“Bella is the most important person in my life,” Liam said simply. “And the baby as well, especially after he or she arrives.”
John’s lips thinned. “I have no idea if you are a man of your word, but I’m going to trust you, son.”
Liam stood, and John did the same. The two men shook hands, and then John smacked him on the back a couple of times. “That didn’t hurt much, did it?”
“I’ll let you know.”
John laughed. “You do that. Funny isn’t it?”
“Sorry. I don’t quite catch your meaning.”
“He took two people, that are opposites in almost every way, and managed to get them together on the other side of the world.”
“I prefer to think of it as serendipity. A sort of whim of the universe that created us,” Liam replied. He was pushing things by being so disrespectful, but he didn’t care for a God that had plans for his life without letting him in on them.
John shook his head. “If the universe created you, then who created the universe?”
Liam blinked at him. He had no answer for that. “I think it’s time I married your daughter.”
“Let me see your dress,” Bella’s mother said.
She discarded her robe and stood for mom’s inspection. “It’s pretty, isn’t it? The lace at the bottom was made by a lady in town—in the village—she’s known for it.”
Her mother lifted the hem, studying it. “Very beautiful,” she said, switching to Spanish. “She does good work.” She dropped the hem. “You are glowing.”
“I am pregnant.” Bella bit her lip, and looked away. “Are you sure you and Daddy aren’t upset that I didn’t—?”
“Take a look at what traveled with me,” her mother, interrupted. “Summer sent it to you.”
Bella turned her attention back to her mother. She held the same veil that her sister-in-law had worn. It was the same veil Bella’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and great-great-great-grandmother had worn on their wedding day.
“I can’t,” Bella shook her head. “I don’t deserve to wear it.”
Her mother made a face. “This veil isn’t about who deserves what. It’s about love and tradition. It’s tradition my daughters wear this, and it’s out of love that Summer and Gabriel are watching the children so your father and I could come today.”
“I can’t argue with that.” Tears clogged her throat and made her vision blur. She waved her fingers at her face, trying not cry and took a deep breath. “Can you help me get ready again?”
“Of course, Bella.” Her mom gestured for her to sit in front of a centuries-old vanity.”
She allowed her mom to re-fix her hair and re-do her makeup, while they chatted as if this was a perfectly normal event in their lives, which made her love her mother even more.
“Your husband is very handsome. The baby will take after his father.”
She tilted her head to one side, staring at her mother’s reflection in the mirror. “It could be girl.”
Her mother shook her head. “Not this one.”
Bella’s heart beat out a weird pattern. “How long did it take before you knew you were in love with Papi?”
The older woman shrugged. “A month. Your father, however, claims he knew he loved me as soon saw me singing in the choir, on our second date.”
Bella scrunched her nose. “That soon?”
“We had been admiring one another from afar before my parents allowed us to date,” her mother admitted. “They were very strict Catholics, and let’s just say they weren’t thrilled with my choice. Eventually, they came around, but some things…”
Bella felt her heart flip at how her mother’s story mirrored hers. Her father had been a young man attending seminary school to become a Baptist preacher. They’d married, and she’d moved clear across the country to be with him. Everything was different—the language, the families, and the traditions.
As the youngest of ten children, Gloria’s parents had been in their late forties when she was born, and by the time Bella came along, they were in their seventies. Bella didn’t remember her grandparents, since they had died when she was very young.
“Is that why you were so welcoming with Summer?”
“Si.” Her mother sat down beside her. “Your sister-in-law needed love and acceptance from us, not our judgment. Although, I will admit we were concerned with Gabriel’s choice.”
“Are you concerned about my choice?”
Blonde brows rose. “Should I be?”
“No,” she said quickly. “But I respect your opinion.”
“I know you do.” Her mother kissed her forehead and then looked into her eyes. “However, you need to form your own opinions about your fiancé. Your father and I don’t know Liam well enough to have an opinion, and we’ve agreed to support you. So…”
Bella exhaled, tears pricking at the back of her eyes once more. “I love you for it, but right now, I need my momma, not someone who trusts my decisions.”
Her mother smiled. “Every time I look at Liam, all I can think of is what Azalea Holland told us about the man you would love.”
“And?” Bella couldn’t help but think of that, too.
“Your soon-to-be husband has a very nice castle in a foreign land.”
“But he didn’t grow up poor, and there’s nothing he’s rescuing me from.” Except… I grew up in rather modest accommodations.
Her mother gave her a look. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
The door opened, and Aileen, Liam’s mother, stuck her head in the room. “May I come in?”
“Yes,” Bella exclaimed and jumped up to give the woman a hug.
Aileen smiled, reminding Bella so much of Liam that it wasn’t funny. He really did look like her, from hair color to eye color to smile. Only his was sexy and confident, while his mother’s was meek and shy.
Though Bella had barely spoken to her, she liked Liam’s mother already, and hoped that over time, the two of them would get to know one another. But that wouldn’t happen for a while, because now that Liam would get his inheritance, he was sending his mother and sister on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Spain. They’d be gone for six weeks, at least.