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The Bonus Chapter
“It’s totally going to be Georgie,” Adalia said with a groan. “She’d never let me go first.”
“You’re scrappy,” Maisie said, tilting her head to study her. “I think you’re a serious contender. Plus, your baby has been squirming around for months. She’s going to dive out the first chance she gets. She’ll probably be holding meetings for Hamilton Consulting and Buchanan Brewery before my kid can walk.”
“You’re only saying that because there’s no way you’re going to be first. You still have six months to go.”
Blue laughed at the two of them, sitting on yoga balls in her studio, and handed out mugs of herbal tea. It was a Sunday morning, and she’d decided to close the studio for the day. She could do that now. Although her business was never going to be a huge success, either the yoga or her creations, she did plenty well enough to support herself. That was all she’d ever wanted, and a blessing that had only become possible because she’d opened herself to receiving help and advice from her friends. “You know, I had tea with Dottie yesterday, and she’s convinced it’ll be you, Addy. She said she can see it in your energy.”
Maisie lifted up her free hand and smirked. “Case closed.”
“You’re the one who always says Dottie doesn’t know as much as she pretends to,” Adalia said, but she seemed pleased by the thought. Her baby was already rambunctious and, according to the ultrasounds, almost nine pounds. She wanted out, and everyone else was eager to meet her. Finn was so excited he’d bought a two-thousand-piece Lego set, only to be gently informed that the baby wouldn’t be able to play with them for several years. He’d also spent two weeks researching the best ways to make his own baby food before Adalia had reached her breaking point and told him it was a waste of time—and that she’d already donated the recipe books to a free library. The nursery was ready, and they’d been playing baby sounds around their dog, Tyrion, for months to get him acclimated. (Georgie had used the same set with her and River’s dog, Hops.) Not that it would take much, if you asked Blue. Tyrion was sweet enough to have won over Jezebel, Beau Buchanan’s infamously evil cat.
Truthfully, Jezebel had grown fond of Lee, too, relatively speaking. His favorite living human, Jack, had moved in with Maisie about a year ago, after their wedding, while Adalia had defected sooner, moving into Finn’s house right after they got married a year and a half ago. Blue and Lee lived in Beau Buchanan’s old house now, and since Jezebel was attached to the house—according to Dottie, at least—she lived with them. Blue’s Flemish Giant rabbit, Buford, lived in terror of her, although Lee would say he was afraid of everything, even more so now that he was officially in the realm of old age. The cat largely left him alone, however, treating him with no more interest than she might a pillow or another piece of furniture.
“How about you?” Addy said, eyeing Blue speculatively. “Did Dottie see rings in your tea leaves again?”
“What do you think?” Blue responded, raising her brows. “To hear her say it, rings should be dropping out of the sky every time I step outside.”
A little less than two years ago, before Blue and Lee had formed their Good Luck Club of two, his self-proclaimed grandmother, Dottie Hendrickson, had seen first owls and then snakes in Blue’s tea leaves. (Dottie was a self-trained tasseographer and, since she apparently didn’t know how to retire, the proprietor of a local tea shop, Tea of Fortune.) Both were less than fortuitous signs. But these days Dottie saw nothing but hearts and rings in her leaves. She’d clearly become impatient with Blue and Lee, who’d lived together for two years but still weren’t engaged.
Some might wonder why Dottie was in such a hurry to see her fourth “grandchild” get married when the other three had babies on the way, but Blue knew better. Dottie’s heart was like an endless spring of love, more burbling up whenever the opportunity arose.
“Don’t think she won’t try it,” Maisie said. “The throwing rings thing, I mean. She kept throwing heart confetti at Jack and me the Valentine’s Day before we got engaged, but every time we called her on it, she’d pretend it wasn’t her.” She gave Blue a pointed look. “Valentine’s Day is next week.”
They all laughed, because it was so Dottie, but from the way Adalia was eyeing Blue, it was obvious she was wondering what she’d say if Lee did ask. Because Blue had been divorced twice by the age of thirty, and she’d promised herself never to marry again. At the time, she’d thought she would be courting disaster—feeding the bad luck machine—if she even looked at the kind of man who might carve out a place in her heart.
But that had changed when she decided to bring Lee Buchanan to a meeting of the Bad Luck Club. When she sat back to back with him and spilled out her heart, while he did the same to her.
That was that day she’d fallen a little in love with him, she’d realized. The give and take of vulnerability between them had created an unshakeable bond, one that only grew stronger with each passing day.
She shrugged. “You’re lucky we’re lagging behind the rest of you. Lee will be the only Buchanan not on paternity or maternity leave.” Although he primarily worked at Hamilton Consulting now, leaving most of the selling of Buchanan beer to a distributor and another salesman, he stepped in when needed. And given River, Georgie, Jack, and Adalia comprised four-fifths of the ownership of the brewery, he was certainly needed. Finn had specifically planned a light work load for the consulting business in the months following the babies’ births, and he had several other employees to pick up the slack while he was on paternity leave and Lee was on “brewery staffing emergency leave,” a term Finn had come up with just for him.
Adalia laughed. “Sure. Like Georgie and River are going to stay away for more than five minutes. My nephew is going to be raised at the brewery.” She looked around, as if worried there might be observers hidden behind her sculpture in progress—or, as she called it—sculpture in stasis. It had become too difficult to work on her mixed media pieces recently, so she’d switched to other mediums while she waited. “I probably shouldn’t tell you guys this, but Georgie told me that she and River have decided to name the baby Beau. They don’t want to tell Dottie until he’s born, just in case he has a serious Michael face or, you know, asks for a different name, but it’s a 99-percent-sure thing.”
Blue gasped, swept up by the joy of it, and even Maisie, who prided herself on being a tough customer, looked a little teary-eyed. It had amused and delighted both Blue and Maisie to discover that Adalia was becoming more like Finn, whose secret-keeping skills were lacking, to say the least, especially toward the end of her pregnancy.
Blue’s phone beeped, and she reached for her pocket, pulling it out.
Adalia gasped. “Is Georgie having her baby?”
“Why would Georgie text Blue instead of you, numbskull?” Maisie teased, sputtering through a gulp of tea.
But Blue’s attention was on the message:
Your Good Luck Club challenge, should you choose to accept it: wear the sweatshirt Adalia will provide and meet me at the arboretum. You know where.
Blue laughed in delight. She and Lee had started this tradition after her graduation from the Bad Luck Club. They’d reveled in challenging each other, so they’d decided there was no reason to stop. Every other week brought a new challenge. His challenge, issued this morning, had been to practice a few of her yo-gance (an unfortunately named new fusion yoga/dance craze) with her in the bedroom, since she had interesting ideas about the possible practical applications—although she hadn’t gotten far in her explanation before he pulled her into their room.
Glancing up at Adalia, she caught a mischievous look in her friend’s eyes. “You know what’s going on,” she accused, with no real heat.
“Just putting it out there that this isn’t a manipulation of any sort,” Adalia said, “it’s a surprise. Surprises are good.”
“Depends on the surprise,” Maisie said. “Remember when Finn got you a singing telegram for your birthday, and you thought the guy was trying to break into your house, so you threw a frying pan at him?”
“That’s not the kind of thing a person forgets. What did he say, Blue?” she asked, waggling her brows.
“You’re supposed to provide me with a sweatshirt for this ‘surprise,’” Blue said.
“Which you are not going to want to wear,” Adalia said with a laugh, accepting the hand Blue held out to her to help her off the ball.
“This is going to be amazing,” Maisie said gleefully, taking Adalia’s tea and wandering off to put the cups in the sink.
Adalia had stashed the sweatshirt behind one of Blue’s crocheted octopuses in the showroom.
“I’m surprised you didn’t put it on him,” she commented, taking in the hot pink color.
“That would take much more dexterity than I’m currently capable of.” Adalia unfolded it, revealing the design: The Good Luck Club, Population: 2.
“You thought I wouldn’t want to wear this?” she asked, feeling her heart melt in her chest. Oh Lee.
This was another grand gesture, wasn’t it?
The first time around, he’d worn a cape to a Bad Luck Club party. He’d done it to show his acceptance of her admittedly quirky friends, who’d all worn capes for his first meeting of the club. They’d done it to tease him, and at the time, he hadn’t taken it well.
Then, last Christmas, he’d given her a handknit sweater—something he had painstakingly made on the sly after learning to knit from one of their Good Luck Club challenges.
The timing of this one didn’t escape her. Two years ago, they’d gone to the arboretum together for a meeting of the Bad Luck Club. Nicole, one of the members back then, had used it as a location for her challenge: Your man did you wrong. Tell him exactly what you think of him, but use a proxy. She’d unburdened herself to a statue, sort of assaulted it, and then they’d all had to run. They’d worn sweatshirts the same color as this one.
That was the first day Blue had kissed Lee rather than vice versa.
“It’s almost cheesy enough that I’m embarrassed for him,” Adalia said. “And at the same time, I commend you for getting that man to stop being an emotional desert. It’s truly remarkable.”
“Yeah,” Maisie added, joining them. “That man was a total tool. Like a multi-tool, and now he’s just a hammer.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Adalia gave her a playful shove.
“We know that you actually like each other,” Blue said as she pulled on the sweatshirt, lifting her hair out of the back. “You sang karaoke together at New Years. ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me.’ I feel compelled to point out, since you usually would, that it wasn’t even subtle.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Maisie said.
“See!” Adalia pointed at Blue. “This is what I’m talking about! You replaced my brother with a mostly nice, still sort of grumpy pod person.”
“Are we going?” Maisie asked.
“You guys are coming?”
Her friends exchanged a look, some sort of silent communication passing between them. They both knew what was happening, then. Blue’s heart beat a little faster as she considered the possibilities.
Was it time?
Was he going to ask?
She hadn’t told her friends, or even Dottie, but she and Lee had talked about it recently. They’d talked about getting married just last weekend.
He’d made them cocoa, and they’d sat outside on the back porch, Lee in the chair Beau Buchanan had once favored, according to Dottie. They’d sipped their drinks contentedly, peering up at the few stars that had made it through the cloud cover as they talked about Bear’s latest theory about bad luck. Although she’d graduated the Bad Luck Club, Bear, her sponsor, was still very much in her life, thank goodness. He’d assured her that she was stuck with him for life.
In fact, with one exception, she’d remained close with everyone in the original Bad Luck Club. All of them had since moved on, other than Bear, of course, and his son, Cal. And Blue’s dear, dear friend Harry, although she was pretty sure that Harry would never willingly leave—and that Cal and Bear didn’t kick him out because he did every single challenge without complaint. Dee, to everyone’s delight, had married the new tasting room manager at Buchanan Brewery.
Lee had studied her for a long moment, then said, “You know, Bear also believes in the power of numbers. Three and seven being his favorites. Maybe there’s something to the saying ‘third time’s the charm.’”
Her heart had started beating fast in her chest, like a butterfly caught in a jar. But the pervading feeling had been one of happiness, which told her how far she had come. She was ready to share her life with him. No, they were already sharing their lives, and the partnership they’d forged was beautiful beyond her wildest imaginings.
“I sure hope so,” she said with a grin. “Because I really don’t want to have to get married another four times to get to number seven.”
He’d huffed a grumpy sort of laugh and then leaned over and kissed her, his taste sweet and a little spicy from the chocolate. But she wasn’t done, and she’d broken away for long enough to tell him the truth. “I’ve been thinking about it too, Lee. Maybe it’s time for you to find me that Ring Pop.”
Because she’d joked before that she’d only marry him if he proposed with a Ring Pop—which was what she’d been given by her first husband, Mike, before their quickie Vegas wedding.
“Oh, I think you deserve a better proposal than that. Your first marriage only lasted three months.”
“They were three very long months.”
A grin twitched on his lips. “I’ll bet the proposal was to blame, and it had nothing to do with marrying a stranger. Your marriage to Remy lasted longer, and you said he proposed at a restaurant.”
“With a ring in my cupcake. I nearly choked. You’d think that would have been enough of a sign.” She waved a hand. “Part of me knew, but I wasn’t ready to see it. I was too afraid of what would happen if I went out on my own.”
“Well, I want a whole lifetime with you, so I better think of something good. Especially since I hope it’s the last proposal you’re going to get.”
Her breath had hitched at his words, at the way he still looked at her, and at the warmth and love flowing between them like vines. “You’ve been watching too many Lifetime movies with Adalia and Iris,” she said.
Whenever Jack’s baby sister visited from Northwestern, she had movie nights with Adalia, and Lee always, always joined them, no matter how outlandish the movie. Women Who Kill and the Men Who Love Them? He was there for it. Murder at the Biltmore? Adalia had watched it at least twenty times since it was released last year, but still he’d sit down for it, when even Finn, who made constant Biltmore visits with Adalia, groaned about the constant re-watchings.
“Nah,” he’d said softly. “You just deserve everything. You deserve for everyone to know how wonderful you are.”
“Does this mean you’re going to make a public display of me?”
“Maybe,” he’d said, a corner of his mouth hitching up.
Before, that would have terrified her.
But now…now she wasn’t as embarrassed of what other people might think of her, because she was proud of herself and the life she’d built, proud too of the family and friends she’d surrounded herself with.
So she’d just smiled back and said, “I think maybe I’d like that.”
That had been a week ago, and now this…
She thought about pressing for more information. With her newly Finn-like attitude, Adalia might spill.
If Lee wanted it to be a surprise, then she wanted that too. She used to fear surprises, because they usually took a bad form. And because her father, who had always wanted to control every aspect of her existence, had made her fear the unexpected. But that was her other life, the life before Asheville, the Bad Luck Club, and the Buchanans, and she wasn’t going back. She was only interested in going forward.
“Then let’s go,” she said. And so they did.
In the car—Maisie drove because Adalia had declared she was officially past driving when she hit thirty-seven weeks—Maisie and Addy bickered, and Blue sat in the back seat, her fingers twitching for her knitting needles. Only she’d left them back at the studio. When she was nervous or anxious, it always helped to have something to do with her hands, some sort of physical release that would exorcise the anxiety, the way Lee did with his time at the gym.
Adalia glanced back at her, as if reading her mind—sometimes it seemed like she could, like Blue was halfway convinced Dottie could—and then handed something back to her. Her canvas bag with the onesie she was knitting for Adalia’s little girl.
“I’m being self-serving, but I thought you might like to have something to work on.”
Blue smiled back at her. “You know me too well. And don’t worry, between me and Dottie, your daughter will be wearing knitted clothes way after she starts being embarrassed of them.”
“That’s fine. She’s going to be raised with lots of humility, won’t you, Lizzie?”
The baby hadn’t been officially named, but it was only a matter of time, given Adalia’s Pride and Prejudice obsession. Dottie had pushed hard for Amethyst, although Finn, in his usual blunt way, had blurted that it sounded like a stripper name.
Knitting was calming, and before Blue knew it, they were there. After they got out of the car—Addy groaning as Blue helped her out—they looked to her for directions.
“He said you’d know what to do once we got here,” Adalia said, her eyes shining.
And she did.
She led them up the path from the parking lot to the gardens, remembering all the while the time she and Lee had hurtled down that path in the other direction, hand in hand.
When they got to the statue of Frederick Law Olmsted, she saw him immediately, the hot pink sweatshirt making him stand out from the other visitors. Not that he wouldn’t stand out regardless. Lee Buchanan was a tall, broad man, with a face that belonged on a statue rather than next to one. And he was hers—a thought that still made her feel unbelievably lucky.
For a woman who’d once been driven by desperation to answer a Craigslist ad for the Bad Luck Club, she now felt her cup was overflowing with abundance.
Lee met her eyes as she approached him, and she saw an edgy kind of nervousness in him, but his soul, as Dottie would say, seemed to beam a bright light that melded with hers.
Maisie started snapping pictures beside her, and she gave her a little shove.
“What? It’s not every day you see him in pink. This needs to be immortalized. Forever. Besides, I promised Georgie and Dottie I would get plenty of documentation.”
It was on the edge of her tongue to ask why, and where they were if they were so interested in the goings-on, but she didn’t, because something pink in the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she averted her gaze from Lee for long enough to check it out.
Bear. Cal. Harry. Nicole. Dee. The only person missing from the first ever Bad Luck Club lineup was the one who was always missing from their meetups: Augusta. After she was asked to leave the club, having skipped three and a half challenges and a generous number of makeup opportunities, she’d actually tried to burn down the house Bear and Cal were working on at the time. She’d only succeeded in causing a small trash fire, but even so. Lee had tried to convince them to sue, but Cal, who’d been Augusta’s sponsor, had a sit-down with her instead, and then insisted that she was done with arson, bad review-bombing Cal’s carpentry business and Buchanan Brewery, and poisoning the shrubs outside of their house, the Cluster. True to her word, she’d left everyone alone, but she’d messaged Cal recently, saying she had a surprise dropping that coming Tuesday. No one was looking forward to having that surprise revealed. Almost two years after Augusta’s last Bad Luck Club meeting, Harry still flinched whenever her name was mentioned.
Blue had asked Cal how he felt about it, and he’d shrugged and said, “Some people make their own luck.”
Or lack thereof.
Her friends were wearing pink sweatshirts too, only theirs said Friends of the Good Luck Club. They started waving to her, and Harry gestured for her to join them.
“Hey,” Adalia said, sounding piqued. “Why didn’t we get those?”
“What happens in the Good Luck Club stays in the Good Luck Club,” she said automatically. Harry was still waving at her like a madman, but she took a step toward Lee, wanting to be with him, to do whatever madness he was planning together—because they’d both discovered they liked a little madness, so long as they walked into it hand in hand, but Adalia pulled her back.
“Not yet,” she said. “This is where it gets good.”
Which was apparently a sentiment Maisie agreed with, because she was now clearly filming everything as they walked over to join the rest of the group. Blue’s friends closed in around her in a group hug, making her laugh in nervous anticipation. “Do you all know what’s going on too?” she asked.
“I refused to come unless he’d tell me,” Harry said. Which didn’t surprise her much. Harry hated surprises even more than she used to.
“You guys,” Adalia said, her eyes sparkling. “He’s ready.”
Blue felt as if she were steps away from the precipice of a hill, eager to see the view from the other side. She still wanted to go to Lee, to hold his hand through this—whatever this was—but she settled on telling him that with her eyes. His were warm and loving, then he gave her the slightest nod and turned to the statue.
“You were such an a—a jerk,” he said to the statue, his voice deep and clear. People turned to look at him, just like they had with Nicole that long-ago day, and she saw his ears had gone red at the tips. “You couldn’t see it, but everyone around you could. You hated what you’d become, what you’d let your father make you, and it made you bitter and closed off to the people who loved you.”
He took a deep breath, as if he needed bolstering before he continued, Blue feeling a pulse of emotion as if from those invisible cords connecting them.
This was the open, raw side of Lee that he usually only showed to her, and now he was revealing it to her friends, his sister and sister-in-law, whoever was allowed to watch the video, plus a couple of dozen passersby.
He’s doing this for you.
And it was the ultimate gesture. Part of her wanted to run up there and grab him, to run away with him so he didn’t have to make a display of himself. But Adalia squeezed her hand. She saw there were tears in her friend’s eyes—she might have known what he was planning, to some extent, but she hadn’t realized he would be like this. Still, she held Blue back.
“Then you came here, and your brother and sisters and your…grandmother offered you a helping hand. They wanted you to be a part of their lives, even after everything you’d done to them. After everything you’d withheld. And still you were the…jerk that he’d taught you to be.” Emotion roiled behind his voice. “But it all changed when you met her. Because she opened something inside of you, and she put a mirror in front of your face and showed you what you’d become, and you didn’t like the way it looked. She helped you change that. She and the Ba—the club—” Again he censored himself, and she knew he did it for Bear, who clearly recognized it too, because he reached forward and squeezed her shoulder.
“One of the good ones, Blueberry,” he murmured under his breath.
Nicole made a sound as if to say she disagreed. “He stole my idea.”
“Think of it as an homage,” Cal said.
Harry snickered at that, and Dee had a fond smile on her face, although she didn’t seem to feel the need to share why.
“Shhhhh,” a stranger said, “I can’t hear him.”
That got a chuckle from Maisie, and Blue realized that Lee was looking back at them now. His cheeks were scarlet like his ears, but he turned to her.
“—you took a chance on me. You wouldn’t give up on me, even though I gave you every reason to. Even though I walked away from you, twice. You gave me another chance. You threw me a lifeline when I was drowning. Only I was too stubborn at first to realize I needed it. You helped me become a better man. I am who I am today because of you, Blue Combs, and I will never, ever forget it.”
“I’m confused,” a woman called out. “Are you still talking to the statue?”
“It’s a metaphor, idiot,” Nicole shouted, and the woman threw her a dirty look before walking away.
Blue tried to pull away again, and this time Adalia let her, and her friends broke into cheers as she ran to Lee and pulled him to her.
“I’ve turned you into a crazy man,” she whispered into his lips, and then she kissed him, pouring into it all the love she felt for this man, for the work he’d done, and for the heart he had. The cheers got louder, and she distinctly heard Maisie whooping.
He pulled away slightly. “This was the first place you kissed me,” he said to her, his eyes glimmering with purpose.
“It was,” she said, feeling tears well in her eyes. She smiled through the wave of emotion. “You totally informed the employees you were going to do this, didn’t you?”
“Anne and I have gotten friendly,” he told her with a slightly mischievous smirk. “Wouldn’t want us to have to run for it again.”
Then he dipped into his pocket and came out with a blue Ring Pop.
She laughed delightedly, giddy with it. “You did it. You actually did it.”
People were calling out around them, but she barely noticed them. And from Lee’s intent expression, his eyes on hers, his everything focused on her, he didn’t either.
As she watched, gasping, a tear tracking down her cheek, he lowered onto one knee in front of the statue. She reached for the Ring Pop, and he grinned at her as she took it, then dipped into his pocket again for a small red velvet box.
“You didn’t think I’d follow Mike’s example, did you?” he asked as he flipped open the box. A blue sapphire winked up at her, surrounded by waves of white gold. “I want a lifetime, Blue. I want so much more than three months.”
That ring, it said everything. It said that he knew her, that he loved her just as she was, that he wanted to make her happy. For them to make each other happy. And she felt more hope and happiness flow into that overfull bucket. Yet somehow it all fit.
“Will you marry me, Blue?”
“Yes,” she said, pulling him up to her, because they were a partnership, and he deserved to stand up here with her when he asked her the most important question of their lives. “Yes. I’d marry you today if I could. Yesterday. Last year. Two years ago.”
He let out a joyful laugh and took the ring from the box and slid it on her finger. “I have one other surprise.”
“At least kick the statue once,” Nicole shouted out, her hands around her mouth like a bullhorn. “I deserve that much.”
So he threw a grin at Blue, and he did.
As soon as he stopped hopping on one foot, he said, “Actually…”
Then he took her hand and started running back toward the parking lots, and she went with him, trusting him, loving this surprise like she’d loved no other, because she loved this man like she had no other. Their friends cheered again and waved at them, and Adalia shouted out, “See you later!”
“If you’d said no, it would have been just a party,” Lee said as he led her toward the event space for the brewery. “Not our engagement party.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair, leaving it tousled, the way she liked it best. “Because I wanted to celebrate you, whatever you decided.”
She gasped the moment he opened the door. First, she reacted to the people. Because although they’d arrived before Adalia and Maisie and the club, everyone else was here. River and Georgie, whose belly was as full as Adalia’s. Jack. Finn. And then her heart crept into her throat because her mother was there too. Her stepfather. And…her heart might permanently become lodged in her throat, because her little sister Hattie was there, beaming at her, standing next to Dottie, who had a smug smile on her face and love in her eyes.
She ran to Hattie, pulling Lee with her, and only released him for long enough to hug her little sister and then pull her mother into it too.
“So?” Hattie said, glancing from her to Lee. “Did you do it?”
“Yes, dears,” Dottie said, “don’t keep us all in suspense. It’s bad for the digestion.”
And because Blue knew perfectly well what they meant, she held up her hand with the winking blue sapphire, and cheers filled the hall. Only then, once the first greetings were passed and congratulations had been given, did she notice the decorations in the room. Lee had hung one of her octopuses in the corner—she recognized Thaddeus, who usually graced their room—and the walls had been covered in posterboard painted with a gorgeous mural of the ocean. She recognized the swirls of Dottie’s brushstrokes, plus the edge of Adalia’s. Soft music played through a sound system, and the room had been set up similarly to how Jack had arranged things for Georgie and River’s ill-fated engagement party, tall tables and a buffet of food, along with a couple of bars for drinks. More joy poured into her cup.
Adalia and a very smug Maisie arrived, and the latter announced that she had footage and she wasn’t afraid to use it.
“Oh, thank goodness,” Georgie said. “I didn’t want to miss it, but there was so much to do here, and I wanted to make sure it was perfect.”
“Because of everything I did to make your engagement party perfect,” Lee joked.
“It was perfect,” Georgie insisted, lifting up to kiss River on the cheek. Adalia groaned and made a comment about cheese, but Blue had to admit this party felt pretty perfect too.
Then the (former) Bad Luck Club arrived, plus Nicole’s newest boyfriend. Dee’s husband was working behind the bar.
“How’s your foot, Lee?” Nicole asked.
He grimaced, and she nodded knowingly. “The foot was the worst. I thought my hands would hurt more, but I guess I kicked Fred harder than I punched him.”
“Who’s Fred?” her boyfriend asked in horror.
“Better that he find out now,” Lee whispered to Blue as he pulled her back toward Hattie and her mom.
Blue felt perilously close to tears as she introduced everyone to her mother and Hattie. Bear and Cal had already met her mom, but no one except for Lee had met her little sister. Hattie was eighteen now, and in the fall she’d be headed to college. She’d be free. Blue had no idea how Lee had arranged for her sister to be present today, but she’d find out later. Right now, she’d just be glad for it.
Hattie was talking to Harry about some internet chat forum conspiracy theory he was worried about, which had actually originated at Hattie’s college, when Dee asked Cal about Augusta’s “surprise.”
“Have you heard anything else?” she asked.
“No,” he said, a dark look crossing his face. “But she knows better to pull any more of her antics.”
No one knew what he’d said to her to make her back off, but there was no denying the results.
Then again, Cal had been Augusta’s sponsor. He was the only one who knew her secrets.
“It can’t be anything good,” Harry said with a little shudder. Then again, he reacted to her name as if she were Voldemort, so of course he thought that.
“Oh, she’s harmless,” Bear said, as if he hadn’t seen the smoldering mess in his trash can. Blue had it on good authority that Bear had actually baked cookies for Cal’s sit-down with Augusta.
Dottie approached their huddle and tapped on Blue’s shoulder. “Blue, dear, I need to steal away Lee for a moment.”
She squeezed his hand before releasing it, but he and Dottie didn’t go very far. They stood under Thaddeus, the tentacles nearly brushing Lee’s burnished hair, and from the dark look on his face, he didn’t much like what she had to say.
Her friends were still trading theories about what Augusta might want. Harry speculated that she’d already sucked the souls from another group of people and was coming back for theirs, Dee suggested she’d written a book and wanted them to buy copies, and Hattie, who’d gotten into the rhythm of the guessing game even though she didn’t know the first thing about Augusta, said she was looking to set up an MLM party. So she stepped away to ask what was wrong.
When she took Lee’s arm, he turned to her with a worried look. Almost his Buford look.
“I didn’t have anything to do with this, I swear.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, feeling a sudden lick of fear.
“Oh, he’s overreacting,” Dottie said with a grand swish of her hand. “I only wanted to give you two the option. Blue’s leaves were quite clear the other day. And I also had Josie do a celestial reading. This is the day it’s supposed to happen. But if you do insist on waiting, that’s your choice, of course.”
“Waiting for what?” Blue asked in confusion.
“Dottie has a ‘friend’ in the Office of Deeds,” Lee said. “Apparently she had them put in a marriage license for us, even though that is highly illegal. I didn’t know, Blue.”
She looked at Dottie, who met her eyes and nodded slightly.
“And this friend is here with the license, I’m guessing,” she said softly.
“Of course,” Dottie confirmed with a small smile.
Lee turned her to him. “Blue, I didn’t—”
But she stopped him with a soft kiss. A glimmer of excitement sparked to life within her. This felt right. She broke away slightly, but kept hold of him, looking up into his starlight eyes.
“I know you didn’t. I know you wouldn’t try to back me into something without knowing whether I was comfortable with it. That’s why you brought up the engagement last week. That’s why you told me about the party before we got here. But I want this, Lee.”
The worry dropped away from his face, leaving only love, love and an excitement to match her own.
“So we’re doing this?”
“Consider it our next good luck challenge.” She smiled, and he lifted a finger to trace her bottom lip.
“Get a room!” shouted Nicole.
“Speaking of which,” Dottie said, “another friend of mine has the perfect little bed and breakfast, and wouldn’t you know, she has an opening for the next few nights.”
Of course she did.
Just as the thought passed through her head, Lee said, “Of course she does,” and she laughed.
“What’s so funny?” River asked, coming over to join them, hand in hand with Georgie.
“We’re getting married,” Lee said with a huge grin.
“Yeah, we know,” Finn said as he sidled up with Adalia. Jack and Maisie fell in with them too. “Isn’t that why we’re having a party?”
Then Georgie, whose gaze had ping-ponged between Lee, Dottie, and Blue, gasped. “He means today.”
“Seriously?” Adalia said, moving her legs a little back and forth.
“Do you have to pee?” Finn asked with a frown.
“This is pregnant me jumping for joy!”
They all laughed at that, and Jack asked, “As events director, I feel like I should ask how this is going to go down.”
“Well…” Dottie started, and of course she had a plan for everything, from who would do the honor of marrying them (“I humbly submit myself”) to who would babysit Buford and leave cat food at a safe distance for Jezebel while they were away. She even had a couple of outfits in mind for them, should they wish to change out of the Good Luck Club sweatshirts. They needed only to say the word, and someone would be sent to pick them up.
“I’d like to steal Blue for a minute before we make the announcement,” Lee said.
“Bride stealing is frowned upon these days,” Adalia said, “although it is quite common in Scottish historicals.” She’d been reading constantly over the last week, waiting for the baby to come, and Iris had left a couple of Scottish historicals at the house the last time she’d visited. Jack had flushed, obviously flustered by the suggestion that his little sister cared about dating and sex when Adalia showed them the covers, making everyone laugh—“but in a loving way,” Maisie had insisted.
“We’ll be back,” Blue said, squeezing Adalia’s shoulder.
Lee led her to the back offices, where he’d once told her that she deserved another man, one more understanding and less judgmental than him.
She knew he’d brought her there because he remembered it too, and he wanted to replace that memory with a better one.
“We don’t have to do this, Blue.” He looked like he’d be pacing if she weren’t holding both of his hands, anchoring him in place. “I don’t want you to feel backed into it. I…you deserve whatever kind of wedding you’d like to have. Or we could elope or go to city hall if you’d prefer.”
She lifted a hand to touch his face, reveling in the slight stubble on his jaw, those honest, open eyes, and those perfect, kissable lips. He kissed her fingers, and she released a sigh of pure contentment.
“My last wedding…it was planned for a year, down to the number of olives each person would get on their plate and what font the name plaques would be in. Plaques because they were actually hand-carved with each guest’s name. And it was awful. I didn’t feel like myself for even one minute. I had to keep telling myself it was what I wanted. But it wasn’t. Not even a little. I want this, Lee. It feels right, down to staying in these amazing sweatshirts. It feels like us.”
He laughed a little, some of his disquiet lifting. “It kind of does, actually. And everyone’s here. Everyone who matters.”
His father wasn’t there, of course, but then the Buchanan children had all cut ties with him before he was sent to jail. It was a minimum security prison, and according to Lee, it might as well have been a yachting club, given each of the prisoners had a net worth over seven figures. But still. Jail was jail.
“Now, I have to ask you, is this what you want?”
His lips twisted but in a look of mirth. “If I’d gone through with marrying Victoria, I’m pretty sure it would have been like your wedding, except worse. She had it all planned, you know, even though I hadn’t proposed yet. Live doves were going to be released at the moment the officiant pronounced us man and wife, only she wanted us to get married indoors. I only saw it as something to get through. But our wedding, you and I…whenever I think about it, I think about being surrounded by family and friends. Saying vows we’ve written. Having Dottie be…well, Dottie…while she does the service. I thought maybe we could do it on a beach, but…”
“But you made me one. In February,” she said, feeling choked up again. She pulled him closer, squeezing his hands. “I love you so much.”
“If you’re sure…”
“Oh, I am.” And then she led him into his office, the one that used to belong to Phil in sales, and locked the door behind them. “But I don’t think we need to be in any hurry to get back.”
Then she pulled him to her by the bottom of his ridiculous pink sweatshirt and showed him how very much she wanted to marry him. Like this. In the brewery his grandfather and Dottie had built, and Lee and his siblings and River had filled with new life and laughter and beer. In a room decorated to look like the inside of her artist’s imagination. In front of all of the people they loved and esteemed most in the world, married by the woman who had, with all of her admittedly sweet machinations, made it possible.
It wouldn’t be perfect, no, but it would very much be them.
And if that wasn’t a celebration of the Good Luck Club, then she didn’t know what was.Return to Bonus Reads