She shrugged with a smile. “I don’t know. The more I thought about it, the more romantic I imagined it would be. Plus I sort of got a lot of my wedding planning out of my system with yours. You were so easygoing, I ended up using half my ideas on you.”

I pouted a little. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

She laughed. “Don’t be. I had an incredible time. It was a beautiful wedding. I’ll never forget it and I have absolutely no regrets. You deserved an amazing day, and I was thrilled to be a part of it any way I could.”

She smiled warmly, and I knew that she was being genuine. Blake and I had toyed with the idea of eloping too, but I knew his family wanted the wedding and would be sad to miss it. And when the day came, I was glad for our choice too. Alli and Fiona had done an impressive job planning everything while I was on the mend. No detail was missed, and the day was filled with a hundred special moments and thoughtful touches thanks to them. For all my bemoaning the prospect of a big family wedding in the months prior, a little part of me wanted that for Alli now too. But, ultimately, I wanted what she wanted. My job as her best friend was to support her the same way she supported me, whatever she decided to do.

“Is Heath really on board with this too?”

“Yeah. I mean, he’s so easygoing about everything. Eloping is so much more his style. At first I was kind of upset when he brought up the idea. I wanted him to propose, you know? I wanted the surprise, the fancy diamond, the white dress, and the big reception. All those little things I’d dreamed about forever.” She shook her head. “I don’t know. I think I finally realized that life doesn’t always have to go in order. I spent half my life planning the perfect wedding around a person I hadn’t met yet. It’s a little silly to think that we’d automatically want the same things.”

“I’m sure he’d give you the big white wedding if that’s what you wanted.”

“I know he would. But, honestly, the more I think about it, the more it feels right to have it just be us.”

Any doubts I had about their possible elopement swiftly melted. They loved each other, hopefully with the same singular passion that Blake and I shared. Suddenly nothing seemed more romantic than binding that love between them, with only them, the two most important people in the room.

“Sounds really romantic. Alli. Selfishly, I’ll be sad to miss it, but I know it’ll be wonderful.”

She smiled. “We’ll take pictures. Lots of pictures.”

I caught her hand across the table, all the more grateful to have her in my life. When she’d left for New York months ago, I worried that our friendship would wane with distance. Circumstances brought us back together, and now falling in love would keep us in each other’s lives forever. “We’ll be sisters. Can you believe that?”

She squeezed my hand, light in her eyes. “You’ve always felt like a sister to me, so I can only say that having it official will be an added bonus.”

“You’ve always been my family, Alli. Even when I haven’t made it so easy for you.”

She pursed her lips. “You are very temperamental, but I kind of love you for it.”

I sat back and contemplated that assessment. Was I temperamental? I preferred strong-willed, but maybe the hormones taking over my body had shortened my fuse and altered my decision-making. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I was certain Blake would probably have a lot to say about that, in light of recent events.

“I’m sure Blake would agree, but thankfully he’s as forgiving as you are.”

Her soft expression became more serious. “How did things go when you got home?”

I thought back to the night before. I’d known that coming home and explaining my absence to Blake wasn’t going to be easy, but I’d missed him terribly. We had so much to talk about, so much to work through. My heart broke when I saw him sitting alone at the table. Listless, staring into nothing. Then suddenly he’d come back to life when I came into his view. Remembering him so hurt and tired made my chest ache all over again, and I rubbed at the hurt there.

“Things were intense, as usual. Sometimes it’s not always easy for us to get on the same page, especially when it comes to matters that we both feel strongly about. He’s very stubborn, and, frankly, so am I.”

“Well I’m sure you figured it out, one way or the other. You look like you barely slept.” She winked.

A smile hinted at my lips. “We’re better. We talked the way we should have before I’d left. We . . . made up.”

“And?” She lifted an eyebrow.