Emma didn’t know why she was staring at him as he took a bite of the sandwich she’d made. It was just turkey meat from the deli with a slice of cheese and a piece of lettuce between two slices of bread slathered with mustard. Kind of hard to go wrong there. Except . . . well, people usually had a specific sandwich order, right? Like everyone took coffee a certain way or had a way they liked their eggs. Or at least, that was Richard Grere’s theory in Runaway Bride .
She had to stop with these rom-com cliches.
“I didn’t know how you like your sandwich,” she finally admitted, popping a chip in her mouth.
Killian swallowed and then wiped at the corner of his mouth with a napkin.
“We had those sandwiches on the hon - er, the trip.”
Would either of them ever be able to refer to “the trip” as their honeymoon?
Emma shrugged. “Yeah, but they were just generic and then all the condiments and stuff were on the side.”
Killian nodded and leaned back in his chair, regarding her with that infuriating grin of his. “I like it just this way.”
Emma narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re lying.”
He leaned forward. “Fair. Okay, you got it all right except I would have added pickles.”
Emma leaned forward as well, mimicking his serious expression. “What kind? Dill? Sweet? Gherkin?”
“Does it matter?”
Emma gasped and reared back. “Does it matter ? Killian Jones, I don’t think we can be married if you think the kind of pickle doesn’t matter.”
He chuckled as he picked his sandwich back up. “Bread and butter.”
Emma nodded as she picked up hers.
“Dill. There is no other kind of pickle.”
Killian arched a brow. “Agree to disagree?”
She gave him a dramatic nod as she “clinked” her sandwich with his. “As long as we keep both stocked in the pantry.”
They ate in silence for a few more minutes, until Emma noticed that Killian was fidgeting. He kept glancing from his phone, which sat on the patio table, then at her, then back again. He also began drumming his finger on the table while practically glaring at his phone.
“If you stare at that any harder, you’re going to burn a hole in it.”
“Hm?” he asked, gaze snapping back to her.
She gestured with her chin as she chewed and swallowed a bite of her sandwich. “Your phone. You keep staring at it.”
“Oh,” he chuckled nervously, picking up the object in question and clenching his jaw as he pressed his thumb to the screen, “it’s this text I got earlier. Elsa made a huge pot of that chowder last night, and she’s rather adamant that we join them for dinner tonight.”
Emma’s eyebrows rose. “ Rather adamant ?”
“Aye,” Killian answered apologetically as he palmed at the back of his neck.
Emma set her sandwich down and propped her elbows on the table. “You think we should go.”
He shrugged. “Well, we can’t avoid it forever, and the longer we wait, the more suspicious it will seem.”
“Hmm,” she mused, propping her chin in one hand, “or, they might assume that - like most newlyweds - we’re over here fucking our brains out all day long.”
Killian blinked rapidly, his face growing red. She found his discomfort at times incredibly amusing, especially considering the shameless way he had always flirted with her in the past. He stuttered for a moment, cleared his throat a few times, then found his voice.
“Well they’re my family, you see, and I know they won’t be put off for long. Liam’s already suspicious, I can tell, and then there’s the chowder -”
“Your sister-in-law is really hung up on this chowder, isn’t she?”
He spread his hands in front of him innocently. “What can I say? She’s won the blue ribbon three years running at the Storybrooke Crab Festival.”
Emma snorted out a laugh that died when she realized Killian wasn’t laughing. “Wait - are you serious?”
“About the blue ribbon part or the crab festival part?”
She shook her head. “I know about the crab festival, I remember it from last year. I just didn’t know there was a chowder competition.”
“We Mainers are very serious about our clam chowder, love.”
She barked out another laugh as he waggled his eyebrows at her, then she sighed. “Sure, dinner is fine. I mean, I do love clam chowder.”
Emma wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting when she agreed to dinner with Killian’s family, but this casual setting sure wasn’t it. Liam had lit the fire pit in their backyard which, like Killian’s, felt more like an extension of the beach. Everyone served themselves, then carried their bowls of chowder down the steps of the back deck. Cans of beer and softdrinks were crammed into coolers filled with ice, and a patio table nearby was spread with the fixings for s’mores later. It was more of a casual, beachside get together than a family dinner, and it made Emma feel much more at ease. Elsa and Anna were at her side from the beginning. Anna peppered her with questions, but Elsa was more quiet. Yet something about Elsa’s gentle smiles made Emma feel welcome.
“So,” Anna said as a grunt passed her lips. She wavered halfway down into a beach chair and began frantically waving for her husband. He rushed over and helped her heavily pregnant form down onto the seat. “As I was saying,” she chuckled, brushing strands of red hair out of her face, “how did you two manage this without any of us finding out?”
“Yes,” Liam quickly put in from across the fire pit, “I’ve been wondering the same.”
Emma caught Killian’s eye, and he quickly answered his brother for both of them. “Well, until a few months ago, as you all know, Emma lived in New York City. After months of chatting online, she agreed for me to meet her there.” He crossed the lawn to come stand at her side and put an arm around her. “The rest, as they say, is history.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you never once mentioned her,” Liam commented before taking a sip of the beer in his hand.
“Emma’s in the public eye, Liam,” Killian quickly explained before Emma could even open her mouth. “We didn’t think it would be a good idea. There would be way too much scrutiny on us.”
“ We would never scrutinize you!” Kristoff insisted.
“Exactly,” Liam agreed.
“Yeah right,” Killian muttered into the mouth of his beer bottle before taking a swig. Only Emma heard him, and she pressed her face into his shoulder to muffle her laughter.
“And we would have kept it quiet,” Liam added.
Emma felt like she couldn’t put all this on Killian, so she jumped in. “Well we took it slow at first. We didn’t even want any of you to know, just in case nothing came of it. But then -”
“It was kind of exciting sneaking around,” Killian finished for her cheekily. He then surprised her by claiming her lips. It was a quick kiss, but far from chaste. She could taste the beer on his tongue as he swiped it quickly against hers. When he pulled away, she had to blink to get her bearings.
“You two are adorable!” Anna sighed.
“I don’t remember you driving to New York any more than usual in the past couple of years.” Liam had set down his beer and was crossing his arms as he narrowed his eyes at them.
“Oh Liam, stop,” Elsa admonished, smacking her husband in the arm, “they aren’t on trial here.”
“I’m just trying to understand how my brother fell in love, got engaged, then had a huge spectacle of a wedding without including any of us.”
“About that,” Emma said, clearing her throat, “we were wondering if 4th of July would work for the family ceremony. Killian said you all have a huge party that day anyway.”
“That sounds fantastic!” Anna cheered. “How can we help?”
Emma shrugged. “Honestly, I am so tapped out with planning one wedding, you can have free reign on this one.”
“Did you hear that, Elsa?” Anna asked, twisting in her chair to look at her sister.
Elsa laughed. “Emma, you may regret telling my sister that.”
“You never answered my question, you know,” Liam said stubbornly. “I don’t remember that many trips to the city.”
“Bloody hell, Liam!” Killian cried out. “I took the boat, if you must know. Elsa’s right, you’re acting like we’re on trial.”
“You like boating, Emma?” Liam asked.
“Uh, yeah, Killian got me hooked on it.” Emma’s head pounded as the lie slipped off her tongue. She hoped Liam didn’t start quizzing her on nautical terms or something. In actuality, the only boat she’d ever been on was one of those you paddled with your feet at that carnival Sarah took her to when she was fourteen. She’d never even taken the ferry in New York.
“Then we need to all go out on the Jewel sometime!”
Emma looked quizzically at Killian. “ The Jewel ?”
“Aye love, that’s Liam’s boat. It’s a bit bigger than The Jolly Roger.” He leaned over as if to brush a kiss to her cheek, but instead turned his head to whisper in her ear. “The Jolly is mine.”
“Oh,” she said with a nod, “that sounds . . . fun.”
With bright eyes, Liam raised his beer bottle in salute. “It’s a date then!”
Emma faked a smile before taking a huge gulp of her beer. How many lies were going to pile up before this marriage blew up in their faces?