“Sorry, love, I should answer this.” He pulled his glove off and pressed the screen. “Hello?”
“Asher, it’s Stella. Are you with Maggie?”
“Yeah, we’re out for a walk. Is everything—”
“Don’t tell her it’s me.”
His chest tightened. “Okay…”
“I talked to her this morning about your wedding,” Stella said.
“I know. She said you—”
“Stop! Don’t even hint like that. She’ll figure it out.”
Given Maggie’s brows were raised, Stella was probably right. “Sure. Sorry, Becca,” he said, using his co-worker’s name to try to erase any suspicions Maggie might have.
“Oh, good one,” Stella said. “Thinking on your feet. Nice. I’m going to need you to do some more of that. I’m going to tell you some things, you keep pretending you’re talking about library business, and we might be able to pull off a surprise.”
“I understand,” he said.
“Maggie’s invitation this morning seemed a bit lukewarm, but I’m guessing that’s because she doesn’t want Lach and I to feel obligated, or for us to have to go out of our way to be there.”
“Sounds like an accurate assessment.”
“Accurate, and way off base. We 100% want to be there if we can. I’m not so late in my pregnancy that I can’t fly.”
“Right, I hadn’t even thought about that factor,” he said. Stella was due in March.
Maggie wrapped a hand around his bicep and squeezed. Her brows furrowed under the brim of her knit beanie. “Everything okay at work?” she whispered. “And with Becca?”
He nodded and sent her a reassuring smile.
“I did some research,” Stella said. “Maggie mentioned traveling with Jackson would make commercial a no-go. Technically, Lach could pull some strings with Jackson’s old assistance-training paperwork—I looked into it, and a few of the carriers would allow us to buy him his own seat under the guise of being a service animal in training. It’s ethically iffy, though. And at this point, the flights are pretty full, and it would be complicated for us all to fly direct, which Marisol would want to do with Laura, and Ryan and I would have to do because of his shift rotation.”
“Wait,” he said, wracking his brain for a way to ask if Stella was committing to this without directly asking if she and some combination of Ryan, Lachlan, Marisol, and Laura would be able to attend. “Uh, that’s on the table?”
“Yes,” Stella said. “We all want to be there. Have you spoken to Caleb and Garnet? Are they thinking the same?”
“Yes,” he said. “But they aren’t—” shoot, right, library terms “—I mean, long-term reader engagement is still uncertain.” Caleb had said he’d see what he could do about his and Garnet’s work schedules.
“Right. Probably in the same boat as Ryan—it’s not the easiest time to get people to cover at work. But I think I figured out a solution. I have a friend on Wall Street, one of the higher ups at a venture capital firm I didn’t work for,” Stella said. “He’s feeling guilty as anything for not believing my story last year, and told me if there was anything I ever wanted, that I should call him.”
“He has a private plane,” she said.
“You’re going to have to connect the dots for me more than that,” he said. “What’s your exact idea about the, uh, proposed program?”
“I’m willing to ask him if he’d charter us all to New York and back.”
Asher whistled. “The cost, though.”
“Trust me, he can afford it. Could you give me a hand with figuring out places for us all to stay? It’s not a small number of beds. With our work schedules, we’d be arriving in the afternoon and leaving the next day, but it would be worth it.”
Asher’s hopes leaped, a physical lurch in his belly. It would be epic to surprise Maggie with their whole family.
“I think I can do that within the next couple of days,” he promised. “Email me whatever details I’ll need to do the work remotely.”
“I will. I want to make this happen,” she said. “But in case it falls through, keep it on the down low.”
“Absolutely.” The favor Stella was about to call in was not small. He said goodbye, hung up, and refocused on his fiancee.
Maggie was busy taking photos of glassy high-rise buildings on her phone, oblivious to the lengths her siblings wanted to go to in order to attend their wedding. And he’d do whatever he could to make that happen.
Make sure you get the finale chapter the minute it’s published by signing up for my newsletter. Chapter Five will be released to subscribers in mid-January.