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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
The music changed from Pachelbel’s Canon in D over to Ave Maria. The doors at the back of the cathedral opened, and Allison appeared on her father’s arm. She certainly was a breathtaking bride. With her dark hair swept back and a glittering tiara on her head, she didn’t look like the little girl I’d met so many years ago. She was a grown woman now.
Lily had told me that Allison’s dress was reminiscent of Grace Kelly’s and Kate Middleton’s. Of course as a self-respecting dude, I had no clue what their dresses looked like. All I knew was that Allison looked elegant and beautiful as she glided down the aisle. Her smile was radiant and focused on one person only—her groom.
When she reached him at the altar, tears spilled over his cheeks. I don’t think I’d ever seen Rhys cry publicly. But there was something about the love of your life that rendered you so very vulnerable. As the preacher began the ceremony, I couldn’t help gazing past the bride and groom over to Lily. I thought about our wedding days—our first in Vegas and then our second at the church back home. In some ways it seemed just like yesterday, but then in others, it seemed like two different people embarking on married life.
We’d had our ups and downs, the good and the bad. We had weathered each and every storm that life threw at us. In the end, it just made us, as well as our love, stronger. Like the old Joni Mitchell song, Both Sides Now, that my mother used to love to play, I had been given the chance to see life from both sides—the one with Lily and the one without. It was no contest on how to choose. For me, there was no life without Lily in it.
“By the power vested in me by God and the state of Georgia, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
When Rhys pulled Allison into his arms to lay one on her, applause rang out in the church. They pulled away to smile and laugh at the crowd’s antics. Then they started back down the aisle as man and wife. When it was time for me to exit, I met Lily at the middle of the altar. I offered her my arm, and she happily slid hers through it. “You look very beautiful, Mrs. Vanderburg.”
She smiled. “And you look awfully handsome, Mr. Vanderburg.”
Even though we were supposed to start down the aisle, I stopped to kiss Lily. “I love you,” she murmured against my lips.
“I love you more.”
And then we walked down the aisle together and out into the sunshine.
Later that night at the reception, I lay with my head snuggled to Brayden’s chest under the sparkling lights of the rented tent. Rhys’s parents had hosted the reception at their house in the Historic District of Savannah. It was absolutely breathtaking being inside the old home, and the large tent on the back lawn made for an intimate setting. Once the cake had been cut and our children had eaten their way through several slices, along with stops at the chocolate fountain, we sent them back to the hotel with my mother to sugar detox.
As we swayed to the music, I was glad to have some alone time with Brayden. Over my shoulder, I watched as Rhys and Allison danced as close as humanly possible while never letting their eyes stray from each other’s. “What are you thinking about?” Brayden asked.
I raised my head. “The happy couple. Us.”
“What about us?”
I smiled. “How thankful I am that we’re a happy couple after all these years.”
“I know what you mean.” His brows furrowed a little. “I can’t help wondering how the Rolling Stone article will turn out.”
“We were honest and told our story. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I know. I just dread what might be said about some parts of our past.” With a grimace, he said, “It’s not that I care about them seeing what an asshole I was. It’s more about you being hurt again and again.”
“It’s okay, Brayden. I promise. Besides, we’re the only ones that matter. Don’t forget that.”
Smiling at me, he said, “I won’t.”
When the song ended, a screech came over the microphone as Rhys took it from the band leader. “So I just wanted to say on behalf of Allison and myself that we really appreciate your love and support on our very special day. We’re so very glad and blessed that you could share it with us. We love you all very much.” As applause filled the air, Rhys smiled. “And now, there’s something that Allison and I would like to do for a very special couple.” Rhys began to search through the crowd. “Brayden, Lily, you guys come up here please.”
I tensed in Brayden’s arms. “What is going on?”
“I don’t know.” Taking my hand, Brayden led me across the dance floor to the bandstand. When we got there, Rhys winked at me.
“Even though it’s mine and Allison’s happy day, we wanted to do something for a couple who has meant so much to the both of us. When I first joined Runaway Train, no one was more welcoming or better to me than Lily was. And Brayden became the big brother I never had. They’ve been married for twelve years and a couple for eighteen years. I know I speak for Allison and myself when I say that they have shown me the type of marriage we want aspire to have now and twenty years down the road. They’re devoted to each other and to their children.”
“Seriously, man, I’m choking up here,” Brayden interjected. Both he and I had tears in our eyes from Rhys’s speech.
“We ask that you clear the floor and give this very special couple a spotlight dance of their own.” Whistles and applause came from around the room. “And while I could have picked any one of the love songs you have written, Brayden, the guys, along with Abby, thought this song best suited the two of you.”