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“I NOW PRONOUNCE you husband and wife.”
Those seven words send a jolt of happiness straight down my spine. Our guests erupt into applause, and Benji wraps his arm around my waist, dips me down, and kisses me like none of our closest family and friends are watching.
With a beaming smile on my face, I hook my arm into Benji’s and walk back down the aisle a married woman. We spill out onto the Black Estate, with a now established, beautiful garden born from my design.
“You look incredible,” Benji says in my ear, leading me down the three steps onto the lawn.
“Not bad yourself,” I say, patting the lapel of his tuxedo. Usually, Benji spends his time in dirty coveralls or a plain T-shirt and jeans. Seeing him dressed up with a fresh haircut and a glow in his eyes makes me want to sing.
We walk down the path toward the event tent that’s been set up for our wedding. It’s been over a year since I first arrived in Woodvale, but the place never ceases to fill me with wonder.
The sun shines down on us, and my whole heart is full of love. Nadia has set up garlands of fresh flowers all around the tent, draped on every available surface.
“Photo time,” Willow says, appearing by our side.
I let her lead Benji and me away from the tent and toward another corner of the estate. Sawyer, Lucy, Sarah, Oliver, their kids, and Benji’s father and stepmother follow behind, and our little procession of family streams around the estate. I take a peek at the people behind, smiling at all of them.
Every single one of these people are part of the family I’ve created for myself up here. My own parents refused to come, saying something about being disappointed in me.
It hurt, but Benji was there to hold me and remind me what’s important. The people who are here. The people who love me. The people who will support me and celebrate me, no matter what.
I lean my head on Benji’s shoulder, letting out a happy sigh. His arm tightens around mine, and his breath quickens.
I glance at my husband—is there anything better than calling him that?—and I don’t know whether to frown or grin.
“What are you up to?”
“Nothing,” he says, not quite hiding his smile.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Shh.” He shakes his head. “You’ll ruin the surprise.”
“A surprise?” I arch my eyebrows. “Ever since your sister’s party, I think you’re addicted to them.”
Benji doesn’t answer. He keeps that same roguish grin on his face, his eyes straight ahead. My gaze sweeps over his jaw and over to his full, kissable lips. His nose is straight and regal, and his eyes are ocean blue.
Still, he won’t meet my gaze. His lips tug, and excitement curls in the pit of my stomach.
We follow Willow down a path surrounded with well-trimmed topiary and arches dripping with vines. My heart thumps, and I don’t know whether to be nervous or excited.
Then, we round the last corner, and Willow looks at me with an expectant smile on her face.
Over her shoulder, parked in the place of honor at the front of the Black Estate, is a bright white Aston Martin with a big red bow on top. My eyes widen as I look at the car, dropping Benji’s arm.
I take a couple of steps forward, my breath catching. Eyes wide, jaw open, I recognize my first-ever car. The car I got for my sweet sixteen. The car I gave up so Lucy could pay the mortgage.
The car where Benji gave me an orgasm for the first time.
Benji laughs, his eyes shining. “You like it?”
“How…? What…? Where…?”
Willow giggles. “I think she likes it.”
“I wanted to get you a wedding present,” Benji explains. “Didn’t take much effort to track down the guy who bought it off you.”
He sweeps his hands over my hips and around to my back, pulling me close. His head dips down as he rests his forehead against mine, a soft smile tugging at his lips.
“I thought you might like having your old car back.” He drops his voice so only I can hear. “And maybe we can have an hour in the back seat for our wedding night.”
Hooking my arms around his neck, I kiss Benji as fiercely as I can. He picks me up, wrapping my big, white dress around him as he guides my legs around his waist. Holding me there, Benji crushes his lips to mine until Willow calls out.
“All right, all right, you guys! You’re not alone, remember?”
I laugh, pulling away from Benji’s kiss. He drops me to my feet, still not looking anywhere except my face. Cupping my cheeks and kissing me tenderly, he holds me close and ignores Willow’s protests.
“I love you, Rae.”
“And I love you, husband.”
Benji’s eyes twinkle. He gives me one last kiss, then breaks away and finally faces Willow. “I’m ready for photos now.”
“Finally,” she huffs, then laughs.
We take a thousand and one photos, with every combination of family member, and a few with the car in them, too. I smile until my cheeks hurt, and then it’s time to go see the rest of the guests at the reception.
Happiness is bubbling up within me from somewhere deep inside. As I gaze at Benji, I know it was the right decision to come to Woodvale. When I first arrived, I didn’t know if I’d even see my brother.
What I’ve gained is so much more.
My wedding day is the second best day of my life. As happy as it is, it still doesn’t top the moment Benji kissed me in the shadow of my parents’ old home. That moment—when my life took a turn for the better—will forever go down as the pinnacle of joy for me.
THERE’S ANOTHER DAY that ends up being better. A year later, Benji and I welcome a baby boy into the world. When my first child is placed on my chest, and I see the joy on Benji’s face, it takes the top spot in my mind.
Benji strokes my forehead and shakes his head.
“I have you. That helps.”
I watch the nurse swaddle our child and place him in Benji’s arms. My heart leaps, and I know this day is definitely better than any day before. Benji has tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. At that moment, Benji and I become a true family. I vow to take care of both my boys—Benji and baby Sawyer—until I take my last breath.
That’s what families do.