"Great wedding, Zack," Warren Beatty said, holding his wife's hand and juggling a plate of hors d'oeuvres in the other. "The food is fantastic. What is this stuff anyway?"
Zack looked at the plate. "Bar-be-qued ribs," he said dryly, "Texan style."
When they left, Zack glanced at his watch, then he looked around for Julie and saw her dancing with Swayze again, laughing at whatever he was saying to her.
"She's captivated all of them," Matt said with an approving grin.
"Especially Swayze," Zack observed, noting how well she danced with Swayze and trying not to note how closely he was holding her.
Matt nudged him a few minutes later and nodded toward Meredith. "Look what I have to endure—that's Costner's third dance with her. Meredith," he added, "is a great admirer of his."
"And vice versa, it would seem. Luckily, Swayze and Costner are both married," Zack observed with a lazy grin. Putting his champagne glass down on the table beside him, he said, "I think it's late enough to claim the last dance and then leave."
"In a hurry to start your honeymoon?"
"You wouldn't believe the kind of hurry I'm in," Zack joked. Reaching out, he shook Matt's hand, but he didn't thank him for the years of unflagging friendship or his many favors. His gratitude was too deep for that, and they both understood it.
Pausing to ask the orchestra leader to play a particular song, Zack went to retrieve his wife. She abandoned Patrick Swayze with gratifying speed, coming into Zack's arms and smiling into his eyes. "It's about time you came to get me," she told him softly.
"Ready to leave?" he asked her as the orchestra's song came to an end.
Julie was dying to leave, to go away with him and be alone together. She nodded and started to move away, but he shook his head and said in a husky, meaningful voice, "After the next song."
"What song?" she asked in the silence, but he only smiled, and then the song Zack had asked the orchestra to play began its hot, steady rhythm.
"This one," he said, meaningfully as the seductive words to Feliciano's song began to pound in the night.
"Light my fire, Julie," he ordered huskily, beginning to move with her to the beat of the music.
Julie fell under the spell of his heavy-lidded eyes and inviting smile within seconds. Oblivious to the crowd who was turning to watch them, she moved closer to him, her body matching the subtle movement of his. He slid his hands around her waist, holding her closer. "More."
Curled up on the sofa in the plane's luxurious cabin, Julie peered into the inky darkness beyond the windows. Far below she could see an occasional light, but otherwise they seemed to be descending into a black wilderness. Zack was sitting across from her, his feet propped up on the coffee table, his tuxedo jacket open—the picture of contented patience. He'd rushed her on board Matt Farrell's waiting plane as soon as they left the reception, refusing to let her change into traveling clothes, but now that they were on their way to a destination he refused to name, he seemed perfectly willing to wait until they got there to consummate their marriage. "I'm going to feel awfully silly walking into a hotel lobby in this gown," she said.
"Are you, darling?" he asked softly, smiling.
Julie nodded, wishing he'd let her change into one of the new outfits in her suitcases. "I could change into something else in a matter of minutes."
He shook his head. "I'd like for both of us to be dressed exactly as we are when we get there."
"You'll see," he said, holding out his arm to her.
She moved over to sit beside him. "Sometimes," she said wryly, "I don't understand you at all."
But she did understand. She understood perfectly the moment she stepped off the plane onto a small runway where a car was waiting, and she looked around at the looming shadows of mountains. "Colorado!" she breathed, hugging herself against the chilly night air. "We're in Colorado, aren't we!"
* * *
Driving up the private road to the mountain hideaway they had shared during that tumultuous week was an unbearably poignant experience for Julie. So was walking into the house with Zack and seeing the beautiful, familiar rooms where she had fought with him and danced with him and then fallen in love with him.
While he brought in their suitcases and built a fire in the fireplace, she walked over to the windows and looked out at the place where he had once built his "snow monster."
Zack came up behind her and slid his arm around her waist, drawing her back against him, and in the window was their own reflection … a tall groom holding his bride in his arms. They looked at their reflection and Zack saw the tears shimmering in her eyes. "Why are you crying?" he asked softly, bending his head to nuzzle her neck.
Julie swallowed and tipped her head back. "Because," she whispered achingly, thinking of the sentimentality that showed in everything he did for her. "You are so perfect."
Zack tightened his arms protectively around her. "We're perfect together," he whispered.
"I'll make you happy," she said, her voice shaking with emotion. "I swear I will."
Her husband turned her in his arms, and there was a smile in his voice as he lifted his hand to smooth her hair back. "You've made me happy from the first night we spent here together, when you sat on that sofa and blithely pointed out the absurdity of football rules which allow a tight end, but no loose end."
She smiled a little at that, but she saw the firelight glinting on the wedding ring he now wore on his left hand, and she pressed his palm to her cheek while her lips touched the ring. "I love you, Zack," she whispered. "I love the sound of your voice and the touch of your hand and the way you smile. I want to give you babies … and a life filled with laughter … and I want to give you me."
Desire began to beat fiercely in his veins, fueled by weeks of abstinence, and Zack pulled her close, his mouth opening over hers with sudden urgency. "Come to bed with your husband, wife."
Husband. Wife. The words revolved slowly in Julie's mind, soft and sweet and profound, as she walked with him into the bedroom they'd shared. They swelled in her heart as he took her in his arms in bed and turned to her in love and need. She responded to both with an exquisite eagerness that made Zack's hands tremble as they rushed over her, caressing her skin and pulling her hips tightly to his. She met his passion with her own, encouraged him with stirring kisses and when he finally slid deep into her, she wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders and whispered, "Welcome home, Zack."