“Caden, I told you, I don’t care what other people think. I’m going to be here for you no matter what.”
He nods. “And that’s just one of the reasons I love you, Murphy Brown.”
He reaches into his back pocket and pulls something out. Then he drops to a knee and the stadium goes wild. My heart lodges in my throat and I lose all my breath. I look up at Lexi and my mom, who are both crying. I look down at Caden, whose eyes are locked on me as I come to grips with what is happening.
My hand covers my mouth when I see the ring in his hand. Tears stream down my face as I forget about the noise, the JumboTron, the forty thousand people watching. Nothing else matters except this man before me.
I drop down to my knees in front of him, knowing he’d have to yell otherwise.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for months,” he says loudly, so I can hear him over the crowd. “I got this when I was in Florida. But I knew even before then that you were the one. Murphy, the day I hit you with my ball was the best day of my life.” He runs a finger across my scar. “I love your scar because it’s what makes you mine. I love your heart because it’s what makes you compassionate. I love your mind because it’s what makes you strong. I love everything about you. So, what do you say, Sweet Caroline, will you marry me?”
I have no words. All I can do is nod over and over as I stare at him with tear-blurred eyes. He slips the ring on my finger and then he stands up, pulling me with him and into his arms as he swings me around to the cheers of the crowd. He kisses me. He kisses me hard and long.
When our lips finally part, he nods to the screen. “This is one video I want the entire world to see.”
He kisses me once more and then sits me back on the wall.
“I love you, Kessler,” I tell him.
“I love you too, Murphy Brown.” He glances over his shoulder at the dugout, where his team is watching and cheering. “But I kind of have a job to finish up here.”
I laugh as he slowly backs away. But then he shakes his head and jogs back to me. “Shit, I almost forgot. I need the ring back.”
I wrinkle my brow in confusion.
“I’ve had that ring in my back pocket all season, Murph. And it’s been the best season of my life. I’m not about to screw that up now. You can have it on that pretty little finger of yours every other minute of the day—but during game time, it’s mine. In case you didn’t know, you’re marrying a ball player. Our crazy superstitions come with the territory.”
I happily remove the ring and give it to him. Then he takes his hat off and puts it on my head. “If I’m not mistaken, this one will complete the circle.” He winks at me and then turns around to join his team.
Lexi and my mother pull me in for a long embrace when it dawns on me. “You knew about this, didn’t you?” I ask them. I turn to my mother. “You never come to games.”
“We knew,” she admits. “And I guess I’ll be coming to a lot more, now that my future son-in-law is a star catcher.”
“I’d love for you to come to more games when you’re in town, Mom.”
She looks over at Shane and then back to me. “What if I were in town all the time?” she asks.
My jaw drops. “You’re moving here?”
She smiles. “Would that be okay, honey?”
I pull her in for another hug. “That would be great, Mom!”
Lexi squeals in delight. “Oh, we will have so much fun planning your wedding.”
I look at the woman who has become my best friend and think of how Kelly would have loved her. “I know it’s kind of early, but Lexi, would you be my Matron of Honor?”
We’re both crying when she wraps her arms around me. “There is no one else I’d rather have as a sister. Of course I’ll stand up with you.”
It’s hard to concentrate on the game after what has happened. I only hope Caden isn’t having the same problem. When it’s his turn at bat, my body stiffens and my heartbeat shoots through the roof.
He fouls a ball to the left. Then he steps out of the batter’s box and looks over at me. He pounds his chest and points at me. And for the second time today, the crowd goes wild. The stadium is as loud as I’ve ever heard it. The energy around me is palpable. I can barely contain my emotions as I lock elbows with both Lexi and my mother.
Then I watch my future husband step up to the plate.
Two years later …
Caden does his best to wrap his arms around me as I run my fingers across the bills of the hats displayed on our wall. The word is almost complete now and I wonder what will come next. What wonderful adventures does our future hold?
I wince and he turns me around to face him. “I felt that,” he says, rubbing my belly. “Which one was it, Caroline or CayJay?”
I laugh at his nickname for Caden, Jr. “CayJay?”
“Yeah, it’s a great baseball name, don’t you think? CayJay Kessler.”
“I thought we agreed on C.J.”
He shrugs and then plants a kiss on my cheek. “Whatever you want, Kessler,” he says to me. “But think about it. I bet the name will grow on you.”
I lean in to give him one heck of a pre-game kiss. The twins protest when they get smashed between us, and one or both of them starts kicking again.
Caden laughs, feeling the kicks against his stomach. He kneels down in front of me and talks to my belly. “Listen up, you two. I know you are eager to come out and see what an amazing mom you have, but if you can wait one more week, I’d be most grateful.”
I smile down on him and run my fingers through his hair. “Maybe next time, you shouldn’t get your wife pregnant in the off-season,” I say.
“Next time?” he says, looking at me hopefully.
I shrug as I flash him a playful grin.
He plants one more kiss on me before leaving for his game.
I call out after him. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Kessler?” I take my engagement ring off and hold his good luck charm out to him. “You don’t think you’re going to win the World Series without this, do you?”
He comes back over and takes the ring. “Don’t you know, Murphy Brown? I’ve already won.”