"What is taking so long?" Sterling whined as his legs bounced nervously in the waiting room of the hospital.
"These things take a while," his mother replied, not looking up from the wedding magazine she and Laila had been devouring for the last two hours. "I was in labor for 18 hours with you and your brother."
"What am I supposed to do for 18 hours?" He complained and saw his wife look up from her reading.
Laila could tell that Sterling was nervous for his brother. He had nearly thrown her into the car when they received the call saying that Piper's water had broke and had driven like a madman all the way from his apartment to the hospital in Boston.
"Why don't you go to the gift shop and find a book to read?" She suggested with a smile. His father was already asleep in the chair next to him and no one knew how long this process was going to take.
But Sterling shook his head and smiled at her. "How's the wedding planning coming along?"
"Fine," she answered him quickly and looked back down at the magazine. Mrs. Pierce had been well prepared and this was only the second of many bridal magazines they had to get through.
"It's our big day, you know? You don't want to make any hasty decisions."
Laila had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. His mother, on the other hand, found nothing humorous about it.
"Maybe your fiancée would appreciate a little participation from the groom."
Sterling shook his head again and winked at Laila. "No. She's made it perfectly clear that I have no say in anything. But I trust her."
Laila cracked a smile and pointed to a rather exotic looking white flower. Mrs. Pierce sighed and Laila knew she was aggravating the poor woman. Nothing she picked was to her liking and she had nearly given her mother-in-law a heart attack when she announced the wedding would be held at a vineyard in Napa instead of on the East Coast.
"Let's forget about flowers for the moment, dear. Have you thought about bridesmaid's dresses? Or shoes? The shoes you wear have to be comfortable yet elegant."
"Oh," Laila hesitated knowing the look that was going to appear on Mrs. Pierce's face. "I think I'll just be wearing flip flops. White ones, I promise. But since the ceremony is going to be outside I don't want my heals sinking into the dirt."
"There is going to be dirt at your wedding?" Mrs. Pierce asked, clearly disgusted.
"Just a little outside," Laila admitted and picked up another magazine. "So, bridesmaid's dresses."
Sterling smiled as his mother grimaced and shook her head. He knew Laila wouldn't disappoint anyone but she was having fun with this. They had announced their engagement over the winter holiday and even though everyone had been excited, the news took no one by surprise. A date was set for the first weekend in July after they graduated which gave Laila and the two mothers over 18 months to plan. His wife had admitted to him, only once, that she was happy they were already married, that the stress of planning a fake wedding was nowhere near the stress of planning a real one. Sterling had laughed and kissed her, wishing her luck with his mom and her mom.
"Judging from the looks of you four, we haven't missed anything exciting."
Sterling looked up toward the familiar voice and Laila nearly jumped out of her seat.
"You made it!" She ran and threw her arms around Tennille's neck, hugging her old roommate tightly.
"There was no way we were going to miss this," Tate said, reaching out and shaking Sterling's hand. "Alistair, a dad. I still can't believe it."
Laila stood back and looked at her two friends. They hadn't changed much since high school, at least she didn't think so. Tennille was still gorgeous and had completely embraced the New York lifestyle which seemed so perfectly fit for her. Her hair was still long and she wore it in a messy ponytail. Her eyes were just as animated as ever, never stopping and always knowing. And Tate was still relaxed, keeping his girlfriend in check and effortlessly calming the entire room with just his presence.
Tate took a seat next to Sterling and Tennille joined Laila and Mrs. Pierce with the bridal magazines, giving her opinions openly and flat out refusing to wear a bridesmaid's dress that fell below the knee. The boys were just about to get up to find a vending machine when the double doors were thrown open and a breathless Alistair came running through.
"It's a girl!" He announced and Mrs. Pierce squealed with joy. "I mean, she's a girl. I have a daughter."
"Thank God for that," his father said, rubbing his eyes as he stood up to hug his son.
Alistair's eyes were bouncing from person to person, not resting on anyone or anything for too long. "She's so tiny and so perfect and Piper did such an amazing job."
"Can we see her?" Mrs. Pierce asked and Alistair nodded.
"Yeah, the nurses say you can go in two at a time. Are Mr. and Mrs. Collins here yet?"
Laila shook her head. "They called about an hour ago and said they were just getting on the plane in Seattle."
"Okay," he said, unable to wipe the smile off his face. "I'll let her know. Mom, Dad, do you want to meet your granddaughter?"
Mrs. Pierce immediately burst into tears and threw the magazine on the chair, stumbling toward her son so she could hug him. The proud father led his parents back into the delivery room and the four friends stood there slightly stunned.
"I don't think he even noticed we were here," Tate said, unsure if he wanted to laugh or be offended.
"I don't think he would have noticed if a giant purple elephant had been in the room either," Tennille grinned and sat down again, thumbing through a magazine.
Sterling followed her lead and sat down as well, though he could barely keep still in his chair. He was nervous for his brother, excited for him as well, and eager to meet his niece.
"So," he heard Tate say quietly as he sat down beside his friend. "You're actually going to get married?"
Sterling smiled. "Looks like it."
"Man, good for you. Laila's a great girl."
Sterling nodded his head and glanced at his wife. She was laughing with Tennille about something.
"Have you thought about asking Tennille?"
Tate's voice dropped even lower. "More and more these days. But she seems so happy with the way things are."
"You never know until you ask," Sterling pointed out.
"I guess you're right. And I suppose Laila was thrilled at the idea."
Sterling laughed. "Something like that."
What seemed like ten hours later, Sterling's parents came through the doors and told their son he could go in. Laila stood up to go with him and he took his wife's hand as he walked down the hallway to Piper's room. Laila knocked quietly at the door and Alistair was quick to open it.
"She's asleep right now," he announced, still as proud as he could be. "Come on in."
They pushed past the curtain and saw Piper lying on the hospital bed, her hair a mess but her face was shining with joy as she held her daughter.
"Oh my God!" Laila whispered, tears coming to her eyes as she saw the tiny little girl. "Piper, she's beautiful."
"Isn't she?" Her best friend asked with a smile.
Laila approached the bed slowly as Sterling put a hand on Alistair's shoulder.
"How are you feeling?" He asked his twin.
Alistair shook his head. "I can't even describe it, little brother. I thought I would be terrified but the second I saw her it was like I just fell in love. I want to protect her but I want to show her off to the world."
Sterling watched as Laila reached a small hand toward the baby's tiny face, lightly stroking her peach fuzz blonde hair.
"How's Piper doing?" Sterling asked.
"Amazing. I can't believe she did it. I mean, there is no way in hell I would have been able to do that, you know?"
Sterling laughed. "I know."
The twins walked toward the bed and Alistair kissed Piper on the cheek before kissing his daughter.
"Do you want to hold her?" Piper asked Laila.
"I'd love to," Laila agreed easily and Piper lifted the newborn toward her best friend. Laila took her carefully in her arms and gazed down at the tiny person sleeping so soundly. She had an adorable button nose and long eyelashes, perfect heart shaped lips squeezed between two pudgy cheeks.
"Have you decided on a name yet?" She asked, not looking away from the baby.
"Paisley Rebecca Pierce," she heard Alistair answer and her eyes instantly flew to his. She felt a lump rise in her throat as she smiled at him. Alistair smiled back at the girl who had very likely saved his life. Without Laila he would never have found the strength to fall for Piper, he may never have learned to live with the memory of Rebecca instead of dwelling in his love for her.
"That's a beautiful name, Alistair," Laila whispered, trying not to cry. "It's really beautiful."
Alistair choked back a tear of his own and felt Piper reach for his hand. He looked down at his girlfriend and smiled, still completely overwhelmed and grateful for the amazing gift she had given him. A daughter. A perfect daughter. He leaned down to kiss her and she raised her head to meet him half way.
"I love you," he whispered to her and she smiled.
"I love you too."
Laila looked over at the happy parents and then over at her husband who was staring at her with a curious expression.
"Did you want to hold your niece?" She asked him, smiling as a scared look crossed his face.
"Yes, but let me sit down first."
Laila nodded and waited for him to take a seat on the couch before handing Paisley to him. The little girl looked so small in his big arms and against his broad chest. A small whimper escaped her lips as she settled against him and Sterling's eyes shot to Laila as he wondered what he had done wrong. But his wife only smiled at him in encouragement. Sterling looked back down at the baby and relaxed when he saw that her eyes had not opened and she was still sleeping peacefully.
"She's so tiny," he said in awe.
"She'll grow," Laila laughed.
"I'm going to spoil her," Sterling announced and he heard his brother laugh at his statement.
"And I'll remember that when you two have children."
"We'll just babysit yours for the time being," Laila said quickly and gave Piper a warm smile.
Sterling waited until Alistair's attention had been diverted back to his girlfriend before whispering to Laila. "You know, a baby would be kind of nice."
"Yes, your brother's daughter is quite lovely."
"Our baby would be just as lovely," Sterling pointed out and Laila shook her head.
"Don't start, Sterling. I'm serious. Don't start."
Sterling laughed at his wife's determined face.
"I'm just saying…"
"You aren't allowed to say anything, remember?" She smiled at him and reached for his face so she could kiss him.
"I won't say another word," he promised with a wink.
"Why do I not believe you?" Laila asked with a grin.
Sterling only grinned back and then looked down at his niece. He had made a promise to Laila and he intended on keeping it. He knew that after their first night of babysitting little Paisley he would be cured of his desire for a child of his own. He had everything that he wanted and everything that he needed wrapped up inside the woman sitting next to him. And nothing was going to change that.
A/N: I really can't believe I just posted the last chapter of this series. It's really bittersweet for me but I want to thank everyone who has read and commented, especially those who have been with me since Harper's. Your support means the world to me and I definitely would not have made it past the second chapter of this novel without you guys. So thank you so much! Much love, Pink