“I just got home, Cinn. Do you really need to tackle me immediately?” I ask Cinnamon, my giant orange Maine Coon cat. Well, our giant Maine Coon. Hayzel’s, Trevor’s, and mine. Our sweet family of three. I plopped down onto the sofa in search of relaxation, but apparently, the cat has other ideas.
“He wants a snuggle,” my husband Trevor says from somewhere behind me, stepping closer to gently plant a kiss on the top of my head.
Still seated, I swivel around, catching his shirt with my hands then his lips with my own. “Missed you,” I whisper, my face near his. “Maybe you and I can snuggle without the furry feline?”
Trevor lightly kisses my lips again. “Clothing optional?”
“After my shower,” I say with a laugh. Then I yawn. “Which might be after my nap.”
Though I’m officially an event planner, I do still work at Button’s Diner occasionally, both for the camaraderie with the other staff and because I don’t like depending on Trevor for all our finances. He honestly wouldn’t care if I quit my jobs tomorrow and never worked another day, if not for the fact that I’d miss the work and the independence. I pulled a full double shift today to cover for Trevor’s aunt Dottie, my favorite coworker, who’s on vacation at the moment. My eleven-year-old daughter is spending the weekend at her dad’s here in the Falls, in the house my real estate broker friend Gwenn found for him at the beginning of this year.
Initially, Cal was not happy about my goal of becoming a full-time event planner. With time, he realized that it’s my passion. It’s the kind of work I enjoy the most. Now Cal happily recommends me to anyone and every one he can.
Trevor’s ringtone sounds. His voice is alert, his face taut, while he’s on the phone. Though he doesn’t say much, something is obviously wrong.
Once he ends the call, I immediately ask, “What’s wrong? Who was that?”
My husband is most likely not the first person my parents, sister, brother, or even Cal would call in an emergency, but you never know. “Did something happen?” I add.
“Take a drive with me?” he asks, but his expression remains serious. “Something I want to check on.”
I nod. “Of course.”
Nothing I wanted to do at the end of shift matters now. I need to know what’s going on, especially since he turns the truck down the drive toward our garden—my favorite garden on our personal property. Oh no. I wonder if something got into it and dug it all up. We’ve been having rodent problems at Bernhardt Farms and Orchard lately.
But then we turn onto a paved road.
Why is this paved?
Where did this come from? I haven’t been down here in about a week, and I know for sure this wasn’t here then.
I ask Trevor, but he doesn’t give an answer. He only points to something ahead of us. Turning away from him, I face forward to look through the windshield. We’ve already slowed to almost a stop. I can’t believe my eyes, but I also don’t know what I’m looking at.
Well, I mean, I do, obviously. It’s the cutest shed or some kind of small building, maybe the size of my old apartment’s tiny kitchen and living room put together, in terms of square footage, though it’s a little hard to tell with a fading sun and Trevor’s headlights. This might be a greenhouse, I think, eyeing the gorgeous planters out front and the numerous exterior windows—all with a white prairie grid. I know this only because when Trevor needed to replace the windows in our garage, these are the ones I liked the most. The glass doors also have those grids, with the rest of the door frame a soft marigold yellow color. Then I realize there’s a regular roof, not a transparent one.
“What is this place?” I ask, hoping for an answer this time. This building was definitely not here a week ago, either. While the wood looks aged, it’s also clean and crisp.
Yet again, my husband doesn’t reply. He simply opens one of the french doors and guides me inside. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by all my office décor, albeit in a slightly different way. This room is larger than the spare bedroom I’ve used as a home office, so the furniture is spaced a little farther apart. The honey-tinted wooden desk is positioned in the middle of one wall, with a large window behind it, most likely gracing the space with gorgeous sunlight. My boho vibe is well-represented, even up to the beaded wood chandelier.
Happy tears begin to fill my eyes, yet I still feel the need for confirmation from my hubby. “What is this, Trev?”
He grins, his neatly trimmed beard surrounding his beautiful smile. “Let me show you the back.”
We walk toward the wall with two closed doors. Once opened, one reveals a tiny half bathroom, the other, a small kitchenette with a sink, counter space, cupboards, and a portable cooktop. Every room has windows. I can just imagine the kind of glow that’ll be in here during the day, all soft and warm.
“How did you do this? There’s plumbing and electricity. How did I miss all of this happening?” I’m so surprised at the enormous amount of work that went into this project that I plop myself down on the super cushy office chair. Opposite me are the two chairs I had in my home office as well as a small, tufted bench that’s new. There’s a quilted loveseat against the wall over near the right corner.
“Sweet Cake, with the double shifts to cover for Aunt Dottie, you haven’t had time to blink, let alone go into your office. You definitely haven’t had time to come down here. Edin and Lucy helped in here, by the way, and Edin transported and arranged your files and things so well that nothing is lost. She even took countless photos of your office before anyone was allowed to touch anything just so nothing ended up misplaced. It’s all labeled now, too. I think going through the drawers and cabinets might be slightly orgasmic for you.”
I laugh. “I mean, I don’t like organization that much.”
Trevor smiles. My cheeks blush as I assume he’s probably thinking about things that truly are orgasmic for me.
“This is secluded enough to give you privacy and peace, but still close enough to access the main drive of the farm and the road without much time spent. Our guests at BFO won’t mistakenly wander down here, so you don’t have to worry about that. This is officially our private land.”
“What made you do this for me?” I ask in awe, still attempting to blink the tears away.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
We’re quiet a moment as I wait for him to explain more.
Trev steps over, sitting on the desktop, his body turned toward me. “Sweet Cake, this is the very minimum that you deserve. I wish I could give you the whole world. Right now, I have to settle for giving you a new opportunity—if you want it, and only if you want it.”
“What do you mean?” Then I see something on my desk. An item I hadn’t noticed before.
Boho flower design with burnt orange and burgundy blossoms. Golden details on an ivory background. My logo from all my other business cards. And my name. Kenzie Hoffman-Bernhardt.
Except there’s one thing that doesn’t make sense about any of this.
My title. Or at least, the title in close proximity to my name.
Executive Event Planner/Coordinator, Bernhardt Farms and Orchard
“What is this?” I find myself asking again, placing my finger on the card. Its smooth texture invites me to pick it up and cradle it between my thumb and index finger. I can’t help but oblige.
“I thought we’d make an official offer,” he tells me. “If it’s a no, that’s okay. Don’t feel pressured to work here just because it’s me and it’s family.”
I don’t reply, giving myself time to let this sink in.
“You’ve put together amazing weddings, corporate events, and family reunions here. You’ve been in charge of more than anyone else in that regard, even with the corn roast again this year. People actively seek you out to hire you for their events. With how amazingly you’ve managed every gathering at BFO, and with your expert knowledge of this place and all our event venues, I thought maybe you’d want to take on a little more.”
While this is an emotionally-charged moment—one I know I should luxuriate in due to its importance—still, I try to hold back the tears. Try to not fall apart. Hot teardrops splash down onto my warm cheeks anyway.
“What about your mom? Doesn’t she want this title? This job?” I ask, needing this question answered before saying anything else.
“Mom knows this job is perfect for you, if you want it. I intentionally had this built on our land, not BFO’s. That way, it won’t be seen as a conflict of interest if you decide to keep your own event planning business, using other venues.”
“I’d have a steady planning job as well as a freelance one?”
“In a way. I don’t want you to give up on your company. I just thought maybe you’d like to use some of that magic for BFO in an official capacity. You’d be given a staff to assign specific jobs to. I’m sure Mom will offer to help you in any way. Only take on as much as you can without exhausting yourself or feeling overwhelmed. I’m not pressuring you, I swear, and I’ll never force you into anything exclusive.”
There has to be some way I can express how much I appreciate my incredible husband and all the thought he’s put into this surprise. For the time being, I only have these words. “I’m exclusively yours in every other way, I promise.”
Trev brightens. “So that’s a yes?”
I nod and jump up to be in his arms.
When he lowers his lips to mine, he lingers for only a moment before pulling back and asking, “So that exclusivity you mentioned. What things are only for me?”
Lifting up on my tiptoes to better reach him, I cradle Trevor’s cheeks, his stubble beard soft and a bit ticklish on my palms. This time, we have no desire to end our kiss. Our more-consuming desires leave us naked on the russet-colored loveseat, wrapped in one of the blankets from the blanket ladder—which will be perfect for tablecloth samples.
We, of course, tested nearly every surface we could, just to make sure it was sturdy enough for event planning supplies. Obviously, it’s much cleaner in here than the working barns, but that hasn’t stopped us in the past. While thinking of cleaning, though, I make a mental note to clean all of the surfaces we just used before I meet with any staff or clients in here.
“Was that the official welcome from BFO?” I ask.
Behind me, Trevor shifts his arms, holding me a little tighter before kissing the spot between my neck and my shoulder. “That was all me, Sweet Cake.”
“I’m guessing my official welcome shouldn’t be so . . . nude.”
My husband’s laugh vibrates into me. I place my hands on his, wrapping him around me even more. “Clothing might be required, but in my heart, we’re always celebrating this way,” he says, his voice light but also slightly raspy.
“Together. Body. Mind. In love. Whether you keep the job at BFO for a week or fifty years, I will always be by your side to support and encourage you. To celebrate you. Always.”
“And if I only keep the job for a day?”
“This building is still yours. The office space is still yours. I’m still yours.”
In quick, fluid motions, I pull Trevor’s hands off me and roll my body in his arms, facing him now. He envelops me once again, one hand sliding to my lower back, the other tenderly cupping my cheek as he kisses me like life without this contact is unbearable.
I love these kisses. These moments with my husband.
I love that I’m starting a new journey in my career in my new office, built specifically for me. I love my life now, no longer darkened by lingering questions from the past. I love that I can be this amazing role model for my daughter.
But right now—most of all—I deeply love my husband.