THE YOUNTVILLE ESTATE is closed for the duration of the wedding weekend. Logan booked one hundred and twenty-two rooms, twenty-two suites, a spa, a pool, and the entire twenty-acres to accommodate his wife-to-be.
Colt’s beside me, his head almost visibly steaming while Abby never fucking stops babbling.
It was Vee’s idea for Colt to take Abby as his plus one. When he said last week he still hadn’t asked anyone, she said Abby would love to come as his friend.
And since no expectations is what Colt’s looking for, he agreed. Now he looks ready to tuck and roll out the moving car and sprint back to Newport. Abby hasn’t shut up since we picked her up this morning. She’s been talking non-stop throughout the flight, too.
“Babe, you’re forgetting to breathe,” Vee mutters, looking as sick of it as Colt. “How about you just zip it for a while, hmm? No one’s listening anymore.”
Abby pouts, folding her arms across her chest. “Well, excuse me, but you know I don’t like silence, and no one else has struck up any conversation. I’m excited, okay? I’ve never been on a plane, I’ve never been to a fancy hotel or even a wedding. I mean, have you seen my dress?! It’s fucking beautiful! I look like a movie star!”
“I was there when you bought it,” Vee reminds her, sharing a look with me in the rearview mirror. “Music?”
“God, yes,” Colt huffs, switching the radio on at full volume.
That seems to do it. Abby’s mouth doesn’t move until I park outside the hotel, next to Nico’s G Wagon. He and Mia got here last night. Refusing to watch his girl panic throughout the flight, he drove five hundred miles.
Talk about whipped.
Rental cars throng the parking lot, though not even a fifth of the guests are here. It’s just close family and bridesmaids for the rehearsal dinner tonight. The other two hundred guests are due tomorrow for the ceremony.
We check into our rooms, and two hours later, I’m outside, taking a quick moment to get my fucking act together.
“You ready?” Logan joins me while everyone’s flocking toward the venue where we’re about to sit for the rehearsal dinner.
My hands shake as I spark my Zippo, inhaling a deep drag. I’ve not had a cigarette for six months now, but tonight, I need something to take the edge off.
I don’t even know why I’m nervous. I’m sure I want to do this tonight, with our whole family watching, but I also remember I promised Vee a year, and it’s only been eight months.
“Yeah. What’s the worst that can happen, right?”
“She could say no,” he chuckles, glancing over his shoulder as the door flings open, and Nico exits the building with Theo and Shawn hot on his tail.
All six of my brothers know what’s coming. I had to check Logan and Cassidy didn’t mind me crashing their rehearsal dinner like this, and news travels fast among the Hayes.
The only Hayes who doesn’t know is Rose. Mia wasn’t supposed to know either since she and Rose are almost fucking inseparable, but I wanted Mia to play the piano, so pinky-swears and all that.
Rose is terrible at keeping secrets, which is why I made Vivienne’s father promise not to breathe a word. I did ask his permission, old fashioned as it may be. It felt right and I didn’t want a shotgun pointed at my head. Luckily it didn’t end that way.
We’ve grown closer over the last eight months. Even more so when he, Rose, and Becca moved into a townhouse two streets over from mine and Vee’s place.
My father rose to the occasion when he found out he had a daughter, instructing Nico to set Rose up a portfolio and deposit the child support she would’ve been due had he known about her. Given my parents’ hefty monthly income, Rose’s total came close to a million dollars for the eighteen years she should’ve been receiving it.
At first, she fought like a lioness, saying she didn’t want the money, but after a lengthy chat with Nico and my father, she caved.
Two months later, she used a third of it to buy a small townhouse. It was a renovation project that Derek, Logan, and Cody gladly took on.
Once they moved out of the trailer, Rose used some more to pay off her college tuition and buy two cars: one for herself, and one for Vivienne—a thank-you gift for all the years she put Rose first. It’s not the brand-new convertible Mustang I would’ve bought, but Vee loves her tiny VW Beetle.
Colt joins us outside, one hand fishing out a packet of cigarettes while the other massages his temple. “Thank God Abby’s got a separate room, or I’d strangle her in her sleep,” he huffs. “She’s still talking.”
“Is Cody here yet?” I ask.
“No, sorry, bro. He rang ten minutes ago, they only just boarded the plane, so they won’t be here for at least two more hours.”
“Anyone knows who he’s bringing?” Logan asks, letting out a gray cloud of smoke. “All he told me was, you’ll see.”
We all nod in sync because that’s the line Cody treated all of us with whenever we asked who he invited. I don’t fucking like the secrecy. It’s putting me on edge more than popping on one knee.
“Right, let’s get inside,” Logan says, opening the door. “Mom’s been panicking worse than Cass all day. I don’t want to set them off over dinner starting a minute too late.”
Time stands still while we eat. Well, they eat. I barely touch anything on my plate, my stomach clenched, mind in riot mode. Fuck. I shouldn’t have made this so official. It would’ve been easier without my whole family watching, but it’s too late now.
The satin box in the inner pocket of my suit jacket burns a hole in my chest once the waiters clear the tables.
Mia shoots me a reassuring look, rising to her feet. I asked her to play Vee’s favorite song as a backdrop. As soon as she’s up, I know this is it.
No turning back now.
My nerves evaporate in a flash as if the build-up to this moment was the only reason my heart triphammered in my chest. With a deep breath, I rise, pushing my chair aside.
But then Mia freezes mid-step, her green gaze trained on something behind me. Her cheeks pale a touch, her face a picture of deep shock. The same look settles onto Colt and Nico, and a goddamn massive weight tightens the atmosphere.
I turn, checking what got them this alarmed. My heart pounds again when I spot Cody in the doorway, his bulky frame dressed in a three-piece suit, hair in a bun.
And then my attention shifts to the girl on his arm.
What the fuck were you thinking, Cody?