Gabe and Nell were late. The clock was ticking and Suze wondered what was taking the two of them so long back there. She’d already helped Nell with the dress and the make-up, and Nell had sent her away almost an hour ago, saying she was ready. What was the hold-up? Suze rested her head on Riley’s shoulder, mainly because she was just so bored, and also because she wanted to be close to him. Automatically, he stroked her hair, and she smiled up at him for what must have been at least the 30th time that day. It seemed as though she was smiling a lot lately. Well, there was a lot to smile about. Speaking of which...
“Did I mention how hot you look today?” Riley whispered in her ear.
“Oh, yeah? You like the dress?” Of course he liked the dress. It was short, it was tight, and it did lovely things to her cleavage. After the divorce, Suze had started to lose faith in a lot of things in her life, but she never lost faith in her ability to rock a short dress.
“I’d like you better out of it,” he said, and she looked up at him again and he grinned hungrily and she didn’t even know what to do with that information. They hadn't had sex yet. They made out, oh, they made out. All the time. Like horny teenagers. Sometimes he even copped a feel. But that was it. Suze was starting to become a bit frustrated by the situation, but she could tell Riley was enjoying the build-up, the tease, the chase. Although the chase was over. She was crazy about him, and he was crazy about her, and most of the time she was so happy, she could barely stand herself. It had only been a few months since Suze’s divorce was final and they were still trying to figure out how this whole couple thing worked. Riley was a known commitment-phobe and Suze had been married since she was 18 years old. It wasn't easy, but they were figuring it out together, one step at a time.
Finally, the music started and Nell and Gabe came strolling down the aisle together, arm in arm, never taking their eyes off each other. It was obviously not a very conventional wedding; the two of them had been down this road before and now were just doing what felt right to them. Suze was thrilled for her best friend. Nell deserved happiness after the spiral of misery she went through after Tim's affair with Whitney. And although Gabe could be a frustrating hunk of a man, Suze knew he loved Nell with all his heart, and he’d spend the rest of their lives protecting her and caring about her like no man ever had or could.
When they got to the altar, Nell managed to pry her eyes away from her almost husband and announce to their waiting audience, “Sorry we’re late...we got, ah, carried away.”
Everyone laughed, and no one was surprised. Those two got “carried away” quite often.
The wedding was small and intimate; just their closest friends and family. Margie was sitting next to Suze, looking both somber and excited, if that combination was possible. Ever since she left Budge, she’d been drifting along, trying to find her own path. It looked as though she and Chloe were going to start a new business together soon. One that involved lots of cookies.
Lu and Jason sat in the pew in front of Suze and they never stopped holding hands and giggling. If Suze had to guess, their wedding would be next. She had to admit, she was a little bit jealous of how youthful and carefree they seemed to be together. But she'd always remind herself, it’s so easy to be young and in love, but so hard to stay that way. Chloe, Gabe’s ex-wife, was sitting next to Jason and Lu, beaming brightly. It wasn't awkward at all; Chloe was ecstatic for Gabe. She knew it was written in the stars ever since Nell first came into their lives.
“Oh, Nell looks so beautiful. Doesn’t she look beautiful?” Margie whispered wistfully.
“Just gorgeous,” Suze whispered back.
“I wonder if I’ll ever find love like that again.” Margie said this matter of factly, just like she said everything else.
“Oh, honey, you will! Of course you will.”
“I want the kind of love you and Riley have. It’s just magical.”
Suze smiled. Although they hadn't said those words to each other yet, Suze knew in her heart that she did love Riley, and it really was magical. He saved her in more ways than one. And she hoped that Margie would find something like that. Everyone deserved to feel like they found the love of their life, even if it does eventually go down in flames.
As Gabe and Nell said their vows, Suze felt herself crying. Damn hormones. She’d never once been able to make it through a wedding without crying, not even her own.
Riley chuckled. “You are such a girl,” he said, as he wiped her tears away with a handkerchief. Suze knew he’d always take care of her, too, just like she would him. It would be a different kind of relationship than she had with Jack. They’d be equal. They’d both have the power.
It hadn't been love at first sight with Riley. Suze actually thought the guy was annoying upon first glance. Okay, maybe not annoying so much as puzzling. She couldn't figure him out. Especially because he refused to look at her the way most other heterosexual men did when they first met her. It was almost like he became a mystery she was desperate to solve. The only thing stopping her was that damn marriage of hers. Oh, Jack. He’d married a child and then when she stood up for herself like an adult, he didn't care for it. Well, that was over now, thank god.
Deep in thought, Suze glanced gratefully at Riley. She was so glad he was in her life the way he was. Sometimes she wondered how she could have handled this whole divorce thing without him. Riley squeezed her hand and looked at her fondly and she smiled, not believing that she was allowed to hold his hand, and in public, for crying out loud! Being with a man other than Jack was so…freeing. It was a freedom she’d never known in her almost 33 years, and her brand new relationship with Riley was like coming home.
After the wedding, and after the reception (where Lu had caught the bouquet, of course), in the darkness and stillness of Riley’s bedroom, Riley and Suze came together in a way they hadn't yet experienced. And when it was over—and it was not over quickly—Riley whispered to her, “You know I love you, right?” Suze grinned and said, “Yep, just as much as I love you.” She closed her eyes and fell asleep in his arms.
“Is it just me or is this super creepy?” Suze asked Riley at the reception. Lu and Jase had just had their first dance and were now making out like teenagers when they thought no one was looking. There were a lot more people at this wedding than Nell and Gabe’s; friends of Lu and Jase and Chloe, and Suze knew nobody. Thankfully she was sitting at a table with Riley, Nell, Gabe, Margie, and Margie’s new boyfriend, William. William was in a band, had long hair, and was probably at least 12 years younger than Margie. But Margie was happy and no longer drinking soy milk with amaretto like it was water.
“Oh, yeah. It’s definitely disturbing.” Riley took a huge bite of wedding cake. He was gorgeous but he certainly was a messy eater. Suze thought it was adorable most of the time. Sometimes it was just annoying. Ah, welcome to the joys of a relationship, she supposed.
“It’s not that weird,” Nell said, even though she looked somewhat uncomfortable as her son kissed his new bride in a way that parents didn’t need to see.
“It’s weird,” Gabe said. “But what can we do? They fell in love before Nell and I did, and now that they've finally graduated from college and can, well, somewhat support themselves, they’re finally married. Yes, we’ll always have to explain for the rest of our lives why our stepchildren are married to each other, but that’s the price you pay for love.”
Riley groaned. “Being a married man has turned you into a woman.”
Gabe shrugged and took another bite of cake. Suze grinned at Nell, who was still in newlywed lovey dovey heaven and looking at her husband like there was no one else in the room. Suze somewhat ached to be that happy. Not that she was unhappy with Riley, but she knew the score. He wasn't the marriage type, he wasn't ready to settle down, he was an eternal bachelor. She knew all the rumors about the guy, and for the most part, she accepted him. Riley loved her and was committed to her in his own way. Maybe someday…
Suze’s annoying internal dialogue was interrupted by the song ending and Riley retreating from the table and grabbing the microphone from the DJ in one fell swoop. Oh, lord, what was he doing now? He was always thinking of new and creative ways to humiliate himself and his loved ones in public settings.
“What in the world is he doing?” Nell asked Suze. Suze shrugged and shook her head. But she was also very curious as to what her boyfriend was doing up there. Gabe’s mischievous grin told her that something interesting was about to happen, and suddenly she couldn't wait to hear what it was.
“Susanne Campbell Dysart, please come up here immediately. Suzanne Campbell Dysart, you are needed at the front of the room.”
Oh, hell. Suze just stared at him, standing there so confidently in the front, all eyes on him, and now all eyes on her. This could only be one thing. Right? Right?
“What are you waiting for? Get up there!” Nell said excitedly. Suze finally managed to unglue herself out of her seat and tried with all her might to walk in her tallest high heels over to the man who was impatiently waiting for her.
When she got up there, Riley pulled her close to him and even though she was kind of furious that he was doing this in front of all their family and friends and strangers, she was still ecstatic that it was happening. Unless he was tricking her. Unless he was about to sing some stupid song or read some dirty limerick or something. Riley was kind of an idiot like that sometimes. Which she enjoyed, but not today. Oh, god, what had she gotten herself into—
And that’s when Riley got down on one knee, and she shrieked with joy. Lu came bounding over, so radiant and happy in her beautiful wedding dress, and presented her cousin with the ring. Riley gave her a kiss on the cheek and then refocused his attention on the woman standing before him.
“I know you might consider this kind of tacky and I should be ashamed, but I just can’t help myself. Suze, we didn’t find each other until it was really meant to be, and we had to go through some obstacles to get here. But we’re here now. I want us to be our own black and white detective movie. I want to work with you, live with you, marry you, start a family with you. I want everything we ever talked about in our most vulnerable moments. So…Suzanne Campbell Dysart, will you please marry me?”
Suze let out a sound that was halfway between a shriek and a sob. And suddenly, she didn't care that there were hundreds of people staring at her.
“Of course, you idiot!” Everyone applauded, he put the most perfect ring on her finger, Lu jumped up and down, and Nell and Margie came over to hug their best friend and her new fiancé.
On the way home, Riley and Suze sat in the back of Gabe’s new sensible Mercedes (he needed something to replace the Porsche) and held hands. She said, “I can’t believe you did that.”
“I can’t, either. It was Gabe’s idea. Blame it on him.”
Gabe said from the front seat, “It was not. It was 100% Riley’s idea. I just encouraged him to do it. I’m always in favor of new ways to humiliate my nephew.”
Suze and Nell giggled. “Well, either way, I still can’t believe it happened.”
It then occurred to her that Riley asked her to marry him almost exactly two years after her divorce to Jack was final. Those McKenna boys and their two years.
She scooted closer to Riley and he gave her a kiss that took her breath away. Was she ready for a lifetime of this? Absolutely.
If Nell and Gabe’s wedding was small, Suze and Riley’s wedding was minuscule. They talked about having a big wedding, they talked about eloping, and everything in between. Suze didn't need a big one and Riley just didn't care. There was barely even time to fit a wedding in, anyway. Now that Riley, Gabe, Nell and Suze were all working at the agency, business was booming. Suze was turning out to be an excellent detective; even Gabe was impressed her attention to detail. Eventually Riley and Suze decided to have a small ceremony at Nell and Gabe’s new house, and Jason became an ordained minister just for the occasion. Lu watched her husband with a glowy, happy look on her face. Of course everything about her glowed since she was hugely pregnant and practically due at any minute. Those kids didn't waste any time.
“You may kiss the bride,” Jase said, and Riley dipped Suze and kissed her like the black and white movie he promised they could be. Finally. Finally Suze would get a chance to start over. Her marriage with Jack hadn't been all bad—they had a lot of good memories together—but now she had a blank slate. Jack had cheated on his ex-wife with Suze and there were many whispers at the altar that day, but she and Riley had something completely different. They were partners, and she wouldn't feel trapped in a cage with someone who never understood her needs. Riley knew her from the inside out, they had no secrets from each other, and it was the most honest relationship she'd ever been in.
Afterwards, Nell put “It Had To Be You” on the stereo and Riley and Suze danced cheek to cheek. Maybe it was kind of cliché, but as Suze was learning, Riley loved a good cliché almost as much as she secretly did.
“I am so, so happy,” Suze whispered in his ear.
“Good. You deserve it,” he whispered back.
“So do you,” she said, and it was true, they both deserved true love, and finally they’d found it.
One of Riley’s first jobs as a detective was to take pictures of Suze and Jack for proof that Jack was cheating on his wife. Riley got an education that day; about how some women were so beautiful, they were completely unattainable. Almost 20 years later, she was still teaching him and proving him wrong. Suze liked that they had such a weird history together. They were inextricably linked. Not for the first time, Suze thought to herself that Riley really was the man she was meant to be with...she just had to go through some things before they got together to prove that he was the one. Well, now she had all the proof she needed, and couldn't wait to spend a lifetime making up for lost time.
“What is that chip…you know, the one that tastes like onions? I need some of those.”
Riley rolled his eyes. “What, you've never had a Funyun before? Have you lived under a rock your entire life?”
Suze punched him in the arm, and he winced. Usually her punches wouldn't hurt a fly, but now in her early pregnant months, she hit like a boxer.
“Riley! I’m serious. You’re not going to deny a pregnant woman her Funyuns, are you? And some strawberry ice cream. Pleaseeee.”
She knew he knew she wasn't merely asking. If he didn't go to the little store down the street and get her some ice cream and Funyuns, there’d be hell to pay.
“Fine. Fine, I’m going. This kid better be worth it, though.”
“It’s our kid, Riley. I’m sure we’re going to mess it up in the only way we possibly could, anyway.”
“Yeah, right. She’s going to come out batting her eyelashes and making all the boy babies swoon in their bassinets. You’re a bad influence, babe.”
“We don’t know for sure if it’s a girl yet! Don’t jinx it.”
Riley grabbed his keys, kissed Suze’s forehead, and then he was gone to do her bidding.
Suze had always wanted kids, but Jack repeatedly said he was too old to be a new father. So she pushed those thoughts away; far, far away. Riley brought the subject up a few weeks after they got married, saying that, “We’re no spring chickens, babe. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it soon.” So romantic, except it was, because Suze had never even considered the possibility that this could happen for her. She was nearing 35 now and the thought of having a baby scared her. But a few trips to the doctor later, she was reassured by many people that she was healthy and there was very little risk that her babies would have any problems due to her age. So, she and Riley practiced. A lot. And only a month of trying later, she was pregnant. And so deliriously happy--she had no idea that people could ever be as happy as she was during that time in her life.
Suze sat down next to the Christmas tree and saw a small gift from Jack. She opened the card attached. It said, “Suze—I always knew you’d be a great mother. Tell Riley congratulations for me.” Short, but sweet, no bitterness. He hadn't yet remarried and wasn't dating anyone, according to a few sources. Suze wished he could have the same happiness she enjoyed with Riley, but maybe it wasn't meant for everyone. Maybe the kind of love she and Riley had was too special. She liked to think so, anyway.
Suze put her hand on her belly and looked out of the window at the falling show. Riley would be home soon with her Funyuns and ice cream. It was their first Christmas together as a family. Next year they’d have a little girl (hopefully) to shop for, and Suze couldn't wait. Everything was as it should be, and nothing would ever be the same. Thank goodness.