives me easier access to my favorite parts of your body.”
I wiggle in his arms and squeal loudly as I feel his thumb graze my clit through my bikini bottoms and his lips, soft and hot, on my cool breast.
“All right, I’m going to set you down now.”
I feel soft grass beneath my bare feet, but it quickly turns to cool, wet wood as I feel us move from the grass to a wooden dock.
Instantly, my heart shoots up into my throat as, with one quick movement, Lawson yanks the blindfold from my eyes. I blink a few times, letting my eyes adjust to the sunset-lit sky. It’s absolutely breathtaking seeing it painted in an array of oranges, pinks, yellows, and blues as the sun sinks slowly behind the mountains. The setting sun is dancing on the lake water, making the waves appear to be filled with color as they roll to shore and splash against the wooden beams of the dock.
I look around in awe as I take in the sight of Chinese lanterns lining the entire pier on either side, followed by random photos clipped onto the rope the lanterns are hanging from.
“Lawson…oh, my God…you did this?” I ask as I walk slowly along the dock, taking in the photos hanging above us. I feel as if I’m looking at the story of our lives, with every step I take and every photo I look at. They range from when I was just eight years old, to us now, with Lila.
My breathing is erratic as I work my way around the entire pier, the entire time walking hand-in-hand with Lawson.
Some of the photos, I don’t remember ever seeing. There are pictures of Lawson and me lying on a pile of pillows we threw on the floor at my old apartment I shared with Lily and Delilah in college; one of Lawson, Delilah, and me sitting on their front porch around the time I first moved to Lincoln; another of us riding a horse at his grandparents’ farm; and then us on my prom night—the night we gave our virginity to one another.
When I get to the end, there’s a photo I’ve never seen before, but immediately, it’s my favorite. It’s Lila and me fast asleep together on the couch, and Lawson is kissing my forehead as he snaps the picture.
“This is beautiful, Lawson. I can’t even find words to describe how much I love seeing all of these memories on display for us.”
I turn around to kiss him, but before I can, he’s dropping down onto one knee before me while holding up the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen.
Pinched between his thumb and index finger is a vintage-looking rose gold ring, with three small pear-shaped diamonds lined up side-by-side, elegantly framed by smaller round diamonds.
I couldn’t have designed a more perfect ring.
He must’ve had Delilah help him this time around, because she randomly had her Pinterest app up one day and asked me what my dream ring would be if I could have any ring in the entire world. Lawson, at this very moment, is holding that ring.
It’s absolutely breathtaking.
I feel my heart catch in my throat and butterflies flutter frantically in the pit of my belly. Hot tears sting my eyes as they pool behind my lids.
“Oh, my God,” I whisper as my right hand flies to my mouth.
His hands are shaking as he takes my left hand and gazes up at me. The sun has set completely now, and the only light is from the lanterns twinkling around us. He stood in this very spot eight summers ago and asked me to marry him. Now, our love has come full circle as I find myself standing here, pledging our love to one another once again.
Only then, we were just kids living off hopes and dreams. Now we’re all grown up and finally living all those hopes and dreams we wished for all those years ago.
“Emelyn, on this night eight years ago, I asked you to marry me, and you made me the happiest man in the world when you told me yes. We hit a few roadblocks over the years, losing our way, but somehow we found it back to one another, and I can honestly say I’ve never in my life been happier than I am right now, with you and our miracle baby, Lila Grace. She has truly blessed our lives immensely. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect mother and woman I want to spend forever with. We’ve made a lifetime full of memories over the course of sixteen years; those memories are captured in these photos that surround us tonight. What I’m trying to say is, Emelyn Marie, will you make me the luckiest man in the world—again—and tell me that you’ll marry me? I want to spend another sixteen years, and many more after that, by your side, making even more memories together.”
I’m blown away by this proposal. I’m in complete and utter shock as I look around at the photographs surrounding us, gleaming in the soft glow from the lanterns. I bring my eyes back down to his and fall to my knees in front of him with tears on my cheeks and my heart bursting with so much love for this man. I’m almost certain it’s going to explode if he says one more over-the-top, Notebook kind of romantic line to me.
“Yes. Of course, yes! You’re it for me, Lawson Remington McCoy. You’ve always been it for me.” I choke on my words as my emotions get the best of me, and I find my tears of happiness falling at a rapid rate down my face. I watch in amazement as he slips the ring effortlessly onto my finger. It sparkles between us under the twinkling lights above. My entire body is humming with excitement and my heart is racing against my chest as adrenaline courses through my veins.
Reaching up affectionately, Lawson wipes my tears away with the pads of his thumbs.
“You have no idea how happy you’ve made me. You’ve always been it for me too, baby. I thank God every day for bringing you into my life. I know I don’t deserve you, but I’m a better man because of you. I can’t wait to marry you.”
I run my fingers through his hair and flutter kisses across his face. “I want to get married as soon as possible. So as long as you’re on board, we’ll start planning our wedding tomorrow. I’ll talk to my dad and see if he can marry us next month. I don’t need big and fancy. All I need is you, and Lila, and our closest friends and family. So what do you say? You down with getting hitched next month?”
Climbing to his feet, he scoops me up into his arms and gives me that make-me-weak-in-the-knees smile I love so much. “You can bet your fine ass I’m okay with that. If I could, I’d marry you tomorrow.”
“I love you,” I whisper breathlessly up at him.
“I love you more.”
Just when I think he’s about to lean down and kiss me to seal the deal, he shocks the hell out of me by breaking into a full-on run and jumping into the lake, with me still in his arms. I scream out in surprise as we hit the cool water.
Kicking my feet, I float back up to the surface and swim into his arms. “I cannot believe you just did that.”
“You know me, baby. I can’t waste a chance to get you wet or naked.”
“You are insatiable.” I laugh, splashing water at his too-hot-for-his-own-good face before locking my arms around his neck and crashing my lips to his for a toe-curling kiss.
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! You can meet Lawson and Emelyn in the standalone and first book in the Sweet Home Alabama series, Mine Would Be You today on amazon, B&N, kobo and iTunes!!
✔Second Chance Romance
✔Melt your kindle hott scenes
✔Smoking hot BBF on a Harley
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