Chapter Thirty-Six

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Walking through the fairgrounds, Jada couldn't help thinking back to when she and Tristan came here. Truthfully, it hurt just to think about Tristan, let alone revisit the places they'd been and the things they'd done together. Yet, Jada had come here anyway. She was drawn to one spot in particular.

Looking up, she took in the massive Ferris Wheel, a circular masterpiece. The lights glimmered at her as the small seats rotated. It was the place where she and Tristan had felt like a real couple for the first time, where they'd shared their first real kiss. Here, Jada had faced one of her greatest fears and overcame it because of him. Because of Tristan's strength, she'd felt...safe. She'd been able to take on anything. Now, she would use the bravery he'd given her one last time.

To say goodbye.

With one last ride, she swore to herself she would let go of the past, of her love for Tristan, of all her hang-ups and fears. One last ride and she would emerge as a new, stronger Jada. She'd be able to fight for her right to participate in Logan's movie and face whatever else may come in life or with Tristan.

"One ticket, please," Jada said to the conductor.

"Make that two," a voice she knew all too well spoke up from behind her.

"Tristan! What are you doing here?" she asked, wheeling around.

"Talking to you," he said simply.

"There's nothing else to talk about." Jada hurriedly took her ticket from the confused toller and climbed into the nearest seat. Before she could put the bar down, Tristan slid in beside her. She didn't get the chance to protest or leave as the conductor pressed the lever, sending them up as the ride started.

"I take it you've talked to Doug," Jada said to Tristan, although she refused to look at him. Instead, she stared out at the vast scenery, the ground slowly falling away from them. However, she didn't mind as much as before. She worried that had to do more with the man beside her than her so-called new bravado.

"Yes, I did."

"Well, I'm taking that role, Tristan. I'm sorry about releasing the video and everything that's happened. I really am, but I'm not giving up this part. No matter what you say or if you try and blackmail me, I--"

"I want you to have it, Jada."

She jerked back in surprise, finally looking at him.

"What?" she asked, puzzled.

"You've earned that role, Jada. You deserve it."

"So you're backing out then?"

"No. We're going to do this together."

"I honestly don't see how that's possible." Nevertheless, her heart beat faster, fluttering with what was sure to be ill-fated hope.

"It's possible if we forgive each other. If we finally put the past in the past and see there's so much more to each other than we thought."

"What are you saying, Tristan?"

"I'm saying there's potential here. I think there's hope for us."

Tristan took her hand, interlacing their fingers. Despite how good and natural it felt, she had to pull away.

"There is no 'us,' Tristan. There never was."

"I thought you might say that," Tristan said, heaving a sigh. With resignation, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the hideous unicorn from the game booth. In shock, she took it from him. It really was ugly, but right now, she clutched onto it, touched.

"I may not believe in unicorns, but I believe in you, Jada Berklee. Because of you, I was able to forgive my mother. Because of you, I've learned love is not a weakness, but a strength. A strength I'm not willing to let go."

Tristan wiped her cheek. It was only then that Jada realized she was crying. As he cradled her face in his hands and looked into her eyes, she knew he was telling her the truth. This wasn't acting. This wasn't pretend. This was love.

"You are my magic, Reina," Tristan said.

Too overcome to speak, Jada leaned forward and kissed Tristan. She hoped it said everything she was feeling because she couldn't do a better job than he just did. When they pulled away, Tristan's gaze conveyed absolute certainty.

"Let's do this for real. No more games or fake dates. No more pretending. Only us."

"I like the sound of that," Jada said, finding her voice. He pulled her close and she rested her head against his shoulder. As the Ferris Wheel continued to spin, they looked out at the enchanting landscape. As the city twinkled far below them, Jada relished in the comforting promise of new beginnings.


*** So, Jada and Tristan have got their HEA (I like to think that Tristan is almost as eloquent as Billy Crystal here) but you guys can still read on for the epilogue.

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