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Chapter 74

"He's everything she's ever wanted, and that scares the living shit out of her."
~Shardell Monique


Mia

"You think they know about us?" I inquired once the elevator doors shut.

James shook his head. "Not a chance."

"You think they know we know?"

"About them? No." James leaned down and kissed me. I smiled into it, still unable to believe, of all girls he could've chosen to date, he wanted me. I had a past with a lot of baggage, none of which was light. I always had the fear my cancer would come back, too, and more than once, I thought about the hell I'd put my family through if it reappeared. It made me want to push people away sometimes. However, I reminded myself it was these people who got me through it the first time. They could get me through it again. They knew the risks of being in my life, and they chose to stay.

"When are we going to tell everyone?" James asked, placing some distance between us when the doors opened.

"Anna and Will are probably going to tell everyone at dinner about their relationship, so not tonight, but soon. I have to make sure my sister won't kill you. Anna loves you, but she's highly protective of me."

"Really? I haven't noticed," he said seriously and busting into a grin barely a second later. I slapped him lightly on the chest, which only made him laugh. When I glared at him, he held up his hands in peace. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I know she's protective of you, and I do enjoy living and being with my girlfriend, so I'll let you decide when we tell her."

"That's the smartest thing you've said all day."

"I have my moments."

Shaking my head, we entered Donaldson's to find the place nearly decorated. Everly held Reid while she instructed Mark on where to hang the 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILL' banner.

"No, a little to the left… too far!" she exclaimed. "That's not a little. Okay, slightly to the right… slightly more… there! Pin it there. Don't you dare move it from anywhere but that spot."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Mark said. He lit up when he saw James and me. "Hey, you two! Would one of you pass me a push pin? I'm scared my wife will get mad at me if I move this thing."

"Drama king," Everly teased.

"Love you!"

"Yeah, yeah, love you too." Everly watched as Mark directed his attention to James, who went to help him. Neither of the boys saw Everly staring up at her fiancé with an adoring smile.

"Happy?" I asked, sidling up next to her.

"Extremely," she said with a contented sigh. "Would you mind holding Reid while I go to the bathroom?"

"No, not at all." Handing me her son, Everly rushed off. I gently bounced him up and down, rocking him back and forth, and generally oohing and aahing over him. He stared at me with his big blue eyes, probably wondering who the hell I was. At least he never cried when I held him, unlike Will, who stiffened in fear every time he held his godson. Reid, sensing Will's distress, would start screaming at the top of his lungs. Will had gotten better over time and reached the point he could relax if he held Reid sitting down, but standing up was another story.

"How's my little nephew?" Queen Lillian asked, sweeping into the room with Patty and Walt behind her. I tried to curtsy, but she shook her head. "We're practically family, and we're not in public. I'm not fussy about that kind of thing."

"Everly went to the bathroom," I said. "I'm holding him for her until she returns."

"You're a natural at it," Patty complimented. I blushed, not having ever thought about me being a 'natural' at anything. I never had a chance for the longest time to discover what I was a 'natural' at because I was either in the hospital or recovering from the cancer. Guess there was no time like the present to figure it out.

"Here they come!" Mark shouted, grabbing everyone's attention. We gathered underneath the banner. Will and Anna walked into the bar, hand-in-hand, and beaming like little kids.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" We shouted as loudly as we could. Will's grin broadened further, which I hadn't thought possible. If it went any wider, it'd come off his face. Looking at Annalise, he had a silent conversation with her, gave a slight nod, leaned down, and kissed her.

"I knew it!" James and I declared simultaneously while everyone else's mouths dropped open.

"I have a birthday surprise of my own, I guess," Will said. "We wanted to keep it quiet for privacy reasons, and we still don't intend to tell the public anytime soon, but we wanted you all to know: Annalise and I are dating."

Queen Lillian practically screamed as she ran up to her son and my sister, hugging them fiercely. The rest of us were soon to follow.

"About damn time," Queen Lillian remarked. "I've been watching you two pine over each other for too long."

"Mom!" Will exclaimed, eyes nearly bugging out of their sockets.

She shrugged. "What? A queen can swear, and it's true what I said. Now, what do you say we all sit down for the lovely dinner the Stewarts and Wallaces cooked?"

No one disagreed, and we sat down at the table, digging into all of Will's favorite pub dishes. Conversations flew all around the table, mostly directed at Will and Annalise about their relationship. I sat back and watched it all, not having much to say, but not feeling like I had to. It was nice to see everyone in my family finally happy. We didn't have any murderers after us, we didn't have a girl driving a wedge between friends, and we didn't have a fight going on. We were all back to normal.

"You okay?" Annalise whispered. "You're quiet."

"Yeah, I'm listening to all the conversations. That's all," I replied.

"What are you and James doing later?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"Well, Will and I were going to watch a movie tomorrow, and I was wondering if you wanted to do a double date?

"A double-date?" I scoffed. "James and I aren't dating. What on earth made you think that we are?"

"I have a list. You want me to go down it?"

"You don't have a list."

"Falling asleep in his lap at the hospital, him going everywhere with you, you going everywhere with him, you two sneaking off together-"

I groaned, burying my face in my hands. "Okay, okay, fine! You win. We're dating."

Annalise lit up. "I knew it! Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I was worried you'd kill him for dating your little sister…"

"There are many guys I would threaten within an inch of their life if they dated you. James isn't one of them," Annalise promised. "I'm so, so thrilled for you two! You've both been through so much, and both deserve to be happy. If that's with each other, then so be it!"

I bumped my head against my sister's, a sign of affection and gratefulness. "Have I ever told you how much I love you?"

"Yes, but I never mind hearing it," Annalise said. "What do you say we have a girl's day soon? We've both been so busy between my job and your schooling that I feel we never spend time with each other anymore."

"Do you want to invite Everly too? She could probably use a break from being a mom." Annalise and I glanced over in our friend's direction. Despite her cheerfulness and impressive makeup, we could see the hints of dark circles underneath her eyes.

"We definitely need to invite her. She needs a girl's night, too," I said. "Maybe a weekend."

"Weekend, for sure." Annalise pulled out her phone and scrolled through her appointments. "I'm pretty booked because of this coronation planning, but there's a weekend two weeks before I could use to get away. What do you think?"

"I'll make time. I'm sure Everly will, too," I said.

"Then I'm booking it, so I don't plan anything else during that weekend," Annalise replied, swiftly typing away on her phone before shoving it back in her pocket.

"What are you two whispering about?" Will asked, leaning over. "You're both unusually quiet."

"Just planning a girls' trip. That's all," Annalise responded. I was glad she didn't mention James and mine's relationship. I wasn't ready for anyone else but her to know yet. Not when it was Will's birthday, at least.

"Whenever you want to go, let me know, and I'll make the arrangements." He kissed her on the forehead. "So, what do you say we dig into the pie? I've been staring at it for the last hour, and you know how much I love the pie here."

Annalise chuckled, giving him a peck on the lips. "Say no more."

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