Bonus epilogue—Adam & Lizzy
Thanks so much reading Adam & Lizzy’s fake marriage romance. I had so much fun writing Olivia and the extended family that I didn’t want to end without one more chance to say goodbye to the whole Rhodes clan.
As my thanks for supporting this crazy job of writing happily ever afters, here’s an exclusive bonus epilogue that’s only available to newsletter subscribers.
TEN YEARS LATER
“Everyone have what you need for the weekend?” I called over the pack of cousins arguing in the living room.
Olivia whistled exactly the way Adam could. “Cool it, hooligans!” she barked. The room went silent. “And that, Mona, is how to take control of kid chaos,” she said with a bow.
“Extra milkshakes for you, pumpkin.”
At fifteen, she’d perfected her eye roll and irritated growl. “Mo-na!”
I winked at her friend Tabitha. “You have all your camping gear packed?”
“Oh my god, I’m not twelve. Yes, we have it all packed.”
Adam came in behind me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “One, two, three, four … we’re missing a mini. Where’s Jackson?”
“Already in the van,” Olivia offered.
“He said if he had to spend one extra minute with the girls, he’d crack and say something that would result in losing his gaming privileges,” I laughed. “Most self-aware eight-year-old I’ve ever met.”
“Takes after his mom.” Adam winked. “All right. Let’s get this Rhodes Trip on the road.”
Olivia and Tabitha groaned.
“That never gets old.” I kissed my man.
“Neither does that,” he said into my mouth, pulling me into a tight hug.
“Ew. Take it upstairs,” four six-year-old girls said in unison.
“It’s as if they share a mind.”
“Or the bad influence of an older sister-slash-cousin.”
“I heard that,” Olivia muttered.
I locked up the house and we set course for Lily Valley and our annual Canada Day celebration at Nick and Sophie’s place. But this was a special weekend: ten years since Adam and I had commandeered the party to get fake married. And we were dropping kids off to take a week-long holiday.
The cousin quadruplets piled out of the SUV, shoving each other to be the first in the house. Olivia and Tabitha pulled their bags and tent from the hatch.
“Have a good trip. Love you Dadam. Love you Mona,” Olivia said.
“Thanks for all your help sweetheart,” I said giving her a wink.
She waved it off like it was nothing.
Jackson leaned against the Suburban. “Can I please go with you? I promise I’ll be quiet. I’ll just play video games.”
Adam and I exchanged looks and before either of us had to tell him for the hundredth time that he’d have fun, Nick’s two boys ran full speed out the front door.
“Dude,” Leo yelled, “we need back-up! Get your aaa … I mean, butt, over here and help us fill these water balloons.”
Jackson’s scowl tilted into a reluctant smile then he took off to join his cousins at the hose.
We loaded all the bags of clothes and pillows and special blankets into the house, hugged the kids whether they wanted our kisses or not, thanked Nick and Sophie for the flop house accommodations then escaped for our tenth anniversary holiday. Adam had no idea what I’d planned.
“Take me home Mr. Rhodes.”
As we approached our driveway, Adam pointed at a candy apple red supercar, parked across the street from our house.
“Check that out. That is a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. Sweet, sweet ride. In another life, that would have been my daily driver.”
“Uh-huh,” I feigned disinterest. “Nice. If you like that kind of flash, I guess. I’ve grown kind of partial to gunmetal gray boats on wheels.”
“Women …” He shook his head.
I ran to the house to get in before Adam so I could hide the supercar keys that had been dropped through the mail slot.
“Someone’s anxious to take advantage of a quiet house,” he called behind me.
I pocketed the keys and stood in the doorway to receive the love of my life. “Happy anniversary, Mr. Rhodes.”
“Happy anniversary, Mrs. Rhodes. I love you more now than I did the day I secretly married you for a second time.” He dropped a kiss on my lips.
“Wow, even before I tell you what I have planned for this week? Well, go have a pee, grab your passport and hang onto your Skittles because that,” I pointed to the Ferrari, “is ours for ten days. We are driving it to the Happiest Place on Earth.”
Adam’s jaw dropped.
I dangled the keys until he held out his hand then I dropped them into his palm.
“Ha! You’re speechless! I finally managed to surprise you. Lizzy, for the win!”
“We’re taking that to California?”
I nodded. “Driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to Anaheim.”
“The Pacific Coast Highway,” he echoed. “In that car? Elizabeth Mona Sheila Rhodes, close the door because this hard-on is not safe for neighbors.”
I laughed but the bulge in his shorts told me he wasn’t joking.
“Will you be able to drive in that state?” I exhaled warm air near his ear with the intention of increasing his discomfort.
“Absolutely not. Upstairs. Now,” he growled in that way that still made Gigi jitter with anticipation.
* * *
After three days of the most mouth-watering views, we were standing in the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel. The lady at the desk smiled for us to come ahead.
“Oh, rats. Sweetie, I left your passport in the glovebox. Can you please get it for me and I’ll get the room keys?” I asked Adam.
Once he was out of earshot I asked the check-in clerk not to mention the size of our suite or that I’d booked four other suites with it. Everyone was supposed to be waiting in our room. I texted the secret-to-Adam family WhatsApp group and got the all-clear to head up.
We stood in the hall outside our door and Adam paused.
“I don’t think this is our room. It sounds like people are already in it.” He started toward the elevators.
Olivia’s whistle penetrated the heavy door and then … silence.
“Adam. The card says this is the room.” I hovered my keycard over the mechanism but didn’t swipe until he was at my side. The light went green, the latch clicked, I pushed the door open and … all hell broke loose as every brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and child in my big, beautiful, not-a-day-too-early family yelled, “Surprise!”
“Happy anniversary, my love.” I beamed at my slack-mouthed and wide-eyed husband.
Blown away. Bowled over. Dumbfounded.
I finally had a sense of how Lizzy must have felt when I showed up in London so many years earlier.
Unbelieving. Too perfect to be real. A dream.
I pulled her tight into my arms as I scanned the room. The people I loved most in the world were all here, and all wearing matching rainbow, tie-dyed T-shirts with ‘Rhodes to Love’ in big letters on the back.
“What’s wrong with daddy?” Jackson stood at Lizzy’s back and looked up with concern on his face.
“That’s just his normal thinking face, buddy.” Dylan, who was now at my side, slapped my shoulder. I punched his.
“Huh … it really is you …”
The volume in the room increased to rock concert decibels. What self-control the kids had managed while waiting for Lizzy and I to arrive was gone, replaced by demands to finally get out into the parks.
Lizzy wiggled free and took Olivia and her friend Tabitha to one side. They chatted for a minute then Olivia whistled, assuming control of the room.
“Hooligans! Line up.”
It was truly amazing how every one of the kids did exactly what their fifteen-year-old sister and cousin told them, always without argument. That was her superpower and one we paid her well to practice.
“Dadam and Mona need to take a quick nap.” Olivia’s nose wrinkled. “So we can all go to the park and they’ll meet us …” she looked to Lizzy.
“We’ll meet you for the fireworks display. Someone let us know where to be and when,” Lizzy added.
“Everyone find your adult,” Dylan barked.
“Happy anniversary, Dadam.” Olivia kissed Adam’s cheek. “Tabitha and I are out of here before we get roped into babysitting. Love you guys.”
Kids scattered and parents moved around, gathering into groups, not based on immediate family, but on Disney destination targets.
Josh and Nick waved for Jackson and Nick’s ten-year-old, Leo to join them.
“If anyone needs us, we’ll be at Oga’s Cantina at the Galaxy’s Edge,” Josh said, looking as excited as the boys as they left the melee.
Sophie, Kama and Paige corralled the four, six-year-old girls: Aanya, Blaine, River and Addison. Once they were standing quietly, Paige pulled seven pairs of princess Minnie Mouse ears from the bag on her shoulder. Their squeals were five parts joy, one part torture. Every woman and child kissed both Lizzy and me, wishing us a happy anniversary.
Dylan took eight-year-old Andrew’s hand and held it as high as he could without lifting our nephew off his feet.
“If you wake up from your nap”—Dylan made the same face Olivia had—“early. You can find us in the Disney Animation Building, drawing and learning about making movies.” He punched my arm and moved before I could return the love tap.
The only people left in the room were Brigitte, her husband Brent and their three-year-old Jasper.
“It’s nap time for this guy, too,” Brigitte said. “Happy anniversary, Adam. Don’t tell the others, but you’re my favorite of the Rhodes couples,” she said conspiratorially then gave us each a hug.
We were left in blissful silence.
“I hope this is okay … not heading right out into the park? I thought you might be a bit tired after the hours of driving.”
“Oh, so you want to actually nap, for real?” My scrunched-nose face meant the opposite of what Olivia’s had.
“I was hoping for just a little snooze after a little exercise, you know, to get the blood flowing again after so many hours of sitting.” She took my hand and we looked for our bedroom in the giant, three-bedroom, three-bathroom luxury suite.
“This looks like us.” Lizzy grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pulled it over my head. “Let me help you with that, sir.”
Then she undid the button on my shorts and slowly dragged the zipper down, putting far more pressure on what was growing behind the fabric than she needed to. My shorts dropped and she caught a gasp in her throat. “Commando? It’s as if you were expecting something to happen, Mr. Rhodes.”
“Ever the optimist, Mrs. Rhodes.”
As she undressed and climbed under the sheet with me she asked, “Are you okay that our anniversary get-away brought everything we left behind to us?”
I took her face in my hands and kissed her forehead. “I love it.” Then her neck. “I love you.” Then her mouth with a hunger that even after ten years was only satiated when I was feasting on her.
We made love. Ordered room service. Napped. And then met the gang in Fantasyland near the carousel to watch the fireworks show.
“Best fireworks ever,” she whispered as we danced to the soundtrack of a love song that played for Mickey and Minnie in time with explosions of lights.
“Better than your honeymoon fireworks?” I said, feeling a little hurt.
“Only because I never expected that I’d get to watch another fireworks display with you that night, let alone one every year for the last decade.”
* * *
Not to be outdone by Lizzy’s amazing surprise, I snuck away from breakfast the first day and met with one of Disney’s event planners.
I had an idea. It was a long shot but virtually every memorable moment in my life had been an ‘against the odds’ risk—including the one that got me here, celebrating my ten-year anniversary.
I pitched my event idea and was told why it wouldn’t work, but for every argument she gave me, I had a reasonable solution.
“You’re not going to take No for an answer, are you?” Her shoulders slumped and she looked at the time on her phone.
I shook my head and gave her my most charming smile.
“It will cost you—”
“Not a problem. Here.” I pulled my wallet from my pocket and handed her my credit card. “Charge whatever you need as a deposit. Or the full amount now.” I held my hand an inch from hers until she took the card. “Thank you. This means the world to me.”
* * *
Over the three days our clan spent together in the hottest and most crowded place on Earth, we’d mixed and matched our adventures with virtually every possible combination of parents and kids.
On our last morning, at the breakfast buffet in our hotel, I managed the impossible—to get everyone seated at once—and delivered my non-negotiable invitation to attend a lunch in mine and Lizzy’s suite at noon.
Then each mini-Rhodes told us what ride or place they needed to visit one last time to make their Disneyland visit perfect and groups formed to make those dreams come true. I managed to avoid being assigned a child since I needed to give some direction to the team getting the room ready for the last anniversary surprise.
“Come with us,” Lizzy implored. “I want to do It’s a Small World with you.” She sang the chorus of the song from the ride, which she’d already taken Jasper on four times.
“I’ll meet up with you in an hour. I need to do one thing on my own.”
She pulled a long face.
“I promise, it will be worth it.” I gave her a long kiss, ignoring the chants of “get a room” from the peanuts in the gallery.
The morning flew by. Once we were all accounted for, standing in the hall outside our suite, I had all the kids stand right behind me. Even though nobody knew what was coming, anticipation and excitement were thick in the air. I rapped my fist on the door and it slowly opened.
A giant head with big, black ears pushed out.
Squeals of delight, “Mickey!” then kids and adults pushed me out of the way to get in. The furniture in the massive living room had been staged so that twenty people had seats facing the fireplace. A stack of gift boxes sat on a table beside Minnie Mouse. She held her hand in the air, presumably to quiet the chaos. I helped her with a quick, sharp whistle.
Everyone looked at Olivia who pointed at me.
“Minnie, you have something to say?”
She leaned her head toward me and I pretended she was whispering in my ear.
“You have a present for each lovely person here?”
She nodded enthusiastically and tapped me on the shoulder to whisper more to me. I listened and nodded then shared her whispered words.
Minnie is going to give each of you a gift. But you have to wait until everyone has their gift box before you open yours.”
Minnie handed me the gifts and I called the names. I thought it was risky to start by giving the kids’ gifts first but they showed amazing restraint. It was Josh who was the first to try to sneak a peak and once he’d pulled the ribbon off his box, all the ribbons were flying. He took his role as the “bad influence uncle” extremely seriously.
It took twenty minutes before everyone was back in the room and seated, wearing the costume of the Disney character they most loved. It was quite a scene: a variety of teen and tiny princesses; three young Jedis; Captain Hook and his wife Tinker Bell; Stitch and his wife Jessie the cowgirl; Tigger and his wife Jasmine; Elastagirl, her husband Mufasa, and their toddler Winnie the Pooh.
While Kama helped our kids into their costumes, a stylist quickly decorated Lizzy’s hair with wildflowers. Her costume was a simple, white cotton sundress that reached the floor. I was dressed in an equally understated but classy, beige linen suit with a white shirt and a corsage matching the blooms in Lizzy’s hair.
I was Tarzan. She was Jane.
In the end, way back when, Dylan had neglected to file our divorce papers. It was a ballsy move and one of the reasons, after ten years, he was still getting a bottle of scotch delivered to him every month from an anonymous, happy client.
The Mad Hatter did an exceptional job as the officiant for our recommitment ceremony.
Lizzy and I repeated together:
“In the presence of my family and friends, I promise to continue to stand by your side, sharing and supporting your hopes and your dreams for as long as we both shall live.
“I vow to be right here with you every day, laughing with your joy, comforting you when you’re sad, being your strength in times of need, and catching you when you fall.
“You are my beloved partner in parenthood, my cherished comrade in adventure, and my adored accomplice in mischief. For all that still lies ahead of us on this wild and crazy journey of life, you are and will always be my one and only true love. Until death do us part.”
I was the happiest man on Earth.
That’s the last novel in The Mixed Six-Pack series—at least for now! Check out my other stand-alones and series on Amazon.