Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Hiding From Love Wedding (totally unedited, raw version)
© Selena Laurence 2013

NICK
I wake up alone, something that hasn’t happened in months. Well, technically not alone, my fiancée’s dog, Jack is here, but my fiancée isn’t. I don’t like it. Women and their stupid bullshit about not seeing each other before the wedding. Leesa, my fiancée’s boss and virtual mother told Lyndsey that we couldn’t see each other for twenty-four hours before the ceremony. Longest damn twenty-four hours of my life.
My best friend, Gabe, who flew in from Austin, TX to stand up with me, said it was the perfect opportunity for a bachelor party, but I really wasn’t interested. The guys at work took me out last weekend and got me rip roaring drunk before they called Lyndsey to come pick my sloppy ass up. I figure I exhausted her goodwill with that. I don’t want to push it further.
Now it’s nearly eight a.m. and I’ve had a cup of coffee and some kind of breakfast sandwich thing Lyndsey left for me, and Jack and I are on our way to Gabe’s hotel to grab him so we can surf. What? You think it’s weird to surf right before your wedding? Well, you don’t live in Hawaii. In Hawaii you surf before everything. And after everything too.
I get to the hotel and Gabe’s waiting by the lobby doors, aviators strapped on, board leaning against the wall of the hotel. His hair’s longer than he’s had it in years, and it’s messy as hell too.
I pull up in my Jeep that has the top off, he shoves his shortboard in, leaving it sticking out the back, gives Jack a quick pat on the head, and hops in the passenger seat.
“I still can’t believe you got rid of the truck for this,” he says.
“You can’t take the top off a truck, dude.”
“It’s raining half the time here anyway. What do you need to take the top off for?”
“Yeah,” I say looking at him over the top of my sunglasses as I pull out of the hotel’s porte-cochere, “you always were kind of fussy about people going topless. So worried about the proprieties and stuff.”
He busts out laughing. Let’s just say that Gabe isn’t too worried about anything, and he’s probably seen more topless women in his twenty-four years of life than I will in eighty.
“Hey,” he smirks. “It was all in the name of research. Luckily for Alexis, I was an expert by the time I met her and knew true quality when I saw it.”
“She’d probably kick your ass if she knew you were talking about her like this,” I warn him.
“Nah,” he says as he leans the seat back and gets comfortable. “She’s fully aware of my mouth and all the trouble it can cause. She loves me in spite of it…and because of it.” He chuckles. I roll my eyes.
We pull into the parking lot at the beach, and I see Gabe’s head turn to watch a couple of bikini babes strolling along.
“Hey, isn’t that what’s-her-name? You know, the one from Chi O who spent the weekend at our apartment after we all went to that yacht party?”
“You mean the one you kept locked up in your bedroom for forty-eight hours straight?” I ask, with one eyebrow raised.
“Yeah.”
“Darlene. It looks like her. God you’re pathetic. You don’t even remember their names, man.”
“Fine, fine. I know, it’s disgusting and reprehensible, I admit it.” He holds his hands up like I’ve got a gun on him. “Dude, trust me, I know I was a prick. But those days are behind me. I’m a new man.” He grins. He’s always been such a jackass, but you can’t help but love him.
“So, does that mean you’d rather not have to meet up with Darlene?”
“That’s exactly what it means. Let’s head the other direction. It’s just awkward and I feel like I’m cheating on Alexis even talking to another girl I’ve slept with.”
I stop midway to unbuckling my seatbelt and just look at him. “Did you seriously just say that?” I ask, incredulous.
“What?” He squints at me like I’m crazy.
I shake my head. “Wow. I never thought I’d see the day.”
His face gets serious. “Well, you have. I’m done, man. She’s it. This is it. The rest of my life.”
I knew he was in love, but I wasn’t sure what that meant for him. He’s literally never had an actual girlfriend. I thought maybe he’d want to practice a bit before he settled on one permanently. I guess I was wrong.
“You going to get hitched too?” I say as I throw a beach towel at his face and step out of the car, Jack hot on my heels.
He shrugs, then gets out and walks around to my side. “Sure. Eventually. I mean she’s only twenty-one, we got plenty of time, but when she’s ready, I’ll do whatever she wants.”
“Holy shit. I think the Apocalypse is coming.”
“Fuck off, Carlisle.”
“Love you too, bro.”
**
Three hours later, we’re all tired, hot, and hungry. Gabe grabs us some tacos from a stand on the boardwalk, and we sit on our towels and chow down. As usual, I manage to stuff in one more than him when we have a contest. I just hope it doesn’t come back up in the middle of my wedding.
“So,” he says, looking out at the water that’s blinding in the midday sun. “You ready?”
He doesn’t need to elaborate – we both know he’s talking about marriage, and every bit of responsibility and commitment that comes with it.
“Yeah, man. I am.” I write my name in the sand with my finger while I talk. “I’ve been on the police force for six months now, and all my psych tests are normal. I forget I even had PTSD most days. I’m making good money, and Lyndsey got enough from Raul’s estate to pay for the rest of her degree. I haven’t told her, but I’ve been saving up to put a down payment on a house. Just something small, but I’d like us to have a place that’s ours, that we can do whatever we want with. Maybe we’ll have a baby one of these days, and I’m sure as hell not raising my kid in an apartment.”
“Shit man, you’re giving me heart palpitations. I know Alexis is going to want that stuff, and I’ll be stoked when we get to it, but right now I spend all my time trying to get her to eat three times a day and she spends all hers hollering at me to pick my sweaty work shirts up off the floor.”
I can’t help but snort. “I’ve been trying to get you to clean up after yourself for over ten years, man. Alexis will never be a mom if she’s waiting on that.”
He lays back flat on the towel and shades his eyes from the sun that’s nearly directly overhead. “I got to tell you the truth. When I used to watch you and Lynds together, I never thought I’d have that. I mean I knew what I’d felt with Alexis in Afghanistan was the real thing, but I never thought I’d be able to get it back and keep it long term.”
“Well, looks like you did.”
He’s quiet for a moment. Then he suddenly sits up. “Didn’t you need to give me the ring? It’s like you don’t trust me with it or something. I am the Best Man. Since you didn’t have a Bachelor party it’s like the only job left for me to do is hold the ring.”
I grin at him and lean over to pull my duffle bag closer. “Nah, I trust you, I just forgot. It’s right here…” I start tossing stuff out, t-shirts, flip-flops, a mesh bag full of tennis balls that I throw for Jack. I’m digging and digging. That damn ring box is in here somewhere.
Then I hear Gabe say, “Is it a black velvet box?”
I look up at him. “Yeah, do you see it?” I scan the area around me where the crap from my duffle has scattered.
I see him gulp and he raises his hand and points. “Uh, it’s attached to that bag of tennis balls Jack just took off with.”
I jump up just in time to see Jack heading toward the water, bag of balls and apparently Lyndsey’s wedding ring hanging out of his mouth.
“Jack!” I holler as I start to run. “Jack!” Holy shit. He’s hit the edge of the waves.
Gabe is pounding along beside me. “Doesn’t that little fucker come when he’s called?” He grits out. “I thought you trained him?”
“I did,” I growl back. “I trained him to swim.”
“Shit.”
Yeah.
Jack has turned to watch us while we race at him, as I get closer I can see the box dangling from the mesh bag. I can also see the glee on the fucking dog’s face as he watches us coming. This is a game to him, another day of fun in the sun with Dad and Uncle Gabe. Shit, shit, shit!
I slow down to a jog and I hear Gabe stop behind me. “Jaaack. Come here now. That’s a good boy,” I cajole as I get closer. I hear him growl. He’s not being aggressive. It’s the “Oh goody, we’re going to play keep away” growl. Hell no.
I stop a few feet from him, eyeing the ring box that is tangled in that mesh bag. I squat down. “C’mon boy. That’s a good boy. Bring it over here and then we’ll play fetch. I’ll give you a treat…”
Jack growls one more time, then turns and bolts. Into the water. I dive at him, missing him by inches. I hear Gabe behind me. “Fucking hell!” he shouts as he runs by. I lay prone in the sand, grains embedded in my knees and chest, and then I see Jack get to the edge of the deep water. Just before it sweeps him off his paws, he swings his head to one side, then whips it the other direction as he lets go of the bag, and sends it flying out into the open water.
“Noooo,” I wail as I slam my face down into the sand. This can’t be happening. This really can’t be happening.
I lift my face and look at the ocean again. Gabe has swum out and is frantically diving and surfacing, looking for the bag of tennis balls. Meanwhile, Jack has come bouncing out of the water, soaking wet. He runs up to me and shakes, covering me in water, then licks my face.
I roll onto my back and lie there, wishing the heat would just turn me to ash. It’d be less painful than this. I close my eyes and try to picture what the hell Lyndsey’s going to say when I tell her I lost her custom made wedding ring.
Gabe gets back and throws himself down on the sand next to me. He’s panting from the running and swimming. “I’m sorry, dude. That ring box just took the whole thing down. I think the tennis balls would have floated but…” His voice fades away.
“I’m going to kill that dog,” I mutter.
“No you won’t, because then Lynds really wouldn’t marry you.”
“Shit,” I groan as I sit up and run my hands through my hair, loosening thousands of grains of sand. “What the hell am I going to do?”
“Can’t we go and get another? I’ll pay for it. Just a plain gold band, right?”
I shake my head. “Not even, dude. An artist who’s a customer at The Grill made it for us custom. It’s engraved with all these special Hawaiian symbols. It was one of a kind.”
“Oh,” Gabe replies. “Well, hell. You really are fucked aren’t you?”
I sigh and stand up, brushing myself off as well as I can. Jack is running in circles around us, barking and chasing gulls. I want to strangle him, but I know it won’t help.
We walk back to our stuff and pack everything up. When we’re finally in the jeep I sit there, unable to put the keys in the ignition because I’m so frustrated. “All I had to do today was get dressed, show up on time, and bring that damn ring,” I say to Gabe.
“Well, two out of three isn’t bad,” he jokes.
I glare at him.
“Okay, sorry. Look, just don’t say anything until after the ceremony.”
“What?” I ask incredulous at his suggestion. “You aren’t seriously telling me to lie to the woman I love on our wedding day?”
“Yeah, dude, I am. Here’s the deal. If you tell her ahead of time, she’s going to get all upset. She’s bound to be a ball of stress right about now anyway, why add to it when there’s nothing that can be done? We’ll go buy a substitute ring, you put it on her in the ceremony, then explain afterwards, and tell her you’ll get the artist guy to make you a new ring.”
“I don’t know…”
“She’s not going to ask you about it in the middle of her wedding ceremony in front of all those people. And sure, she’ll be pissed when she hears later, but she’ll also be all warm and glow-y because you just married her ass. I’m telling you, there’s a time for honesty, but hours before your wedding ceremony is not it.”
I think about what he’s said as I start the jeep up and we drive away from the beach. No matter what, it’s going to put a damper on Lyndsey’s wedding day. I don’t really care about the whole wedding thing. I knew she was mine the minute I laid eyes on her, and a wedding only puts that fact on paper. But, this is so important to her. She’s been planning it for months. Every little detail is exactly how she dreamed it, and I want it to be perfect for her. The fact that the one thing wrong with the whole day happened on my watch is hard to swallow.
But, I can see what Gabe’s saying. Really, what will be accomplished by telling her ahead of time? At least I can let the magic hold until the ceremony’s done. Then I’ll have to come clean, but maybe it won’t matter so much at that point. God, what a clusterfuck.
Gabe and I drop Jack, the hound from hell, off at my apartment, then head to the mall to grab another ring. We get one in platinum, the same metal that her other band was. At least I know to do that much.
Finally, four hours before the ceremony I drop Gabe back at his hotel. He’ll come pick me up in a couple of hours and we’ll head to The Grill where the whole thing will take place. This time, I leave the ring with Gabe. It’s pretty clear that I shouldn’t be the one taking care of it.

GABE
“Honey. I’m home,” I shout in my best Ricky Ricardo imitation as I enter our hotel room.
“Hey!” Alexis yells from the bathroom. “How’d the surfing go?”
“Oh, man, you aren’t going to believe this…” my voice trails off as I walk into the enormous bathroom and see my girl in the tub, bubbles all around her, and one leg raised while she slides a razor down it from ankle to someplace under the water that I can’t see. I gulp.
“Uh…”
She smiles at me in that indulgent way she does. “Earth to Gabe. Surfing. How was it?”
I shake my head, trying to clear the fog of lust. Shit she’s gorgeous. Her long dark hair is piled up on top of her head, and her skin is all dewy with the humidity from the bath. There’s not a scrap of makeup on her face, and she looks so fresh and soft and just…wow…hot.
I kick off my flip-flops, rip my t-shirt over my head and start unlacing my board shorts.
“What are you doing?” she asks warily.
“What the hell do you think I’m doing, babe?” I growl.
“Oh no, no, no. I’m getting all prettied up for the wedding. You can’t go disrupting the process.”
I look at her. I’m naked now, so she can see how far things have already progressed. I raise one eyebrow. She looks me up and down, then swallows. Hard.
“I’m not going to win this one, am I?” she squeaks out.
I shake my head as I stalk to the big jet tub. “Scoot over,” I command.
She slides forward and I climb in behind her. As I pull her back against my chest, I put my arms around her and cup both her breasts. “Mmm,” she moans. “I guess I wasn’t that committed to winning,” she whispers.
I lick down the side of her neck while I press her nipple in between my fingers with one hand, and slide the other hand down under the water. When I reach the soft smooth skin at the top of her inner thigh I groan.
“God, babe, you feel so good.” I nibble on her tender earlobe and simultaneously slide two fingers inside of her. She grinds into them, sending water splashing up the sides of the tub.
“We need a tub like this at home,” she moans as she lays her head back on my shoulder, granting my mouth greater access to her long smooth neck.
“I’ll build you a house with one just like it someday,” I answer as I pump my fingers in and out of her.
She’s beyond words now and within moments she clenches around me and cries out. My dick swells even more, and I experience that surge of power I always get when I know that I’m the one who made her feel that, worked her body to shatter like that, gave her that pleasure. I am man. Hear. Me. Roar.
After she’s relaxed again, I put my hands around her waist, lift her enough she can turn, and sit her back down facing me, straddling my lap. Then I enter her and we start all over, finally finishing up when she comes again, I fly over right after her, and most of the water from the tub is on the bathroom floor.
**
Thirty minutes, a shower, and a few post-coital make-out sessions later, Alexis is putting on her makeup and I’m trying like hell to tie the bowtie Nick is making me wear as Best Man.
“You never did tell me what went on at the beach today,” she says as she does that blinking thing women do with the junk they put on their eyelashes.
“Oh my God! I totally forgot…” I go on to tell her about Jack and the ring. Her eyes get rounder and rounder the longer I talk.
When I’m finally done, she swallows and says, “Holy shit Nick’s in trouble.”
I grimace. “Yeah, Lyndsey’s the coolest, but it’s her custom wedding ring. I mean, I didn’t want to say anything, but he was keeping it in his dirty gym bag with sweaty t-shirts and dog toys. I would have been surprised if something hadn’t gone wrong.”
Alexis shakes her head, then makes her mouth into a little ‘O’ while she applies lipstick. I watch, fascinated. I never get tired of watching her mouth – or the rest of her.
When she’s done she turns away from the mirror to face me. “Just so you know, if you lose my ring before our wedding, don’t even bother showing up for the ceremony. I’ll send Ramon and the carclub guys to pick your ass up and take you down to Mexico for a few days to meet my Tio Moreno. Then, if you’re in one piece when you get back, we can talk about whether I’m still willing to marry you.”
Jesus, Alexis has never told me she’s got ties to the Mexican mafia, but now I’m wondering. I guess I’m getting a sense of how deep in Nick is though. If Lyndsey doesn’t kill him, Leesa probably will. Makes me miss Raul even more than usual.
“Babe,” I begin in a placating tone. “I would never lose your ring. You know that. I will treat our wedding with all the respect and love and honor that I always give you.” I lean down and give her a soft kiss on the cheek.
“Huh,” she scoffs. Guess she’s not buying it.
I go back to trying to fix my tie. “Well, anyway, I told him not to tell her until after the ceremony.”
“What’s he going to do when the official says to put the ring on her finger?”
“We bought a replacement. Just a plain platinum band. I guess the original was platinum. He’ll explain it afterwards.”
She shakes her head yet again as she stands up and walks to the closet. She’s muttering something in Spanish, and while I haven’t picked up a lot of the language, I’m finding it in my own best interests to learn some. I think in the mix I hear the words, “pendejos” and “cabrones” neither of which bodes very well for me or Nick.
When we’re finally dressed, and I have the replacement ring safely stowed in my jacket pocket, all I can think is that I’m really glad I’m not Nick today.

NICK
I’m standing in the tent that’s been set up on the beach behind The Grill. The wedding is on the shore at sunset, but they pitched this big tent just in case we get a storm, and for me and Gabe and the other groomsmen to hang out until the ceremony. Lyndsey and the girls are inside The Grill, but obviously the guys aren’t allowed up there. The term “in the doghouse” comes to mind, especially since if Lyndsey knew I’d lost the ring I really would be. Speaking of dogs, Jack is also in the wedding party, but he of course gets to hang out with the girls inside, “so he doesn’t get dirty before the ceremony.” There is no justice in this world.
“Dude, can you help me with this tie?” Gabe asks as he yanks it undone for the five hundredth time since we got here.
“Here, let me,” my dad huffs from my other side. “I thought I taught you boys how to do this when you went to prom that first time,” he mutters as he grabs Gabe’s tie and jerks it around the collar.
Gabe grins. “I think that was Nick you taught, Mr. Carlisle. That first prom was the one I went to with Jessie Wentworth. Remember? I believe I told you that given Jessie’s enthusiasm for me, I wasn’t planning on wearing the tie longer than it took to drive to her house, so why bother tying it right.”
“You’re right, Gabe,” my dad answers trying really hard not to laugh. “You were the mouthiest sixteen-year-old I’ve ever known. You’re lucky Mrs. Carlisle thought you were so cute or I’d have thrown your ass out of the house.”
I laugh. My dad is the closest thing Gabe’s ever had to a dad, and I know they love each other.
“There you go,” Dad says as he gives one last tweak to the bowtie that is now strangling Gabe’s neck.
Gabe scratches at his neck and swallows a couple of times. “God, I thought dress uniforms were bad,” he says, referring to his former service in the Army. “But this thing is like a noose.”
My dad slaps him on the back. “Nah, it’s a leash. So we can keep you under control until the ceremony’s over.”
“Great,” Gabe mutters. “Just great.”
Right then Kelly, a friend of ours from surfing and the University, comes in the entrance to the tent. She squeals and runs to give Gabe a hug.
“Oh my God! How are you?!” Gabe pats her on the back carefully, and then takes her by the shoulders and sets her away from him. Jesus, he’s kind of overdoing the faithful boyfriend thing. I mean surely Alexis wouldn’t mind if he hugged an old friend?
“Kelly,” he smiles at her as he drops his hands. “Long time no see. How’s Hilo treating you?”
“It’s great. School, surfing, all of it.” She pauses, looking him over with her eyes narrowed. “I met your girlfriend inside.”
Gabe breaks out into a huge grin. “Yeah? Did you talk to her? She’s great, isn’t she?”
“She is. Especially once we’d established I hadn’t ever slept with you.”
I swear to God if Gabe were capable of blushing he would. He scratches the back of his head and looks immensely uncomfortable.
“Uh, yeah, well.” He clears his throat. “Let’s just say I was painfully honest with her about my main source of entertainment when I lived here.” Kelly starts giggling. Gabe shoots her a dirty look. “She was kind of afraid to come visit. Thought she’d meet a former fling everywhere we went.”
“And no wonder,” Kelly says with her lips pursed. “You were a little out of control.”
Gabe crosses his arms and huffs. “All right already. We’ve established that. Nick’s given me shit, Alexis has given me shit, now you’re giving me shit. Can we give it a rest? You know, leave the past in the past?”
“Fair enough,” Kelly answers with a smile before she hugs him again. This time he hugs her back. “It really is good to see you.” She pulls away. “And Alexis is perfect. You did great,” she tells him seriously.
“But,” she turns to face me. “I really came down here because Lyndsey wanted me to check that you’ve got the ring and you guys are all ready?”
Gabe shoots me a look, and I can feel my face heat up. I clear my throat, look Kelly in the eye, and lie my ever-loving heart out.
“Tell my bride-to-be that it’s all under control. I’ve even talked to the judge already. Did he come up to see her?”
“Yep,” Kelly answers. She looks at her watch. “Oh, fifteen minutes till show time, I’d better get back.” She heads out of the tent as she chirps, “Next time I see you you’ll be a married man, Nick!”
When she’s gone I look at Gabe and we both sigh in relief. My dad, who’s been screwing with his cell phone the whole time we were talking to Kelly, strolls over and says casually, “What happened to the ring?”
“What?!” Gabe and I both nearly shout. Gabe’s mouth shuts with a click of his teeth.
“What are you talking about, Dad? The ring is fine. Gabe’s got it, right man?”
“Absolutely. Right here in my pocket.” He pats the pocket in question.
My dad looks first at me, then at Gabe. “You boys seem to forget – I’ve been watching the two of you since you were eight years old. You’ve always had the same look on your faces, the same tone in your voices, whenever you’ve been lying. You can’t fool me. What happened to the ring?”
I glance at Gabe who’s chosen to inspect the ceiling of the tent at this particular moment. Fuck.
“You know, Dad, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Will your wife believe you?” he asks sternly.
“Yeah. I think she will.”
“I hope you’ve got something to put on her finger during the ceremony?” He chastises.
“Yes, it’s all taken care of. I promise.”
“Anything else I need to know before we all go out there to watch you marry my beautiful daughter-in-law to be?”
“No sir,” I answer, feeling like I’m ten again.
“All right, I guess I won’t mention this to your mother either. God she’d have your hide if she heard.”
“Thank you, Dad,” I say, truly grateful, because my mother’s wrath is like Satan untethered.
“Well, boys,” Dad says, putting one hand on the back of Gabe’s neck and one on the back of mine. “Let’s go get one of you married off.”

GABE
I’m standing watching my best friend marry the woman he loves. It sounds sappy as shit, but I’m really, truly happy for him. As the judge goes through the ceremony, I watch Nick’s face. I see the way he looks at Lyndsey, and because I’ve found Alexis, I think I know what he feels in this moment.
And what I’m feeling is nearly as powerful. This is the guy who I’ve spent nearly my whole life with. He is as close to me as a brother, and a few years ago, I watched him nearly get gunned down in a dusty little square thousands of miles from home. I saw his life blow up before my very eyes – his future, his sense of self, his very core – ripped to pieces by what happened to him and to an innocent girl in a foreign land.
Now, I see him standing here, and he’s strong, and he’s sure, and he’s everything this beautiful woman wants and needs, and she’s the same for him. If I wasn’t who I am, I might shed a tear. But then I’d have to get drunk and shoot off guns or screw anonymous women, and I’ve left all that behind. I look over at Alexis, sitting in the front row next to Nick’s mother who is crying her damn eyes out. Alexis is patting her on the back while she smiles up at me. I think I need to do this with Alexis one of these days soon. Make her mom cry and shit. Seems like a good plan.
We get to the part where Nick needs to put the ring on Lyndsey’s finger and suddenly I’m nervous as hell. What if my advice to him was wrong? What if she flips out in the middle of the ceremony and won’t marry him? Jesus, how did I end up in this situation? I take the ring out of my pocket and slowly give it to Nick who’s looking at me nervously.
“Please place the ring on Lyndsey’s finger and repeat after me,” the judge says. “I, Nick Carlisle…”
I watch Lyndsey’s face, and I realize that she hasn’t looked down at the ring once. Her eyes are glued to Nick’s as he takes his vows. It’s like her whole face has opened up and you can see her heart and her very soul right there on display. She’s absolutely stunning, and I say that with the utmost respect and not one iota of sexual innuendo.
Once Nick is done it’s Lyndsey’s turn, and her voice is nervous and quiet as she repeats the vows. He smiles at her softly, and I realize that the ring never really mattered. None of the trappings matter. Nick and Lyndsey could have gotten married in a courthouse over their lunch hour and it would mean the same thing – they love one another, and they’re promising to keep loving one another always. That’s all this is. That’s all that’s important.
The judge pronounces them husband and wife, they kiss – for way too long, I might add, the rest of us don’t need to see that shit – and everyone cheers as they start to walk down the aisle between the rows of chairs set up on the sand. They head to the nearby deck of The Grill, and everyone stands to follow them. Jack, who sat next to Nick’s dad through the whole ceremony suddenly takes off down the beach.
“Oh hell,” I say to Mr. Carlisle. “I’ll go get him.”
“Thanks, son.” He grins as he takes Mrs. Carlisle’s hand and pats it, leaning down to whisper something to her that finally makes her laugh through her tears.
“Be right back,” I say as I give Alexis a quick peck on the lips and walk off down the beach toward where Jack is jumping around in the waves.
“Jack!” I call. “Get your ass over here. Haven’t you done enough damage today?”
Jack pulls something out of the water and starts trotting back to me, head held high.
Gross, he’s probably found a dead gull or some hunk of rotting seaweed. I make a mental note to never get a dog, no matter how much Alexis or our kids beg. As Jack gets closer, I notice that the object looks familiar. It’s dark but there’s something bright green in it too. Finally, he stops and drops it at my feet, tail wagging furiously.
I bend down and pick up a black mesh bag full of tennis balls, with a black velvet ring box tangled in it.
“No way,” I say out loud, stunned. Jack barks once. “No way,” I whisper as I try to untangle the box from the mesh.
Finally I get it loose and open up the soggy lid. Inside, still in it’s satin bed, is a platinum band engraved with all sorts of things I don’t understand. “Holy shit,” I say, looking down at Jack. “Holy shit.”
After I get back to Alexis and tell her what happened, she’s as stunned as I am. The beach we were surfing at is two miles away, and the currents don’t flow this direction. How the hell that ring made it here, and into Jack’s mouth is an utter mystery.
We walk up the steps to The Grill, where the staff has gotten the buffet set up and the band is preparing to play. I hunt around for Nick and Lyndsey and find them sitting at a table in a quiet corner inside the restaurant. Nick is talking to her earnestly and she’s got her head down, nodding periodically.
“Hey guys?” I say softly as Alexis and I reach the table. They both look up and Lyndsey’s obviously upset.
I dart a look at Nick. His face tells me everything I need to know. He’s blaming himself for her upset. He thinks he’s failed her.
“Hey, man,” he says. “I was just breaking the news about the ring.”
“Yeah, about that,” I look at Alexis who gives me a giant smile. It’s good to be me right now — in so many ways. “You guys aren’t going to believe this…”

THE END.

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