Precious, Bonus Epilogue to Famous
A Quantum Short Story
By: Marie Force
I wake up on what’ll be one of the greatest days of my life the same way I do every day now, wrapped up in the arms of the man who loves me and my children more than anything. He’s my dream come true, my happily ever after, my everything. Today, he’ll become my husband. I’ve never had a husband, only a partner I lost to drug addiction years ago, leaving me to raise our two beautiful children alone.
But we’re not alone anymore. We have Kristian now, and the family we’re creating together is my greatest blessing. Later in the year, our foursome will grow to five when our baby makes his or her appearance. Our baby is going to be very lucky to have them as his or her big brother and sister.
Kris can’t wait for the baby to arrive. He keeps saying he can’t bear that it takes almost ten months to make a baby. It’s not fair, he says, to make a man wait so long to meet his child.
I laugh at his impatience and try to take his mind off the agonizing wait any way I can. A couple of years ago, when I was in the thick of my battle with breast cancer, I never could’ve dreamed of the life I have now in the incredible house in Calabasas that Kristian surprised me with, two happy, thriving kids, a baby on the way and my illness now a distant nightmare that might’ve happened to someone else.
That’s how far in the past it seems, even if I’m well aware that I’m years away from being declared “cured.” It can always come back, so I try to live each day with purpose and determination not to let cancer rule me. I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about how precarious life can be, and I take nothing in this new life for granted, especially the man at the center of it.
His hand, which had been flat against my belly, slides down to cup my center as his erection presses against my back. “How long have you been awake?”
The sound of his voice is enough to make my heart race. “Awhile.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” He kisses my shoulder and the back of my neck, making me shiver with excitement the way I always do when he touches or kisses me.
I’d never slept naked in my life until he came along and made pajamas extraneous. “I didn’t want to disturb you. You’ve been working like a madman to get free for the next two weeks, and you’re exhausted.”
“I’m never too exhausted for you.”
“I’m not supposed to see you today. It’s bad luck.” Despite my best efforts to convince him we should spend last night apart, he wasn’t having it.
“Fuck that shit,” he’d said, making me laugh at his indignance. Now, as he kisses his way down my back, he says, “Are you still feeling superstitious?”
“Yes.” I close my eyes tightly, doing whatever it takes to stave off any form of bad luck. We’ve both had enough of that to last us a lifetime. “Don’t see me.”
“Okay, have it your way.”
I raise my ass to encourage him. “I’d rather have it your way.”
His low chuckle makes me smile. I love to hear him laugh. When I first knew him, he was so serious, so solemn all the time, and now he laughs frequently, as if he can’t contain the joy the kids and I have brought to his life. His laugh is one of my favorite things, especially knowing how far he’s come from a dreadful childhood during which he witnessed his mother’s murder, among other horrors.
He kisses and touches me in all the places that make me gasp. I grip the sheets so tightly, my hands ache. By the time he finally slides into me from behind, I’m already primed for the orgasm that rocks through me with a force that takes my breath away. You’d think I’d be used to that by now, but I’m not. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the way he makes me feel. He’s an amazing, inventive, thoughtful, caring lover and dominant who always takes care of me before taking his own pleasure. This time is no different. Only after he makes me come twice does he let himself go.
“Aileen,” he whispers, his lips close to my ear, “I love you so much. Thank you for marrying me today.”
My brain is so scrambled, I can barely breathe, let alone speak. “I love you, too. More than you’ll ever know. I can’t wait until you’re my husband.”
“Mmm, me too. More than anything, I can’t wait for two weeks alone with you in Hawaii.”
Hayden and Addie are moving into our house to take care of the kids while we’re away. The kids say they’re excited for the time with Uncle Hayden and Aunt Addie, who promised to spoil them rotten. But I’m expecting a few tears before Kris and I leave, especially from Maddie, who’s been extra clingy the last few days.
I’ve never spent more than a night or two away from them, let alone two weeks, but I know they’ll be very well cared for by Hayden and Addie as well as the rest of our closest friends, who’ll rally around them while we’re gone. Kris convinced me to take this time just for us because we’ll never get married again or have another honeymoon.
“Don’t be stressed about leaving the kids. They’ll be perfectly fine, and we’ll FaceTime with them every day.”
I’m not surprised that he tunes in to what I’m thinking. “I know. I’ll miss them, though.”
“I will, too. I can’t imagine a day without them in it anymore, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll never again ask you to leave them at home. We’ll take them everywhere with us.”
“We don’t have to take them everywhere.”
“Yes, we do. I’ve waited forever to have a family. I don’t want to be away from them any more than you do.”
“I love you for that. I love you for so many things, but I love you more than anything for the way you love my children.”
“They’re our children now, and I’d do anything for them. I hope you know that.”
“I do and so do they.”
“Today is going to be the best day of my entire life.”
He kisses the back of my neck and nibbles on my ear. “Are you sure I’m not allowed to look at your gorgeous face and kiss your sweet lips?”
“I’m sure, but later… You can kiss me all you want.”
“I’m going to want to kiss you for hours.”
“That sounds perfect to me.”
Every day I get to spend with Aileen, Logan and Maddie feels like something out of a dream, but today… There’s never been a day that could compete with this one. Everything is ready. I insisted we hire someone to handle the details because I didn’t want Aileen to have to deal with that. I worry about her all the time, but never more so than since we found out she’s pregnant.
Having everything you’ve ever wanted is a funny thing. While celebrating the fact that you’ve found your soul mate—and her two incredible kids—you also have to worry about losing her or the kids or the happiness they’ve brought to your life. At least that’s how it’s worked for me. We got nothing but good news from Aileen’s oncologist at her appointment last week, but fear of recurrence will always lurk in the back of my mind. I’ve also learned that pregnancy after breast cancer can be dicey due to the way hormones work, but Aileen and her doctors have assured me that it’s perfectly safe for her to have our baby, even if I worry all the time about her, the baby, the kids.
Love has made me crazy in all the best and worst ways.
Today, I’m determined to put aside my worries so I can focus on the joy. I remember the first time I realized the elated, giddy, delighted way I felt any time she was around was actually joy. I’d never experienced it before, not like that anyway, and it had been as foreign a concept to me as the idea of being so in love with one person that I couldn’t conceive of a future that didn’t include her and her kids.
All of this is new to me, and I feel like I’ve won the biggest lottery payout in history because I get to marry Aileen and adopt Logan and Maddie. I thought today would never get here, and it’s only been a couple of months since I proposed to her in the house we now call home. I’ve never been more impatient in my life as I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive. I’m not sure how I’ll survive waiting for our baby to get here. Ten freaking months is an interminable amount of time.
Jasper Autry, my best friend and Quantum Productions business partner, comes into the guest bedroom where I got dressed in the navy suit I had made for the occasion. Jasper took me to his tailor to be measured for the suit, and I have to say, the end result is satisfying. I hope Aileen likes it. She told me to wear whatever I wanted, which is when I’d turned to Jasper for assistance. He’s the clotheshorse in our group, and while I could’ve asked one of the stylists we work with for events to take care of me, it was more fun to give Jasper the job of decking me out for the biggest day of my life.
He gives me a careful once-over, inspecting me thoroughly before smiling. “You look spectacular, mate.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. His seal of approval means the world. “Thanks to you.”
“It’s all about knowing where to go when you want the best.” He pulls a light blue silk handkerchief out of his pocket and gets busy making it into a perfectly folded square that he tucks into the breast pocket of my suit coat. “I wore this the day I married Ellie, and it brought me good luck. I hope it does the same for you.”
What does it say about me and my raw emotions when a pocket square from my best friend can choke me up? “Thank you, Jasper. For everything.”
Jasper hugs me. “I’m so chuffed for you and Aileen. I’ve never seen you smile the way you have since you met her at Flynn’s wedding.”
Speak of the devil himself. Flynn Godfrey comes in, carrying his newborn baby daughter, Cece, and his baby nephew Harrison, who he hands over to Jasper.
“How’s my little chap?” Jasper asks his son as he snuggles him into his embrace.
“Ellie says he’s fed, diapered and ready for a nap, and you’re not to rile him up,” Flynn says.
Grinning, Jasper rubs the baby’s back. “His poor mum doesn’t understand the ritual of male bonding.”
A tentative knock on the door has me turning to see Logan sticking his head into the room. “Is it okay if I come in?”
“Of course.” I hold out a hand to the boy who’s now my son. I have a son, and he’s magnificent.
Logan crosses the room to stand with me, and I put my arm around him. If I’m around, he wants to be with me, and I can’t describe what it’s like to have a child look up to me the way he does.
“How you doing?” I take a careful look at him the way I do every day, hoping to see that my presence has lightened the burden he carried for so long. He was far too young to be worried about the things that concerned him while his mother was so desperately ill. I can’t think about her being so ill or I’ll lose my composure.
“I should be asking you that,” he says with the playful grin I adore. “I’m not the one getting married today.”
The smart, articulate comment is vintage Logan, and it makes me laugh. “I’m all good. Have you checked on your mom and Maddie?”
“Uh-huh. They look so pretty, but Mom says I’m not allowed to tell you anything about her dress.”
“She says I have to wait.”
“Uh-huh. Girls are weird that way.”
“They sure are.”
Hayden Roth and Sebastian Lowe join us, rounding out my wedding party. Logan will serve as my best man while Maddie is her mother’s maid of honor. We wanted our closest friends included in the festivities, so we asked them all to be in our wedding party, meaning that most of our guests are also in the wedding party. Oh well. It’s our day, and we were determined to do it exactly the way we wanted to.
The wedding planner, a young woman named Jeanette, comes to the door to ask if we’re ready.
I glance down at Logan. “Are we ready?”
I nod to Jeanette as my heart skips a beat of excitement and elation. “Let’s do it.”
The ceremony takes place under the lights that Flynn, Hayden and I strung last weekend over the pool deck at our home in Calabasas. Aileen wanted a small, intimate, casual wedding at home, and that’s exactly what she’s getting.
I thought I was prepared to see Aileen in her wedding dress. I wasn’t. She’s fucking stunning, and I make an utter fool of myself with the tears that roll unchecked down my face as she makes her way to me. She holds hands with Maddie, who carries a smaller version of her mother’s bouquet. The two of them are so beautiful that I have to remind myself to breathe, especially when Aileen flashes the intimate smile that she saves only for me and the most special of moments.
Every moment with her is special. Every fucking second I get to spend with her is the best time of my life, and I’m determined it’ll only get better from here.
My worries evaporate in the face of her tender love. No one has ever looked at me the way she does, and as long as I have her, I can handle anything that comes our way.
I bend to hug and kiss Maddie before taking the hand of my beloved.
The judge presiding over the festivities is friends with Flynn’s dad, Max. He guides us through the recitation of traditional vows and the exchanging of rings.
“Both of you asked me separately if you could say something to the other,” the judge says, smiling. “The floor is now yours, Kristian.”
I take a moment to find some composure so I can take this opportunity to tell her what she means to me in front of everyone we love. I grasp her hands and gaze into the gorgeous eyes that look at me with pure adoration. “A year ago, I thought I had it all. A dream career working with the people I love the most, a couple of Oscars, a cool apartment, a hot car and a life so far removed from where I began that I could hardly believe it was the same lifetime. But then I saw you at Flynn and Nat’s wedding, and in one second, I understood I hadn’t begun to know what it was like to have it all. If you had any idea how utterly obsessed I was with you after that day, you’d probably take your kids and run from me, which is why I’m only telling you now that you’re legally stuck with me.”
Aileen laughs and cries and smiles so big. So, so big. I’ll never stop trying to make her smile that way.
“I didn’t have it all until I had you and Logan and Maddie, until I had our family and our home and the life we’re building together. Thank you so much for loving me the way you do, the way no one but you ever has, and for giving me a son and a daughter who I promise to love and care for and be there for every day for the rest of my life. I love you forever, Aileen, Logan and Maddie Bowen.”
I know I’m supposed to wait to kiss her, but I can’t. I release my hold on her hands and cup her face to kiss her, using my thumbs to wipe away her tears.
She wraps her hands around my wrists and gazes up at me. “Just so you know, I was equally obsessed with you after Flynn and Nat’s wedding. I would lie in bed in New York and think about you and wonder where you were and what you might be doing in your glamorous LA life. It never once occurred to me that you might one day be mine.”
Overcome by her heartfelt words, I lean my forehead on hers and close my eyes, wanting to commit this perfect moment to memory so there’s no chance I’ll ever forget it.
“Remember the night the kids and I got here, when everything happened with Jasper’s father, and we all stayed at your place in the city?”
I nod. I’ll never forget that night.
“We were up half the night talking on your patio, and I knew that night. I knew you were my soul mate, the one I was meant to find and to love, but even then, I still didn’t believe that this could ever happen. Then we moved to LA, and on our first full day, Maddie fell and got hurt. You were right by my side through that awful trip to the ER, taking care of us the way no one ever had before. As much as I wish Maddie had never gotten hurt, that night changed everything. That was the night we became us.”
I blink back tears when I recall that night. I remember every minute of it. That was the first time I kissed her and held her and touched her the way I’d been dying to for months by then.
“Every single day since then has been like something straight out of a dream. You are right out of a dream. You’re my dream come true, Kristian, and Logan, Maddie and I will love you forever.”
We’re already kissing again when the judge officially declares us husband and wife, but I hear him. I’m very much aware of the moment when Aileen officially becomes my wife.
Our friends applaud and cheer for us, and when we finally come up for air, they’re ready to hug us.
Marlowe, Addie, Jasper, Ellie, Hayden, Flynn, Sebastian, Natalie, Emmett, Leah, Flynn’s parents, his sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews as well as Tenley and Devon. The family we’ve created for ourselves… They celebrate with us long into the night.
It’s after midnight when the last of our guests depart. Aileen doesn’t know that I put out the word that the festivities were ending at midnight so my wife could get the rest she needs before we leave on our trip in the morning.
Hayden and Addie are staying in the guest room, ready to take over with the kids when we depart for the airport at six thirty. When we said good night to Logan and Maddie, they were both so tired after the exciting day that they didn’t have much reaction to the reminder that we’ll be gone when they wake up.
I’m thankful for that small favor, because I don’t want Aileen to be any more upset about leaving them than she already is.
When we’re finally in our room, sealed off from the rest of the world, I take another long look at her in the wedding dress she insisted on keeping secret from me until the big day. I’m glad now that she kept it a surprise, because I’ll never forget the first glimpse of my bride. “In case I forgot to mention it earlier, you blew me away today, Mrs. Bowen.”
“I know.” I love her smug, satisfied little grin. “I could tell by the look on your face.” She flattens her hands on my chest. My suitcoat was abandoned hours ago. “You and Jasper did good work on the suit. You looked gorgeous.”
“Glad you approve.”
“I do. I approve of everything. This was the most perfect day ever.”
“For me too, and it’s only the first of many.”
“I can’t wait for all of it.”
“I can’t either, but right now, Mrs. B, you need some sleep.”
“It’s our wedding night, Kristian. I need you more than I need sleep.”
“I don’t want you to get worn down.”
“I’m fine. I promise.” She goes up on tiptoes to kiss me, and two seconds after her lips connect with mine, I’ve forgotten all about sleep. Like always when she kisses me, I can’t think of anything but her.
I wrap my arms around her and lose myself in her, the most precious thing in my life.
We can sleep in Hawaii.
Thanks for reading this bonus Quantum story. I hope you enjoyed sharing in Kristian and Aileen’s special day. Thank you to my editor, Linda Ingmanson, for cleaning up this story for me, and to my friend Tracey Suppo for an additional proofread. Many thanks to the Quantum beta readers: Katy, Molly, Julia, Heather, Phuong and Tammy.