[One year and three months later]
It was the perfect day for a wedding. The sky was bright blue, the grass a vivid green. The flowers that adorned the edges of the seats were a perfect baby pink. She felt butterflies in her stomach as she watched the groom and the groomsmen assemble at the front of the grand white tent. Dom looked amazing in everything he wore, that was for certain, but in a tuxedo…
He was the most ravishing creature alive. She was convinced of that.
A squeal next to her interrupted her thoughts and she startled, looking with a smile on the bride.
"You look gorgeous, Jean." Kate said smiling and handing her the bouquet she'd been holding dutifully.
"Really?" Jean's mouth wavered a little and Kate nodded reassuringly.
"Really. I promise."
"Thank you so much Kate. For everything, I couldn't have asked for more..."
"Jean, you're getting married now." Kate handed her the bouquet of white roses and pink tiger lilies. "Thank me later."
The music began to play and Jean began breathing a bit too fast, shaking her hands, murmuring "It's okay, it's okay," over and over again to herself.
"You ready darling?" Jean's dad appeared at her side. He was a large man, and much more fat than muscle. He was balding, Kate noticed endearingly, and sweat was already shining on his bald spot.
"Hold on tight, Daddy." Jean whispered, smiling when she saw Nathan standing at the front, even though her eyes were watering. Kate fluffed the train a bit as the crowd stood and all looked towards the back of the tent.
"I will, Jeanie." Her Dad promised, patting her hand as she slid her shaking arm through his. "Let's go."
And then the music started. And Jean and her father began to walk down the aisle, and the whole crowd oohed and ahhed as they caught sight of the bride, her hair falling in ringlets to her shoulders, her cheeks flushed with anticipation. Her gown was a beautiful strapless one, pure white, with embroidered flowers along the bust-line. The bodice was fitted, laced up in the back, the skirt full and gathered, the train nearly five feet long.
Kate exhaled as Jean reached the front and the whole crowd turned. She slipped inside the tent, nodding at Paul, who had been one of the ushers.
"She looks great, huh?" He whispered as she stood next to him. "Happy."
"Yeah." She mumbled back, her eyes trained on the party at the front. "Nathan's so lucky."
"Definitely." Paul agreed, shooting her a glance. "As is his little brother."
She smiled bashfully at Paul, who winked. It was funny, once everything was resolved between her and Dom, everything was magically okay between her and Paul as well. They were a package deal, apparently.
Kate sighed, watching the ceremony with a smile on her face. It had been a long day and an even longer year preparing for today, and she was so glad that the weather was being kind to them. It was 4:00 on a September afternoon, about 78 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. A light breeze entered the tent, ruffling hair and dresses, and Kate couldn't have been happier for Nathan and Jean. In the past year she had grown so close to both of them. The ceremony flew by and before she knew it, Nathan was beginning his vows.
"Jean. I knew the first moment I saw you that one day we'd be here. Even then, you took my breath away. You're so beautiful, and I'm so undeserving." His voice broke and there were tears running down her face, Kate could see them even from the back. "You've given me more joy, more happiness, and more hope than I could ever have wished for. I am my best, with you. I'm yours, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, until the day I die. I love you."
She was crying and she hadn't even realized it. Her shoulders were quaking and she missed Jean's vows completely because she couldn't make herself stop. I'm so undeserving. I am my best, with you. It was as if he had said everything that she'd been trying so hard to all of those months ago. Paul handed her a tissue and she thanked him, grateful that she'd worn waterproof makeup. She watched the two kiss, heard the crowd laugh as Nathan dipped her romantically before pulling her back up and kissing her again, lightly this time.
"Ladies and gentlemen." The pastor was speaking now, and she realized that the wedding was nearly over. "It is my great pleasure to introduce to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Sanderson."
There was clapping and laughter and the two exited, alight with happiness. The bridesmaids were escorted out by the groomsmen, and Dom, the Best Man, caught her eyes as a teary-eyed Cindy (the Maid of Honor) was grasping his arm. He beckoned for her lightly while Paul disappeared towards the front, escorting the family out.
She followed the pair to one of the limousines that were waiting to take them to the reception. He was waiting for her impatiently, his foot tapping. When he caught sight of her coming towards him he smiled, meeting her halfway.
"Hey." She greeted him, reaching for his hand. He ignored it, instead cupping one hand around her neck and using the other to pull her body to his, his lips meeting hers in an enthusiastic kiss.
"Limo's waiting." She managed before he kissed her again.
"Yeah, yeah." Another kiss, more sensual, softer.
"Dominic! Let's go!" It was Ethan who was waving him down, his dark head bobbing out of the open door, his tux jacket already shrugged off, the sleeves of his button-up pushed up to his elbows. "Stop making out and get in here!" Dominic raised his hand, kissing Kate again, longer this time, his tongue exploring her mouth before he pulled away and grasped her tightly, exhaling against her and murmuring,
"Come on, baby. Let's go."
An hour and a half later, the party was full swing. Matthew and Dom had performed a few romantic songs, Dom even singing one of his recent hits while his father played the piano. Dom's mom was actually talking with Cynthia, which Kate still couldn't quite wrap her head around. A few months ago, Ethan hadn't been talking to his mom. Now, he'd introduced Cynthia to Marie with a smile on his face.
"You look beautiful, Kate." A voice interrupted her thoughts. It was Matthew, and she smiled at him, returning his small hug. She didn't exactly agree, although Lyndi had helped her get ready. The plunging navy number was a bit over the top for her taste, a little too form fitting up top, a little too short on the bottom, but she wore it anyway. Her hair was half-up, long waves falling down her back.
"Thanks, Matt." She replied, truly grateful. "I'm really glad you could be here today."
He smiled and nodded and she was taken aback once again at how much he looked like his son. But for the crinkles by the eyes and the laugh-lines by his mouth, the faint traces of grey by his temple, they could have passed for brothers.
The cake was cut, pictures taken. Everyone was a bit giddy from champagne and the prospect of marriage and true love. Kate smoothed her dress as Dom stood next to her, his crooked smile lighting up his face as he tapped on his glass lightly. His confidence had been through the roof since his record deal and new-found fame. He'd never been able to speak in front of crowds comfortably. Singing was one thing, but talking: that had always been hard for him. Now, he could talk up a storm without even flinching. He'd had this speech written for weeks and he would brag to her constantly about the genius of it.
"On behalf of Nathan and Jean, I want to thank everyone for coming to share this special day with them. I know they're awfully hung up on each other, but they would say thank you themselves if they could stop sucking face long enough." There was wide-spread laughter, and just to be obnoxious, Nathan grabbed Jean by the neck and kissed her deeply. There were a few hoots and hollers, a cat-call. Dom smiled and glanced down at the piece of paper in his hand. "But in all seriousness, I've known my brother for a very long time. He's a smart guy, always has been, and I think that's proven today. Nate couldn't have picked a more beautiful, fun, or compassionate person to spend the rest of his life with. And Jean got pretty lucky, too." He glanced at Jean and she smiled up at him, tears in her eyes. She'd been crying all day, so this wasn't much of a feat. "So to my big brother, and one of the most amazing women I've ever met, congratulations. I know that you're both going to be disgustingly happy together." He raised his glass and the guests did the same, toasting to the couple, and then giving Dom a well-deserved round of applause.
"Nice job." Kate murmured when he sat back down, sliding her hand down his thigh and capturing his fingers under the table.
"Thank you, ma'am." He kissed her gently behind the ear, lingering long enough to send a shiver down her spine. "I can't wait to get you alone." He whispered, his voice husky and warm. "Did I tell you that you're wickedly gorgeous?"
"I don't think you used the term 'wickedly', per se." She replied. "But I do believe you called me gorgeous. Or sexy, one of the two."
"Both." He decided, taking another sip of champagne. He took a deep breath then, standing up. "I'm supposed to go sing again, babe. I love you." He bent, snatched a quick kiss from her lips, and then disappeared through the crowd, which was growing thinner slowly but surely. Kate watched as Jean stood, gathering her skirt up and heading towards the dance floor for the customary flower-toss.
"Go on, Kate!" It was Nathan's voice this time that was urging her from her seat. She blushed, watching the other single girls hurry to the dance floor. And then she caught a pair of dusky grey eyes that were staring at her from across the room. And he smiled at her, and she smiled back. He nodded towards the group of single ladies. She sighed, giving in, and standing up, following the crowd. She was the last person to mix into the crowd of giggling, smiling girls who were giddy on romance after such a beautiful wedding.
"Okay, ready?" Jean was looking over her shoulder with a grin. The girls cheered. Kate was somehow pushed forward by the jostling bodies until she was right smack dab in the middle. She laughed good-naturedly and waited. "All right! Here I go! One…two…three!"
And then it was like everyone around her ducked. She was sure of it. Or maybe she was just lucky like that. Because amidst all of the outstretched arms and jumping girls, the bouquet somehow found its way into her hands. And everyone was laughing and nudging her pleasantly and she was blushing a color that was sure to appear even on her dark skin. Jean, having turned around by now, was grinning widely and then nodded her head towards where Dom was sitting on the stage, his guitar perched on his lap, and a crooked smile on his face, his eyes twinkling.
Kate felt her heart jump in her chest and smiled back, bringing the bouquet up to her nose and sniffing them subtly, still not looking away from those dusky grey eyes. And then his crooked smile turned into a full-fledged grin and he looked down, beginning to strum absently on his instrument. She made her way back to her seat, the bouquet hanging limply in her grasp.
"Some night, huh?" Dom's arm was slung over her shoulders, which were covered in his suit jacket.
"Mmm-hmm," She agreed fully, thinking back to the dancing, Jean's wasted Uncle Jerry who had attempted to seduce Dom's mother, and, of course, the classic drive off in the "Just Married" car. It had been a beautiful wedding, and the wedding party was heading back to their motel in the small New York town that Jean was from. The couple had decided to turn down the limo ride and walk back to the motel, which was only a few blocks away.
"They looked happy," He brought his hand up from her shoulder to cup the back of her neck. "Don't you think?"
"Yeah, they really did." She fingered the flowers in her hand, which were already starting to wilt. "It was a beautiful wedding."
He nodded his agreement, laughing softly as she smelled the flowers again. "Smell good? You've hardly been able to keep your nose out of those things."
"Of course they smell good!" She defended. "They're roses, silly."
"It's funny." He continued as if she hadn't even spoken. "That you caught the flowers, I mean. Isn't it supposed to be that, like, if you catch the flowers…"
"Then you'll be the next to get married," She carried on for him. She tugged his jacket tighter around her, wondering how it felt so chilly when it had been so warm earlier in the day. "Silly old custom."
"Hmm." He let go of her shoulders for a moment, but then felt too far away from her, so he slid his hand around hers. His grip was loose, his other hand in his pocket. They continued to walk, but suddenly, he paused to look up at the stars.
"You know, you forget the stars are up there sometimes, in the city. But then you come out here –"
"You know, that's what I miss the most about back home, before New York." She finished as he trailed off, gazing up at the night sky. "You could just go out in my backyard and stare up at them. It was gorgeous. They look like – like tiny little diamonds."
"Hmm," He leaned over and kissed her cheek, pausing to smell her hair and then mutter, "You like diamonds?"
"Sure. I mean, yeah." She still felt a tingle when his breath hit her ear. "They're a girl's best friend, right?"
"Right," He chuckled again. She began to take another step, but he tugged her back to him, taking her in under the moonlight.
Her hair was coming loose. Her eyes were bright and sparkling, even though he could tell she was tired. Her make-up was smudged and faded, but he thought she looked prettier without it on anyway. Her dark skin seemed paler in the faint light from the skies. To him, she was the epitome of perfection, and he didn't know if she understood that or not. No matter how many times he told her, or how many songs he sang for her, she would never totally understand how madly, crazily in love he was with her. Never in a million years.
"What?" She asked, staring up at him with a bit of concern in her eyes. He smiled down at her questioning face, reaching up to run the back of his finger down her cheek, under her chin, and then tugging her closer.
"Kate," he began, staring straight at her the entire time, "I love you."
"I love you, too, babe." She leaned into him, tilting her face up and kissing him sweetly.
"You – you're -" He chuckled and shoved his hand back into his pocket. "You're perfect."
"No, that's not true." He knew what she was thinking about, but it was the last thing on his mind at this point.
"It is. Really. You've – you're everything to me, you know that?"
She nodded slowly, her eyebrows furrowing subtly as she stared at him. "What are you getting at, Dom?"
He sighed, and then just took the plunge. "I was going to do this some other time. A show – or – or a basketball game or something crazy and exciting…but for some reason I've been carrying this around with me all weekend and I didn't know why."
And then he brought his hand out of his pocket, and there was something in it, but the lights were so dim she couldn't see.
He exhaled, holding it out to her and muttering, "You said you liked diamonds."
With a shaking hand she took the object from his outstretched hands . It was a box. She felt her breath catch as she opened it.
She couldn't breathe.
"Dom - " She tried to say, but it was stifled by her gasp at the size of the ring. Because that's what it was. A ring. A white-gold ring with a solitary diamond in the middle – a diamond roughly the size of a marble.
He took both of her hands in his and took a step closer.
"Kate, you are, without a doubt, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to start a family with you. Have children with you. I know what it's like to wake up in the morning and realize that you're not there, and I hate it. I couldn't handle you - you not being there when I need someone to talk to, someone to turn to. I want to make coffee for you in the mornings and sing you to sleep at night. I want to see this ring on your finger every time I look down. I want to grow old with you, die with you, Kate. Marry me."
It wasn't a question. And even if it had been, it really wasn't, because there couldn't have been any other answer. There were tears in her eyes as she nodded silently, and he slid the ring on her finger with shaking hands. He hugged her so tightly that she felt as if she would break.
She could have sworn her heart was going to burst. She blindly pressed her mouth to his and he smiled against her lips. They stayed like that for a long time, pressed tightly together on the sidewalk of a small town, smiling against each other's lips.
"You know this is going to be all over the tabloids in about a week." She murmured when they took up walking again. She held her hand out for the both of them to see. It looked so strange on her finger. "God, Dom, this must have cost a fortune."
"Yes and yes." He replied. "But I don't care, and I'm rich."
She laughed. "Oh yes, I keep forgetting. I'm dating – engaged to a celebrity."
"Yes ma'am, you are." He suddenly swung her up into his arms and she screamed, laughing as he brought her down just far enough to kiss her deeply. He could still take her breath away. "Got a problem with it?"
She couldn't help but laugh. "Not in the least."
(For real this time. Thoughts? Comments? I love each and every one of you guys.)