Piper Keenan had planned a lot of things in her life. Playgrounds. Recreation centers. Parks. Splash pads. Presentations.
And now a secret wedding.
So much more fun than she’d expected. Only two people were in on the secret with her. Troy obviously, and his buddy Marcus, who was going to marry the two of them.
Thankfully, it had turned into a beautiful spring day because there wasn’t any interior space in town that would accommodate the wedding. Not yet, anyway.
They were working on it, but winter in Vermont meant construction had been mostly on pause. They’d been doing some interior work at the Phailed Saloon, but most of their time and volunteers had been focused on demolishing the empty buildings and beginning to create Phail Way Park.
Troy’s parents had arrived this morning for their annual spring visit so it was the perfect time for the wedding without stressing anyone out.
Troy had said they could just as easily take a weekend away and get married in another town if Piper didn’t want to be the center of attention. He knew she didn’t like doing presentations in front of groups.
This was different for so many reasons.
Marrying Troy was an easy decision. She loved everything about him, including the way he took care of the town. Because of that, and because of his personality, he loved his town and they loved him back.
They’d all be sad if Troy got married without them. The people of Phail had become her friends. They wouldn’t be an anonymous crowd. They wouldn’t be judging her presentation. If she flubbed the vows, they’d simply laugh along with her. And tease her forever in their gentle way.
Piper paced the upper room of the Saloon. In a hope to take back the space from the memories of when Ethan had kidnapped her, she’d chosen to get ready in the same room the creep had held her.
Like the rest of the building, it was waiting its turn at being refurbished, but instead of picturing Ethan, she was imagining the rest of her life with Troy.
They’d made love that morning for the last time as singles and she let those feelings fill her up as she changed into the dress she’d ordered. The bodice of the dress was white but there were deep blue and green flowers in the pattern that danced along the bottom of the skirt. Not an exact match to the colors in the tartan of the Phail family crest, but very close. “What do you think, Oreo?
The dress swung around her knees and the soft layers made it fancier than a regular spring dress, but not fussy like a gown. She could definitely wear this again if they had a fancy event sometime in the future.
Maybe the grand opening of the saloon. The possibilities for the town made her giddy. Not only had she come up with a lot of the ideas and designs, she’d be there to see them grow and take on their own life in the future.
When she was ready, Piper slipped down the back stairs and into the bathroom to fix her hair. She could have used this room to get dressed in as well, but taking back that room had felt right.
The past was behind her where it belonged and she was about to marry the most amazing man. Bring on the future.
Troy looked around the park, pleased to see how many people had shown up for the celebration to officially open the gazebo. And a wedding, but none of them knew that. All their friends from Midnight Lake, along with most of the town were there.
The potluck lunch was supposedly to celebrate the gazebo being completed, as the first step to fulfilling Piper’s ideas for Phail. It had only been a few weeks since the weather cleared enough to build on the grass, but Troy had pushed for this to be completed before some of the other items.
Most people agreed it was a good idea so that they could have gatherings. He hadn’t told any of them it was so he could get married. This park area was all Piper’s idea and he wanted her to be the first to officially use the gazebo and the park. He wanted their wedding to be the first official event.
He knew the town would approve.
Troy moved to where Jim and Carl were chatting with a group. “Can I get you guys to do me a favor?”
They waved goodbye to their other friends and nodded. Jim answered. “Of course. What do you need?”
“Piper needs some help in the Saloon and I’ve got something I need to do. Can you head around to the back door and give her a hand?”
They nodded and moved off.
Troy moved to where his new friends from Midnight Lake stood. He motioned at Sam who met him away from the others. “I need a favor.”
Troy grinned. “I’m going to text you four phone numbers. I’d like you to loop them into a video call in a few minutes. I’ll text them to let them know.”
Sam’s eyebrows shot up. “What don’t you call them yourself?”
Troy grinned. “I’ll be busy. Just keep it under wraps for me.”
“When do you want me to call them?”
“In about a minute. Once I get to the gazebo.”
Sam grinned and they worked to get his phone set up to make the group call.
His own phone beeped with a text. From Jim. Ready when you are.
Grinning he texted back. Give me a minute to get into place with Marcus. Then he headed to the gazebo. It was time.
Piper was nearly bouncing. She’d picked some wildflowers at a nearby empty field and had tied them up with a Phail tartan ribbon. She’d also tied a similar ribbon around Oreo’s collar.
She was ready.
A knock on the door had her peeking through the peephole Troy had installed on the door. Jim and Carl. She opened the door and ushered them in. “Thanks for coming.”
She closed the door behind them and turned the lock.
The men looked at her and both broke into huge smiles. “Piper. You are stunning. Absolutely stunning.”
Her face flushed and she smiled back. “Thank you.” She did a quick twirl and the dress flared out making both men react again.
Then Jim narrowed his eyes. “Troy said you needed help something. What’s going on?”
“Nothing gets by you two.”
Carl took her hand in his then looked at the flowers on the island. Oreo popped up from where he’d been napping and came over to greet his two friends.
The men exchanged a look and grinned. “You’re getting married.”
Piper laughed along with them. “You’ve got it.”
They both hugged her and talked at the same time.
What can we do?
How can we help?
Do you have something old?
Your dress is new, so that’s covered.
And the gorgeous flowers along the hem are blue.
Borrowed? What have you got?
Piper laughed at the two of them and waved them to a halt. “I didn’t think about that, but yes, the dress is new and the flowers are blue.”
With a gloss of tears, she patted the necklace she wore. “This belonged to my mom. My dad bought it for their anniversary one year.”
Carl hugged her. “That means they’re both here with you today. That’s perfect.”
Jim wrapped his arms around them both. “They’d be so proud of the woman you’ve become. You’re kind and compassionate and scary smart.”
She blinked hard. “Don’t you make me cry and ruin my makeup.”
They both squeezed her hard. Carl frowned. “You still need something borrowed. What have we got?”
Jim grinned and plucked the pocket square from Carl’s jacket. “You must have known you needed to wear the blue jacket today.”
It didn’t take long for Jim to fashion the square into a wrap around the bouquet and then retie it with the tartan ribbon. “There. You’re perfect.”
“And so are you both. I need to ask you something.”
They smiled. “Anything you need, just ask.”
Oh, these two. Piper blinked away the tears again. “My parents would really like you both. I was hoping that you would do me the honor of walking down the aisle with me and Oreo.”
Piper was engulfed in their hugs and had to battle back more tears.
“We would be honored, Piper. Truly honored.”
Troy pointed at a spot beside the gazebo where Sam would have the best view.
Marcus joined them. “You ready for this Epic?”
Marcus slapped him on the shoulder and moved up the gazebo steps. They’d already set up the space with a small table and Marcus had his notes. He’d become an officiant for them and Troy couldn’t be happier. He waved his mom and dad over and had them stand next to his buddies.
From the gazebo, Marcus called to him. “And we’re on.”
Marcus activated the speakers and started playing the song they’d chosen. Andy Grammar’s I Choose You. It was upbeat and the words were perfect for him and Piper.
When the music blasted through the speakers, the doors to the Saloon opened. Oreo bounced out first and trotted down the stairs.
Troy’s heart filled when Piper exited with Carl and Jim on each arm.
She was absolutely stunning. Her dress was white with blue and green flowers scattered across the bottom of the skirt. It danced around her legs as she moved down the stairs.
Her eyes locked on him and he’d bet his smile was as wide as hers.
Around him, he felt the crowd closing in as they realized what was happening. His mom squealed and hugged him while his dad laughed and pounded him on the back. “Well done, son, well done.”
As if it had been choreographed, the crowd left open an aisle for Piper. When they reached where he stood with his family, Piper stopped and hugged Jim and Carl with tears in her eyes.
Troy leaned down to kiss her quickly before hugging the men as well. His parents did the same with Piper and he heard them welcoming her to the family.
Then he took Piper’s hand and kissed it before they walked up the stairs to stand with Marcus. They angled so everyone in the town could see the ceremony.
Marcus had set the microphone on the small table. “Thanks to everyone for coming. Troy and Piper wanted this to be a surprise for the town. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, they’re getting married today.”
The town cheered and clapped. Troy wrapped his arm around Piper and squeezed her into a hug.
Marcus grinned. “Troy has been our unofficial mayor for years. In the fine tradition of his family, he takes care of our town and our people. Now that we’re growing, I think it’s time we had an election and made it official.”
Troy felt his mouth drop open as the crowd cheered. Piper squeezed him. “Good idea.”
Marcus laughed. “But that’s for another day. Today is for the two of you. I don’t think there could be anyone more perfect for Troy than you, Piper.”
The cheers made Piper blush and lean her head into him. He kissed her hair and whispered. “He’s absolutely right.”
Marcus nodded. “You’ve brought new life to our town and we’re excited about the possibilities you’ve brought with you. We’re also thrilled that you and Troy are getting married. A perfect match brought to you by the town of Phail.”
Marcus spoke a few more minutes before he turned to them. “Who would like to say their vows first?”
Piper took a deep breath. “I will.” She turned to Troy and took his hands in hers. His eyes were on hers, sparkling with emotion and he lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them.
Piper swallowed hard against the tears forming. She wanted to be clear eyed for this.
“When I drove into Phail for the first time, I was completely lost. I didn’t have a home or a job or a support system. I didn’t have any idea what my future might look like. My first introduction to the town was another lost soul.” She looked down at Oreo who was napping in the sunbeam.
The crowd chuckled and she looked back at Troy. “The first person I met here was you. I was frantic about Oreo and I was a total mess.”
He grinned and lifted one hand to kiss it again. “Not true. You were the sexiest woman I’d ever seen.”
She couldn’t stop the smile even as the crowd laughed. “You went into what I think of as Troy Mode. You stayed calm and took care of us both. And you’ve been doing that ever since.”
She squeezed his hand. “You’re an amazing man, Troy Phail. You’re incredibly kind and compassionate. Strong in all the ways that matter. I love everything about you. The way you take care of everyone around you. The way you make me feel safe and appreciated and loved. You’re so special, Troy and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world that you want to be with me. I promise to love you forever.” Then she took the ring she’d been carrying and slipped it on his hand.
Troy leaned forward to kiss her and she rose on her toes to meet him. Then he stood back and smiled at her with his eyes shining like her own. “I love you so damn much, Piper.”
The sound of someone clearing their throat reached them making them both laugh. Troy turned to the crowd. “Sorry, Nina.”
Piper spotted Nina in the crowd as the girl waved and then called out, “Carry on.” Her mom, Addison, covered her eyes but was smiling as she tugged her daughter into a hug.
Laughing, Troy squeezed Piper’s hands. “You changed my world the day you brought Oreo into the shop. You’ve given the town so much, but you’ve given me more. Your love is priceless and I wake up every day amazed that you love me.”
Marcus laughed. “We’ll get to that in a bit.”
Troy laughed. “I love you, Piper. I’ll always love you. I’ll do everything in my power to protect you and keep you happy for the rest of our lives.”
He pulled out the ring she hadn’t yet seen. It was a beautiful gold band with sapphires and diamonds ringing it, the perfect compliment to her sapphire engagement ring with a stone as blue as the Phail tartan. “It’s gorgeous.”
“Just like you.” And then he was kissing her again.
In the background, she heard Marcus pronounce them husband and wife.
The crowd cheered and Oreo yipped, but she ignored them all as she kissed her husband.
Troy held Piper in his arms and swayed as the music and celebration continued around him. “So, are you brave enough to use my name, Mrs. Phail?”
Piper burst into laughter and leaned back to look up at him. “Seriously, you’re making that a challenge to my bravery?”
He grinned down at this amazing woman. His amazing woman. “Yep.”
That had her laughing again and he had to kiss the joy flowing out of her. “I’m feeling brave but I also want to keep the connection to my parents.”
He tightened his hold and kissed her hair. “Of course you do. I was teasing.”
She smiled up at him. “I know, but I do want both names. Weirdly enough, I’m very proud to be a Phail.”
That had him laughing and spinning her into a joyful dance. “I love it, Mrs. Piper Keenan Phail.”
She grinned at that. “It sounds pretty good if I do say so myself.”
A burst of static on the speakers had them all turning to see Ginny and Nimii standing on the gazebo. “Time for the happy couple to cut the cake!”
He shared a look with Piper but she was just as confused as he was. They hadn’t told anyone other than Marcus and they’d sworn him to secrecy.
The crowd cheered and ushered them up to the gazebo steps again and he found that there was indeed a cake. Two cakes actually. Large sheet cakes covered with blue and green flowers. One had Congratulations written on the top and the other had Troy and Piper written. Hearts surrounded the words.
Marcus joined them on the stage with his hands out in front of him. “I didn’t tell her about the wedding. I just asked for a couple of cakes for the event with the town colors on them.”
Ginny grinned. “He’s right. He didn’t spill your secret. When Nimii and I went to pick them up a few minutes ago, I added the words. Although if you’d let us in on it, I could have made a spectacular wedding cake.”
Troy hugged his cousin. “This is spectacular. Thank you. We were trying to keep this a surprise and low-key.”
Ginny laughed. “I can’t believe you two kept it from everyone. Now let’s get some pictures.”
Josie joined them to snap those photos. The artist had taken it upon herself to take pictures once she’d realized what was happening. They were surrounded by amazing people.
Everyone had taken turns coming to hug them and tell them how happy they were for them.
When they were dancing again, Piper squeezed him. “I really do love your town. These people are amazing.”
“Our town, Piper. They’re as much yours as they’re mine.”
She laughed, but he was speaking the truth. Not only had she become central to his life, she’d become central to the town. And they were going to do all kinds of things to prove it to her. Just like he was.
Piper felt like she was floating on happiness. The secret wedding had been fabulous and fun.
But she wanted her husband to herself.
And if the look in his eye was anything to go by, he was on the same page. Which he proved when he leaned down to whisper in her ear. “That gorgeous dress has been driving me batty all afternoon long. Now I want to see what’s under it.”
She leaned into his hug and whispered back. “I bought what’s underneath with you in mind.”
His sexy growl had shivers running all over her and she wished they were already home with the doors locking out the world.
A throat cleared beside them, making them both turn. Jim and Carl grinned at them. “Time for the newlyweds to leave before the looks you’re sharing burn up our new park.”
Jim nodded. “And we’ve got the B&B all set for you. Same room Piper was in when she first arrived.”
“No buts. It’s our wedding gift to you. Oreo’s going to have a sleepover with his buddy Moose and you’ve got the B&B. There’s a small picnic basket of treats on the bed along with a bottle of champagne. Now go have fun.”
Carl grinned. “Try not to burn down the house with all those flames.” Then he passed Troy the keys and shook his hand.
Piper hugged both of the men. “Thank you. For everything. My parents would be thrilled with their stand-ins. Thank you.”
She hugged them again then Jim patted her back. “Go. Have fun.”
Troy grabbed her hand and kissed it. “Ready?”
She nodded, heart full in all the ways it could be. “With you? For anything.”
They’d only taken a few steps when Graham Buchanan’s voice came over the speaker. “Looks like our newlyweds are trying to sneak off without saying goodbye. Say goodnight everyone.”
Piper knew her face was flushing, but she turned around and waved with Troy.
People shouted out cheers and congratulations and then Michael Buble’s Save The Last Dance For Me played over the speakers.
Laughing Troy, turned her into a dance. He danced her to the road and once there, he swooped her up into his arms and turned back to the crowd. “Thanks everyone.”
And then he jogged around the corner with her in his arms. When they were out of sight of the crowd, he lowered her feet to the ground and framed her face. For a long moment they simply grinned at each other then they dove in for another kiss.
When they broke apart, they were both breathing heavily. He looked down at her shoes and his eyes heated further. “Sexy as hell. Can you run in them?”
In answer, she grabbed his hand and they sprinted down the block and around the next corner. When they slowed in front of the B&B, Troy handed her the key Carl had given him and then swooped her into his arms again. “Do the honors.”
Piper unlocked the door and Troy stepped over the threshold. He kicked the door behind him and Piper reached to lock the deadbolt.
“Almost there.” Troy bounded up the stairs and soon they were in their room.
He leaned back on the door and she locked that deadbolt as well.
Piper reached up to kiss his chin. “Tell me you didn’t break anything carrying me all that way.”
He grinned at her and let her slide down his body to her feet. “Definitely not broken.”
“Good because I have plans for you for tonight and the next bunch of decades.”
His smile was full of love. “I’m glad because I’ve got plans for you as well Mrs. Keenan Phail. I don’t think I’m going to ever get tired of saying that.”
It gave her a thrill. “We’re married Mr. Phail. We’re really married.”
Troy kissed her and his hands moved to the zipper on the back of her dress. “We are and I have a hell of a good plan of how we should start our married life.”
A shiver ran over her at the raw need in his voice. “You have the best ideas.”
He grinned. “I may not be a fancy urban planner, but trust me, I’ve got this part covered.”
Did he ever.