Nia wondered when her hands would stop trembling. Maybe after the day was over.
Her stomach lurched and she took in a deep breath. It would be fine. Maybe even amazing.
Or it could be a disaster.
All those people. All of them looking at her.
It wasn’t too late to change the plans. They could do this another way.
“Mom, are you coming or not?”
Which meant time was up. She couldn’t change her plans. “I’m coming. Just a sec.”
“That’s what you said five minutes ago. Why do girls take so long to get ready?”
That made her sigh. She hated living up to a stereotype. She grabbed the garment bag and her small suitcase then joined Malik in the kitchen. “I’m ready.”
Never one to shy from the spotlight, Malik grabbed his own stuff and opened the door. “Let’s go before we’re late.”
It only took a few minutes to drive to the Bloo Moose Caboose, which was a good thing. She’d almost run through a four-way stop and had nearly missed the turn to the old train station.
When she parked, Malik frowned at her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded and patted his arm. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t seem fine. You’re really jumpy. Don’t you want to marry Jaz?”
Her heart melted. “I can’t wait to be married to Jaz, it’s the whole wedding thing that’s got me nervous.”
Oh, to have the innocent confidence of a ten-year-old. “I don’t like being the center of attention. It’s hard to know everyone’s going to be watching me.”
“Then why did you and Jaz decide to have a big wedding?”
Nia laughed. “I was feeling brave, I think. What if I fall on my face as I’m walking down the aisle?”
Malik rolled his eyes. “We’re walking down the aisle together. I’ll make sure you don’t trip. And you’ve been practicing walking in those shoes for ages. You’re not going to fall.”
Deep breath. “You’re right. It’s going to be fine. Jaz has a big family but they’re really nice.”
“They’re great. His parents want me to call them Gramps and Grandma.”
Nia’s eyes filled with tears. “You’re a lucky kid, Sprout.”
Another eye roll. “Obviously. Come on, we don’t want to be sitting in the car when everyone gets here. You’re not supposed to see Jaz before the ceremony today.”
Which was probably why her nerves were spinning. He was her rock.
After a last deep breath, she smiled. “Okay, let’s go. You got everything?”
“I was ready an hour ago. Even the dumb shiny shoes.”
Laughing, they walked into the Caboose.
Lil and Max were inside the lobby and Lil ran over to squeeze Nia and then Malik into big hugs. “It’s the big day. Are you ready?”
Malik grinned. “She thinks she’s going to fall on her face.”
Lil laughed and pointed at Malik. “Your job is to keep her upright, got it?”
Max pulled Nia into a hug. “You’re going to be fine. Nothing to be nervous about. Now, head down to the girls’ side. We men are going to make sure the room is set right before we need to get ready.”
Malik nodded. “Because we don’t take hours to get ready. It’s going to be great, Mom. See you soon.”
Nia waved him off and started to check out the room’s decorations, but Lil pulled her through the doors to the hallway where Nia and Jaz had shared their first electrifying kiss.
She hadn’t told anyone why she’d asked to use the final room in the hallway as her dressing room for the day, but she wouldn’t be surprised many of them had guessed.
Kami and Becca were in the room along with Jaz’s mom, Jeanette. They’d blocked the windows with drapes and set up a full-length mirror in the corner.
After another round of hugs, Nia’s eyes were filling again. Kami pointed at her. “Nope. No tears. No way. You’re not messing up the day by having red eyes or a runny nose.”
Jeanette squeezed her in a hug and whispered in her ear. “I’m so glad to have you and your son join our family. Anything you need, you simply have to ask.”
Nia swallowed hard against the tears and hugged her back. “Thank you. You have the most amazing family. We’re thrilled to be a part of it.”
Lil laughed and pulled them apart. “Didn’t you hear Kami? No tears or we have to send you to separate corners. Now, what’s first? Makeup or dresses?”
The next thirty minutes spun by in laughter and then Nia unzipped the garment bag holding her dress.
When she pulled it out, the other women gasped.
Becca reached out to brush a finger over the lace at the wrists. “I know sweet diddly-squat about dresses and fashion, but this is the prettiest gown I’ve ever seen. Did you make it?”
Nia nodded. She’d been working on it for weeks, since that beautiful New Year’s Day when Jaz had proposed.
Soft lines, gentle sweeps of lace and pearls.
A knock sounded on the outer door. Jaz’s father, Remi, called through. “Five minutes ladies. Will you be ready?”
All eyes turned to her and Nia nodded. Her nerves continued to jangle but she was more than ready to marry Jaz.
Jaz fidgeted in the hallway. His brothers, father, Max, and Malik had left to escort the women, leaving him on his own.
Waiting for his woman. His fiancée. His almost-wife.
As if they’d heard him fidgeting, his pseudo-parents walked through the door leading to the main lobby of the Caboose.
Mario and Antonia smiled at him. Mario embraced him in a tight hug. “You ready for this adventure, Jaz?”
Jaz hugged him back. “Absolutely.”
Mario patted him on the back and then Antonia hugged him quickly. She reached up to kiss his cheek and straighten his tie.
Her eyes sparkled as she ran her hands over his suit, straightening imaginary wrinkles. “You’ve chosen well. You’re going to be a beautiful family. We’re so proud of you. Now, let’s go. It’s time.”
They walked through the door to the lobby that had been swathed in white lace and happy colors.
Chairs lined the center aisle. They’d be moved later for dinner and dancing, but for now, the chairs held his Bloo Moose family.
He moved to his spot and the Fortini’s took their seats in the front row.
Megs Carter stood at the head of the aisle with a huge smile on her face. She’d become an officiant for him.
The crowd hushed as Megs tapped the small table at her side.
Over to the side, Trina played her keyboard until the people were silent.
Then she sang a song he’d never heard. A song of love and family and futures full of possibilities and fun.
His parents were first down the aisle and they both hugged him before sitting beside the Fortini’s.
Lil and Max followed them. They also hugged him then took their places.
Becca and Gage.
Rayce and Kami.
The song changed to the traditional wedding march, although Trina’s version was soft and sweet. Just like the woman who appeared at the end of the aisle.
The most beautiful creature he’d ever seen.
Malik stood tall and proud at her side. They both smiled at him, so wide and happy.
He knew his face echoed their thoughts back to him.
Jaz couldn’t take his eyes off Nia as they walked towards him. Everything he’d ever wanted.
More than he’d ever dreamed.
They reached the front and Malik shook Jaz’s hand, then hugged him. Jaz returned the hug, hard.
When they pulled apart, Malik turned and hugged his mom. Jaz heard him whisper, “See. You didn’t fall.”
Laughing Nia hugged her son and kissed his head. “Thanks to you, Sprout.”
Malik moved to stand beside Rayce and Jaz took Nia’s hands in his. Because he couldn’t resist, he leaned down to kiss her. “You’re beautiful, I love you.” Then he kissed her again.
Megs laughed as the microphone picked up Jaz’s words.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself. You have to listen to me yammer for a bit before you get to the good stuff.”
He kept one of Nia’s hands in his as Megs spoke about life and love.
When it was time to speak their vows, he spoke first. “Nia, you’re the best of all the things life has to offer. You’ve always been the best person I know. I promise to do everything in my power to make every day better than the last one for you and Malik. I love you both with all I am.”
Nia’s eyes glittered but her smile was radiant. He leaned forward to capture that joy in a kiss but Megs cleared her throat loudly. “Still not your turn, Jaz. Okay, Nia. Speak quickly so the boy can get that ring on your finger and kiss you like he wants to.”
Nia’s laugh filled every part of him with joy.
When she spoke, her voice was clear and showed no signs of nerves. She’d assured him she could handle a wedding in front of his family and his town, but he wasn’t sure it had been the right choice.
“Jaz LaChance, I love you. You’re the kindest, most generous person I know. You’ll do anything in your power to help out the people you love. Even the people you’re not so sure you want showing up in your town.”
Jaz squeezed her hands as his family chuckled while most people probably wondered what she was talking about.
Nia turned to Malik and smiled at her son. “We came to Bloo Moose looking for a fresh start. We got that and so much more. We’ve found a man we both love with all our hearts. We’ve found our future, our family, and our home. I love you, Jaz.”
Jaz pulled her into his arms and was kissing the breath out of her when he heard Megs say, “I now pronounce you husband and wife. I’d tell you that you may kiss your bride, but you’ve already got that covered.”
I hope you enjoyed Reaching For Home: A Wedding!
Next up will be Tansy’s story in Built of Secrets.
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