When are you going to make an honest man of me?’ Leon glanced down at Ettie, an amused expression in his eyes as he then tapped his watch with an impatient finger. ‘You’re going to go into labour at the altar at this rate.’
‘There’s plenty of time to sort it,’ Ettie mumbled lazily from deep in the bed where he’d just left her. Truthfully she wasn’t sure she was ever going to be able to think again after the way he’d just made her come apart.
He’d teased her about a wedding more and more in recent weeks, but it still felt too soon to her. There was just that tiniest worry of doubt that she needed to pluck from her silly mind—that memory of betrayal. It was unfair of her because Leon would never, ever do that to her. But where she was so good and organizing everything for other people, she was paralyzed in this for herself.
‘Well, you need to get up,’ he said briskly.
‘No…’ she mumbled sleepily. ‘It’s Saturday, you don’t have to work. Come back to bed.’
‘You’re not trapping me there today, temptress.’ He resolutely shook his head even as that glow rekindled in his eyes.
‘What? Are you turning me down?’ She called after him as he left the bedroom.
‘Yes. And if you don’t get up soon, you’re going to be super embarrassed.’
She quickly showered then pulled on her robe, confused by what he’d meant.
When she walked out to the lounge, Leon was standing near the windows. Hearing her he turned and she saw he had a beautifully wrapped parcel in his hands.
‘What’s this?’ She took it, but was more wary of the look in his eyes. He suddenly looked super intense. ‘It’s not my birthday.’
Before he could answer, the doorbell rang and Basil the pup leapt off the sofa where he was snoozing to greet whoever it was who’d arrived.
‘I’ll get the door.’ Leon seemed unsurprised by the interruption. ‘While you open that.’
Intrigued, Ettie tried not to tear the beautiful paper.
It was a beautiful hardbound journal. She smiled, he knew her weakness so well. But when she opened the book to savour the luxurious leaves of paper, she saw it was already written in. Confused, she flicked through the pages, recognizing Leon’s distinctive scrawl on every one. There were a lot of lists—names of her colleagues and friends and there was a section on menu items for various courses. She recognized meals she and Leon had eaten together over the last few weeks—he’d been on a mission to try every restaurant in the vicinity it seemed. He’d rated the dishes and made reference to what she’d liked in particular. On another page there was music listed—songs they’d talked about, the concerts they’d been to—classical, rock, pop. Leon had said they needed to get out lots before the baby kept them home… And then there was a page where bits of material had been stuck in, in various colours?
Frowning in confusion, Ettie called out. ‘Leon?’
But Ophelia walked in wearing a stunning silver and green dress and trying to soothe the over-excited wriggling bundle that was Basil in her arms.
Ettie gaped at her sister’s appearance. ‘What are you doing here?’ And why was she wearing the gleaming green fabric that Ettie had just seen a patch of in this journal?
‘Aren’t you even dressed yet?’ Ophelia teased her. ‘Come on, we have things to do.’
Leon was hovering behind her sister with a mischievous grin on his face. But a searching, almost vulnerable look flashed in his eyes as he watched her. It was a look Ettie had seen only a few times before.
Her heart rate spiked. ‘What things?’
He stepped closer, took the journal from her and flicked to a page that had been marked with a pink sticky note. ‘Hair and make-up, nine-thirty.’ He checked his watch. ‘That gives you five minutes to get to Cavendish House. Quick, quick.’
She grabbed the book off him and flipped it around, scanning the timetable written in his handwriting.
It was a plan for a day. And not just any day. Time stopped as it dawned on her just what this plan was for.
A wedding. Today.
‘You haven’t…’ Her eyes filled.
‘I have,’ he said gravely, tossing the journal down on the coffee table so he could step right up to her and take her in his arms. ‘Is that okay? I hope that’s okay.’
She nodded hurriedly.
He bent closer still, looking deep into her eyes. ‘I’ve been reliably informed that a relationship is more than just a big gesture every so often. It’s more than a weekly date night even. It’s all about the little every day details…’
‘The big gestures are okay too,’ she could hardly speak for the emotion clogging her throat. For the surprise and the pleasure and the love that was spilling from his heart to hers—from what he’d done for her. ‘They’re really okay.’ She glanced at the book on the low table and then back up at him. ‘This is really okay with me.’
‘Good, because we’re about to get married.’ His short laugh was filled with obvious relief. ‘You don’t have time to get nervous about it now. Right?’
‘And you know I’m going to turn up, because I’m already here.’ His expression sobered. ‘I’m not going anywhere Ettie. There’s nothing you can do to make me move.’
Oh he knew her too, too well. And she loved him for it. ‘Okay.’
‘So you have to move now.’ He smiled encouragingly. ‘Go and get ready with your sister.’
Right now her sister was wreathed in smiles and positively glowing. ‘Come on Ettie, this is going to be so much fun.’
But Ettie wasn’t going anywhere without kissing Leon first. She had to, had to, love him.
‘Come on,’ Ophelia nagged in a grossed-out tone of voice. ‘You can do that later.’
Thus chastised, Ettie pulled back. Her gaze met Leon’s. The amusement and affection in his eyes matched hers, so did the flickering deeply personal heat.
‘Leave Basil with me,’ he said huskily. ‘He has an important job to do.’
Ettie cocked her head.
‘Therapy dog to calm my anxiety, in case you’re late,’ he joked.
Filled with bubbling joy, Ettie giggled and followed her sister out.
She and Leon had visited Ophelia together not long after that cataclysmic day in her old apartment. Ophelia had been amazed and then entranced to meet Leon and learn she was going to become an aunt. Now, it turned out Ophelia had taken over the salon on the ground floor of Cavendish House and turned it into a private preparation suite purely for Ettie.
‘You did not buy this underwear.’ Ettie flushed at the sight of the delicate lace laid out specially.
‘No, your fiancé did that,’ Ophelia giggled.
But it was the dress hanging on a rack that stole Ettie’s breath. Soft, white and floral with delicate embroidered details on the skirt. It was everything she’d have ever wished for.
‘The designer is on hand, ready to make any adjustments you might need,’ Ophelia informed her in a thrilled voice. ‘Can you believe that?’
Ettie could. Ettie knew just what kind of service Leon would have gone to for her.
She tried on the dress and found the bodice hugged her breasts and then fell loosely over her little baby bump.
‘Oh, it’s perfect.’ Ophelia had tears in her eyes as she handed Ettie a pair of silk slippers with a dainty heel. ‘You look amazing. We don’t even need the designer.’
Ettie slipped out of the dress again and let the hair-dresser and make-up artist do their thing.
When she eventually emerged in her full bridal attire, it was her old junior concierge buddy Joel who held the door for her, his smile wide and the suit he wore today smart.
‘You look beautiful, Ettie.’
He escorted her and Ophelia in the car to the small church around the corner and then snuck ahead to take his seat in the pew with Ettie’s other friends from the house.
Ettie paused in the doorway and peered in amazement at the crowd waiting to watch. Her favourite Cavendish residents were there, her colleagues and friends.
‘I can’t believe this…’
Ophelia smiled and picked up a beautiful posy of flowers and passed them to her, then lifted a smaller bouquet for herself. ‘Come on Ettie, he’s waiting for you.’
And he was.
Ettie finally let herself look all the way down the aisle. It was only a second before her vision blurred and she had to quickly blink and focus on the puppy standing next to Leon. Their wedding rings were tied together in a ribbon and dangling from a new collar that matched Ophelia’s bridesmaid’s dress.
But then she looked at Leon again—tall and unbearably handsome in that impeccable suit. He looked so solemn. But then he smiled. Just at her. Just that special smile.
And Ettie stepped forward.
She made her vows in front of friends and family, but she had eyes, voice and heart only for him.
‘You look incredible.’ He whispered when they’d returned to the Cavendish and were surrounded by people in the lavish reception room.
There was a gorgeous feast and a glamourous cake and even a gleaming dance-floor.
Hours later she and Leon took to it to have their first dance together as husband and wife.
‘I still can’t believe you did all this.’ She leaned into him, loving the possessive security of his arm firmly about her waist.
‘Not alone,’ he nodded. ‘I asked everyone, they all had an opinion. Especially Ophelia. She loves you.’ He pressed a quick kiss to her lips. ’You’re a wonderful person Ettie. You deserve everything.’
‘So do you.’
‘With you by my side, I have it.’ His eyes darkened. ‘Are you ready to leave for our honeymoon now?’
‘Yes.’ She’d go anywhere, anytime, as long as she was with him. ‘Have you packed anything for me?’
He chuckled. ‘You think you’re going to need clothes?’
Ophelia came and scooped up Basil. ‘I’m house-sitting while you’re on your honeymoon,’ she turned to inform Ettie. ‘It’s my term break.’
Of course it was. Because Leon had thought of everything.
Ettie turned to her husband who was regarding her with the most tender look she’d ever seen.
‘Where are we going?’ she whispered.
‘Greece, then more of Europe,’ he said quietly. ‘We have three weeks. But we can take more if you want.’
She gaped, speechless. He closed her mouth with a finger under her chin and sent her a teasing smile. ‘We fly tomorrow, but I can’t wait to be alone with you again. Okay?’ He murmured before kissing her. ‘I love you.’
It was only a short drive to the hotel where he’d booked for them for the night and she was so relieved to have the chance to touch him before they travelled. With infinite care and tenderness he unfastened her beautiful dress and bared her to his loving ministrations. She could do nothing but let him, but love him back with everything she had.
‘Accept me—all of me,’ Lean muttered as he pressed close. ‘Everything I have. Everything I lack. I want to grow with you, Ettie. I want to be not just the man you desire, but the man you need.’
‘You already are,’ she wrapped her arms and legs around him and held him as tightly as she could, kissing him between every word she breathed. ‘You’re everything, just as you are.’
‘I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you.’
It was exactly what she needed to hear, to know and feel with him. Locked together in love and certainty, they found their own sweet world. He’d done so much, given her so much. He was the father of her child. Her husband.
Copyright, Natalie Anderson, 2019.
No copying/sharing without written permission from the author.
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