“Keep talking,” Liam said, planting a damp kiss on the inside of her thigh. Elise’s head was swimming, mostly from holding her breath for, what seemed like, ever. Liam had been waiting for her at her front door when she came home from her unimpressive date, a cocky move, even for him. He hadn’t even considered the idea that she would bring the guy home.
“I-I was just stressing about the wedding but…” Elise gasped. Liam had buried his tongue into her once more, drinking her in a beastly fashion.
“‘But’?” He stopped again to ask. He continued planting wet kisses on her thighs.
“I just hate rushing. I feel like everything is going to go wrong,” Elise said, slipping from her peaceful state.
“Good thing you don’t have to worry about that right now.”

The glow from the screen disrupted the darkness at 3:12am. Liam laid awake, his mind still ticking away, despite their vigorous efforts. He ran his fingertips between Elise’s shoulder blades and down the curves of her back. A part of him wanted to rouse her and bury his sentiments into her again. He’d considered asking her for advice, especially about his failed attempts at wooing Kim and the doubt he carried about becoming a full-time father. The idea of burdening her with his bullshit seemed unfair. Even while lying next to her, the torch he carried for Kim was still heavy and ablaze. Elise’s eyes lolled open as she rolled to face him. He’d been staring out the window behind her. “Hey. What’s wrong?” She asked, her voice still heavy with sleep.
“Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Something on your mind?”
“I don’t know. Just thinking about Maya and this move…”
“Do you have cold feet?”
“No. I love Maya with all my heart. I’m just worried about the learning curve.”
“Well, she’s older now, a little more independent. And it’s not like Katrina won’t be there at all. If anything, she might be a helicopter parent for a while.” Liam chuckled.
“You’ll be fine. The fact that you’re worrying proves you’re a great dad,” Elise said, pinching his cheek. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into a kiss. She threw her leg over him and straddled him broadly. “Now, let’s see about getting you to sleep.”

“You can invite your mystery lover to the wedding,” Emerald yelled from the kitchen to her younger sister. Elise glanced at her soon-to-be brother-in-law and her cheeks flushed.
“Uh, thank you, big mouth!”
“I think that defeats the point of a ‘mystery lover’, babe,” Reggie said, stuffing candy into his 63rd mesh bag.
“You’re supposed to be on my side,” Emerald said, returning to her seat between them.
“I’m sorry, babe, you’re right. Elise, you are welcome to bringing your secret fella to be interviewed by your entire family at an event meant to celebrate love and commitment,” Reggie said sarcastically. The girls laughed nearly identical laughs at his prose. Unknown to the couple, Elise’s secret lover had already been mailed a handwritten invitation to the affair.
“There is no need for you guys to go out of your way. I will be there stag and ready to make sure this thing goes off without a hitch. The day is about you guys,” Elise said, putting her hand on her sister’s.

The day was spent preparing: seating arrangements, magical centerpieces, and mini gift bags for guests. Elise had known that Emerald wanted to secretly elope with her betrothed; however, he’d come from a large and tightknit family that insisted the pair have a “real” wedding. Several hours passed and when the brunt of the work was done, Reggie excused himself and left the sisters alone.
“I still don’t see the point of all this,” Emerald said as she hurriedly cleared the table.
“It’s a celebration. Think of it like a big party where you’re the guest star,” Elise said, tossing leftover ribbons over her sister.
“But who’ll be there for me? Other than you? This whole thing is just to appease his mother!”
“Isn’t she the one paying for it?”
“You’re supposed to be on my side!” Emerald whined again, tossing a candy bag at her sister.
“Always. But if someone else wants to pay for you to have a beautiful wedding, the least you can do is oblige them,” Elise said. Her sister was still unconvinced but she considered Elise’s advice. Not many brides can say their mothers-in-law gave them a relaxed budget for their wedding day. “You’re right. I just want Reggie to know I’m not marrying him for his money. I’d be happy in the courthouse in t-shirts and jeans.”
“And you think I don’t?” Reggie said suddenly, rejoining the conversation. He’d dropped to his knees next to his fiancé and kissed her deeply, ignoring the still-present Elise.
“Let’s do it. Let’s go to the courthouse and get married. Right now,” he said, still holding onto Emerald.
“You mean it?”
“What the hell? The sooner I lock this down, the sooner we can start our life together,” he said.

It was the most romantic thing Elise had ever seen. She’d witnessed her sister and brother-in-law exchange their secret nuptials in matching jeans and white t-shirts and it was the happiest she’d ever seen Emerald. Full from all the love in the air and still intoxicated from her romp the night before, Elise stepped away from the happy couple to make a call.

Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of Liam Hensick. Please leave a message and I’ll get back with you at my earliest convenience. *BEEP*
“Hey, Liam, it’s me, Elise. Listen, I know we’ve been keeping things casual but I was thinking that maybe one day, you and I can actually go out. Like on a date. If you’re interested, give me a call.”

Elise could feel her heart pounding in her chest as she disconnected the call. Her bravery seemed to pool at her feet as regret flooded her senses. She’d fucked up.

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