DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
Well, this has been quite the ride. Sorry for the epically long epilogue, but there was a lot of territory to cover.
This fic is dedicated to LiteraryLolita who helped me come up with the idea, and special thanks go to Sarenka222 and AlbatrossTam14 for helping me fix up this chapter.
Thank you for reading this story! Please review and let me know what you think.
Chapter 10 - Epilogue
Three years later
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Adam asked me for the third time.
"For the last time, yes," I gave him a pointed look, hoping he'd get the message and back off.
Adam sighed. "I'll go get him."
I gave myself one last check in the mirror. My lips were a shiny pale pink, and my eyes were highlighted by a light, shimmery silver shadow. I'd made sure I had waterproof mascara on, because knowing me, I'd be a dribbley mess in minutes.
"Clare, we're coming in," Adam called loudly. "Last chance to change your mind."
I shook my head as Adam came into the room, but my annoyance dropped the moment I saw Eli.
He was wearing a striking black tuxedo with a red tie and vest to match the red converse sneakers on his feet. But it was the look on his face that caught my eye.
He was looking at me like I was the most beautiful girl in the world.
"Clare," he said in wonder, striding across the room to take my hands in his. "Wow." It wasn't like Eli to be speechless and I couldn't help but grin at him.
"Awww. How cute," Adam teased from the door.
"Adam, could you give us a minute?" Eli asked, his eyes never leaving mine.
"Hey, I know you guys hate tradition, but just try to wait until after the ceremony to consummate. I don't think you want Pastor Daniels to find you doing it on his desk." I glared at Adam and he sprinted away, hopefully going to take his seat and leave us alone.
"What's with him? Was he trying to get you to change your mind about marrying me?" Eli asked in mock horror.
"Apparently, Adam has very conservative views on weddings and disapproves of us walking down the aisle together."
"Well this is our wedding, not his, and we can do what we want." He leaned closer to kiss me. "Although that consummation idea sounds pretty good right about now."
I placed me hand on his chest and pushed him away jokingly. "One night without me and you can't wait until later?"
"One night without you was way too long."
I rolled my eyes, but I couldn't help but agree with him. We hadn't spent a night apart since I moved back from Vancouver and into Eli's condo. I'd accompanied him on his book tours and he'd joined me on a trip to Kenya. Last night I'd slept in the guest room in my mother's apartment, but sharing a bed with Darcy wasn't exactly the same.
Eli stepped closer to me, his shoes slipping under the hem of my ballgown, and took my face in his hands. "You know, I've been dreaming about this moment since I was seventeen years old," he said huskily.
"I think you might have been the only seventeen year old boy in history to dream about his wedding," I teased.
"Well, I thought that would be the only way I'd get to sleep with you." He traced a circle around my sapphire engagement ring and that reminded me to move it to my right hand to make room for my wedding band.
"Is this how you pictured it?" I knew Eli's dream wedding, particularly back then, probably would have taken place at a rock concert rather than in a church. Even today, it was surprising to me that this had been his idea; he knew a church wedding was important to me and though he'd never come around on the God issue, he'd helped me with enough pancake breakfasts and rummage sales to forge a relationship with Pastor Daniels and convince him to perform a non-traditional wedding that was comfortable for both of us.
Eli laughed. "I only really imagined the part where I got to take your pretty white dress off."
"So I guess in about seven hours, your dream will come true."
The look he gave me melted my heart. "It already has, Clare. You're my dream come true."
I felt a tear prickling my eye. "Don't make me cry. The ceremony hasn't even started yet."
He kissed my cheek. "You look so beautiful."
The wave of emotions crashing over me was too great and I couldn't speak, so I just gave him a soft smile and reached for his hand. I could hear the music change to an instrumental version of the Beatles song "Two of Us" and I tugged on his hand. "That's our cue."
We walked down the aisle together, slipping between the murmurs and the flashbulbs. We stepped up to the altar and Darcy fixed the bottom of my dress. We had decided to keep the wedding party small, just Darcy as Maid of Honor, Bullfrog as Best Man, and my little brother Christian as ring bearer. We'd talked about including other people, particularly Adam and Alli, or perhaps Jenna's daughter Alex as flower girl, but decided it was better to keep things simple.
I noticed that Christian was shifting uncomfortably in his tuxedo shoes and fidgeting with the ring pillow and wondered if he'd make it through the ceremony without causing a scene. I hoped Dad and Catherine were paying attention so they could pull him away if needed. Bullfrog caught my eye over Eli's shoulder and winked at me as Pastor Dan began the ceremony.
Everything went by in the whirlwind. We had written the ceremony ourselves and I was pleased that things seemed to fall into place. Adam read the "Love is patient" passage from 1 Corinthians which had been my choice despite Eli's protests that it was overused and Alli gave a lovely reading of a poem by Pablo Neruda called "Your Laughter" which was a favorite of Eli's.
We had decided to spare our families from having to sing along to either a traditional hymn or a sappy love song, and the Pastor kept his sermon short. Out of respect for Eli, he had focused on the importance of love and honesty in a marriage and he only mentioned Jesus once. Eli smirked at me, his hands never leaving mine for a moment.
We'd worked on the entire ceremony together, taking pieces from the traditional church service and our own thoughts on what marriage was, but we had kept our vows a secret from each other. I waited with baited breath as Eli pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket.
"I tried to write down exactly how I felt about you but it all sounded trite and cliché. I tried to write traditional vows and swear to love and honor you, but the promises sounded empty. And I got really frustrated with myself because I'm a writer and if there's one thing I'm supposed to be able to do, it's capturing emotions with words. So, I thought, well…this is from the book I've been writing since you came back into my life."
A tear tracked down my cheek and Eli hadn't even begun. He took a deep breath and started reading.
"He knew that if he opened the door his life would change. If he opened the door, the girl he'd been waiting for would be back in his life and he'd never be able to let her go. The only option was to let her in and allow himself to fall in love again, to feel again. The anticipation rattled his heart."
"She was the girl who taught him how to love after his heart was ripped out of his chest, and the girl whose stumbles dragged him down with her. She was love and lust, heartbreak and tears. She was made of mistakes but she still was perfect in his eyes."
"His fingertips begged him to open the door so they could find her skin, the withdrawal more unbearable than any point in the past four years. All he wanted was to hold her hand. If that was the only thing he could do for the rest of his days, it was a life worth living. He'd grow old with her and hold her hand, and maybe there would be kisses and receding hairlines and babies and car payments, but as long as she was next to him, holding his hand, his life would be complete."
It took all the strength I had not to launch myself into his arms, so I squeezed his hand, to remind him that our lives were already complete.
"Clare?" Pastor Dan said.
I gave a short laugh. "I knew I should have gone first," and everyone joined me in laughter. "I'm not sure I can follow that, but I'll give it a shot." I pulled a small square of paper out of my bra and Eli smirked at me as I unfolded it.
"When I was fifteen years old, you helped me figure out who I was. You encouraged me to take risks, to speak my mind, to not be afraid to find out the truth. You taught me what love is. You showed me that kisses were the spark to set your soul on fire, and how to take comfort in your soft embrace. You turned my writing from words to works of art and helped me light my prose with emotions. And you held my hand during the most difficult moments of my life."
I took a deep breath. "When I lost you, I thought if I tried hard enough, if I wanted it enough, I could make it on my own. But because of everything I had learned from you, it was never right. Because being independent is only worthwhile when you have someone to share your successes with. And you're the only person I've ever wanted to share my life with."
"You helped me find my family and my friends again. You helped me remember myself. And I know you don't believe in miracles, but that's how the past three years with you have felt. Every day I get to spend with you is a blessing, every time you kiss me my head spins and every moment without you feels a little bit too long."
I squeezed his hand tighter, not needing to read the last part off my paper. "Eli, a long time ago, I told you that I couldn't promise you forever. But I'm here, right now, and that's exactly what I'm doing. I want to be your wife and your best friend and I want to be with you forever. I want to give you all of my love, every moment, for the rest of my life."
I could see Eli fighting back a few tears and I nodded to Pastor Dan to let him know I had finished.
"And now Eli and Clare will exchange rings."
Eli turned to retrieve the rings from Bullfrog. We'd decided that even though Christian was seven years old and well over the age of the average ring bearer that it was better to be safe than sorry in entrusting something so important to a kid.
Eli's eyes locked on mine. "I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness." He slipped the silver band onto my finger.
My voice was barely a whisper. "I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness," I repeated, sliding the ring onto his left hand. He'd taken off the skull ring in honor of the occasion, but I noticed one of his fingernails had been colored in with a black sharpie, probably when he was waiting nervously for me before the ceremony.
Pastor Dan gave one final blessing but I could barely hear it. Everything was me and Eli. It was green eyes and tangled fingers and the promise of forever that I was finally ready to make.
"You may now kiss the bride," Pastor Dan proclaimed, and Eli raised his eyebrows at me before capturing my lips in a soft, gentle kiss that only danced on the edge of inappropriate for the setting.
He only stepped back when Bullfrog jabbed him in the side and gestured at the ground. I grinned as Eli turned and stomped on a glass that was wrapped in cloth. His side of the congregation shouted "Mazel Tov!" while my Protestant family smiled in polite confusion. That was his one concession to Cece, who demanded he include a symbol of his Jewish heritage though he didn't share enough of her beliefs to consider an interfaith ceremony. I could tell from the look of joy on his face that he was glad he'd agreed to this one bit of tradition.
Eli grabbed my arm and whisked me down the aisle to applause and whistles, and led me into the small room in the narthex where moms with screaming children sometimes sat. "Is this the part where I get to steal you away and deflower you?" he asked, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me into him for an intense kiss.
"I think it's a little late for that," I giggled.
He kissed me again and I felt lightheaded. I placed a finger on his lips. "Okay, we just need to get through the pictures, dancing, and cake. Then we'll go back home and make sweet, sweet love all night long."
"Is that a promise?" he asked, the glint in his eyes showing me that he had no doubt of my answer.
I leaned in, whispering in his ear. "You should see what I have on underneath this dress."
I could feel his breath stutter against my neck. "You haven't teased me this much since you were fifteen years old and wouldn't let me touch your breasts."
I rolled my eyes. "Come on. We need to meet our adoring fans."
"Wait," he said softly. I turned to look at him. "What did you think?"
One thing that had surprised me about our relationship was that Eli hadn't asked me to resume my role as editor of his stories. I'd published two books since Morning – a young adult novel about best friends who fall for the same boy, and a mystery novel about housewives with fictionally famous husbands – and Eli had helped me through draft after draft, answering my frantic emails about word choice and character motivation.
But he'd kept his own work secret, promising to let me read it once he had a complete draft. Three years later and his vows were the first excerpt I'd gotten to hear.
"It was perfect."
His eyes crinkled as he smiled and I knew he was pleased that his words worked as both a fictional piece and a promise to me. "Okay," he said. "Let's go before I start tearing up."
We'd decided against having a formal receiving line, preferring to slip out and take our pictures quickly so we could spend more time seeing people at our reception. We'd told our families to meet us after we signed our marriage license so we could drive to a local park to take a few pictures.
We walked to the Pastor's office to find Bullfrog waiting for us pen in hand, while he made a few choice comments about us not being able to wait until we got out of the church. I knew my face was as red as Eli's tie. I had never gotten used to how open Eli's parents were about sex. When I flew back from Vancouver to help Eli find a place for us to live, Bullfrog's first words to me were, "So you finally banged my son," followed by a welcoming hug.
Darcy entered the office and threw her arms around me. "That was so beautiful," she said with a happy sob. "I can't believe my baby sister is married." She repeated the gesture with Eli. Instead of congratulating him, she said, "Thank you."
I knew she wasn't referring to our marriage, but that fact that Eli was responsible for bringing us back together. He had sat me down one night two years ago and informed me that we were going to Kenya. He said I could email Darcy to let her know and work out the dates, but we were going no matter what. Our two week trip brought Darcy and me together for the first time in nine years and we spent every moment together, talking about the years we'd missed out on and getting to know each other as adults. She had visited Toronto last year to make amends with our parents and spend time with us, and I was ecstatic that she'd been able to come home for the wedding and serve as my maid of honor.
Her arms were still wrapped around his neck in a death grip and I was about to jokingly ask her to take her hands off my man when I noticed there was a ring on her left hand. "Darcy?" I exclaimed, as I looked between her and the man who'd crept up behind her.
Her face fell. "I wanted to wait to tell you. I didn't want to steal your thunder!" she wailed.
Msaki placed his hand on her shoulder. "Any chance you'll return to Lodwar for a wedding next year?"
My eyes welled up with tears. "You couldn't keep us away." I pulled both of them into a group hug.
Darcy laughed, wiping a tear of her own. "Any chance you'll come with us when we tell Mom? And Dad?"
"You're on your own there," I teased.
After the signing, we went out to the parking lot. We'd arranged for a limo so our family members wouldn't have to worry about driving, but I could see Catherine's SUV parked next to it.
"You look beautiful, Clare," Catherine beamed in her peppy way, and the sentiment seemed genuine for once.
"Thank you," I said, trying to keep my tone even. I had never quite forgiven her and my father completely, but I'd been making an effort. We spent Christmas with them last year, and by the end of it, I was actually having a good time. I leaned down to give Christian a hug. "Thanks for being my ringbearer, kiddo."
"I'm hungry," he said in the way that wasn't really cute anymore on a seven year old.
"I'm just going to take him over now. We've got some pretzels in the car." Catherine hustled him out to her car, leaving my Dad with me.
He gave me a look that was tinged with sadness, and I knew he was disappointed about my decision to walk down the aisle with Eli instead of him. But with all of the tension that hadn't entirely dissipated, I was uncomfortable giving him that significant of a role in my wedding, particularly since it left out my mother. I stepped forward to hug him, interrupting the awkward silence. "I'm looking forward to our dance," I whispered, and he kissed my cheek.
"Me too," he said softly. "I can't believe my baby girl is all grown up." He gave Eli a handshake that seemed too informal for this setting. "I think I'll hitch a ride with Catherine to the park."
I watched him walk away, wondering why he didn't want to go in the limo with the rest of us. Eli squeezed my hand. "He'll come around," he reminded me.
"Where is everybody?" I asked. I stuck my head into the limo and found Darcy and Msaka in a heated embrace. "Gross, guys." When I looked away, I saw my mother headed toward us, chatting away at Pastor Dan. "Mom's coming," I hissed and they broke apart like they were 16 year olds getting caught kissing on their parents' couch.
"Clare, I need to stop home for a few minutes. I have a run in my stockings and I'm going to change into flats because it'll be too hard to traipse across the park in these heels. David will drive me; we'll just be a few minutes late." I didn't have time to respond before she continued. "Did you tell the photographer I do not want to be in any pictures with your father? Or that child?"
"Yes, Mother," I said, annoyed that she was berating me on my wedding day.
"Yo, Mom," Darcy said, as she climbed out of the limo. "Chill out. It's Clare's wedding day."
Mom looked between us and her eyes misted up. "I'm just so happy my girls are back together." She wrapped her arms around us, and I shot Eli a look over her shoulder. He just shook his head.
It bothered me that Mom had never really accepted Eli, not when we dated in high school, and not when we got back together. She had been thrilled when I moved back to Toronto, but even though I dragged Eli to dinner and holidays with her and her boyfriend David, she barely acknowledged his existence. I would have thought the fact that we were married would have helped her get over the whole "living in sin" issue, but apparently I was wrong.
So I was beyond surprised when she released us from her hug and turned to Eli. "It was a beautiful ceremony. I really loved your vows."
"Thank you, Mrs. Edwards," Eli said. I could tell he was touched by her words.
"Call me Helen." She gave my hand a quick squeeze and walked over to David.
Eli and I exchanged looks. "Nothing like divorced parents to liven up a wedding," he joked.
"Speaking of lively parents…where are yours?"
We got our answer a moment later, as Bullfrog and Cece came bursting out of the church. They both looked a little disheveled as they sprinted toward us as fast as Cece's heels would allow, and I noticed Mrs. Anderson standing in the doorway shooting them a disapproving look.
"Sorry, sorry," Bullfrog said. "We decided to try out that little church room, but Sister Mary Magdalene caught us."
"Clare's not Catholic," Eli said. "And seriously? In the church?"
Cece grinned. "Where are your parents? Are we ready for pictures?"
"They decided to drive themselves," I said.
Bullfrog laughed. "Shit, we would have brought our car if we'd known you guys wanted to be alone."
"It's fine. Darcy and Msaka are here too," I said.
"That's cool by us," Bullfrog said. "You guys can just pretend we aren't here."
"Bullfrog," Cece admonished. "It's their wedding day. They aren't going to have an orgy in a limo."
"Yeah, or ever," Eli said. "Get in; the photographer's waiting."
He followed Bullfrog into the limo, but Cece grabbed my hand. "Wait, Clare."
Things with Cece had been frosty since my return. I had found a letter she had written to Eli right after I'd moved back, asking him to reconsider giving me a second chance. He told me that her opinion didn't matter to him on this issue, but even as time went on, and we spent more time with his family, things had never been the same between us. It was tough on me, since she had really taken me in during high school and treated me more like I was her daughter than her son's girlfriend. But now, the best she could be was polite, acting as if Eli and I were a casual fling rather than a committed, live-in relationship.
"I'm sorry," she said, grabbing my hands. "I should have forgiven you a long time ago for breaking Eli's heart, just like he did, but I was so afraid for my baby boy. He's had so much loss in his life, and you'll understand someday what it's like to see your child in so much pain. But I know things have changed, and that the two of you are stronger and more in love than ever before, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me."
"Thank you," I whispered through my tears. "And I'm so sorry."
She laughed, wiping tears off her own cheek. "I know Eli doesn't even do it, but…would you call me Mom?"
I nodded quickly, the emotion caught in my throat preventing me from replying verbally. She smiled and touched my cheek before climbing into the limo. Eli helped me get myself and my massive tulle skirt into the seat next to him.
"Everything okay?" he asked, noting my tear-streaked face.
The pictures went well. Mom and Dad stayed far away from each other, and the photographer stuck to the list of photos we wanted before taking a bunch of just Eli and me. I was starving at that point, since I'd been too nervous to eat much before the wedding and we managed to join our reception right before the end of the cocktail hour.
I was afraid to get food on my pretty dress, and Eli helped me stalk down every waiter carrying food that wasn't covered in red sauce. We hustled from table to table, thanking distant cousins for travelling out from Montreal or Wisconsin for the event.
My feet were killing me by the time we were able to share our first dance. I kicked off my heels and Eli practically held me up as we swayed to the soft ballad strains. We both felt self-conscious dancing with all eyes on us, so we blocked out the world, just listening to the lyrics of our favorite song as we gazed into each others' eyes.
I hated to let him go to dance with my father, but as my Dad led me around the dance floor, we had the first honest conversation we'd had since the divorce. He told me how proud he was of me, how happy he was that I'd found someone as good and loving as Eli. How pleased he was that I'd included Christian in the wedding. I had initially promised him we'd share a father-daughter dance to assuage his feelings, but I was really happy I'd made that decision.
After two more hours of excellent food, lots of dancing, a little bit of drinking and Bullfrog's tear-inducing yet hysterical best man speech, I was really tired out. I noticed two seats were available at a table filled with our high school friends and tugged Eli over to them, wanting to catch up with them just as much as I wanted to rest my feet.
"Claaaare," Alli squealed. "This is the best wedding I have ever been to." She threw her arms around me, and I grinned.
"You've had too much to drink," I teased. "I'm cutting you off."
Alli laughed. "Are you kidding? I'm like four drinks behind Emily." She gestured at Adam's wife, who was stumbling her way toward the bar.
Adam grinned. "I told her I'd be designated driver. She probably won't be drinking for a while after tonight."
I raised my eyebrows. "What is that supposed to mean?"
His eyes sparkled as he leaned in closer. "She doesn't want everyone to know yet, but we're going to try in vitro in the next few weeks."
"Adam…" Eli beamed with pride. "That's great, man."
"Oh my God," I breathed. "You're going to have a baby!"
"Don't get too ahead of yourselves. It might not work out as well as we hope, but…" Adam looked happier than I had ever seen him. "We're really excited."
Eli squeezed Adam's shoulder and said, "We're with you every step of the way."
I looked at the two of them fondly. It had taken Adam a while to forgive me for abandoning both Eli and him when I'd moved away, but in spite of that, seeing Eli and me together had really inspired Adam to make some changes in his life. He had dumped his vapid girlfriend and a few months later, he met Emily. Eli and I absolutely adored her; she was everything we'd always hoped for Adam.
They'd only been together for a few months when Adam called to tell us they had eloped. Eli especially had been hurt to be left out, but with Adam's issues with his parents and Emily's family not exactly being on board either, they thought it would be easier. I was glad that we'd be able to be a part of their child's life.
"What about you two?" Jenna asked, leaning into K.C. who had his arms wrapped around her. "Any babies on the way?"
Eli gave me a look of horror. "Not that I'm aware of."
I slapped his shoulder. "We'll get there. Someday. When we're ready." We'd talked about it and decided that we'd like a few more years of just being together before we had a child, even though we both really wanted to in the future.
"How's Alex doing?" Eli asked.
"Really good," K.C. said. "I can't believe she's turning ten next week."
"Well, she acts like she's sixteen already," Jenna grumbled, and we laughed. I hated to say it, but I was surprised that K.C. and Jenna had been able to work things out and stay together all these years. We weren't as close with them as we were with Alli or Adam, but I knew it hadn't been easy for them. It was nice to see them happy together.
"Hey, you took my seat," Sav said, returning to the table with Alli's boyfriend Keith, drinks in hand.
"Where's your date, Sav?" Eli joked. Much to his parents' chagrin, Sav was eternally single. Alli and I had speculated that it was actually their fault, since whenever he found a girl he really liked, he was afraid to bring her home and face his parents' disapproval so the girl would end up thinking he wasn't serious enough about their relationship and breaking up with him.
"Where's your mom, Eli?"
Eli pretended to take him seriously and glanced around the room. "I don't see her, so she's probably doing unspeakable things to my father somewhere in the building. Thanks for ruining my wedding day with that image."
Alli rolled her eyes. "So where are you going on your honeymoon? You've been so busy with wedding planning that we haven't gotten to talk."
"We're flying to San Diego and renting a car, and then we're going to take about a month to six weeks and drive up the cost. We're stopping in L.A. and San Francisco, then driving up to Portland and Seattle and ending up in Vancouver," I said.
I had come up with the idea of the trip and Eli had agreed immediately. He'd never been to that part of the States and I really wanted to show him my life in Vancouver that he had missed out on.
"Six weeks? Holy crap, that's a long time," K.C. commented.
I shrugged. "Well, that's the benefit of being writers. It's a honeymoon but it's also a working vacation."
He raised his eyebrows but didn't say anything. I knew this trip was a luxury that none of our friends could afford. But Eli's book had been so successful that money wasn't something we needed to worry about, especially since we were both so down-to-earth spending-wise that this vacation was the first thing we'd really splurged on.
"When are you leaving?" Sav asked.
"Next Sunday," Eli answered. "We wanted to wait until Darcy flew back to Kenya so we could spend as much time with her as possible."
"Then where are you spending tonight?" Alli grinned.
Eli and I exchanged a look. "We'll be spending it at home," he explained.
All of our friends groaned. "It's your wedding night! You should go somewhere special," Jenna exclaimed.
"We are," I said, and leaned in to kiss Eli. There was nothing more special to us than the home we'd built together.
The music changed and Jenna and K.C. got up to dance. Adam, Eli, Sav and Keith got into a conversation about how lame most wedding music was, and I leaned closer to Alli.
"So is this everything you've ever dreamed of?" she asked.
She pulled me into a tight embrace. "I'm so happy for you."
After everything that happened between us, I was surprised at how quickly Alli and I had gotten close again. Two days after I had moved in with Eli I knocked on her front door and by the time I left six hours later, it was like we were sisters again.
"You know, besides Darcy, you're my oldest friend here."
Her bottom lip quivered. "Don't do this to me, Clare. I've cried enough today."
I giggled. "Me too."
She grabbed my hand. "Let's dance."
By the time the cab dropped Eli and me off at our condo, I was too tired to walk without leaning against him. It had been such an incredible day that went by way too fast but all I wanted to do was get out of this dress and curl up in bed with Eli.
We took the elevator up to our floor and Eli paused at the door. "Do you want me to carry you over the threshold?" he asked.
"I think I can walk by myself, thank you," I said dryly.
He unlocked the door and gestured for me to enter before him. I flipped on the light switch to see that my dining room table was covered in flowers and chocolate and unlit votive candles with a large wrapped box in the middle. I peered into the living room and saw the setup was much the same, minus the gift.
"Eli, what did you do?"
He grinned. "Everyone told me coming back home after our wedding would be anti-climactic so I thought I'd spice things up a little." He pressed a kiss into my neck. "They obviously don't realize that sex with you could never be anti-climactic." He wiggled his eyebrows at me and I smacked him on the arm lightly. "I've got a bottle of champagne in the fridge; do you want some?"
"Sure," I said. I dug around the drawer of the hall table until I found a lighter and started to light the candles that were scattered around our apartment.
He came back with two flutes and I sipped mine while I tried to unbutton his shirt with one hand. "Don't you want to open your present first?"
"You mean, you're not my present?"
"Nope." He looked nervous. "I've got something pretty important for you."
I bit my lip. "I didn't get you anything. Were we supposed to get each other wedding presents? I had that huge deadline and then I was so busy working out the details for the wedding and the honeymoon that it completely slipped my mind."
"Clare, don't worry. I don't need anything but you." He nodded toward the package. "Open it up."
It was heavier than I was expecting and Eli's eyes widened as I shook it. "Don't do that!"
"So it's something fragile. Hmm…"
He laughed. "Not in the way you're thinking."
I tore off the wrapping paper and lifted the lid to find a huge stack of paper with a fancy red pen lying on top. I squinted at the small letters on the first page.
"Forever by Eli Goldsworthy," I read, my eyes widening.
"It's just a first draft. It's kind of a mess," he said. "But I was hoping you could help me edit it. It's a sequel to Midnight. It's the story of how we found each other again."
My jaw was dropped in shock. I had been waiting for this moment for almost three years. I'd spent hours watching Eli type furiously, wondering what he was working on, while he dodged my questions, not wanting to jinx his progress.
"Well?" he asked when I hadn't said anything.
"I'm not sure why you gave this to me tonight," I said softly, stepping toward him as his face fell. "Because I'm pretty sure you want to have sex with me, but now all I want to do is read your book."
Eli's mouth opened and shut like a fish. "But…but…I've been dreaming of this moment for the past ten years."
"A lot of couples don't even bother to have sex on their wedding night," I continued, watching his face turn red with frustration. "Since almost no one waits anymore, it's really not that big of a deal." I tossed back the rest of my champagne as Eli gaped at me.
I grasped both side of the tie that was dangling loosely around his neck and pulled him toward me. "I've waited three years to read your book, Eli. I think I can wait until tomorrow."
His eyes darkened. "Good, because I can't."
Eli's arms came around me and he literally swept me off my feet, wedding dress and all, and carried me into the bedroom.
It wasn't the first time we made love. But it was ever bit as sweet.