Two years after the end of Trouble Next Door...
For something that was supposed to be the best day of their lives, it sure as hell was causing a lot of stress. Beckett stood in the kitchen of his apartment, drying the dishes from their dinner. He looked across the room at McKenna, who sat cross-legged on the floor next to the coffee table with big sheets of white paper in front of her, the layout of their wedding reception venue mapped out in black ink.
“What if we moved Aunt Kathleen to the table where all the single people are sitting?” she asked, chewing on the end of a hot pink gel pen. “That would fix the issue with having too many people on the Prescott extended family table.”
“You’re going to put your sixty-five-year-old aunt with all the twenty-somethings?” he raised his brow. “Do you think she’d be okay with that?”
McKenna looked up, her shoulders drooping. “No, she’ll hate every second of it. But I can’t seem to make it work. If I leave her at the main Prescott table then I have to shift one of the couples, maybe Aunt Eileen and Uncle Dom?”
“To the singles table?”
“No, we could put them with the grandparents and Great Aunts and Uncles table.”
Beckett was quite sure the Prescott family bred like bunnies. The second they’d started wedding planning family members came out of the woodwork to stake claim on their spot for the reception. Turns out, McKenna’s mother was Catholic. She was one of seven and her siblings had at least three or four kids each. At this stage, Beckett’s family were talking up half of one table and McKenna’s were accounting for at least six.
“But then she’ll complain that we’re calling her old.” She let out a strangled cry of frustration. “And my mother will have a fit if I try to put Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Liam on the same table.”
“They don’t get along?” Beckett couldn’t keep up with his fiancée’s family politics. Despite the fact that he’d even tried to spreadsheet it all at one point.
“Are you kidding me?” McKenna reached for the glass of red wine sitting across from her, and took a big gulp. “They haven’t spoken since the great recipe war of 2003.”
Beckett stacked plates and stowed them away in cupboard at eye-level. “I’m not even going to ask.”
“It’s better if you don’t, believe me.”
Beckett frowned. McKenna looked truly miserable. Her long brown and purple hair hung over her shoulders in great looping curls as she studied the venue layout. Even from across the room, he could spot the gold glitter coating her eyelids. It sparkled in the light every time she blinked.
But whereas her blue eyes would usually twinkle alongside the glitter, today they looked dull. Clouded with frustration. And the wedding was still six months out.
The day he’d proposed had been one of the happiest of his entire life. Beckett had been working on his plans for months, making sure everything was perfect. He’d found the ring that represented McKenna best—a perfect square cut amethyst, surrounded by tiny white diamonds—and had figure out the best place to pop the question. He’d taken her to Tide Pool, the place where they’d shared their “test date”, although this time they’d skipped the oysters.
After a romantic dinner, they’d strolled along the river, laughing and joking and trying to stay warm and dry huddled under a big umbrella. He’d dropped to one knee suddenly, nerves overtaking him, and landed straight in a puddle. But dammit he’d stayed in that puddle, letting it soak him all the way through his suit pants so he wouldn’t spoil the moment for her.
He’d been sure at the time that her squeal of joy had turned every head in a 5km radius. The ring had fit perfectly, she’d cried and ruined her makeup, and then they’d gone to get sundaes at McDonalds. That was them in a nutshell. Unconventional.
But slowly as the months ticked by, the glow in McKenna’s face started to dim. The excitement in her voice evaporated. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
“What if we put both our parents on one table, instead of seating them with their families?” McKenna scrutinized the papers further, her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth as she crossed out some names and rewrote them in a different spot. “We could have my parents, plus my brothers and their partners. Then we could have Kayla and Aaron, and your mum and Mike. That might work.”
Beckett’s mother had been seeing Mike, a respectable plumber she’d met while working at her new job in a hardware store. They’d been together almost a year and Minnie had never been happier. Beckett had given the guy a good grilling on their first meeting, and determined that he had a good head on his shoulders. But they were taking it slow, and Minnie still hadn’t given him a key to her place. But Beckett had a feeling that might happen soon, and he was fully supportive of it.
“Your parents and my mother on the table together?” He walked across the room. “Talk about chalk and cheese.”
“Do you think she’d agree?”
“Of course, it’s your day.” He dropped down on the couch behind McKenna, and she snuggled back between his legs, her cheek resting on his inner thigh. “She’ll do whatever you want.”
“Whatever we want,” she corrected him. “It’s our day, not mine.”
“Everybody knows weddings are all about the bride.” He draped his arms over her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. The scent of vanilla cupcakes wafted into the air, stirring him inside his jeans. God, that scent…it never failed to get him excited. “I guess big weddings need big planning, right? We’ll figure it out.”
Something about the tone of her voice settled like a lump in Beckett’s stomach. “You still want to go ahead with this, right?”
“Of course.” She didn’t sound convinced.
This was the fear that Beckett lived with daily. That he would screw things up with McKenna and lose the best thing that had ever happened to him. Ever since he’d pulled his head out of his ass and admitted he wanted to be with her, his life had been turned upside down.
She’d quit her job at CAM Ready-Cosmetics to freelance and had managed to land herself a gig doing makeup with Channel 9. It wasn’t quite the glamorous freelancing she’d been looking for—but powdering the shiny noses of news anchors gave her steady work. Then she did weddings, events and even fashion shows around her regular work. And no more sales work, much to McKenna’s delight.
WealthHack had taken off with the support of his investors. And even with his minuscule slice of the pie, he still stood to make more than enough to support them both, as well as taking care of Minnie.
But they both worked hard, giving everything to their dreams and to supporting one another. But it seemed lately that the wedding planning was sucking up more of their time than either of them wanted. Still, Beckett would work on the wedding 24/7 if it made her happy. And he’d do it with a genuine smile on his face.
“It’s just…” McKenna paused.
Oh god. Don’t tell him he’d been missing the signs that things were falling apart. Had he made the same mistake again? Had he been that blind?
“I don’t even care if half these people actually come.” She turned and crawled up to the couch beside him, her rosebud mouth downturned. “I never see these people, and suddenly they think they have some claim over a seat and a meal because I’m getting married.”
Relief filtered through Beckett’s system. “But you still want to marry me?”
“Oh my god, of course you dummy!” She laughed. “That was never in question.”
He encircled her wrist with his fingers, tugging her arm until she got the hint to slide into his lap. Her round bottom rubbed deliciously against the fly of his jeans and he went from having a burgeoning erection to a full blown hard-on.
“Seriously? You’re getting horny over a bunch of wedding talk?”
“No, just the thought of the wedding night is all I need.” He lowered his lips to her and coaxed her mouth open for a searching kiss. She tasted like red wine and the blueberry cheesecake they’d had for dessert. “Everything else is just prolonging the inevitable.”
Then it hit him. That’s exactly what this wedding had become. All the planning and politics and stress and money had turned what should have been a private, intimate affair into some grand exhibition. Like they were a circus sideshow. All he wanted for his wedding day was to have McKenna by his side. That was is. No fanfare, no bells and whistles. Just the people he cared about more than life itself.
“Let’s elope,” he said, threading his fingers into her hair. “Well, not elope exactly. But let’s get married somewhere else, we’ll do it really small. Private. Just a few people.”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “But we’ve got the venue sorted, and the cars. The invites are already printed.”
The stack of pale pink envelopes sat on the breakfast bar, ready to be delivered to the post office the following morning.
“Everything’s booked,” she added.
“So we’ll un-book it.” He peppered kisses along her jaw, feeling the tension of her muscles slowly softening under his lips. “Who cares if we lose a few deposits?”
The old Beckett would never have said that. But he didn’t need more proof McKenna had changed him, loosened him up. He knew it to the depths of his soul. He was marked by her, and he could never go back to being the man he was before she stumbled into his life.
“You’re serious?” A surprised laugh escaped her lips. “Where would we even go?”
“Fiji, maybe. Or up north in Queensland. Somewhere sunny and warm.” He brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead. “I don’t care, to be honest. So long as you’re there and you’re happy, that’s all I really care about.”
“But you were the one who suggested this place,” she whispered. “You said it was big enough to accommodate everyone.”
“I thought you wanted all your family there, and there are a bloody lot of you.”
She shook her head. “I just want it to be us, Beck.”
He pulled her closer, touching his forehead to hers for a long second before he kissed her. His tongue delved into her mouth, stroking and exploring. Soothing. His hands slid over her hips to cup her ass. Every part of her body was like heaven. No matter how many lifetimes passed him by, he’d never get sick of touching her. Of tasting her. Fingers biting into her backside, he held her in place so he could rub against the heat between her legs. Her soft moan rang in his ears, the sound winding through his bloodstream like a drug.
“Are we really going to do this?” she asked, her eyes brimming with hope. The twinkle was back, the glow and the excitement and all the other wonderful things he’d missed. “Are we going to throw the towel in and piss off my mother and run away and get married?”
“Yes,” he growled, scraping his teeth down the side of her neck. “Yes, we are.”
He knew one thing for certain. So long as he had McKenna in his life then everything else would work itself out. So long as he had her, he could breathe.
“I love you so much,” she said, her words turning to a soft groan as he moved them, laying her down against the couch so he could trap her body with his. “Are you sure you’re happy to give up the big wedding?”
“The only thing I gave a damn about was that I would get to see you walk down that aisle toward me, and that I would leave knowing you were mine and I was yours.” His fingertips traced the curve of her cheek. “And that I would be the happiest man alive because somehow I’d avoided messing things up with you.”
“Only because you had the four-point plan.” She grinned.
“Damn straight. Now, about step four…” His teeth nipped the skin along her collar bone and she squirmed beneath him, her hands already tugging his shirt out of the waistband of his jeans.
“Make a commitment?”
He drew the neckline of her t-shirt down so he could suck on her fair skin. The scalloped edge of a purple lace bra poked out and he traced it with his tongue. “I was thinking we need to expand the plan.”
“We already made a commitment, didn’t we?” Her hands moved to the buttons of his shirt and she popped them open, one by one. “I’ve got a ring on my finger. What more do you want?”
“Everything.” He shrugged out of his shirt and dropped it to the floor. Next came her t-shirt. Then he hooked his fingers into the waistband of her bright purple leggings and peeled them down over her hips and thighs. “I want us to never forget this feeling we have now. I want us to be hot for one another even when we’re old and grey and we’ve been married fifty years. I want us to achieve everything we want together, as a team.”
“You want a lot,” she whispered. But her eyes were bright, blue like the sky and shimmering like the ocean on a sunny day. Thiswas how he wanted her to look—as though she was hungry for everything life had to offer.
“I’m a greedy man.” He stripped her bare, so that she lay naked beneath him. All that fair skin and purple hair and those full, glossy lips made him hard as a rock. “I want us to have it all.”
“And we will, Beckett. We’re going to have a long, happy life, and we’re going to chase our dreams and have a gaggle of kids together.”
The thought of a mini-McKenna running around his feet made him smile. “A gaggle?”
“Four, at least.”
He chuckled. “Now who’s greedy?”
“So that’s it. We’ve decided?” She sucked in a breath as he delved between her legs, readying her for him. She was already wet. Hot. “No more big marriage plans. No more stress.”
“No more seating plans and arguments over entrees.” He pressed between her legs, pushing into her with one smooth stroke. She sighed, sinking her teeth into her bottom lip. “Just us.”
“Just us,” she repeated, letting her eyes flutter shut. “Just us.”