Rory glanced across the living room at her mother. Lorelai was upright, but that was all that could be said for her state of consciousness as she leaned against the arm of the sofa, her eyes closed and her chin tilted downward. Rory knew she was desperate for a bit more girl time, but the combination of too little sleep and a hectic day at the inn, followed by an emotional evening, had taken their toll on Lorelai. Sleep was winning out.
"Mom, you should go to bed," Rory said. Paul Anka lifted his head from the floor at Lorelai's feet, but Lorelai didn't react. She tried again, slightly louder. "Mom."
Lorelai jerked awake. "I'm up."
"No, you're not. You need to go to bed."
"But it's only ten-forty-five. We were going to hang out some more and watch the rest of the last movie—"
"Which we've already seen. We hung out all afternoon and yesterday afternoon and last night we watched movies until almost two, which is why you're falling asleep now. You were at the inn by eight this morning. That isn't enough sleep."
Lorelai yawned. "I had to make sure everything was perfect. I couldn't have the Wicked Witch of West Hartford complaining about the Dragonfly."
"Well, as far as I know, she had no complaints. She couldn't stop raving about Sookie's food and how charming the Dragonfly is and how she plans to recommend it to all her friends."
"More business is always good," Lorelai said. "But I'm sure she'll take credit for discovering us."
"No doubt," Rory said. "You need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is—"
"A big day. You need your rest for tomorrow, too."
"I'll go to sleep soon. But, remember, while you were at the inn this morning making sure everything was perfect, I was here in bed." Rory glanced at her watch. "And I'm not entirely adjusted to this time zone yet."
"I can stay up a little longer," Lorelai said. "Just let me take Paul Anka out first."
"Already done. He and I went out while you were falling asleep on the sofa," Rory said. "Please just go to bed. I'll take care of everything down here."
Lorelai dragged herself up from the sofa, slipping her feet back into the high-heeled shoes she'd kicked off next to the sofa. As she walked past Rory, she reached down and placed a hand on her cheek and kissed the top of the head. "It was a good night, wasn't it?"
"Love you, kid." Lorelai paused. "Maybe I shouldn't call you that now that you're all grown up."
Rory smiled, trying to hold back the tears she once again felt rising in her eyes. She had been feeling sentimental since she'd arrived in Stars Hollow two days earlier. "I'm still your kid."
"I just hate to think of you down here all alone. You're sure you're okay?"
"Yep, definitely okay." Rory stood up, grabbed Lorelai by the elbow, and led her toward the stairs, with Paul Anka close behind. "You don't need to babysit me, and a little quiet time to decompress is probably a good thing. I'll just read until I feel sleepy. You. Upstairs. Now."
"Getting a little bossy there, aren't we, Paris?" Lorelai asked.
"Please, I have a long way to go before I'll come close to a Paris level of bossiness."
"Oh, I know that. I heard her tell one of the servers he filled her water glass too slowly. Poor guy was terrified of her. Medical school really has not mellowed her at all."
"You don't really think anything will mellow Paris, do you? She may not be Chilton Paris anymore, but I think it's safe to say we won't see any significant personality changes at this point."
"I thought a couple of cocktails might help," Lorelai said.
Rory grinned. "Oh, my silly mommy. Alcohol does not help with Paris. Have you forgotten the Founder's Day Punch incident?"
"How could I? The pretzel cart has never been the same. Not one of Paris' finer moments. Or yours, for that matter. I seem to recall a great deal of crying over Logan on the bathroom floor."
"Really? I remember very little from that experience."
"I'm not surprised," Lorelai said. "You were...how shall I put it...drunk off your ass."
"Thanks for the reminder. At least that was the one and only time I ever ended up passed out on the bathroom floor," Rory said. "Hard to believe that was five years ago."
A sad smile crossed Lorelai's face. "Seems like yesterday to me. My baby's not a baby anymore." She shook her head. "I can't stop thinking about the morning you left for the Obama campaign. I feel like I should have some great wisdom to impart, and I'm coming up short."
"Mom, I think I'm doing as well as can be expected when it comes to wisdom these days. Besides, this isn't the same as that morning. I was leaving then. I know Manhattan isn't exactly Stars Hollow, but you're going to be seeing a lot more of me. You'll probably get sick of me."
"Never," Lorelai said, pulling Rory into a hug. "California was just too far away."
"Well, I'm sure I'll be around a lot this summer. The freelance jobs I have lined up so far won't take up all my time until classes start in the fall."
"So I can parade you around Stars Hollow and brag about my daughter the Columbia graduate student." Lorelai yawned. "Sorry. I guess I am kind of exhausted. You're sure you'll be okay if I go to bed?"
"I'll be fine. See you in the morning, just not too early. I'm going to try to sleep in if I can."
"Well, if you're sure," Lorelai said. "Good night, hon. Come on, Paul Anka. Your doggy bed awaits."
After Lorelai and Paul Anka disappeared upstairs, Rory made sure the front door was locked, an action that caused another rush of the nostalgia she'd felt since arriving in Stars Hollow. Checking the doors had always been part of her nighttime routine. It's not that the town was a hotbed of criminal activity—in truth, the scariest thing to ever wander in uninvited was Kirk—but too much Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger at an inappropriately early age had made it impossible for Rory to rely on her mother's laissez-faire attitude toward home security. Then there was the fact that Rory had simply been born cautious. She often wondered about the genetic mutation that had prevented her from inheriting her parents' spontaneity, and once even confessed to Logan her fears that her inherent wariness made her a little boring and predictable. He told her she was crazy, that no matter how careful she was in her life, nothing about Rory Gilmore was boring or predictable. Hadn't she surprised him by kissing him first? And convinced him to help her steal a yacht? Logan believed that one of the reasons their relationship worked was because her circumspect nature balanced out his tendency to act impulsively. He convinced her to jump off scaffoldings, while she taught him the benefits of a well-constructed pro-con list. Exactly, she thought, boring.
Rory switched on the desk lamp in her old bedroom before changing from her blue silk dress to a faded t-shirt, a remnant of Logan's brief stint at Groton that had made its way into Rory's pajama drawer during their New Haven years. She washed her face and brushed her teeth in the tiny downstairs bathroom, then propped herself against the pillows on her old bed and flipped on her Kindle, hoping a few chapters might lull her to sleep, but after reading the same paragraph three times, she was ready to give up. Her mind was too wired to concentrate on the words, which in itself was odd: Rory's ability to focus on a book, in any environment, was legendary. Maybe Lorelai was right. With so much was happening, changing, in her life, maybe Rory shouldn't be alone. She glanced around the small, cozy room. Despite the familiar furniture and a few Nancy Drews, Anne Shirleys, and a dozen or so other children's books still residing on the highest shelf, little remained to remind Rory that the space had once been her private haven. The rest of her belongings—the bulk of her book collection, her knickknacks, photos and posters, Yale memorabilia, the odds and ends of her childhood—had been boxed and shipped to California, stored in Lorelai's attic, or tossed out two years ago.
Sitting alone in the quiet of her mother's house, in her beloved Stars Hollow, Rory thought about the little girl who had spent countless hours in this tiny bedroom, reading about faraway lands and dreaming of the adventures she'd have when she grew up. She wondered how that girl would feel about her life now and couldn't shake the nagging doubt that her twelve-year-old self would be disappointed that she had not—and probably never would—become a foreign correspondent. Twenty-five-year-old Rory wasn't disappointed. She'd made a few wrong turns along the way, but in general she felt satisfied with the choices she'd made and the path she found herself on. Besides, she told herself, few people ended up living the life they envisioned as children. Dreams change. Unknown passions and talents are discovered. True love arrives a good decade sooner than expected. Not to mention, kid, that as much as we like visiting new places, we found out we really, really hate living out of a suitcase. Stars Hollow had been home for a long time. For a while, home was New Haven and, later, Palo Alto. Very soon, Rory hoped, Manhattan would feel like home, but a sterile hotel room never could.
Rory had been surprised by how quickly she took to California. It was more than just being with Logan. From those first heady days after their Christmas reconciliation, Rory had felt comfortable in his apartment with its distant views of the Stanford campus, and after the cold autumn months in Iowa, she had appreciated the mild California climate, the coffee drinking on University Avenue, the multiple bookstores within walking distance, though the truth was they'd spent most of their time during her visit in the apartment. They had attended a New Year's Eve party hosted by of one of Logan's business partners where Rory had charmed his co-workers and their families just as she had endeared herself to the Life and Death Brigade when she'd entered that world, but they had decided to greet 2008 in private and had been home by the time midnight rolled around. After seven months apart, they felt little inclination to be around anyone but each other.
The long-distance relationship had worked for a while. For one thing, the time difference was more manageable. At most, Rory was three hours ahead of Logan, which was much easier to navigate than the constant five hours that had separated London and New Haven. They re-established a routine of two daily phone calls, along with as many texts and e-mails as they had time to send; however, unlike the London separation, they agreed never to go more than one month without seeing each other, even if it were only one day, and they took advantage of all opportunities for more frequent visits. Logan met Rory in Chicago during the first week of February and surprised her with an unexpected Valentine's Day visit in Wisconsin. Other trysts—as Rory had insisted on calling their rendezvous—occurred in exotic locations like Indianapolis and Charlotte, but Rory preferred going to California when she could. She found she was able to relax in Logan's apartment far better than she could on the road and relished sleeping in a bedroom that didn't require a keycard for entry. Logan teased her that she really visited for the chance to use a washing machine that had not recently contained the underwear of a stranger with questionable hygiene.
Still, the situation was far from ideal. While Rory and Logan were determined to survive their months apart, the question of how long Rory would remain on the campaign trail became a source of tension. She had hoped her job satisfaction would improve once she was happier in her personal life, but no matter how many weeks passed, November seemed far in the future and life on the road was draining. Logan tried to be supportive. He promised himself he would not influence Rory's decision concerning her job, but his patience waned as Rory's complaints increased. Discussions on the topic rarely progressed to arguments, with the exception of one memorable exchange that had occurred via text message as Rory rode the campaign bus. She had put an abrupt end to the near-fight with a deliberately absurd attempt at writing "butt-faced miscreant" in text speak, and they had laughed about it on the phone later that night, but their time apart and Rory's unhappiness with her job continued to cause conflict.
As much as Rory had disliked the tedium of the campaign and the separation from Logan, she also hated the idea of quitting on Hugo. Hugo had been supportive of her writing since Logan introduced them, and he hired her when she was beginning to fear no one would. The other problem was her mother. Lorelai had given every appearance of being supportive of Rory's rekindled relationship with Logan—she had said nothing about Rory's sooner than expected exit from Stars Hollow to follow him to California for New Year's—but the idea that Rory would quit her job to be with him did not sit well with Lorelai. She feared a move to Palo Alto would limit Rory's career options. Rory countered that she would simply be leaving a job she didn't like, and with Logan already settled in his career, it made sense for her to at least give West Coast living a try, whether she made the change in the spring or waited until after the election. It wasn't like Palo Alto was located in a newspaper-free zone.
With her heart and her head in conflict, Rory avoided making a choice, at least until the rapidly weakening economy made the decision for her. The number of candidates actively campaigning for president had dropped to four by March, considerably reducing Hugo's workforce, but by May, with his advertising revenue shrinking, Hugo determined he could not afford to keep more than two full-time reporters on the road. Rory had been flattered to be his first choice to handle the Democrats, but after eleven long, exhausting months, she saw an opportunity for a graceful exit. She declined the offer, allowing Bradley Gumbleton, he of the unfortunate name and missing appendix, to handle the Obama and Clinton campaigns. With excellent references, Rory packed up her life in Stars Hollow and followed her heart to Palo Alto. She settled into Logan's apartment and began the process of finding a job.
When a new position didn't come quickly, Rory questioned the logic in quitting one job before finding another, but thanks to Hugo's invitation to freelance for him, she managed to keep busy. Living in a college town as she struggled with unemployment inspired Rory to investigate how 2008's graduating seniors were faring with the anxieties of an uncertain job market, and her interviews with students and career counselors at Stanford, Berkeley, and a handful of other Bay Area colleges turned into a three-article series on Hugo's website that impressed the editors of the San Jose Mercury News, a newspaper that didn't have quite the circulation or name recognition as the San Francisco Chronicle, but was a shorter commute from Palo Alto. Rory accepted their job offer in mid-June of 2008 and had remained their main education reporter until four days ago when she filed her final story.
Rory glanced at her laptop on the desk. Other than replies to a few e-mails, she hadn't written anything since she left California. Reading wasn't an adequate distraction for her overactive mind; perhaps writing things down would help. It had been a long time since she'd poured her heart out in the Logan files. Those soul-bearing letters had been her crutch, the only thing that allowed Rory to make some sense of her jumbled emotions during those lonely seven months without Logan and, ultimately, became the catalyst that brought him back to her. Her current anxiety was nothing like that heartbreak, but writing had always been cathartic for Rory. On the other hand, as sentimental as Rory was feeling, she was afraid if she started writing, she might write all night.
Before she could decide what to do, Rory was startled by a sharp knock on the window behind her bed. She whipped her head around to find Logan smiling at her through the glass. With a scowl, she reached over the headboard to unlock the window and push it up.
"Are you trying to give me a heart attack? You scared me to death." Rory feigned anger, but she couldn't hold back a smile.
Logan shrugged. "Sorry. I didn't want to ring the bell in case Lorelai was asleep. Other than the porch light, your light is the only one on in the house."
Rory sat back on the bed with her legs tucked under her. "And if my light had been off? What would you have done then?"
"Called your cell. I knew you couldn't be asleep yet. It's only a little past eight in California."
Rory frowned and shook her head. "You're lucky Babette didn't see you skulking around the yard and call the police."
"I wasn't worried. I'm very stealthy," Logan said. "If she spotted me, I was going to assume the position of a garden gnome."
Rory's eyes widened in amusement. "Now that I'd like to see. Seriously, Logan, what are you doing here? Because if you think you can climb through my window and have sex with me, I'm afraid you are sadly mistaken."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Logan said with a snicker.
"Last I heard you were off for a nightcap with Colin and Finn. By the way, when did Colin start using words like 'nightcap'?"
"It's the law degree. He's reached a whole new level of pretension. And I did have one drink with them at Kacey's before I realized I've spent the last two days with Colin and Finn, and as much as I treasure their friendship, I wanted to spend some time with my girl."
"And apparently give her a heart attack."
"No, I just miss you."
Rory's eyes narrowed. "Logan, you kissed me good night like an hour ago."
"I know, and tonight was great, but I feel like we haven't had more than a few minutes alone since we got off the plane Wednesday morning. It's a beautiful night. The moon is full—"
"That was last night."
"Close enough. Come outside with me."
"Now? Are you drunk?"
Logan scowled. "No, I'm not drunk. When's the last time you saw me drunk?"
"It's been a while." Rory wrinkled her brow in concentration. "Probably that afternoon at the poolside bar in Kauai."
"Uh, no, sweetie, that was you after one too many of those blue cocktails with the little umbrellas."
Rory shrugged. "They were really good, but I was not that drunk."
"You threatened to take off your bikini top when we went down to the beach."
"I was joking!"
"Not that I would have minded because, you know, when it comes to Rory Gilmore and nakedness, definitely a fan here, but there were children on that beach, Ace. You might have gotten us kicked out of the resort."
"I was not going to take off my top!"
"Whatever you say." Logan winked. "I do remember it coming off rather quickly once we got back to our room."
"And, as I recall, you had no problem with that," Rory said.
"None whatsoever. But, back to my original point, I have not been good and truly drunk in a very long time. You know I'm all about the clean living these days. My wild partying days are behind me."
"Wow, twenty-eight years old and such a grown up."
Logan sighed. "Happens to the best of us."
"Of course I don't know what you guys were up to last night."
"Yes, you do. I told you everything we did. At most, there was some mild inebriation when we were at Fenway," Logan said. "Very mild. I wasn't even hungover this morning."
"Well, maybe I'll get you drunk on cocktails with little umbrellas in them next week."
"If that's what you want, knock yourself out," Logan said. "Come on, Ace. Come outside. Just for a little while. Please?"
Rory saw the earnest look in Logan's brown eyes. "But I'm ready for bed."
"All you need are some pants, shoes, and a coat. I know it will be hard, but step away from the Kindle and come outside with me."
Rory smiled. "But I so love my Kindle." Logan had surprised her with the gift before they left for their Hawaiian vacation in October.
"Even though you still feel like you're cheating on your books."
"Shush!" Rory turned and pointed to the top bookshelf. "They don't need to know I'm so fickle with my affections. It'll hurt their feelings."
Logan smiled and shook his head. "You are very cute, my dorky little bookworm."
"Hey! You read as much as I do. Maybe more."
"Well, I have to do something when you make me watch Grey's Anatomy."
"But it's just so mockable." Rory made a little snort. "Ridiculous Post-it marriage. That may be the dumbest thing they've ever done on that show, which is really saying something since they once had Izzie perform surgery on a deer."
"Don't forget she also had sex with a hallucination of her dead boyfriend." Logan groaned. "I can't believe I just said that. See what you've done to me? You'd better come outside now before I express an opinion on Lexie's love life. My masculinity is on the line."
Rory folded her arms and looked at Logan with pursed lips. "I'm not climbing through the window."
Logan smiled in triumph. "Meet you on the front porch."
Rory closed the window and climbed off her bed, then put on the jeans and sneakers she'd worn earlier in the day before scribbling a quick note for Lorelai. In the unlikely event that Lorelai came downstairs, Rory didn't want her to think she'd been abducted. She turned on a table lamp in the living room, grabbed an old jacket of Lorelai's from the coat rack, and slipped outside as quietly as possible.
The day had been cloudless and warm, a textbook spring day, but the air had chilled after sunset, and Rory shivered and zipped up the jacket as she stepped off the porch. Silver moonlight glimmered through the trees as they quivered in the light wind, casting ghostly shadows that seemed to dance upon the lawn, and only the rhythmic chirping of crickets and the mournful bark of a dog on a nearby street broke the peaceful silence. Rory spied Mitchum's Range Rover parked along the road, but there was no sign of Logan.
"Logan?" she whispered. "Where are you?"
From behind the bushes next to the steps, an arm snaked around Rory's waist and twirled her around. Logan silenced Rory's startled gasp with his lips.
After a lingering kiss, Logan gazed into Rory's eyes. "Nice night," he said.
"It'd be nicer if you didn't appear to be trying to give me a heart attack."
"Now why would I want to do that?"
"I don't know. Changed your mind, maybe?"
"Nope. And you, my dear, look particularly stunning in the moonlight."
"Why, thank you, sir," Rory said. "I always think the full moon makes it look like the whole world is trapped in a black-and-white movie. You know, if you're in the countryside away from any artificial light and you stare at the moonlit landscape long enough, everything will start to look blue. It's called the Purkinje shift. That's why cinematographers sometimes use blue filters during night scenes."
Logan chuckled. "That brain of yours never rests, does it?"
"Not often. It's kind of exhausting."
Logan dropped another quick kiss on Rory's lips, then turned and pulled her flush against his side with his arm around her waist and led her across the dewy grass toward the road.
"Where are we going?" Rory stopped. "Do we need a flashlight?" Rory looked Logan up and down. He wore his suit from dinner, although his tie was gone and his collar was unbuttoned. "And you're not exactly dressed for a walk."
"Relax. We don't need a flashlight. Not under that moon, and walking around Stars Hollow is not exactly hiking the Appalachian Trail. I mean, unless Taylor rolls up the town's sidewalks at eleven."
Rory smirked. "He waits until midnight on weekends."
"Then let's see what this crazy old town of yours looks like under a full moon."
"Or we could just see what the yard looks like from the porch," Rory said. "I wouldn't want you to get a blister from those shoes."
"Oh, is that why you don't want to go for a walk?" Logan grinned. "Okay, lead the way, lazybones."
Rory stuck her tongue out at Logan, then took his hand and pulled him up the steps and across the porch to the sofa beneath the living room windows.
"See how comfy this is?" she asked. "I used to sit out here and read."
"It's very nice." Logan put his arm around Rory, and she rested her head on his shoulder. "So, Ace," he said, his voice low. "Do you know what tomorrow is?"
Rory shrugged. "May 29."
"Yes, I'm aware of what year it is. What else?"
"Okay, but is there anything special about this particular Saturday?"
Rory lifted her head from Logan's shoulder and looked at him with a playful curve to her lips. "Well, let's see, it's the birthdate of Patrick Henry, John F. Kennedy, and Bob Hope. And Annette Bening, which Paris thinks is kind of fitting."
"She isn't still calling me Warren Beatty, Jr., is she?"
Rory giggled. "Not to your face. Tomorrow is also Rhode Island and Wisconsin Statehood Day, International Jazz Day—"
"Ace, you're scaring me with all this random knowledge."
"And the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers and National Coq au Vin Day. But it's not so random. I googled the date. I was curious to know what important world events or observances fell on it."
"Right. Because National Coq au Vin Day is so crucial." Logan tapped his finger on the tip of Rory's nose. "And the reason we're so curious about this particular date?"
"Oh, I don't know," Rory said, a smile on the corners of her mouth. "Maybe because it's also the day that Rory Gilmore is going to marry Logan Huntzberger."
"It's about time."
"Hey, don't look at me. You're the one who waited more than two years to propose again. I would have said yes ages ago."
"You're forgetting I was sure you'd say yes the first time I asked. Can't blame a guy for being a little gun-shy."
Just as they had when Paris kicked Rory out of her apartment, she and Logan had settled into an easy, comfortable cohabitation after she left the campaign trail. They had always tolerated each other's quirks well, and while that didn't mean they were immune to the odd spat over the irritations of everyday life, they had never been one of those couples who argued for the sake of arguing or as some twisted form of foreplay. After suffering through the misery of seven months apart and five more of long distance, they were simply happy to be together. Logan's company continued to thrive, though he cut back on his time at the office, and Rory enjoyed her job at the Mercury News. While they were content on most weeknights to cook dinner together or order takeout before settling down with their laptops if they had work to do or in front of the DVR if they didn't, they made an effort to experience all the culture and dining the Bay Area had to offer on weekends, often in the company of new friends in Palo Alto or family and old friends visiting from Connecticut. Following a lengthy negotiation, Logan even consented to attend the occasional musical or play in exchange for Rory's company at a baseball game or other sporting event—without a book in her purse—and he had been pleasantly surprised when Rory came to appreciate short hikes in the Stanford Dish or the Baylands. (Alas, his attempt to introduce her to the joys of bicycling failed: "Logan, Gilmores only participate in sports if the outfits are cute, and those helmets and the funny shorts are most definitely not.") Yet, despite numerous conversations beginning with "after we get married" or "someday when we have kids," a timeline for those events was never discussed. It seemed they had an unspoken agreement to leave that aspect of their future undefined.
That had finally changed during their Hawaiian vacation. Other than an occasional long weekend in Napa, Monterey, or other nearby West Coast destinations, all of Rory and Logan's vacations had been spent in New England. Logan understood Rory's need to go home, and if pressed, would admit he didn't mind their visits with family and friends. He missed Honor and didn't want to be a stranger to his adorable baby nephew. They enjoyed their time with Christopher and Gigi, and Logan and Lorelai had become better friends since their early Christmas morning heart-to-heart in the kitchen. They had even shared the occasional drama-free meal with Mitchum and Shira. Still, as much as he enjoyed the family visits, Logan longed to take Rory away for a real vacation, something similar to the Christmas they'd spent together in London during her final year at Yale. He didn't think two days in Stars Hollow followed by five days in Martha's Vineyard with Honor, Josh, and a then fifteen-month-old James the previous July counted as a romantic getaway.
Which was why Logan had been prepared for an argument when he suggested a week in Hawaii to celebrate Rory's twenty-fifth birthday. He researched the trip thoroughly before mentioning it to her and had an entire list of reasons why they should go, but it had taken only one look at the website of the resort before Rory agreed to the trip.
"Have I thanked you for bringing me here?" Rory had asked, as they looked at the waves crashing against the white sands on their third night in Kauai. She sat cross-legged on the blanket, thankful that she'd worn a flowing sundress to dinner, and leaned into Logan.
"Several times." Logan dropped his right arm around her waist.
"This is definitely my best birthday ever."
"Your birthday isn't for two days."
"I know, but everything so far has been perfect. The resort is amazing. The luau, the helicopter tour...everything has just been incredible, and, come on, the coffee plantation today? Heaven on earth for a Gilmore."
"I thought you'd like it."
"Like it? I loved it. And you were so right that we needed to see Waimea Canyon in person. The views when we were standing on the rim of the canyon were even more spectacular than what we saw from the helicopter. This island is just...I don't think I've ever been anywhere so beautiful. Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as Kauai?" Rory pointed toward the western sky. "Just look at that sunset, Logan." She sighed. "Kauai is magical. That's the only explanation. This is a magical island. I bet there are tropical fairies living behind the waterfalls."
Perhaps it was because Logan had spoken her name, something he rarely did when they were alone. Unless he was angry or particularly serious, Rory was always "Ace" or some other endearment, but something about Logan's tone made Rory turn away from the water and look at him. When their eyes met, she was slightly unsettled by the intensity of Logan's gaze, but she relaxed when his mouth curled into a faint smile as he raised his hand and placed it on the side of Rory's face, gently stroking her cheek with his thumb before leaning over to place a brief kiss on her lips.
"Marry me," he said.
Rory's eyes widened in surprise, but before she could reply, Logan said, "I'm sorry. That's not much of a proposal. I should have planned something more elaborate. You deserve that. If I had planned this, your engagement ring would be here instead of in my sock drawer in our apartment. It's just...we talk about the future, but we never seem to decide anything. I get that you weren't ready the first time, but that was over two years ago, Ace, and things have been so good between us...I just...I wonder what we're waiting for. Not that I won't wait. I'm not going anywhere. You know how much I love you—"
"Yes," Rory said.
Rory smiled as tears welled in her eyes. "I don't need an elaborate proposal. You did that once, and it didn't work out so well. Besides, we're alone on a beautiful Hawaiian beach at sunset. What could be more romantic?"
"But I don't have the ring."
"You don't need the ring." She put her arms around Logan's neck.
"Look, I'm not saying I don't want the ring. You can fish it out of the drawer when we get home, but I don't need it to say yes. I love you, Logan, and I love our life together. I've been ready to say yes for a long time."
Logan's eyes narrowed. "You could have said something, Ace." He brushed a tear from Rory's cheek.
"You told me you'd ask me again someday." Rory gave Logan a playful smile. "Although now that I think about it, that was more of a statement than a question. Hmm." Logan started to protest, but Rory quieted him by placing her fingers on his lips. "I figured you'd ask when you were ready. I just had to be patient."
"And here I thought I was the one who had to be patient."
"Well, now it's time you stopped being patient and started kissing your fiancée."
Logan pulled her closer. "Oh, really?"
"You don't have a ring, Huntzberger," Rory said, grinning. "You have to seal the deal somehow."
Rory draped her arm across Logan's waist and snuggled closer to him on the sofa. "You know, you probably shouldn't stay here past midnight," she said. "It'll be our wedding day, and it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony."
"Says the girl wearing the engagement ring she rejected three years ago."
"Oh, no, honey, it wasn't the ring I rejected. It was you." Rory reached up and patted Logan's face.
He chuckled. "And it's so sweet how easily you joke about my pain."
"Logan, we held our rehearsal dinner on the third anniversary of my graduation. I think we can safely say we've put that whole miserable event behind us."
"Yeah, but I also know you're not superstitious about all that wedding stuff. Except, apparently, about not sleeping together the night before. Or, as it turns out, three nights before."
"I just thought it would be nice for you not to see me all bleary-eyed with messy hair on our wedding day," Rory said. "I want to be in my dress when you get your first glimpse of me tomorrow."
"You're forgetting that I find you quite appealing all bleary-eyed with messy hair."
Rory rolled her eyes. "Whatever, but my plan was only for one night apart. You're the one who wanted to stay in Hartford the other two."
"That just made sense. I had to be at the golf club early yesterday, and we didn't get back from Boston until well past midnight last night and you were having your movie night—"
"I know. It was fine with me," Rory said. "I'm not the one complaining about not sleeping together for three whole nights. Poor you, so deprived."
"Well, just so you know, I intend to more than make up for these three nights apart on our honeymoon."
"Really? On our honeymoon? I never would have guessed that."
"Anyway, Ace, isn't the superstition that I'm not supposed to see you in your dress before the ceremony? I think as long as we haven't gone to sleep yet, I can stay past midnight. It doesn't count until morning."
"I still don't want to have to worry about you driving back to Hartford too late on a Friday night," Rory said. "Wait, didn't you drive Finn and Colin to dinner tonight? Where are they now? Tell me you didn't leave them unattended at one of Stars Hollow's fine drinking establishments."
"Finn rode with me, but Colin had his car, so I put him in charge of getting Finn back to Hartford. They left when I did."
"Oh, that's a relief. I'm not sure the town would know what to make of Finn."
"I've known him forever, and I don't always know what to make of him," Logan said. "So, Ace, how are you feeling about everything? You haven't gotten cold feet on me, have you?"
Rory shrugged. "My toes might be a little chilly." When Logan raised his eyebrows, she quickly added, "Not about marrying you. I'm on cloud nine, can't stop smiling happy about that. You know that."
"Then what's the problem?"
Rory looked down to avoid Logan's gaze. "It's just...it's stupid," she said, quietly.
"Ace." Logan reached over and gently turned Rory's chin to make her look at him.
"It's the ceremony. You know I don't really like being the center of attention. All those people looking at me. I already feel the butterflies."
"What? You've been in how many of those wacky Stars Hollow festivals? I've seen the picture of you slathered in makeup to be Young Girl with a Dead Ferret for the Live Art Lunatic Revue."
"Excuse me, but I was the Portrait of a Young Girl Named Anthea, and it was the Festival of Living Pictures."
"Po-tay-to, po-tah-to," Logan said. "The whole point of that was for people to stare at you."
"That was different. It wasn't me. I was pretending to be somebody else. Plus, it was Stars Hollow where everyone has known me since I was a toddler, not a Who's Who of Connecticut society."
"Since when do you care what those people think? I know you've never tried to be the life of the party, but you don't shy away from things, either. Think of all the debates and panel discussions you've done, and you were valedictorian at Chilton. And we can't forget about the famous live speech on C-SPAN."
Rory groaned. "Oh, right. Let's definitely remember that. Good times."
"It was only C-SPAN, so probably only two or three people were watching. Besides, Paris was the one who looked like a fool, not you. You know," Logan added, grinning, "we haven't watched that for a long time. Do you think Paris would watch with us? I'm thinking about asking her to do the commentary for the DVD special features."
"Don't you dare! She doesn't even know I still have it on video."
"So I shouldn't throw it up on YouTube?" Logan asked.
"Only if there's no way she can trace it back to you. I'm too young to be a widow."
"Okay, no YouTube. But back to your chilly toes, you've done all kinds of things where you've been the center of attention. Why is our wedding different?"
"It just is. It's not the same as giving a speech or being in a debate. It has nothing to do with how prepared or informed I am. It's all about how I look walking down the aisle. The dress. My hair. What if I trip?"
Logan chuckled. "Well, I'm afraid that's what you signed up for. The bride is the above-the-marquee star of the show, and the aisle's the red carpet. Wouldn't surprise me to find Seacrest hanging around to ask who you're wearing."
Rory groaned. "God, I hope not. Hey, if I'm the star, what's that make you?"
"Oh, I'm just your arm candy, baby."
"I do love candy." Rory leaned in for a kiss. "I'm sorry. I know it's silly to be nervous."
"No need to apologize, but you really don't need to worry about tomorrow. You know what all those people will be thinking when you're walking down the aisle?"
"Um, the bride looks like she's going to puke?"
Logan poked Rory in the side. "They'll be thinking that you are the most gorgeous bride in the history of weddings—"
"And that I am the luckiest guy in the world to be marrying you."
Rory rolled her eyes. "Cheesiest, maybe. I don't know about luckiest. I think I'm getting a zit." She lifted her head and pointed to a spot along her jawline. "How lucky is that for you?"
"Where? I don't see anything." Logan brushed his fingers across her skin. "There's nothing there, Ace."
"Trust me, it's there, and it might be big and red when I wake up tomorrow."
"Really? Hmm." Logan frowned. "That does change things. I can't possibly be expected to marry someone with a zit. I have standards, you know."
"I know, and I totally understand. There is a long list of requirements for being Logan Huntzberger's wife." Rory scoffed. "Just ask your mother."
Logan kissed Rory's temple. "You are the only one who will ever meet my requirements, but I also think it's safe to say my mother has come around about you."
"Oh, yes, she keeps her contempt hidden now instead of hating me openly. If she could figure out a way to substitute Colby Ingram for me tomorrow, I think she'd do it."
"No, she wouldn't," Logan said. "And she doesn't hate you. She told me this afternoon how happy she is for us. When nobody else was around, so I know it wasn't just for appearances."
"If you say so."
"I do say so. Besides, my father adores you. He thinks you're absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me."
"Oh, he does not."
"As far as Mitchum's concerned, Rory Gilmore is the only thing standing between me and a life of debauchery on a beach somewhere, frittering away my trust fund."
"Don't be ridiculous, Logan. Honor told me Mitchum is beyond thrilled that you're coming back to the family business."
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in," Logan said.
Rory laughed. "Babe, that Pacino impression is not getting any better. You need to stop doing it."
"Really? I thought I'd nailed it."
Despite Logan's protests, Rory knew he was excited about his new position with the Huntzberger Group. His return to the family fold had followed six months of negotiations between father and son, a situation initially triggered when Mitchum contracted Logan and his business partners in Palo Alto as consultants for modernizing the Huntzberger presence in the digital world. From the beginning of that association, Mitchum had treated Logan as a peer with valuable knowledge and skills rather than a petulant boy in need of correction, and the Huntzberger men had gradually forged a positive working relationship. Once Rory decided to apply to graduate school and showed a preference for the program at Columbia, Mitchum saw an opportunity to convince his son to return to the family's newspaper empire. As Rory had predicted, Logan's success on his own gave him leverage with Mitchum, who was willing to agree to a rather detailed contract granting Logan a considerable amount of freedom in his duties and assignments. Logan also secured a guarantee that he'd be based in Manhattan for at least as long as Rory was in school, and any future relocations would occur only with his approval. Mitchum had even proposed the title of Vice President of New Media, but Logan was satisfied with Director of New Media. As a twenty-eight-year-old bearer of the Huntzberger name, he figured he had plenty of time to assume a more senior title.
"You know," Logan said, as he stroked his fingers through Rory's long hair, "it's going to take more than a zit to get me to call this off. You can't get rid of me that easily, Gilmore."
Rory grinned. "If I wanted to get rid of you, I'd just take Finn up on his offer."
Because Colin had won the coin toss for best man, Finn had given his "first runner up" toast at the rehearsal dinner. The Australian said some surprisingly mature things about his friendship with Logan and shared some amusing anecdotes from the days when Logan was in denial about the effect the quiet girl with the big blue eyes was having on him. Finn ended with his best wishes for the couple's long and happy marriage, but being Finn, he couldn't resist adding, "Unless you've changed your mind about Logan, love. It's not too late to run off with me. Don't forget I am exotic."
Logan sighed. "Well, if exotic is what you want, I won't stand in your way. Nothing is more important to me than your happiness."
"Nah, exotic is overrated," Rory said. "Besides, I'm used to you."
"So what you're saying is that you don't want to disrupt your routine?"
"Exactly. I've already quit my job to move to Manhattan for grad school. I need to keep something familiar around."
"Gee, thanks, Ace," Logan said. "I feel so special now."
"Glad I could help," Rory said, a playful glint in her eyes.
"Well, don't worry about your zit. It'll be okay, and someday when our children ask who that is in our wedding pictures, we'll just explain that it's Daddy and Mommy and Mommy's zit."
Rory snorted. "Oh, wait, I've changed my mind. Finn's not looking so bad after all."
Logan laughed. "I'm sure that if this imaginary zit does become real and you can't hide it with make-up, the exorbitant photographer Emily and my mother hired will airbrush it out. But I can always cut myself shaving tomorrow morning if it'll make you feel better."
"That's very chivalrous of you, but I don't think it'll be necessary," Rory said. "So you're not nervous at all? Not even a little?"
"Nope. Maybe I'll feel different in the morning, but right now I'm just excited. I think tomorrow's going to be fun. Probably a bit of a circus—"
"Yes, but an elegant circus," Rory interrupted. "The elephants will be wearing chiffon."
"And I'm sure they'll look lovely. The clowns, too."
"Emily Gilmore would accept nothing less. Can you believe she had a whole list of things she wanted me to go over with the wedding planner before dinner tonight? She's a little out of control."
"No, she's too much in control," Logan said. "The whole point of not letting her contribute financially was to keep her from taking over. Chris begged us to let him pick up the tab, but once you let Emily choose the wedding planner—"
"You sound like Mom. Every time Grandma called in the past two days with a seating chart issue or a napkin crisis, Mom just sat back and laughed. And then she made up an annoying, singsongy 'I told you so' jingle just to torture me."
"Sounds like Lorelai."
"She's right, though. She did warn me that letting Dad finance this shindig wouldn't stop Grandma from getting her way because he's always been a little afraid of her."
"As we all are," Logan said. "Well, at least after tomorrow your long nightmare of napkin crises will be over."
"Good thing. I've about had it with those napkins and their bad attitude." Rory sighed. "I know I could have kept Grandma from being so involved, but she really cares about table linens and centerpieces, and it was easier to let her worry about all the details when we were in California. That stuff is fun for her. It's like when I agreed to be a debutante. She's getting to do something else she never got to do with Mom. Even if Mom does get married again someday, I'm sure she won't go for a big Emily Gilmore-type wedding."
"Wasn't exactly our original plan, either."
Rory frowned. "I know, but it made Grandma so happy, not to mention I finally did something your mother approved of. And it wasn't just me, mister. You were willing to go along with it, too."
"I know. I'm not criticizing you, but we both knew things would snowball once we let them get involved."
"Well, at least I stood up to Grandma when she wanted me to add more bridesmaids."
"Yes, you did, and I'm very proud of you," Logan said, patting her hand and trying, but failing, to appear serious. "You simply refused to have more than three when five would have been much more acceptable for a society wedding with over 200 guests."
"Okay, now you're mocking me."
Logan chuckled. "Doesn't mean I'm not proud of you."
After briefly considering a spur-of-the-moment ceremony on the beach in Hawaii, an idea Logan nixed by reminding Rory how upset she'd been about her parents' impromptu wedding in France, the couple decided on a June wedding at the Dragonfly with family and close friends. Rory wanted Lane as her matron of honor, Paris and Honor as bridesmaids, and Gigi as flower girl, while Logan's groomsmen would be Colin and Finn, one of whom would be best man, and Josh. Those plans, however, had lasted only until the news of the engagement reached Emily and Shira. Once the women got over the shock of having less than a year to make the arrangements, they were adamant that a Gilmore-Huntzberger wedding came with certain expectations, and faster than anyone could say "Connecticut blue blood," the guest list had grown to include a surprisingly long list of Huntzberger relatives, a slightly shorter list of family on the Gilmore side, the DAR ladies, business associates of both Mitchum and Richard, and both families' friends from the club.
Rory was willing to compromise somewhat on the guest list if it meant keeping everyone happy, but she and Logan insisted their wedding would not be about business deals or social connections and, therefore, would not include anyone whom they would never meet under other circumstances. Yet, even without ambassadors to small European countries and other dignitaries, the guest list was still too large for the Dragonfly to handle. They finally settled on the Windsor Club when Shira reluctantly agreed to host the rehearsal dinner at the Dragonfly. Because the Windsor Club was completely booked for June, the wedding was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend after Rory, remembering the poor Sheldrakes, refused to allow Emily to use her influence to bump someone else's event. Due to the number of guests, Emily, Shira, and the wedding planner insisted they needed at least four ushers, and each woman tried, without success, to convince Rory to add two more bridesmaids for a balanced wedding party. Although she had made some good friends in California, Rory didn't consider any of them close enough to be bridesmaids. In the end, the wedding party stayed as originally planned, and two of Logan's cousins were enlisted to act as additional ushers.
"Mom was impressed with Sookie's food tonight," Logan said.
"Everyone always is. The first time Grandma tasted it she tried to talk her into to starting a catering business in Hartford."
"Did tonight make you sad we're not getting married at the Dragonfly?"
Rory sighed. "Not really. It would have been nice, but it also would have meant a lot of work for Mom and Sookie. Now they can just enjoy themselves without having to worry about making everything perfect," she said. "Not to mention that everyone in Stars Hollow might have shown up, invited or not. Kirk probably would have been selling commemorative plates or t-shirts or something. Although, now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure he won't be doing that, anyway."
"And the Windsor Club does have significance in our history," Logan said.
"Ah, yes. The place where I threw myself at you."
"I was thinking more that it's the site of our first dance and our first kiss. They should probably hang a plaque."
Rory smiled and shook her head. "You are such a romantic."
"Would you rather I tell Emily it's where you told me that girls just want to have stringless fun?"
"Please don't. I think she'd have a stroke if she ever found out exactly how our relationship started. Grandpa, too," Rory said. "I suppose there is a certain irony about marrying you in the very place where you told me you weren't boyfriend material and that you couldn't do commitment. Clearly, you had no idea what you were talking about."
"Clearly," Logan said. "You do love to prove me wrong, don't you?"
"Well, maybe a little in this case."
"Hey, you haven't said much about last night with your mom and Lane."
"Oh, it was great. A traditional Gilmore movie night," Rory said. "We got started around six o'clock with the whole spread. Chinese food, pizza, Red Vines, chips, popcorn, fries from Luke's. Mom even put a box of Mallomars in the freezer in February, just so she could break them out last night."
Logan shook his head. "I'm thinking of reporting you to NIH. Somebody should be studying that freakish Gilmore metabolism."
"I'll have you know that Mom thinks I've gone California on her. She's disturbed by the number of fruits and vegetables I eat voluntarily, not to mention the amount of cooking I do. When you add in our hikes on the weekends, she's convinced you've been a bad influence on me."
"Lorelai has always thought I've been a bad influence on you."
"That isn't true."
"Okay, so there was a time when she may have thought that, but she changed her mind a long time ago."
"Well, you can tell her not to worry. What we did was more strolling than hiking, and you still balance the fruits and vegetables with a frightening amount of junk food."
"Anyway, Mom insisted on picking the movies," Rory said. "First up was the Steve Martin version of Father of the Bride. We watched that before Lane showed up after she and Zack got the twins to bed. Then, we watched The Philadelphia Story."
"About a society wedding. I'm sensing a theme."
"Mom said she was going to get How to Marry a Millionaire, but she decided I already knew how to do that."
Logan scoffed. "Funny."
"Exactly what I said. Next was The Princess Bride."
"You watched three movies?"
"Well, it was my last official movie night as a single girl, so we were shooting for four. We started My Big Fat Greek Wedding after Lane left around midnight, but Mom fell asleep before it was over. I had to wake her up and make her go to bed around two."
"It sounds like you had fun."
"Yeah, it was exactly what I wanted. Just Lane and Mom, like the old days. It was perfect," Rory said. "And everything was good with golfing and your Boston road trip, right? Dad told me he had fun playing golf."
Logan nodded. "I wasn't so sure when Colin told me he wanted to include the older generations for golf, but it worked out well. I think everybody had a good time, even if Finn is still bummed we didn't do the bachelor party weekend in Vegas."
"Logan, you know I never said I didn't want you to go to Vegas. Obviously, you couldn't have gone last night, but you could have met them a few weeks ago—"
"I know, but it just never worked out with me trying to tie up all the loose ends in Palo Alto. It's okay. Nobody was really into Finn's idea of a bachelor party. I'm sure it would have resembled a remake of The Hangover."
"It wouldn't have been that bad."
"You have met Finn, haven't you, Ace?" Logan asked. "Look, yesterday was great. It would have been nice if the Sox had won last night, but it was fun just hanging out with the guys. Seth and Lanny even met up with us at Fenway, and I haven't seen them in over a year."
"Well, as long as you don't feel like you missed out on some rite of passage."
"I promise I don't, okay?"
Rory again put her head on Logan's shoulder. They were quiet for a few minutes, savoring what would probably be their last peaceful moments alone until the reception ended. Much to the disappointment of Emily and Shira, they had rejected the plans for a post-wedding day brunch, instead opting to grab a few hours of sleep in the bungalow at the Dragonfly before rising at dawn to make a Sunday morning flight from JFK to the Virgin Islands. Everyone had been surprised when the couple decided to forgo their long-planned trip to Asia in favor of ten days in St. Croix, but having just moved three time zones, they wanted something closer to home and more relaxing than a whirlwind tour of the Far East. Honeymooning at the Huntzbergers' Caribbean vacation home, which Rory and Logan had never visited, would provide them with quiet and privacy. Upon their return, they'd have five days to get settled in their Manhattan apartment—Honor had graciously offered to meet the cross-country moving van scheduled to arrive five days after the wedding—before Logan started his new job.
When Rory yawned, Logan asked, "Is that a hint that you want me to leave?"
"You know I don't want you to leave, but it is getting late, so you probably should," Rory said. "We both should try to get some sleep."
"Yeah, it will be a long day tomorrow."
Rory opened her mouth, like she was going to say something, then stopped.
"What?" Logan asked. "I didn't mean it was going to be a long day in a bad way."
"Oh, I know. I just...I feel like, well, since we decided to go with the traditional vows—"
"Because we agreed it's lame when couples write their own."
"Right, but I still feel like I should think of fabulous things to say. To you. While we're alone."
"Say hi to William and Harry for me?" Logan asked.
Rory smiled and leaned up to place a quick peck on Logan's lips. "That at least made sense when you were leaving for London, although you never did say hi to them for me."
"Ace, I assure you that, had I ever met William or Harry, I would have given them your regards. I did think it was pretty cute how you'd sometimes repeat it in our phone calls."
"Well, you know me. Always trying to be cute."
"It is one of the reasons I'm marrying you."
"I was thinking about it this afternoon, trying to figure out what I should say to you."
Rory shrugged. "You know that part in the end of Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth tells her sister Jane that she's going to marry Mr. Darcy and Jane doesn't believe her at first, but Elizabeth says 'It is settled between us already that we are to be the happiest couple in the world.'? I want to say something like that. I want that to be us."
"Okay, I see two problems here," Logan said.
Rory frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, first of all, for some reason you think I have passages memorized from Pride and Prejudice."
"You read Pride and Prejudice."
"In, like, tenth grade. Plus, I'm pretty sure I only read the SparkNotes," Logan said. "No, wait, I bet it was so long ago they didn't even have SparkNotes. Must have been Cliffs."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, I'm sure that's just what you told your friends because you didn't think it was cool for them to know how much you like to read."
"Are you accusing me of being some kind of closeted bookworm?"
"If the shoe fits," Rory said, gesturing with her palms up. "You do realize the fact that you were so well-read was one of the things that attracted me when we met. It was one of the first things I told my mother about you."
"And here I thought you just liked me for my looks and the amazing sex."
"Don't forget the money," Rory deadpanned. "And your connections in the journalism world."
"Of course not. That goes without saying. Okay, so maybe I read Pride and Prejudice. Doesn't mean I can recite passages."
"Fine, you don't remember that specific part, but you said there were two problems. What's the other one?"
Logan smiled. "Ace, we don't need to decide to be happy. We've been happy for a long time. How'd you put it? On cloud nine, can't stop smiling happy? I'll even raise you an over the moon."
"Over the moon, huh?"
"Yes, Ace, over the moon. I'm glad we're getting married. Excited. You know that," Logan said. "But marriage won't make us happy if we aren't already there."
"And you don't have to think of fabulous things to say to me. I know you love me. Just like you know how I feel about you. We tell each other every day. We don't need to make a bunch of flowery, sentimental declarations."
"I know," Rory repeated.
"So let's just enjoy tomorrow and roll with whatever craziness happens, and then we'll have ten whole days in St. Croix, just the two of us. We can forget all about wedding plans and moving and new jobs and grad school and the pitter-patter of little feet."
"Oh, you mean, Emily didn't ask you about that?" Logan asked.
"Well, she dropped a comment on me tonight about how she and Richard hoped it wouldn't be long before we heard the pitter—"
"Ohmigod! Are you kidding me?" Rory exclaimed. "We're not even married yet and she—she—I'm starting grad school in the fall and she already wants me knocked up? I'm pretty sure morning sickness and a master's thesis do not mix!"
"Calm down before you wake up Lorelai," Logan said. "And the rest of Stars Hollow."
"But, Logan, the last thing we need is my grandparents pressuring us to—"
Logan kissed Rory before she could build up to a full rant. When the kiss ended, he grinned at her, "Angry still works for you. I totally should've kissed you that day outside your dorm room. I really wanted to, you know."
Rory grimaced. "Don't change the subject."
"You probably would have slapped me, deservedly so," Logan said. "But it would have been so worth it."
"Look, you know Emily's been imagining our children since that first time you took me to Friday night dinner. We've been together a long time, and now that we're getting married, it's what they expect. I'm kind of surprised my mother hasn't said anything yet."
"But immediately when we get married?" Rory asked. "That's insane."
"You know what? It doesn't matter what your grandmother or my mother or anybody else thinks. It's nobody's business but ours. We decided we'd start thinking about it when I turned thirty, or when you did, and that timeline's fine with me. Okay?"
Rory nodded. "Sorry I overreacted. It's just that Grandma shouldn't have said anything."
"It's not a big deal." Logan raised his arm, so he could read his watch in the light coming through the living room window. "So I guess I should head back to Hartford."
"Think you'll be able to get to sleep?"
"Hope so. Nobody likes a bride with bags under her eyes."
Rory stood up and reached for Logan's hand. He followed her to the front door, where he kissed her again.
"Good night, Ace."
"See you tomorrow," Rory said. "What a lame thing to say the night before our wedding."
"Oh, I see we're back to that again. Okay, why don't you just tell me how much you love me?"
Rory made a face. "Fine. I love you, Logan, more than anything in the world," she said in a monotone.
"More than anything? Even more than coffee?" Logan teased.
"Yep, if you made me choose, I'd pick you. Although I should tell you, I'd likely be so cranky about it, you'd wish I hadn't."
Logan chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind."
"So don't you have something to say to me?" Rory asked, dramatically batting her eyes at him.
"I do. When you're walking down the aisle tomorrow and all those people are staring at you, you should remember one very important thing."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?" Rory asked.
Logan smirked. "Don't trip." Before Rory could sputter out a reply, he continued, "But even if you do, I promise I'll marry you anyway."
Rory glared at him. "You really are a butt-faced miscreant, you know that?"
"But you love me, and that is a very good thing," Logan said.
"Oh, it is, is it?"
Logan dropped his playful smile and looked into Rory's eyes. "Because I have no idea what I'd ever do without you."
Rory threw her arms around Logan's neck and whispered in his ear, "That's so much better than say hi to William and Harry for me."
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who followed this story to the end, particularly when it took so unexpectedly long for me to finish this final chapter. I've appreciated all of your comments, story alerts, and decisions to flag it as a favorite.