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Happily Never After: Chapter 51


One year later

“IF ANYONE HERE knows of any reason why these two should not be married—”

“I do!”

I glanced at Max as he stood there, beside me, looking as unbothered as ever while the murmurs started rolling through the rows of guests.

“Um, sir . . . ?” the pastor asked questioningly, looking unsure of how to proceed.

“I do, too!”

I grinned at Max, and it was hard not to laugh.

We turned around, and there were Larry and Rose, standing in the fifth row from the front, grinning like they were hilarious as the rest of the guests looked absolutely confused. It was a small ceremony, with around thirty people seated on the rooftop of our building, white lights strung everywhere like we were surrounded by a curtain of low-hanging stars.

Larry was dashing in his powder-blue tuxedo from “yesteryear” that he considered “retro-chic” (it wasn’t), and Rose had opted for a long white dress to “give me a run for my money.”

“What’s the reason?” Max asked, giving Larry a look. “Sir.”

“The reason,” Rose said, giggling with the most adorable smile on her face, “is that you’re too perfect together and it makes the rest of us look bad.”

“Sit down,” I said, blowing her a kiss as they obliged.

Now knowing it was a joke, everyone else got a good laugh, and we got back to the ceremony.

Our wedding ceremony.

Because as it turned out, love was actually real.

It wasn’t a trick at all, but more like this amazing thing that was mislabeled a shocking amount of the time, leading to endless confusion and piles of unhappiness.

They really needed to fix that.

But the truth was that if you looked hard enough and didn’t die from the disappointments along the way, the real thing was out there.

Which was why, when I looked into Max’s eyes and said, “I do,” I didn’t even have to cross my fingers.

It was also why, when he slid the stunning amber and diamond ring on my finger that he’d chosen because it reminded him of my eyes, I was allowed to cry happy tears.

The reception was basically just cigars and whiskey on the rooftop with a DJ playing some music in the background, and it was perfect. My parents looked way less stressed than they had after the Stuart wedding, and Asha gave the maid of honor toast she’d been destined to deliver but was denied the first time. Edie was there with her wife, Carmen, both happily living the retired life, as were Max’s parents, who’d been official residents of the great state of Florida for just under a year.

And yes, I got the VP job.

Our plan worked perfectly.

As an added bonus, Stuart resigned the day after I got promoted because, according to his exit interview, he “knew his days were numbered.”

Which was funny because we were in different departments; I couldn’t have done anything to him if I’d wanted to.

And I hadn’t wanted to.

Everything was magically, wonderfully perfect.

“Sophie,” Larry yelled, rushing over when Max and I were just about to cut the cake.


“We’ve got a little problem,” he said, lowering his voice.

“What is it?” I asked, catching the this-can’t-be-good look that Max shot me as he picked up the cake knife.

“Rose wants to have someone over at our place tonight, and she doesn’t want him to know she lives with a man.”

“So . . . ?” When I’d told Larry and Rose I was moving in with Max a few months ago, I assumed they would be devastated. Instead, they told me they’d been counting the days until I left, because apparently, I cramped their style.

And they hated Karen and Joanne.

“So can I crash at your place tonight?”

“Hell, no,” Max said, looking at him like he was out of his mind. “It’s our wedding night, Einstein.”

“So?” Larry said, giving Max an arm smack. “You’ve lived together for months. Be real, it’s just another Saturday night.”

“The answer is yes,” I said, giving Max a look. “But only because I’ve made other accommodations for us tonight.”

“I thought you wanted to stay here.” Max had tried to convince me to go to a hotel with him until we left for our honeymoon in two days, but I’d insisted we stay at home.

Because I was planning something else entirely.

“That’s what I wanted you to think,” I said, leaning into him a little. “Now cake me.”

He stepped closer, his eyes getting that amused squint that was my third favorite thing about him (the first two were wildly inappropriate). “I’m never going to be bored, am I?”

“Not a chance, Objector.”


“Stop.” Sophie laughed and smacked my hand, which was pawing at the top of her dress. “Your aim is pretty impressive, though.”

“When can I take off this blindfold, Mrs. Steinbeck-Parks?” I reached out again but only touched air this time.

“One sec.” I heard a zipper—yes, God—and some rustling before she said, “Okay—now.”

I felt her move behind me, untying the bandanna she’d insisted I wear since the minute we left the rooftop.

The fabric slipped away, and for a hot second, I didn’t know where we were because it was dark, the only light being the massive amounts of candles that appeared to be everywhere.

But then my eyes adjusted.

“Holy shit.” I looked around, my eyes taking in the beams and concrete as I turned in a circle. We were at the Orchid Hotel, the first project I’d been awarded since being promoted to president of Parks Construction—and my current obsession. The hotel was originally built in 1915 and was on the National Register of Historic Places, and we were restoring every bit of it to the tune of $75 million, right down to the hand-carved terra-cotta columns and over eight hundred windows. I spent more time here than I did at home sometimes, but Sophie loved it, too. “Holy shit, Soph.”

“You like?”

I turned in the other direction, and there she was, sitting on a white-draped mattress in the center of the space, looking stunning in candlelight and—fuck me—some very transparent white lace. I walked toward her, totally blown away by the whole package. “I can’t believe you did this.”

She shrugged. “Why not christen our marriage in the very honeymoon suite that you’re bringing back to life?”

I narrowed my eyes and looked at the raw space. “This is the honeymoon suite?”

“Correct.” She reached down beside the makeshift bed and grabbed a bottle of champagne from the floor.

“How did you know that?” I asked, stopping in front of her and taking the bottle from her hand.

Her eyes looked bright as she smiled up at me and said, “Because you showed me the plans.”

I turned the bottle away and popped it, feeling absurdly, ridiculously, under-the-influence-of-something-illegal happy as I looked down at my bride. “And you remembered.”

“And I remembered,” she said, leaning back on her elbows and watching the liquid flow out of the bottle.

“Have I ever told you that you’re my goddamn favorite person?” I held up the bottle so it didn’t spill as I put a knee on the mattress and climbed over her.

“You have,” she said, getting that look on her face as she reached out a hand and tilted the bottle the tiniest bit, so the bubbly liquid dampened the top of her lacy camisole and made it completely see-through. “But why don’t you show me instead?”

“God, I love you so much,” I said, nearly ripping off my jacket in my enthusiasm to toast my beautiful wife.

“I love you, too,” she replied, then squealed as I proceeded to “accidentally” spill a little more bubbly in my quest to get obscenely intoxicated on my wife’s wedding champagne.

There was literally nothing in our life that I would ever object to ever again.


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