Darby sat on her bed and flipped open her notebook. Meatball didn’t even raise his head, but his feline sigh rumbled at the interruption of his afternoon nap.
“I know, I know, but I have to double-check. Today of all days, I’m not forgetting something important.”
She scanned each list. B&B. Guests. Food and drink. The Day.
That one made her smile every time she flipped to it. The Day. Their Wedding Day.
She was getting married. Today. Soon.
She wished her parents could be there, but she knew they would love Quinn. They’d be so happy to see both of their kids settled with wonderful people.
Shaking off the melancholy, she turned back to her list. Even a casual wedding needed its lists. Like Sawyer and Myla’s wedding, hers and Quinn’s would take place at the B&B surrounded by their friends. Those friends were their real family.
Antonia Fortini had insisted on doing the cooking for the day, not only giving Darby the day off that duty, but providing them with the most delicious meal. It was easy turning over your kitchen when the woman taking it over was the best cook she’d ever met.
A glance at the clock showed that she still had time, so she reached into her drawer and pulled out an older notebook. She flipped to the Risk List as she had so many times over the past few months.
This was the page that had changed her entire life.
So many of the items had seemed completely out of reach at the time. She’d lost herself for so long. She’d even crossed out two of the items, but in the end, she’d completed them as well.
Now, she’d found herself and found Quinn. She’d never imagined being this happy. A knock on the door had her looking up.
“It’s Myla. Can I come in?”
Darby called out for her to enter and her friend flew in, grinning.
“Are you ready to start getting ready?”
Darby closed her notebook and stood in time to find herself wrapped in Myla’s arms.
“I’m so happy for you, Darby.”
Her eyes misted and she blinked them back. “Me too.”
Myla stood back and pointed at her. “I hear tears wobbling in there. No tears. You’re not getting puffy eyes. Not allowed”
Darby laughed and swallowed the emotions. “You’re right.”
For the next thirty minutes, they played with hair and makeup then pulled out their dresses.
Myla had chosen to wear a dress that swirled with soft blues and yellows. It set off her dusky skin perfectly. The hem of the skirt didn’t touch the floor, but Myla no longer worried about people seeing her leg. Darby knew her brother had helped her friend realize she was not only gorgeous, but strong and completely whole.
Sawyer had always been an incredible man, but Myla had softened his rough edges and helped him recover from his time in the military.
Myla pointed at her again. “Swallow those thoughts, those tears. Let’s get you into the dress. I trust you’ve chosen suitably sexy lingerie?”
That made her laugh and the tears vanished. Her cheeks heated as she smiled. She knew exactly what Quinn liked and she’d bought a new set with that in mind.
Myla threw an afghan over the full length mirror and Darby’s mind went back to the time Quinn had used the mirror to show her exactly how sexy he thought she was.
“Whatever you’re thinking now, those are the best kinds of thoughts for a wedding day.”
Laughing at her friend’s perceptive nature, Darby quickly put on the dress. She hadn’t wanted a traditional wedding dress. Instead, she’d bought an off-white dress with a fitted bodice and a full skirt that was made for dancing.
She swished it, reminding herself of the Nosy Trinity and their dresses. The trio fully approved of her new look and she’d bet they’d approve of her lingerie as well, although she had zero intentions of discussing it with any of them.
Myla clapped her hands. “You’re perfect, Darby. Stunning and perfect.”
Hardly, but when Myla whipped the afghan off the mirror, she smiled at her reflection.
Quinn paced the deck at Sawyer’s. Loco’s head followed him back and forth until he worried the dog would be dizzy.
Sawyer joined him on the deck and handed him a beer. “Drink.”
Quinn grabbed the beer and they clinked bottles before he took a sip. “Thanks. Time is frozen and I just want to fast-forward.”
Sawyer grinned. “I remember the feeling. Not long now.”
Quinn nodded. He couldn’t wait. He wanted Darby to be his officially. Wanted the entire world to know she was his. Wanted their forever to get started.
“Glad I didn’t have to kill you.”
Quinn nearly spit out his mouthful of beer at his best friend’s words. The former SEAL hadn’t been thrilled when Quinn and Darby had got involved, especially as Sawyer had been the one to arrange for them to be in the B&B alone together.
Their parents had died when they were teens and Sawyer was extremely over-protective of his sister.
Quinn looked his buddy in the eye. “She’ll always be my first priority.”
Sawyer nodded, eyes serious. “I know. That’s why you’re alive and dressed up today.”
Quinn rolled his eyes, knowing Sawyer was joking. Mostly.
He really was. “In every way imaginable.”
His buddy locked up and they headed to his truck.
Once they were driving, Sawyer sent him a look. “Any regrets about not inviting your parents?”
Quinn shook his head immediately. “Not a one. They’re horrified that their golden child is spending time in jail. They want me to get Darby to drop the charges.”
Sawyer growled and Quinn nodded. “Exactly. Not a damn chance of that. If I never see any of them again, I’ll be a happy man.”
“That sucks. Parents aren’t supposed to be assholes.”
Quinn laughed wryly. That statement summed it up nicely.
The summer day was bright and Quinn shoved thoughts of his family from his mind. Today was the start of his new family. Darby. The man beside him becoming his brother. Their friends surrounding them as they took this next step.
They pulled into Sawyer’s reserved spot at the B&B and headed to the back deck where the ceremony would take place.
Scott Anders, one of the Bloo Moose deputies, had agreed to be their officiant. He walked down the steps and shook both their hands. “You all set, Charters?”
“Well, half the town’s here and I hear your bride’s ready.”
Quinn missed the rest of whatever his friend said as his words settled in his brain. His bride.
Sawyer slapped him on the back and then they climbed the stairs to the deck.
Scott called to everyone to grab their seats and in moments, the group had settled. Quinn smiled at everyone waving at him and Sawyer slapped his shoulder again. “Be right back.” Because Sawyer was pulling double-duty today. He was walking his sister down the aisle and acting as Quinn’s best man.
It took a few minutes, but then someone started up the speakers. The music was soft but upbeat. Some kind of jazz that Darby liked.
Darby’s maid of honour was Myla but she didn’t have bridesmaids or a flower girl. Instead she had flower grannies.
The Nosy Trinity and Mrs. Hammond.
Because without these four elderly women, it would have taken much longer for him and Darby to get together. He believed they’d have eventually figured it out, but he was glad these women had speeded things up.
The four women exited from the B&B in a small group. Grinning at the audience, they danced along the aisle. Pink, blue, yellow, and purple dresses. Same colored flowers in their baskets. They tossed the flowers into the crowd as they danced.
Darby’s Nosy Trinity each moved forward and hugged him before taking one of the seats reserved for them at the front of the crowd.
Mrs. Hammond, her blue dress a perfect match for her Pontiac, reached up to pat his cheek. “I’m so glad you’re getting the girl of your dreams. You’ll be giving us flower grannies some beautiful great-grand-babies in the future.
Then she hugged him and Quinn hugged her back. “Thanks for everything, Mrs. Hammond.”
“You’re very welcome, dear. Now, let’s get on with it.”
With a twirl and a cloud of perfume, she waltzed to her seat and gestured at Scott to move it along.
Quinn couldn’t agree more.
Darby watched her brother’s eyes heat up as Myla opened the door for him. He kissed her quickly, but the intensity was enough to reach Darby across the room.
Then Sawyer turned to her and his eyes were all warmth and love. He strode across the room and pulled her in for a hug. “You’re beautiful, Darb. Quinn’s a smart bastard.”
She laughed and hugged him back.
Her brother’s gruff voice was soft. “They’d be happy for you. They’d like Quinn, too.”
Darby nodded. “They would. I was thinking earlier they’d be so happy to see us both with such amazing people.”
Sawyer nodded and pulled back. “You ready?”
She nodded and they headed down the stairs. From the family room, they watched as their flower grannies hammed it up and had the entire crowd smiling.
Myla hugged her and moved onto the deck next, tossing more flowers and laughing with the audience.
The music changed and Darby tucked her arm through her brother’s. “It’s time. I’m getting married, Sawyer.”
“You are. Still time to change your mind and have me kill him for touching you.”
She laughed, as he’d no doubt intended, and they moved out the door.
The crowd all watched her and it didn’t bother Darby in the least. She wasn’t hiding anymore. She wasn’t shrinking back from life.
Instead, she was moving forward with a smile.
And with her heart filled with love for the man smiling at her from the edge of the deck.
When they reached the front, Sawyer hugged her, then shook Quinn’s hand. He moved to stand beside Myla and tucked her into his side with another kiss.
Darby saw all that in her periphery because she couldn’t take her eyes off Quinn, dapper in a black suit and tie. Scrumptious.
He took her hands and brought them to his lips. “You’re gorgeous.”
His eyes sparkled and he leaned down to kiss her.
Scott let out a dramatic sigh. “Maybe I’ll get to officiate one wedding where the couple listens to instructions about the whole kissing thing.”
When the chuckles died down, he continued to speak for a few minutes then it was time for their vows.
Quinn gripped her hands more tightly. “I love you, Darby. You see past my family. You see me. I love your strength, your kindness, and your bravery. You’re the most exquisite creature I’ve ever met and I’ll always be there for you. I promise to be yours forever.”
She blinked away the tears at his words and took a deep breath. She should be nervous with being the center of attention, but she wasn’t, not with Quinn at her side. She was in love with this man and she wanted the world to know it.
“It wasn’t that long ago when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fall in love or be lovable. And then you were there. Helping me take those risks, helping me believe in myself. Helping me be me and showing me I could be worthy and loved.”
She had to blink away more tears. “I love you so much, Quinn. I love your kindness, your patience and determination. I promise to always be yours forever.”
Quinn cupped her face with his hands and then kissed her again.
Scott laughed. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may continue kissing the breath out of each other.”
They laughed into the kiss and then followed instructions.