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PEOPLE SAY YOU’RE SUPPOSED to be more modest for your second wedding.
I say who cares?
The conference room at the Heart’s Cove Hotel has been transformed into a winter wonderland. The centerpieces are delicate pine wreaths with fat, white candles in the center. The chairs are draped with gauzy material. White roses are dotted across the room in delicate arrangements.
Wearing a white silk robe and slippers, with my hair and makeup done, I give Fiona a nod. “It looks amazing.”
“Good,” she smiles. “I’ll tell the wedding planner you’re happy. Now go finish getting ready.”
I shuffle back down the corridor and run into Simone and Jen, who are pushing a trolley carrying the cake. It’s a three-tiered cake with naked sides that Jen toiled over all week. Fresh flowers are clumped artistically at various points, with gold leaf and other decorations accenting the tops of the tiers. It looks amazing, and it’s my favorite flavor: vanilla. I can see the specks of vanilla bean in the frosting and in the cake.
My mouth waters. “Wow,” I breathe.
“She did good,” Simone says with a nod.
“I’m hoping the buttercream holds up to the heat in here.” Jen frowns. “Maybe I can get Margaret to turn on the A.C. in the room.”
“I’ll go ask her,” Simone says, letting Jen push the trolley down the hall. She links her arm with mine and bumps me with her hip. “You’re looking fab,” she says. “Where’s the dress?”
“Upstairs,” I answer. Dorothy and Margaret rented Des and me one of the suites for a ridiculously low price. My dress is currently hanging in the closet in all its ivory glory.
“Mia!” Trina comes hurrying toward us, a broad smile on her face. “Come, come. Let’s get you dressed.” She grabs me from Simone’s arms, who waves at us and peels off to go find Margaret about the air conditioning. Trina guides me to the elevators and chatters excitedly about my hair and makeup.
“The stylist did an amazing job on your blowout,” Trina notes, looking at the soft, voluminous waves that are falling down my back. “It’s going to look great with the veil.”
“I hope so,” I smile.
We reach the room, and the rest of the gang is waiting inside, along with my sister Ria, my mother, Lottie, Dorothy, Agnes, and Maude. They all cheer when I enter, and I’m engulfed in a group hug, followed by individual hugs.
“You’ll ruin her hair!” Trina cries, batting them away from me. “You can hug her after the photos.”
I laugh, taking a seat at the vanity and letting the stylist smooth my hair out again. My mother hands me a glass of champagne, and I’m surprised to see tears in her eyes.
“Mom,” I chide softly. “Don’t cry.”
“My baby is finally getting married,” she says. “Of course I’m going to cry.”
“You didn’t cry when I married Colin,” I note with a wry twist of my lips.
She clicks her tongue. “Can you blame me? He doesn’t look at you the way Des does.”
My chest warms at the thought of my soon-to-be husband.
“There you go,” the hair stylist says, arranging the hair at my temple oh-so-carefully. “You can put the dress on now.”
A hush enters the room as I slip into the suite’s bedroom and put on the dress. Trina helps me with the zipper at the back, then steps back with her hands clasped at her breast. “Beautiful,” she says.
She opens the sliding pocket doors that lead to the suite’s living room, where the rest of my girlfriends and family are waiting.
My gown is floor length and trumpet-shaped. It has a form-fitting bodice with thin shoulder straps and delicate lace detailing all over. The train is scalloped and glamorous, and the back dips low to reveal half of my spine. I feel beautiful.
“Oh,” my sister says. “You look incredible.”
I touch the skirt, arranging it so it falls more prettily around me. “You don’t think it’s too much?”
“No such thing,” Trina answers.
My mother approaches with the veil. It’s the one her grandmother wore at her wedding, passed down to my mother and sister. I didn’t wear it when I married Colin, because we had a super simple ceremony and it didn’t seem appropriate.
It’s appropriate now.
The lace trim of the veil matches my dress, and my mother slides the veil’s comb into my hair. I turn to look at the mirror, and my bottom lip trembles. “Oh,” I say. “I’m getting married today.”
My mother kisses my cheek. “Congratulations, honey.”
DESMOND LOOKS AMAZING. He’s wearing a black tux with a white shirt, and the same bowtie he wore to our first date. A white rose is pinned to his lapel. His eyes are dark as they sweep up my body, his hands slowly falling to his sides.
Thunderstruck is the word I’d use to describe his expression. He stands utterly still as my father walks me down the aisle. My father pats the back of my hand and says quietly, “That man loves you, Mia.”
“I love him too, Dad.”
Bailey stands on the dais, beaming at me. She wanted to wear a tux just like Des, so she’s there with her hair in a high ponytail, pink lipstick on her lips, and a smart black tuxedo. She looks quintessentially like herself—and she looks amazing. I wink at her, and she winks back. We reach the end of the aisle, and my father turns me to face him. He’s crying, which is also something that didn’t happen the first time around, all those years ago. He squeezes my shoulders. “I don’t want to mess up your hair,” he whispers.
“Come here, Dad,” I laugh, and hug him tight.
He steps aside as I turn to face my fiancé, and everything else falls away.
We found each other despite fighting our feelings every step of the way, but that’s over now. There’s only the future to look forward to.
Bailey steps forward with the rings, smiling at the two of us.
And the moment we’re pronounced man and wife, Des doesn’t waste a second. He hooks an arm around my waist and kisses me as hard and as passionately as ever, then murmurs, “I love you, wife.”
“I love you, husband.” I smile against his lips, the cheers of our guests finally filtering through to my consciousness.
Then we pull away, lift our clasped hands, and lead our guests to the reception hall.
What follows is a party like no other. I dance in my husband’s arms, I laugh at my daughter’s antics, and I let my happiness buoy me to heights I didn’t know existed.
A year and a half ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. I had few friends, had no community, and was on the brink of disaster. Now, I have a husband, friends, a thriving business, and stability. I have a home—all because Des saw the real me hidden beneath the scaly, fire-breathing exterior.
LATER, WHEN MY FEET are sore from dancing and my cheeks ache from laughing, I slip my hand into my husband’s and let him take me away from the reception and up to our suite. It’s been tidied since the tornado of women getting ready hit it, and the staff sprinkled rose petals on the bed. A chilled bottle of champagne waits for us near the door—something I’m sure Des organized personally.
Kicking off my heels, I smile and accept a glass. “We did it,” I say.
“We did,” Des answers. “No going back now.”
Laughing, I sip my champagne, then decide there are more important things than bubbly drinks and set it aside. I wrap my arms around Des’s neck and pull him down for a kiss. “I love you,” I murmur. “Now take me to bed.”
“Yes ma’am,” he answers, then hauls me up over his shoulder and carries me to the rose-petal-covered bed.
I land on the soft mattress, bouncing twice, giggling like a madwoman. Des moves very slowly as he strips off his tuxedo jacket, undoes his cuffs, and loosens the bowtie. Mesmerized, I watch him, heat coiling in my core.
When his shirt is off and his belt has been slipped out of its loops, Des kneels on the bed, making it dip and shift beneath me. He slides my dress up, up, up, letting out a low groan.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” he says, lying down so his shoulders push my thighs apart. “So don’t you dare tell me to stop.”
Smiling, I wiggle on the pillows and make myself comfortable. “I won’t,” I promise hoarsely.
We don’t speak for a while after that, and it’s perfectly fine by me.