January 12, 2018
The bride was resplendent against the natural beauty of the setting. The archway of wisteria hung low behind her, the purple flowers a stark contrast with the white of her dress and the red of her lips. Everything was perfect, of course, because Philippa wouldn't have it any other way. When Philippa Winthrop-Scott planned an event, Veronica defied even the weather to not fall into line. Hence mother nature's current display. The backdrop was a magnificent sunset sinking behind the Pacific Ocean. Waves crashed against the sand just a few feet behind the archway, lapping up onto the shore shot through with streaks of gold, hot pink, and orange. Each kaleidoscopic roll of the ocean left a stream of foamy white to chase the water away from the shoreline, only to be caught again by the next wave.
Veronica felt her husband squeeze her hand three times, a silent signal they'd developed to silently tell the other I love you. Veronica smiled wistfully as she responded with four squeezes in return. I love you too.
Veronica tipped her head up toward him, defying the distinct directions they'd been given by the photographer, and he leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on the end of her nose.
"Perfect, that's the one," the photographer called out. "Let's head in."
Philippa let out a cheer of delight.
It was the end of all daylight, which suited the wedding party just fine. They'd been getting restless, and Veronica knew they were eager for the formal photography session to be complete so they could join the other guests for the celebration. It was time. Even Philippa, despite all her painstaking planning, had begun to grumble.
Philippa pecked Casey on the lips quickly and then moved away from him, looping her arm through Veronica's and pulling her away from her husband.
"It's freezing!" Veronica said.
Philippa flapped one hand dismissively. "But it was totally worth it. California sunsets are always the most beautiful in winter," she told her friend, snuggling in for warmth. "Now let's find those heat lamps and that handsome male server I watched skitter by a few moments ago so we can jump him."
Veronica rolled her eyes. "Philippa, for shame! I'm a married woman, don't you know?! I can't just jump waiters."
"Bollocks to the server, Veronica; it's the baked brie on his tray I'm after. It was the best part of the tasting menu, remember?"
Oh yes, she did. Philippa was right. The boys had left the catering to them, and she and Philippa had devoured the entire baked brie that day, even though Veronica was pretty sure it hadn't all been intended for them. They'd been too stuffed to try much else. Her mouth watered at the thought.
"I'll text Lilly. She can sniff out a hot waiter from a hundred paces," Veronica said, patting for her phone. But her gown had no pockets. Her phone was stowed with her father somewhere in the reception.
Grumble, grumble, she thought, her head echoing the sentiments of her stomach. But then she had an idea.
"Oh husband of mine," she called out over her shoulder.
Logan moved away from where he was walking next to Casey and closed the distance between them. At her slight shiver, he slid out of his jacket and placed it over her shoulder.
"Yes, m'dear?" he replied goofily, running his hands up and down her arms to warm her. His eyes connected with hers, and, as usual, her heart skipped a beat. The past year had flown by, a blur of lovemaking, wedding planning, and getting to know one another as a couple. It had been shockingly easy—loving Logan. He was kind and considerate. She supposed that he always had been, but he was grown up now. Gone was the impulsive, volatile friend of her youth. He was just as protective now—just as fiercely loyal, but he didn't smother her. He was so secure within himself. He knew just who he was. And together they were learning who they were.
As Philippa had predicted, communication was Veronica and Logan's biggest hurdle. Likely it was more her issue than theirs, if she were being honest, though Logan had his moments too. But they were getting there. London was a good place to be. It was the clean slate she'd hoped it would be. Having unlimited new weekend trips at their fingertips made every day a new adventure.
"Could you track down a baked brie for Philippa and I, please?" She batted her eyelashes a few times to be overly dramatic. "I'm starving and we still have to bustle the dress before the reception, and I am seriously close to keeling over."
Logan looked back and forth between the two of them theatrically before nodding and pulling out his phone. "I was just on my way to seek out the hors d'oeuvres, myself. Those pictures took too long. I—"
"I'll have you know that that photographer has won numerous awards, Logan, and he cost a very pretty penny. When Alex Carson says he needs time to get the shot, you give him the time for the shot," Philippa interjected.
"Noted," Logan deadpanned, obviously unwilling to argue with his best friend. He raised his arms in surrender. Then he spoke over his shoulder. "Casey!" he called out.
Casey arrived within seconds, folding Philippa into his arms and kissing the side of her neck. "Yes?" he asked.
"I think the bride needs to be fed. Can you track down the brie while I track down Lilly? If I remember correctly, she was the one officially trained in the art of bustling." Logan raised an eyebrow. "No reason to break protocol."
Philippa let out a distinct humpf, which everyone knew to mean that she had been bested. It was Philippa's version of touché. She shooed the boys away with both hands. "Yes, that's right. You two go do whatever grooms and groomsmen do. Veronica and I will be in the bridal lounge, waiting for Lilly and brie." She took Veronica by the hand and led her off.
Veronica managed a smile and a wink over her shoulder as she was dragged away. She mouthed thank you to her husband just before she disappeared out of sight around a hedge that led to the ladies waiting area.
"Love you both," Philippa called out as thanks.
"Why is this always so much easier in the damned shop, but when you try to do it for real, it's a bloody disaster?" Lilly's muffled voice was barely audible from her place beneath the bridal gown. It made Veronica and Philippa laugh. They were halfway through the baked brie already, and Lilly was clearly a few glasses of wine deep.
"Are you laughing?" Lilly sputtered. "I'm literally suffocating here, and you're laughing."
Veronica rolled her eyes and bent over, lifting the dress so Lilly could have some air. She shoveled some brie on to the fork and held it near Lilly's face. "Here, Lil, brie makes everything better."
Lilly took the forkful unwillingly and then rolled her eyes and groaned in pleasure. "That's amazing," she said. "You guys have been holding back on me."
"Yes, we have!" Philippa agreed. "But I appreciate your British colloquialism," Philippa told her. "I finally feel like I'm rubbing off on you ladies."
"Done!" Lilly declared, crawling on all fours from under the gown and collapsing on the floor. After a moment she rolled over so she was face up and motioned to the fork for another bite of cheese. "That took an eternity. I'm exhausted. Do we really need to go back out there? Technically you're already married, and this shindig is already paid for. I'm sure the guests have taken matters into their own hands by now. They've either devoured the dinner already or have resorted to cannibalism. Either way, I feel like it's safer for us to stay here."
Veronica flopped back on a sofa, doing her best to keep her dress from wrinkling. "I'm game," she said. "I think I've already gained three pounds, and there's no unbuttoning this dress at the waist for wiggle room."
Philippa, as always, was the voice of reason. "Absolutely not! I planned this all. We must leave the room."
None of them moved.
"Text Logan," Veronica groaned. "Tell him to call a crane to lift us out of here. Must. Be. Social."
"We really should be going," Philippa said.
"Okay, I'm going to count to five, and then we will all move," Lilly said. "One-two-three-four-five."
No one moved, and they all howled with laughter.
In the end, it was a knock on the door and Casey's— "Philippa, I swear to God, you cannot leave me alone with all these people" —plea that got them moving.
"Duty calls, Ladies," Philippa had told her friends. Pulling them up one by one and shoving them out the door. "The future awaits."
It was the wedding of the century. It put every other wedding Veronica had ever attended to shame. And it wasn't opulence or fanfare—it was love, pure and simple.
The reception was beautiful. Despite the fact that it was winter, heat lamps kept everything cozy. Veronica tapped her mouth with a silver cloth napkin and then folded it and put it neatly back in its place. Then she leaned left and found herself nuzzled against Logan's cleanly shaven neck. He smelled of sandalwood and salt. He instinctively lifted his arm and tucked her closely into his side. Things were like this between them now...natural. It was heavenly.
"Are you cold?" he asked, rubbing her arm a little, sending fireworks up and down her spine.
Veronica shook her head and settled herself farther into him. "I'm tired."
"Me too," he whispered, his head bent down so that his words tickled her ear. Veronica squirmed a bit. There were too many people here. She wanted to be alone with him...at home, snuggled in front of a warm fire watching Alias. For a socialite, Logan was becoming quite the homebody, as their nightly ritual revealed.
She felt Logan shift and followed his gaze.
Ugh, Veronica groaned inwardly as they were approached by none other than Dick Casablancas.
"Well, well, well," Dick said when he reached them. He rubbed his hands together. "You two! Finally together. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes."
"Um...thanks?" Veronica hedged. "I think." To Logan, she stealthily whispered, "What is he doing here?"
"Friend of the groom," Logan whispered back.
"Since when?" Veronica asked.
"Is Duncan here?" Dick asked.
Leave it to Dick to ruin a perfectly good moment. "Reason 587 we don't live here anymore," Veronica told Logan out of the side of her mouth.
Logan chuckled and shook his head. "No. He and Madison are off on their honeymoon, I think."
Dick shrugged, running a hand through his hair and looking away from them for a moment. "I can't think of two people who are more meant for each other than those two."
Veronica blinked once. Then she blinked again. When she spoke it was out of the side of her mouth again, directed at Logan. "Dick Casablancas and I actually agree on something. The end is nigh."
Logan choked and grabbed his wine glass for cover. "Indeed." Then he looked up over Dick's shoulder. "Don't worry," he told her. "Help has arrived."
The wedding coordinator approached them, her smile wide. She was beautiful and blond and wearing a stiff burgundy pantsuit. It reminded Veronica of something she'd have worn two years ago. It made her cringe.
"It's time for the toast," the coordinator told them.
That perked Veronica up. "Oh yes, yes. Of course. Thank you!" She felt suddenly flustered and unsteady. "Is Philippa ready?" she asked the coordinator rhetorically as she scanned down the head table in search of her friend. Philippa caught her eye and gave her a quick shrug and a nod.
Philippa reached next to her and caught her father's sleeve and tugged on it. Then she tilted her head in Veronica's direction.
Jonathon Winthrop-Scott had obviously been briefed because he stood immediately. He grabbed a knife from the table and gently tapped the side of his champagne flute to get the guests' attention. "Thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate such a wonderful union. Some of you have traveled far and wide for this occasion, and it's lovely to see you all. If you'd be so kind as to accept a flute from your server, it's time to toast the bride and groom."
Logan carefully unwrapped himself from around her and stood up. Then he turned his attention to Veronica, holding out his hand for her to rise as well. She did, and then she followed him over to where Casey and Philippa sat at their own, sweetheart table.
"For those of you who don't know me, I'm Logan Echolls. This is my wife, Veronica." Logan squeezed her. "Veronica and I spent many long nights over the past few months trying to agree on a speech." Logan looked down at Veronica and raised his eyebrows dramatically. "Being newlyweds, ourselves, we actually learned a lot about each other during the process."
Veronica took over. "Growing up, you always have these fantasies that you and your friends will grow up and marry best friends and everyone will all hang out and it will be one big family all the time. You get married together, have kids together...and your kids grow up to be besties." Veronica took a dramatic pause and gave Logan a long stare. "Lo and behold, through this speech writing, I found out that this shockingly isn't what adolescent boys fantasize about."
The crowd laughed, and Veronica looked up to see Logan shaking his head back and forth and exaggeratedly mouthing the word "No!"
Veronica gave him a playful shove. "I know! Shocking, right?" Veronica waited for another laugh. Thank goodness this crowd was easy to please. "So imagine my surprise when I hit about twenty and realized that everyone was on a different timetable." Veronica took a deep breath. "Everyone was on their own path."
Logan cut in. "I remember this quarter-life crisis."
"It was a doozy and led to some rash decisions," Veronica admitted with an overly exaggerated wince. "Which ultimately led to Philippa leading half of California on a rescue mission to save me from my own impulsivity," she continued with a rueful shake of her head.
"And in the process throwing herself in the path of none other than our groom, Casey Gant," Logan finished for her.
"Yay!" Veronica turned to the couple in question and smiled brightly.
"Which has turned out to be a boon for me," Logan told the crowd, "because, lo and behold, it is me who gets to live out Veronica's childhood fantasy. One of my childhood friends happened to meet and fall in love with the best friend of my adulthood."
"Now we haven't sorted out all the little details," Veronica warned, holding up her hand. "We beat them to the altar, and I must clarify that no plans of coordinating the next generation of besties have been set."
"But Veronica and I couldn't be happier to be here today, toasting you, Casey and Philippa, at your wedding."
"But it was kind of boring," Veronica interrupted, "not one person tried to break it up or anything."
"No, that's a normal wedding, honey," Logan assured her, which garnered another laugh from the, clearly well-informed, wedding guests.
"So, what Logan and I agreed upon —in terms of a toast— was to impart our marriage wisdom upon you," Veronica told the couple.
"Those six whole months?" Casey called out playfully. Philippa gave him the look and pretended to cover his mouth.
Logan nodded. "All six of them. We've surprisingly learned a lot!"
"So sit back and absorb the wisdom," Veronica scolded.
"Number one: Never go to bed angry," Logan told them.
Casey nodded, now on board.
"Number two: If your wife wants a Slushie in the middle of the night, you should probably just go get it," Veronica warned.
Philippa nodded her approval. "Listen to them," she warned Casey.
"Three: If you know what's best for you, you'll just watch whatever she wants to watch on the telly," Logan advised, doing his best Philippa impression. "No matter what it is."
"Four: Don't be afraid to ask for alone time," Veronica said, more seriously this time.
"Five: Go on adventures," was Logan's advice.
"Six: Hold hands in public," Veronica said.
"And seventh—and most importantly—visit your friends and family in London as often as possible, because we're going to miss you both so much and can't imagine being there without you," Logan concluded.
Veronica noticed a hitch in Logan's voice and squeezed him around his middle.
Philippa and Casey stood up and hugged them both. Philippa blotting at her eyes with a napkin, which made Veronica misty-eyed herself. It was frustrating because she'd held it together just fine until now.
"Please raise your glasses," Veronica instructed her friends in a whisper during a final hug. "I simply refuse to cry until we get this out." She reached over and poked Logan in his side.
Logan cleared his throat and turned to the crowd. "So, a toast to the happiest of couples. The kind of couple everyone aspires to be. Two of our best friends, Philippa and Casey."
"To the bride and groom," Veronica spoke up, raising her glass and gratefully taking a large gulp of the bubbly.
She turned to Philippa again and whispered, "Now let's get this show on the road. Please throw that bouquet right at Lilly because she's at least three glasses in already and those don't look like tears of joy."
"Right," Philippa acknowledged. She snuck a glance over Veronica's shoulder and then hissed through her teeth with a grimace. "I was hoping the 'all on our own timetable' thing would help, but apparently not."
"I guess it's little consolation to the only one left behind," Veronica conceded.
"No, of course not," Philippa agreed. "I'm on it."
If anyone had noticed that Phillippa threw the bouquet before the first dance, no one had mentioned it. But that was Philippa, always up to something.
The fact that, instead of throwing it over her shoulder, Philippa had turned around at the last moment and hurled it squarely in Lilly's face with the force of the Padres' Tony Gwynn, had proven that Philippa was a woman on a mission. Lilly had loved it, of course, which had lightened her mood significantly in a way that only Philippa was capable of doing. It was a huge relief on every level because Veronica had been fairly certain that if Lilly had pounded back a few more drinks, instead of watching Philippa and Casey's first dance right now, they'd all be watching Lilly on stage belting out her own rendition of All The Single Ladies.
But now, as Veronica sat on Logan's lap watching his best friend dance with her new husband, she had to admit that life didn't get much better than this.
Except for the song choice. What in the world? A Stevie Wonder cover?
"Where did you come up with this song?" Veronica asked him, cuddling close.
"Jonathon told me it was the song he and Philippa's mom first danced to at their wedding. So it's a bit of an unconventional choice, but it has a lot of meaning." Logan nodded at something over her shoulder, and she turned to see Philippa's dad fighting tears watching his daughter.
"Just wait. Our big moment is next," he warned her conspiratorially.
"Should I be afraid?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. She knew Logan wouldn't ever purposely embarrass her, but with him and Philippa in control of the band's playlist, the possibilities were endless.
"Nope," he answered as the last cords of You Are the Sunshine of My Life wound down and the singer called the wedding party onto the dance floor.
Logan smiled at her as he stood and led her to the center of the tent where Philippa and Casey waited, beckoning them. A moment later the opening chords of Sway came through the speakers. Veronica fought back tears. It was almost too intimate a moment for them to share in front of so many people, but luckily Veronica knew most of the eyes weren't on them.
"You're like the best man on the planet, do you know that?" she told him. "I'm glad you let others see it now because back in high school your outward psychotic jackass act was getting pretty tired." She figured he would know she was teasing him—mostly. But she also knew that he couldn't deny it.
Logan chuckled and shrugged, looking her straight in the eyes with an intensity that threatened to bring her to her knees.
"Well, at the time I had a reputation to uphold. And a lot of pent up anger and frustration."
"I guess I can't blame you," Veronica said as she rested her head on his shoulder, sinking into him. "But I loved the boy you were almost as much as I love the man you have grown into."
Logan was having a great time. He and Veronica danced the night away.
When the band went on a break, Logan played DJ, queuing up everything he could pull from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack so the girls could dance together. These women, despite being brought up on different continents and under such different circumstances, had so much in common that it frightened him sometimes.
"Those three!" A familiar voice said from over his shoulder.
Logan turned to see Keith Mars standing just behind him, a grin on his face as he watched his daughter cutting up the dance floor screaming: 'So tell me what you want, what you really, really want' at the top of her lungs with her two best friends.
"How did we get here?" Keith asked, moving to stand next to his son-in-law.
"Back to 1996?" Logan asked, being intentionally obtuse. Then he shrugged. "I thought it was obvious. I went left, sir."
Keith laughed at that. "Indeed you did. I'd say you both did." The older man put an arm on Logan's shoulder. "She's happier than I've ever seen her."
Logan, unused to physical contact from men, was caught a little off guard and flinched. "I know you miss her," Logan said regretfully. "If it's any consolation, I don't think London will be forever."
Keith let out a long sigh. "Son, I wanted Veronica out of Neptune from the moment I moved there. I was thrilled when she went away to grad school. Granted, London was a little farther than I'd planned, but beggars can't be choosers."
"You know you're welcome to visit us any time. Our home will always be yours," Logan told him earnestly.
"I appreciate that. And don't be surprised if I take you up on that offer. These days retirement is looking better and better. Maybe it's time for Sacks to run for sheriff."
Logan winced visibly and then both men laughed.
"See why I'm still there? I'm afraid that if I quit I will have to move out of town before the whole place implodes," Keith joked.
When Casey joined them, Keith heartily congratulated him on his marriage and his choice of bride. Logan could tell that Keith had become as fond of Philippa as everyone else had over the past few years. It was she who had arranged for Keith's last-minute trip to his daughter's wedding. Philippa always took care of everyone.
Just then she, Veronica, and Lilly ran over, playfully dancing around the three men while they chanted: 'So, here's a story from A to Z. You wanna get with me, you gotta listen carefully!'
Keith laughed. "It's like middle school all over again. But now they've got a third member in tow, and why does that not make me feel any better?"
Keith was right to be worried, those three women had managed to fly him halfway around the world for Veronica's surprise proposal without him being any the wiser. Logan knew that they should all be very afraid.
"It looks like the band is back. The father-daughter dance is up next, Keith," Logan announced.
When the song ended, the band called all the fathers and daughters to the dance floor, and Logan and Casey sat down to relax with a glass of wine to watch their wives dance.
"The band's cutting us off at eleven," Casey warned him.
"Sounds good to me." Logan nodded, grateful. He was tired. "It's a sorry state of affairs when eleven seems late, but I'm exhausted."
"Marriage is aging you," Casey agreed, giving Logan's upper arm a playful punch. "Or just jetlag. I was sent here by my bride to tell you that she has something planned for us. We're to change into warm clothes and meet on the beach at 11:30."
"That sounds ominous," Logan shuddered dramatically, but then he smiled. "Tell her we'll be there."
"Philippa, I feel bad," she told her friend from across the bonfire. "It's your wedding night. You two should be otherwise engaged," Veronica said, cuddling farther into Logan's side. They'd long since abandoned the gowns and false eyelashes in favor of hoodies and sweatpants. Of course, Philippa's hair was shaped into a quintessentially unmessy, messy bun. Veronica's, on the other hand, was pulled up into something that resembled a spastic ponytail. Only Philippa could look that perfect in Casey's Duke sweatshirt.
Philippa shrugged. "No, I feel like this is the last night of just us. It's the last night we'll all be together like this. Besides, we have the rest of our lives together, right, Case?" She turned to her groom and gave him a wry smile.
"Of course. We head off to the Maldives in a few days. You two head back to London—"
"And I'm still here," Lilly reminded them.
"I'm sorry, Lil," Veronica said to her friend, reaching out to take and squeeze her hand.
"I'm okay now. It was hard for a moment earlier, but I'm back to myself," she assured her friends. "One of us has to be wild and crazy and wonderful into her thirties."
Veronica believed her. Lilly was living it up. Veronica knew her friend was a bit lonely sometimes, but Lilly wasn't destined for a traditional life—everyone knew that.
"Besides, I have a call back for that play I auditioned for a few weeks ago. I think it will be fabulous," she said confidently.
"Jake and Celeste must be rolling in their future graves," Casey said.
Lilly shrugged. "I think they're over it, honestly. Nothing I do shocks them anymore. Not even catching me out on a date with Eli Navarro last week…" Lilly let the sentence hang there, obviously waiting for a reaction.
"Weevil?" Logan choked. "Are you serious?"
Lilly's smile became devilish. "Oh yes!"
Veronica found herself smiling too. "I totally get it. There was always something….I don't know, dangerous about him, but in a good way."
Logan pretended to push Veronica off her spot next to him on the log. "No! There wasn't," he said petulantly. Playfully.
"Oh, there was," Veronica corrected him. "How did this happen?" she asked her friend.
"My car needed work, and he owns his own garage now. He's gone legit," Lilly said. "His PCH days are behind him."
"Lilly, you could have brought him tonight. I said to bring a date," Philippa complained.
"It's not really his scene," Lilly admitted. Veronica couldn't argue with her friend there. Lilly took a big stretch, spreading her arms wide. "But I think I'll turn in. When I stop drinking I fall asleep."
Casey laughed. "That's why you can't ever stop."
"I hear that," Lilly said, standing up and brushing the sand off of her expensive purple yoga pants. "I'll leave you, newlyweds, to it," she announced. "Philippa, Casey, it was a beautiful wedding. I couldn't be happier for the two of you. Have a wonderful honeymoon." She hugged them both. "Veronica and Logan...don't fly away home without a brunch date."
"We won't!" Veronica assured her friend, waving and watching as Lilly made her way back to the resort.
"I hope she's okay," Logan told the group.
"She seems okay," Veronica said. When Lilly was out of sight, Veronica turned back. "I'll take her for a spa day this week and make sure."
"I can't believe we're all married," Philippa said.
"I can't believe we swapped continents," Veronica countered. Everyone laughed. "How did we get here?"
"It's all your fault, you know," Philippa accused playfully.
"I know!" Veronica said, embarrassed. "And aren't you grateful?"
Philippa turned and looked at Casey, reaching out to place a hand on his cheek. "Immensely."
"I haven't heard a 'Thank you, Veronica,'" Veronica fished.
"I haven't heard a 'Thank you, Philippa,'" her friend countered.
"Touché," Veronica said. "Thank you, Philippa." She looked up at Logan and he kissed her gently on the forehead.
"What about me?" Casey objected. "The whole plan would have crumbled without the getaway car."
"Yes, you will go down in history as the man with the Onstar getaway car," Veronica said with a roll of her eyes. But then met his eyes and she said earnestly, "Thank you, Casey. Really, thank you."
The group sat silently for a few moments. Veronica watched the fire crackle and pop for a moment.
"It really was the most beautiful wedding," Veronica said, mostly to Philippa.
"As was yours," Philippa said.
"Absolutely. But ours was tiny and spur of the moment," Veronica reminisced.
"And in Tuscany," Casey added.
"No, it was beautiful...just different," Veronica said. "I suppose it's nice to be back in California too. I left in such a hurry. This feels like...goodbye."
Logan gave her a nudge. "You can come back whenever you'd like. And you know your dad is welcome anytime," he reminded her. "It doesn't have to be goodbye."
"I know, and thank you. It's not goodbye in a bad way. It's just...I feel able to move on. To close this door for now. There was a part of me that was worried I'd run away to London."
Veronica saw Logan frown despite the low light, "I didn't know you felt that way."
Veronica shrugged. "It didn't keep me up at night or anything. It was just a feeling. But now I know it's not true. I just moved on." Veronica paused for a moment. "Not that I don't miss California weather and beaches," she added ruefully.
"I hear that," Logan agreed. "Beach weddings are perfect, and...Philippa I don't want to make you sad, but I really…." He held off for a moment, seemingly trying to decide on the right wording.
"You felt Sarah?" Philippa finished for him.
"I did," Logan said eagerly, leaning forward. "I never met your sister, but you left that seat in the front row empty for her and…"
"I know!" Philippa agreed, grinning at him, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "I truly felt her there. And the butterflies came by, and I know they migrate this time of year—logically I get it—but that one just hovered there for a moment like it was watching us."
"I know!" Logan repeated, sitting up straighter and leaning toward his friend. He reached for her hand and she took it. They stayed that way for a moment.
Veronica had to blink back the tears in her eyes.
"So, did you lovebirds choose a last name finally?" Veronica asked. "The officiant's announcement of mister and misses was noticeably absent," she hedged.
Everyone laughed; this had been a topic of conversation for some time. Philippa's name was so much fun to play with.
"I'm still voting for another hyphen," Logan said with a shake of his head. "Philippa Marguerite Winthrop-Scott-Gant just rolls right off the tongue," Logan deadpanned, earning him an elbow to the solar plexus from his wife.
Casey howled with laughter. "Totally!"
"Hey!" Veronica warned. "Feminism happened. She doesn't need his last name at all."
Veronica had chosen to keep her maiden name, and no one had been surprised.
"I haven't decided yet," Philippa said, resigned. "It was too much trouble before the honeymoon trip anyway, so I bought myself another month."
"Excellent choice," Veronica said.
The boys began talking for a while. Something about boats and how Casey and Philippa had recently gotten stranded on their way out to Catalina Island on a day trip. Veronica missed most of it. She found herself growing tired. She let out a long yawn and felt Logan's arms tighten around her. She wasn't sure how long they stayed that way, but she must have nodded off, for the next thing she remembered, Logan was whispering her back to consciousness with words of returning to their suite and their cozy bed. It suited Veronica just fine because, cozy sweats and California weather aside, she was starting to shiver.
Logan helped her to stand and then pulled Philippa to her feet as well, balancing one girl on each side as Casey spoke to someone a few feet away. A moment later, he returned with a resort attendant who Veronica presumed would take care of the fire.
Philippa looked at the attendant and flashed him her radiant smile. "Thank you so much for setting this up for us. It was lovely; the perfect ending to a wonderful day."
Veronica took advantage of the distraction and let go of Logan and crossed over to Casey. She reached up and gave him a big hug. "Congratulations, Buster," she said in a playful yet warning voice. "She's all yours now. Treat her right, ya hear?"
Casey pulled back to look Veronica in the face. "Thank you," he said. "And of course. If nothing else, the fear of the wrath of Logan will keep me in line." Veronica turned to see the outline of Philippa and Logan hugging in the dying light of the fire. Logan had her completely wrapped up in a protective bear hug. They appeared to be whispering to one another emotionally.
The sight of her husband and Philippa warmed Veronica's heart. She hadn't dared to hope that life really could ever be this good. She could barely fathom the narrow escape she'd had. She owed Philippa everything, on every level. Her and Logan's bond was inspiring, each of them making the other better, fuller.
After a moment, Logan and Philippa released one another and made their way toward their spouses, and the group began the short trek back up to the resort on their weary feet.
When they got to the guest suites, the couples waved to one another and headed their separate ways. "See you at breakfast," Philippa called out as she and Casey disappeared around a corner.
When Veronica reached the door of their suite, she noticed a shine in Logan's eyes. "Are you going to be okay?" she asked, turning to him and rubbing his cheek with her hand. "You'll see her soon."
Logan leaned into her, trapping her between himself and the door. His hand reached up to cover hers, holding it to his cheek. "It's not that. I mean, I'll miss her of course, but how…" Logan sucked in a long breath and let it out slowly. "How do you thank the person who gave you the most important thing in your life."
Veronica felt her throat close up a little and swallowed hard. She loved how Logan just put his feelings out there without a care for being perceived as vulnerable. It was something she was learning from him, slowly.
"Philippa's shenanigans only got you partway, mister." Veronica tried to keep things playful, but his serious expression softened her next words. "You did a pretty good job getting me all on your own," she said genuinely. "Like you said, we just had to wait until the time was right."
"How do I thank the person who gave me the courage to fight for the one thing I always thought I didn't deserve? The first person in my life to tell me I was worth anything, and to mean it. I never dreamed—I couldn't have even comprehended back then—that life could be this good, that marriage could be this good."
"Find her her soulmate?" Veronica shrugged, smiling outwardly. All teasing aside, the fact that his words just then echoed so clearly her thoughts from just moments ago brought tears to Veronica's eyes also. She rose up onto her toes until their foreheads met and just stayed there for a while, drinking him in. Drinking the moment in.
"For the record," Veronica breathed, "you always deserved me. We deserved each other. And now we get our happily ever after. It's more than I dreamt of too."
"I love you," he said clearly, just above a whisper. "More than anything else in this world."
"I know," she replied, just as breathless. "Me too."
Logan closed the distance between their lips. The kiss began tender, gentle. Little tugs and nips followed until the kiss intensified to passion. Logan's hands left her face, and Veronica let out a faint grunt of disapproval until they settled at her hips.
"How tired are you?" Logan asked suggestively between kisses. His hands found the bare flesh of her back and Veronica gasped.
"Your hands are freezing!" she hissed before she could stop herself.
Logan's only response was to slide them farther up her back, a salacious grin spreading across his lips when he reached her shoulder blades. "You weren't wearing a bra that whole time?" he asked, leaning down to lick a line from her jaw to her ear, causing her to shiver yet again. "You tease," he breathed near her ear.
"After being stuck in the damned corset all day, there was no way—"
"Oh, the corset!" Logan groaned, grinding his midsection into hers meaningfully. "Bring that home with you. That I'd like to see again," he said hoarsely.
"Now who's the tease?" she asked, pressing herself into him again just as suggestively which earned her full neck kisses in response. Veronica was entering a Logan Echolls fog but used her last ounce of sanity to remind him where they were. "Logan, if you'll just open the door, I'll happily show you just how much of a tease I am. But not in the hallway."
Logan laughed and spun her around, pinning himself between her and the door this time as he trailed kisses down her collar bone. Veronica was unaware of it, but somehow he must have dug the room key out of his pocket and deftly unlocked the door because, before she knew it, they were tumbling back across the threshold and into their suite. They both jumped a bit when the door slammed shut behind them.
"You. Bed. Now," he ordered lovingly, nudging her in the direction of the bedroom.
Logan spun on his heel and reopened the door, securing a "Do not disturb" hanger to the knob on the other side.
"You're not undressing fast enough," he warned her, picking up his phone from the wet bar as he followed her through the suite.
"What could you possibly need your phone for right now?" Veronica scolded as she pulled her arms inside her sleeves to untangle herself from her clothing.
"Texting Phil to say we won't be at breakfast because neither one of us is going to sleep tonight," he said, one eyebrow raised as he typed. Then he tossed his phone on the sofa and pulled his own sweatshirt over his head in one adroit move.
He pulled her to him and then them both down onto the bed. "And I told her thank you," he said to Veronica as he resumed kissing her clavicle, making a path down the center of her chest, "again."
Thank you to so many of you who stuck with this story. It's all here now, thanks to jmazzy's encouragement, and those of you who wouldn't let me off the hook.
LisaWolfe80, kmd0107, and Brit have all hand their hands in betaing this over the years, and I'm grateful for their help! I'm not a confident writer...I need more handholding than most, so their help is invaluable.
I hope you liked the end. Let me know! And thanks again!