“It’ll be over before you know it,” Jo said. “And then you can enjoy the party.”
I certainly hoped this was true. Now I felt as though I might faint. “My legs feel funny.”
“Don’t worry,” Cymbeline said. “I’ll hold you up until Theo can.”
That just might be enough for today and the rest of my life.
I stood at the window with Cymbeline as the guests arrived, parking near the barn and anywhere else they could find. We were both relieved to see that Viktor had arrived with only his parents. No sign of Emma. Poppy was escorted by Neil Hartman and looking as if she could be on the cover of a French fashion magazine in a beaded dress and a headband with a bright red feather. Isak and Nora came together, both dressed in their Sunday best. Flynn and Shannon arrived in his sleek black car.
We could hear the music from downstairs. Not the lively jazz from the speakeasy but a classical piece with a piano and violin. Right as the clock struck five, we heard a knock on the door. It was Alexander. “Are you ready, love? It’s time.”
Cymbeline gave me one more quick hug. “You can do this.”
Alexander offered his arm. “Shall I walk you down the stairs as well as the aisle?”
The parlor had been cleared of furniture, just as they did for other parties I’d attended here. However, instead of a dance floor, chairs had been lined up, creating a row for Alexander and me to walk down. We stopped just outside the doorway, waiting for the processional music to start. At Fiona’s first note, the guests turned to look at us.
I wanted to run. I started to shake and truly worried my legs might give out from under me.
“Look at Theo,” Alexander whispered in my ear. “Continue to look at him the whole time and you’ll be fine.”
Theo, yes. My groom. I looked up to see that he stood near the fireplace with the red-faced judge. We locked eyes. Alexander nudged me along, and we began to proceed down the aisle. Fiona’s piano and Li’s violin seemed to be speaking to each other in a language of their own.
I did as Alexander advised and kept my gaze on Theo. A smile lifted the corners of his mouth, and his eyes were soft and adoring. My love for him weakened my knees. How was it possible that this man had been here the whole time, waiting for me to see him?
When I reached Theo, Alexander gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, then joined Quinn and the littlest girls in the front row. For a moment, I thought I saw Mother and Father sitting there too, beaming at me. I blinked and they were gone. Yet I knew they were there with us.
The next few minutes were lost on me as the judge asked us a series of questions, all of which we answered, “I will.” Soon, he declared us man and wife.
“You may kiss the bride,” he said.
Theo looked into my eyes. “She prefers if you said she could kiss me now.”
“Yes,” Cymbeline shouted.
I laughed, despite the seriousness of the moment. “Thank you,” I whispered to Theo.
The judge raised an eyebrow, then glanced over at the waiting punch bowl and must have decided it wasn’t worth fighting. “You may kiss the groom.”
I wasn’t sure about all the men in the room, but I knew at least three who murmured their approval: Alexander, Viktor, and my Theo. They knew the women they loved well enough to know what was good for them.
Regardless of the instruction, I tilted my face up to Theo. We met in the middle for our first married kiss. In the end, it didn’t matter who initiated the symbol of affection. The effect was the same. My stomach fluttered and my legs wobbled, and I had that same yearning sensation that traveled to every part of my body.
After we parted, we turned toward our guests, who all stood to cheer us as we walked back down the aisle as a legally bound couple.
* * *
Dressed in cotton pajamas, I paced nervously around the room as I waited for Louisa to come out of the bathroom. I had no idea what would happen tonight. I’d vowed to be patient and I would be, even though it would be nearly impossible not to desire her.