Thank you so much for reading A Chance for Us. Oliver and Maren were probably one of the most fun stories I’ve written in a while. I loved them. I loved her and him and them together. It was extremely hard for me to let them go. And let the entire group go. So, here is the scene. I hope you enjoy it and are ready for my next series! It’s a small town out west and I am so damn excited about it!
“You need to calm down, you’re worse than the bride,” I tell the mother-of-the-bride in a tone that brooks no argument.
She flips me off. “Shove it up your ass.”
“You’re still a child. This isn’t about you, it’s about Kinsley.”
Stella shakes her head, mumbling under her breath. “And for her, it should be perfect.”
“It is perfect. We went over every damn detail a hundred times because of her neurotic mother.”
We all want this wedding to be perfect. Every single one of us. Today, my perfect, still twelve-in-my-mind niece is going to marry a freaking Arrowood. Not just any Arrowood either. No, she’s marrying Sean Arrowood’s son. The irony that our families will be bound through marriage is hilarious.
“Austin will be good to Kinsley.”
“I love that boy. It’s not that, it’s the whole damn thing.”
“I’m not too excited either,” I say under my breath.
It isn’t that I’m not happy for Kinsley, because I am. It’s more that there is no man good enough for any of my nieces or my daughter. But I’m not even going there. She isn’t allowed to date until she’s thirty—forty if it’s left up to me, but Maren says I need to be reasonable.
Stella dabs at her eye. “I still feel like we just got her, you know? Like the time I got back isn’t enough. She’s only been mine for a little while, and now she’s going to be his.”
I pull my sister in for a hug. “She’ll always be yours. And I’m saying this for my own benefit too because no matter who Brynn is married to, she’ll always be mine.”
Jack walks by the room we’re in, sees his wife crying, waves, and walks past. “Hey, Jack!” I yell.
While Brynn may always be my responsibility, I relish the fact that my twin sister became his problem upon their marriage.
Stella lifts her head. “Jack?”
“I’m right here, love.” He enters, glaring at me for a second before walking to her. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’m not ready for this.”
“Well, baby, she is. So, let’s go.”
This wedding is literally as far from traditional as we can ever get. My sister is the maid of honor, and Kinsley will have Samuel and Jack walk her down the aisle.
All of her cousins and brother are in the wedding party, and the ceremony is going to be in the woods instead of the wedding venue.
Kinsley and Austin want to be surrounded by only the people and things that matter. I think it had something to do with her being a park ranger who likes trees and him being a baseball player who holds a lot of wood. What the fuck do I know though?
Just then, my gorgeous wife appears in the doorway. “Let’s go. We have to hike a damn half mile to the actual ceremony once we get into the woods. Devney and Sean are heading out in the golf carts next.”
When she says golf carts, she means off-road vehicles because we couldn’t get regular old golf carts out to the site. And even then, we can’t get close enough and still have to hike a bit.
“The ATVs?” I ask.
“Whatever. I’m not walking.” Maren lifts the hem of her dress to show me her shoes. “These are my favorite.”
“Then maybe you should’ve picked different ones,” I say, which earns me the death stare.
I’m just saying that it would’ve made more sense, but I’ve given up on trying to understand women and their fashion choices.
Stella sighs. “I should go to Kinsley anyway.”
Jack kisses her forehead. “Yes, you should.”
“I just needed to cry a little,” Stella explains.
I grasp her shoulder and squeeze. “That is absolutely understandable. Now, let’s go see your daughter marry the son of the guy who married my ex.”
Maren rolls her eyes. “He’s one of your best friends, Oliver.”
Sure, Sean and I have become really great friends since my wedding, but really, where is the fun in calling him that? It’s much better if it seems as if I harbor hatred for the man who stole what would’ve been the biggest mistake in my life. Yeah, I could have . . . and thought I did . . . love Devney, but that was before I knew what love could be with Maren.
I just like being a dick, truly, it’s more fun.
“Are you guys going to skip the wedding?” Grayson asks.
“We’re just missing Josh and Alex,” I say sarcastically.
“I’m here.” Josh’s voice echoes in the hall.
“And me!” Alex rounds out the Parkerson siblings.
Alex is home for the wedding, but he’s leaving tomorrow to go back to his life overseas. He’s become one of the top architects for his firm and is now in London doing some weird-shaped building that defies gravity. Whatever that means.
He’s also happily married to Nadia, who is an heiress or princess. I’m not sure, I’ve heard the story a hundred times, but I fade off when she starts talking about bowing or some shit. She doesn’t fly, so I’ve only met her once when Maren and I went to visit.
Then my sisters-in-law yell. “We’re here too!”
Stella sighs. “Let’s go. My daughter needs perfection.”
We all filter out, still the immature assholes of our twenties and thirties. Grayson punches Jack in the arm. Josh shoves me into the wall before Stella slaps him upside the head. Alex flicks the back of Grayson’s ear, which then causes Grayson to try to trip Alex. It’s amazing any of us were allowed to get married or have kids.
I’d like to think we were just all smart not to have five kids each.
Grayson has three, so he’s close to this level of hell.
We exit the resort, which is booked solid with Arrowoods and other guests. For the last eighteen years, we have operated at maximum capacity every week. There was a period, in the beginning, where we weren’t sure it would happen. We’d do well, but then there would be a lull, but now, we’re rated one of the top family resorts in the country. The Park Inn closed nine years ago, taking my father under as well.
Grayson debated buying it but chose not to after the rest of us said we wanted no part in that company.
Mom, on the other hand, is doing well. She started a charity for emotionally abused spouses, helping other women find ways to protect themselves from narcissistic and abusive men. Her work means the world to her. It’s nice to see that she’s finally come out from the hell my father put her through. She is seriously dating someone, which is uncomfortable to watch since she’s over seventy and he’s a family friend.
“Is Samuel seating Mom?” Josh asks. Jack and Stella give him the evil eye. “What? They’re together.”
“Can we not talk about that?”
Jessica loops her arm in Stella’s. “It’s been four years.”
“It’s really awkward.”
“What? You don’t like your mom and your daughter’s other father dating?” I refuse to let this go. Any opportunity to bicker with my sister is fun for me.
Maren pinches the skin under my arm.
“You deserved that.”
I might have, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. “You forget, you’re stuck with me for life.”
“How could I ever forget?” my gorgeous wife says while fluttering her lashes. “It’s a fact I cherish each morning.”
“Cherish? I think you mean regret,” Stella says.
“They’re interchangeable most days.”
“Funny,” I deadpan.
We all load up in the off-road vehicles, and the girls get blankets to wrap around their legs and also a sort of poncho. It rained the last four days, almost washing out the trail there and covering it with mud. So, they’re doing their best to avoid ruined dresses.
Maren and I are lucky enough to be in the vehicle with Jess and Grayson, which means Josh and Delia got Stella, who I can hear worrying over everything.
“Did we get some sort of flooring down?” Gray asks quietly.
“Yeah, I found the wood pallets that absorb the water. It helped make it less . . . mushy, but, it’s still bad. Kinsley would only allow us to use natural products, so I couldn’t do much other than use planks of wood for the aisles and logs for people to sit on.”
He laughs. “I thought that kid would be an accountant.”
“She’s doing what she loves,” Jess cuts in. “It’s all we can ask for as parents.”
“You’re right,” Maren agrees. “Brynn is applying to colleges, and I keep wanting to push her into any other major than hospitality. She has years of knowledge on how to run a hotel from her family, but she is adamant.”
Brynn is going to take over this place, mark my words. That girl is the best parts of me and Maren. She sees problems, tackles them, and has had some ideas that greatly helped the Firefly.
We get to the spot, and while we’ve done everything we can to keep things free of mud, there’s no way in hell my wife is going to ruin her shoes. Not after she told me the price.
I grab her, lifting her into my arms.
“Those shoes are worth more than my left kidney as you pointed out. You’re not walking.”
“What about the cost of your right arm?”
“Considering I’m right-handed, I think it’s worth more.”
She laughs. “Let’s go.”
When we get into the clearing, which is the same one where Kinsley’s parents got engaged, I hear Stella suck in her breath.
I don’t care what anyone says, this place is lit or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
Stella is usually in charge of everything, but we kept a lot of details from her.
Blake, Stella’s son, Everett, and I strung lights from the trees going across and the girls wrapped the wires in flowers and moss. Brynn, Amelia, and Ember worked for hours, making sure it looked as though it was falling from the trees, and they outdid themselves. Then they had a lot of fun bossing my nephews around.
“This is like a scene from a movie,” Stella says.
“It is, but she deserves it.”
Stella’s hand rests on my arm. “You’re amazing.”
“Yes, I know.”
She’s not lying.
“I’m heading to the tent,” she tells us. “I gave them enough girl time without me listening.”
“I’ll go find Samuel, and we’ll wait until you get us,” Jack says.
Stella and Jack embrace before heading in different directions. The rest of the Parkerson party head to their seats.
When we are all situated, I take a second to really look around and smile. My life is pretty fucking fantastic. All of ours are. My siblings are all happily married, we have some of the most amazing kids who exist, and they’re all starting to come into their own. Amelia is doing her internship for a law firm in Charlotte. Everett and Ember are in college. Brynn and Blake will be starting soon, which is terrifying but also beautiful. Grayson and Jessica’s youngest daughter, Rhian, will be in high school next year, and she is the child we all wished on them. She should’ve been my kid with her flair for mischief. Today, we’re here to watch Kinsley start her own family.
My mother comes to sit with us. “You all look very beautiful.”
She grabs Jessica’s hand, patting it.
The most unlikely friendship formed between those two.
“You look wonderful, Eveline,” I say, and she elbows me.
“I may be old, but I’m still your mother. Don’t think I won’t take a spoon to your backside for being disrespectful, Oliver Parkerson.”
As if she ever did. The nanny maybe . . .
I lean into my wife. “I would like it if you spanked me.”
Maren huffs. “I can’t take you anywhere.”
The music starts, and we quiet down. I lace my fingers with my wife’s, and we smile at each other.
“I love you.”
“I love you,” she says back.
Brynn makes her way down the path, and then the rest of my nieces and my sister, who has tears streaming down her face. When the music changes, we stand, and Jack, Kinsley, and Samuel walk toward Austin Arrowood and where she will bind her future to his. It’s beautiful to see this family, which has endured so much, make a home in Willow Creek Valley. One that none of us ever thought was possible, but one that none of us would ever trade away. Exactly as it was meant to be.
Thank you again for loving this family! I am already working on the next series that I am freaking out about! It’ll be a three-book series that deals with a group of friends. You don’t want to miss it. You can read Help Me Remember now. It is a story filled with ups and downs, suspense and love, and so much more. This is a brother’s best friend, small town, amnesia love story!