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If Love Had A Price: Epilogue


THREE YEARS LATER

Nate and Kris Reynolds’ wedding was dubbed the Wedding of the Century by the press, bloggers, and gossip rags who followed every detail with breathless anticipation in the months leading up to the big event.

Five hundred of Hollywood’s biggest stars at a castle in Italy! A custom-made Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding dress! A live performance by one of the world’s top music superstars!

Kris read about the wedding so much she was sick of it, and she hadn’t thought that was possible. It got to where Nate had threatened to cut off her access to the Internet if she didn’t stop grousing over everything the idiot outlets got wrong.

First of all, her wedding dress cost $85,000, not $70,000. Second of all, Riley K was definitely not on the guest list, despite Bobbi Rayden’s protests.

In a strange twist of fate, Bobbi was now Nate’s publicist, and she seemed to have forgotten about Kris’s ill-fated summer assistantship. Either that or she overlooked it because Kris was engaged and soon-to-be-married to one of the most famous actors in the world.

Knowing Bobbi, it was the latter.

Kris didn’t begrudge the other woman. She was the one who messed up with the Sabrina Winters shoot, and Bobbi was a shark at her job. When Nate told her about his past as an escort, she’d created five different rock-solid crisis management plans depending on how the news leaked and who the source was.

Thankfully, they hadn’t had to use any of the plans yet, and after seven years, the statute of limitations for prostitution in California had long run out, so they didn’t have to worry about legal ramifications should information about Nate’s past ever leak.

“You look beautiful.” Gemma surveyed her daughter with misty eyes as she cupped Kris’s cheek with her hand. “Absolutely beautiful.”

All thoughts of Bobbi, trashy pop stars, and crisis management flew out of Kris’s head as a lump rose in her throat. “Thanks, Mom.”

The mist in Gemma’s eyes thickened.

It had taken a long time for their relationship to reach the point it was at now. Kris didn’t call Gemma “Mom” until thirteen months after she found out the truth. She’d been happy to have her mother back in her life, but when said mother was not who you thought she was and it was your first time speaking and meeting her in over twenty years…well, they’d had a lot of shit to work out.

Which they had. And now, for the first time in her life, Kris felt like she was part of a complete family.

Her parents had gotten married two years ago in a simple ceremony in the Philippines, where they’d first met. Neither set of Kris’s grandparents was alive, so besides the minister, Kris had been the sole witness, and dammit, she’d cried—tears of joy, but still. It’d been embarrassing.

Now, it appeared she might repeat her imitation of a fountain—she could already feel the pressure building behind her eyes.

“No one cry,” Olivia said on cue. “It’ll mess up your makeup and we don’t have time to retouch it before the ceremony starts.”

Thank God for Olivia Tang.

The pressure receded, and Kris straightened, her heart pounding for a whole different reason. In less than an hour, she’d officially be Mrs. Kris Reynolds, and she was both excited and nauseated. Excited, because hello, she’d hit the jackpot with a husband like Nate, and she loved him so much she wanted to scream it from the rooftops (not that she would—how uncouth). Nauseated, because she was getting married, and after all these years, all the planning, it seemed surreal that she would be someone’s wife.

Kris flashed back to the summer after her junior year of college and wondered where the time had gone. She’d been so young, so brash and confident that she didn’t want or need the opposite sex. That love wasn’t for her and that men were bores, chores, man whores, you named it.

Look at her now, about to walk down the aisle and profess “till death do us part” in front of five hundred people.

Nerves shot through Kris’s veins and rendered her immobile.

“Are you okay?” Gemma asked in Tagalog.

Thanks to lessons from her mother, Kris was proficient if not fluent in the language. She didn’t learn Tagalog for practical purposes—most Filipinos spoke English, even in the Philippines, where English was an official language—but to…connect with her culture, she guessed. Kris had grown up in a wholly Americanized household, and though it’d never bothered her before, she craved a deeper connection with her cultural roots the older she got. Not just the language, but the history, the music, the customs and superstitions—though Kris could’ve done without that last one.

Now, she was paranoid about the number of stairs in any of her houses being divisible by three, which was considered bad luck. She’d had to redo the entire staircase in her and Nate’s new Beverly Hills pad because it’d had twenty-one steps.

“I’m fine,” Kris replied, also in Tagalog. She smoothed a shaky hand over the front of her wedding dress. “Just a little nervous.”

The last part she said in English.

“That’s normal,” Farrah Lin said gently. Like the rest of Kris’s bridesmaids, she wore a buttercup yellow Lela Rose dress in a cut that best suited her body shape. “Before I walked down the aisle, I was so nauseous I thought I would throw up, but when I saw Blake standing there…” A dreamy look overtook her face. “All the nerves disappear, and you only see him.”

“I hope not, because I’m not marrying Blake,” Kris quipped. “Polygamy is not my thing.”

Laughter ripped throughout the suite, and Farrah scrunched her nose with a smile. “Very funny. You know what I mean.”

“I know.” This time, Kris was the one who squeezed Farrah’s arm. “Thank you for being here. All of you.” She gazed around at the other women in the room—her mom; Courtney, her maid of honor; Olivia and Farrah, whom she’d met in Shanghai a lifetime ago and who had, against all odds, stayed two of her closest friends despite time and distance, and Skylar, her soon-to-be sister-in-law, who gazed back at her with a ginormous smile and shimmering eyes.

“Of course we’re here. Like we would miss this.” Courtney’s dark blue eyes lit up with a mixture of love and mischief. “Besides, after your bachelorette party—”

A chorus of groans interrupted her.

“Oh, God. Don’t remind me.” Olivia covered her eyes. “I’ll never be able to look at a lollipop the same way.”

Kris’s wild bachelorette getaway at an adults-only resort in Jamaica was unforgettable for sure—except for all the moments they had forgotten after blacking out from too much alcohol.

Then there were the moments Kris wished she’d forgotten, like The Beach Incident. And the Lollipop Incident. And the—

“I was going to say, after your bachelorette party, we, uh, want to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch.” Courtney cleared her throat. “Anyway, we love you and wish you all the happiness and great sex in the world, minus the lollipops.”

Gemma coughed delicately.

“Sorry, Mrs. C,” Courtney added.

“Do I want to know about the—”

“No,” Kris and her bridesmaids replied at the same time.

Gemma shook her head. “That’s probably for the best.”

“Trust me,” Kris said. “It is.”

After a few more minutes of shooting the breeze and fussing with their hair and makeup, Courtney announced it was time to head down.

This is it.

Kris’s hand trembled as she picked up her wedding bouquet. Her nerves increased twofold, zinging through her body like out-of-control Ping-Pong balls.

They stayed with her as she, her mom, and her bridesmaids made their way to the castle’s grand hall, where the ceremony was being held. Her father, the ring bearer (Nate’s cousin), the flower girl (Kris’s cousin on her father’s side), and Janet, the wedding planner, were already waiting by the closed doors leading into the hall.

Gemma gave her husband a quick kiss and Kris another loving squeeze before she slipped into the hall so she could take her seat in the first row as the mother of the bride.

“Look at you.” Roger clasped Kris’s hands while Janet shuffled them into the order of procession. “My daughter, getting married. I can’t believe it.”

“Don’t cry, Daddy,” Kris warned, her throat tight. “I can’t take that chance. My mascara isn’t waterproof.”

He laughed, though the sound came out more watery than usual. “Understood.” He kissed her cheek. “I love you.”

The tightness increased. “I love you, too.”

Then someone flung the doors open, the chords of the wedding march soared in the great hall, and the wedding party filed out one by one until it was Kris’s turn.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the hall, grateful for her father’s strength by her side. Five hundred pairs of eyes locked onto her as she walked down the long, white-carpeted aisle, but Kris ignored them, her gaze drawn to the only man who mattered.

Nate stood at the altar next to Elijah, his best man. Nate’s golden-brown hair gleamed beneath the lights, and he filled out his black Tom Ford tuxedo so well it should be illegal. His eyes blazed with so much love and adoration Kris couldn’t breathe.

Just like that, her nerves disappeared.

Farrah was right. Kris could only see the man she loved—and she couldn’t believe she’d ever been nervous about marrying him.

When she reached the altar, he flashed that slow, sexy smile of his—the one reserved just for her—and Kris’s bones turned liquid.

And after they said their vows, and the minister proclaimed them husband and wife, and Nate kissed her senseless to a resounding chorus of claps and catcalls, Kris knew, deep within her bones, that everything had turned out exactly the way it was meant to.


THEY HELD the wedding reception on the castle’s enormous grounds, where a mini city of tents, lights, and tables reigned. A good number of guests were fellow Hollywood people, but everyone Nate and Kris cared about was there, too: their families, including Marty, who had stopped dicking around after Nate hit it big and was now one of the most sought-after agents in the biz; Kris’s study abroad friends from Shanghai; MentHer staff with whom Kris had particularly bonded over the years; Risa, the Carreras’ retired L.A. housekeeper, who ran a thriving banana bread business after Nate shouted her out on social. At age sixty-eight, she was the Internet’s favorite baking grandma. Nate’s closest pre-Hollywood friends were in attendance as well, including his best man Elijah and groomsman Will, who’d lent Nate his boat all those summers ago. The boat now belonged to Nate and Kris—Nate had bought it from Will as a five-year dating anniversary present for Kris. He could’ve bought any number of bigger, newer boats, but none of them held the same sentimental value.

Nate also spotted Teague and his family, with whom he’d spent quite a few holidays by now, given how serious Teague and Skylar were. He wouldn’t be surprised if Teague popped the question soon; though Nate would never admit it out loud, he could have a worse brother-in-law than a wave-surfing, plane-flying, computer-hacking film animator.

He’d still break Teague’s face if he hurt Skylar, though.

Teague’s father and Linda had split up two years ago, citing “irreconcilable differences.” Nate wasn’t sure if Steven Collins ever found out about Linda’s indiscretion while they were dating, as neither he nor Roger had clued him in (no one wanted to open that can of worms), but Steven looked so happy with his new girlfriend it didn’t matter.

The reception ran into the early hours of the morning. It was a wild, exultant affair, filled with the expected (Courtney leading a conga line; Kris’s friend Luke Peterson from Shanghai, whom she always complained about for being so “uncouth”, burping out the alphabet to the fascination and disgust of other guests) and the unexpected (Scott West dancing with Susan, the MentHer director; Nate’s father and his girlfriend Diana getting down to the latest Cardi B. hit with surprising skill) but nothing shocked Nate more than the scene he stumbled on when he tried to sneak a private moment with his wife.

Wife.

The word sent all sorts of emotions swirling through his body. When he’d seen Kris walk down that aisle, resplendent and beaming and—dare he say it—teary-eyed, he’d been afraid he would break down himself.

Luckily, he’d spared himself the embarrassment and kept it together throughout the ceremony, the receiving line, the best man and maid of honor toasts, the cake cutting…

Jesus, weddings were long.

As much as Nate appreciated his friends’ and family’s well wishes, he wanted to be alone with his wife. Not to spoil their wedding night, because he wasn’t an asshole, but because he needed a breather from all the people and a moment to connect with Kris.

Ironic how it was their wedding day and yet they’d had less than five minutes alone together so far.

“Where are we going?” Kris laughed as he tugged her closer to the castle, where there were plenty of shrubberies and marble statues to get lost in.

He’d have opted for a room in the castle itself, except there were a zillion stairs leading to the back entrance and the building was a maze.

No one had time for that.

“Wherever Janet can’t find us,” Nate said, naming their highly organized, highly scary wedding planner.

He spotted the pursed-lipped woman out of the corner of his eye and quickened his pace, pulling Kris around the corner just before Janet’s eyes homed in on them.

Kris landed against his chest, and he tightened his arms around her. She glowed beneath in the moonlight, her silk reception dress pouring over her curves like cream, and Nate marveled for the millionth time how lucky he was to have her by his side.

“Hey there, Mrs. Reynolds,” he said, his mouth curling up into a satisfied grin.

She smirked, no doubt spotting the devilish glint in his eyes. “Mr. Reynolds, are you trying to seduce me at our wedding reception? Next to—” She glanced at the statue towering next to them. “A statue of Cupid? Well-played.”

He hadn’t noticed Cupid hovering there like a creeper until now, but whaddaya know, even the gods and castle grounds layout were on his side.

“Of course not.” Nate feigned innocence. “I—”

A sound to their left interrupted him.

Nate’s eyebrows shot up to the sky when Olivia and Sammy tumbled out from the shrubbery on the other side of Cupid, clothes rumpled, hair mussed, and—was that a hickey on Sammy’s neck?

Damn. Go, Sammy.

Nate didn’t know too much about the pair’s backstory, but he did know that they used to date in Shanghai, that they’d broken up the summer after returning to the States, and that they’d hated each other ever since. Nate had witnessed their animosity firsthand several times.

Animosity and sexual tension, he amended.

Though judging by the state of their clothing and their deer-in-headlights expressions when they saw Nate and Kris, that tension had just found a release valve.

“Hello,” Kris said, her voice suspiciously bland. “Nice night for a stroll.”

It was fascinating, watching Olivia and Sammy turn the color of a fire hydrant at the same time.

“Y-yeah.” Olivia took a tiny step away from her ex(?)-boyfriend. “Um, I’m going to rejoin the party. See if…anyone needs help.”

She ran off like a bat out of hell.

Sammy watched her leave, his face grim and hard.

“Everything good?” Nate asked. The other man looked like he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to chase Olivia down for a repeat of whatever they’d been doing or drink himself into a stupor.

“All good.” Sammy flashed a tight smile. “Congrats again, guys. The wedding was beautiful, and the reception is kick ass, but I’m beat so I’m gonna call it a night.” He paused. “If you could, uh, keep this—”

“Don’t worry,” Kris said. “We won’t tell anyone.”

Sammy responded with a quick nod and left for the castle, which doubled as a hotel and where several guests had opted to stay for the wedding weekend.

“Talk about surprises,” Nate said once the other man was out of earshot. “Sammy and Olivia, huh?”

“Part deux in the works.” Kris shook her head. “They’re worse than Blake and Farrah. At least they got over their shit and worked it out. But Liv and Sam have been doing this dance for years, and it’s exhausting. Not that it’s any of my business.”

“Really?” Nate sized up his wife with a suspicious glare. “So you’re going to be hands-off their relationship or whatever they have going on?”

“Until I get bored. Though Liv, ironically, is the biggest meddler out of all of us,” Kris mused, tapping a finger on her chin.

“Says the woman who once paid someone $15,000 to get rid of her father’s fiancée.” Technically $7,500, since Nate hadn’t completed the contract terms, but who was counting?

She gasped. “I can’t believe you’re bringing that up. First of all, that wasn’t meddling—that was protecting my father’s heart and money. Second of all, I happen to know that scheme worked out well for all parties involved.” A short pause. “Except for a certain redhead.”

“Gloria,” Nate remembered. He hadn’t thought of her in years. “Wonder what happened to her?”

Kris hitched a shoulder. “Don’t know. Don’t care. She’s in the past.”

“How enlightened of you,” he teased. He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand, thinking of the day they’d met in the parking lot outside Alchemy. She, icy and guarded. He, wary and defensive. Both with chips the size of glaciers on their shoulders.

How much life had changed since then.

“That deal was the best I ever made,” Nate said. More than any multimillion-dollar movie contract or endorsement for sure, because it’d brought Kris into his life.

“You think so?” She looped her arms around his neck. “Because I think I got the better end of the deal. A couple thousand dollars and you’re mine for the rest of our lives.”

“Damn right.” Nate lowered his head until his forehead rested against hers. “And you’re mine.”

“Always.”

But as they kissed beneath the stars of the Italian countryside, they knew the price of their love wasn’t measured by money but by their hearts.

One’s heart in exchange for the other’s, forever.

It was a helluva deal.


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