I’m getting married tonight, and not a single person here knows it.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Coach Heller knows. He knows because I couldn’t keep something like this from him again and expect to keep getting good ice time.
He wraps up his pre-game speech, then catches my eye just before he exits the room and tosses me a wink.
I nod back and if anyone sees the exchange, they don’t say a word.
There are hushed conversations all over the room as we get the last of our gear on.
Collin nudges his shoulder against mine and I turn to find his brows scrunched together, concern lining his features.
“You good? You’re quiet tonight, even for you.”
He doesn’t know that I’m quiet because I’m going to ask him to be my best man tonight.
This also means he doesn’t know I’m quiet because I’m unbelievably nervous to marry the woman I’ve already been married to before.
Well, not legally, but still.
I’m nervous because this time I’m going to be sober for it.
This time, I’m going to remember it.
This time, I’m going to care if I mess it all up.
I really don’t want to mess it up. I want this wedding to be perfect. To be remembered for all the right reasons.
“I’m good, man.”
He nods, then finishes getting ready himself.
We hit the ice a few minutes later and the game somehow manages to fly by. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever been okay with that fact. Usually, I’m soaking up every minute and wishing I could stay out there longer.
But not tonight.
Tonight, I have plans.
The final period winds down and we shutout Vegas 4—0, and I don’t even have it in me to be as pumped as the rest of the guys over it.
I’m too focused on what’s to come.
The team changes quickly and the poor bastards selected for the media are fed to the hyenas.
I turn my phone back on and it instantly lights up with a text from Ryan.
Ryan: Don’t laugh at me but… I’m so nervous.
Me: I can’t laugh if I’m nervous too.
Ryan: I’m so excited.
Me: Me too.
Ryan: I can’t wait to marry you for real.
Me: I can’t wait either.
Me: See you soon…wife.
“That Ryan?” Collin asks, nodding toward my phone.
“Yep,” I say, sliding it into my jacket pocket.
“Figured. Harper just texted. She said they’re going to grab drinks and we’ll meet them there. I gotta get out of this suit first though.”
Except that’s not what’s happening.
We’re not meeting the girls for drinks. We’re meeting them for a ceremony.
We make our way to the bus. The ride back to the hotel is short. We head to our rooms to change except I don’t change at all. I stay in my suit, passing the time by pacing my hotel room.
When it’s time, I meet Collin downstairs in the lobby.
He looks confused by my outfit but doesn’t have the chance to question it when we’re spotted by a few fans. We take a couple of photos and sign some jerseys.
By the time we’re finally on our way to the chapel, we’re cutting it close.
It’s 11 PM as we’re approaching the building, and the ceremony starts at 11:11.
When I stop in front of the doors, Collin’s brows shoot into his hairline.
“Look, man, I’m flattered and all, but I kind of have a wedding planned for July and I’m like 99.8% certain Harper would rip my balls off if I married you first, and I’m kind of attached to my balls.”
“She owns your balls, man.”
He grins, then shrugs, because he knows I’m right.
“We”—I say, wagging my finger between us—“are not getting married. Well, I’m getting married. You’re just witnessing it.”
“Wait…what?” His brows lift higher. “No.”
“Well, that explains the suit.”
“It does.” I open the door, nodding toward the building. “Come on. We’re late.”
“Isn’t there something you want to ask me?” he says, a smirk playing at his lips.
Fuck. My throat tightens as I work up the courage to ask him to stand up for me. I don’t do well with emotion and this moment feels emotional.
I clear my throat, trying not to make this more awkward than it already is, and shove my hands into my pockets, kicking at the invisible rock on the sidewalk.
He crosses his arms over his chest, waiting me out. “I’m not going in until you ask.”
“I hate you.”
Collin laughs. “No, you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t have something to ask me.”
I roll my eyes again. “Be my best man?”
He rolls his lips together and smacks a hand against his chest. “Fuck, dude. Got me right in the feels with that one.”
I let out a huff, then shove him inside the small chapel as he laughs.
Ryan and Harper are already waiting at the end of the hall.
“Did you know?” Harper asks Collin the moment she spots us, walking our way.
He shakes his head. “Not a clue. I was worried he was bringing me here to marry him—I mean, we are in Vegas, and he does have a penchant for randomly marrying people here—but I told him I couldn’t because my heart belongs to you.”
“You didn’t say that,” Harper says.
“You’re right, I didn’t. I said my balls, but it’s my heart too.”
She practically swoons but I tune them out because all I can focus on is the gorgeous blonde standing at the end of the hall.
Ryan’s wearing a soft yellow dress that looks like it was made for her body.
It makes me laugh because of course she chose yellow and I’m wearing a blue suit. It’s only fitting since she’s my beauty and I’m her beast.
She looks perfect. This is perfect.
“Hi,” she whispers as I approach, a smile tugging at her lips.
I don’t say anything back. I simply wrap my arm around her waist and tug her to me. She lets out a small gasp but pushes to her tiptoes to meet my lips that are already on their way to hers.
I do my best to keep the kiss brief but know I fail when I hear Collin clear his throat.
“Dude. Save it for the ceremony.”
I finally pull away—after sneaking another quick kiss—and smile down at my wife-to-be, fixing her lipstick that I smudged. She reaches up, running a finger over my scar, and I shiver at the touch.
“You’re beautiful,” I tell her quietly. “Marry me?”
She laughs. “I’m already marrying you.”
“I know. I’m so lucky. Come on,” I say, tugging her toward the same doors we walked through last summer.
I still don’t remember the entirety of our first wedding, just a few flashes here and there.
There is no way I’ll ever forget tonight.
We walk through the double doors and at the end of the aisle is a guy dressed as Elvis.
I try not to laugh at the absurdity of it all as he shakes his hips and does the exaggerated “thank you very much” bit.
We take our places—Harper standing behind Ryan and Collin behind me. We join hands and listen as the Elvis impersonator says a few things about love and life and forever.
I don’t hear much of it because I can’t stop looking at Ryan.
I can’t stop looking at her because I can’t believe this night is real. I can’t believe we’re getting married in Vegas again.
I can’t believe it’s for real this time.
“Did you two prepare any vows?”
“I did,” Ryan answers, and I grin because I did too, and we didn’t even plan that.
She squeezes my hand, then takes a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. I can feel her shaking, and it comforts me to know she’s as nervous as I am.
“This last year has not at all been what I thought it would be. Some days I wake up and feel like I’m living someone else’s life and think there’s no way this is real. But it is real. You’re real. We’re real.” She smiles, her eyes glossing over with unshed tears. “I didn’t think we would be here, you know. I didn’t think that when I promised you a year to fix the mess we got ourselves into that it would end like this. I felt like I was being banished to a castle to live out my punishment for being a drunken fool and then after a year, I’d be set free. I didn’t expect to be captivated by the man who lived in the castle though, and I certainly didn’t expect to fall in love with him. You’re not at all what I planned for my life but somehow, you’ve become everything I’ve ever wanted. I can’t wait to keep writing our love story, Adrian Rhodes.”
Harper lets out a not-so-muffled cry, and it makes us all laugh especially since she’s so not the romantic type.
“Beautiful,” Elvis says, then turns to Rhodes. “Did you prepare anything?”
“I did,” I tell him, and Ryan’s eyes twinkle at the news.
Unable to stop myself, I lean forward and press a quick kiss to her lips, then wipe away the tear that’s streaked down her cheek.
“You’re skipping some steps, sir,” Elvis jokes.
“Sorry. Couldn’t help it,” I mutter, standing up straight, and grabbing her hands again.
Now it’s my turn to take a deep breath.
“You’re right. You’re not what I planned for my life either, and that’s because, for a long time, I gave up all hopes of ever being good enough for someone to love.” Another tear falls down her cheek. I leave it be this time and continue. “I was…dormant for a long time. I was closed-off and lonely and I pushed people away. Then you happened. Well, drunk you happened.” She chuckles. “You woke me up. You showed me how to have fun again. You showed me how to let people in. You showed me it was possible to be loved. You gave me life, Ryan, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I love you with everything that I am, and I can’t wait to keep writing our love story either. But spoiler alert: I’m predicting a happily ever after.”
A grin tugs at her lips. “I’m predicting you’re right…husband.”
“Not officially,” Elvis says. “The rings?”
“Oh,” Ryan says, pulling her hand from mine and waving it to show him the gold band she won’t let me replace. “We’re covered there.”
“O…kay.” He draws out the word, shaking his head and confused by what’s happening.
“Well, then… By virtue of the authority vested in me under the laws of the State, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride!”
And kiss her I do.
I slide one hand her hair, the other on her waist, and her pull her to me. I slant my mouth over hers and kiss her with everything I have, showing her with my mouth the promises I intend to keep for the rest of time.
It goes on for way too long—past proper—and I only drag my lips from hers when Collin clears his throat for the third time.
“I think you’re making everyone uncomfortable.”
“No, it’s cool. I don’t mind watching,” Elvis says, and now he’s the one making everyone uncomfortable.
I put distance between us because I know that if I don’t, I’ll start kissing her again, then we make our way to the front counter to sign our marriage certificate.
Harper and Collin sign their parts, then congratulate us, and leave.
It’s fine. We don’t plan to talk to them the rest of the night anyway.
When the clerk hands us the pen, I can’t help but turn to Ryan.
“Changing your mind?” she teases.
“Not a chance. But I do have one little request, wife.”
“What’s that, husband?”
“Sign your name this time.”
She tucks her lips together, trying not to laugh. “I think I can manage that.”
She takes the pen from me and scribbles down her name.
Just like that, we’re married in Vegas…again.
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