“I won’t let you fall. And I promise you, neither will Chris.”
There’s a tiny pinch in my chest at his sincerity, and a wish that my father could say such things and mean them, but I quickly shove it aside. “I know,” I say, eager to get to Chris.
Jacob and Blake are at the exit when I arrive, and Jacob hands me my bouquet, giving me a grand bow before he opens the door for me. I pause and kiss him on the cheek. “Thanks for taking good care of us.”
“What about me?” Blake demands.
“You stole Jacob from us. You get no kiss.” I walk out of the chateau with Mike, and freeze with the realization that hundreds of eyes are upon me.
Then the music starts, and goose bumps rise on my skin. This is it. This is where Chris and I have been headed since the day we met. My feet carry me forward as I scan the crowd, and I find Chantal sitting with Rey, several famous artists I’ve only dreamed of meeting, Gina Ray, the famous actress who’d come to my aid when I’d faced Michael in Los Angeles. . . . The list goes on.
I hold tight to Mike, focusing on the words of the song. ’Cause it’s you and me and all of the people . . .
I clutch my flowers.
Nothing to lose, nothing to prove. And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you.
I step onto the bridge and finally see Chris. He steps to the center on the other side, looking like pure masculine perfection in his tuxedo. His eyes meet mine, and everything else fades. No one else matters. It’s just me and him.
I’m steadier, my pace quicker now, and when Mike releases my arm, I step in front of Chris.
His hands go to my waist and he pulls me to him, his eyes warm with promise. “You look beautiful, Sara.”
“I can’t believe we’re finally doing this.”
“Finally,” he echoes as the music stops and we step under the pink rose-covered gazebo. We stand in front of the preacher, facing each other.
The ceremony starts and Chris and I stare at each other, the words barely registering for me. I hear the call for the rings, though, and the preacher gives me Chris’s ring. I take it, my hands trembling so badly, I can’t get it on him.
Chris takes it, and my hand. “Easy, baby. We’re almost there.”
I nod and the preacher says, “Repeat after me, Sara. With this ring, I thee wed.”
“With this ring, I thee wed,” I say, and my voice shakes as badly as my hands.
Chris takes my rose-etched band from the preacher and places it on my finger, and he doesn’t wait for instructions. “With this ring, I thee wed.” Then he pulls me to him, leaning down to whisper in my ear, “You are the reason I breathe.” He eases back and cups my face. “Every reason.” He kisses me, deeply, passionately, and I’m clinging to him, this man who has healed my broken pieces.
The preacher clears his throat, and Chris reluctantly tears his mouth from mine, as I do his.
And then we hear the words where everything past and present comes together: “I now pronounce you man and wife.” The preacher steps to us and turns us to the crowd. “Allow me to proudly introduce Mr. and Mrs. Chris Merit.”
• • •
Hours later, our magical evening is far from over. Chris and I are finally back in our apartment in San Francisco, and I am naked, sitting on a chair on Chris’s orders. He’s naked, too, gloriously, wonderfully naked, a palette and a paintbrush in his hand as he goes down on one knee in front of me. “I’m going to paint you, Sara.”
“Paint me? As in my skin?”
“That’s right. All of you—because that’s the only thing that will ever be enough.”