It was all coming together, she thought happily as the limo turned into the lane toward the Matheson ranch.
Morgan sat up. The Matheson ranch? "What are we doing? Did Lisa forget something? What do we need to pick up?"
Autumn and Claire exchanged a smile. "You’ll see," Claire said.
They pulled up to the main house, where she’d fought with Holt and Ned a few weeks back. The driver parked the limousine and came to open their door. Autumn climbed out and held a hand to her. "Come on."
Confused, Morgan followed her out of the car, then gasped aloud when she saw the lawn ahead of her, filled with guests seated in white folding chairs. At the end of the lawn stood a white arbor decked with flowers. Beneath it stood Joe Halpern, Rob, Ethan, Jamie and Cab.
"Oh, my God," Morgan breathed, raising a hand to her mouth. Tears pricked her eyes as she realized what was going on. The ranch wedding she’d longed for – it was actually happening.
Lisa bustled up to her side as Autumn and Claire surrounded her. "Got you!" she cried, beaming with happiness. "You didn’t suspect a thing, did you? I can’t believe you thought I’d let my baby boy and his wonderful bride get married in a hospital!"
Morgan laughed along with her. She couldn’t resist Lisa’s obvious joy. "How did you do all this without me even knowing?"
"Who do you think Rob got all his trickiness from? It certainly wasn’t from Holt!" Lisa crushed her in a hug, then gestured to the others. "Everybody’s waiting. Let’s get in line, girls. As soon as you’re ready I’ll take my place up front. Wait for the music and then walk down the aisle. Morgan, here’s your bouquet." She handed her a lovely cluster of old-fashioned blooms.
Morgan searched for Rob again and met his gaze across the seated guests. He shrugged and held his hands out to his sides to say he had no idea, either, then smiled broadly. Lisa urged her to the rear of the rows of seats, where the guests were craning their necks to see her reaction to the surprise.
"Thank you," she managed to say before Lisa hurried off. Autumn stood first in line. Claire came second. Standing behind them, Morgan looked around her, helplessly. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The care and thoughtfulness of Lisa’s arrangements overwhelmed her.
The music swelled, and Morgan’s breath caught. Wait a minute, wasn’t someone supposed to walk her down the aisle? Cab had stood in for Autumn’s father, and Ethan for Claire’s in their weddings…
"Morgan," a deep voice said, as an arm linked with hers. She looked up to see Holt, frail but steady. "Your father should be here, and if I was feeling stronger I’d fly to Canada and give him the thrashing he deserves. Lisa tried to track him down, but his wife said he was out of the country."
Morgan bit her lip. She refused to let her father ruin this special day, but his absence hurt.
"Would you allow me to escort you down the aisle?" Holt asked, and it was the first time she’d ever seen him look uncertain. "I have no daughters of my own," he said. "I’d be honored to fill in."
Tears threatened to spill over her lids, but she held them back somehow. "I’d like that, very much," she managed to say.
First Autumn, and then Claire began to move down the aisle. Holt patted her arm, and when they processed side by side she found comfort in his presence.
The seats around her were filled with guests. Some she knew, others she had yet to meet, but she was sure in the years ahead, as she lived, worked, and raised her family in Chance Creek, they’d become the community she’d always craved.
At the altar, Rob waited for her, his gaze never leaving hers. So much love shone there, and such promise of the good times ahead. Morgan’s heart began to race as she joined him in front of the minister, and Holt took his seat.
Joe Halpern raised his bible and began the ceremony. Looking into the eyes of the man she loved, Morgan knew she was finally home.
* * * * *
Rob thought he’d never get to speak his vows and take his wife into his arms to kiss her before God and man. Finally, however, the ceremony started, Joe said his lines, and he and Morgan exchanged rings. He gave her a brand new wedding band to match the engagement ring already on her finger. She slid the exotic silver band she’d given him a month ago back on his finger. He’d grown so attached to it he refused to pick out something new.
When he bent to kiss her, he searched her face to see if she truly meant her vows.
"I love you," she whispered.
He grinned and swooped in for that kiss. As their guests cheered, he cupped her face and kissed her on and on, finally breaking away to whisper back, "I love you, too."
Later, when they’d walked back up the aisle, and ducked into the main house for a moment alone, Morgan excused herself to freshen up and Rob waited for her by the front door.
Ned found him there and approached him before Rob could figure out an escape route.
"Glad everything worked out for you," Ned said, jamming his hands into his pockets.
"Yeah?" Rob still didn’t feel like giving him an inch.
"Yeah. What I said a few weeks back…it wasn’t right."
That was almost an apology, Rob thought in surprise. He surveyed his brother, who wouldn’t meet his eye. "Maybe it’s about time we figured out a way to get along."
Ned looked up, seeming relieved. "I don’t mean to fight with you. It’s just…we’re different."
"What’s wrong with that?" Rob wished Morgan was here. Or Autumn, or someone of the female persuasion. He had a feeling he and Ned weren’t getting this quite right.
"Nothing, I guess." Ned shrugged. "That’s what I wanted to tell you. You do your thing. I got your back."
Rob grinned in spite of himself. "Don’t you mean you’ll pound my back?"
"Oh, I’ll do that, too, if it needs doing," Ned said, grinning back at him. "But as long as you keep in line, I mean to be your brother, not your enemy."
Rob figured they’d better quit while they were ahead. Luckily Morgan descended the stairs looking as radiant as a goddess. Ned backed away. "Congratulations," he said to Morgan as she passed by and then disappeared down the hall to the back of the house.
"Wow, he actually spoke to me," she said, linking her arm through his.
"I think we’ve managed to set things right," Rob said.
"I’m glad. I want all of us to be one big, happy family," she said. "Speaking of which," she squeezed his arm. "With all the excitement, I haven’t been paying much attention. I just realized I’m a week late. I think I might be pregnant."