According to Jemma Leigh, who was serving as her maid of honor, the entire town was agog over the wedding. No one could remember the last time a Holland had actually gotten married in Holland Springs, let alone to a local boy—and the preacher’s son to boot.
It just wasn’t done.
Yet here she was, doing exactly that. Maybe she should have done like her sister, and gotten married in a foreign country. Only then, she would be more indebted to the Jemma Leigh and Gabriel’s parents.
Jemma Leigh had helped her find a dress, while his parents had insisted on taking care of the wedding and reception, and they had insisted on inviting the entire congregation of Grace Baptist Church.
The thought of all those people staring at her, judging her, as she walked down a sandy aisle to exchange vows on a perfect stretch of beach made her want to puke.
Gloria stuck her head inside the room. “May I come in?”
“Yes, of course.”
Gloria walked in, carrying a length of lace. “This was my wedding veil, and I’d be honored if you would wear it.”
Automatically, Summer reached up to pat her hair. Jemma Leigh had gathered it at the crown, leaving most of it loose, with flowers woven in. “Will it fit?”
“Turn around and let’s see.” Gloria tucked the comb in, fluffing the lace a little. Their gazes met in the full-length mirror propped against the wall. Tears were in Gloria’s. “Que bonita,” she sighed. “It was my mother’s great-grandmother’s veil. She brought it with her to California from Spain, as a part of her wedding trousseau. It was an arranged marriage, but since then, only love has been the reason for marriages in this family.”
Nausea made Summer’s stomach churn. This wasn’t love. This was a marriage of necessity. “I’ll give it back to you, for Isabella—”
“No, it’s for the firstborn or his bride, and one day, you will do the same.” Gloria kissed her cheek. “My newest daughter, you are a beautiful bride.”
Summer wanted to sit on the floor and bawl like a baby, but not before she gave the veil back. There was no way she could go through with this, no way she could hurt his entire family like this. But just as she reached for the veil, Jemma Leigh came barreling through the door, took one look at her, and burst into tears. Again.
“Oh my word, Summer,” Jemma Leigh exclaimed, placing a hand over her heart. Tears spilled over her lashes and onto her cheeks. “That was just the finishing touch we needed.”
“It’s my something borrowed,” Summer said.
Gloria clucked her tongue. “No, this is your something old.”
Jemma Leigh gestured to Summer’s ears. “The earrings are something borrowed and blue.”
“A penny for your shoes.” Isabella’s voice cheerfully rang out.
Summer wiggled her toes. “I’m barefoot.”
Isabella shrugged. “I don’t think you need it anyway. Gabriel is the nervous one.”
Summer blinked. “He’s nervous?”
“Of course he is, he’s marrying the woman he’s loved since he was fifteen,” Gloria said, and the world tilted on Summer. She felt dizzy. She felt like a fraud.
“Looks like it’s contagious,” Isabella said with a little laugh, helping Summer to the bed. “Need anything?”
“I need to sit down, is all,” Summer gasped, breathing slowly and gripping the bedpost.
Jemma Leigh and Gloria exchanged smiling looks. Summer felt even worse.
“Sit down and drink some water, sugar,” Jemma Leigh said, helping her to a high-backed chair and handing her a glass. “Don’t worry about your lipstick.”
Summer sat there, drinking water, while she debated on whether or not she should run away. She had no idea why anyone called it having cold feet, because she felt hot all over.
Before she knew it, Gloria and Jemma Leigh were herding her out the door and into the backyard. They walked with her to the beach, where everyone was sitting in rows of chairs as they waited on her.
The sun shone bright as music played. She could hear the waves lapping on the shore. A few seagulls cried out. It was perfectly warm, perfectly breezy, and she was a perfect fraud.
She blinked, trying to get her eyes to adjust. Gabriel came into focus, standing in front of an arch of roses and ivy. He looked so handsome standing there, dressed in a pale blue shirt and khaki pants. His dark hair gleamed in the sun, as did his tan skin. Her mouth twisted a little when she realized he was as barefoot as she was.
He smiled, his entire face lighting up with joy, and it seemed his dark blue eyes glowed.
She couldn’t help but go to him, then, and take his arm, listening to the words and repeating her vows. All she could see and think and feel and breathe in those moments were Gabriel.
He kissed her, and she kissed him back, not wanting this moment to end. Not wanting reality to crash and make her want to burn this time in her life away. Not wanting anything or anyone but this man, standing in front of her and kissing her like he loved her.
Everyone clapped and cheered for them. The sound snapped her out of her thoughts.
Get a hold of yourself.
Summer stepped back, face flushing. Gabriel’s face was flushed as well.
“You make a beautiful bride, Mrs. Edwards,” he said, his voice husky with desire.
Mrs. Edwards. She smiled at him, and for once in her life, she had no comeback at all.
They were married.
To each other.
Forever, according to their vows and to Gabriel himself.
Until death do us part.
She couldn’t stop thinking of that word, and all it meant to him, all it didn’t mean to her, while the wedding party was hugged, kissed, and wished nothing but the best.
“I like the flowers in your hair,” Gabriel said as they sat at an elaborately decorated table just for the two of them. “The veil’s pretty, too.”
“You mother gave me the veil.”
His dark brows rose. “Did she?”
“Yes.” She couldn’t bear to look at him, so she glanced at their feet. “I can’t thank your parents enough for doing this. I hadn’t thought of all the things that go into weddings. They’re not exactly looked upon too favorably in my family.”
“Yet, Rose married anyway.”
Before she could answer, someone tapped a spoon against their glass. So, of course, she and Gabriel had to kiss.
And, of course, everyone had to cheer and say awww.
And,of course, she wanted to go throw herself into the ocean.