A LAKESHORE U BONUS EPILOGUE
BENEATH THE ICE
“I like it,” Ella mouthed as we followed the realtor to the door. “I really like it.”
I liked it too.
The apartment was perfect for us. Located halfway between the Flyers training facility in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, and the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, it meant I wouldn’t spend the better part of my day traveling back and forth.
And it was close enough for Ella to commute into the city for work. She’d secured an internship with a publishing company and started in a few weeks.
Life was good.
No, scratch that.
Life was fucking perfect.
“Well, thanks for taking a look around,” the realtor said. “Once you’ve had some time to think—”
“Actually,” I took Ella’s hand in mine, gazing down at her. She nodded, and I went on, “We want it.”
“Excellent.” The realtor’s expression morphed into surprise. “There’s quite a bit of paperwork to fill in. Do you have time to come down to the office today and we can get the ball rolling?”
I looked at Ella again and she smiled, giving my hand a little squeeze. “We’ll follow you there.”
“Connor, over here.” Noah waved us over.
I kept my hand on the small of Ella’s back as we made our way over to the booth.
“So, how’d it go?” Rory asked.
“We loved it.” Ella gushed, sliding in beside her.
I sat down beside Noah and plucked a menu out of the rack, adding, “We get the keys June twelfth.”
“Ah, I’m so excited for you both.” Rory pulled Ella in for a hug, beaming at our good news.
“Yeah, congrats, man.” Noah gave me a shit-eating grin. “It’s about time you found somewhere.”
He wasn’t wrong.
We’d been looking for weeks. But apartment hunting was no joke. Everything was either too big or too small. Too dated or too modern. Too far away from the Flyers training facility or too close to the city.
It was going to be our first home together, we wanted it to be perfect. And that’s exactly what we’d both felt walking into our place today.
It was only a few months ago, I didn’t know if I would ever play hockey again. Now I was only weeks away from starting my career with the Philadelphia Flyers. It was all I’d ever wanted, and I got to do with my girl right beside me.
“What?” Ella mouthed as I gazed across the table at her.
Love you too, her eyes seemed to say.
“Should we tell them?” I asked, excitement bubbling inside my chest.
“Tell us what?” Noah glanced between the two of us, a frown crinkling the corners of his eyes.
“So when invited you to spend a long weekend with us we didn’t quite give you the whole story,” Ella said with a hint of a smile.
“El, Con…” Rory hesitated. “What’s going on?”
“So we might have done a thing.”
“A thing?” Noah snorted. “Jesus, Morgan, spit it out already.”
I reached for Ella’s hand and threaded our fingers together, smiling at her.
My best friend.
The love of my life.
“We’re getting married.”
“M-married?” Noah almost sprayed his drink into the air. “Sorry.” He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve. “It sounded like you said you’re getting married.”
“We are. We have an appointment at the courthouse in an hour.”
“An hour?” Rory squeaked. “That’s… I don’t understand. What about the wedding plans? I thought you’d decided to wait until next year?”
“We had.” Ella blushed. “At least, I thought I had.”
“I would have dragged her down the aisle months ago if she would have agreed,” I said. Because the sooner I put a ring on her finger, the better.
“But what about everyone else?” Rory frowned. “People are going to be mighty upset that you’re doing this without them.”
“That’s the thing, Rory, baby. We’re not doing this for anyone else. We’re doing it for us. I love Ella. I want to be bound to her in every possible way. And when we start our life together here, I want her to be Mrs. Connor Morgan.”
“Babe.” Ella dabbed the corner of her eye.
“You’re really serious about this?” Noah asked, and I nodded.
“As a heart attack, and we’d really love it if the two of you would be our witnesses.”
“Ah, hell, Con. You know I’d be fucking honored.”
“Oh my god, you’re getting married.” Rory cried but then her expression sobered as she looked at Ella. “Please tell me you at least have a dress.”
“El, you look… Connor isn’t going to know what’s hit him.” Rory met my eye in the full-length mirror, tears clinging to her lashes.
“Gosh, babe. “Don’t cry,” I said. “It’ll set me off and I’ll ruin my makeup.”
“I still can’t believe you’re going to do this.”
“I don’t want to wait anymore, Rory. Besides, who says we have to have the big white wedding?” I smoothed down the skirt of my off-the-shoulder, empire waist ivory silk dress. It was simple and elegant and made me feel like a princess.
I’d fallen in love with it the second I’d spotted it in the store window. It wasn’t designer or one of a kind, but it fit my curves to perfection and Rory was right, Connor was going to combust when he laid eyes on me.
“I’m so happy for you both. Ready?” Rory asked, handing me the small bunch of hand-tied white and gold flowers.
“As I’ll ever be.”
Rory smiled, her eyes still brimming with unshed tears. “Then let’s go get you married.”
Philadelphia City Hall was an impressive ornate building that stood proud against the backdrop of the bustling city, and it was the place where I was going to marry the love of my life.
Butterflies swarmed in my stomach as Connor and I stood before the officiant, listening to her recite the statement of purpose. Except, I didn’t hear a thing. Not over the blood roaring in my ears.
I was getting married.
Noah and Rory stood to the side, him smiling, her trying to hold back the tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. But it was futile.
The second my first tear fell, so did Rory’s. The two of us silently cried as Connor clutched my hands in his.
“Now Connor,” the officiant said. “If you could repeat after me.”
He turned to me, his eyes alight with the kind of love young girls only dreamed about. Adoring. Possessive. Unwavering.
There wasn’t a single part of me that didn’t believe the words flowing out of him. I felt them sink into my skin and wrap around my heart.
“I, Connor Morgan, take you, Ella Henshaw, to be my wife. I promise to love you and care from this day until our last. I promise to support you when you need support and to turn to you when I need support. I promise to embrace your faults and your strengths, and I promise to stand by your side through good and bad. I choose you now, tomorrow, and all the days after that. My partner. My equal. My wife.”
When he was done, the officiant gave him a small smile. “Thank you.” She turned to me. “And now you Ella, please repeat after me.”
I inhaled a shaky breath, willing my heart to settle. Connor smoothed his thumb over the curve of my hand, mouthing a cheeky, “I love you.”
“I, Ella Henshaw, take you, Connor Morgan, to be my husband. I promise to love you and care from this day until our last. I promise to support you when you need support and to turn to you when I need support. I promise to embrace your faults and your strengths, and I promise to stand by your side through good and bad. I choose you now, tomorrow, and all the days after that. My partner. My equal. My husband.”
The officiant continued. “Do you have rings to exchange?”
Noah stepped forward, handing Connor a small box. He stepped back but not before giving me a reassuring wink.
“Connor, if you would like to place the ring on Ella’s finger and repeat after me, ‘With this ring, I thee wed’.”
He took my hand gently in his and slipped the ring onto my finger, speaking the words with perfect clarity.
The tears came faster as she turned to me.
“Now, Ella. If you could do the same.”
I slid the plain band onto Connor’s finger and whispered, “With this ring, I thee wed.”
“Let these rings be given and received as a token of your affection, sincerity, and fidelity to one another,” the officiant said. “Ella and Connor, you have consented together in wedlock and pledged your vows to each other. By the authority vested in me by the State of Pennsylvania, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” She smiled, taking a step back to give us space.
“You may now kiss your wife.”
The word rang through my head like a siren.
Ella was mine.
Mrs. Ella Morgan.
Fuck, that sounded good.
“Con, man,” Noah murmured. “Don’t leave your wife hanging.”
A small laugh bubbled out of Ella, snapping me out of the momentary haze I’d found myself in.
“Wife,” I breathed, hooking my arm around Ella’s waist and drawing her closer. She slid her hand up my chest, gazing up at me with a smile that sucked the air clean from my lungs. She looked so fucking beautiful, I’d almost fallen to my knees when I saw her.
My lips curved, and my heart damn near beat out of my chest.
“What are you waiting for, husband,” she teased. “Are you going to kiss—”
My mouth crashed down on hers, electricity sparking all around us as I plunged my tongue into her mouth, fusing us together.
Ella clung to me, kissing me back just as hard. Because she knew too.
She knew what this moment meant.
She was mine.
And I was hers.
Until death do us part.
“Welcome home, wife,” Connor said, holding the door to his truck open for me. He helped me down and I stared up at the house that held so many memories for us.
“It’s going to be weird when you no longer live here,” I said.
“But we’ll have our own place, kitten. Somewhere that’s just ours.”
“Hmm.” I gazed up at him. “That does sound good.”
“And just think,” his voice turned husky, “you won’t have to worry about how loud you scream my name when I’m inside you.”
God, I would never tire of hearing that. “You know, we really should call our parents.”
“Tomorrow,” he said. “Tonight, I want you all to myself.”
“You had me all to yourself last night.”
“What can I say, kitten, I’m a greedy man.” Connor kissed me. Hard and quick before taking my hand in his and tugging me toward the house.
“Is anyone home?”
“I’m not sure,” he said.
“Do you think Noah spilled the beans?”
We’d asked him and Rory not to tell anyone yet but well, it was Noah.
“Could go either way.” He chuckled, jamming the key in the door.
“Do you think they’ll be pissed?”
“They’ll get over it.”
“Yeah,” I whispered as I followed him inside.
It wasn’t that we didn’t want our friends there, but—
I froze in the hall, barely able to believe my eyes.
Our friends all stood there, under an arch of Mr and Mrs balloons.
“Noah,” his name fell from Connor’s lips in an irritated huff as I found him grinning at us.
“Couldn’t let the newlyweds off the hook that easily, could I?”
“I don’t know whether to hug or punch you.” Connor stepped forward, meeting Noah halfway, the two of them hugging.
“Congratulations again, man,” Noah said. “Marriage looks good on you.”
“You guys,” I murmured, tears welling in my eyes.
“We’re going to overlook the fact you eloped,” Dayna said.
“No we’re fucking not,” Austin piped up. “They got married without—”
“Later,” Rory hissed at her brother. “Tonight is a celebration. We have food, drinks, and enough embarrassing stories about Connor to keep us entertained for hours.”
“And here I thought we were friends,” Connor scoffed.
“Best friends,” Mase grumbled. “Or did you forget that little fact when you fucking ran off and—”
“Okay, obviously you guys have some stuff to get off your chest,” Harper said, taking my hand. “So why don’t you guys go out back while we girls grill Ella about everything.” She tried to pull me away, but Connor snagged my other wrist.
Our eyes connected, and my heart fluttered wildly in my chest.
“I love you, wife.”
“I love, husband.”
Someone fake retched and then Austin said, “If we thought they were bad before, they’re going to be fucking insufferable now.”
“Jealous, Hart?” Connor pinned him with a bemused look. “Because you know, you could always rectify that.” His gaze dropped to the dark-haired beauty at Austin’s side.
“We’re not all impulsive assholes like you,” he muttered but we all saw the way he tightened his hold on her.
Austin wasn’t fooling anyone. He’d fallen hard for his girlfriend.
I was happy for them.
He deserved to have someone in his corner.
Someone who loved him no matter what.
“What’s that look for?” Connor leaned down, brushing his mouth over my ear.
“I’m just happy,” I said. “You make me happy, Connor.”
I didn’t have a chance to hear his reply because the girls pulled me away, demanding to know everything about yesterday.
And I humored them.
Because if there was one thing I would never tire of talking about, it was the day I became Connor’s wife.