It was too damn early in the morning to be awake and functioning, especially without coffee. It was a really good thing Finley loved Liam more than she loved sleep. Otherwise, she would’ve told him to fuck off when he shook her awake and told her to get ready for the day. They were on vacation. She should’ve been allowed to sleep in at least until nine, ten at the latest, but her boyfriend obviously had other plans.
Groaning, she finished getting dressed in a dark pair of jeans and a red tank top. Her dark hair was still damp from her shower, but she pulled it up into a ponytail anyway. The sooner she was ready, the sooner she could get some coffee in her. She had a feeling she was going to need it for whatever Liam had in mind for their day. He wasn’t one of those people who could relax on vacation. In his opinion, if they were going to spend the money to go somewhere, they needed to make it worthwhile. It didn’t matter that they both had enough money to waste on a relaxing vacation if they wanted to. He always said they could do that when they were too old to enjoy getting out and about.
Finley shook her head, then grabbed the last of her stuff so that she could join Liam in the living room of their condo. When she moved to California to be with him, it had been a big decision, one that became easier after their near-death experiences. But Seattle still felt like her home. The people she loved were there, which was why she’d decided she wanted to buy a place they could use on their frequent visits. Liam loved the idea, mostly because he loved her but also because he saw the benefit of having their own place.
“Babe, have you seen my phone?” Finley called out after searching the nightstand on her side of the bed for her cell phone.
When she didn’t find it there, she retraced her steps into the bathroom, then the closet, and finally her dresser drawers. It wouldn’t be the first time she left her phone in an unlikely place. The problem was, she didn’t remember picking it up after Liam woke her up. She could have sworn it was on the nightstand, but then again, maybe she’d never brought it into their room the night before.
“Babe. Did you hear me?” she called out again, but again Liam didn’t answer. “What the hell?”
She walked out into the living room, surprised to find it and the kitchen empty. On the coffee table was a cup of coffee from the shop downstairs, an envelope with her name on it propped up against it.
“It’s too early for this,” she grumbled before making a beeline for the coffee.
Finley drank deep from the still-hot brew and eyed the envelope warily. She had no idea what Liam was up to. Did she forget an anniversary or some other occasion? It wouldn’t surprise her if she did. Maybe it was just a simple card inside the envelope, nothing special. She felt ridiculous for being worried about an envelope.
Before she could chastise herself, there was a knock on the door. Thankful for the reprieve, she quickly walked over to it and yanked it open without looking through the peephole.
“Well, it looks like I owe Liam twenty bucks,” Finley’s best friend Savannah Archer said as soon as she brushed by her and into the living room.
“Liam told me you wouldn’t open the envelope right away, and I said you’d be too curious not to. He bet me twenty bucks. I lost.”
“Really? Why am I even remotely surprised by that?” Finley asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “What is he up to, Sav?”
Savannah laughed. “Nice try, but you know I can’t tell you about what he has planned. I’m just here to make sure you don’t run away.”
“Savannah. You know I don’t like surprises. I don’t like grand gestures. I don’t want to do whatever this is.”
“Yes, you do. And you know why? Because you love Liam. You will do whatever you can to make him happy, even if it makes you supremely uncomfortable. Case in point, you moved to Los Angeles to be with him. The place you said you’d never go back to. And you did it with a giant ass smile on your face. Now, stop being a scaredy-cat and open the damn envelope. We’ve got places to be.”
Finley glared at her friend but then looked down at the envelope. Her friend knew her too damn well. There wasn’t a single thing Finley wouldn’t do for Liam, so no matter how much she hated surprises and she was scared about what she’d find at the end of whatever he had planned, she would open the envelope, and she’d do it with a smile.
Picking up the envelope, Finley sighed before she opened the flap, then pulled out the card. It was a simple piece of cardstock with Liam’s elegant scrawl on one side.
I know you hate surprises, but I promise you won’t regret indulging me. Savannah will be your guide for today. Don’t argue. I know if I leave you to do this alone, you’ll be halfway to LA before I’ve had a chance to blink. I love you, Finley, and I’ll see you soon.
Yours Forever, Liam
“How long have you known about this?” Finley asked her best friend as soon as she was done reading Liam’s card.
“Long enough. And no, I will not spoil the surprise. You’re going to ride this out and enjoy every second of it.”
“I hate you.”
Savannah smiled, then pulled another envelope out of her purse. “No, you don’t. Shall we begin?”
Finley sent another glare her friend’s way, then grabbed the envelope out of her hand. She might as well get it over with. It wasn’t like she was going to be able to get out of whatever Liam had planned. Savannah wouldn’t let her. Finley was pretty sure her bubbly blonde friend would drag her wherever she was supposed to go, kicking and screaming if she had to. And she’d probably enjoy every minute of it.
I never expected you, but once you came into my life, I knew I needed to do whatever I could to keep you there. That first weekend we spent together in Seattle was one of the best weekends of my life. Retrace our steps, and you will find your next set of instructions somewhere along the way.
I love you.
“At least it’s not a Saturday,” Finley grumbled as she headed for the door.
“Really? That’s what you have to say when your boyfriend went to so much trouble putting together a romantic gesture? You are hopeless,” Savannah said with a shake of her head.
“You know this isn’t really my deal. I don’t need romantic gestures. I’m not you or Brooklyn or Meghan. Whatever he’s got planned, he could’ve easily made it happen here.”
“Well, this is what happens when you fall in love with a romantic man. It’s ingrained in his DNA to make the romantic gesture, which means you have to deal with it.”
Sighing, Finley opened the door. “Fine, but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy myself.”
Despite the final declaration Finley made as they left her condo, the trip down memory lane that Liam planned for her was hard not to enjoy. Walking through the stalls of the Pike Place Market, remembering the way his hand brushed against hers every so often while he fought the urge to hold her hand, remembering how his face scrunched up when she took him to the famous gum wall in Post Alley, and how she laughed at how grossed out he was when she added her chewed-up piece of gum to the disgusting tourist attraction.
Finley couldn’t keep the smile off of her face as she told Savannah all about that day. And it didn’t leave when the two of them rode the Monorail to the Seattle Center so they could visit EMP and the Space Needle like she and Liam had done nearly two years earlier. It certainly didn’t seem like so much time had passed. Everything about that weekend was so clear in her memory it could have happened last week. It was one of the best weekends of her life, too, one she knew she’d never forget.
“Alright, so the Space Needle is the last part of your first weekend together, right? I’m guessing that means your next set of instructions must be here somewhere.”
“You don’t know?” Finley asked as she pushed the button to the elevator.
Savannah shook her head. “Nope. I was told to drive you around and make sure you actually did whatever he wrote on the cards. Liam probably figured you’d somehow get it out of me that we could skip right to the needle and not actually retrace your steps. And I’m glad he didn’t tell me. I’ve had fun so far. It’s been a long time since we got to spend this much time together, just the two of us. It’s been nice.”
“It has. I’m glad Liam picked you to be my jailer today.”
They both laughed as they stepped into the elevator, catching the people around them off guard, which only made them laugh more. Finley made a mental note not to let so much time go by between visits to Seattle and quality time with her best friend.
After the slow ride to the observation deck, Finley and Savannah were greeted by Gabriel, Savannah’s husband, who had a ridiculous smile on his face the second he saw his wife. In his hands were a bouquet of flowers much like the one Liam sent her after figuring out where to find her and another envelope with her name on it.
“Hey Finley, these are for you,” Gabriel announced as he shoved the items toward her, his eyes never leaving his wife’s face.
She shook her head as she took the items from him, then laughed when he threw his arms around Savannah and gave her a kiss that was nearly too heated for public consumption. The man acted like he hadn’t seen her in days when it was likely only a few hours. Ignoring her lovey-dovey friends, she opened the envelope, more excited than she wanted to admit to read what was inside.
I knew I was madly in love with you before you came to visit me in LA. Things didn’t quite go the way I’d wanted them to, but thankfully it all worked out in the end. Though we aren’t in California, I’ve set up a small way to relive the best moments of that trip. Head to the Hotel Sorrento, the most haunted hotel in Seattle, for a wine tasting. Once you’ve enjoyed some of the best wines Washington has to offer and spent some time looking for ghosts, you’ll get your next set of instructions.
I’ll Love You Forever.
“I know you were skeptical about all of this at first, but how are you feeling about Liam’s surprise now?”
Finley looked over at her friend, wondering just how she knew what was going through her mind while she finished up the last of a very delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. She’d been so reluctant to indulge in whatever Liam had planned she felt foolish about it now. Reliving such great moments of their time together and getting to do it with Savannah had been the perfect way to spend her day. Maybe she was more into romantic gestures than she thought.
“The stubborn part of me wants to say bah humbug, but I know you’ll see right through that. I’m having a great time. I love that Liam put this together, and I love it even more that he had us do this together. I actually can’t wait to see where he sends us next.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll have to wait much longer,” Savannah said with a tilt of her head.
Finley turned to look behind her and smiled as she saw Brooklyn walking toward them. She had an envelope in one hand and a bright smile on her face. The biggest romantic out of all of them, there was no doubt in Finley’s mind that Savannah’s little sister was enjoying the hell out of being included in the day.
“I am here to deliver this and take over driving duties for the two of you. Don’t worry about Gabriel’s car. He came with me and has already taken off with it.”
“Man, how freaking detailed was this plan?” Finley asked before taking the envelope Brooklyn offered her.
“Pretty damn detailed,” Brooklyn answered with a smile. “I take it you guys are enjoying yourselves?”
They both said yes, and while Savannah went into more detail about their day, Finley opened the next envelope, too eager to see what was inside to have a conversation with Brooklyn.
You know family means the world to me, and I know that family has always been a dirty word for you. I hope you see now that you are my family and I am yours. Having you meet my sister and the kids was a huge step for us both, and it meant everything to me that you were willing to take that step and welcome them into your life with open arms.
I’ve set up a picnic for you on Alki. It’s not as nice or warm as the beach in California that we went to with the kids, but it’ll do the trick in a pinch. Don’t worry. Your journey is almost over. I can’t wait to see you.
On the drive to Alki from downtown, Finley felt the stirring of impatience. She was ready to see Liam. She wanted to thank him for the wonderful day he planned and kiss the crap out of him. She wanted to know what his endgame was. She watched the scenery of her favorite city pass by the window as she listened to Savannah replay their day for her sister. Was Alki their last stop, or would there be something else once they were done eating? Would Liam be there at the beach to greet her?
God, she hoped so.
Before she knew it, Brooklyn eased the car into a parking spot not far from the small replica of the Statue of Liberty. Just beyond the car on the sidewalk were Gabriel and Declan holding two picnic baskets.
“Ladies, we come bearing food and wine, though we’ve disguised the wine, so we don’t get in trouble,” Gabriel announced once they were within earshot.
“Smart thinking,” Brooklyn said as she linked her arm through that of her fiancé’s.
Despite wanting to reach the end of her journey, Finley didn’t rush through the meal. She ate and laughed and enjoyed the company of two of her favorite couples. By the time the food was gone, she’d almost forgotten that she was on a mission.
“Finley, if you look behind you, I believe your next set of instructions has arrived.”
Turning to see what Savannah was talking about, Finley nearly fell over when she found Liam standing there, his sister, her husband, and their two kids next to him. She struggled to stand up, causing the dishes on the blanket Gabriel laid out to fall over and clatter against each other.
“Oh my gosh, you’re here.”
As soon as she was standing and free from the blanket that ended up tangled around her ankle, she ran into Liam, throwing herself into his arms. She kissed him with everything she had in her, which was far more scandalous than the kiss Savannah and Gabriel shared at the Space Needle. But Finley didn’t care. She didn’t care if the entire world saw how much she loved the man in her arms. In fact, she wanted the world to know, which wasn’t something she was used to saying.
The smile Liam gave her as the kiss ended kept her heart racing, making her feel like she’d run a mile instead of a few feet. Before she could say anything, she was being attacked with hugs by Liam’s niece and nephew and then his sister Abby.
“I can’t believe you guys made the trip up here. We aren’t going to be in town very long.”
Abby smiled. “It seemed like the perfect time to spend a few days in Seattle.”
“What a great surprise. I had a wonderful day, and now I get to spend the rest of it with all of my favorite people. I’m feeling very spoiled,” Finley admitted as she glanced back at Liam.
He smiled at her, then did the one thing she never expected.
“Oh my god.”
She blinked furiously, then pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming. But no matter what she did, Liam was still down on one knee in front of her, a box with a gorgeous blue sapphire in a vintage white gold setting in his hand.
“When I walked into that garden maze at Elijah’s wedding, I wanted to get away from everything. I wanted peace and quiet. I wanted to be alone. But thankfully, the universe works in mysterious ways. I got what I was searching for, just not in the way I was expecting. The universe gave me you, which was even better. In that time we were together, I felt more at peace than I had in years. Despite people being just over the hedge walls from us, it almost felt like we were in our own little world. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could be myself and not Liam Crawford, action star. It turns out it was because you had no idea who I was, which just made you even more perfect.
“You are everything I’ve ever wanted but didn’t think I’d get to have. In you, with you, I found the love that my parents had. That once-in-a-lifetime, epic kind of love that most people don’t believe is real but that we are lucky enough to know exists. I know you never saw yourself as the marrying type, but I’m hoping you’ve had a change of heart over the last two years because I want nothing more than to make you my wife. Finley Blake, will you marry me?”
It didn’t feel real. The man of her dreams, the one person she thought she’d never find, was asking her to marry him—her…the messy baggage-carrying weirdo that she was. There were days she still struggled with him picking her over just about every woman in the world, ones far prettier and far more normal than she was. But today, she was reminded of how special she was. He loved her, despite all of the reasons he probably shouldn’t.
She rubbed her chest over the tattoo she’d gotten to match the one Liam got after he was shot. He was already a permanent part of her. No matter what happened, she would always have him with her. But that suddenly wasn’t enough. She’d never believed in marriage. She always thought it was bullshit because of how many men she watched stray from their wives to be with her mom. Now, she realized it wasn’t marriage that was bullshit. The problem was the people. She knew Liam would never stray from her side, and she would never stray from his.
They were forever. They were family.
Finley nodded her head, then knowing everyone would want to hear the word, she shouted. “YES.”
Their friends clapped and cheered, but Finley barely noticed as she threw herself into Liam’s arms, knocking him back, so he was on the grass. They held each other for a long time until Savannah reminded them they were in public. Sitting up, Finley watched as Liam slid the sapphire ring onto her finger.
It was perfect but not nearly as perfect as the man who gave it to her. If someone had asked fifteen-year-old Finley where she saw herself in twenty years, she never would’ve pictured a moment like this. And now, as an adult, Finley couldn’t see herself anywhere else but in the arms of the man she loved.