Paul and Pete had argued about payment for two weeks. Paul wanted to do the work for free; Pete had refused to consider that. They’d eventually agreed that we’d treat Paul and Aaron to dinner someplace extravagant, and we’d consider the remainder their wedding gift to us. We weren’t getting married anytime soon – we’d only been engaged for three weeks – but that was okay with me.
We drove home, taking all of the clothing, towels and other paraphernalia that we’d strewn around Jack’s house over the past week, and emptying the refrigerator. Pete deflated and stored the air mattress in one of the bedroom closets. We’d need it again on moving day.
We showered and dressed, and met Aaron and Paul at Il Grano. I’d never been there, but it had a reputation as one of the top seafood restaurants in LA, with the bonus of being fairly close to home for us. When Pete and I ate out, it was almost always takeout, pizza at 800 Degrees in Westwood, or the Indian restaurant around the corner from our house.
I’d have to refrain from spilling anything on myself.
Paul’s soon-to-be husband, Aaron Quinn, was Pete’s best friend at work. The two of them had a lot in common – both psychology professors, both about the same age, both from law enforcement backgrounds. Aaron’s father was a cop, and Aaron himself had worked his way through college as a 911 dispatcher. Pete and Aaron knew each other before either Paul or I were on the scene. Pete had been delighted when Aaron asked him to serve as best man at the wedding.
Aaron and Paul were just getting seated when we were shown to our table. They greeted us enthusiastically, and soon we each had a glass of wine in front of us. We ordered appetizers; I took a sip of wine and began to relax.
Aaron asked Pete, “How is your dad this week?”
“Recovering well, considering.” Jack had been discharged from the hospital two weeks ago after a major heart attack. “His heart rhythm is stable, and he’s walking in the hallways, but he doesn’t have much appetite yet.”
Paul wrinkled his nose. “I doubt I would either, in a nursing home.”
I pointed my fork at Paul. “Nuh uh. They’re called skilled nursing facilities now.”
“Oops. Excuse me.” Paul grinned.
Aaron asked, “He’ll have his own place at your sister’s?”
“Yeah. There are a couple of guest houses at the ranch, and Dad will live in the one closer to the main house. Chris will do the cooking for him, so he’ll have to eat heart-healthy.”
Paul wrinkled his nose again at the idea of heart-healthy menus. I said, “Everything in place for the wedding?”
Aaron and Paul were getting married in the back yard of their new home in Pasadena. The wedding would be small but elegant; Pete had to rent a tux. Aaron said, “I think so. Just a few last-minute details to wrap up, but all the arrangements are made.”
It was wonderful to spend a relaxed evening with friends after the hectic month we’d survived. I’d drunk three glasses of wine and was feeling loose-limbed and lazy when we got home. Pete unlocked the door and flipped on the kitchen light. “Want some water?”
We changed into sweats and took our water bottles onto the second-floor deck opening from our bedroom. Pete said, “Let’s discuss our wedding.”
“Mm. What about it?”
“I don’t want anything fancy. I want to be outside and comfortable. How would you feel about holding the ceremony at Eagle Rock?”
We’d spent our first day together at Eagle Rock, nine years ago, and had gotten engaged there three weeks ago. “I think that’s a fantastic idea. We can wear hiking clothes. Can’t get more comfortable than that.”
“Are you sure that’s okay? You don’t want anything more formal?”
I gave him a skeptical look. “Me? Formal? Remember who you’re talking to.”
He chuckled. “True. What date shall we pick?”
“Hm. Summer, I guess, so everyone has a better chance of being able to attend. But not June. That’s too stereotypical.”
“When is your conference in Edinburgh?”
“July 11th.” Fiona Mackenzie and I were presenting a paper at a meeting of the Scottish Historical Society.
“Hm. We could get married the week before that.”
“On July 4th?”
“No… You’ll have July 3rd off, right? Since the 4th is on a Saturday?”
“Right. But that’s your birthday.”
He grinned. “I can’t think of a better birthday gift than getting married to you.”
“Are you positive?”
“I’m positive. We could leave for Scotland that evening, or the next day, and completely recover from jet lag before your conference.”
I considered that. “The timing would be ideal. If you truly don’t mind getting married on your birthday.”
“I want to get married on my birthday.”“Okay. Let’s do it.”
Pete reached over and took my hand. “What else do we need to decide?”
I ticked off a list on my fingers. “Who’s going to perform the ceremony? Where are we going to hold the reception? What are we going to eat at the reception? Who will we each ask to be best man?”
“Hm. I don’t think I can answer all those questions right now.”
“We’ve got the vital questions answered. When and where. And there’s a lot of stuff we don’t need.”
“Flowers, musicians, professional photography, renting a venue… We will need a cake.”
“Can we have carrot cake?”
I laughed. “We can have any kind of cake you want.”