It’s a crisp fall afternoon, and everyone is here for a cookout. Julie is taking photos of Gracie up at the barn and Joseph is about to go up and tell them it’s ready.
“You okay?” Joseph asks as he squeezes me on the shoulder.
“Yep.” I nod, and he gives me a soft smile as he makes his way toward the barn.
Keeping my back straight, I take a breath and try to calm down the voice in my head that’s telling me to run up the hill and throw Gracie over my shoulder so she can’t get away.
It’s a few moments later just as the cool breeze sends the scent of apples and fall leaves my way that I see Joseph and Gracie coming over the hill. She’s got her arm through his elbow, but she stops dead in her tracks when she sees me.
Even from this distance I can see her eyes widen as she looks at her dad. He says something to her and then she smiles as she wipes away a tear, then her eyes come back to mine. They start walking again, and the closer she gets, the more details I can see on her dress.
It’s ivory with lace on the sleeves and at the neckline. The lace looks like leaves, and there are gold stitches along the bottom that match the lace. She looks like an angel, and the bronze in her hair shines as she takes another step to me.
It took a little time, but setting up this wedding today was a group effort. Val made the dress just for Gracie and Julie said she wanted to take the pictures. Tidas got the marriage license, and our parents made a special trip back to Hollow Oak. Jacks and I did the barbecue, and the rest of the town helped decorate and set up the back yard in record time. Turns out having a postal carrier for a wife means she’s got a lot of people that care about her. Especially in a small town like ours.
When she’s finally right in front of me, Val hands her the bouquet made up of sunflowers, yellow roses, and white mums. Everything around us is covered in flowers, and seeing her eyes sparkle everywhere she looks makes it all worth it.
“Donovan,” she whispers as she looks at me. Her dad leans over and gives her a kiss on the cheek before he steps back and stands next to Evy.
“Come here, sunshine.” I gently take her by the elbow and help her up the small step to the back porch.
The whole thing has been strung with lights and flowers over our head to create an arch for us to stand under. The minister begins addressing the crowd and telling them to sit, but I’ve forgotten everything as I stare into her eyes.
“I know I didn’t technically ask you,” I say softly, and she tries to hide a giggle.
“There’s nothing technical about it. You never asked.” A tear falls from the corner of her eye, and I wipe it away.
“I couldn't take the chance you’d say no.” Now it’s my turn to swallow hard and push down the emotions that are threatening to break free. “I love you, Gracie. Marry me right this second.”
“I do,” she says over the preacher's words and practically jumps into my arms and kisses me.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I hear the crowd's laughter and the preacher clear his throat, but I don’t pay them any attention. This is our special day, and damn it, I’m going to kiss my woman when I feel like it.
“Shall we begin?” the preacher says when I’ve put Gracie back on her feet. I glance over to see him trying to hide his smile, but I just nod.
“Yep, I think it’s safe now.”
The words he says are ones I’ve been working on for the past week. I wanted everything about today to be perfect, and that included the words we promised to each other. When I slide the ring on her finger, a piece of me settles into place, and I know this is where I’m meant to be for the rest of my life. By her side. When it’s her turn to repeat the words, she starts to cry again, and I can’t help but lean down and kiss her tears away. I know it’s not the right part, but I can’t stand the sight of her tears, even if they are happy ones.
“You may now kiss the bride. Again,” the preacher says when it’s all over, and the crowd stands and cheers as the music plays.
I don’t hesitate to pull Gracie against me and dip her backwards in a dramatic kiss. This is the shot Julie said she wanted, and I had zero problems meeting this request. Gracie squeals with excitement as I kiss her, and I feel her hands come around to cup my face.