“No.”

She says the word, but I can see the way she’s moving from foot to foot. She’s fighting the pull between us. I can see the way she bites her bottom lip as she fights the urge to say what she really wants. I can see how her eyes beg me to hold her.

“Please,” I whisper, letting all the love I have flow through that one word.

“You broke my heart, Abe. I can’t just forgive that. You pushed me away. You wouldn’t let me see you when you needed me the most. What the fuck? You were the love of my life. How was I supposed to just forget that.”

“Did you forget it?”

“No.”

The tears run down her cheeks at the admission, and I can’t stand not going to her and holding her, but this has to be her decision. If she makes the choice to be mine, I’m not letting her get away.

“Julie, my love, please. I fought to get back to this place, and I’ll keep fighting until I have you. Take me back. Marry me. Be mine again and I’ll give you everything. We can do it all, baby. Have a house, babies, grow old together. Please, shortcake. Choose us,” I beg, knowing that I’ll sleep in her front yard every night until she finally gives in.

She laughs a little through tears when I say her nickname. “You show up after all this time and expect me to just fall into your arms after you call me ‘shortcake’?”

“Yes,” I say, giving her a half-smile.

“You’re a cocky bastard, I’ll give you that,” she says, reminding me of the first day we met, how she called me that then too, right before—

Suddenly, she runs to me, knocking me down on the floor as I engulf her in my big arms. She wraps her arms and legs around me, and I grab her face, pressing my lips to hers. Our lips and tongues connect, and it’s as if it’s our first kiss all over again. It’s all-consuming and like nothing I’ve ever felt. She’s my other half, and as our lips touch, my world clicks back into place.

“Thank God!” I shout, pulling back from her lips.

“What? Did you expect me to put up more of a fight?”

“Well, actually, yes. But also, my dick is hard as a rock right now, so today is officially the greatest day of my life. Let’s get married right now so I can go ahead and make it even better.”

“You’re crazy, you know that?”

“Crazy about you, shortcake. Now tell me you love me.”

“I love you more than bacon.”

* * *

Later that night

“I can’t believe we did it,” she says, playing with my dog tags that she’s wearing around her neck. They mean more than she knows, but I’ll tell her more about the club later.

“You better believe it, Mrs. Tanner. I do love a good Vegas wedding.”

“I thought for sure my parents would make us wait, but I guess they know what true love is like.”

“It’s pretty damn great, isn’t it, Mrs. Tanner?”

“You’re going to keep calling me that, aren’t you?” she asks, a giant smile lighting up her face. She likes it when I call her that.

“Fuck yeah. You’re mine now, shortcake. This is for life, and it’s about damn time too.”

She giggles, and I lean down to kiss her lips. As soon as she gave me the green light, I scooped her up and we hopped on the first plane out of Kansas City to Vegas. We got a quickie wedding—performed by Elvis—and now we’re in a suite at the Bellagio.

Julie pulls away, and I try to hold her tighter to me, not wanting to let her go.

“Easy, Abe. I just want to go change. I didn’t stop to get something to wear for the wedding night for nothing. I want this night to be perfect.”

“It already is. But if you want to have whatever you bought ripped to shreds, then by all means go change. But I’m giving you exactly seven seconds before I’m taking that door down and coming in after you.”

“Yes, sir,” she says with a mock salute. I don’t have the heart to tell her how awful that salute was, or that I like her calling me ‘sir’. I’ll save that one for another night.

As I watch her walk away, I take off all my clothes, wondering what she’ll think about the scars, how different I look now, but I push that thought aside. We’re past that. Julie doesn’t care what I look like. I get into bed. I’m trying to be patient and give her the time she needs, even though I’m dying to feel her against me.

After what feels like an eternity, the bathroom door opens a crack, and she peeks out, hiding behind the door.

“I’m nervous. I don’t know why because you’ve seen me already, but this feels different.”

“It’s our wedding night, baby. It’s a big fucking deal.”

She laughs, and I hear her take a deep breath as if to steady her nerves. Finally, the door opens and she steps out. Suddenly, all the blood in my body goes to my dick, and I forget how to speak. It’s strange, finally being able to get hard after so long, but it seems all my body needed was her. It’s all it seemed to crave.

She walks slowly over to the bed, and I haven’t so much as breathed since she emerged from the bathroom. She stands at the end of the bed, looking like a pure angel, and I can’t find my tongue. She’s dressed simply in white lace, but seeing her like this, a virgin on our wedding night, it does something to the beast inside me.

A dark blush blossoms on her cheeks and chest, and I can tell she’s really shy right now. It shouldn’t make me harder but, fuck, it does.

“Abe?”

She whispers my name so quietly I almost don’t hear it.

“Perfect.” It’s all I can get out as I sit up and grab her, pulling her onto the bed. I roll us so she’s under me, my big body blanketing hers. She’s so tiny, but we’ll fit together. We have to. The white lace rubs between us, so I pull the cups down to expose her nipples, rubbing them on my chest. “So fucking perfect.”

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