Through some unspoken understanding, I rolled him onto his back so that I could lower myself onto him. I positioned my hips over his, resting my hands on his chest, and slowly brought him into me. We both cried out, from pleasure and also the sheer rightness of being together. He fit like he'd been made for me, and I suddenly wondered if I should have been so quick to always scoff about divine plans. Because surely, if ever there was something that seemed to have been guided by a higher power, it was the crazy path of our relationship . . . one that always kept bringing us back together.
Over and over I rode him, overwhelmed almost as much by the way his gaze held mine as I was by the heat spreading through my body. I wanted to stop, to freeze that moment in time, but my human flesh and its desires eventually won out. I increased my pace, taking him harder and deeper until I crossed the edge and could handle no more. Ecstasy shook my body as I came, and a joy so intense I nearly forgot my surroundings flooded me. There was no succubus satisfaction here, only the simple bliss of taking pleasure in the one I loved.
Seth came soon after, the look on his face causing me joy of another sort. There was such an easy, unguarded happiness in it, mingled with all his love for me. He hid nothing. It was all there on display, his affection and his bliss.
Afterward, we lay in each other's arms, both of us floating in our own emotions as we basked in the experience we'd just had. I could hear Seth's heart beating as I rested against him and was aware of the pounding of my own heart - my mortal, human heart - as well. This was what it was like to truly be alive.
"I'm almost afraid to move or speak," he said at last. "Part of me is certain this must be a dream or a spell. I'm afraid I'll ruin it."
"It's neither," I said. Then, I reconsidered. "Well, it might be a dream."
Nyx had taunted me for a long time with her dream-vision, refusing to tell me who the man in it was. When Seth had finally been revealed, I'd been certain she'd lied to me. I hadn't seen how any of that future could become a reality, and yet . . . here I was.
"A dream, huh?" asked Seth. "Does that mean I'm going to wake up to cold reality soon?"
"No," I said, snuggling closer. "Because our dream's come true. The only thing you're going to wake up to from now on is me. For as long as you want me."
"I want you forever. Is that too long?"
I smiled. "After what we've seen? I'm not sure it's long enough."
We were married at sunset.
Some might not consider that an auspicious time, but for me, it was a perfect compromise. I had wanted to be married in the daytime, outdoors, with sunlight streaming everywhere. Seeing as Cody and Peter wanted to attend, however, the sun presented a little difficulty. And since Peter had essentially acted as wedding coordinator for me, it seemed kind of mean to exclude him. So, we held the ceremony at sunset, and the vampires were able to show up for the reception the instant the sun sank below the horizon.
The wedding was held on the grounds of a beachfront resort on Puget Sound. We stood on a grassy hill, facing west toward the water. It was high summer, and everything was bathed in orange and gold. The bridesmaids (all Mortensen girls) wore red dresses that looked as though they'd been designed with the sunset in mind and carried white clusters of stephanotis. Our only nod to decorations was an ivy-strewn arch that the officiant stood in front of. With so much beauty around us, nothing else had seemed necessary.
I repeated my vows while holding Seth's hands. Each word I spoke was infinitely powerful, and yet I wouldn't really remember any of them until later. For those minutes, my whole world was focused on his face, on the amber gold of his eyes and the way the light played off his hair. Love burned within me and between us, making everything else a fog of indistinct details. There was only Seth and me. Me and Seth.
There was a dreamlike quality to it all. The moments seemed suspended in time. And yet, afterward, when I looked back, it was as though the entire ceremony had taken place in the blink of an eye. We had a couple hundred people who had gathered to watch us. They all rose from their folding chairs and clapped when we kissed, and I found myself unable to stop grinning when I looked out into that sea of happy faces.
The reception was held on the same grounds, just a little ways from the ceremony. We'd gone to a bit more work with the decorations here. The tables were draped with white linens and bedecked with flowers and candles that created little twinkles of light in the evening shadows. Large torches were set up along the boundaries as well, their flames flicking rapidly as wind picked up from the water. A jazz band set up nearby and began to play, providing background music for dinner. They had a space for dancing afterward too, though I didn't dance nearly as much as I'd expected to at my wedding. There were too many people to see, too many people to thank for their support. So Seth and I walked around hand in hand, going from group to group of those we loved.
"I knew those Asiatic lilies would be a good call," Peter told us conspiratorially, admiring one of the table arrangements. "The Oriental ones are bigger, but I feel like these complement the roses so much better."
"You're a regular flower whisperer," said Hugh, knocking back a drink. He held up his glass to Seth and me in a mock toast. "Honestly, your best bit of planning was the open bar."
"Because it certainly wasn't the band," remarked Doug, strolling over to where my little group was standing. "Geez, Kincaid - " He paused and reconsidered. "Geez, Mortensens, why didn't you hire me? Nocturnal Admission could've totally rocked this place out."
I smiled, happy that Doug had come. I honestly hadn't been sure if he would. "Because I wouldn't want to burden you guys with the strain of playing family-friendly music for three hours."
"Very considerate," he said. He glanced around, nodding grudgingly. "Aside from that - and the fact that the bridesmaids are all under eighteen - I gotta admit, you put on a pretty good spread."
"Thank you," Peter and I said in unison.
"I kind of agree with Doug about the band," said Cody. "I asked them if they'd play 'The Chicken Dance,' and they said no."
"I could've done a bitchin' cover of that," said Doug solemnly.
"It's not so much a failing on the band's part as it was a request of ours to not play it," said Seth.
"Sad," said Doug. He slung an arm around Cody. "Want to go make a bar run with me?" When Cody nodded, Doug glanced at the rest of us. "Refill anyone?"
"No, thanks," I said.
Doug shook his head. "Married for an hour, and you're already picking up his good habits." He and Cody walked off, having an intense discussion about "The Chicken Dance," judging from their pantomimes.
I leaned my head against Seth, content with everything and everyone in the world. "You did a beautiful job, Peter," I said. "Seriously. It all turned out great."
Considering how underappreciated Peter always felt, I would've expected him to revel in the praise, but he actually turned modest. "Ah, well. You guys are the main attraction. I just provided the - "
He stopped speaking, and as one, he and Hugh glanced off beyond the edge of the torches, into the darkness.
"What is it?" I asked.
They exchanged looks. "Carter," said Peter.
I followed their gaze, unable to see anything beyond the lit perimeter. It had been very easy to become human again, but there were still a few things I had trouble shaking. The loss of my immortal senses was one. Even now, it was weird to be standing with Peter and Hugh and not feel them. Their night vision was no better than mine - well, actually, I supposed Peter's was - but it wasn't their eyes that had alerted them to Carter's presence.
"I think he wants to see you," said Hugh gently.
I stared off at where they indicated, uncertain what should I do.
"Go," said Seth softly. "You should talk to him."
I looked up at him, into those eyes so full of love, and forgot about Carter for the space of heartbeat. It was still too unbelievable to accept sometimes that this was my life, that Seth was my husband. I pressed my lips to his in a quick kiss.
"I'll be right back," I said.
I picked my way through my guests, finding it difficult not to stop and talk to the many well-wishers. When I was out of the safety of the tents and tables, the wind hit me, whipping my hair and veil around and playing with my skirts. My dress had a sweetheart neckline and full skirt with many tiers and layers. I'd wanted a princess dress for my wedding day and had gotten one, though it made this walk a little awkward. I soon spotted Carter, standing so perfectly still among some trees that he might have been one.