Stefano stood at the altar, his heart pounding. He had never really believed this day would come. He glanced at his brothers and saw the same look on their faces that he knew was on his own. Disbelief. Awe. Raw hope. They were shadow riders, men and women with responsibilities that didn’t allow them to choose what they wanted. Finding someone who could love them, someone willing to share their lives, was rare and nearly impossible to believe could be true.
But there she was. Francesca. His woman. Walking toward him, looking like a vision, too beautiful and ethereal to be real. Dressed in white lace, her gown clinging to her figure, showing her curves and that ridiculously small waist he liked to put his hands on. Her hair was down, just as he’d requested, when his mother and sister were insistent on her putting it up. She’d done that for him, argued and won just to please him. Her veil was intricate lace surrounding her face. She was on Pietro’s arm.
Emilio and Enzo had vied for the privilege of walking her down the aisle to him, but Pietro had asked, and in the end they decided that she needed family of sorts. Joanna stood up for her. Enrica and Emme as well. Enrica’s concussion hadn’t kept her out of the wedding party. Stefano couldn’t see them. Only Francesca. Only his woman, walking toward him, giving not only him, but his brothers and sister the promise of a future.
The church was overflowing. Family. Cousins from New York and San Francisco. The branch in Los Angeles had drawn the short straw and had to stay away. The entire neighborhood, everyone in their village, had been invited, and most came. He’d even spotted Dina, wearing Francesca’s coat, seated at the back of the church.
Nicoletta made her first public appearance with Lucia and Amo, sitting between them, looking pale and a little frightened, but she was there. Still, Stefano could only really see his woman. He took the steps down to her, took her hand from Pietro and tugged until she was beside him, right where she was meant to be.
They turned together and faced the priest, his heart swelling with joy as he said his vows to love and cherish her. He would . . . for all time.
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