Maybe July in South Carolina wasn’t the best choice for an outdoor wedding, even one at sunset. But Mick didn’t care about the heat or humidity, or the afternoon thunderstorm that had threatened to ruin his and Jenna’s carefully planned beachside ceremony. He only cared about the gorgeous woman letting him hold her close on the dance floor, his ring on her finger, his name now her own.
The day had a bittersweet edge without Rob—and the rest of Jenna’s family—but it was otherwise perfect.
Emotion clogged his throat when she looked up at him, her face shining with joy. “What are you thinking?” she asked, the string of lights that ringed the old mansion’s back lawn reflected in her eyes.
“I’m trying to decide how much longer we have to stick around now that dinner and the cake are done.” He leaned close and whispered in her ear, “Have I told you how beautiful you look in that dress, and how badly I want to get you out of it?”
She smoothed his lapel to cover for her blush. “Have I told you how sexy you look in this tuxedo? I can’t believe you wore a bowtie for me.”
Didn’t she know he’d do anything for her? Honestly, anything.
He sighed melodramatically. “I hope you appreciate the sacrifice.”
When she smiled, it wasn’t the tie that made it hard to breathe. “I do.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
He wanted more, but she was still shy about PDA in front of his family. Not that they cared. Mom and his brothers adored Jenna. Things might never be perfect between Mick and his mother, but they were both trying to set the past aside and move on.
It was easier with his brothers. They hadn’t been in a position to protect him from Dad.
Adam had brought his boyfriend, and watching Mom with the pair went a long way toward helping Mick forgive her. Doug—two years sober and working a steady construction gig—had come with a woman he claimed was just a friend, but the way he watched her all night told a different story.
Mick was grateful they were all here, as were so many of his and Jenna’s friends.
“Dan seems a bit preoccupied,” Jenna said, distracting Mick from his thoughts by lightly running a finger down his neck. “Everything okay with him?”
He glanced over to where Dan sat on the bed-and-breakfast’s patio with Kurt, nursing a glass of something. “Maybe. He had a pretty rough op this week. I think we’re damn lucky this wasn’t another funeral.”
Shit. Mick could’ve kicked himself. “But he’s obviously fine, right? He’s just hung up on the woman he rescued. We met her during our humanitarian mission on St. Isidore a few years back, and I’m worried she’s going to break his heart again. Last time was not pretty.”
Jenna frowned in Dan’s direction.
“Hey,” Mick said, corralling her attention. “He’s a big boy. He’ll figure it out.”
“I’m sure.” She toyed with his boutonnière. “I’m actually more worried about Tara.”
“She seems happy at Steele.”
According to Kurt, bringing Tara on as his business manager had been a game changer. She apparently had a knack for more than business management, and had turned out to be stellar at mission support, logistics, and supply, giving Kurt time to focus on expanding his client list, recruiting more specialists, and training. He’d even moved the company into a swanky new office in Arlington.
“She is,” Jenna said. “Happier than I’ve ever seen her in a job. But Colin really messed her up. She’s diving into work at the expense of everything else. I feel bad that I left Virginia right when she needed me most.”
“You talk to her all the time.”
“I know,” Jenna said, “but it’s not the same.”
“Invite her down.”
“I have.” She glanced at her friend again. “I think she feels like she’s intruding. Also, it probably feels unfair that things worked out for you and me, but not for her and Colin. He may have helped us in the end, but he really hurt her.”
“I know.” Mick tucked a loose strand of Jenna’s hair behind her ear. “I wish things had gone differently. For her, at least.” He’d never regret finally getting his head out of his ass where Jenna was concerned. He caressed the soft skin of her bare shoulder, itching to tug down the slender strap of her dress. “Right now, though, the only person I want to think about is you.”
She put a little extra swing into her hips and smiled.
Jesus, she was going to kill him. Did he really have to wait another hour to get her alone?
“Fine,” she said. “But I do think we should consider upgrading to a two- or three-bedroom apartment soon.”
“Three bedrooms? How much company are you expecting?” He wasn’t exactly eager to share her. He’d wasted years trying to keep his distance, and now he never wanted to leave her side. Starting his paramedic job in a couple weeks was going to be a tough transition after having her all to himself for the last two months.
Jenna bit her bottom lip. “Well, I think in about eight months we’re going to want at least one more bedroom.”
Mick stopped in his tracks, heart beating wildly as her smile grew. Was she saying…?
He glanced between them at her flat stomach and then back to her beautiful, glowing face.
“We’re going to have a baby?” he whispered, unable to believe it had happened so quickly. They’d quit taking precautions once they were engaged, but he’d been prepared to wait months, years even.
“Yes.” Her grin could’ve lit the entire city. “With everything going on today, I didn’t see the voicemail from my doctor until you were talking to Dan earlier.”
“Holy shit.” For so long, he’d figured he’d never have a family of his own, and especially not with her. He hugged Jenna close, love swelling in his chest. “You’re going to be such an amazing mom.”
“I hope so.” She pulled away to look him in the eyes, combing her fingers through his hair. “I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. You’re going to be an incredible dad.”
Would he though?
She must have sensed his concern. “You are not your father.”
“I know.” He’d been so excited about the prospect of having children in the abstract, but now that the reality loomed… What did he know about being a good parent? “But—”
“Mick. You’re a compassionate, caring, good man. Just keep it up, and we’ll figure out this parenting thing. Together.”
Some of the tension in his shoulders ebbed. She was right. He could do anything with her at his side. “Have I told you how much I love you?
“Maybe once or twice.” She kissed him softly, lingering. “I love you too.” Taking his hand, she led him off the dance floor with a flirty smile. “Now, how about we ditch this party and get to celebrating?”
Thank you, God, finally. They’d decided not to have a formal sendoff with birdseed or a bouquet toss, so they quickly made the rounds to thank everyone for coming. There’d be more time with close family and friends at breakfast before his and Jenna’s flight to Bermuda.
Once the niceties were taken care of, Mick leaned down and whispered in Jenna’s ear. “How fast can you run in those heels?”
She flashed a wicked grin over her shoulder. “Faster than you.”
She actually made tracks, despite the stilettos, but Mick caught up in time to carry her across the threshold into the honeymoon suite, ignoring the pinch in his chest where he was still healing. Kicking the door shut behind him, he set her on her feet and slowly, carefully, peeled away the frothy dress and proceeded to worship her from head to toe.
“Promise you’ll never run from me again?” he asked afterward, as he lay naked, entwined with her in the soft sheets, unable to stop trailing his fingers across her satiny skin.
She kissed his neck sleepily. “I promise I’ll always let you catch me.”
“Fair enough.” He covered her belly with his hand as she slid into sleep. Warmth suffused his limbs as he pictured the tiny baby—their baby—growing inside her even now. “I can’t wait to meet you, little one.”
He snuggled closer to Jenna and let the blissful exhaustion of the day wash over him, pressing his lips to her forehead, as he had the first night they’d slept together. Back then, he couldn’t have imagined the joy of his life now, of his future. Now he couldn’t imagine ever going back.
He kissed her again. “I promise you both, I’ll never let you go.”