Timely Assist Epilogue

**Please note: This extended epilogue is not edited and probably contains some errors.
We hope you enjoy this peek into Shannon and Cam’s wedding and reception.**

Cliff Camden’s eyes locked on his bride the second she appeared at the back of the church. Shannon’s expression reflected a nervous smile as she started to walk toward him, clutching her brother’s arm. Any other time, Sean in his full-dress uniform may have intimidated him—today, however, his thoughts centered only on his love. Shannon looked stunning in her mother’s simple satin sheath gown. The modest V-neck skimmed her curves, and the skirt teased with a knee-high split on her left leg. His bride didn’t need a veil—the flowers woven into her hair complemented the upswept style. Just like a princess, as Kayleigh would say.

Cam stepped forward to meet them. Shannon hugged her brother, a few tears glistening in her green eyes.

The minister asked, “Who stands with this woman to symbolize her family’s support of this marriage?”

“Her grandmother, daughter, and I do,” Sean answered.

The celebrant asked the same question of Cliff’s family, who answered in unison, “We do.”

Sean placed Shannon’s hand in Cam’s, meeting his eyes as he said in a low voice. “Trusting you to keep them safe and happy, man.”

Cliff nodded. “Always.” His eyes met Shannon’s, and he leaned to brush a kiss against her cheek. “I love you, Peaches.” Then, as he led her up the steps, an excited voice chirped.

“Mama, you’re princess today.” Kayleigh broke away from Nanna’s lap and skipped toward them. Cam caught Sean’s eye and slightly shook his head as he scooped Kayleigh into his arms.

“Your mama is my princess, Kayleigh.”

Kayleigh thought for a moment as she touched her fingers. “Three princesses today. Mama, Princess Paris, and me!”

The guests chuckled, and Shannon leaned to whisper to her. “Can you show us how a princess acts at a very special event?”

“You mean when the king and queen have a party?”

“Yes, sweet pea.”

“I will sit with Nanna and Uncle Sean,” she told Cam.

“Be careful, don’t run,” Cam reminded as he set her on her feet.

Sean stood, ready to take her hand when she reached the steps. Kayleigh paused, and an enormous smile crossed her face. “I need to ‘coursy’ like princess.” She gathered her ankle-length skirt in her little hands, then executed a perfect curtsy before the guests.

Shannon’s eyes met Sean’s and he shrugged, suppressing a smile. Nanna G grinned and shook her head. She looked toward Cam’s family and saw Amelie beaming proudly. When their eyes met, Amelie winked and blew a kiss toward the couple.

Cam clasped Shannon’s hands and they turned toward the celebrant. The minister said, “Your marriage is blessed already. We can feel the love surrounding Shannon Mackenna and Clifford Camden. Now, let’s get this beautiful couple married.”

“Amen,” Cam and Shannon answered simultaneously.

***

Dave and Lauren hosted the reception at their home. Shannon and Cam did not expect a large group, given that many of their friends already had New Year’s Eve plans before the impromptu wedding. Instead of a traditional reception, Lauren suggested an afternoon open house, enabling those who wished to greet the newlyweds to stop by before their planned evening festivities.

Cam introduced his bride to the teammates she had not met. He good-naturedly laughed off the razzing about the reformed womanizer-turned-family man. His twin sister Amelie helped Lauren, and both kept Cam and Shannon’s champagne glasses full.

“I just exchanged texts with Cassie,” Lauren said. “Kayleigh and the twins ran out of energy just a little while ago. Fell asleep watching one of their movies.”

“I’m not surprised,” Shannon said with a soft laugh. “Kayleigh was just vibrating with excitement all day. I’m glad she didn’t transfer that to Daniel and Jenna.” She leaned her head against Cam’s shoulder as her eyes swept the room. A smile crossed her face when she noticed her grandmother Gracie chatting with an older, very handsome—sexy?—man. “Do you know who Nanna’s talking to?”

Cam turned his head and his lips quirked in amusement. “That’s Coach Harper. Didn’t expect to see him today on such short notice.” He watched them a few seconds. “He’s a good man. He says he’s retiring after the season, but he’s said the same thing the last couple years. You sensing a spark there?”

“Look at Nanna’s eyes. Your coach is quite handsome—rocks that George Clooney vibe. Married?”

“His wife died about ten years ago…They have a couple of adult children but I haven’t met them.” Cam kissed her forehead. “Shall I introduce you?”

Shannon swallowed her laugh and nodded toward her brother who had just moved beside Nanna G. “Let’s wait a while.”

***

Amelie stepped to the side of a serving table, content to watch the festivities from the sidelines. Midnight approached in Paris, and she experienced a brief pang of disappointment. Her plans to celebrate with a group of friends in Paris had abruptly changed when the newlyweds chose a small ceremony while the two families gathered in Tampa. She could imagine her friends dancing at one of the exclusive clubs where her roommate always managed to secure VIP reservations. The City of Lights shone most brightly when welcoming in the new year. This was the first New Year’s Eve she’d missed, except during her gap year. Of course, I didn’t miss anything that year since I had that yummy Chance Gagné to take me partying.

She could close her eyes and conjure his image, branded on her brain. He intrigued her like no man she’d met. Besides his rugged good looks and the thick black hair she loved to run her hands through, his eyes, dark as mahogany wood, captured hers in a hypnotic gaze that caused an electrical charge to run through her body. Cam tagged him a loner and warned her away, but Amelie felt the draw of forbidden fruit. His sometimes surly nature didn’t bother her. When they got together, they always had fun, and both understood the relationship was based on mutual enjoyment. Friends with extra special benefits.

Amelia felt frustration that their paths hadn’t crossed during this extended Christmas visit. She didn’t text him after Cliff told her Chance’s injury had sidelined him, and then everything got hectic when Cliff and Shannon decided to get married. She barely had time to think.

She would return to Paris tomorrow…a missed opportunity. The next time she visited her brother, she’d have her degree, ready to start her career in….something…after five years’ education at the Université de Paris.

Will I land a job in Paris? Competition’s fierce for corporate communications positions—being “trilingual” in English, French, and Québécois hasn’t given me an edge so far. She really didn’t want to go back home to Québec for a job, and getting a work visa in the US might prove difficult. Maybe Cliff can sponsor me for a VISA…maybe help me apply for a job with the team’s media department?

***

Dave followed Lauren into the kitchen to grab extra bottles of champagne and wine. “You should be proud of yourself, babe. No one would guess you only had a couple days to plan this reception.”

Lauren looped her arms around his neck and lifted on her tiptoes to brush her lips against his. “I give Caryn the credit. She has the connections with the catering staff. Last minute and New Year’s Eve? I had visions of pretzels, pizza, and chips until she confirmed a caterer.”

Dave chuckled as he pulled her against him. “That would have been perfect, too. Cam and Shannon would be just as happy.”

Lauren rested her head against his shoulder. “You’re right. I feel like my problem ‘child’ has finally grown up.”

“Nothing like love and a child to put life in perspective. Cam really stepped up—proud to call him my friend.” He pressed his lips against her temple. “And now, are you ready for Cyclone Kimberly?”

“Dave, I’m so looking forward to having your sister here!” She punched his arm playfully. “I know you’re proud of her, even if you won’t admit it.”

“Of course I am. Hard to think about my little sister ready for grad school—much less moving so far from home. Kimmy’s always been a bit of a home body.” He shook his head. “I’m still stunned she wants to live on campus and not with us.”

“Maybe she’s ready for the complete college experience? Living on campus makes it easier to meet people, go to study groups, parties…”

Dave held up his hand. “Let not go there, okay?”

“You don’t think your sister parties now?”

“I sure she does.” Dave’s smile bordered on a smirk. “But for as long as I can remember, she insisted she was going to Toronto for her Masters Degree. Why the sudden change of mind? I hope she’s not running away from a problem.”

“Maybe she misses her incredible big brother? Or she wants to enjoy year-round warm weather? Don’t assume it’s a negative. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. Besides, if she gets her masters in Florida, she’ll have so many options after graduation.” Lauren patted his cheek affectionately. “If I’d had the choice, I would have chosen Florida—no second thoughts. Eh, purely for school and the weather, of course.”

***

As the crowd thinned, Cam and Shannon approached Nanna Gracie chatting animatedly with the Suns head coach, Bill Harper. Gracie noticed them first and opened her arms to sweep the couple into the conversation.

“Shannon, when I look at you across the room I think of your mother. Beautiful brides, both of you.” She hugged her granddaughter tightly. “So happy for you.”

Shannon smiled as she flicked moisture from her eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.”

Cam rested his hand on her lower back, then extended his hand toward his coach. “Thank you for joining us, Coach—at the last minute and on New Year’s Eve. Shannon, this is Coach Harper. Coach, my beautiful wife, Shannon.”

“Please, call me Bill. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Camden. I wish you only happy days.”

Shannon smiled as she grasped his hand warmly, captivated by the coach’s sparkling blue eyes. Forget George Clooney…he’s just beautiful. “So happy you could celebrate with us,” she said.

“There’s no place I’d rather spend welcoming the new year. Especially in the company of my new friend, Grace.”

She heard Cam chuckle and snuck a look at her Nanna. Blushing? She looks at Craig like a teen with a crush! “Have a wonderful evening…at least until the Martins turn out the lights.”

“Oh, I’ll collect Kayleigh soon and settle her in bed.”

Shannon shook her head with a laugh. “Cassie said she and the twins crashed not long ago. Caryn asked to allow Kayleigh to stay. She’ll call you if anything comes up.”

“Then I hope you’ll reconsider dinner, Gracie.” Bill said.

“If we don’t go too far from here.”

Shannon and Cam exchanged a smile. “Enjoy yourselves,” Cam said. “We’re saying our good-byes. We have plans to ring in the new year.”

“Yes, a honeymoon, brief as it is,” Gracie said.

“Just a sneak peek—we’ll have a proper honeymoon after the season,” Cam answered. “We’ll be here to see Captain Mackenna off and be sure my family heads back to Montreal and Paris.”

***

Amelie watched as her brother and new sister-in-law made their way around the room, thanking the guests for sharing their last-minute celebration. She planned to catch them before they left. She’d enjoyed meeting more of Cam’s teammates. Wonder how many will still be on the team by the end of the season? Cam’s always nervous before the trade deadline…probably more so this year. Amelie wasn’t worried—Cam’s stats confirmed her belief.

Amelie startled when a hand touched her should. She whipped her head to the side, meeting Chance Gagné’s deep mahogany eyes. It’d been months since she last saw him, and the crooked smirk on his face nearly caused her legs to buckle. That, plus the way the towering hunk of a dark-haired Greek god encroached her private space.

“T’es ben chix, mon chou.” The timbre of his voice raised goosebumps, even as Amelie smiled at the familiar Québécois slang telling her he thought she’s hot.

She flashed a smile as she pressed her hand against his chest. “I could say the same. I thought you were hurt?”

“Just a sprain. Another week, I’ll be up to speed.” He leaned against the wall as his eyes slowly inspected her head to toe. “If I’d known you were in Tampa…” His voice trailed off as he leaned to brush his lips against hers. “Have dinner with me?”

“Are you in a hurry? My parents are here—I should accompany them back to Cliff’s condo. We have an early flight to Montreal tomorrow.”

Chance shrugged. “I have no plans—just stopped by to congratulate the newlyweds. Meeting your parents…my pleasure. I can wait until they’re ready to leave.”

“The newlyweds are about to leave…shouldn’t be long.” Amelie smiled when she saw Cam and Shannon walking toward them. Shannon walked directly to Amelie and held the bouquet toward her.

“I’d toss it to you, but that seems like overkill.”

“I’m the only single woman here?” Amelie scoffed.

“Only one I know. Thank you for everything you did to pull our quickie wedding together.” Shannon hugged her and whispered, “Introduce me to your very handsome friend.”

Amelie laughed as Cam pulled Shannon against his side and made the introductions himself.

“Thanks for coming, man,” he continued. “Looks like you’ll be back on the ice soon.”

“Cleared to practice with the team.” Amelie saw Chance’s mouth quirk. “Non-contact, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Thought never crossed my mind.” Cam managed to keep a straight face, even as Shannon gently elbowed his side.

“You still planning to meet at the airport tomorrow?” Amelie asked.

“Actually, I’ve arranged for a car to pick you up, stop by the house, and Sean, Shannon and I will go on to the airport.”

“You know Kayleigh insists she’ll say goodbye to her ‘Paris Princess,’” Shannon said, her tone only half-teasing.

“Awe, I’m going to miss that petite sweetheart.” Amelie turned toward Chance. “Cutest four-year-old angel you’ll ever meet. She stole the show during the wedding.”

“You expected anything less?” Cam said as a knowing smile crossed his face.

“Kayleigh’s going to really miss you,” Shannon added. “Expect tears tomorrow. Between you and Sean leaving, I predict a meltdown of epic proportions.”

“I have a special surprise—princess to princess.” Amelie caught Chance’s smirk from the corner of her eye as well as his attempt to suppress a laugh. She shot him a warning look, then pulled him away from the group.

“Don’t start.”

“Start what, Princess of Paris?” Chance slipped his hand behind her neck and pulled her closer to sneak a kiss.

“Introduce me to your parents, so we can get our stolen evening together.”

***

©2021-2022, Robyn M. Ryan, All Rights Reserved

Thanks for reading Timely Assist and this special epilogue. You may have noticed three possible storylines in the epilogue: The romance between a Silver Fox Cup-winning coach and a Child of the Sixties who charts her own way through life? Or maybe what’s in store for the Martins when Dave’s younger sister, Kimberly moves to Tampa for grad school? Or perhaps the elusive Change Gagné and Amelie, the Paris Princess, after her return to Tampa following graduation?

Receive updates on current and future projects through my newsletter, Facebook Reader’s Group The Center Ice Lounge, BookBub, Instagram, or visit The Sin Bin, a fun FB Group where hockey romance fans connect with hockey romance authors. We’d love to see you anytime.

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Robyn M. Ryan • P.O. Box 466834 • Lawrenceville, GA 30042

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