Chapter Forty-Two

The dinner service was coming to an end. Guests with small children had already departed for the quiet of their bungalows. Mr. North, Greta, and Jeremy had made an early departure, too. The band was on stage testing their sound equipment.

"We're staying for a few songs, aren't we?" Nancy asked.

Frank reached across the table and squeezed her hand. "Of course."

Tim Kincaid walked to the microphone on stage and cleared his throat. "Ahem, good evening everyone. Thanks for coming and I hope everyone stays for the band. They're really popular around here and we're happy to have them for the next two nights. They'll be starting any minute but before they do I wanted to make an announcement." He paused, sucked in a quick breath, and let it out. "A few hours ago my lovely wife, Molly .." He sought Molly in the crowd and smiled at her. "Well, she told me .. she said we're going to be parents. We expecting our first child."

The guests burst into cheers and much clapping. Nancy and Frank joined in with great enthusiasm.

Tim was clearly surprised by this response. He lifted his hands to quiet the guests. "Thank you. Thank you so much. Your support means a lot to my wife and me. I .. I have to admit that I'm still getting used to the idea that I'm going to be a dad. It's kinda scary."

Laughter erupted around the room and one guest shouted out, "It's scary as hell."

Everyone laughed some more and cheered. Love filled the room. It was an inescapable essence that wove the guests together. They smiled at one another and simultaneously lifted their glasses.

Someone yelled, "Here's to Tim and Molly!"

Everyone responded with a hearty, "Here, here!"

Molly joined Tim on stage and he slipped an arm around her waist. Both were overwhelmed by this spontaneous outpouring of love.

"Thank you," Tim said, "and in celebration of our good news Molly and I are offering a complimentary bottle of wine to every table."

This announcement prompted more cheers. Tim and Molly left the stage amid clapping and shouts of, "Congratulations."

"Do we want a bottle of wine?" Frank asked Nancy.

"No, I'm more interested in dancing." She treated him to a disarming smile.

The band started up as waiters passed out bottles of wine. Nancy grabbed Frank by the hands and led him to the area designated as the dance floor. She was ready for a night of dancing, for a night of fun. Other couples joined them as they neared the dance floor. Frank twirled Nancy around and she laughed. Her heart was carefree and her mood jubilant. Wasn't that the way it should always be?

Frank's arms went around her and pulled her close. Instantly, she was acutely, achingly aware of him. Of his scent, his heat, his body. He was all hard planes and deliciously solid. A comforting presence. She lifted her head and met his warm, brown eyes. He gazed at her, peered straight into her heart. He had that power.

He moistened his lips with his tongue and she knew what he was thinking. They could read each other's thoughts. An exquisite shudder ran through her with a stabbing ache. She lowered her eyes, conscious of the desire shining in them.

They danced to the slow song, her head on his chest. She was flush with excitement and love. True love she thought, this was what true love felt like. She was the happiest, luckiest woman in the world.

# # # #

It was nearly eleven p.m. when they got to their bungalow. Nancy was too wound up for bed.

"Muffins and tea?" she said as Frank slid his key into the front door lock. She'd been thinking about those muffins most of the day.

Frank opened the door and switched on a light. "Muffins and tea coming up." He leaned over and kissed her on the nose.

She responded by kissing him on the lips. "I'm going to change into something more comfortable."

"I'll follow suit after I get the tea kettle started."

Nancy disappeared into the bedroom and changed into shorts and an old, comfortable t-shirt. The shirt had seen her through many an investigation and many a trip. It was her go-to shirt when she wanted to unwind and relax. And that was exactly what she wanted to do now.

She went to the bathroom and brushed her hair and teeth. Then she returned to the kitchenette. Frank had teacups, teabags, plates, spoons, and muffins arranged on the table. Nancy smiled softly to herself. Frank was very thoughtful and organized.

He came out of the bedroom wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Seemed they were on the same wavelength tonight.

The kettle whistled and Nancy turned off the heat.

They prepared their tea and carried their cups and plates of muffins onto the porch and sat on the cushioned wicker couch. Nancy placed her steaming tea on a side table and her plate on her lap.

A crescent moon bathed the ocean in blue-gray light. The night was spellbinding. The moon and stars simply magical.

Nancy broke off a piece of her muffin and popped it in her mouth. "I love it out here," she said. "It's so peaceful, so relaxing."

Frank sipped his tea. "Just the way the beach should be. A place to soothe your soul."

Nancy looked at him from the corner of her eye. "Exactly." She had been thinking the same thing. She marveled at how often she and Frank had similar thoughts.

They ate in silence, enjoying the night breeze, the gentle cascade of waves upon the shore, and the intermittent chirping of crickets. The night was indeed magical.

Nancy finished her muffin, tucked a leg under her, and sipped her tea. She was completely relaxed. This was the way nights should be especially when you were with the person you loved.

She peered at Frank over the rim of her cup. His face was partially hidden in shadow. The only light was that which seeped around the curtains of the living room window. "What are you thinking?" she asked.

Usually he hated that question. Not tonight. He met her gaze and said, "I'm thinking how lucky I am to have you in my life."

She smiled. "Would you believe me if I told you I was thinking the same thing earlier tonight?"

He set his tea down and gave her his full attention. His eyes were black coals and his gaze, direct and intense. This was the Frank that roused all of her emotions. "I'm glad to hear it. That makes what I want to say easier."

Nancy took a breath and her heart fluttered. "Oh?"

Frank thought it through before he spoke. Women liked deep conversations. He wasn't much given to those, but sometimes …

Nancy finished her tea and placed the empty cup on the table beside the couch. She knew Frank was gathering his thoughts and didn't want to rush him. She felt no need to. There was something comfortable and reassuring about Frank. It had been that way since they'd met.

His dark eyes looked up from under dark brows. His expression was tender and expressive. "How long have we known each other?"

She thought about it and said, "Fourteen months, gave or take a month."

"Yes," he said, his voice low and soothing. "And in that time I've come to a conclusion, a conclusion I hope you share. I think we belong together."

She stared at him a moment, thought about what he'd said and what it meant. Her gaze drifted to the ocean and the moon shining above. Was he saying what she thought he was?

He sensed something vulnerable in her, a reluctance. It was a part of her that spoke to his soul. He knew that reluctance well. He had felt the same in the past. Now, he was older and wiser and ready to commit. He wanted to make their relationship permanent.

Nancy turned back to him, her heart pounding.

"I love you," he said and moved closer. He took her hand in his.

She was flooded with emotion. Good emotion. "I love you, too. I should say it more often." She truly meant those words. Frank was a man who deserved to hear those words every day.

"I should say it more often, too." He leaned closer, his eyes closing and his lips moving toward hers.

They kissed long and deeply. The kiss was all it should have been and all it was meant to be; a declaration of love.

When the kiss ended they sat with their foreheads pressed together, their hands entwined, and their knees touching.

Frank drew in a shaky breath and lifted his head. "I .. I have something I want to say."

Nancy felt his leg tremble.

He let go of her hands and turned to the side table, picked up a note card and turned back to her. He met her gaze and held it. "I .. I wrote down what I wanted to say." He paused a beat, he was having trouble stilling his nervous heart. "I .. here … please, read this." His throat had gone tight. His heart was racing.

Nancy gingerly took the note and held it near the light spilling from the curtained window.


I have traveled through time and distance to find you. With one kiss you stole my heart. It belongs to you completely, forever and always.

Every day you brighten my world with your fun-loving ways. You are generous and kind and have made me a better man.

Make me the happiest man in the world and say you'll marry me.

I love you,


Tears welled and Nancy blinked them away. Be still my beating heart, she thought. These words, the words on the note, had come from the deepest part of Frank's heart. The note was a keepsake, something she would cherish forever. It would be framed and hung in their home, a constant reminder of their love.

A small thought wiggled its way into her mind; this note might outlast them. Future generations would read these words and know the love Frank had had for her.

She laid the note on her lap, looked into Frank's eyes, and said, "Yes, I'll marry you."

She put her arms around his neck and pressed her body into his as he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her deeply.

Later, they cleaned up the cups and plates and walked to the ocean. They walked along the shore, the waves washing over their bare feet.

Nancy leaned into the man she intended to marry and felt his arm settle around her shoulders.

"Are you sure about this?" he said. "About the ring?"

"One hundred percent," she said. "I don't need a ring, Frank. Not now. Maybe never." She stopping, turned, and faced him. "You're what I want. You're all I need. I have your love and your heart. That's more than enough."

His hands came up and cupped her face. "Still, I'd like to get you a ring."

"Maybe when we get home then," she said and he kissed her.

# # # #

The next day Nancy felt new and different. She was an engaged woman, something she had never been before. Her step was light and bouncy as she and Frank strolled to the dining room for breakfast. Nancy couldn't wait to tell Molly about the engagement.

Bridget and her mother came out of their bungalow and Bridget waved to Nancy and Frank. "Good morning," Bridget called out. Her mother followed her down the porch stairs, looking none too happy to see Nancy and Frank again.

"Good morning," Nancy said and waved back.

Bridget hurried up to Nancy and Frank. "I'm glad I caught you two this morning. Mother and I are leaving today right after breakfast. I'd hoped to see you at dinner last night, but mother wasn't feeling well so we ordered room service and ate on the bungalow's porch. I wanted to ask, what did the detectives say about Bruce's note? Can they use it?"

"They're going to keep it," Frank said. "They might need it if this case goes to trial and it looks like it might. Gary insists that he's innocent. He says he had nothing to do with the murders."

A disgusted frown creased Bridget's brow. "Bull hockey."

Frank and Nancy laughed. Nancy saw Bridget's mother shaking her head wearily as she approached the group. She had no patience for such talk.

Nancy opened her handbag and withdrew a sheet of paper. "Here's a copy of the note. I added the police department's address at the bottom and detectives' names and phone numbers so you can keep in touch with them."

Bridget took the note and gave Nancy a quick hug. "Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate this. I see you've added your email address and phone number, too." She smiled at Nancy. "Great, I might give you a call one day."

"Or drop me a line and let me know how you're doing," Nancy said. "Oh, and Frank and I have some news." She looked up at Frank and smiled. "We're getting married. He proposed last night."

"What?! Why that's fantastic. I'm so happy for you both." Bridget hugged Nancy again and whispered in her ear, "You're a lucky gal. He's a keeper."

Bridget's mother had borne all she could bear. What little patience she possessed had ran out. "I'm going in, Bridget. I'll get us a table."

"Okay, mom." Bridget barely glanced at her mother. Instead, she looked from Nancy to Frank and back. "Let me know when the wedding is. I just might come. And by the way, I'm not a bad photographer. I could take a few pictures for you."

"How about now?" Frank said. "I'd like a nice photo of Nancy and me to send to everyone when we text them the news."

"That's a wonderful idea," Nancy said and beamed at Frank.

Frank handed Bridget his phone and the next few minutes were spent getting just the right pose. Palm trees and beach in the background, a smiling Nancy and Frank in the foreground, arms wrapped around each other.

# # # #

Molly greeted the news with a shriek and a bear hug.

Tim was more subdued. "So, you're ready to take the plunge?" he said to Frank.

"Yeah." Frank watched Nancy and Molly hug. "More than ready."

"Well, congrats, man." Tim clapped Frank on the shoulder and shook hands with him. "Hey, you could have the wedding here."

"That's not a bad idea. I'll have to run it by Nancy. We haven't talked about dates yet."

"Well, when you do, keep us in mind. Molly and I would love to have you here and we'll give you a good deal."

"I'll let you know," Frank said. He rather liked the idea of getting married at the Palms Resort in Florida.

# # # #

Nancy and Frank spent the afternoon on the beach soaking up the sun. Frank managed to call Detective Ellis and inquire about the latest developments regarding Gary Simpson.

When Frank finished the call he relayed what he'd learned to Nancy. "Ellis and Gosling found old insurance papers in a safe deposit box Gary had at his local bank. The insurance papers were for his two previous wives, the ones he apparently murdered."

Nancy stretched out on her towel and rolled onto her stomach. "That should put a few more nails in his coffin."

"That and the DNA evidence. It came back this morning. The blood on the bloody clothes in the suitcase match Gary, Graves, and Bruce Tipton."

Nancy adjusted her bikini top and pushed a strand of hair over her shoulder. "Sounds like Ellis has an airtight case to me."

"Ellis thinks so, too. He said Gary has grown quiet. He's not proclaiming his innocence quite so loudly anymore."

Nancy propped herself on one elbow. "What about Lana? Is she still in custody?"

"No, she was released this morning. She stayed behind in the house she and Gary were renting. Ellis said the few things she left here will be packed up by the police and eventually sent to her."

"Well," Nancy said, "I think that settles this case. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a swim."

"Me, too. I just need to do one more thing." Frank picked up his phone and found the picture of him and Nancy that Bridget had taken that morning.

Nancy moved onto Frank's towel and watched as he added a text message and then sent both, picture and message, to their families.

"All done," Frank said, smiling at Nancy. "I'll race you to the ocean."

"You're on."

They got to their feet, counted to three, and ran toward the crashing waves.

# # # #

Joe Hardy locked the front door of the Endeavor Detective Agency and turned out the lights. He left through the back door, locked it, and walked the short distance to a local bar and grill. His fiancée, Vanessa Bender, had gotten there first. He nodded hello to her and slid onto the chair next to hers. She'd gotten a table in the back and away from the bar.

"I ordered you a beer," she said.

"Thanks." His phone pinged and he tugged it off his belt. He looked at the screen, smiled, and shook his head. "Well, will you look at that?" He handed the phone to Vanessa so she could see the picture and text.

"Oh my god! This is wonderful. Did you know this was going to happen?"

"I had no clue," he said, "but I'm happy for them. It's about time."

Vanessa handed back the phone. "We'll have to have a toast. Oh, here's your beer and my wine."

They toasted privately to Nancy and Frank. Joe took one last look at his phone, at the picture of Nancy and Frank. He'd never seen his brother so happy. The text was simple and understated:

She said, yes!

And that's all that mattered, Joe thought as he leaned over and kissed his fiancée.

The End

A/N: So, we come to the end of the story. A very special 'thank you' to those who have left a review or a few kinds words. Those are always appreciated and nice to receive. You all have been very, very kind.

I'm working on another story, but it's not one that most of the readers for this story will be interested in. It's more akin to my story "Meet Me at Midnight." It's more gritty and edgy. It features N, F, J, and V and Joe will be more front and center in that story.

I will eventually get back to N&F solving another mystery together. I have several beginning chapters to stories featuring just them. But for now, I will say good-by until next time. Take care everyone! :)