He’d been overly giddy all day. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, he felt like a kid hopped up on sugar. Not that he’d been completely sugar-free all day, but a couple of candy bars in eight hours didn’t explain how excited he felt.
No. The reason behind his never-ending energy for the day was the surprise he’d been planning for months for his friend Declan. You only turned 40 once, and Braeden planned on making Declan’s 40th one he would never forget. There were still so many things he had to iron out and put together before the birthday boy arrived, which was why he’d left work at lunchtime. Of course, he’d cleared it with his boss first, but nothing would have stopped him from making everything perfect.
“So you promise he doesn’t know what’s going on?” Braeden asked again.
It was his third time calling Declan’s wife, Brooklyn, and she was probably close to wanting to murder him, but he didn’t care. He’d risk it as long as she waited to take him out until after the festivities were over. Braeden had waited a long time to repair his relationship with Declan, and now that they were friends again and everything was okay, he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way. Not even a very formidable, very protective wife.
“He doesn’t have a clue. He thinks I’m taking him out to dinner for his birthday.”
“Perfect. Thanks, Brook. He’s going to be so surprised.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea? You know he hates surprises.”
Braeden shrugged, even though she couldn’t see him. “It’s his fortieth, and I don’t care if he hates surprises. He’s getting a surprise party.”
She laughed. “Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. When he starts bitching about things, I’m sending him your way and grabbing a glass of wine.”
“I will totally take him off your hands,” Braeden promised. “I’ve got a bunch of things I need to do before you guys get here, so I should go. Thanks again, Brooklyn. You’re doing the hardest part of this whole thing.”
“Don’t I know it? Though if I throw in a birthday blow job, he’ll be a lot easier to be around,” she laughed again. “I’ll see you later.”
Braeden spent the next few hours finalizing every little thing he could. He double-checked with the catering staff who worked the banquet room attached to Gabriel and Savannah’s restaurant Arrow to ensure the food was coming along and the dining room was set. He checked with the DJ to ensure he had everything he needed and with Nora, the event planner, who would be there when the DJ arrived. She’d also been hard at work putting up the decorations, making the banquet room look like it was plucked out of his twelve-year-old memory. After that, he checked his text messages to make sure his extra special surprise was in place and on time.
Everything was coming together perfectly. God, he couldn’t wait to see Declan’s face when he saw what Braeden had put together for him.
With just an hour left before people were set to arrive, he spent the rest of his time getting ready. He’d gone back and forth on what to wear, but instead of getting all fancied up like an adult, he decided he wanted to take another queue from his memories. It surprisingly hadn’t taken him long to find a pair of light high-waisted jeans, which was a tad more concerning than anything else. While he looked great in high-waisted jeans, not everyone could pull them off. It wasn’t a fad that needed to come back.
By the time he was done, he was a gorgeous blond replica of Dylan McKay, the man every girl wanted to marry back in the 90s. RIP Luke Perry. Even Andi had crushed hard on Dylan over Brandon. At least until David Silver turned into a hunk, his story was far closer than Braeden’s, from nerd to stud, but there was no way he would dress like that guy. Sexy or not, his clothing choices in the show’s early years were a joke.
Once he was happy with his look, he headed back into the banquet room and found his lovely wife talking to Nora. He’d tried talking Andi into going all out with her look, but of course, she wasn’t as into it as he was. She’d compromised by grabbing her Dr. Martens out of the closet, then paired them with a flannel tied around her waist. It was close enough, in his opinion, even though he’d really wanted her to find one of those old school baby doll dresses.
“Hey babe,” he said as he approached the women. He pressed a kiss against Andi’s temple as he wrapped his arm around her waist. She smiled up at him, then let her eyes trail down his body. Did she spend a little time checking out his package? Maybe. Although he wouldn’t call her out about it in front of Nora. He didn’t want to embarrass either of the women. At least not this early in the evening.
“Wow. I don’t know when I last saw mom jeans on a man. Or a tucked-in t-shirt.”
He smiled at Andi. “I know. Isn’t it great?”
She shook her head and looked over at Nora. “Well…”
“It definitely fits everything here,” Nora said. “This place looks just like the Peach Pit After Dark.”
“Braeden was a bit obsessed with Beverly Hills, nine oh two one oh when we were in middle school. If you couldn’t tell.”
“Hey, we all were a bit obsessed. It wasn’t just me. Gabriel, Oliver, you…even grumpy ass Declan would watch with us when he wasn’t busy with baseball.”
Andi rolled her eyes, then smiled up at him, the look making him weak in the knees. “Fine. I’ll admit it. We all loved the damn show. But, I’m still not sure this is the best theme for Declan’s fortieth.”
It was Braeden’s turn to roll his eyes. “The theme isn’t nine oh two one oh; it’s nineteen ninety-four, it’s middle school, the good ol’ days. And it’s not just Declan’s fortieth.”
“I know that, although this surprise party is all for my brother. You promised me we’d do something low-key and sexy to celebrate my half of this birthday. Sorry, Nora.”
“Don’t apologize. If I had a hot husband, I’d want to do sexy things for my birthday too.”
“Thank you, Nora. We’ll do our best to find you a hot husband. Now, my dear wife, I know I promised you all of that, and I will deliver, but you also need to enjoy the hell out of this night. This is for both of you. I just decided to hold off on your surprise until later.”
Gabriel and Savannah strolled into the room before Andi could say anything else. They’d taken the assignment seriously and looked like they’d stepped out of the early 90s. He knew he could count on Savannah. Meghan and Oliver were close behind them, also dressed appropriately. They had Braeden’s super secret surprise with them. No matter how Declan felt about the rest of the party, he knew that particular piece of the puzzle would make up for any grumbling his friend did about the decor, theme, and the rest of the plan.
Twenty minutes later, everyone was waiting for Declan to walk through the door. The lights were off, and everyone had ducked down behind a table or the bar. The giddiness he’d felt all day nearly knocked him off his feet. Finally, after months of meticulous planning, he was about to surprise his brother-in-law with the best 40th birthday ever.
“Brooklyn, where are we going?”
“Don’t worry about it, just go. I have something I need to show you.”
“I swear if there’s a surprise party….”
“Will you just shut up and walk through that curtain? If you want your birthday BJ, you will do what I say.”
Braeden bit back a chuckle as Declan grumbled something only Brooklyn could hear. Then the light was shining into the room as Declan pulled back the curtain and stepped into the room.
The yell was nearly deafening as they all stood and clapped, staring at Declan, who looked as grumpy as ever. But when his eyes moved over to Braeden’s super secret surprise, the anger and annoyance faded, replaced by love and happiness.
“Happy Birthday, Dad.”
No matter how much Declan hated surprises, he couldn’t be pissed at Braeden now. He just hoped that the magic of Erin’s presence held out until after the karaoke portion of the evening when he and Oliver performed the best rendition of “Regulate” by Warren G that anyone had ever seen. If that didn’t win him over, maybe “Whatta Man” by Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue would do the trick. If not, Braeden had an arsenal of magic up his sleeves. He’d get a smile out of Declan if it took all the songs 1994 had to offer. He was nothing if not persistent.