Epilogue: Loving Riley

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Gareth's disappearance and eventual return to the set created enough of a stir to bring attention to the movie he and Isobel were filming. It brought fans far and wide to Nashville to catch sight of the two stars outside Base Camp or on location along Music Row.

Searches for Alabama Rain spiked, as did the sales of Conley Brennan's songs. It was a win-win situation for everyone, including Ashe's production company, which, together with Cookie Brennan, reaped profits from the sales of Conley's music and related merchandise.

For Thanksgiving, Ashe suggested that he and Riley share the making of the ultimate shepherd's pie, a slightly different spin on his mother's recipe. Together they came up with slow-roasted smoked, spiced lamb with caramelized onions and cheddar that was a hit during Thanksgiving dinner along with the dishes everyone else brought, especially when paired with they all claimed was the holy grail of ales, 5 AM Red Ale.

The following day, she and Ashe spent hours with her nephews, who came to the condo first before they all went to the park to play until their nanny arrived to take the children home. It was a bittersweet time, though the triplets didn't seem to mind not being at home, and made friends with Ben and Lindsay's little girl, Natalie, who was around the same age. She charmed the boys with her bright red hair and her love of trains instead of dolls.

For the Christmas holidays, Tessa stayed at Riley's apartment to keep Miss Bailey company while Riley and Ashe flew to London where he showed her his favorite places. Though he still kept a small two-bedroom apartment in Hackney, one bedroom rented by a friend who worked as an accountant for a local firm, they stayed at Claridge's hotel while they were in London. They went to plays and met his old friends in pubs, at street fairs and in Hyde Park. Ashe also took her to the usual tourist spots like the London Eye, Notting Hill and the Tower of London, though Riley preferred the days they spent in the various museums. After five days in the city, they traveled to Reeth to spend Christmas at his parents' home, first meeting them in Grassington in time for the Dickens Christmas Fair. Though it was nerve-wracking at first and she found it hard to understand what everyone was saying, Riley enjoyed herself. She fell in love with the Dales where Ashe took her walking each morning. Each night, just before bed, Riley found herself crossing off items on her checklist.

Visit Brontë country—check. See the sights of London—check. Get scared silly at the London Dungeon, courtesy of Ashe's friends—check (though this wasn't as large a checkmark as the rest). Charm the pants off Ashe's parents—check. Fall in love with Rowan, his cheeky niece, whom she knew the triplets would surely get on well with—triple check. Watch Ashe shovel manure—no way.

Riley made the objection herself when his father brought it up, reminding Ashe one morning after breakfast that it was time for him to pay his keep and shovel manure for the locals. And when she voiced her disapproval, his parents stared at her, shock written on their faces. At first, Riley thought she'd offended them, but after a beat, they all looked at each other before bursting into fits of laughter, as if it were a joke played on her all this time.

"I'd never let Ashe do such a thing with thee round, lass. Why does tha think he brought thee?" his father said, or at least, that was what Riley thought he said. Their accents were so thick that Riley figured, sooner or later, she'd have to invest in a dictionary.

Even Ashe was speaking more like his parents. He'd already called her 'lass' more times than she could count, said 'nowt' instead of 'nothing' and once, she absolutely refused to talk to him for a full morning when she thought he called her a cunt when he meant 'couldn't'. That was the problem when a Yorkshireman couldn't be bothered to pronounce the letter 'd' properly, though she figured it out eventually.

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