Ava waddles through the door, her belly bigger than life yet her ass is still smaller than mine. She looks exactly as I expect her to look, like a supermodel with a basketball shoved under her dress. She puts me to shame, and while most brides should be bothered, I couldn’t care less.
“If you don’t get moving, I’m literally going to deliver this baby as you walk down the aisle,” she barks at me, bossy as ever.
“You aren’t my assistant today, you’re my maid of honor,” I remind her, winking but she just can’t get past the fact that I’m behind her timeline of when this whole thing is supposed to start. It’s also taking place in her beautiful garden, so I should probably be a little less laissez faire and more compliant.
She knows me well enough to know I’m always late and I’m far too disorganized for my own good. It’s why she still works for me part time even if I’m on an acting hiatus.
“If we want to get technical, I’m actually your matron of honor which makes me sound old and haggard. I never should’ve married Lewis and then maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation right now either,” she sarcastically laments, pointing at her comically large belly as she lets out an exasperated sigh.
“You don’t mean that. Lewis is—”
She cuts me off, laughing a little. “Lewis is insatiable and wonderful and smart and loving and just fucking unreal. Who would’ve thought I’d meet someone on my day off in London and then marry him almost immediately?”
“Me,” I announce. “I called this, remember?” I’m standing with my hands on my hips, hitting her with a look that says I’m still waiting for my thank you. “Crazier question is, who would’ve thought I would ever get married?”
“Me,” she mocks back, repeating my word. “I knew the moment you met Aiden that it would end up here. I mean, I had no idea it would be in my house, in my backyard, but I had a pretty good idea.”
“You’re so full of shit,” I tease, turning back to look in the mirror. “You think this is okay?” I ask, suddenly feeling a little uneasy.
There are about thirty people sitting outside on the lawn in Ava and Lewis’ oversized garden. The fence around their property is so high there’s no way anyone could tell what’s happening and given we had everyone brought in rather than having them drive so we didn’t draw attention, there’s no way anyone outside of our little circle has a clue. You would literally have to have been told there is a wedding happening here to even realize it.
Aiden and I didn’t want something big. We didn’t even really plan this, throwing it together in less than three weeks.
“Of course this is okay,” Ava says, walking toward me. She runs a hand down my arm, trying on a sweet smile. “You have everyone here that you want here and that’s all that matters. We’ve done a hell of a job keeping it a secret.”
We don’t have a photographer, a caterer, or an officiant. We don’t have the dress or the tuxes. We just have our closest family and friends and a dress I ordered online. I couldn’t possibly walk into a bridal store, or even make an appointment with one, or commission a high-end designer. It’s all far too risky. One mention of the word marriage and my name, and the press would be all over it. Not like they aren’t already.
It has quieted down in the months since Aiden’s film debuted and we’ve been laying low. It’s where he’s comfortable and it’s now come to be how we both like it.
This wedding, our wedding, is nothing short of exactly what we wanted.
A soft knock comes at the door and Ava tilts her head to the side, glaring at me a little as she taps her wrist.
“That’s for you,” she now says, tossing a thumb in the direction of the door. “But don’t worry, as your very pregnant assistant, I’ll get it.”
“I promise I’ll name my first born after you,” I joke, the door opening to reveal Aiden on the other side. It takes everything in me not to gasp out loud at how amazing he looks. Relaxed and comfortable looks so damn good on him.
“What the hell are you doing?” Ava chides, her voice high, her mouth now hanging open like a trout. Both Aiden and I laugh out loud.
“Damn, she’s really rigid in following the rules, huh?” Aiden asks, looking past Ava and right at me. He slips by her, but she stills him, grabbing hold of his hand.
“You know you’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck or something,” she shames us, shaking a finger.
“This coming from the girl who got married after knowing someone less than three months?” Aiden quips back, which now makes Ava laugh. “And besides, that dress has been hanging in our bedroom for the last week.”
“Oh my god, you two are the worst,” she announces, flipping her long dark hair over her shoulder. “Now you both need to hurry up. There are people waiting and in a second when I leave here, I’ll be one of them.”
She closes the door behind her, leaving Aiden and I alone, the silence falling over us. He walks toward me, and my heart begins to hammer in my chest. He still takes my breath away every time I look at him. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted and more. He’s absolute perfection.
“You look beautiful,” he whispers, his lips touching my bare shoulder. “It was taking you awhile and I wanted to make sure…” He doesn’t finish his thought and my heart breaks just a little. He thinks I’m second guessing this.
“I’m not having second thoughts,” I whisper back, my body melting into his as his arms wrap around me. “My only thoughts today are of you.”
“Mine too,” he replies, his lips now brushing over mine, making goosebumps rise up on my skin. “And as much as I want to say fuck it, because you in this dress…” he stops, growling possessively, his hands reaching down to skim over my ass. “We have guests waiting for us.”
“We’ve kept them waiting this long,” I say, suggesting exactly what I know he’s thinking.
“Don’t tempt me, Julia.”
A few minutes later, we’re standing in the doorway to Ava and Lewis’ garden, and it is completely breathtaking. My arm is linked through Aiden’s and for some reason I can’t move, at least not yet. I want to take it all in, basking in how truly gorgeous everything looks.
Sadie is poised at the end of the aisle, and a massive smile spreads across her face as she squats down and begins taking pictures. We kept everything and everyone involved in this as close as possible. After Sadie and I collaborated on her documentary, we became close and have remained friends.
With Lewis and Ava and Sadie and Paul, we’ve become this little family and with Ava due any day now, we’re about to add the first baby to our little group.
We don’t see Sadie and Paul as often as we would like with them living in Los Angeles, but when I told her I was getting married and left very little time to get here, I was shocked that she and Paul hopped on a plane almost immediately. But it’s how I know she belongs with us.
The fact that she dropped everything and flew out to London despite it being the place where she found herself on the receiving end of far too much drama with her ex-husband shows she values our friendship more. I know staying away from London and her ex has been a big part of her and Paul’s life and I don’t blame her. He’s as toxic as they come, so I’m truly grateful she’s here today.
Ava, and Aiden’s brother Marcus, are also waiting for us, with Lewis standing right in the middle. He still doesn’t look like he fits in and there’s something about it that just makes me laugh. He’s disheveled and a little dirty-looking, but he was the first to suggest we get married here, offering to organize everything and supply the food from the pubs he owns all over England.
He also jumped at the chance to marry us, despite Ava’s misgivings on him being able to officiate a wedding without swearing during it. Neither Aiden nor I really care what he says. This isn’t something formal; it’s something we want to remember for the rest of our lives.
“Are you ready?” Aiden asks, pulling me from my thoughts.
“Give me just another minute,” I reply, looking around once more. “I want to commit all of this to memory and when the paparazzi is being shitty or we’re in another tabloid or someone says your movie sucks or my movie sucks, I want to remember this instead.”
I can hear the click of Sadie’s camera, taking shots of us as we stand here together, our words only passing between the two of us despite the people in front of us. It’s like we’re alone in this garden filled with fairy lights and an abundance of pink peonies.
Aiden leans over, his lips pressing against my temple, and I close my eyes. This is more than I could’ve ever asked for.
“I’m ready now.”
Everything about this moment and this day is beyond perfect, but nothing more so than the woman standing beside me. I still can’t believe after everything we’ve been through that we’ve finally reached this point and been able to pull all of this off without anyone knowing about it.
But we have and now, as Julia and I slowly start to walk toward everyone, I can finally relax and take it all in. We are surrounded by our closest friends and family; my parents, Julia’s parents, our brothers, Ava and Lewis, Sadie and Paul, even Geoff, my old boss and his wife, are here. Fuck knows how we managed to keep this all a secret from the press, but we have.
Lewis stands at the end of the short path, a huge smile on his face as he looks from his very pregnant wife to us. It seems funny to think he’s going to be the one to marry us, but kind of perfect at the same time.
He and I have grown really close over the last year or so, especially with them living just around the corner from us. He’s completely unfazed by the whole celebrity thing, which I love and the two of us have spent many a night drinking and talking about all the bullshit our wives have been through.
“You two ready for this?” Lewis asks as we come to a stop in front of him, a wide grin on his face.
“Absolutely,” I reply, turning to face Julia.
She looks up at me, a huge smile on her face as she whispers, “Yep.”
“Good answer. Best decision I ever made,” Lewis says with a laugh as he winks at Ava.
The ceremony is relaxed and fun, which is just the way we wanted it. So much of Julia’s life, and I guess mine in a way, is dictated to us by the industry we chose to work in. Not all of it is welcome either, especially the press and the way they constantly try to muscle in on our lives.
Things have gotten better though, and I’ve certainly become more accepting of the situation we’re in. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly get used to it though and a part of me never wants to.
“Aiden, you ready to say your vows?” Lewis asks, turning to me.
I step closer to Julia, her hands in mine as we stand only inches apart, both of us smiling as we watch each other, lost in this moment and what it means.
“Julia,” I start, my words quiet as I squeeze her hands in mine. “From the second I saw you, I knew you were something different, someone truly amazing. And since the day that I met you, nothing has changed for me. You are the kindest, funniest, sexiest,” Julia blushes at my words as the small group of people witnessing this moment chuckle, “most amazing person I have ever met. And I promise to love you, protect you and always be here for you. From now, until the day I die. I love you Julia, forever.”
I watch as a tear slides down her cheek and I let go of her hands to gently brush it away.
“You okay?” I whisper.
Julia nods, glancing at Lewis who says, “And now you, Julia.”
She takes a deep breath as she looks up at me. “Aiden, you are without a doubt, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Nothing compares to the happiness I feel every morning I wake up beside you. I feel eternally grateful that you chose me, that you saw past all the bullshit.” Julia pauses as everyone once again laughs, before she continues. “And still managed to see the real me. I promise to always be here for you, to see you, to hear you and to love you. From now until the day I die.”
Another tear slips down her cheek and I can’t help myself as I lean in and kiss it away this time, before my lips move to brush over hers.
“I love you,” I whisper, kissing her again.
Lewis clears his throat and we both pull back, turning to him. He’s grinning at both of us as he glances at his wife. “Rings?” he asks, giving her another wink.
Ava smiles, handing them to Lewis who holds out his hand to us. We both take each other’s rings and Lewis takes us through that part of the ceremony before turning to each of us and saying, “Well, I think we’ve reached the best part.”
Julia and I are both grinning like idiots as Lewis looks from Marcus to Ava and then back to us.
“So, with the power granted to me by the wonderful world of the internet, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Aiden, kiss your girl. Again.”
Julia laughs out loud as I step toward her so our bodies are flush against each other. “Come here,” I whisper, one hand moving to the back of her neck as the other slides around her waist.
She leans up and the second her lips touch mine, we are kissing each other like we’re the only two people here. Somewhere in the background I can hear cheers and clapping and laughter, but it’s not until we both finally pull back that we realize everyone is on their feet, watching us.
“That was all legal right?” I ask Lewis with a smirk.
“Course it was,” he says, laughing as he reaches for Ava, pulling her close.
After the ceremony, there are some casual photos taken: of us, our families, our little Hollywood group. Everything is relaxed and easy and so fucking perfect, I don’t ever want this day to end.
By the time we sit down to dinner at the long table Lewis and Ava had set up under their outdoor alfresco area, the sun is low in the sky. The whole garden is lit up by fairy lights and somewhere, music plays, creating the most perfect atmosphere.
“Hey husband,” Julia says, pressing her lips to my neck as we both sit down at the table.
Laughing, I lean over to kiss her. “Hey wife.”
“Are you happy?” she asks, her hand on my cheek.
“Happier than I’ve ever been in my life. Are you?”
“So happy,” she whispers, leaning closer to brush her lips against mine.
“Okay you two, the honeymoon starts later.”
I look up to see Paul grinning at us as he holds out a chair for Sadie on the other side of the table. As soon as she sits down, he leans down and presses a kiss to her bare shoulder before taking a seat beside her, Lewis and Ava the next ones down.
“It’ll be you two next,” I tease, gesturing to him and Sadie.
Lewis bursts out laughing. “Fuck yes,” he says, slapping Paul on the back.
“Or,” I add as I turn to my brother and Lilly, who is definitely a lot more than just his partner at work, as they sit down beside me. “Maybe it’s you two.”
Lilly blushes as my brother smirks at me. “Maybe,” he says, giving me a shove. “Or maybe we don’t need to worry about that part.”
“What!” Julia shouts as my eyes widen.
Marcus laughs as Lilly slaps his shoulder and says, “Stop it.”
I have no idea what’s going on here, but I seriously would not put it past them to have snuck off somewhere and secretly eloped. The fact they kept their whole relationship a secret for so long is one thing, but the way they’re acting now tells me something far more serious is going on too.
“Is there something I should know?” I ask him, my brows narrowing.
Marcus laughs again, squeezing my shoulder as he says, “Later brother, today is all about you two.”
It’s late by the time we all finally call it a night. We have cars arranged for everyone to get home or back to their hotel, although by this stage, we no longer care whether anyone knows what’s gone on here. There’s nothing for the paparazzi to see or ruin now and I will be eternally grateful to our friends and family for helping us make this happen.
“God, I’m so glad I managed to keep this in today,” Ava says, rubbing her hands over her belly as she, Lewis, Sadie, Paul and us stand in their kitchen.
Lewis scoffs, pulling her close as he presses a kiss to her temple. “Night’s not over yet, babe. And you know the best way to bring on labor, don’t you?”
“No, what?” Ava asks, her cheeks immediately darkening when she looks up and sees the look on Lewis’ face.
“Oh boy, I think that might be our cue to leave,” Paul says, reaching for Sadie.
“How long are you guys in town for?” Julia asks, a hand on Sadie’s arm.
Sadie turns to smile at both of us. “We’re staying a couple of weeks actually. I’m scouting locations for a new movie, so yeah…we’ll be around.”
Julia turns to me, a smile on her face as her eyes widen a little. I smile back, leaning in to kiss her in answer her silent question. “We aren’t leaving for the Maldives until Wednesday,” I say. “Should we do dinner at our house tomorrow night?”
Sadie looks from me to Julia before glancing at Lewis and Ava. Julia laughs as she says, “Come, please. We don’t get to see you that often and it would be great to catch up, just the six of us.”
“Or seven,” Ava mumbles, leaning against Lewis.
“Definitely seven,” he jokes.
“Come over,” I add, wrapping my arms around Julia as I pull her against me. “We’d really love to catch up with you. All of you,” I add, turning to Lewis and Ava.
“Okay,” Sadie says with a nod.
“Good,” I say, smiling as I kiss the top of Julia’s head. “But don’t make it too early. I need time to enjoy my new wife.”
Lewis and Paul burst out laughing as Julia slaps a hand against my stomach and buries her face in my neck, mumbling, “Oh my god.”
Laughing, I pull her close and say, “Come on my gorgeous wife, let’s go home. We need to celebrate.”
Julia pushes up on her toes to kiss me and I swear this day has been the best day of my life.
Our wedding may have been a secret, but it was our beautiful secret.