The flap of the bridal tent opened, and my gorgeous fiancé strolled inside, looking like all seven of the deadly sins in his tuxedo.
Naomi looked up from where she was patting Lina on the back while Lina hyperventilated into a paper bag. Naomi smiled. Lina waved.
“Everything all right, ladies?” Lucian asked.
“I’m deeply in love with my husband, but my goodness, Lucian. You look like sex in a suit,” Naomi said, wide-eyed.
Lina dropped the paper bag. “Just tell me Nash is here and still wants to go through with this, Suit Daddy.”
Lucian’s grin was panty-incinerating. “Your almost husband is wearing a trench in the ground, muttering about how he can’t wait to see you.”
“Oh, thank God,” Lina said, collapsing back in her chair.
“For what it’s worth, he’ll go weak in the knees when he sees you in that dress,” he predicted.
“Thanks, boss,” she said weakly.
He turned his attention to me, and I felt like a flower blooming in the spring sunshine. “May I borrow my fiancée for a moment?” he asked.
“Sure,” the bride said.
“Bring back more champagne,” Naomi suggested, nodding at the empty bottle in the grass.
I all but skipped to the door.
Outside, it was a stunning spring day. Warm, sunny, blue skies. Birdsong and the babbling of the creek provided the perfect backdrop to the slow country songs the band was playing. Nash and Lina had decided to start their journey together on the grassy expanse of land they would build their house on.
The ceremony and reception would take place under a large white tent next to the creek. It looked as though all of Knockemout had been invited.
Lucian led me away from the tents and pulled me behind an oak tree.
I didn’t get any further in my question because Lucian’s mouth found mine in a knee-weakening, breath-stealing kiss.
“Holy crap,” I managed to gasp when he pulled back.
“That was the first order of business. Now on to the next,” he said. “Give me a date.”
“You want to go on a date?” My brain was still scrambled from the kiss.
“I want to set a date. For our wedding.” He glanced around us at the chaotic merriment. “I don’t want to wait. I already wasted enough time. And watching you walk down that aisle today, knowing it’s for someone else, is driving me insane.”
He went still and tense. All his attention was on me. His face was all hard angles and planes, but there was an exquisite softness in his expression.
“Christmas Eve,” he repeated.
I nodded. “Last Christmas was rough. Why not make this one for the record books?”
Lucian swallowed hard, then nodded. “Christmas Eve,” he said again, his voice barely a rasp.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and beamed up at him. “I love you, big guy. So stupidly much.”
He crushed me to him, then winced.
“Poor baby. Bullet hole or testicle surgery?” I teased.
Lina didn’t float down the aisle, she marched. Her father nearly had to jog to keep up with those long, purposeful strides. Her gaze never left Nash’s face. And when the happy couple joined hands and stared into each other’s eyes with a blinding joy, there were tears from the entire bridal party. Well, okay. There were tears from Naomi and me. Knox and Lucian were mostly stoic and manly.
Lucian watched me with that hellfire intensity of his throughout the entire ceremony. And when we met in the middle to walk back down the aisle together, he handed me a fresh handkerchief.
We danced, we laughed, and we cried some more, christening with love the very spot that Nash and Lina’s house would be built.
I barely left Lucian’s arms the entire evening. I was safe there. I belonged there. After yesterday’s terrifying chaos, I suddenly felt…free. Like the last of the shadows that had been looming over our group, our town, had finally dissipated. With Anthony Hugo and Wylie Ogden in jail and Judge Atkins in the morgue, we’d finally made it through the dark forest and come out on the other side.
This was the beginning of our happily ever after.
As night fell, the festivities continued. Liza J cut a rug with the handsome biker Wraith. Next to them on the dance floor, Maeve and Kurt swayed side to side, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Nolan and his soon-to-be wife again, Callie, were holding court with my mother, her friends, and several empty bottles of wine. Naomi’s parents were in the middle of a hotly contested game of cornhole with Lina’s parents. Chloe and Waylay were sitting at the abandoned head table, devouring dessert.
Half of Knockemout appeared to be shit-faced on the dance floor. The other half—including the entire police department—was lined up at the bar. Lawlerville had kindly lent Nash some officers so his cops could celebrate with him.
As Lucian and I swayed to a Chris Stapleton song, a grinning Stef and Jeremiah appeared, each holding two bottles of champagne.
“Shall we?” Stef asked, nodding toward the night.
“We’ll get the glasses,” I volunteered.
Lucian and I collected the bride and groom, who were saying good night to Nash’s father. Duke’s sobriety was still a new, fresh thing in the family. We helped ourselves to eight champagne glasses and found our way in the dark to a quiet spot in the meadow where Stef, Jeremiah, Knox, and Naomi were already waiting.
“To the happy couple,” Stef volunteered after Jeremiah filled my glass.
Lina shook her head, brilliantly beautiful as a bride. “To the happy couples,” she amended.
“May we all live happily ever after,” I added.
We sat in the grass, drinking champagne and listening to the night symphony of laughter, music, and spring peepers.
Lucian pulled me into his lap and nuzzled my neck.
“Married, married, engaged, engaged,” Knox said, pointing at each couple in our little circle. “Shit sure happens fast round here.”
“Have you two set a date?” I asked Stef and Jeremiah.
“Stef wants at least a year to plan ‘the wedding of the century,’” Jeremiah teased.
“Hey! Naomi and I have been dreaming about our weddings since we were infants,” Stef said defensively.
“Just don’t get married on Christmas Eve,” Lucian said, picking up my hand and kissing my engagement ring. “That date’s taken.”
Lina and Naomi squealed. “You set a date!”
“None of you are invited,” Lucian teased.
“You’re all invited,” I corrected.
Lucian “Lucifer” Rollins was going to be my husband. And I was going to be his wife. We were going to spend the rest of our lives building a family…and driving each other absolutely insane.
Maybe it was the champagne or the happy tears, or maybe it was my dad working a little heavenly miracle, but I’d never seen the stars so bright.
“I love you, Pixie,” Lucian whispered against my hair, his thumb brushing the scar on my wrist.