“Oh my goodness, don’t you look beautiful,” I said.
The girls smiled, excitement lighting up their eyes. Alli bent down, handing them flower petals and our rings, reminding them of the tasks we’d practiced the night before.
Elliot caught my hand, squeezing gently. “You ready?”
I released a nervous breath. Yes. Nerves aside, I had never been more ready to be Blake’s wife. I wanted to step through the doors and run to him. I wanted to marry him the moment I laid my eyes on him. In my heart, I already had.
I nodded and linked my arm through Elliot’s, letting him escort me the rest of the way.
I walked toward Blake, seeing only him. I was floating, every moment taking me closer to the love of my life. And now, there was no fear in my heart. No doubt, not a shadow of it.
The ceremony passed like a dream. Blake, breathtaking in his tuxedo against the backdrop of the ocean. His family and mine, our friends witnessing what we’d known for so long, that we wanted forever with each other.
There were kisses. There were tears. All I knew was that he was mine. My love for him now was a tattoo written on my heart, for all of time.
* * *
I leaned my head against Blake’s shoulder while the party ensued. The day had been long, but adrenaline kept me awake. The heated tent set up in the Landon’s yard was filled with our small party. Laughter and music and talking. Happiness surrounded us.
Elliot’s girls were dancing with boundless energy on the dance floor around Blake’s parents who looked into each other’s eyes with a love that warmed my heart. Blake’s mentor, Michael Pope, had come too. We didn’t speak of Max, but I could see the pride in his eyes when he congratulated us. He’d been like a second father to Blake, and I could only feel his regret that Max had failed us all with his appalling actions.
Still, nothing could dim the celebration. More people came than I had expected. Our “small” affair had grown in size in my absence, but in the happy embrace of Blake’s extended family and friends, I could not have felt more love and acceptance. I smiled, all the way down to my very sore feet. Today had been nothing short of perfect.
I leaned up, pressing a soft kiss to Blake’s cheek.
He looked down, trailing lazy caresses up and down my arm. “Let’s take a walk and get some fresh air.”
“What about our guests?”
He stared out at the party, which had grown increasingly loud over the past hour as glasses were refilled and the night wore on. Simone was talking loudly and Alli was laughing.
“They’re having a blast without us. I’ve had to share you all day. Now I want you for myself.” He brushed his thumb across my cheek. “I don’t know about you, but I’m anxious for the honeymoon to start.”
I bit my lip, and he flashed me a loving smile.
The thrill of being in his arms again warmed me, filling me with contentment. My entire body seemed to buzz with happiness, elation that I was now Blake’s and soon, hopefully soon, I’d be even more his.
“Where are we going?”
“I know just the place.”
He winked and caught my hand, leading me out of the tent and down the wooden stairs to the beach below. I glanced back at the wedding party. Simone’s voice rang out from her perch on James’s lap. He was smiling, looking up at her with adoring eyes. No one was missing us.
The sun had set and the ocean breeze blew cool over my skin. I held my dress and shoes up with one hand while Blake held my other. We walked, anticipation seeming to steal our words. I looked ahead to the rocky incline that always ended our journey when we walked the beach at his parents’ house.
“Where are we going? My feet are killing me.”
“It’ll be worth it, I promise.” His eyes sparkled as if he were holding a secret behind them.
We slowed as the sandy beach turned to pebbles and stone. Blake wrapped his arm around me. I shivered and huddled into the warmth of his embrace. We stared out at the dark horizon. Above us, a soft glow lit the homes scattered along the shoreline.
“I love it here.” Next to the Vineyard, Blake’s parents’ stretch of home on the ocean was nothing short of heaven.
He pointed up to the house perched above the cliff ending at our feet. “What do you think about that one?”
“It’s breathtaking.” Everything about the home was impressive. While Catherine and Greg’s home was more modern, this home had all the charm of a historic house. It sprawled across manicured gardens and a yard overlooking the endless ocean.
He squeezed me closer. “I want to give it you.”
I raised my eyebrows. “The house?”
He grinned. “Yes, the house, among other things.”
“Please tell me you don’t plan to walk in and make them an offer.”
He laughed. “No, I don’t think so. Come on. Let’s take a closer look.”
He started ahead of me and turned back for my hand. I hesitated, trying to imagine how I’d scale the small cliff with my current attire. “I’ll ruin my dress.”
“Who cares? You only get to wear it once.”
“What am I going to do with my shoes?” I lifted them up. He grabbed them and tossed each one high up to the grassy yard of our destination.
“Blake,” I laughed. “I’m sure these people don’t want us poking around looking in their windows.”
“Nonsense. No one’s home.”
I shook my head and took his hand, making my way up the rocky incline. Blake helped me up onto the yard that plateaued at the top. The dewy grass felt cool on my feet as we walked around the perimeter of the house. He led me to the front door, a grand entryway framed by white columns and ornate lighting.
“Blake!” I uttered a harsh whisper as he tried the door, opening it. Before I could stop him, he scooped me up into his arms, walking me over the threshold.
He lowered me to my feet when we passed through the entryway. A large, bright white kitchen sat to our right and an expansive open living area to the left. I took in what details I could in the almost darkness. Blake tightened his hold around my waist, bringing me up against his chest.
“What do you think?” he whispered, delight glimmering in his beautiful eyes.
“It’s beautiful.” I ran my finger over his lips. “Like you.”
He moaned and lifted me off my feet as he did. “Like you.”
I tasted the champagne on his tongue and felt the giddiness from our amazing day rolling off of him. I’d never seen him so outwardly happy.