She couldn’t help smiling at his words, which were so like her thoughts. They really were on the same wavelength.
“Some of those couples split up under the weight of the grief and those men and women have the benefit of love on both sides.”
“I don’t know about other people, but I don’t give up in the face of adversity and neither does your daughter. You, of all people, should be intimately aware of that fact. She survived leaving friends and familiarity behind time and again in her childhood and a disaster of a first marriage as an adult.” He put his arm out to her. “Piper isn’t going to give up on our marriage, no matter what we have to face together.”
She practically flew off the sofa to land against his side, the relief she felt in the shelter of his presence nearly physical. His words created another welcome layer of protection against her parents’ fears and her own secret ones.
He put his arm around her waist and looked down at her as if they were the only two people in the room, as if her opinion was the only one that mattered. “You said nothing would change your feelings for me.”
“Well, nothing will change the fact that I want you to be the mother of my children and the woman at my side, including the far-reaching possibility you will not carry this baby to term.”
“Then we’re golden.” She smiled even as tears burned at the back of her eyes.
He set his espresso gaze on each of her parents in turn. “If that’s not good enough for you, I am sorry, but I will not give your daughter up. Not now, not ever.”
That was a statement of long-term intent if she’d ever heard one.
“We’re not suggesting you give her up. Merely that you hold off on the wedding for a while.” Piper’s mom gave Zephyr her let’s be reasonable look. “Surely, you can be a father to your child without being married to its mother.”
“I can be a better father and helpmate to your daughter if we are married.” Zephyr wasn’t budging and she didn’t think his attitude would be any different if they hadn’t already been through a civil ceremony.
Piper was certain that if this discussion had come a week ago, he would have responded the same way. Unlike her parents, who were giving a very different attitude in person than they had when she called to tell them her news.
“I just don’t understand,” she said. “You didn’t say anything about not wanting me to get married when we talked on the phone.”
“This isn’t something you say over a telephone line.” Her mom met her eyes, willing Piper to understand.
She didn’t. Not one little bit. “And you wouldn’t have gotten a free trip to Greece out of it, either.”
“Piper!” her mother admonished.
Her dad just frowned at her with that disappointed expression he reserved for misbehaving troops and his children.
Zephyr shook his head. “She didn’t mean that.” But he didn’t sound disappointed in her.
He understood her parents were really hurting her and right, wrong or indifferent, she’d lashed out. “Of course I didn’t. I’m sorry, but this is my time to celebrate and you’re diminishing it for me.”
“That is not our intention. We just want what is best for you.” Her mom sounded as sincere as Piper had.
Zephyr gave her parents a considering look. “Tell me something, did you suggest she wait to marry Arthur Bellingham?”
“No,” her mother answered as if she’d been forced to.
“We thought he was perfect for her,” Piper’s father admitted.
“That is why you are so determined to make her reconsider her decision now, isn’t it? You didn’t protect her from pain once and now you are going overboard to do so.”
Piper had not considered that possibility. “Is that true?”
Her mom’s eyes filled with tears. “We just don’t want your heart broken again.”
“Everyone faces pain in life, but we can’t stop taking chances because of it. I trust Zee to be the husband I need. If I’m wrong, I’ll deal with the fallout. What I need from you right now is not advice, but support. Can you give that to me?”
“Yes, of course,” her dad said even as her mother bit her lip in worry.
But they both hugged her and apologized for hurting her feelings, if not for doubting Zephyr.
Surprisingly, dinner was relaxed and pleasant. It was as if, once having voiced their concerns, her parents gave themselves permission to simply enjoy the celebration of their daughter’s second marriage. She appreciated that and did her best not to hold the discussion in her and Zephyr’s suite against them.