Liam looked at me, the torment in his eyes slowly leaving as his expression relaxed.
“And it’s because of that love, of the fact I won’t let her go, that I can’t, that I’m willing to risk everything to be with her.” I felt my heart pound a little harder, knew that going there, telling him all of that, could risk losing him, our friendship.
But when it came to Piper, I wasn’t budging on this. I wasn’t letting her go, wasn’t going to walk away because her father didn’t approve.
“She’s younger than you.”
“She’s barley nineteen.”
He moved close to me. “She’s my fucking daughter, Zane.”
I swallowed and nodded. “I’ll make sure she’s happy, that nothing bad will ever happen to her. I’ll make sure she’s always safe, that she’s provided for.”
“She wants to go to college, have a career, her own life. She won’t be held back by anyone, not you, hell, not even me.”
I smiled. “Yeah, I know. She’s tough, and that’s what I love about her.” I sobered. “I won’t hold her back. I’ll make sure all her dreams come true.”
Liam stared at me, moving closer until we were a foot away from each other.
“You hurt her and I’ll kick your ass, Zane.” Liam stared right in my eyes. “I don’t care if we’ve been friends a long time. I don’t care if I see you as family, as a brother.” He moved another step closer, his chest almost brushing against mine. “I don’t care about any of that shit, because if you hurt my little girl I’ll kill you.”
I nodded once. “Understood.” I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. “But I’d rather rip my own heart out than hurt her. I love her more than anything else.”
Liam nodded. “Good. That’s how it should be.” And then he embraced me. “I know you’ll care of my baby girl, Zane. If there’s anyone I’d want her to be with, anyone I knew she’d be safe with, it is you.”
And just like that everything fell right into place.
One year later
“I’m about to crawl out of my fucking skin,” I said as I tried for the third time to fix my damn bowtie. My hands shook, and I was starting to sweat.
Bottom line … I was fucking nervous.
“You’ll do fine,” Liam said with a chuckle in his voice. “Man up.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his tone. I sobered and cleared my throat, never in my life feeling more nervous. When I opened them I saw Liam smirking. The bastard thought this was funny.
He patted me on the back, a little harder than was probably necessary, which had me grinning.
“I’m sure Piper is more nervous than you.”
I didn’t bother telling him that I didn’t know if that was true. I was pretty fucking nervous right now. I was about to marry the woman I loved, the one person who meant more to me than anything or anyone else on this entire planet. Not to mention her father was standing beside me, going to walk her down the aisle and hand her over to me.
I knew Liam was fine with our relationship, knew he could see how much I loved her, how I’d protect her and make sure she was always provided for. But this was still my best friend … and I was marrying his daughter.
It was a little surreal, if I were being honest.
“Come on. Let’s go marry my little girl off to my best friend.” I snorted at his jab, something he still did to this day even though he approved of our relationship.
We both headed out of the dressing room and I took my place at the front of the altar. My groomsman stood behind me, while my best man stood with his daughter … my soon to be wife.
The church was packed full of guests, both of our families and friends coming together to help celebrate our marriage. I felt sweat start to line my spine. I curled my hands into tight fists so they wouldn’t shake.
God, I couldn’t breathe, and my bowtie was so damn tight it was suffocating me. I reached up and tried to loosen it, my heart racing as I stared down the aisle. And then the music started playing and I straightened, exhaling slowly and telling myself to not pass out. I stared at the closed double doors, and after only a moment they were pulled open by the ushers.
There, standing on the other side, was the other half of my soul. She started walking toward me, Liam on her other side holding her arm. I didn’t stop grinning, couldn’t help that my eyes were watering. I lifted my hand and wiped the wetness away. I wasn’t ashamed that I was crying, not when the woman I loved was walking toward me crying herself.