“You know what stuns me the most?” Grant asked beside me, running a hand over his hair. Of course my best man wanted to look good in front of the maid of honor, a.k.a. Layla. He still hadn’t gotten over being rejected. I doubted it was even in his vocabulary.
“My wicked good looks?” I asked wryly. From the corner of my eye, I saw Julian shake his head, ducking down and adjusting Clementine’s floral crown. She was the flower girl, and what a flower girl she was. Mad had designed a dress especially for her, after much consultation and fuss that suggested Clementine would be the one making the vows today. “Fools,” Julian muttered with a smile on his face. “Never get married, Clemmy.”
“Oh, but I want to, Daddy.” Her eyes widened. “With Chase.”
Grant chuckled, turning back to me. “What stuns me is that Maddie still chose to marry you, even though she knows what kind of a cocky, arrogant, bas—” Grant was about to finish his sentence, but Booger Face’s head flew up, and she stared at him expectantly. She had been dying for someone to screw up and roll a five-dollar bill into her potty-word jar. She was counting on new Barbie bicycles for Christmas.
“Stop it right there, good sir,” Julian warned. Clementine faltered.
“Bassist,” Grant finished. “Did you know your uncle can play the bass guitar, Clem?” He spun to where she was standing by the bed, flashing her a dazzling grin.
“No.” She narrowed her eyes, skeptical. “He can’t.”
“I smell a challenge.” I grinned.
“I think what you smell is the sole of my shoe in your butt for being unfashionably late.” Layla poked her head into my suite. And when I said suite, I meant Mr. Goldbloom’s master bedroom.
Yes, I was getting married in a town house in Pennsylvania.
No, I was not out of my mind. Clinically, anyway.
“Looking good, Layla.” Grant saluted his green-haired ex-hookup.
She flashed him an easy smile. “Same, Grant. How’s life been treating you?”
“Better than you did,” I muttered into my whiskey, emptying it in one gulp. Layla took Booger Face by the hand, leading her to the bride’s suite (read: Mad’s childhood bedroom). Grant and Julian ushered me to the altar in the backyard. Julian was the first in line behind me, then Grant. Behind them stood all the men Madison had fake-married from her neighborhood. Layla had thought it’d be hilarious to invite them. I thought Layla’s sense of humor sucked, but I was a good sport about it, because I knew Mad would get a kick out of it. Standing behind Grant were Jacob Kelly, Taylor Kirschner, Milo Lopez, Aston Giudice, Josh Payne, and Luis Hough.
Contrary to Madison’s, the only ex of mine who was in attendance was Amber, who was currently sitting on one of the folded white chairs in front of the wedding arch, her sunglasses on, huffing into her glass of fizzy wine and complaining about the lack of French champagne. Mad had chosen to have a very modest event. My martyr bride was donating most of our wedding budget to a cancer-research charity. My mom and Katie sat beside Amber, who attended for the sake of playing nice with the Blacks. It didn’t seem fair that Booger Face should suffer just because things hadn’t worked out between Amber and Julian. Ethan clasped Katie’s hand and shot me a thumbs-up. I gave him a curt nod. I still didn’t approve of running tights and Dora the Explorer ties but didn’t much care about his wardrobe anymore.
Katie had been dating Ethan seriously for four months now. Two months after Dad died, Ethan officially asked her out. Until then, he was just there for her emotionally, but I could see he was dead scared of getting friend zoned again. In fact, I was the one who’d told him to seal the deal before she gave up on his ass.
They were now preparing for their first (entire, not half) marathon together.
Mom was doing well, too, all circumstances considered. It helped that Mad and Clementine were around a lot and that Julian was attached to her by the hip postdivorce, trying to find his footing as a father after getting joint custody of Booger Face.
Amber was slowly introducing Clementine’s biological father into her life. So far, so awkward, but Booger Face had us when things got too weird.
Then there was Sven, Francisco, and their newly adopted girl, Zooey, sitting in the front row. They were all wearing matching black outfits, waving Zooey’s chubby hand in my direction with enthusiastic smiles. The adoption had been finalized three months earlier and couldn’t have come at a better time. Mad and I were butting heads about who was to move into whose apartment. Sven pointed out he might need babysitting assistance, so Mad relented and moved in with me. They’d become closer in recent months, since Mad had stood up for herself with the Dream Wedding Dress and become his equal.
I’d paid for Zooey’s entire room design and furniture for that little favor.
The pastor beside me fidgeted, pulling me out of my reverie. He let out a little gasp, and when I looked up, there she was. The woman of my dreams, wearing the dress of her dreams. Words seemed small for that moment. I flashed her a smile as she walked down the aisle, escorted by her father, Clementine throwing moonflowers out of a decorated basket behind her, Layla holding the hem of her train.
Mad stopped beside me, awarding me with one of her magnificent smiles.
A smile that made the world stop.
I looked down, about to tell her any of the five hundred thousand things that sprang into my mind. That she looked fucking delicious in that dress, which had been a huge success during New York Fashion Week and had already sold thirty thousand gowns, give or take, making it Croquis’s second-most popular wedding dress. I wanted to tell her I loved her. Very. Fucking. Much. But before I could say any of those things, Mad turned around, opened her palm, and waited for Layla to drop her cell phone into her hand.
All the attendees in her father’s backyard sucked in a scandalized gasp. She was texting. Now.
Mad’s fingers began to move over the screen as she typed, a small smile playing on her face. I watched her, as did the rest of our guests. The pastor cleared his throat, trying—and failing—to draw her attention. My phone pinged in my pocket a second later.
I took it out. Opened the message.
<Maddie has removed a message from the chat>
Chase: Oh, no, you didn’t.
Maddie: Cold feet.
Chase: You can warm them on my back when we get to Ibiza for our honeymoon. Bad circulation has always been your problem. It’s a short-people thing.