So, you all know how much us ladies here at Have Book Will Read
absolutely LOVE and ADORE Tina Torrest, right?
Well, our hearts just grew a little bit bigger because of the EXTRA love we now have for her!
What did she do to deserve that extra love? Well, there are a few reasons …
She wrote a WHOLE EXTRA CHAPTER for Remember When 3!
She wrote it in Trip’s POV!
She let us read it early!
… and …
SHE ASKED US IF WE’D LIKE TO SHARE IT WITH YOU ALL
AND WE SAID HELL, YEAH!!
So, in the true spirit of Valentine’s Day, and sharing the love, that’s exactly
what we’re going to do!
Oh, and … you’re welcome!!
YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
St. Nicetius Class of ’91 15th Reunion
November 25, 2006
The green and white crepe streamers are twisted around the room and there’s a spinning disco ball suspended from the ceiling. Every wall is plastered with a million pictures from our yearbook, and between the big hair and the stupid ties in all the shots, it looks like John Hughes’ brain has exploded. But I gotta say, the sight of all these cheesy decorations is actually kind of… comforting. A reminder of where—and when—it all began.
I glance beside me and grin at the girl who was supposed to be on my arm all along.
I give Layla a kiss just because she’s looking at me with those expectant eyes of hers, smiling like she’s hiding some big secret. Well, I’ve got a secret of my own.
I take a peek over her shoulder to look for Pick. When I find him in the crowd, I give the “go” signal and he gives me a thumbs up. Lisa’s standing next to him with her hands clasped together, practically jumping up and down at having seen our exchange. She knows what’s coming.
I grab Layla’s hand and drag her over to the stage, with the intention of asking the DJ if I can borrow his microphone.
But before I can do it, I feel a tug against my arm and stop dead in my tracks. Layla is resisting my pull, which, let me tell you, doesn’t happen too often. Heh heh.
She’s got this mysterious little smirk playing at her lips, and I’m curious to know why, but right now all I want to do is kiss that smile right off her face.
So I do.
After a few seconds, she breaks away, raising her eyebrows at me. “You’re famous.”
I glare at her in confusion, and my expression must look pretty funny, because it makes her laugh.
Not that I mind. It’s probably my favorite sound in the world.
I wrap my arms tighter around her waist and say, “Yeah, no kidding. Big news flash there, Lay.”
She slides a hand to the back of my hair. Christ. It’s something she’s done a million times, but that little move never fails to kill me. I close my eyes and lean my head into her hand as she says, “What I meant is that so much of your life is public, all the time.” She brushes her face against my jaw and whispers the next part against my ear, “Some moments can be private.”
I pull back and look at her, amazed at this woman in my arms.
She knows, dammit.
She knows what I’m planning to do. No way she could possibly know how I’m planning to do it, but she seems pretty sure of herself that she’s nailed down the when. As in, right now. And shit. She’s right.
What she doesn’t know is that I’ve got Slanker Knox behind that curtain, waiting to play a cover of “Paradise City” the second I pop the question. They didn’t come cheap. But seriously, who cares about the cost? You can’t put a pricetag on awesome. Hell, if G N’ R were still together, I’d have forked over whatever they were asking just to get them here tonight. Barring that, Slanker Knox is one heck of a second choice. I figure for something as huge as this, it’s either go big or go home. What girl doesn’t want fanfare like that?
I look down at the girl in question. She’s calm, staring right back at me, her lips quirked into a slight smile. Her brown eyes are full of patience, as though she’s waiting for me to work it all out.
And suddenly, I do.
This girl. This girl in my arms. Jesus. She never stops surprising me.
I give her a stunned smile and a squeeze of her hand, then send her off to say goodbye to our friends while I head backstage and talk to the band. I offer my apologies to the lead singer JT, explain what’s going on, and tell them they can either pack it in for the night or play a set. Either way, they know they’re getting paid. And knowing these guys, I’m sure they’ll choose Option B, whether I was paying them or not.
You’re welcome, Class of ’91.
I reclaim my girl and we head out for the TRU.
* * *
I’m sweating. I’m actually nervous and sweating about this.
Dammit. Why did I let her talk me into this? I’m used to putting on the show. I was all set and ready to put on the performance of a lifetime back there at the reunion, and now I’m waiting for this damn elevator to bring us forty-fucking-nine floors up to our room so I can do it privately.
Penthouses are overrated.
Layla’s no help. She just keeps smiling and squeezing my hand. Like that’s supposed to ease my mind? Christ.
I get it. Fine, okay. She wants me right now for this. Not him.
No surprises. No theatrics.
The elevator dings! as the doors open directly into our suite…
And what’s the first thing I see?
A very familiar flash of turquoise, right there in the middle of the room, greeting me like some old, long-lost friend.
Ho. Ly. Shit. No freaking way did she really do this.
I turn to Layla, who’s about to bust out of her skin, smiling so wide I think she’s gonna pull a cheek muscle. “Layla. Effing. Warren.”
She starts cracking up as I make a lunging dive inside The Tent.
That’s right. Our fucking tent. Where it all started.
Where it’s going to start again.
She throws some music on the stereo while I whip off my shoes, and then joins me in our fucking tent. I lie down on my side and prop a hand under my head as Layla drops down cross-legged onto the floor.
“How the hell did you manage this one?” I ask, staring dumbstruck at the gorgeous woman settling in next to me.
She smiles out, “We’ll have to find a way to thank Jeffrey properly tomorrow.”
“Jeffrey? Jesus. I would’ve paid good money to see him trying to set this thing up. He doesn’t really strike me as the outdoorsy type.”
“Yeah, well neither do you, Chester. Yet here we are.”
I slide a hand up her knee and kiss it, right there on that spot of exposed skin. “Here we are.”
She smiles and swipes a hand over my ear. Always screwing with my hair.
And yeah. Here we are. In the very hotel that brought me to New Jersey in the first place. They’d barely broken ground on the thing when I first met Layla. Turned out, our relationship was being built right along with it.
It sure as hell took us long enough to figure that out.
I’m not waiting anymore.
My hand moves on its own to pull the ring out of my pocket. It’s been burning a hole against my chest all night, and having it out in the open like this actually brings some relief. For that reason alone, I’m suddenly struck with a strange calm about this whole thing.
I loop it around my knuckle and hold it up between us, looking right into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met in my life.
She doesn’t gasp. She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t even look at the ring.
Her eyes are still locked on mine, seeing right through me like no one but her ever has.
For a quick second, I get the impression that she’s actually grappling with the ‘yes’ I assumed would be a foregone conclusion. Before I know it, I find myself pleading my case. “You and me, Lay. I want forever. Tell me you do, too. Be mine.”
Her face turns almost sympathetic, and I feel my heart drop clear out of my body. All the ridiculous arguments and stupid miscommunications race through my head like a worn-out rerun. All that lost time we wasted when we should have been together instead.
I don’t believe it. She’s actually going to say ‘no.’
Panic burns in my stomach, slowly rising until it forms a solid lump in my throat. She’s trying to find a way to let me down easy. She doesn’t know how to say it. She—
“It’s too late, Trip.”
Before I can ask, before I can beg, her lips quirk into a sly grin as she adds, “You already made me yours years ago. Sixteen of them, to be exact. That lovely little bauble is just a technicality as far as I’m concerned.” She points to the “lovely little bauble” in question; the monstrous blue sapphire that’s bigger than this freaking tent.
I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to strangle her.
My voice sounds hoarse, like it’s not even my own as I ask, “Is that a yes, then?”
She smiles—God, that gorgeous grin of hers—and smoothes a hand across my jaw, leaning down to kiss me. I throw an arm around her middle and bring her body underneath mine to kiss her back.
When we finally come up for air, her gaze travels over to my hand next to her head. “Can I see it?” she asks, almost shyly. Her question is a softball, practically begging for an off-color joke, but this is kind of a big moment. I’m not going to screw this memory up for us.
So, instead, I hold my pointed finger up between us, revealing the vintage platinum ring I found weeks ago. I knew it was perfect the first second I saw it. Kind of like how I felt when I first saw her.
Layla’s mouth drops as she tilts her head from side to side in order to watch the light dance through the sapphire from different angles, alternating awe-struck looks between the ring and me.
I am Superman.
“Trip… It’s… It’s gorgeous!” Her eyes are glossing over with unshed tears, and I’m trying to stop my hands from shaking as I take the thing off my finger and go to slip it onto hers. She pulls her hand back, though, and before I can ask her why, she says, “I think it’s only fair that I tell you something first.”
I pause, every muscle in my body tensing. I stare at her empty finger and feel my heart take another plunge. What the hell?
I start to roll off her but she tightens her arms around my shoulders, looks me right in the eye, and just lets out with it. “I have something I want to give you.”
She reaches over to a pocket of the tent and roots through the thing, coming up with a small, flat box.
“You got me a present?” I ask, incredulous.
“Well, I knew you’d gotten me something, so I wanted to have something to give you back.”
I’d spent weeks planning the perfect proposal with Lisa’s input. All along I should have remembered that Layla was way more intuitive than we’d given her credit for. So much for surprises.
At least for her.
Because when I unwrap the box and pull off the lid, I realize the surprises are all on me tonight.
I’m looking at this white stick thing… with two little pink lines in the window.
It takes me a few seconds, but I finally comprehend what I’m looking at. “Lay?” I ask, and my voice is cracking like a twelve-year-old boy’s, “Is this…? Are you…?”
She grabs my hand and meets my eyes. I can see the tears streaming down her cheeks as she finishes my question. “Having your baby? Yes.”
“Holy shit! You’re… we’re… Lay!” I can’t even form a complete sentence, much less find a way to tell her how amazing she is. How much I love her. So, I don’t bother saying anything at all. I grab her and crush my lips to hers, this woman who owns me, this woman who’s carrying our baby inside her.
Holy shit! Our baby!
We’re having a baby.
My fiancée and I are having a baby.
“Looks like you’ll have to marry me now, Chester.”
There are no words. I’m struck dumb by this incredible woman in my arms. This infuriating woman I’ve loved since we were kids. This woman I’ll love forever. And “have to” doesn’t even cover it. Yeah, I’ll have to marry her. Only because I’ll wind up in a rubber room if I don’t.
I slide the ring onto her finger and pull her to me, molding her body to every inch of mine. My hands roam, trying to discern any changes to the curves and dips I know so well, envisioning what they’ll look like as she grows a piece of me inside her.
“Lay?” I ask in a rarely-heard, serious tone. I can tell by the look in her eyes that she knows I’ve got something really important to say. I swipe a strand of her hair behind her ear and duck my face next to her head to ask softly, “Did you really just give me a present that you peed on?”
She pauses for just a moment, and I bite my lip, the both of us fighting the hilarity that’s threatening to erupt. We find out soon enough that it’s a losing battle. She tries to shove my body off of her, but I’m not going anywhere. She settles for a slap on my shoulder instead, her giggles bursting between us. “Nice, Chester. Real nice.”
All I can do is grin and plant one on her. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of kissing her through our laughter. I pull back and look into the beautiful face of this beautiful woman who’s stuck with me for life. “I am so in love with you, Lay.”
Her eyes are glistening with tears, her gorgeous smile shooting straight through my heart, the heart that she has owned—and will continue to own—forever. She slides her hands around my neck and looks me right in the eyes before answering back.