They kissed again.
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Teresa said. “Lily – carry that suitcase back up again. Looks like we’ll be staying another day.”
June 21st dawned clear and bright as a new penny, as if the sun wanted to make the most of the longest day of the year. For the moment Autumn stood alone on the front porch, but she knew by breakfast time the front lawn would be bustling with workers setting up rows of seats, the latticed archway for the ceremony, and tables for the dinner afterward.
Autumn had been informed by many of Ethan’s friends and family that no Western wedding would be complete without a barbeque, so the large roasting pit at the side of the house would soon be in use, its smoke twisting up into the stunning blue sky.
She offered up a prayer of gratitude for everything that had happened since she’d arrived at Chance Creek and the Cruz ranch. Ethan had told her of Lacey’s confession and determination to get the help she needed to recover from the abuse she’d received as a young girl. She sent up a prayer for her, too. Now that she wouldn’t be around to interfere with Autumn’s happiness, she found room in her heart for compassion toward Lacey. No wonder she behaved so spitefully when she’d been treated so badly, herself.
She said a prayer of thanks for her mother and sister’s presence at her wedding, too. Teresa already seemed to be coming around to the idea of the marriage and despite her protestations to the contrary, Autumn had a feeling she secretly relished becoming a grandmother. As their mother eased up, Lily relaxed, too — to the point that she had asked whether there were any other cute, unattached cowboys she could dance with at the wedding. Autumn couldn’t decide whether to steer her toward Rob, or as far from him as possible. Even Claire had softened up, although maybe that was just Jamie’s influence on her.
"Hey, sunshine," Ethan said, coming up behind her and placing a possessive hand on her hip.
"You’re not supposed to see me on our wedding day!"
"The sun’s not all the way up yet. Think we can sneak in a quickie before the guests arrive?"
Desire stirred within her, as it did whenever Ethan was near. Autumn glanced at her watch. It was still early.
"I think we can get away with it," she said. Taking his hand, she hurried back inside, laughing when he picked her up and headed for the stairs. She exchanged a private look with him at the memory of their lovemaking on the treads beneath their feet as they climbed to the second level of the Big House.
"Shall we go back to bed, or should we try out the linen closet?" he whispered in her ear.
"Linen closet, definitely. The next time I climb into bed with you I want to be your wife."
He enveloped her in a deep kiss. "I love you, Autumn, always and forever."
"I love you always and forever, too."