Levi felt strange using his old room at the farmhouse to get dressed. After the first few weeks of living in Vermont, he’d moved into Isla’s cottage on the land next door.
That cottage was now home, as was Isla.
He hoped they’d need to expand the cottage in the next year or two. The thought of a little girl in pigtails, overalls, and wellies running around the farm was appealing. They’d make sure she knew her family loved her and supported her as she made her way in the world.
But that was for another day. This day was to get started on that dream of family and forever.
They were getting married over at the yard behind the cottage. They’d set up the barn in case the weather changed, but it looked to be a clear day.
He should have known Isla wouldn’t want a fancy party. She insisted the guys wear their good jeans and shirts rather than renting tuxes.
He’d bought new anyway, including a jacket. He didn’t want her to regret anything about this day, and he knew she’d bought a new dress. One he couldn’t wait to see. And one he couldn’t wait to strip her out of once she was his wife.
Grinning at himself, he straightened his tie. The ties were a gift from Troy, although it was probably Piper who’d come up with the design.
The ties were covered in hops and had cheesy sayings written in cursive. From a distance, they looked like regular fancy ties. Close up and you got to read Hoppily Ever After and Beerly Beloved, and Let Love Brew. Isla was going to love them.
“Hey Henry, you ready yet? Or you thinking of running for the hills?”
Troy’s voice had him laughing and rolling his eyes. The only way he was running was if he had Isla in his arms.
Down in the kitchen, he found his friends waiting. Old friends from his military team. New friends from town. A group of men who had proven themselves more than once.
Being part of the group filled him with pride. His parents and grandparents would approve of these people. Would approve of their projects and their dedication. Even the wedding ceremony. His folks had been low-key, hard-working people who loved their family and their community.
And it was time to get on with things. Time to make Isla his officially. “Let’s go.”
The others headed out but Troy, Marcus, and Sean held back. Marcus shook his hand. “Happy for you, Levi.”
The others followed suit and he swallowed back the emotion. “Now, we just need to convince Slick and Scooby to move their asses here, and the team will be complete again.”
Troy grinned. “Working on it. I think I’ve got Heath hooked, but Garrett’s a tougher nut.”
Levi nodded. “You’ll figure it out.” He was getting his happy ending and he wanted it for his buddies too.
Isla peeked out her kitchen window, thrilled with the riot of flowers covering the yard. She’d always focused on food plants for her job, but once she’d bought this cottage with Tansy, she’d known she’d fill it with beautiful plants too.
Her few memories of her mom were in the yard behind the house. Even dealing with the last stages of cancer, she’d spent time with Isla and Constanza in the garden. Their cook had ensured Marciela had been in a comfortable seat and wrapped in a blanket. And then she’d taught Isla about growing things.
Isla had been in love with plants and flowers since, but had never owned a home before coming to Vermont. Now she had her cottage, her greenhouses, and her gardens. Flowers and vegetables.
And best of all, she had Levi.
After today, he would officially be hers.
Isla danced back from the window, making Hopper bark and jump up to the join the fun. “I’m getting married, Hopper. We’re making it official today, and I can’t wait.”
The men were getting ready for the ceremony over at the farmhouse, and the women would be here soon. She’d never had a close group of female friends before, and the wonder of it amazed her.
She hurried into the bedroom, and pulled out the dress she’d had made. One of Tansy’s cousins in Bloo Moose had married a seamstress who was branching out into making wedding dresses. She was also restoring vintage dresses, and even making new dresses by combining wedding dresses that had irreparable issues.
They’d taken a trip across the state, and worked with Nia to create something perfect for Isla. It was a combination of several damaged dresses that Nia had bought online for almost nothing.
Now Isla knew words like bodice and sweetheart neckline and A-line skirt. The bodice was fitted and lacy with flowy sleeves. She was used to wearing overalls and hoodies. She wasn’t prepared to wear something skimpy or revealing in front of other people.
But she’d also bought some very skimpy lingerie that she’d wear beneath the dress. She was sure Levi was going to approve.
The skirt part of the dress flared from her waist and swirled around her knees. There were layers of a few different materials shifting over each other and she loved the feel of it as she moved.
Because they were doing the wedding outdoors, she hadn’t wanted something long enough to get dirty. Plus she wanted to show off her new footwear.
She’d barely slipped on the dress when her friends arrived. Tansy, Piper, Branna, Addison, Nina, and the women from Midnight Lake.
Just having them all in her space brought tears to her eyes.
Nina gaped at her. “You can’t cry on your wedding day. You’re supposed to be happy. What’s wrong?”
Everyone laughed when Isla blinked away the tears with a smile. “They’re happy tears, I promise. Before I came here, I didn’t have many close friends, and I just got overwhelmed with seeing you all here.”
Nina hugged her. “You’re a great person. You deserve to have a ton of friends.”
Everyone was already dressed so they didn’t have to spend time getting ready, but she let her friends weave some flowers into her hair. She rarely wore makeup but today she added some mascara and lip gloss.
Then Nina held up a collar with tuxedo lapels and a bow tie. “This is for Hopper. We need him to be dressed up too.”
When there was a knock at the back door, her heart shivered. It was time. The others moved to the back porch and let her dad into the cottage.
His eyes filled with tears when he walked into the kitchen. “Isla. You’re so beautiful. I know your mama’s so proud of you and who you’ve become. I am as well. I’m so glad you contacted me back in the spring.”
“Me too.” Despite the weirdness of the reason she’d called him, they’d managed to develop a real relationship. Which was in large part to Elaine, his girlfriend. “Where’s Elaine?”
He grinned. “Talking with your friends outside. She said this part was just for the two of us.”
Isla had liked the woman from the moment they’d met, and she was grateful for how Elaine had helped her dad see there was more to life than work.
Music started outside and Reg took her arm then looked down. “You’re not going barefoot, are you?”
Laughing, Isla headed into the bedroom and grabbed the box she’d hidden in the closet. She slipped on her wedding footwear and then moved back to the kitchen.
Her dad laughed and then took her arm. “Perfect. Let’s get you married.”
Levi kept his eyes locked on the cottage’s back door. Someone had started music, and everyone had taken seats or stood to the side, making an aisle for Isla.
Before the door opened, he heard Nina call out from the back porch. “Go Hopper, find Levi.”
The dog bounded down the steps, tongue lolling as he made his way down aisle like it had been made for him. The dog wore some kind of contraption around his collar that had a tuxedo front along with a bow tie.
The crowd applauded as the lab made his way down the aisle, soaking up the clapping as if it was his due. When he reached him, Levi leaned down and rubbed down the dog. “Good job, Hopper. Good job.”
A collective happy noise from the crowd had him looking up to find the cottage door opening. Reg escorted Isla onto the porch, and Levi’s heart slammed against his ribs.
Isla was always beautiful, but she rarely worried about her appearance. She normally wore baggy overalls and hoodies two sizes too large. She loved snagging Levi’s shirts for her own.
Today, there wasn’t a baggy piece of clothing in sight. The white dress was soft and lacy, and swung around her as she moved. It hugged her delicious curves and toned body.
Normally she wore her hair in a ponytail. Today, it flowed over her shoulders, with tiny flowers woven into it somehow.
He wanted to eat her up from top to bottom. And then work his way up again.
When his eyes reached the bottom, he didn’t try to stop the laugh. His wonderful, perfect woman was wearing a sexy dress, flowers in her hair, and a shiny white pair of new wellies, her word for rubber boots.
When he locked his eyes on hers, pure joy shone from her as she watched his reaction. They were still grinning like fools at each other when she and Reg crossed the yard to stop in front of him.
Tearing his gaze from Isla, he shook Reg’s hand, then pulled him in for a hug. He knew how much it meant to Isla that their relationship had mended. How much it meant for her to have her dad walk her down the aisle.
Reg slapped him on the back, and when he spoke, his voice shook. “Thanks for taking care of my girl, and helping her find her place. I’m proud to be able to claim you as family.”
Levi nodded, his throat suddenly tight.
Reg took his seat, and Levi turned back to Isla. Her eyes shone with happy tears and her smile was too perfect not to kiss, so he didn’t resist.
As the officiant, Troy laughed. “As always, here in Phail, we start wedding ceremonies with a kiss.”
Isla smiled as she and Levi pulled back from the kiss. His hands held hers firmly and the love in his eyes filled her soul.
The crowd cracked up as Troy started the ceremony. Smiling, Troy pointed at his tie and she realized the swirly pattern was really phrases and the pattern was hops.
The puns were absolutely perfect for this wacky town and their brewery. Maybe the guys should specialize in weddings one day, because this one was perfect so far.
When Troy got to the part of the ceremony where they exchanged vows, he turned to her. “Ladies first, Isla.”
She took a deep breath, and looked up into Levi’s eyes. “I remember when I first stepped into this field, before I’d met a soul, I thought that maybe I’d found a place to call home. Then this deep, sexy voice asked if I was sure I was in the right climate for growing glass.”
The crowd mostly knew the story, and they laughed at the memory.
“The next morning I came outside to find my mess of windows had somehow transformed themselves into a viable plan for a greenhouse. I think I started to fall in love with you right then.”
He grinned at her, and she took a deep breath. “You’re such a good man, Levi. Strong in body, heart, and soul. You have a deep caring in you that extends to the land, to the past, and to the people around you.”
Color rose high in his cheeks at her words and she smiled. “I love you with every beat of my heart. I love your kindness and your protectiveness. I love how you believe in me without question, how you support me. I promise to love you forever, and to support you in all your endeavours. I love you Levi and I’ll love you forever.”
Her last words came out as a whisper, but the only person who mattered heard them. She held out the ring she’d bought. “This isn’t a new ring. I searched for vintage auction sites in Kansas and found this one. It was made by a jeweller in Kansas by the name of Henry Conner.”
She knew the story about how Levi’s friend had chosen Henry for his call sign because he was a farmer from Kansas. His surname was Connors, but Conner was close. She’d known he’d love the connection. They man missed his family, and she hoped this would give him a little connection to the past.
Levi’s mouth dropped open and there was a collective gasp from their friends.
She grinned. “I know it’s not a true family heirloom, but the connections were too good to pass up.” She slipped it on his finger and grinned when it fit perfectly.
Levi squeezed her hands and swallowed hard before she watched the tears in his eyes clear up.
“You absolutely floor me, Isla. This ring is incredibly precious. I’m not great with words, but I’m going to give it a shot here.”
She smiled. “I don’t need the words, Levi.”
He grinned. “But you deserve them. I remember that day when I asked you about growing the glass. I could see you across the fields. You drew me like a damn magnet. Your determination was almost visible. No matter how many times your plan didn’t work, you didn’t give up.”
Which she should have. Her visual-spatial sense was terrible.
As if reading her mind, he grinned. “I love that determination of yours. Whether it’s to feed the hungry people of the world, to check out a barn, to create beauty with your plants, or to build a home and a future. You’re incredible.”
She kept blinking, but the tears spilled anyway. Levi used a knuckle to wipe them away. When he spoke, his husky voice had shivers running over her skin. “I love you with all of me, Isla. I’ll protect you and support you and love you forever.”
Then he held up a ring. “Great minds and all that. This isn’t a new ring either. It’s your mom’s wedding band, which was her mom’s before her. This way, they’ll be with you forever.”
A sob escaped her as he slipped the ring on her finger and then pulled her in for a hug. When she had herself together, she leaned back to smile at him. “It’s perfect, Levi. I love you.”
His lips crushed hers and she wrapped her arms around him. He lifted her off her feet as the crowd cheered.
Dimly she heard Troy pronounce them the Farmer and His Wife.
Levi couldn’t stop smiling. He’d had his first kiss and his first dance with Isla as his wife. Wife. His. He wasn’t sure which of those words was actually his favorite. Probably the combination of the two.
A loud whistle called everyone’s attention over to the bar. Well, bar might be a grand word for the setup. They’d stacked hay bales from the loft together to form a sort-of table. It was topped with several large glass bottles filled with water, lemonade, and iced tea. Isla’s small tractor sat next to it. The scoop was filled with ice along with bottles of wine and champagne. Another group of hay bales held glasses and mason jars.
Troy waved when everyone was quiet. “Mr. and Mrs. Connors would like you to select a glass for the day and to refill it as often as you like. If anyone requires a ride home, we have several volunteers who will make that happen.”
Levi doubted it would be required, but he was glad of it. Nothing like good friends and good neighbors to keep each other safe.
He had Isla wrapped in his arms in front of him as they listened to their friend explain the choices.
“Food is available inside the barn. Eat whenever you’re hungry. But first we’ve got a surprise for the newlyweds.”
Isla looked up at him, but he shook his head, not sure what was coming next.
Troy grinned, and motioned them over. Sean and Marcus rolled in a wheelbarrow carrying a keg. Had they brewed his hops without telling him?
Confirming his theory, Troy grinned. “Henry here has worked his ass off to grow these hops. We’re not ready for full production mode, so we dried most of the hops for when we are.”
Most. Not all.
Marcus picked up the tale. “We set up a small system in the shed at the back of the farmhouse property without these two even noticing.”
It seemed impossible, but they’d obviously done it. Isla grinned at him, and they moved closer.
Sean propped up the keg and then filled up two small mason jars. “It seems appropriate for you two to be the first official taste testers.”
In public? What if it was horrible?
“This is the Pilsner that we’re going to sell at The Saloon. Well, as long as its any good.”
Everyone laughed. At least that took the pressure off. If it was awful, he wasn’t going to have to pretend. And he liked Pilsners.
Troy poured three more jars. He, Marcus and Sean held them up. With shit-eating grins they looked at each other and then lifted them up.
Marcus spoke. “Introducing the first official beer from the Phail Brewery.”
Then all three of them spoke at the same time. “The Henry!”
Levi laughed. Of course they’d called the first beer The Henry. They were such idiots. But they were also family, and he wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Isla was laughing as Marcus handed her a jar, and then Sean passed him his.
He held his up to Isla and she clinked hers with it.
The entire crowd counted down from three and then they both sipped.
Isla’s smile was immediate. “It’s good. It’s really good.”
Laughing, he took another sip of his own. It really was.
When they’d poured a glass for all the adults and the kids had their own drinks, Troy called for a toast. “To Henry and Mrs. Henry.”
Isla had only had the one glass of beer. She didn’t want this night ruined by anything. She’d danced with her father and all of her new friends. She’d laughed and taken good natured teasing about the wedding night from her friends.
It had been a fabulous wedding, and the night was magical with the stars above, and all of the twinkling lights they’d set up. The solar powered lights were enough to see by, but not bright enough to dim the magic of the evening.
Levi crossed over from where he’d been chatting with her dad and Jim and Carl. The three had become good friends over the last few months.
Levi took her hand and led her to the area by the greenhouses where they’d been dancing.
He tucked her into his arms. “How you doing there, Mrs. Duggan Connors?”
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
He squeezed her. “Me too. But I have a few plans that might make you a little happier. We just have to get rid of a few people first.”
She laughed. “It’s been a spectacular evening.”
“It has. But I want you to myself.”
That sounded amazing, but it would be rude to kick everyone out.
As if he’d read their minds, Troy whistled. “Thanks for coming everyone. Time to go home. Marcus is organizing rides out front for everyone who needs one. Before you go, Isla and Levi want to remind you to grab one of the mason jars full of seeds from the wheelbarrow. The labels show what you’re going to grow. Everything from wildflowers to wheat. One more cheer for our newlyweds and then we’re out of here.”
The crowd cheered and laughed. After a round of hugs and best wishes, the yard was finally quiet. Sean turned her back into his arms. “We’ll give them a few minutes to clear out from the front yard.”
“I could dance with you forever.”
After the song finished, Levi took her hand again and led her into the barn. She was surprised to see everything had been put away, and there was nothing to clean up.
He tugged her to the ladder, and then pointed up to the hayloft. “After you. Watch your footing with those wellies on.”
She was two steps up when Levi moved in right behind her. His body brushed against hers and she couldn’t stop a gasp at the contact. Every nerve ending had been alight for hours. One touch and she might skyrocket.
Levi leaned in and pressed a kiss to her ear. “One step at a time.”
When she moved up one step, his hand slipped under her dress and skimmed up her thigh. He kissed her nape above the neck of the dress. “Take another step, Isla.”
His hand kept skimming her thigh but when she stepped up one rung, he brushed his fingers over the lace of the sexy panties she’d bought.
He growled. “I like these, Mrs. Connors. One more.”
This time, his big hands went to the zipper on the back of her dress. He slid it slowly down her back, brushing his fingers over the skin he exposed. Then his tongue followed the path his fingers had taken.
The zipper ran all the way down to her butt and when Levi kissed the skin at the bottom of the spine, her hands slipped off the ladder. Of course he was ready for that with his hands on her hips.
“Hands back on the ladder, gorgeous. I’ve got some exploring to do.”
When her body was shaking, he eased her arms out of the sleeves of the dress and reached her hands up to the next rung. “Hang on, darlin’.”
He slid the dress down her body, brushing the silky fabric against her sensitized skin. When he reached her wellies, he lifted one foot then the other, then dropped her dress to the ground below.
His face was level with her panties and he licked along the edge, nearly sending her over the edge right there. “You’re beautiful and sexy. Can’t believe you’re all mine.”
Then he licked up her spine, chuckling at the gasps and cries coming from her. “Up again, Isla.”
She climbed another rung and he followed her. This time, he licked along the edge of her bra. “Can’t wait to see the front. Up again.”
He followed her so his body pressed her gently into the ladder and the sensations of his jeans and shirt on her bare skin had her wondering how she was going to keep moving.
Every step she took, his hands teased her a little more, sent her spinning a little higher. His fingers brushed her nipples, traced along the edges of the fabric. His tongue explored every inch he could reach.
That sexy growl and those magical hands kept her going. By the time she neared the top of the ladder, she was shaking and weak with anticipation.
When her hand reached the top rung, Levi lifted her into his arms and carried her up into the loft. “This threshold will do for now.”
The loft window was wide open. Stars lit the space, along with a few more of the jars filled with solar twinkle lights. Cozy blankets and pillows had been spread in front of the window. A bottle of champagne rested in a bucket with ice. It was cozy and romantic and exactly like Levi to have thought of it.
He set her gently on her feet and his hands skimmed over her shoulders as his gaze devoured her and the skimpy lingerie she still wore. His eyes were on fire when his gaze returned to hers. “I definitely approve.”
His hands cupped her breasts and his thumbs brushed her nipples. She reached out to grab his waist to keep herself steady. Levi wrapped one arm around her to keep her steady and slid the other hand down into her panties. He growled again and rested his forehead on hers. His fingers moved and circled and teased until she was flying into an orgasm that knocked the remaining strength out of her bones.
When she managed to open her eyes, she found herself on the blankets while Levi knelt over her, grinning like a wolf. “You’re spectacular. Let’s try that again. Maybe while you’re only wearing the boots.”
So they did.
And it was spectacular indeed.