"Kiss the Girl" Bonus Content.

Noah and Grace in 5 Years.

I ran my eyes over the table again, making sure every detail was set. It had taken a while to hunt down all the foods I’d needed, but I liked the overall effect.

The sound of tires crunching into the driveway announced Noah’s arrival, and by

the time the rattle of the garage door finished closing behind him, I had the small tealight candles burning. 

He paused when he walked into the dining room, taking in the candlelit dinner spread.

“Did you guess my good news?” he asked. 

“I was assuming.” I smiled. I wouldn’t tell him yet that this candlelit dinner was a dual

celebration. “But go ahead and tell me officially.”

“I got the job,” he said, his eyes shining. “You’re looking at the new vice-principal of

Douglass Middle School.”

“Congratulations, honey,” I said, hurrying around the table to hug him. “I never had a

doubt.” And I hadn’t. He’d finished his PhD coursework in January and begun interviewing for positions last month. Douglass had been his first choice because it was close to the house we’d bought two years ago.  “You must feel awesome.”

“I do,” he said, wrapping his arms around me. “Overwhelmed but excited. I’ll finish my

teaching contract in May and then I start at Douglass in July.” 

“Come eat before it gets cold,” I said, stepping out of his arms to draw him toward the

table. “And tell me everything. Who contacted you? How’d they break it to you? How are you going to break it to Chuck?” Chuck was the principal at Vesey High where Noah had taught since moving to Charleston five years ago. 

He pulled out my chair and took his own, and I tried not to twitch with nerves now that

this part of the evening was here. How long would it take for him to notice the theme of the dinner? Noah was pretty observant, but he wouldn’t know he should be looking for signs. 

“So the principal at Douglass—Serena Brown—called me right after school let out to

tell me the district would be offering me the position. She wanted to let me know unofficially and make sure I really do want the job.”

“What did you say, Dr. Redmond?” I teased him. I took every opportunity to call him

that even though his degree wouldn’t officially be conferred until a ceremony next month. 

“I whooped, did a happy dance around the desk, said yes yes yes, and then cried like

a baby.”

“Did not,” I said, grinning. 

“Not the last part, but the rest? Absolutely.”

I pulled the foil off the small serving dish for the entrée and lifted lids from the other

crocks and pans. 

“You pulled this together so fast,” he said. He’d only called two hours before to tell me

he had unspecified good news. But him getting word today about the promotion was just a lucky coincidence. “Smells so good,” he said, serving a little roast Cornish game hen to each of us. 

“Thanks,” I said. “I picked Tabitha’s brain for ideas.”

I served up the petite peas and baby carrots and passed it, then accepted the platter

of roasted new potatoes from him. 

“Wow,” he said, after taking his first bite of the hen. “This is so good. What am I tasting

in there? Is that…”

“Herbs de provence,” I said, trying to keep the impatience from creeping into my

voice. How had he not caught on yet? “That was the part Tabitha suggested.”

“Super good,” he said. “It’s kind of a funny dinner.” He poked at everything on the

plate. 

“What do you mean?” I asked. 

“My news is big, but all the food is tiny. Makes me feel like a giant.” He poked a new

potato with his fork and held it up. “This whole potato isn’t even as big as my thumb. We should eat tiny food all the time.”

At this point, it was all I could do not to laugh. He was not going to get this. Time for a

nudge. “Yeah, tiny food. Could you pass the baby peas again?”

He did. I took another serving.

“Now could you pass the baby potatoes?”

He did. Still not getting it. 

If he didn’t figure out by dessert, he was never going to get it. 

I sat through the rest of dinner and fought the urge to stab his hand with my fork when

he reached for seconds of everything. “Maybe don’t,” I said. “I made dessert. You’ll want to have room for that.”

“What are we having?” he asked, lifting another bite of potatoes to his mouth. 

“Baby Ruth pie.”

“That sounds awesome. Another Tabitha recipe?”

I just stared at him. 

He stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth, a piece of potato on its tines.

“Something wrong?”

“Imagine you have been presented with a code, Dr. Redmond.” I waved a hand to

encompass the table. “Imagine it’s a simple code with an important message, and almost everything you need to crack it is in front of you. Hang on while I get the last piece.” I darted into the kitchen to fetch the Baby Ruth pie and set it in front of him. “There. Last clue.”

He looked from me to the pie to the rest of the table. “Peas and carrots. Potatoes.” His

forehead wrinkled. 

“Baby peas and carrots. Baby potatoes.”

His eyes widened. “Baby Ruth pie.”

I nodded, unable to suppress my smile completely. 

“No,” he said, standing so fast his chair fell over. 

“Yes. Baby Redmond is due in about 8 months.”

He whooped, did a happy dance around the table while chanting, “Yes, yes, yes,” then

swept me into a hug, buried his face in my neck, and cried like a baby for real. 

“So you’re happy?” I whispered, smoothing his hair. 

“Happier than I’ve ever been.”

“I love you, Dr. Redmond.”

“Plus infinity,” he said. 

“Maybe just plus one,” I countered, my hand on my stomach. 

“Just when I think I have everything, you give me more.” He lifted his head and smiled

down at me. “But I’ll keep trying for the rest of our lives to give you the world.”

“I don’t need it,” I said. “Everything I could ever want is right here.”

And it was a long, long time before we got to the pie.