I’m sitting in Colton’s library, having a drink with my brothers at a time I thought would be filled with anticipation. Instead, I find our conversation is giving me a headache. I swirl the liquor in my glass, wondering if I’m making a mistake. Everything about this has felt right, but their reactions are making me question myself.
“So you’ve planned an entire wedding, and you never even asked her to marry you?” Pace asks, chuckling at me from behind his fist, like this is the goddamn funniest thing he’s ever heard.
Colton stares at me, wide-eyed in a rare display of bewilderment, waiting for me to answer. As if he hasn’t been here with me the last few weeks helping me plan the whole damn thing.
“Basically,” I say. I’d asked her twenty years ago. That counts, right? I orchestrated her outing with the girls, and have caterers’ and designers downstairs readying Colton’s house as we speak.
“You’ve gone all bat-shit crazy on us, haven’t you,” Colton says, snapping out of his stony silence.
“I gave her my word when we were ten years old. I’m just making good on my promise,” I say.
“Is she going to freak out?” Pace asks.
“I don’t know.” I don’t think so. I guess some part of me knew from the day she showed up on my front porch—looking small and scared—that inviting her in would lead to this. Her in a wedding dress. Me in a tux. My brothers at my side. “Text Sophie, ask how it’s going upstairs,” I say to Colton.
Colton looks down at his phone and chuckles.
“What?” I ask, my stomach turning with nerves for the first time since I planned all this.
“Sophie says the hardest part is that the pregnancy has made her so emotional, she keeps crying, but so far Mia doesn’t suspect anything. She says Mia is going to make a beautiful bride.”
I have no response, because when I picture Mia in that custom-made silk dress, my mouth gets dry and a lump forms in my throat. I’d taken the idea from The Gremlin Files. Somehow, I knew she had to get married in that dress. That lavender silk number is exactly what she’s supposed to be wearing today, not some over-done white, poufy thing that I can’t get off of her later.
“So you’re not nervous at all?” Pace asks.
I take stock of how I feel. Nervous doesn’t describe it. I’m excited. And ready. “Nope,” I answer.
Colton’s phone chimes and he looks down at the screen. “Sophie says Mia’s ready.”
The gravity of the moment hits me and I fight off a wave of emotion. I cover a few last minute details with my brothers, discussing the rings with them when a knock at the door surprises us.
Colton answers it, and I see it’s my assistant.
“All the guests are here and seated on the beach, sir,” she says.
“It’s go time,” Pace says and claps me on the back.
“You ready for this, brother?” Colton asks.
“Fuck yeah,” I say, grinning like a lovesick fool.
The stylist pulls my hair back in a wavy updo, allowing several loose curls to escape, framing my face. Then she weaves in fresh violets, which match the dress perfectly. The makeup artist takes her time, and when she’s finally done, I stand in front of the wardrobe’s full-length mirror in shock. My hair, the dress, and my face all blend together so smoothly. I’m not normally one to over think how I look, but I have to admit the woman I see looking back at me is beautiful.
As if on cue, Sophie comes to collect me as soon as my makeover is finished. When she enters the room, I instantly know something is up. She’s wearing a deep purple satin dress, and her hair and makeup has been professionally done as well.
“Serious double date,” I say.
She nods and smiles through a faintly blushing face. “Come on, the guys are waiting.”
I look around the room realizing I’m missing one thing. “I don’t have any shoes that will go with this.”
Sophie’s eyes widen and she bites her lip. “What size shoe do you wear?”
“Eight,” I say.
“You certainly won’t fit into my size sevens. It’s okay, you can just wear what you came in,” her voice drops as her eyes find my tired flip flops in the corner of the room where I’d kicked them off.
“No. It’s fine,” I say and step into them. “This dress is long enough that no one will see.” I pull my feet under the dress then and show her.
Sophie considers for a moment, then nods. She hooks her arm through mine and guides me downstairs. I assume we’ll be heading out front to be picked up by the guys, but she makes an abrupt turn towards the back of the house. Sophie is strangely silent, and won’t look me in the eye. When she wipes a tear from her cheek I don’t know what to think.
Colton’s house is on the ocean, the beach is literally in his back yard. We step out the back to an amazing view of the Pacific. Deep blue water that sparkles from the sun. I have absolutely no idea why Collins would want me to get this dressed up to go run around in the sand, but at least I know why there were no shoes waiting for me.
Kylie meets us at the bottom of the steps. She’s wearing a dress that matches Sophie’s, and holds a huge bundle of lavender silk in her arms.
My skin prickles with an excited chill, and I notice my heart is fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings. Somehow, my body has figured out what’s going on, but it’s not bothered to tell me. My legs have forgotten how to walk, and Sophie has to help me down the path to the beach.
It’s that magical time of day, just before sunset, and rows of chairs fill the beach. The chairs are filled with people all facing Collins, who stands at an altar, flanked by his brothers. When we reach a spot several yards from the ocean, my feet stop again.
“What is this?” I ask, even though I’m pretty sure my slow brain has finally figured it out.
“It’s your wedding,” Sophie says. She’s crying as she and Kylie work to unravel the large bundle of fabric Kylie’s been cradling. It is, of course, the train for my dress. My wedding dress. As they work to attach the train a wave of emotion hits me. I cover my mouth with my hands, unable to speak.
“Don’t forget to breathe, sweetie,” Kylie says.
Which is when I notice that, with this surprise, Collins has quite literally taken my breath away.
I manage to pull in a shaky breath while I stand there looking down the aisle at Collins who’s eyes have found me and is gazing back. He’s traded in the T-shirt and jeans from this morning and now wears a black tuxedo, which even from this distance makes him look so handsome that I ache to be alone with him.