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Against All Odds: Epilogue


I smooth the front of my dress, brush a flake of mascara away from under my eye, and take a deep breath.

“Rye!” Aidan calls. “We’re going to be late.”

Another deep breath, and then I open the bathroom door.

He’s leaning against the opposite wall, looking hot as hell in his custom tux. Jameson asked Aidan to be his best man, which is kind of fucked up if you ask me, but no one did. Aidan said he doesn’t care, that he’s happy to go along with whatever, and he seems to mean it.

Ever since we arrived at the fancy hotel on the Pacific where his brother is getting married, Aidan has been totally relaxed.

We lounged on the beach yesterday until we had to get ready for the rehearsal dinner, and Aidan smiled through all of it.

Me, on the other hand? I’m a bundle of nerves.

Part of it is that Parker is even more gorgeous than I pictured—perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect smile—and it’s intimidating to know she’s the only other girlfriend Aidan has had. The rest is that despite Aidan’s troubled relationship with his family, I want them to like me. I’d only met his parents once before this weekend, when Aidan graduated in May. It went okay, but it was also awkward.

I’m used to being the girl parents love—studious and reliable. A positive influence. Yet I’m totally out of my depth in Aidan’s world. Or his parents’ world, rather. I’m positive Aidan doesn’t care about any of the things his mom talked my ear off about last night, but she obviously does. And I barely followed any of it.

His whistle, long and low, is what jerks me out of my stress spiral.

This is the first time Aidan has seen the dress I bought for the wedding. It was the most money I’ve ever spent on an outfit before, and worth every penny to see the look on Aidan’s face. The saleswoman told me it was giving Hollywood starlet, which seemed appropriate for the occasion. It’s glitzy and glamorous and low-cut, the detail that Aidan is most focused on. It’s like he’s never seen my boobs before.

“You look…” He exhales. “Wow. There aren’t words, Rye.”

“What a compliment,” I drawl.

I’m mostly teasing him to alleviate my own nerves. The look on his face is already inflating my ego.

“You want compliments?” He stalks closer, toying with the strap on my left shoulder currently holding half the dress up.

I bat his hand away. “You said we were going to be late.”

“I don’t give a shit. They can wait.”

“So can you. We had sex last night.”

I grab my clutch off the dresser, then head for the door. After a lot of grumbling, Aidan follows behind.

“Last night was a long time ago,” he tells me as we walk down the hallway.

I roll my eyes but don’t respond otherwise. A few seconds later, I’m tugged to a stop so abrupt, I almost fall in my heels. At least I know Aidan has excellent reflexes and will probably catch me.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, his green gaze searching.

“I’m…nervous,” I admit.

His eyebrows knit together. “You don’t have anything to be nervous about.”

“We’re going to your brother’s wedding to your ex-girlfriend, which your entire family is attending. This is different from the barbecue at my parents’, Aidan.”

He winces, rubbing the back of his neck. “Your dad was my coach? So that was weird?”

I scoff. “Nice try. This is more awkward, and you know it.”

“I know. If you want to skip it, you can stay in the room. Order room service, go down to the spa.”

As tempting as that sounds, I shake my head. “I’m good. Let’s go.”

He studies my expression, nods, then grabs my hand and pulls me toward the elevator.

The ceremony itself is a blur. It’s held out on a terrace, with the dazzling backdrop of the aquamarine Pacific behind. Then all the guests migrate into a ballroom where the reception is being held.

Uniformed waiters start moving through the crowd, passing out appetizers and glasses of champagne.

I help myself to both as I people watch, waiting for Aidan to appear. He got pulled into photos with his family, and he’s literally the only person I know here. Eating and drinking gives me something to do, at least.

“Hi. I’m Parker.”

I turn to face the blonde woman, trying to mask my surprise. I force a smile, swiping a napkin across my lower lip to make sure I caught any crumbs. I have no idea what half of the hors d’oeuvres are, but everything I’ve sampled has been delicious.

“Rylan,” I say. “Congratulations, on the wedding.”

“You could tell I’m the bride?” Her tone is teasing, but her gaze is sharp as she looks me up and down.

“The white dress was a bit of a giveaway.”

“Right.” Her tone is still light as she tucks a piece of blonde hair behind one ear. The huge diamond on her left hand sparkles under the twinkling lights. “You’re here with Aidan?”

I don’t buy the question she turns the statement into. She saw us sitting together at the rehearsal dinner last night.

“Yes.” I sip some champagne, holding her stare.

Parker stiffens, like she’s realized I know a lot more about her than she knows about me. “Did you go to Holt?”

I don’t miss the sneer as she says the school’s name. I would have guessed she attended a university with a single-digit acceptance rate even if Aidan hadn’t told me so.

“I do go there.”

Parker smiles. “Ah, a younger woman. Aidan is more like Jameson than he thinks.”

My polite expression starts to feel like hardening cement. “I don’t see any similarities.” I pick up my appetizer plate. “I’m sure you have a lot of other guests to greet. Congratulations, again.”

Ex or not, she’s Aidan’s sister-in-law now. If he and I end up having a future together—and I’m really hoping we will—making an enemy of Parker won’t help anything.

I turn to continue down the buffet table.


I spin back around.

It looks like the mask has fallen from Parker’s face. I’m suddenly reminded she’s only a year older than I am. There’s an earnestness to her face that wasn’t there before.

“He’s…special. Don’t take that for granted—the way I did.”

“I won’t,” I tell her, then continue walking.

After dinner ends—a six course meal—the wedding cake gets cut up and distributed.

More drinks.

The dance floor opens up.

Aidan gets sucked into a long conversation with one of his father’s friends. Dances with his mom, and then Parker.

I decide to hit up the bar for a fresh drink.

I’m not annoyed Aidan is dancing with his ex, more impressed. I don’t think I could move past everything that happened between them as entirely as Aidan seems to have. I can see the strain in his expression from here, though. I know today hasn’t been easy for him. That he’s eager to have it all over with.

The bartender passes me another margarita. I take a long sip, then glance at the dance floor again.

“I love her, you know.”

I startle, glancing to the left. Aidan’s brother Jameson—the groom—has appeared. Holding a tumbler of scotch in one hand as he watches Aidan and Parker waltz together. The only words we’d exchanged up until now were simple, brief pleasantries. Jameson talking to me at all, let alone what’s he’s saying, is a shock.

“I’m sure my brother has told you the whole sob story, and that I was the girlfriend-stealing villain in the tale. But truthfully? I saw my shot and I took it. Parker wanted him to be me, but Aidan was never going to end up at Stanford or working for my dad. She thought he loved her enough to change, and she was wrong. So…I took my shot.”

“You fucked over your brother, you mean?”

Jameson’s eyebrows rise when I swear, but his only other reaction is to swirl the liquid in his glass. “I asked her to get coffee on campus to ask her to give Aidan another chance. My parents were worried…he was going off the rails. We spent four hours talking. I asked her out on a date the next day. Took me until she insisted on going to my parents’ place in Vail for Christmas to realize she was trying to make Aidan jealous.”

“So, of course, you proposed.”

He smirks, the similarity to Aidan’s uncanny. “Not for a couple of years. Not until she accepted it was over between them. We all grew up together. I have no clue how she didn’t realize Aidan doesn’t forgive. He’s one hell of a grudge holder. Aside from cheating on him, dating me is the worst thing she could have done.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

Jameson’s gaze remains on the dancing couple. “Because this is the happiest I’ve seen Aidan in a long time. He graduated and got a good job. I looked up that company he’s working for in Seattle. Their market capitalization is decent.”

Aidan started working at a marketing firm in June. He seems to enjoy his job, and he’s undoubtedly the most popular employee in the office. I’m just relieved he’s living only an hour away from Somerville. He could have ended up a lot farther away.

“And because…our relationship sucks. It’s always been bad, but it barely even feels like I have a brother any longer. I had no idea he was any good at hockey—I thought it was just a hobby—until we went to that game and thousands of people were screaming his name. I have no idea how to fix things with him, to make it better than this mess it is now. And I figured…having you not hate me might be a decent start. So…I wanted you to know I’m not a prick who went after his little brother’s ex-girlfriend just because he could. If you want to feel bad for a Phillips brother…the woman I just married doesn’t look at me the way you look at Aidan.”

“If we get married, please come up with a better best man speech,” I tell him.

Jameson laughs. “Like Aidan would ever ask me to stand up with him. He’ll ask one of his hockey buddies.”

Probably true. But Jameson looks morose enough, I don’t say so. I guess part of his plan worked, because I do feel a little bad for him.

I take a sip of margarita, not sure what to say.

The music changes to a tempo I recognize. One that’s noticeably different from the dramatic, sweeping melody that was just playing.

“I love this song,” I tell Jameson.

He half-smiles. “Do you want to dance?”

“Oh. Uh…”

“I got it from here, Jameson.” Aidan appears. The look he gives his brother isn’t hostile, but it’s not friendly either.

“Did you do this?” I ask him as he pulls me out onto the dance floor.

“Maybe.” He grins, then spins me.

We dance through “Brown Eyed Girl” and then the music switches to a slower song. He pulls me against his chest, basically just rocking us back and forth.

“What were you and Jameson talking about?” Aidan asks.

“You, mostly.”


“He was nice.”

“He better have been.”

I lean back and interlock my fingers behind his neck. “What did you and Parker talk about?”

“How dry the cake was.”

“I thought the cake was good,” I say.

“So did I. I mostly just nodded along.” His lips brush my cheek. “Were you jealous? Because if you need a reminder of who I belong to, I’d be happy to fuck you for a few hours…”

“Aidan…” I half-moan, half-reprimand as his mouth moves to the side of my neck.

The dance floor isn’t crowded, but it’s not empty either. There’s an older couple five feet from us.

“Let’s go swimming,” he suggests suddenly.


“We’re right by the ocean. Let’s go swimming.”


“Why not?”

I can think of a dozen reasons. We’re at his brother’s wedding reception. I spent an hour on my hair and makeup. It’s dark out, and there are no lifeguards.

But then I decide…fuck it.

I grab Aidan’s hand and pull him toward the nearest exit.

“Really?” His voice is high and excited, like a little kid’s.

I don’t answer. I just head for the red sign.

It’s warmer out than I was expecting. The sun went down hours ago.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent all day inside the air-conditioned hotel.

At the edge of the stone patio, I pause, reaching down to pick up my heels after I step out of them. Aidan waits for me, tugging at his bowtie and then the top button of his shirt. If we go back to the reception after this, everyone is going to think we snuck off to have sex.

Which is kinda what I wish he’d suggested. The closer I walk to the crashing waves, the more ominous they look. The only light is what’s spilling out of the hotel windows, and it ends about ten feet into the sand. Past that, everything is shadowed shapes. No lifeguard. No spectators. If we get swept out to sea, no one will ever know.

“Second-guessing?” Aidan teases. The wind is ruffling his hair, and my breath stalls in my lungs as I look over at him.

I can’t believe he’s mine.

And he knows me too well, the quirk of his eyebrow telling me he’ll tease me about this later, but he’ll also turn right around if that’s what I decide to do.

“I need you to do my zipper.”

I tuck my hair to the side and out of the way, then turn so my back is facing him. The warmth of his hands appears a few seconds later, finding the tiny closure at the top and then tugging down the zipper. He doesn’t stop after a few inches. He pulls it down as far as it’ll go, then kisses the top of my spine before stepping away.

“Thanks,” I murmur, stepping out of the dress and folding it carefully before dropping it onto the sand.

Fuck, Rylan.”

I smile before straightening, knowing he’s spotted the lingerie I splurged on to wear under the dress. I paid a lot of money for practically nothing. The black scalloped lace is totally transparent, the same consistency as a veil. I was terrified it would tear, pulling it on. “What?”

“You know what.” His hands find my hips and then tug me back into him. “You’ve been wearing this the whole time?”

“No. I changed into it on the way out here,” I say sarcastically.

He spanks me and I moan, shamelessly grinding my ass against his growing erection.

“I love you so fucking much, baby.” His mouth finds the sensitive spot just below my jawline, sucking gently as he palms my tits roughly.

I sink back against Aidan, drunk on his proximity. As soon as he touches me, I have a tendency to forget there’s a world beyond him. He’s intoxicating in the best way.

The first fireworks scare the shit out of me.

The sound echoes like a gunshot, the explosion of color turning the sand and the water pink in addition to the sky. I glance up, wishing I hadn’t left my phone at the table so I could snap a photo.

Aidan looks up too. “Fucking typical,” he grumbles. “The wedding wasn’t enough of a spectacle?”

I pull out of his grasp and run toward the water, knowing he’ll follow. I splash through the shallows, the salty water stinging my skin.

I’m not even waist deep when I hear him behind me.

A strong arm wraps around my waist and then I’m spinning, colliding with his bare chest. Getting naked fast is a talent of his.

“I’ll always chase you,” he tells me gruffly.

Impulsively, I kiss him.

Fireworks are still going off overhead, and this feels like one of those rare, romantic moments to take advantage of.

Aidan growls, his hands cupping my ass and lifting me so my feet are no longer on the sandy bottom. I wrap my legs around his waist, digging my fingers into his shoulders as I fuse our mouths together.

Aside from our underwear, we’re both totally naked. His lips leave my mouth to work their way down my neck. I’m pretty sure he’s going to leave a hickey.

“You want to?” I ask.

“Rye, don’t ever ask me if I want to fuck you. The answer is always going to be yes.”

I feel him then, peeling the wet lace away from my pussy and pushing inside of me. He goes slow, letting me adjust to the awkward angle and different surroundings.

Waves are rolling past us.

Another burst of fireworks lights up the sky overhead.

“This is a first,” he tells me.

I smile. “Yeah?”


“Tell me your review tomorrow.”

His laugh vibrates through his chest.

We’re back in the water, under the stars, just like the first night we met. But I could be anywhere in the world with Aidan, and I know it’ll feel like this.

Like home.


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