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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
“Thank you,” I replied, my own cheeks warming because of their compliments and expressions.
Jake took a step toward me, and I couldn’t help holding my breath. For some reason, his opinion mattered the most to me. Maybe it had something to do with the rocky road we’d been on since the day he’d first met me. More than anything, I wanted him to acknowledge that what Brayden and I had was the real thing—something he’d never experienced but would one day aspire to.
He cocked his head at me before smiling. “You look beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. You’re gonna take Bray’s breath away when he sees you.”
“Thank you, Jake. It means a lot.”
With a wink, he replied, “You’re welcome.”
“So, are we ready to get this show on the road?” AJ asked, glancing around us. “Cause ol’ Bray looked a little shaky when we left him.”
AJ nodded. “Pale and pacing the floor.”
I swallowed hard. “Like he’s having second thoughts?”
A grin spread across AJ’s face. “No, it’s more like he’s scared as hell you’re going to jilt him at the altar.”
After exhaling the breath I’d been holding, I smacked his arm. “Easy, Bridezilla,” he teased.
“You’re lucky that Lily doesn’t do worse to you,” Susan chided.
“She should be used to me by now.” Looming over me, he said, “Aggravating people, especially beautiful women, is how I show love.”
I laughed. “You’re a mess. Always have been and always will be.” Standing up on my tip-toes, I bestowed a kiss on his cheek. “But I love you anyway.”
“Right back at you.”
Groaning, Jake said, “Okay, that’s enough of the love-fest. We need to get out there.”
“So what do we need to do?” Rhys asked.
Walking over to the table, Jake picked up a basket full of multicolored rose petals. He thrust it Rhys. “You can be the flower girl.”
Rhys’s dark eyes widened. “Oh hell no, I won’t.”
“Look man, you were the last one in the band, so you draw the short end of the stick.” Jake shrugged. “That’s just the way it is.”
Considering how hard Rhys was glaring at Jake, I expected at any moment for Rhys to throw the basket at him. But he didn’t. Instead, he gripped the handle of the basket tighter. “This blows.”
AJ thumped Rhys on the back. “Aw, but you’re such a pretty flower girl.”
“Bite me,” Rhys snapped.
“So what are you two going to be doing while Rhys is being the flower girl?” I asked.
Clapping his hands together, Jake replied, “Well, I figured AJ would be the ring bearer, and I would give you away.”
“Oh hell no. I’m not carrying some pansy ass pillow down the aisle!” AJ exclaimed.
Rhys snorted. “It could be worse—you could be carrying this fruity basket.”
AJ shook his head. “Besides, I’m the oldest, so I’m the one who should be giving her away.”
Jake rolled his baby blues. “Oh please, you’re only three months older than me. I hardly think that gives you any rights.”
As Jake and AJ stood toe to toe arguing about their roles, I cleared my throat. They both snapped their gazes over to me. “Listen guys, I’m really flattered that you both want to give me away, but I was thinking I would just walk alone. You know, as a way to honor my dad.”
Jake and AJ mulled over my words for a moment. Then they both shook their heads. “Nope, not happening,” AJ said.
AJ closed the distance between us. Placing his hands on my shoulders, he sighed. “If you walk down that aisle alone, all you will be doing is thinking how much you wish your dad could be there and how much you miss him. You won’t honor him because you’ll be letting his death ruin an amazing moment in your life.” One of his hands came to cup my cheek. “He wouldn’t want that.”
I sucked in a breath at his words. “You’re right,” I murmured, fighting the tears that filled my eyes.
“Of course, I am,” he teased, lightening the moment.
“You really are amazing, you know that?”
“Right back at ya, baby girl.”
I leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, AJ.”
“No problem.” With a wink, he asked, “So you choose me to give you away, right?”
I couldn’t help laughing. “No, I don’t.” I glanced over at Jake who was watching us intently. “I choose the both of you.”
Jake smiled. “That sounds pretty fair.”
While AJ nodded, Rhys snorted contemptuously. “Yeah, for you two assholes. I’m the one stuck with the fruity flower basket.”
Susan took the basket from him. “I’ll be the flower girl.”
“But I was hoping you would be my matron of honor,” I said.
Her eyes instantly lit up. “Really?”
I nodded. “It would mean a lot to me.”
“It would to me, too.” She then handed the basket back to Rhys. “Sorry, son, looks like you’re stuck with it.”
When Rhys groaned, I stepped over to him as best I could with my gown and train. “Would you really deprive me of walking on rose petals?”
He sighed. “No, I wouldn’t.”