Saturday, August 9, 2014

Epilogue

 
EPILOGUE

Riley and Sean’s wedding

“. . . And I hope your new husband is aware that I have you on permanent retainer as my wardrobe consultant, as do half the men in this room! Seriously, raise your hand if Riley picked out your outfit for today!”

The room erupted in laughter as at least thirty hands flew up, including mine, Dane’s, and Sean’s. Riley threw his arm around his groom’s shoulders and tugged him closer, belting out, “No shit! How do you think we bankrolled this wedding?” to the great amusement of the guests.

My gaze drifted away from the two deliriously happy grooms, off Best Man Number One, coming to a very happy rest on the man leaning back in the chair next to mine. Fully engaged in Edward’s speech, Dane beamed with the joy we were all feeling for the happy couple.

I leaned into Dane’s shoulder and asked, “Nervous?”

He twisted in his seat, took in my concerned expression, and smiled. “Nope . . . though Edward is a bit of a tough act to follow.”

“That he is,” I answered, following Dane’s gaze to the head table, where Edward was wrapping up his toast.

“I want to offer you both one final bit of matrimonial advice, now that I’m an old married man.”

“Oh, puh-leeze! It’s been a year and a half; it only feels longer!”

God bless Bella. She was literally the only person on the planet with any hope of keeping Edward humble.

Edward lifted his champagne flute toward his wife, who was watching her husband with that unique mix of unabashed adoration and quasi-irritation he seemed to inspire. With an exaggerated wink, he said, “Thanks for that, babe. You’re making my point for me!”

“Pray tell, Edward, what is the point?” Riley asked, playing the ultimate straight man.

The room went dead still, and I found myself holding my breath. Please be at least mildly appropriate.

“I’m so glad you asked, Ri,” Edward said with a smirk. “Here it is: Being right is highly overrated.”

Laughter rippled through the crowd while Edward lifted his glass toward the newlyweds. “To the loving couple. May you have a long, happy life of neither of you being right together.”

“Hear, hear!”

Riley and Sean stood and pulled Edward into a three-man hug as Dane stretched his legs and cleared his throat.

“Go get ‘em, sweetheart,” I said, squeezing Dane’s hand as he gracefully rose from his chair. As I watched him go, I marveled—not for the first time—at the ease with which Dane now moved through the world. Head held high, shoulders squared, gaze alive and focused. Confident, articulate, happy.

A far cry from the man who’d sat across the table from me at Edward’s wedding.

As Edward and Dane traded places, they shared a mutual pat on the back—a “great job” from Dane and a “good luck, man” from Edward—halfway between our table and the mic stand. Edward and Dane, the best men and the beginning of a long-running joke about the bachelor party: So, a straight dom and a gay sub walk into a bar . . .

Though it wasn’t really a bachelor party, more of a “Jacks and Jill party,” thanks to Edward speaking so eloquently at the dinner-party-slash-planning-meeting he and Bella hosted one night back in April.

“How is it fair that I’d be the only one there without a date?”

“It’s a bachelor party, Edward! People don’t bring dates!”

“Oh, okay, Riley. You’re not bringing your fiancé? And Marcus and Dane haven’t been ‘dating’ for a year now? You know what? I’m being discriminated against because I’m not gay! And my wife is being discriminated against because she doesn’t have a penis!”

Bella had nearly dropped the bowl of steamed broccoli she was carrying to the table. “Mother Earth, please swallow me now.”

“I don’t know, Edward,” I’d chimed in when I finally stopped laughing. “Sounds like you’re worried you might be a little too tempted by all the manhood around you and finally give in.” I’d offered Bella a wink.

Edward had raised his fists to his hips, the look on his face priceless. “Seriously, old man? If I had half a mind to test drive a stick shift, I’d choose any of you four jokers over anything I could ever find in some damn club!”

Conversation ender. Jaw dropper. Laughter exploder. And that was the end of that. 

The two best men had hurtled themselves into the planning with gusto, engaging in lengthy texting sessions ending more often than not with Dane in a fit of giggles on the couch. If I’d question Dane, he’d share a snippet about a certain DJ “Ri” had to have, or something “Shawnee” was allergic to. I watched Dane’s friendship with Edward blossom right before my eyes, and my heart swelled for him. Goddamn, he was happy.

Dane plucked the microphone from its stand and slid the metal pole to the side like a dance partner he’d maybe pick up later. The grooms gave each other a matched set of this-oughta-be-good grins as they huddled closer together in their seats.

“Hey, everyone, I’m Dane—the other best man.”

The alcohol-loosened, predominantly gay crowd whistled and applauded. Stage Dane smiled back in all his in-my-element glory.

“Thanks for that, folks. I’ll be here all night.”

Holy shit, the guy was a comedian now, and the crowd was eating him up.

Though I’d offered myself as an audience more than once, Dane had insisted on keeping his toast under wraps. Hell, I don’t even know if he wrote the thing down before he memorized it. And now, there he was, about to rattle it off without a single note in his hands.

He’s got this, I told myself, wadding up my napkin under the table and fighting to keep intestinal distress at bay. With Dane on his second Broadway lead since Disaster closed, I’d built up somewhat of an immunity to stage fright, but this wasn’t scripted; the audience wasn’t muted in darkness, and these were our closest friends—not some random group of theatergoers we’d never see again. So, I’ll just go ahead and wring this napkin around my knuckles while he speaks, if you please.

“I only met Sean a couple years ago. It wasn’t . . . the best time for me.” Dane paused, let the hand with the microphone fall away from his mouth while he licked his lips. If he hadn’t been holding his champagne in the other hand, he would’ve stuffed it into his front pocket the way I’d seen him do a hundred times.

Sean’s gaze darted over at me, and that old, familiar panic knocked on my door—but only until Dane began speaking again.

“But that’s kind of Sean’s specialty.” Dane smiled at Sean, who gave him an encouraging nod. “So, Sean did what Sean does, and I could see right away, I was in the hands of a very special person.”

Fuck, I’m gonna need the napkin to blot my face soon.

“As I got better, I kind of assumed Sean and I would part ways, because . . .” Dane shrugged, “I wasn’t really his job anymore.”

And here come the tears.

“But then this strange thing happened.” Before continuing, he squinted and rubbed a thumb across his forehead. “He actually wanted to be my friend.”

Dane was watching me wipe my cheeks, so he didn’t get to see Riley tug Sean’s head to his lips and leave a sweet kiss in his hair, but I would tell him about that later.

“Coffees turned into lunches and texts and double dates,” he said, fixing his attention on me, “and that’s when I started to get to know Sean as half of ‘Riley and Sean,’ right about the time I was becoming half of ‘Marcus and Dane.’”

Dane and I might as well have been alone in the room. With one look from those deep brown eyes, I was a sappy mess. I’d learned by now that my breakdown would not bring about Dane’s; he was a pro—not that he was ever phony, but he could handle himself while he was on stage. I could let loose without the worry that I’d fuck it all up for him, which was fortunate, because I didn’t really have a choice here. I couldn’t exactly get up and go to the john in the middle of the guy’s toast.

“In anticipation of this day, I searched my heart for that perfect piece of relationship advice you might not hear from anyone else.” Dane turned to Sean, full-on twinkle in place. “Funny story, Sean. Every time I tried to be original, turns out I was regurgitating concepts you’d taught me not just in words, but by example.”

Sean smiled hard at that one, as well he should. An effective social worker, a great friend to Dane, and a giving, loyal partner to Riley, the man truly lived what he preached.

“So, my friend, you and that husband of yours are pretty awesome teachers, and I want to thank you both for that.” Dane turned to the two of them again and brought the hand holding the mic to his heart. For a second, I think everyone in the room fully expected to hear Dane’s heart beating through the sound system.

Sean repeated the gesture, capturing Riley’s hand and holding it, too, against his chest. Dane gave the moment its due before lifting the mic to his mouth and continuing.

But . . .” Dane smiled, and the audience tittered with appreciation for the promise of levity, “no offense to my great teachers, I didn’t learn jack shit about how to actually do love until I met Marcus.”

A bright spotlight switched on above me, no less scorching just because it happened to be imaginary. Every head in the room turned in my direction. I could hear it; I could feel it, the shifting of chairs, the redirection of phones and cameras, the we-can’t-miss-this-moment desperation closing in all around me.

Oh, Dane. You are in so much trouble now.

What are you gonna do, spank me? his give-me-your-worst grin answered me back.

“To be fair, I pretty much knew what to do—respect, trust, have faith, blah, blah, blah . . . I could’ve taught that class myself.”

Seriously, Dane? Blah blah blah?

He chuckled at the surprise that must have registered all over my face.

“Those things were easy for me—too easy, as you pointed out. The tricky part was learning to receive those things back, and that’s where you came in, Marcus.”

I was sprouting perspiration out of every pore, but no way was I going to be captured on video mopping my brow or wiping my sweaty palms, so I sat there and sweat in my Armani tux like a sumo wrestler in a Turkish bath.

Banking on our shorthand, I gave Dane what I prayed was a very clear tip of my chin back toward the grooms. This is their day, remember?

Mmhmm, yeah . . . not just yet, his tiny head shake answered.

Two can play this game. I dropped my gaze to the floor, away from Dane, though it was physically painful. I’ll make it up to him later, when we’re out of the public eye.

But Dane wasn’t buying it.

“If you’ll all excuse me for just one second,” he announced into the microphone, “I’ll be right back.”

Hushed whispers followed him back to our table. His shiny black shoes appeared in front of mine. He waited for me to look up. I didn’t. We were playing chicken in front of eighty people, and Dane knew better.

A large drop of sweat rolled into my collar and snaked its way down my back. My bowtie grew tight against the boulder forming in my throat. No amount of Tums could begin to address the artillery fire in my belly. Fight or flight, my body insisted. Make up your damn mind already!

Dane dropped to one knee and put his hands on my sweat-soaked thighs. “Marcus?” he whispered.

There was no microphone, no champagne, no wedding. There was only this beautiful man gazing up at me with his wet, go-for-broke eyes.

“What are you doing, Dane? Did you have too much to drink?”

He chuffed, giving his head a gentle shake. “No. I’m stone cold sober. You?”

“I’m not nearly drunk enough.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, but his whole being screamed that he wasn’t. “Maybe I better just hurry up and get this out.”

I reached down and cupped his cheek. “Yes, sweetheart. You have a toast to make.”

“Right.” Dane chuckled again, reaching one hand into his pocket. “But first . . .”

It was a very fucking good thing I was sitting down when his hand came back out, because that was no hankie he was reaching for. For once, there was a quake in his hand as Dane opened his palm and presented me with a ring.

A collective gasp went up in the room. They couldn’t hear us, but this was a crowd that recognized a proposal when they saw one.

“Dane, what the hell is that?”

“Oh god!” His fingers curled up around the ring like a cheap party blower sucked back to the mother ship. “Shit, I can’t believe I did it again. Sorry . . . shit, sorry.” He pulled his fist toward the pocket again, his happy grin vanished.

“Whoa!” I grabbed his arm before it reached its destination. “Hang on.”

We froze in midair together, with questions neither asked nor answered. The air around us was dead silent. His eyes bore into mine, disappointment crowding out his need.

And what must mine reflect back? I wondered.

Shock!

But why? Had I not dreamed of spending my life with Dane; did I not believe he would offer his life to me? Preposterous on both counts. We’d talked about this at length after his parents’ last visit and not-so-subtle bestowing of matrimonial blessings.

Dane’s mother had tightened the knot of his brand new brown belt, saying how proud they’d been and how they couldn’t wait to come back for his black belt test. She’d wet his cheeks with her teary eyes, telling him again how grateful she was that they’d all reconnected and how they loved to watch him on stage. She’d kissed my cheek and whispered, “Take care of our boy,” and his father had squeezed my hand and called me ‘son’ though the age difference was laughable.

We were going to do this. But why on earth would Dane usurp Riley and Sean’s moment? It was so selfish, so completely un-Danely, there had to be something I was missing here.

“Shouldn’t we be doing this some other time?” It wasn’t eloquent but it was the best I could do with the adrenaline coursing through me.

Hearing my non-rejection, Dane allowed himself a thin smile. “Apparently.”

Gentle, Marcus. “It’s just . . . Dane, this is somebody’s wedding.”

“Brilliant!” We both gawped up at the intrusion, still caught in this strange petrified half-proposal. What I didn’t expect to see was Riley’s full-on grin. “I think this might be my fault,” he confessed.

“No,” Sean answered as he stepped up behind Dane’s back. “I’ll take the blame.”

“What the—” Okay, I am officially confused.

“Seriously, guys. It was a team effort. Stop trying to take all the damn credit.” Edward’s firm chest pressed up against my back, and Bella completed the tight circle around us.

“Et tu, Bella?” I asked.

She answered me with a soft sigh. “It seemed like such a good idea at the time.”

“Time? What time?” I could hear the curmudgeon in my voice, but the occasion seemed to call for a bit of grump.

“Marcus,” Dane cut through, calm and reasonable, shaking his arm free of my grip and opening his hand again. “Would you please marry me?”



“That was some stunt you pulled today, boy.”

Dane turned our joined hands so the engraving was on top. Etched into the brushed silver band were the latitude and longitude of the exact place we met—the ballroom of the Four Seasons—and inside was the date, a little detail that Edward found enormously amusing. Yes, Dane had fixed it so I’d never forget the Cullens’ anniversary for the rest of my life.
 
“Hey, all I had in mind was a simple proposal. You’re the one who turned it into a three-ring circus!”

“Tell that to your sore bottom, Dane.”

And there’s the blush. “I guess you had the last word, Master.”

“Mmm, don’t I always, boy?”

With the twinkliest twinkle I’d seen yet, Dane fingered the band, batted those insane eyelashes at me, and answered, “Sure . . . except it’s my turn tonight.”

“Ha! Don’t you think you’ve said enough today?”

A flash of indignation drew him up beside me against the headboard. “Really? You’re stealing my turn? Just because I proposed?”

“What do you think, Dane?”

He slumped down into the crook of my arm and nestled in. “I think you’re a man of honor who would never cut in line.”

“Correct.” I passed the book to Dane, brushing my fingertips along the frayed edges of the spine. “You know, this thing is starting to look a little ratty. Might be time for a visit to Marie.”

“Pshhh, does she even work anymore? They’re in the Hamptons like Thursday through Tuesday now.”

I had to laugh. “Randy’s idea of the weekend never quite meshed with the rest of the world, but they seem deliriously happy.”

“That was a good thing you did, Marcus.”

“I have to admit, it’s really nice having my brother up north again. And he’s a lot nicer now.”

“He’s happy,” Dane observed. “That’ll do it.”

“I know plenty of happy people who are complete assholes.”

“True.” Dane chuckled as he fanned the pages with his thumb.

“Looking for something in particular?”

“Mayyyy-be,” he answered, his grin and the song in his voice giving him away.

“Is this your post-proposal poem?”

“Mayyyyy-be.”

“I can’t wait to hear this.” Closing my eyes, I sank into the pillow and let the pleasant vibe settle all around me.

“Hey!”

“Hey what?” I pried one eye open to find Dane lying on his side, head propped up in his hand.

“It just occurred to me you might have had your own proposal in the works.”

Oh, Dane, I’ve been waiting all night for this.

Finally, a game I was going to win—and by “win,” I meant I was going to spill my guts all over the floor. “I guess you’ll never know now.”

“Wow. You’re really playing hard to get tonight.”

I cracked up at his pout. “Yeah, you picked a pretty bad night to propose. You’re lucky I said yes.”

His response was a massive eye roll and a frustrated flop onto his back. “Fine. Don’t tell me.”

I rolled on top of him, knocking the book away and pinning his hands over his head. “Are you using reverse psychology on me?”

“Mayyyy-be.” Sly grin.

“Did it occur to you that I was protecting you by not telling you?”

Squinching his eyes, he asked, “Protecting me how?”

“Once I tell you, you’re going to be really mad at yourself for beating me to the punch!”

Dane’s face scrolled through a most amusing cycle of expressions, starting with anger and settling, finally, on undisguised curiosity. “I’ll risk it.”

I laughed and swallowed up that perfect need with a long, slow kiss. “You sure?”

“Goddammit, Marcus. This is worse torture than the spanking!”

Poor Dane.

“Okay, here goes. I was working up to a . . . performance piece, shall we say?”

“What? What kind of performance?”

“Umm . . .” Yeah, now that we were actually talking about it, I was having a healthy dose of what-the-fuck-was-I-thinking. “So . . . you remember Matt . . . ?”

“Matt, my stage manager from Disaster?”

“Mmhmm, that’s the one.”

Dane’s head cocked to one side, no small feat with me on top of him. “What about him?”

“He hooked me up.”

“To what?”

“Not to, Dane, with. Haven’t you ever heard that expression?”

“Oh my god, you know what?” Dane’s ankle hitched around my waist and before I could say, “Urban Dictionary is not my friend,” Dane had me on my back under his hot, frustrated glare. “Talk!”

Out of breath and outmaneuvered, I fired the only weapon at my disposal. “Sheesh, a guy puts a ring on your finger, and all of a sudden, he thinks he can boss you all around.”

Dane lost it first, crumbling into a fit of laughter so hard he couldn’t even stay on top of me. When I finally got control of myself, I told him everything in choppy little chunks, because that’s all I could get out and still hold onto my dom card. 

“Matt put me in touch with the choreographer.”

“Felix?”

“Yep.”

Dane bit back a smile. “Okay?”

“So, I’ve been working with Felix.”

“Working with him? As in, dancing?”

“Mmhmm.”

Dane flipped on top of me again, folding his arms over my chest and setting his chin between his arms, inches from my face, leaving me nowhere to hide. “Okaaaay?”

“So—we were putting together a little routine, I guess you’d call it, to this Sinatra song, ‘You Make Me Feel So Young.’ Know it?”

“Of course I know it. I’m a huge Sinatra fan! That’s fantastic!”

“It was going to be.”

The smile disappeared from Dane’s face. “You’re not going to show me?”

“Told ya.”

We stared each other down while relief and disappointment had a boxing match in my gut. I’d just celebrated memorizing the last bit of the routine last week, and Felix had promised to start ‘loosening me up,’ as he called it. I was just hoping to get to the point where I didn’t feel like an elephant walking across a toothpick bridge, and now I’d never know if I could’ve actually done it.

“Give me back my ring,” Dane demanded, holding his hand out exactly as he’d proffered the ring earlier.

“No way.”

“I take it back,” he whined. “I want a do-over.”

“I don’t.” I wrapped my hand around the back of his beautiful head, teasing my fingers through his hair. “What you did was perfect. Crazy, shocking, and really fucking dangerous, but perfect. I wouldn’t have you take it back for anything.”

“I want my dance. I have to see this dance. And how did you keep this a secret from me?”

Me? Boy, you had an entire wedding party in on your little conspiracy! You are one to talk about secrets!”

He rested his cheek against my chest, allowing me to soothe him as I’d done now for a year and a half, as I’d now be doing for the rest of our life together. At least, I thought I was soothing him until he revealed the devious plan he’d obviously been hatching while lying there so innocently.

“I have a birthday coming up in five weeks. Is that enough time?” He dragged his head back up and fixed his determined gaze on me. I didn’t stand a chance.

Truth be told, I didn’t want one.

“God help me, but sure.”

Graceful as ever, Dane climbed down my body like a delicate, flowering vine wrapping itself around a very grateful fence and thanked me five weeks in advance for his birthday present.

He wouldn’t let me return the favor until he’d read to me, so we settled into our favorite position—Dane cuddled against my chest, legs tangled under the sheets, my fingers in his hair—while his beautiful baritone voice filled my ears with Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 



Sigh.

Before I take one more breath, I need to thank my amazing Team RM for helping me shape and mold this story in so many loving ways, too many to mention but of course, being the wordy bitch, I'll try.

Meredith, early on, for loving Marcus so gosh darn much and pointing out where the story could go. I have no idea how this final product would match up with those questions you had or those predictions you made, but I do know you were a beacon on a deep, wide ocean, and you pointed me toward home. And then you came and visited me and now you're kind of stuck with me forever.


Jean, or as we lovingly refer to you, Postapocalypticdepository or PAD, you are a thoughtful, beautiful, lyrical writer who never fails to give me a new perspective on my own characters. You're always three giant steps ahead of me with your creativity and courage! No matter how much you have going on (and it's more than anyone else I know) you seem to make the space for everyone else's needs, including mine. I have learned so much from you as a writer and a friend, and I don't expect that to end any time soon, especially since you're a short-ish car drive away! 


Jayme, I guess the best way to sum it up is this: your green light is always on. I can't remember an idea you didn't encourage. You humored my mood shifts and nursed me through doubts, never wavering from your belief in me or in this love story. You were my researcher extraordinaire, whether it was jewelry or gifts or *toys* or OMG Broadway shows! Yeah, we did that. How amazing that this story brought us together to see Disaster in its last week off Broadway? You are a crazy, wonderful goofball with the biggest heart and shakiest pom poms ever! Your live, online reviews of each chapter as I wrote the story were something I became addicted to. You're probably good and stuck with me, too, bb. MWAH!

And Sue, sweet, sweet Sue, my editor-plus-plus-plus. I think I may have ruined you for the actual English language, and may I just say how much I love you for letting me do that? A point of grammar is a mere conversation starter for you, and there's never been a debate you wouldn't cheerfully engage in (including ending with a preposition!). You steer me toward poets and consult with me about climaxes and anti-climaxes and a whole host of other writing plagues that feel overwhelming until you tackle them with me.

But more than all this, you are a rare gift who miraculously landed in my lap. I feel we would've met somewhere else if not for this...or maybe we already have...dare I say in the Promised Land? 

I don't know what's next for me in this world; the only thing I've learned about my writing so far is when characters shout, I have to listen. I'm pretty sure this OUAD saga/my kinkiverse is complete now. I'd love to take you all with me in my pocket. You are a lovely, kind, supportive group. You can find me here, on Facebook, or fanfic...keep in touch? MWAH!


42 comments:

  1. I'm trying really hard not to but I'm losing this fight. I'm teary eyed.
    I don't want to say goodbye to you, to Marcus and Dane, to Edward and Bella and this ...kinkyverse of yours.
    Only you BOH cld attract me and kept me on my toes in a genre so out of my league.
    It took me a few years to read OUAD and our mutual friend S is my witness, I didn't feel comfy in the beginning but then ... I challenged myself and by the time Marcus reappeared, I was bold enough to read and ... enjoy. Less the particularities *cough* of it and more of the emotions, the feelings, the poetry swirling around your words.
    The way you hear your characters' voices and follow them through their life altering moments - all of them but mainly Edward and Marcus - and how these voices reach us - it was truly a stunning and moving experience that transcended the pages and made them all the more real to me.
    I'm the old one here and yet there was so much you taught me! You surely made me richer and wiser.
    Once again, thank you Mistress of Words, I do expect to see you again. I wish. I hope. *bow in respect*

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    1. Awww, you are so, so sweet, Muse. I love that you opened your mind to this experience and that you ENJOYED it! Thank you for all the poetically beautiful reviews you left me along the way and your unwavering support for my writing, despite the occasional difficulty of the subject matter. I always love hearing your thoughts and insights, and you give a compliment like no other! Thank you for all of that.
      xo

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  2. That Edward is a bit of a tough act to follow comment from Dane made me chuckle. I stopped reading for the bad dom punishment part, but I had to return for the epilogue to see how it all worked out. It feels good to see a HEA for the entire KEA group.

    I'm sorry to hear you are done with these characters. It's been a great ride. Thank you!

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    1. Awww, Donna, don't you worry about the "bad dom punishment"- Marcus and Dane made sure to handle things above board. I think you'd be okay. BUT I really appreciate that even though that part was difficult for you, it didn't stop you from coming back to the story. Thank you so much for being here for the saga.
      XOXOX

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  3. Oh my dear, sweet Born. Thank you for sharing one of the most humorous, beautiful, surprising and thoroughly enjoyable endings I've ever read.

    Where do I begin? Ah, Edward's speech. As ever, he cracked me up, his charm and wit knowing no bounds. But Bella took the cake with her comment. Loved it!
    And Sean - what a wonderful man he was to Dane. He's the kind of guy that anyone would love to have in their corner. A man who cares deeply about those he involves in his life. I'm so glad he and Riley were there for their friend, loving and supporting him through good times and bad.

    How wonderful that Marie found her happiness with Randy. It's good to know that Marcus has family close by he can rely on.

    And of course, the lovely, ever-twinkly Dane. What can I say about a young man who had endured so much, and yet, had the strength to not only overcome so many obstacles, but flourish and exude a confidence that was not only apparent on stage, but in every aspect of his life. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the heartache, the victories and the way he blossomed into the man he was always meant to become.
    And last, but not least, Marcus. You know how much I adore this man...and with every thought and feeling he expressed, he built Dane up until he stood like the strongest of towers that had not lost a single brick after the most heaviest of tempests. I love Marcus's masterful ways in the dungeon, of course I do, but his other aspects are just as, if not more appealing. The way he exudes a calm confidence, no matter what's going on inside that head of his. The manner in which he holds his lifestyle and those who participate in it with such high regard, it melts my heart. The fact he loves so unconditionally, giving every single part of him to the one man who he truly cares for. All of this, every single part of him, makes him such a wonderful master, lover and friend.

    Love knows no bounds, and with this story, it shines like a beacon. I simply adored every single word you shared, my dear friend.

    I will leave you with two last words. Thank you. <3

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    1. I can't really say how much it means to me that you were here enthusiastically for every single chapter of this one, Lisa. Your opinion means a whole lot to me, as does your friendship. I really love how you summarized each character's high points here...could not have said it any better myself. Thank YOU for being a great pom-pom shaker and for sharing your insights and encouragement every step of the way. <3

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  4. Somehow the epilogue was even better when I read it here. I don't know how that's possible, but it's true. You know how much I love these two and their story so I won't bore you with those details.

    I'd rather thank you, Born, for taking me along on this wonderful ride. I enjoyed every word you wrote of this beautiful love story, but what I loved even more were our discussions while you wrote each chapter. It was amazing to watch this tale come together and to see how your brilliant mind works. (It's a scary place sometimes. Haha) Our spur of the moment trip to NYC to see DISASTER was something I'll never forget and I can attest to the fact that you are just as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.

    I'm going to miss these to and I hope you'll count me in on whatever your next creative adventure will be.

    xoxoxo

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    1. As my nephew said to his French fries, "You've ADDICTED me!" So yeah, I think you're stuck with me for a while, Jayme! I did delete a few lines when I published this chapter...maybe that improved it? ;) MWAH! XOXOXO

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  5. That was just beautiful. I apologize again for not reviewing every single chapter, but know that I adored every word. You beautifully captured the highs an lows of their growth from a Dom and an extremely damaged sub to Marcus and Dane. Their HEA right there waiting for them to grab it. The last few chapters have been so much fun with all the visits from other people near and dear to my heart: Riley (definitely!), Sean, and of course Edward and Bella.

    I will be so sad to not get these updates anymore, but I'll always hope that someone from this group will speak to you and you will have to pass on another bit of the story to us. Not 'goodbye,' but 'until we meet again.'

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    1. NO APOLOGIES, Miss Gumi! LOVED hearing from you when you were moved to review. Ahh, yes, that HEA hovering just out of reach for both of them until they miraculously came together and found it there.

      It has been interesting weaving these other characters into their story, a great way for me to be able to hold onto my old friends. Sigh. Awww, how sweet of you to hope for that. Who knows? I never say never anymore. :)
      Thank you for all your support the whole way through.
      xxx

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  6. Born, my dear, sweet, very first friend in Twilightland, congratulations!

    I am so honored and humbled by your thanks and praise, but it is I who should be thanking you for not only welcoming me into your patch during LRR, but also nurturing and encouraging me along the way when I decided to detach from my vine, rolling off, seeking my own adventures. You even branded me with my PAD moniker, and the kind and merciful mistress you are, it didn't even hurt.

    Along the way, I had met some wonderful characters but frequently felt compelled to stop back in to revisit yours. I could never stray too far away from the Borneffect, which leads me to why I'm here.

    I'd like to think a drunken KEA post I left-nearly two years ago--regarding my concern for Marcus's happiness--in some way helped to further encourage this MEA. (Masterfully Ever After) I couldn't help but sympathize for the man.

    As with Dr. Frankenstein's loving touch, you awoke the tired old soul and brought him back to life, infusing youth back into his withered bones along the way. There are no angry villagers, wielding their fiery torches here. I believe everyone's found their resolution. There's certainly nothing rotten in Denmark. I'm sure your Dane would agree.

    I am so grateful you chose to include me in, this, your dynamic team. I feel as if I'm part of a different Wayne's World moment, with thankfully, a different, much nicer Wayne. (I am still not worthy.)

    Until you bring us along on your next great adventure, adieu, my wonderful friend and mentor. I loved every minute even though I cringed during a few.

    Muah!

    Postapocalypticdepository
    PAD
    Jean

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    1. I'm sure a LOT of what you said to me (drunken or not) made a lasting impression, pebbles tossed into ponds and all those ripples... You are too funny with your Shakespeare and Frankenstein and MTV references!! You're a whole multicultural experience in one review. I could not have asked for a more loyal pre-reader or clever seer of opportunities. Sadly, I could never have followed up on all your leads, but I'm sure somewhere down the road, I'll be writing something not realizing you inspired it. You're just that kind of person.

      LOL on your cringing right after saying you'll come along for the next ride. You may be my most masochistic friend of all. Love you, you sweet PAD!
      XOXOXO

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  7. and so there it is! the HEA we all knew was coming. This reader couldn't have asked for a better ending to this lovely tale, trio of tales if you count all of them, and I do. So what more can I say to add to what others have written here? I think I have been lost in my feelings all during the time I have been reading your lovely tales. I know I have. Lost, then found. Thank you for everything you've given us. These characters have come to be my friends, through whom I live vicariously, and to say I have enjoyed ever word would be putting it mildly. From Edward and Bella, to Marcus and Dane, this seems like a complete journey. I mourn it's loss and celebrate it's existence.

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    1. Oh, Judy. You are so lovely. Thank you for giving your heart to this story and your beautiful compliments to me. It's been a pleasure knowing the story would be received so lovingly. Thank you so much for that.
      Until next time, sweet Judy Blue.
      xo

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  8. I love having landed in your lap, B. It’s a cozy, warm, safe place where I feel more of who I am than at any other time. Thank you for the opportunities to discuss, debate, share, laugh, commiserate, and oh, so much more! Your words never fail to move me, and you have that rare gift of using the language in such a unique way as to touch the hearts of your readers. Of course, you have touched my heart as well.

    I, too, would like to think we would have met elsewhere, regardless. I do believe in soul mates, but I don’t believe in coincidences. (Remember, a coincidence is just God’s way of acting anonymously.) We simply recognized each other in an instant, and I count you among my life’s blessings. Love you, B. Mwah!

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    1. I love that last bit- we recognized each other. You might even say my disembodied heart leapt into your ribcage. Bahahaha (no you wouldn't). Don't you worry, Chaya, I will always give you plenty of opportunities to improve my writing! MWAH! xoxoxo

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  9. *happy sighs*

    This was a perfect ending for a lovely story (that was a sequel to a lovely story!). I LOVE epilogues, and this one can easily join the club of great ones. I guess I just love to see my favorite characters get closure, in whatever way they need, so I am thrilled to see Marcus completely re-mastered, Dane doing soo fantastic, Riley and Sean married, Edward and Bella living their happily ever after, etc. Soo good

    I really love that Dane was the one to propose. I was perhaps as shocked as Marcus that he would do it during his toast at a wedding, but I guess when you've got both the grooms on your side, who cares!?!

    I think that perhaps, my grin was just as twinkly as Dane's usually is at the “Tell that to your sore bottom, Dane.” and then the blush. Those little moments that just hint at the bigger moments (or at least the kinkier moments ;) ) make me grin like a lovestruck teenager reading a note from their crush.

    I could continue to pick out the little moments and phrases that make me smirk and blush, but you know how I feel about your words, your boys, etc. I don't think I can really type it all out without losing it though, so let's just say that it's safe to say, you're gonna be stuck with me for a looong time!

    Thank you for this beautiful tale, Born. I can't wait to see where you go next! MWAH!

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    1. Honestly, I had no idea Dane would do that, and certainly not THERE! But it just happened while I was writing, and I watched, dumbfounded, jaw dropped and everything. You can ask Jayme- she witnessed the whole thing! Even AFTER that happened, I thought it might have been a surprise to everyone but Sean. How Edward gave Marcus a ribbing after that! But Dane never would've been so brash without Riley on board, and then it blossomed from there. Plus, I loved the idea that Edward knew, in that little brush of a shoulder they shared, what Dane was about to do. I'm going to miss the way they surprised me over and over again.

      I really love that you let those little moments I wrote inspire something bigger in you. That's perfection for me as a storyteller, because I truly couldn't tell you the whole thing, nor would it be fair to rob you of your own experience. So please, enjoy whatever version you see and feel free to manifest your own characters and let them speak to you. Tell me if you come up with anything too good not to share!

      So happy to be stuck with you, Digi. MWAH! You're an awesome cheerleader and a wonderful, thoughtful reader. I'm truly privileged you found my stories and stuck with me.
      xo

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  10. Beautiful! Most sequels don't add much to the original storyline, or feel forced,, but these characters, these men, they are what made it this story beautifully addictive.

    I will miss them as much as I did Edward & Bella...that's because you wrote this story from your heart and your passion became my joy.

    Thank you, little pumpkin! I can't wait to see what you come up with next. =)

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    1. Thanks for your sweet note. Goodness, if this 200k-word story hadn't added anything to the original, I'd be a sad sack about now!! I love that they addicted you- I certainly felt the same way as they invaded my mind showing me this or that (and this AND that!). I will miss visiting them and telling their story, but it was pure joy to do it. Thank YOU for your support.
      xo

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  11. Ah, the perfect ending and HEA for a most special couple. I was so hoping that they were going to head for the altar...you did not disappoint, b!
    I loved how all the special people in Marcus and Dane's lives rallied around Dane to support him in his surprise proposal. And how Marcus was able to acknowledge their love and accept, despite those pesky nerves! Lol I was wearing a goofy, sentimental grin the whole time.
    I am in awe of both of your boys...Dane, in how he has grown so into a confident, happy individual who feels worthy of Marcus' love and respect, and of Marcus, as he has learned to open his life and heart to Dane and realize it's okay to relinquish control now and then...it can still be fun!
    Thanks so much for sharing the boys with us, b. OUaD has now come full circle and all our friends have their HEAs. Feels so good.
    Olive juice!
    Ellie
    xo

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    1. I guess some of us are still a sucker for the wedding proposal as HEA...what can I say? Marcus is an old-fashioned guy! Or wait, was that Dane? *winkety wink wink* So pleased you enjoyed this final chapter in the KEA world. Thanks so much for being here to share it!
      xo

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  12. *snot sobs* It's over. This has been a very unique and wonderful journey. You've made me love slash! I never thought it would happen, but yea, it did. There are no words for how amazing this couple and their story is. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    -C

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    1. Oh, Cristina, I love hearing that! Thank you for those sweet words and please know, there is SO much more slash where this came from! Let me know if you need some good recs! *WINK*
      xoxo

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  13. I'm almost lost for words, I wasn't expecting that from Dane, not at that moment anyway but like other major developments in this story it was perfect for them. They have always set their own path and the epilogue was no different. How I would love to have read the chapter with Marcus' dance routine in it but I can imagine it instead and what it may have lacked in confidence and fluidity would have been compensated by the effort and determination of Marcus to do it well. Marcus surely was remastered and not at all scary as I thought he would be.

    Thank you so much for taking me out of my comfort zone in terms of both BDSM and gay romance, I have enjoyed every moment even the worrying ones, if every Master in every Dom/sub story was as kind and controlled and open as Marcus, I would read more of them but I doubt any would compare to this story.

    Thank you again Born, I have loved it so much.

    Jarvis
    xx

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    1. You envisioned Marcus's dance scene perfectly. He would have known he wasn't up to Dane's level no matter how much practice he put into it, but whenever I pictured that scene, I saw Dane beaming!

      AWWW! You've been a constant throughout this story, and I have loved hearing your thoughts and your voice. Thank you so much for all the lovely, lovely comments you've left, including this one. I hope you won't be a stranger! Find me somewhere?
      xo

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  14. I confess I have been saving this to read when no one would interrupt. Worth the wait! I loved that you started and ended with Sean's and Riley's wedding.All that wonderful story in-between. They are so emotionally connected and yet so light and joyful. The humor between them is wonderful. You make me feel all these little moments that we don't see in the story I can picture them doing laundry, choosing a movie, giving each other crap over music choices... They are so well written.

    Perfect that Dane now has such a support system to have a group to plan this proposal with and that Marcus would ask for help with performance number. It speaks well to the growth and change these two men have made.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I look forward to the next one.

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    1. Austen, I really love that you picture scenes I haven't written (and honestly, it hadn't occurred to me that they would do laundry but now that you mention it...SURE, I can totally see it!). That's a gift you've given me- that you as a reader would fill in those gaps because you know and love the characters now and you feel like you can carry the story for yourself. I hope you'll continue to enjoy them for a long time to come. I agree about the growth on both their parts. That's usually the theme for my stories, and obviously this one was largely about Marcus's growth, which we could best see through Dane's. Thank you so much for all your love and support for this story and so many others.
      xoxoxo
      b

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  15. Oh Born, another story ends that I don't want to let go of. It takes an amazing talent to create characters that people feel like they are our friends. That they want to keep in their lives as long as possible. I enjoyed this so very much. Have been rereading KEA lately because reading about Marcus and Dane made me miss Edward and Bella too. Thanks for bringing the entertainment my dear. Thanks also for being such a warm and friendly author who shares so much of herself.
    Vicki xoxo

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    1. Please keep these characters with you as long as you can, Vicki! I've loved walking through this story with you, loyal to every chapter, I think! Your support and encouragement mean the world to me. Thank you!
      xoxo

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  16. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!
    DANE!!! ahhhhhhhh!!! DANE!
    I love him sooo soooo much! And Marcus *sighs* this man is amazing beyond belief.
    Thank you for giving us such an extrodinary ride with these two men.
    Your words and characters are amazing, emotional, and heart loving, Born.
    I don't want them to be over!!!!! ����
    (I had to say it one more time ��)
    But all great stories have to come to end. *whispers* maybe there will be an outtake or two or three, sometime. Hahahaaaa!
    Xoxoxoxoxo
    ❤️❤️❤️

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    1. Pate, it was all the more amazing with you along or each chapter.
      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments throughout.
      xo

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  17. I don't want to let these guys go. In fact I wont. While the story is done these guys are staying with me forever!

    I love that I got a chance to delve into that head of yours and see just how it ticks. The fact that I was in any small way a part of this story is of great pride to me. This story is just so amazing and it was a pleasure to take the journey with you - even when I fell behind!

    I'm thrilled that Marcus has brought us closer together - cause you're stuck with me now too lady!! <3

    And holy amazing proposals batman. So stinking cute!!!

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    1. Meredith, I really hope the characters will stay with you for a bit. Enjoy them, would you?
      Thanks for being a part of it and crawling around in my head! SCARY huh?
      It has been great getting to know you through my characters and sheep and YT and....the list goes on and will continue to expand. MWAH!
      xoxo

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  18. I'm not great at remembering to review every chapter, especially when a story/series grips me as much as yours has, but I just wanted to let you know now that I've flown through your trilogy this last week and loved every minute of it.

    I really enjoyed the fairy tale feel of 'Once Upon a Desire' and the short sections were a nice touch although I must say I was glad for the lengthier chapters of 'Kinkily Ever After' so we could really see how Bella and Edward grew and developed together.
    I wasn't sure whether to read 'Remastering Marcus' because I've never been interested in reading slash but I liked what I saw of Marcus in KEA (including Edward's flashbacks!) so decided to give it a go and am so glad I did. Marcus and Dane were just so lovely together that I almost cried at the end.

    I'd love it if you just kept writing more stories with these characters but even if you don't at least I'll be able to come back to these ones.

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    1. Well, mysterious new reader, I want to thank you for brightening my day with this surprise of a review on the whole kinkiverse series. What a great treat for me to know that someone still finds this lot of words and feels they're worth trudging through. I can't tell you how much it pleases me to know that you tried "slash" because of these characters. I hope that will open up a whole new world for you, as it did for me. Because after all, love is love is love. Thank you for the gift of your review.
      xoxo

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  19. So I did it Born. I finally fucking did it. And man if I'm not laying in bed here crying my eyes out. I knew that giving these two closure would be emotional, which is why I prolonged it for so long, but I didn't expect an intensity such as this. The entire story was so well done, and it was so very easy to pinpoint the energy and time and effortless talent and devotion you put into building a relationship between two lost souls searching for their place in the world with each other. It turned out so beautifully in the end. And idk man... I can't believe that a drunk convo at the top of the W Hotel brought me to a stunning friendship with you, as well as a mention of this story and a promise that I would read it. I'm not one for non canon pairings but my intrigue shot through the roof during that convo and this was def something I had to pursue.

    And I'm so glad I did. I love knowing that these two are part of my life now. They live in my heart of hearts and the deepest parts of my soul. And there's this thing you did, you rounded up their story so amazingly that although this may be the end of the road for us, clearly it's the beginning of a whole new level of their relationship for them. They have so muh happiness and love and joy ahead of them. They have a unique bond between them, great friends at their side, both their family's support and a long, sweet life together ahead of them. Sigh, although I'm very very sad that after this there will be no more of them to read, I can rest assured knowing that they will continue to live on in my hearts, happy and in love and at peace.

    I love the proposal at the wedding. A though I myself would've been sweating like Marcus at being put on that spot. Its not my kind of thing but when I think of the kind of person Dane started out as, this kind of thing would have never been a question. I love any opportunity to see Dane's progress as a man, a lover, his own person. His confidence and boldness to carry out this plan met me with awe. The boy we met in the earliest chapters would have never even thought of doing something of this magnitude.

    I loved the ring. Very symbolic. Their relationship isn't traditonal and I just love that they can continue to do meaningful things that keep them on their toes and keep what they have between them fresh and special. The bedtime reading routine is something they made their own and you made me really happy by ending off the story with that.

    And dear God Born, how dear you tease us with that dance number from Marcus like that? Good grief, I can imagine the anxiety that ate at Marcus at the thought of having to do that. Hahahahahahha... jesus christ I love them so so so fucking much. And I hate to part with them. I'm gonna need you to write another slash story for me. Because Born, I cannot quit you. Maybe consider writing some Riley and Sean for me, mmmkay?!

    Love you girl and great job with this! Thank you so much for giving life to these two and trust that the space they have occupied in my heart has become as much yours as theirs.

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    1. WELL, I'm pretty sure we discussed this "review" offline somewhere else, but I just want to say right here, on the record, this means so much to me. Every word. You put your heart and soul into READING this story the way I put mine into writing it, and you zigged and zagged with us through the ups and downs and imagining what might happen and dealing with all that did. This and every review you wrote are the most amazing gifts a writer can hope to receive. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your heart right out there. And guess what! Now we know there's more to read, so YAY! LOVE YOU, Packy!!
      XOXOXO

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  20. I don't have the gift of words so I'm going to get right to the point: I never said thank you for your gift of this story the first time I read it. So this time I will say my thanks. This was my first slash fic and so far, it's still my favorite. It was such a joy seeing scared Dane, with the help of others, blossom to the man he became and to see Marcus find love. Beautifully written Born.

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    1. This is such a sweet message. I really appreciate your writing this, Amy. Thank you so much. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story, and I love knowing it was your first.
      xoxo

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  21. Aaaaaaannnnnnd cut!
    That was an awesome ride, thank you so much for writing so heartfelt and brilliantly, for ticking off all my slash/BDSM boxes and keeping me on the edge of my seat.... I only wanted a head start and now I've kind of cut ahead of myself. Thanks for the poetry, as well as for the poetic justice.

    There was a mean asshole called Wayne
    Who was too fond of torture and pain
    But when his former boy
    Gave him the squeaky toy
    He squeezed the shit outta it, just sayin'...

    Yep, still my 2nd favorite BDSM fic ever. :)
    Good thing there's already an outtake to stave off the impending fic hangover.

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    1. That was...beyond words. *wipes tear* THANK YOU, BETTI BOOP! So happy you enjoyed the story and were moved enough to compose poetry on my behalf!! You're the B-E-S-T!! And now it's my turn!! XOXOXOX

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