I wake up a little after 11:00a.m. on Friday and prepare myself for the day ahead. I decide to go on a run by myself today, only wanting my own thoughts to occupy my head and not Joey’s relentless rantings. After my five miles, I lock up shop and head upstairs to shower and get dressed to finish Juls and Ian’s wedding cake. The shop is closed and will be until Monday since we’ve had her wedding to prepare for and I’m grateful for the quiet. I slip on my apron and whip up the cream cheese icing that she requested, admiring the sugared dahlias that I already created to cascade down the cake. I curse myself for thinking of Reese at the sight of them and whip faster. Damn it. What guy pays attention to details like that? I’d put money on Ian not giving two shits about the flowers that took me hours to create.
After icing the cake and cleaning up my mess, I glance at the time on the oven. Its 3:30p.m. and I need to be at the church in an hour and definitely need another shower. I untie my apron and throw it on the worktop before I dart up the stairs. I’ve picked a black sleeveless dress and pumps to wear tonight, pinning half of my hair up and leaving the rest in loose waves down my back. My makeup looks elegant but not too done up and I smile weakly into the mirror as I gaze at my reflection. My dress is hanging off my body more than it used to and I know that’s because I haven’t been eating much. Besides my daily taste tests, I’m having to choke down my meals that Joey has been bringing me, or at least parts of my meals. But at least I am eating. After one last look, I grab my clutch and head towards the night I’ve been dreading.
St. Stephen’s church was Ian’s pick, as was the reception and mostly every other detail for that matter. I park along the side of the beautiful building and straighten my dress out as I make my way to the front steps. Stopping at the bottom and glancing up at the double doors, my nerves hit me in one hard rush and I want to turn right around and get back into the comfort of Sam, but I can’t. I close my eyes and grip the hand rail. “Come on, Dylan.” I pick up my feet and move up the stairs, clearing my throat before I open one of the doors.
The church is beautiful, with dark wood furnishings and stained glass windows allowing the sunlight to shine through in all different colors. Even if you aren’t religious, try stepping into a catholic church and not feeling the presence of something way the hell bigger than you. I glance up at the massive cathedral ceiling and admire the painted murals when I hear Juls screeching my name.
“There you are. Now if Brooke would just hurry the hell up we can get started.” She’s at my side instantly and looks beautiful. Dressed in a deep plum dress and her hair pulled up sleekly, she’s practically glowing. She leans in and hugs me as my eyes glance up towards the bodies at the front of the church. But of course, I didn’t need to look to know that he is here already. I felt him the moment I stepped inside this stupid building. My eyes find his instantly as he stands with Ian and the other men. His lips part slightly and I watch his chest rise with a deep intake of breath. Before I can rake my eyes down his body, I pull back from Juls and break the contact.
“You look beautiful and ready to be married.”
“Thanks. You don’t look so bad yourself. Come on, my parents have been asking when you’d get here.” She grabs my hand and pulls me up front as I keep my eyes fixed on anyone but his. Luckily, we stop a few pews short of the men where all the parents are congregating.
“Dylan, there you are. Wow you look stunning, dear. How’s the bakery business going?” Mrs. Wicks wraps me up in a hug. She was always like a second mother to me.
“It’s great and thank you. You look amazing yourself. And how are you doing, Mr. Wicks? Ready to give your oldest daughter away?”
He pulls me into his arms and I’m immediately hit with the smell of cigars. “Fat chance. She’ll never get rid of her old man. It’s good to see you, Dylan.”
“You too.” At that moment, the front doors swing open and Brooke comes barreling through, looking like she just woke up and most likely feeling a lot worse. I hear Juls gasp behind me. “Excuse me,” I say politely before I begin quickly making my way down the aisle towards a very stupid looking bridesmaid.
“Dylan. Remember that guy last night?” I grab her wrist and pull her behind a pillar as she tries to get out of my grasp. “Jeez. What’s the big deal?”
“What the fuck? Are you still drunk?” I ask as Joey comes rushing up to us with Juls on his heels. I notice quickly that all talking has stopped at the front of the church and can feel a million pairs of eyes on us.
“No I’m not drunk. I’m just hung-over. Ooohhh which one is Reese?” I grip her harder and she yelps.
“Oh for Christ’s sake. Way to keep it classy, Brooke,” Joey whispers harshly as the preacher walks over towards us. We all straighten up a few inches.
“Are we ready to begin, Miss. Wicks?” He asks and she smiles quickly and nods, glancing back at me with her panicky eyes.
“We’re ready,” I confirm, keeping my hand on Brooke’s arm as we all follow the preacher towards the front. I glare over at her and she cowers beside me as we walk up to the front. “Pull your shit together. And if you act like this tomorrow, I will personally make sure you don’t get laid. I will vagina block the shit out of you.” Her mouth drops open and I hear Joey laugh behind us.
“What? You better stay the hell away from my vagina,” she grunts and my grip tightens.
“Ha! I bet you’ve never uttered those words before, Brooke.” Joey laughs.
We stop as the preacher turns and faces everyone and I quickly glance up and over to my right, finding Reese’s eyes on me and quickly dropping my stare back down. I let go of Brooke and she sighs in relief, massaging her reddened arm.
“Okay everyone, we’re going to do a quick run through of the ceremony, just to make sure everyone knows their places. So, if I can have the groomsmen, best man, and the groom all standing to my left right here,” he motions down at the stairs below him. “And ladies, and gentleman, if you would line up at the front doors and we’ll get started.” Oh good. I’ll only have to walk with Reese at the end of the ceremony down the aisle. That’s not too bad. What is it? Twenty-five, thirty feet of contact? I can handle that. We quickly form a line at the back of the room as I stand in front of Juls, Joey in front of me, and Brooke hopefully leading the way. God help her if she can’t make it up to the altar.
“You ready for this?” Joey leans back and whispers.
“Oh please, have you seen my baby up there? Gorgeous.” I giggle at his response and hear the preacher announce for Brooke to start walking, which she does after Joey gives her a right shove. “Asshole. She’s going to be such a pain tomorrow,” he says before he begins walking and I can’t help but smile. My assistant as a bridesmaid. Of course.
“I love you,” Juls says behind me and I feel my eyes water a bit.
“Love you,” I say as I begin making my walk up the aisle. I don’t want to, I really don’t want to but my eyes find his immediately and I finally get my first real look at him in eighty-four days. He’s wearing a black suit, perfectly tailored to that body with a green striped tie and white dress shirt. His hair looks like it’s been cut a bit but still has its perfectly tousled look to it and his eyes are piercing into mine, the green beaming out of them thanks to his tie color choice. I see them quickly drop and run down my dress before he flicks back up to meet mine, jaw set and tense. I take my spot on the same step as him and finally look away towards Juls who is with her father at the back of the church. She begins her walk up and I keep my eyes on her even though I can feel him looking at me. Studying me.
The preacher runs through the ceremony, going over the vows that Ian and Juls’ picked out for tomorrow. I smile and laugh as they recite them and keep turning around to make sure Brooke is still upright and awake. Joey gives me a reassuring wink with each turn and I know he’s got her covered. Thank God. After the mock exchanging of the rings and pronouncement of their marriage, the two of them begin filing down the aisle and I quickly clamp my eyes shut, knowing what’s coming next. Shit. He’s going to touch me. He’s going to touch me and I’m going to lose it.
“Ok, now Dylan and Reese, you may walk down together. Billy and Joey, you can follow when they are about halfway down the rows.” I open my eyes and step forward after the preacher finishes and see Reese already waiting for me, elbow out so that I can easily slip my hand through it. I swallow loudly and grip the inside of his elbow as we begin walking silently down the aisle. I can hear his breathing, slow and steady as if he’s unaffected by this entirely. Figures. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting here. The sight of me causing him to faint possibly? But no, not even uneven nervous breathing.
“You look beautiful,” he says, low and throaty and I gasp slightly but don’t respond. We reach the end of the aisle and I quickly drop my hand from his arm and move to stand next to Juls and as far away from him as possible. Shit. Don’t be affected by that, Dylan. After the rest of the wedding party comes down the aisle, we all say our momentary goodbyes as we file out towards our vehicles. I quickly walk to Sam and scramble in, wanting to avoid any alone time with Reese as I see him walking out with Ian and the other men. His eyes fall on my delivery van fleetingly before he hops in his Range Rover and pulls away from the church. I drop my head on the wheel. “Okay. Half of the night is over. Now, you just need to get through the dinner and you’ll only have to worry about tomorrow.” After my little pep talk, I start up Sam and make my way towards Casa Mia’s.
The rehearsal dinner is booked at a quaint Italian restaurant and a long rectangular table has been set aside for us in the very back. My place is next to Juls and three seats down from Reese who is sitting next to Ian. I’m immensely grateful that he isn’t seated on the opposite side because I’ve done enough looking for one evening. Joey plops down next to me and let’s out an exhaustive sigh.
“Problems with our favorite bridesmaid?” I ask, noticing that she hasn’t graced us with her presence at the table yet. I pick up my water and take a few sips.
“I’m going to kill her. She insisted on riding with me and then tried to feel me up in the car.” Water shoots out of my mouth and covers the thankfully empty place setting across from me as I quickly bring a napkin up to my face.
“Jesus, Dylan. Are you all right?” Juls asks as I continue coughing. I glance over at her and see that everyone is staring at me, and I mean everyone as I quickly shake off my choke fest.
I turn quickly towards Joey. “Are you serious?”
“Do I look serious? I feel like I’ve been molested. She almost made me cause an accident on highway eleven.”
My coughing turns into giggling as I lean my head onto his shoulder and we both crack up at the situation. “Oh my God. That’s amazing. I so needed to hear that right now.” I laugh out as he shakes his head at me, picking up his water.
“What’s going on?” Juls asks softly as our dinner is brought out to us. I’m suddenly starving and the dish that’s in front of me is about to be destroyed.
I eye her up mischievously. “Your lovely sister has been putting the moves on JoJo.” Her fork drops.
“What? Oh great. That’s just great.” On cue, Brooke appears and quickly claims her seat next to Joey who stiffens next to me. Juls leans across and snaps her fingers at her sister. “You’re an asshole.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry Joey. That was a bit embarrassing. Although, was it just me or did something move?” She giggles and orders something alcoholic from the waiter that Joey quickly cancels for her.
“Did something move? Are you fucking insane? And no booze for you. I can only imagine what would happen if you started drinking.”
I shake my head and take a bite of my chicken picatta, moaning around my fork as a familiar face moves towards our table and stands across from me.
“Hey, Dylan. How’s it going?” Juls’ cousin Tony eyes me up and I quickly smile and wave at him from my seat. We’ve known each other for years and go way back, but never anything more than friendship.
“Hey, Tony. How are you?”
“I’m great. Get your sweet ass out of that chair and come give me a hug.” I laugh and scramble out of my seat, walking down the side of the table that does not contain my ex-fling and get quickly lifted into the air. “You look good, girl,” he says into my hair as he gives me his usual bear hug.
“Thanks. Jesus, put me down already.” He sets me on my feet and I shake my head at him, straightening out his tie. “So, what’s new in the world of computer programming?” My eyes quickly flick towards Reese who is staring at me with daggers. Oh please. Like you have any right anymore.
“Nailed it. Nice memory. It’s good. How about you? Juls told me something about your bakery getting broken into or some shit a few months back? That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah well its fine now. They caught the psycho that did it and there wasn’t any permanent damage.” Heather was apprehended by the police a few weeks after the break in. Her prints matched the ones on the brick and she admitted to everything, getting charged with breaking and entering and also getting moved out of the city by her parents. Juls had relayed the information from Ian when he found out about it.
“So, any man in your life or have I finally caught up with you when you’re single?” I smile sweetly at Tony but shake my head. He is definitely not my type and even if he was, I have no interest in dating anybody right now. Especially when the man that broke me is sitting no more than ten feet away from me, continually staring at my profile.
“Oh please, like you could even handle me,” I playfully respond and he nods in agreement. “It was good to see you. I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” I turn to go back around the table but see a major pile up of bodies at the end I want to walk down and grunt as I have to make my way towards the other end. I walk behind Trent and Billy’s chairs, giving them both smiles as I quickly push past Reese’s and feel his hand grip my elbow, halting me to his side.
“What the fuck was that?” he growls up at me.
I snatch my arm out of his hand and scowl back down at him. “What the fuck was what?”
“You know what. Are you seriously going to blatantly flirt in front of me? Is that how this shit is going to play out?” Is he serious? I am in no mood for any Reese style tirade and this is definitely not the place for it.
I bend lower to get my face nice and close to his and see him back up a bit. “You think that was flirting? I’ve known Tony for ten years; he’s like a brother to me. But if I did want to flirt with him, it wouldn’t be any of your God damned business now would it?” My tone is clipped and I’m fuming, feeling Ian move quickly out of his seat.
“Okay. Wow, that didn’t take long. Umm, Dylan, why don’t you go over to your seat, and Reese, just calm the fuck down, man.” Ian ushers me past Juls. I quickly pull out my chair and plant myself down in it, glaring over in his direction as Reese narrows his eyes at me.
“Jesus, what the hell was that?” Juls asks as Joey leans in.
“Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I had money on you kicking him in the nuts at the church,” he adds. I wave my hands at both of them to back them off me.
“Nothing. He accused me of flirting with Tony. Fucking prick,” I say through clenched teeth. I was definitely not flirting with him. I’ve never seen Tony as anything other than an acquaintance, even though he’s asked me out more times than I can count. My eyes glance down the table and I see Ian leaning in and talking to a tense looking Reese. Ugh. Stupid men.
“You and Tony? That’s fucking hilarious,” Juls says and continues cutting up her chicken. “And even if you were, he has no right to act like that.”
“I know,” I agree loudly and get quickly shushed. “Acting all holier than thou. I’m sure he waited a whole five seconds before he threw another girl into his bed after I left it.” I shove a piece of chicken in my mouth and start chewing as Brooke leans across Joey’s lap.
“I heard him tell you that you looked beautiful. That was really sweet,” she whispers and earns herself the evil eye from all three of us.
“Shut up, Brooke,” we all say in unison as we continue eating our meals. I don’t look down the table again for the rest of the night and keep my conversations with anyone other than Juls and Joey to a minimum. This evening has been exhausting and I’m emotionally drained and unsure how the hell I’m going to handle tomorrow. I’m reassured that I’ll only really have to deal with Reese during the ceremony and that once we’re at the reception, I can stay as far away from him as I’d like. But it’s the mere fact that we’ll once again be at a wedding together, where this whole fucked up situation started that is going to have me in knots. I need to focus on making sure that everything runs smoothly for Juls so that’s what I’ll do. It’s my job as her maid of honor and it will keep my mind off unwanted memories of falling into laps and bathroom sex romps. Speaking of bathrooms, I plan on avoiding the ones tomorrow at all costs.