18 months later
Oliver pats me on the shoulder, smiling at me in the mirror as I finish buttoning my white button-down shirt.
“You bet your ass I am.”
He laughs and gives me one more pat for good measure. Am I ready? Of course I am. After nearly two years together, and seventeen years before that secretly loving her, I’m finally marrying the woman of my dreams. The love of my life. Our family is about to be complete.
So yeah I’m ready. I’ve been ready. Because today begins the next and newest chapter of the rest of our lives.
I take one more look in the mirror before I—along with the rest of the guys—have to go make our way down to the beach for the ceremony.
White shirt with my sleeves rolled? Check. Khaki pants? Check. White Cali Lilli pinned to my shirt that matches Amelia’s bouquet? Check. Flip flops that I can easily kick off when I get to the beach? Check.
Hell, I’d walk out onto this beach wearing a Speedo with hearts on it if it meant that I got to leave with Amelia as my wife.
“Why isn’t anyone asking if I’m ready?”
I shoot Simon a glare. “And why would anyone ask you?”
“Because! I have a major role today. I’m marrying you two. That’s an important part of the ceremony. But no one is asking if I’m ready. Rude honestly.”
“Fine,” Wes says with an exasperated breath. “Simon, are you ready?”
This makes him smile. “I am. Thank you for asking.”
“Do I have time to get a new officiant?” I groan.
“Nope,” Simon says. “Plus, you put off this entire wedding for me. How would that look if you changed at the last minute?”
He’s right. Mostly. Yes, despite Amelia and I being together for nearly two years, it took a year of that time to make it to the wedding. While Simon’s situation was taken into consideration, it wasn’t just him—despite what he likes to say. Luke was graduating high school and starting college. Wes and Betsy got married. We needed time to explain to our mothers why we wanted a beach wedding instead of getting married in Rolling Hills. There were a lot of moving parts.
But none of that matters now. We’re here. It’s time.
Amelia and I are about to become husband and wife.
We laugh at Simon and gather our things as we start making our way to the beach. We got ready in Simon’s room so Amelia and the girls could have the bridal suite, which will become the honeymoon suite tonight. Luke was with us until he left to go be with Amelia. We had brunch. Watched some basketball. Played cards.
It was the perfect day.
The only thing that could have made this day better was that I could have married Amelia earlier. But when the woman you love says she wants a sunset wedding, you give her a sunset wedding.
As we make our way outside, I can already tell that everything is perfect. The orange-pink sky is the exact color I remember from our trip here when Amelia envisioned this entire day. The temperature is warm but not scorching. And all our friends and family are here with us. Including our mothers, who have been crying nonstop in happiness since they got here two days ago.
“Remember that first day Amelia came into our group?” Wes asks as we step onto the warm sand of the beach.
I nod. “How could I forget?”
“You can never forget that day,” Simon adds. “It was the day you met me.”
He’s right. A boy was picking on Amelia and I tried to beat him up. Because even back then, no one hurt my girl. I did what I needed to do, until the idiot’s friends jumped me on the playground. Oliver and Wes weren’t there to help, so Simon stepped in.
“I’m going to regret this,” I mutter.
I stop walking, and the rest do as well. “There’s actually no one more fitting to marry us. You were there in fourth grade. You were there when we needed to get Amelia away from Paul. You were there for me when we started dating, even if you didn’t know it. So thank you. For everything.”
Wes softly smiles and I think Oliver is crying at my words. I brace myself for Simon to deflect and say some smartass thing.
But he doesn’t. He wraps me in a hug that we hold onto for a few seconds.
“Don’t tell anyone,” he whispers. “But you’re really my best friend.”
I laugh. “Secret’s safe.”
The two of us chuckle as we let go of each other and finish our walk to where Amelia and I will be exchanging our vows.
There are a few seats on the beach for the guests we have. Wes and Oliver take their seats next to Betsy and Izzy. Wes’s kids are all here, as is Simon’s family. Which is still weird to say. The music begins playing and my mom and Amelia’s mom make their way down the aisle, escorted by my brother and Amelia’s brother, respectively.
The music changes, and I know that’s the signal that Mariah is about to begin walking down the aisle, but that doesn’t prepare me for the sight of her.
She chose a light green dress that makes her look more grown up than she already is. She’s carrying a bouquet that I believe is similar to Amelia’s —from what I’ve been told. Her hair is down and blowing in the slight breeze off the ocean. She’s all smiles as she walks toward me. I return the smile and extend my arms, which she walks right into.
“Love you Pipsqueak,” I tell her.
“Love you more Dad.”
I pull away, wondering if I heard her correctly. Judging by the smile she’s giving me, I did.
We haven’t heard from Paul in more than a year. After the ill-fated vacation with the kids, he pulled away even more than he already was. I asked Mariah and Luke one day if they were sad or mad about that, and neither of them cared. They were glad he was finally gone. I believe Luke said it best, “if he wanted to, he would.”
Mariah has made jokes before that I’m going from “uncle” to “dad,” but she’s never called me that before. Suddenly I’m having a vision of me walking her down this aisle one day. God help the man that she ends up with. But he’ll also be the luckiest guy in the world.
My thoughts are interrupted by the song Amelia and I picked for her to walk down to. It’s a song that talks about finally being with the one you were meant to be with after loving them for what seemed like forever. Mariah pointed out it was in some vampire movie, but we didn’t care. The song was perfect.
“Here we go.”
I hear Simon whisper the words to me, but that still didn’t prepare me for the sight of Amelia, being escorted by Luke, as she walks toward me.
She’s stunning wearing a long white silk dress that fits and hugs every one of her curves. I didn’t want to see it, obviously, but she did tell me that she found it when we were fake engaged on the day she went dress shopping. Luckily, it was still there after we got engaged for real, which happened just a few months later.
I’m glad this is the first time I’m seeing her in it, because this is a memory I’ll never forget.
I feel the tears forming in my eyes and I don’t even try and turn to wipe them away. I know there are bets going around if I cry or not. I mean, it’s my friend group, of course there are bets. So whoever had me down as a yes, collect your winnings. It was probably easiest money you could make.
Luke and Amelia at the end of the makeshift aisle and I walk toward them. The two share a hug before I approach and shake Luke’s hand before pulling him into a hug.
“Thank you for making her so happy,” he says. “Welcome to the family.”
Well fuck…here come more tears. “Thank you for letting me in.”
The two of us give each other one more pat on the back before he walks to go stand next to me. I take Amelia’s hand, and I know I probably shouldn’t do this, but I go in to kiss her on the cheek.
“Hey beautiful,” I whisper.
This makes her laugh. “Hey yourself.”
“Want to get married?”
She nods, her gorgeous smile coming fully out. “Hell yeah I do.”
I turn to look at Luke, who looks so grown up right now as he holds his arm out for me.
How is my baby boy old enough to walk me down the aisle? I mean, he’s an adult. In my head, I know this. I was there when we celebrated his eighteenth birthday. I was there when we dropped him off for his freshman year at college. I mean, I was crying the whole time, but I was there.
And now he’s about to walk me down the aisle before standing next to Shane as his best man.
“Mom! Stop crying!” Mariah races over to me, tissue and makeup bag in hand. “I did not spend all afternoon on your makeup just for you to cry it off.”
This makes me laugh, even though a few tears leaked out. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I figured this was going to happen. The setting spray I used is basically glue.”
Mariah and I share a smile as she touches up my makeup. As expected, high school has been nothing short of mini heart attacks given to me from my daughter. She has a boyfriend. He drives. I panic a little every time she leaves the house. The only thing that gives me solace is the kid survived an interrogation from Shane and the uncles and he passed Shane’s background check.
Still, I don’t know how I’m going to survive the next three years.
“Places,” Whitley directs. “Let’s go get you married.”
Despite Whitley being on vacation, she was insistent that she handle all of the preparation for today. And I’m so glad she did. From the very first meeting with the venue, I was lost. Today really wouldn’t be happening without her.
Literally. If she wouldn’t have met my brother, they wouldn’t have gotten married. Now, Shane might have told me how he felt some other time, but I don’t like to speculate on that.
Because everything that has happened has got us here.
I watch Mariah walk down the aisle, looking so grown up. She and Shane have a moment, and I don’t know what she just said to him, but he looks like he’s about to cry.
The music changes and that pulls me back to the moment. I look over to Luke, who puts his hand on top of mine. “Let’s get you married.”
I nod at Luke, unable to say words knowing I’ll start crying again. Though I feel like that’s futile, because the second I make eye contact with Shane, everything else disappears and the entirety of our lives starts flooding back through my memories.
Days when we were kids playing; high school years when we were awkward and didn’t know anything; dancing in my driveway after prom; the day I told him I was pregnant; the night he kissed me for the first time; the night he kissed me for the second time; the day he proposed to me. The real one—which was out of the blue and very romantic as he did it in the driveway of my childhood home.
And now we’re here. On the beach. The beach where I knew without a doubt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Shane Cunningham.
Luke and I make it down the aisle and as we stop, Luke turns to give me a kiss on the cheek before we turn to Shane.
“Thank you for making her so happy,” Luke says. “Welcome to the family.”
Oh God I’m going to lose it. And by the looks of it, Shane is too.
“Thank you for letting me in.”
Yup. I’m a goner. Sorry Mariah. I don’t think this setter has a chance.
The two share a hug before Shane takes my hand. And in an unexpected move, he leans in to kiss me on the cheek.
“Hey beautiful,” he says.
I chuckle. “Hey yourself.”
“Want to get married?”
I nod. “Hell yeah I do.”
We take the few steps we need to and stand in front of Simon. He winks at me, which I don’t know if that means he’s going to be on his best behavior or if he has something up his sleeve. You never know with him.
“Friends, family, we are gathered here today because these two are finally getting married. And if anyone had money on Shane crying, you owe. Big time.”
Everyone, including us, starts laughing.
For the rest of the ceremony Simon is on his best behavior. I think. I’m not sure. I’m glad now we hired someone to video because I’m not hearing a thing he’s saying. It’s like everyone else in the world has vanished and it’s just me and Shane standing on this beach. I lean into his touch as he keeps hold of my hands. His thumb brushing over my knuckles is the only thing keeping me grounded.
I’m really marrying Shane. For some reason right now, it’s hitting me. I remember when he first told me how he felt about me, I wondered how this could ever work. I mean, he was my best friend. I can’t go around kissing and dating and being with my best friend?
Now I can’t imagine a world without doing those things. Shane is my person. He always has been. And he always will be.
“Now it’s time for the vows,” Simon says. “Shane?”
When Shane and I were talking about what we did and didn’t want in the ceremony, I was slightly shocked when he said he wanted to write our own vows. The man still doesn’t like to speak, let alone in front of people.
“Amelia, there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t loved you.”
Holy shit why did I agree to let him go first? Just with that first line I’m a crying mess.
“I once thought it started when we were in high school,” he continues. “But it was before that. I can’t pinpoint a day, but as I think back on all the years between us, there isn’t a time I can remember when it wasn’t supposed to be you. I love you. I vow to be your husband, your partner, and your best friend. I promise to always make sure we get places on time, will kill every spider, make sure to always get the pizza order right, and make sure you always have gas in your car.”
This makes me laugh, as it does for everyone else.
“Luke, Mariah, I also vow this to the both of you. I vow to always be there for you in your times of need. We might not be blood related, but blood doesn’t always make you family. I love you as if you were my own, and I promise from this day forward that we are a family, despite what our last names are.”
I hear Mariah sniffling in the background and see Luke wipe a tear away.
“Amelia. I love you. And I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Shane takes the ring from Luke and slides it onto my finger.
“Damnit Shane,” Simon says, turning away so he can wipe his eyes. “Amelia. Please go and please don’t make me cry even more.”
“I can’t promise that,” I say. I take a breath, trying to remember everything I want to say to him.
“Since we were kids, you’ve always been my protector. You started on the playground and never stopped. Thank you for that. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for loving me. And not just loving me. Thank you for loving Luke and Mariah. Thank you for showing me, and us, what love really is. Thank you for helping me find happiness I didn’t know existed. Just…thank you.”
I turn to take the ring from Mariah before looking back at Shane. “I vow to love you forever and always. To be your wife, partner, and best friend. To remind you to smile because not everything is so serious. I promise to be there for you in good and bad times, in sickness and in health, and all the other times in between. I love you, Shane. Thank you for believing in us and making me, and this family, whole.”
I see him try, but fail, to hold back a tear as I slip the ring on his finger. Good. That means I just won twenty bucks for Izzy and Oliver. They put down double money that I could get him to cry during the ceremony.
“Shane,” Simon says as he sucks in his emotion. “Do you take Amelia to be your wife?”
He smiles. “I absolutely do.”
“Amelia? Do you take this grumpy son of a bitch to be your husband?”
And there’s the Simon we know and love. “I absolutely do.”
“Therefore, by the power vested in me by the internet and state of Florida, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Shane, kiss your bride.”
A round of applause erupts as Shane and I find each other in a kiss I’ll remember for the rest of my life. He dips me low and I can’t help the smile that forms as I continue kissing my husband.
Shane Cunningham is my husband.
I’m Mrs. Amelia Cunningham.
I like the sound of that.
“Ladies and gentleman, for the first time, I’d like to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Shane Cunningham!”
Yup…I like the sound of that a lot.
Thanks for reading Shane & Amelia! Now, what's next?
Next up in the Rolling Hills crew is the *highly* anticipated book for Simon and Charlie,
If this is your first Rolling Hills book, then you might be wondering what the heck was going on with Oliver and Izzy. You get all your answers in The One I Need.
Wes and Betsy kick off the series in The One I Want. She might have just started off as the nanny, but she was so much more.