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Promises We Meant to Keep: Chapter 38


ONE YEAR later

I’m getting married today at our family estate in Long Island, and it’s the wedding of my dreams, thanks to the man of my dreams.


The dress I’m wearing is a vivid red, just like the one I saw in the photo all of those years ago. Spencer did a little research and went in search of the designer, who created the wedding gown worn by Paula Yates when she married Bob Geldof. The wedding took place back in the mid-eighties, but the gown is so very timeless.

Jasper Conran designed the gown to look very similar to what Paula wore on her wedding day, who has since passed. She was blonde and wild, and tragically, a drug addict. We are alike in so many ways, and I’m just thankful I realized I couldn’t fall down a destructive path with the help of my therapist, who I still see to this day. Spencer helped too, as did the rest of my family.

I’m lucky I have them all. They saved me, though Spencer always reminds me I saved myself too. I’m stronger than I think.

Finally, I believe him. He says I don’t give myself enough credit, and he’s right.

So here I am, giving myself a little credit.

Enough time has passed after my mother’s accident that I’ve come to a realization. She controlled every little part of me for so long, I felt lost without her. She was so intricately woven into my life, it was scary not to have her around. When she died, I firmly believed I would miss her terribly. I knew I was free, but I was also terrified to live in a world without her.

The cliché ‘can’t live with her, can’t live without her’ was never more accurate.

I’m confident now that I can stand on my own two feet. That I don’t miss her. Our relationship was fraught with tension, fear and abuse. What she did to me is unforgivable. Needing her was codependent behavior that she encouraged.

She was a monster, and I’m glad she’s gone.

There’s a knock on the door, and before I can answer, Carolina enters the room, gorgeous in a cream-colored beaded gown. She stops when she sees me sitting at the vanity, her hand coming up to cover her mouth for a moment as she takes me in.

“You’re stunning,” she finally says when she drops her hand.

I turn to face her, still sitting on the velvet-tufted bench, a serene smile on my face. I can feel it, the peacefulness that flows through my body. I’m content. It feels so right, to marry Spencer. Like I’ve been planning this moment my entire life.

“Thank you,” I tell her, glad that I kept the wedding gown a surprise until this very moment. I didn’t want anyone to see it. Once Spencer found the designer, he let me take over completely, and when I asked for his input, he told me he wanted to be surprised on our wedding day.

This project has been completely my own, something I’ve been working on for almost a year, and included me flying to London twice for fittings, taking Monty and Cliff with me the second time. They’re the only ones who saw the gown, but not the finished product.

“You would have us wearing actual wedding gowns and you’re wearing something like that.” She waves a hand at me, her bright red lips curved into a fond smile.

She’s teasing me, and it’s nice. Our relationship has shifted over the last year and I’m so grateful to have her more present in my life. Mother drove everyone, even my family, away from me because she wanted me all to herself.

That hurts, more than I care to admit.

“I like to do things a little differently,” I tease. “You know this.”

“Very true.”

The gown she’s wearing has a heavily-beaded bodice and a flowing tulle skirt. She’s correct in calling it a wedding gown, for that’s exactly what it is. Summer is wearing a matching one, and Monty and Cliff are in full-blown morning suits like the rest of the men in the wedding party. They’re all wearing a black tailcoat, black and gray striped pants, a silvery gray vest and matching tie. Monty and Cliff even chose to wear top hats.

Spencer, Whit and his friends are most decidedly not wearing top hats.

“I feel ridiculous in it,” Spencer told me last night at the rehearsal dinner. “And I don’t want to look at photos from our wedding years from now and remember how ridiculous I felt.”

I kissed him because I liked the idea of us looking at photos of our wedding years from now. Possibly sharing them with our children.

“They sent me to come get you,” Carolina says, her voice interrupting my dreamy thoughts. “The ceremony is going to start in thirty minutes. Are you ready?”

“Yes.” I slowly stand, readjusting the skirt of my gown. The designer and his apprentice left a few minutes ago to grab something to eat and I haven’t moved from the vanity since.

“You need help.” Carolina rushes toward me, kneeling down to readjust the heavy skirt and train. “The dress is just…exquisite. It sparkles.”

“I know.” I sound smug, which I am, so I don’t bother trying to hide it. This dress is just magical, and I know it.

It’s going to be a magical day, but we deserve nothing less, Spencer and me. We’ve been through so much, and we’ve come out on the other side of it all.


I’m standing with my father, our arms linked, clutching my bouquet in my right hand. It consists of deep red roses and tumbling ivy, matching the arbor where we’re to be married, which is laden with red roses, ivy woven throughout. The weather is cool and crisp, the sun shining above. A perfect fall day.

A perfect day to marry the man I love.

“I’m so happy for you today,” my father says, resting his hand over where mine rests on his arm. “You’re gorgeous in that dress.”

“Thank you.” I smile at him.

“Your mother wouldn’t approve.” He can’t help but laugh, and my smile doesn’t falter. “I probably shouldn’t say that.”

“No, it’s fine. And you’re right, she wouldn’t approve. She would hate this.” My smile grows.

“It’s why you chose it, then?” He lifts his brows.

“She had nothing to do with it. I saw a photo years ago and was inspired,” I explain. But maybe she did have something to do with it. One last bit of rebellion on my part.

Maybe I’ll always be rebellious. It could be the Lancaster in me, or this is just…me.

The middle child. The wild one. The one who always needs attention.

“All right, places everyone!” Miranda, the wedding planner, is like a dictator, clapping her hands at us, getting everyone in the wedding party lined up. Spencer is already standing in place with his best man—Whit—and the groomsmen. “The ceremony is about to start!”

As the eldest Lancaster cousin, Grant is participating in the ceremony by escorting Spencer’s mother to her seat. Cliff walks down the aisle first, Monty following close after him. Then it’s Summer, beautiful and voluptuous, her curves more pronounced since having Iris.

Carolina is next, gliding down the aisle as if her feet never touch the ground. She’s moves so effortlessly, so gracefully. Must be the dancer in her.

The children are the last to walk before the bride. Augie clutches his sister’s hand as she toddles down the aisle, wearing a red dress that’s similar to mine, a ring of red roses sitting atop her head. Downy whisps of blonde hair curl about her face, and when she spots her grandma sitting in the crowd, she becomes completely distracted.

Summer passes her bouquet to Carolina before she comes rushing forward, picking up Iris and handing her off to her mother before she takes Augie’s hand and leads him to the altar. He stands in front of his father, adorable in his matching morning suit, though he’s not wearing a top hat either.

Typical Lancaster child, doing what he wants.

Finally, the music changes, and my father and I step forward in unison. “At Last” by Etta James begins to play, and once the intro is finished and Etta starts singing, we begin our descent down the aisle.

The red veil floats behind me, nearly as long as the train of my gown, and the roses and ivy sitting atop my head are heavy. I smile at everyone as we slowly walk toward the altar, my gaze locking on the group of people we invited. Our wedding is small. Intimate. Not nearly as big as Whit and Summer’s, which is fine with me. We only wanted our closest friends and family to celebrate this day with us.

Every step forward takes me to my almost-husband. I finally look at him when the lyrics say, “A dream I can call my own,” our gazes locking, and tears immediately spring to my eyes because it’s true.

He is my dream. The boy I crushed on. The boy I imagined being with and teased and taunted and tortured. The man I’ve always, without a doubt, loved with my entire heart.

The song fades when we stop in front of Spencer, and when he smiles at me, all of the earlier nerves and worry and anxiousness float away. As if it never existed.

“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” the minister asks.

“I do,” my father says, squeezing my arm before he lets go of me…

And Spencer takes my hand.

A wedding ceremony is symbolic of so many things that I never noticed before. The passing of me from my father to my husband. The ones we love who are standing up for us, my niece and nephew playing a part too. The words the minister says, binding us together for all eternity, and the way Spencer looks at me, as if I’m the most beautiful woman in the entire world.

I let the tears flow, though there aren’t many. And they’re all tears of happiness, because why else would I cry when marrying this man? He is my love. My future. My entire world.

“…I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the minister finally says, after we’ve repeated our vows to each other.

Spencer settles his hands on my waist, pulling me gently toward him and pressing his mouth to mine. The kiss is soft and sweet, with the faintest tease of his tongue, and when he pulls away, everyone begins to applaud.

“Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Spencer and Sylvie Donato!”

We beam at everyone as the applause grows before we head back down the aisle, followed by the rest of our wedding party. Spencer clutches my hand in his, our fingers interlocked, and I’m laughing. This is just the best day.

And the party is only just beginning.

“Let’s get you positioned for photos!” the wedding planner demands, but Spencer ignores her.

“Give me a few minutes of privacy with my bride,” he says, escorting me back into the lower level of the house.

He pulls me into a small room, shutting the door behind us, and I want to laugh at how much room my dress takes up. There is red silk everywhere, bunched all around me, covered in red tulle, and when Spencer wraps his arms around my waist and tugs me closer, I go to him willingly.

“You’re stunning,” he murmurs before he kisses me.

I break the kiss seconds later, already breathless. “So are you.”

“I love you.” He kisses me again, even deeper this time, and when he groans, I definitely break away first.

“We have photos to take,” I remind him.

He exhales, nuzzling my cheek with his. “Do we have to?”

“Yes.” I press my hand against his shoulder, stopping him. “You can maul me later.”

“I plan on it.” He cups my cheek, tilting my face toward his. “I just wanted a moment alone with you.”

“I like our stolen moments alone. I always have.” I smile just before he kisses me again, savoring the sensation of his lush mouth on mine.

“I like them too,” he admits when he pulls away. “We’ll have plenty more, Mrs. Donato. Uninterrupted ones for once.”

“I hope so. As long as Squirrel isn’t around.”

He laughs. Roland and the cat arrived days after my mother’s funeral, and it became my mission to tame the cat and make her mine. With a lot of patience—and tolerating a lot of scratches and yowling in protest—Squirrel has become my cat.

She follows me everywhere, scratching at my ankles and feet. Sitting in my lap. Sleeping between us on the bed at night. She’s the sweetest thing.

“Feisty but lovable,” Spencer said to me one night when she was curled up behind his legs and purring loudly. “Much like you.”

Maybe that’s why Squirrel and I are such kindred spirits.

There’s a heavy knock on the door, followed by a familiar voice.

“The wedding planner is going to stroke out if you two don’t come out here right now,” Whit calls.

A sigh leaves me and I stand up straighter, glancing over at Spencer. “Are you ready?”

He smiles. “As I’ll ever be. Let’s go, Mrs. Donato.”

Well, I could definitely get used to that.

I love the sound of my new name.


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