“One day might be sooner than you think, love,” he murmured.
Saturday came faster than Bella ever thought possible. She’d spent most of the day sleeping and talking on the phone to her family and friends. They all seemed to be thrilled that she was getting married in Scotland. It was so romantic, they all said. It was so unlike her, they said.
Wasn’t that the truth?
The rest of the day, she’d spent in the village—its size larger than what she had expected—and had found a pretty, white dress, styled like a ball gown, trimmed in Scottish lace, woven on a Nottingham loom, at the bottom.
She gazed at her reflection in the mirror, trying to reconcile herself with the vision of white in front of her. In her perfect wedding, she’d been wearing a Vera Wang gown and her blonde hair had been swept up. She looked very fashionable and completely like the wife of a man like Peter would expect. They would have exchanged vows in the evening, and then danced under a white tent while their families dined.
Then again, Peter had talked her into changing her plans. Into what she had thought would be a romantic elopement. Only, he’d deceived her.
He’d lied to her. For money.
She touched the dark hair laying on her shoulder and then brushed it away. Now her hair was no longer dyed, she wore a gown that, while beautiful, was certainly not a Vera Wang, and no one in her family would witness her exchanging vows much less dancing.
And the groom was marrying her for money.
Her lips trembled at the stark realization.
Only, Liam was nothing like Peter. The differences between the two men couldn’t be more apparent. Liam was as dark as Peter was fair. While Peter had the body of a man who preferred golf to a workout regiment, Liam’s lean muscles proclaimed him to be someone dedicated to keeping in shape.
But it didn’t end there. Peter craved more power and money, while Liam felt guilty about asking a friend to help him get the right documents in order to get married.
Funny how she never saw the truth of Peter until after he left her, but in her heart, she’d known all along he was bad for her. The goodness of Peter only ran skin deep, not to the bone.
While Liam truly wanted to help the people. He wanted to make sure that he was a good steward of what he’d been given.
She sighed, wishing her mom and dad were here. Heck, she’d settle for Daisy, though she wouldn’t be settling at all. But Daisy and Sebastian were out of the country for one last trip before their baby would be born.
There was a knock at the door and she made a face.
“You can’t come in, Liam!” That man. He’d been trying to sneak in here all day, under the guise of making sure she didn’t run away.
She rolled her eyes.
“Thank God you’re still here,” he said teasingly. “There was a rumor that the bride’s family had kidnapped her.”
The door opened before she could stop him. “It’s bad luck to see me in my dress,” she shrieked, grabbing the robe he’d lent her. His scent enveloped her.
Instead of Liam answering, her mother came in the room.
Bella burst into tears and ran into her mother’s outstretched arms. “What are you doing here?”
“Liam made arrangements for us to come,” a familiar voice rumbled before enveloping her and her mother in a hug.
“Daddy,” she sobbed. “I thought I would have to get married without y’all. I can’t believe Liam did this for me.”
“I’m not that horrid,” she heard Liam say, and she managed to break away from her parents.
She threw herself into his arms. “Thank you,” she whispered against his neck. “Thank you so much.”
Liam patted her on the back. “It was nothing.”
“This was everything,” she disagreed and leaned back to look into his dark eyes. “You knew I needed them. This is the best wedding present ever.”
He searched her face, not saying a word, and she wondered if she’d gone too far in her thanks. Had she made him uncomfortable? Then he smiled, and took her breath away.
“I better get the groom where he needs to be before the ceremony,” her dad said, and Liam let her go.
“Quite right,” Liam said, and the two men left the room, shutting the door behind them.
“We need to talk,” John said as they descended the servants’ staircase.
Liam knew this was coming, but he still wasn’t exactly prepared. “Yes, sir. Shall we go to my study?”
“Wherever you feel the most comfortable,” John said.
Liam led him to the study and closed the door behind him. For once he didn’t sit behind the ancient desk. Instead he gestured for John to sit in one of the winged-back chair near the fireplace.
John sat, and then Liam did the same.
“Normally, I don’t get involved in my grown children’s business, but since the circumstances surrounding this marriage are unusual, I decided to have a talk with you.”
“Understandable,” Liam replied.
John leaned forward in his chair, his dark blue eyes serious. “I love my daughter.”
“Yes, sir,” was all Liam could say. He couldn’t very well profess to love her, too.
“And I want what’s best for her. For some reason, she believes that’s you.”
“Well, I am the father of her child,” he pointed out.
“She’s my child.”
This was going well. “She’s to be my wife.”
“I realize that, and you have to know that we’ll support her decision and you as well. I want my grandchild to grow up in a two-parent household. I don’t want Bella to suffer by worrying about sick days, juggling schedules, being the only one walking the floor at night, and not having anyone to share the trials and joys of being a parent. But as her father, and not a man of God, if you hurt my daughter… Vengeance won’t only be for the Lord.”
Liam swallowed down his pride. He couldn’t help but admire the man. Bella was his daughter, and he would do anything for her. That much was apparent. “I would never lay a hand on her in anger.”
“We wouldn’t be here if I thought that about you.” John searched his face. “I’m talking about fidelity, love, and learning to live with one another. I am trusting you with one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given by God, and I expect you to treat Bella as such. I know you think we’re old fashioned and cling to traditions and ways that seem in conflict with the world, but none of that matters. Only she and your child matter now.”