Ruby Red: Bonus Epilogue

Updated: Jul 25



Fall might be Sam’s favorite time of year to be in the Hamptons. The summer press of tourists faded, swimsuits were swapped for sweaters, and the air hinted at cooler days ahead: a chance to cuddle under the blankets with the love of his life.

Ali waved the slip of paper in her fist. “Ms. Ruby, in the Reading Room with the candleholder.”

A thrill shot through Sam as he watched Ali serve the attendant with her latest guess. If she got the clue right, her ecstatic response, sometimes consisting of actually hopping up and down, was becoming the favourite part of his day. Followed very closely by the kiss they shared in celebration after each confirmed clue.

When Ali had first suggested this game, Sam had been skeptical. The prospect of dashing around a corn maze trying to figure out who killed Farmer Bill contradicted his original plans for staying in bed all day. Weekdays spent in the city meant little time with Ali, and he preferred his Saturdays confined to a party of two. But she had been insistent they spend the day outside. She said he invested too much time cooped up in an office building, and a good dose of fresh air was a must.

As a compromise, she promised they could do whatever Sam desired tonight. He’d spent the car ride over to Pete’s Pumpkin Patch making a mental list of exactly what his portion of the day would involve. The list faded to the back of his mind as he got into by the game, or more specifically, Ali got into the game, and he fed off her excitement.

“No, the candleholder is right here,” pointed out the slightly bored-looking teenager manning the corner of the corn maze that was subbing for a library.

“Yes!” squealed Ali, her bright blue eyes dazzling in the afternoon sun. She pulled Sam closer, lips inches apart. “I was right, my love. It’s not the candleholder.”

Sam could not suppress a grin. They had already determined that the culprit was Ms. Scarlet, and the location of the murder was the library. The last component was the murder weapon. Ali was sure it was the crowbar, and he had his sights on the candleholder. He had never been so happy to be wrong.

“Nope, not the candleholder.” He tried to appear disappointed but failed miserably, his cheeks hurting from the grin. Maybe fresh air did make a difference. Or maybe, and far more likely, being anywhere with Ali was the cause of the lightness in his chest. Either way, he savoured what came next.

Sapphire eyes beamed at him. “Reward, please.” Her singsong demand sent vibrations of yearning along his spine.

“With pleasure.” One hand on her chilled cheek, the other her hip, he closed the distance between them, and took his time with her prize. In the beginning, their kiss was sweet, a simple pleasure. Then she wrapped her arms around Sam’s neck and deepened the connection, raising the hotness meter. He tugged Ali’s waist to him to support them as he responded to her request.

Who was he to deny Ali anything she wanted?

“Ahem…” The world had slipped away with the sweet taste of her lips and the warmth of her in his arms. He’d forgotten that they had an audience. Reluctantly letting Ali go, Sam issued the teenager a ‘can you blame me’ look.

The apples of Ali’s cheeks tinged with pink with her muttered sorry to the boy but didn’t appear sorry at all. The vixen expression caused Sam’s heart to flutter. Slowly, she relinquished her hold on him, drawing her hands lazily across his shoulders, tracing his biceps, tickling his elbow with one hand before entwining their fingers. The flutter in his heart turned into a gallop. What this woman did to him.

“Let’s go claim our prize.” He wasn’t sure if Ali was referring to the free mug of apple cider they got for winning the game or something else. Regardless, Sam willingly followed.

Guessing the correct combination of murder, location, and weapon was only part of the game. The other, and what turned out to be the harder part, was discovering their way out of the corn maze. Hand-in-hand, they strolled down the corridors lined with tall leafy green stalks of corn. Often, they ran into other players, attempting their own escape from the labyrinth of maize. A gaggle of teenage girls stopped them, asking if they knew which way the library was. Ali gave Sam a look he knew well by now. She was nervous for the unsuspecting boy they had just left as they pointed the girls in the right direction.

Together they turned left and then left again until a wall of foliage surrounded them on three sides. A dead end. Ali turned to retrace their steps, but Sam seized the opportunity of the privacy provided by the tall cornstalks. He twirled her into an embrace and nuzzled up to her neck, peppering it with small kisses.

As he hoped, she melted into him, allowing him access to her ear, which he playfully tugged with his teeth. A little moan escaped her lips, encouraging him to continue his travels. Kisses on her cheek, her nose and then their lips met. This time, it was not sweet. It was pure pleasure. Hungry for more, Sam wove his fingers into Ali’s hair as he tipped her head back for a better angle.

The cold air evaporated into steam as the temperature in his body spiked. His heart abandoned flutters and galloped into a steady beat only Ali could rouse. Warm fingers slipped underneath his collar, one nail drawing a circle at the base of his neck. Sam fumbled with the button on her coat, eager to touch more of her.

Outside of their bubble, a small voice cut through their activity. “Mommy, mommy, this way.”

Usually Sam would pause whatever he was doing to talk or play with a child, drawn to their innocence and the way they viewed at the world with wonder. At this moment, though, Sam’s instincts were the opposite. This was not an interruption he appreciated.

Barely in time, and very reluctantly, they cut their make-out session short. Ali pressed her face into Sam’s chest, and he held her there to give her a moment to recuperate. The cold air offered some assistance in returning his heart rate to normal as a small boy in dark blue jeans and a cream-coloured sweater jogged into the alcove.

“Oh, hi,” the dark-haired boy exclaimed at the sight of the couple.

“Hey, there,” Sam returned.

Somewhere not too far away a “Trevor, wait up,” filtered through the air towards them.

“Is this another dead end?” whined the boy.

“Afraid so.”

The child’s shoulders sagged. “Drat!”

Drat indeed, thought Sam.

A tall woman in a green coat with a long scarf wound around her neck and dark hair that matched their new friend joined the group. Trevor looked up at her. “It’s another dead-end, Mommy.”

“Really?” The woman regarded Sam and Ali, the latter having recovered and inched away to create some space between her and Sam. “Oh, I guess this isn’t the way, then.”

He shook his head. “No, sorry.”

“Are we never going to get out of here?” grumbled Trevor.

The woman Sam assumed was the boy’s mother let out a sigh of frustration. “I’m trying. Mommy just doesn’t know which way to go.”

To his surprise, Ali released Sam’s hand and knelt in front of the boy, making them eye level. “We’re looking for the exit as well. Why don’t we help each other and search together?”

Bubbles of excitement fizzed in Sam’s rib cage at the sight of her with Trevor. While children always drew him in, and he secretly couldn’t wait to have a few of his own, Sam was all too aware that Ali’s views were somewhat different. She tended to avoid little kids, often commenting on their constant state of stickiness or how they tended to be spoilt or needy.

Yet watching her interact with this little boy, a new world of possibilities opened up. With the tenderness she showed, he could almost imagine that Trevor was Ali’s son, their son. The sight gave him hope.

Trevor rewarded her offer with an open mouth full of teeth and some vigorous nodding.

“Right, then.” She rose to her feet and glanced back at Sam with a suggestive smirk. “Let’s get out of here.”

As they walked away from the dead-end, Ali introduced Sam and herself to Trevor’s mother, Laura. The woman timidly thanked them for being so kind. Not even ten minutes later, they were all surprised to find themselves emerging from the network of corn.

Trevor mimicked the earlier delight of Ali and bounced before them. “We did it.”

“We did,” echoed Ali. “Now let’s go get our prize.”

“Oh, no,” Laura dragged Trevor back from the couple, placing an arm around his shoulder. “We didn’t get all the clues.” Her dark eyes sank to the ground. “We…”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Ali interrupted. “Sam and I have the answer. Come with us and we’ll say we’re together.” A hand stretched toward Trevor, she added, “Can’t miss out on our apple cider.”

Sam marvelled at her. In private, Ali often lavished him with her kindness and generous heart. But right now, he couldn’t be prouder of her.

“Really?” Trevor lit up like a Christmas Tree. He glanced at his mother for confirmation. “Can we, mommy?”

Ali walked over to her and thread Laura’s arm with hers. “We got this. It’ll be okay.” Sam wasn’t sure if it was gratitude or relief in the other woman’s eyes, but either way, after a moment’s hesitation, Laura gave them a weak smile of agreement.

As usual, his girlfriend managed the whole situation, ensuring everyone was comfortable. First, she handed in their answer to the officials, returning with coupons for four apple ciders. In the café, she asked Sam to find a table for all of them.

With a quick survey of the area, he spotted four empty chairs in a corner with a view overlooking the maze. He directed the group to snag it, and Trevor ran ahead and pressed his nose against the glass, pointing out all the people.

Sam held out the chair for Laura. “Best seats in the house.”

“This is very kind of you both.” She removed her coat and eased herself onto the offered spot. “I didn’t think we’d ever get out of there.”

“The maze is bigger than Ali imagined.” Sam glanced in Trevor’s direction. “He seemed to enjoy it.”

A shadow passed over Laura’s face. “I needed to get him out of the house.”

Sam chuckled. “Funny. Ali said the same thing about me.”

“Your wife is lovely.”

“She is. But she’s not my wife.” Sam leaned toward Laura. “Yet.”

A thin smile spread across Laura’s lips. “I think she’s one lucky woman.”

Sam shook his head. “No, I’m the lucky one.” He glanced in the direction of Ali, who picked her way through the crowd. Even now, months after her confession of loving him, and endless nights of proving it, Sam couldn’t quite believe Ali Stinson chose to be with him. He shook away the residue of doubt and rose to help her with the tray of cups.

“Look what I got.” Ali pulled back the lid of a white box with the outline of a pumpkin etched on the cardboard, revealing an assortment of baked goods.

Trevor’s eyes lit up at the bounty, but Laura’s face crumpled. “We can’t… we don’t have…” she stumbled.

“They came with the coupon.” Ali shared a look with Sam, and he suspected she had guessed the reason for the other woman’s discomfort might be money related. It was a little something Ali was all too familiar with. “I just picked what I thought you might prefer.” She turned to Trevor, who was assessing which was the best selection and pointed to the largest: a huge bear claw of a donut. “I thought you’d like this one.”

Trevor licked his lips. “Thank you.” The boy reached for the donut but paused midair and checked in with Laura. “Mommy, may I?”

Her face softened at the delight of her son’s reaction. “Yes, dear.” She aimed a thank you in Ali’s direction.

Ali waved it off. “Would you share this cream-filled concoction with me?”

Around them, the other patrons of the little café created a cacophony of chatter as the sweet glaze of his donut mixed with the tart apple cider. He placed his arm on the back of Ali’s chair and listened with fascination as she talked with the woman and child. Trevor interrupted now and again to provide his point of view of the topic. Underneath the table, Sam felt the touch of Ali’s hand on his thigh, giving it a light squeeze.

He decided this wasn’t a bad way to pass an afternoon.

When Laura took Trevor to the bathroom to wash his sugar encrusted hands and face, Ali leaned back and rested her head on Sam’s shoulder. “Not quite how I expected to be spending the day.”

He stroked her hair, admiring the silky waves. “Oh, I don’t know. I have a new appreciation for corn mazes now.”

“It was fun for a while.” Sam felt her smile through his sweater and her hand glide over his thigh.

With a soft kiss on her temple, Sam placed his lips near her ear. “I loved every moment.”

“Really?”

“Yup.” He didn’t quite know how to express his feelings about Ali’s graciousness with the mother and child. “You did a good thing here. With Laura.”

Ali shrugged her shoulders. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s not.” Sam stroked her cheek. “I think it means a lot to her. And Trevor is having fun.”

“I just… wanted to make them happy for a bit.”

“Mission accomplished.” Sam brushed his lips against hers. “You make everyone happy.” Ali’s hand lingered on his chest, and he wondered if she could feel his heart overflowing. “Me most of all.”

4 views0 comments