I shove my chair back and stalk around to her side of the table. I stand behind her chair and lean over her as I pick up the stack of papers and slowly flip through the contract. This is all business paperwork. Every page about a deal between my subsidiary company and Brinley.
I toss the stack back on the table and swallow hard. “I thought you were bringing me divorce papers.”
She hops out of her chair, gripping the edge of the table. “I don’t have a personal interest in pursuing those, but if you’d like—”
“Not a chance.” I kick the chair out of the way and slide my hands around her waist, pulling her back to my front and relishing the way every one of her soft curves feels pressed into me. I nuzzle her neck until I’m drunk on the smell of her perfume and the feel of her perfect skin under my lips.
“I need our relationship to be separate from my business. I need to be proud of what I’ve made for myself there, and I don’t ever want any part of what we have to feel burdened by business.”
“Not a problem.” I breathe her in again. She’s real. This is real. “I love you. Fuck, do I love you. So much I don’t know who I’d be without that love.”
She turns in my arms and lifts her chin. God, she’s beautiful. “I love you too.”
My breath snags in my chest, right alongside hope and joy and my quickly mending heart. “Say it again.”
She smiles. “I love you, Marston Rowe.”
I can barely breathe, I want this so much. “I want a shot at this marriage, and I know I’m asking the impossible since your parents—”
“I don’t care what they think. I made my choice before we went to that chapel in Vegas.”
“But you don’t even remember why you decided to marry me.”
“Now I know why.” She shakes her head. “No, I’ve always known why I married you. I love you, and I want to spend my life with you—that’s why. What I didn’t know was how I found the courage to do it, but that mystery’s been solved.” She reaches into her tote and pulls out a blue piece of paper the size of a playing card.
“Savvy told me you and I left the second club after I used one of those fortune-teller machines they have in touristy gift shops and at fairs. Brittany used to love those, and apparently on my birthday I insisted on playing in her honor. I don’t know what question I asked, but I went digging and found this in my purse from that night.”
She hands it to me, and I flip it over and read the small print on the back.
Let go of the relationships that cause you only pain. We make our own family.
“Isn’t that what Brittany told you once? We make our own family?” I lift my eyes from the card, and Brinley’s smiling at me, tears in her eyes.
“I’m not saying my sister spoke to me from the grave,” she says, then clears her throat and blinks away tears, “but as soon as I found that card, I knew why I walked down the aisle to you.”
I blink down to the words that brought her back to me, and my chest feels crowded—too full of warmth and sunshine and love to allow me to speak.
“I’m sorry I let them win,” she says, her eyes brimming with new tears. “After Brittany died, I felt like I was drowning, and I thought my family could save me. I thought I could make them love me the way I needed them to love me. I thought . . .” She bites her lip hard. “I’m ashamed I forgot my little sister’s wisdom so soon. I needed you, my family by choice, and I pushed you away.”
I pull her body tightly against mine and nuzzle her neck. “I shouldn’t have let you, but my pride . . .” I shake my head. “My fucking pride had me convinced it was best for you.”
“My family—the only one that’s ever counted—is Cami, Savvy, Abbi, Stella, Smithy, and Kace. But I’d really like to include you at the top of that list. Marston Rowe, my husband, my friend, my lover.”
I press a hard kiss to her soft mouth. “As long as you’ll take me, I’m yours.”
She smiles against my lips. “I have video evidence to prove we already agreed on forever.”
The patio behind The Orchid and overlooking Lake Blackledge makes the perfect setting for intimate weddings. Once the tables are cleared out, we can seat as many as forty for a ceremony and then open the doors between the restaurant and patio for the reception.
I peek out the window from inside the bridal suite. The guests take their seats in white folding chairs. At the front of the aisle, an arbor covered in red roses and dark green ivy overlooks the lake. The groom and his best friends laugh together, waiting for the bride.