I've been all of these.
Some or all of them at the same damn time. I realized now that I felt that way because I was scared. I was scared because I never thought this would happen for me. This man, this love, this wedding day in Spring… I just never believed that I would have the dream come true. Ava Marie Greene wasn’t meant to get the happy ending. But here I am in this dress, bouquet in hand, waiting to meet my groom at the end of the aisle.
It was just me, Yves, and Marcelo in the foyer of the Raymond's sprawling ranch house. Lorraine was out there, but just as a guest. Auntie Portia was mother-of-the-bride and that was just fine.
Yves fussed over me like a mama bird. Adjusting and readjusting my train, and twirling each curl of my hair so that it fell just so.
“Stop!” I complained swatting her away. “Jesus, you're so fucking nervous. I'd swear you were the one getting married.”
“Aren't I?” she asked, her voice too high and wobbly, and her eyes over-bright with the tears that had been threatening to fall all day.
“Oh, God. Get yourself together, loquita,” Marcelo groaned.
“Shut up and maybe I won’t tattle about you stepping out on the front stairs to cry when you first saw her in her wedding dress,” she huffed.
I looked up at Marcelo. “You cried?”
He shrugged and adjusted the lapels of his suit. “You’re a beautiful bride, Beans. And I’m really happy for you. You deserve to be happy.”
Great. Now tears were welling in my eyes. I grasped his face in both my hands and kissed both of his cheeks.
Marcelo chuckled softly and blushed. “Okay, Beans. Let’s get this thing done.”
“Okay.” I stepped back and pulled my veil over my face.
Yves reached for me and squeezed my hand. “Let’s get you married!”
She sent a quick text to the DJ. Moments later we were at the back door off the den and Yves was doing her sassy two step down the aisle, all alone because she was arguably the most important person in my life other than Levi. She was my person. Fuck, the Santiagos as a whole were my fucking people.
When she reached her spot near the altar the DJ began to play the song Levi and I had chosen for my wedding march.
“Okay, Beans…you ready?” Marcelo asked.
I nodded, but the moment Etta sang those first chords of “At Last” I nearly lost it. Marcelo grabbed my hand and tucked it firmly into the crook in his arm.
“I’ve got you, Beans. We’re gonna do this together. Okay?”
“Have you lost your voice, little mermaid? I need you to answer me out loud.”
I shot him a look that was meant to be cutting but I couldn’t help smiling as I said, “Okay. Let’s do this.”
The moment we stepped out onto the brick walkway, my focus narrowed. I was vaguely aware that there were people to the left and right of us, clapping, cooing, and weeping openly. But ahead of me Levi stood with his back to me. His hands clasped in front of him. His head tipped toward the sky. I stumbled, suddenly wary.
Why wasn’t he looking at me? Was this a symptom of those cold feet that people always talked about?
But then Indigo, wearing a bespoke suit and looking sweet and dapper all at once, tapped him on the shoulder.
When he turned around and finally set his eyes on me…he crumbled.
“You’re beautiful!” he called out and threw his arms wide.
I grinned through happy tears and practically dragged Marcelo the rest of the way so I could be in his arms. The moment he enveloped me, I threw back my veil and kissed him.
“You look so beautiful, baby,” he whispered against my lips. “I’m the luckiest man out here right now.”
“Not a one.”
“AHEM!” The Officiant cleared his throat loudly, drawing our attention and a few laughs from the wedding guests. “We haven’t gotten to that part, younguns.”
“Oh, my bad, Rev,” Levi said apologetically, but the grin on his face said otherwise. He put my veil back in place and Marcelo took my hand again.
“Who gives Ava Marie Greene in marriage?” the Officiant asked.
“Her found family and I do,” Marcelo said proudly then physically handed me over to Levi. The two men exchange a nod that I’d like to believe was friendly. Yves reached for my bouquet, I handed it to her and turned back to Levi. That big grin stretched across his gorgeous face…I couldn’t help but return it.
“Okay! Let’s get this started before they start sucking face again!”
More laughter. But, in truth, I didn’t know how much longer I could wait.
“Levi Alistair Raymond, do you take Ava Marie Greene, to be your partner in the adventure that lies ahead…”
Levi said some words and I said some words and bright sparkly rings were exchanged. And before I knew it, Levi was kissing me until I felt giddy and delirious and we were Milly Rocking back down the aisle.
After taking wedding party pictures—Francis did an amazing job—Yves ushered us off to Levi's bedroom which had been stocked with champagne and finger foods—a place for us to wait and collect ourselves while the guests moved into the tents.
I went straight for the chilled champagne, suddenly feeling parched. “Hey, my handsome husband, can you open this?”
“I can most certainly open that for you, my lovely wife,” Levi said then took off his jacket and draped it over the nearest chair. He grabbed the bottle by the neck and worked the cork loose, sending a cascade of frothy bubbles shooting a foot away from us.
Levi filled the flute to overflowing and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Don’t waste it!” I scolded, attempting to catch the froth with a champagne flute.
He grabbed my hand and turned me toward him. The look in his eyes was achingly happy. I’ve seen this look on grooms that I photographed. Did I look like one of those brides?
“Look at you in this dress…” he said, his eyes raking over my figure. “And you wanted to elope.”
“I just thought it would’ve been easier.”
“It would’ve have been easier, but I wouldn’t have had that beautiful moment of seeing you walk down that aisle to me. Of proclaiming my love for you in front of God and everybody.”
“God was there?”
He narrowed his eyes at me.
“I’m joking,” I said, then nuzzled his nose with mine. “And you’re right. If we eloped we wouldn’t have had these moments.”
“And we wouldn’t have this one either…” he set his champagne aside then took my glass and set mine aside, too. The hand that had settled on my waist slid up to the middle of my bare back to draw me closer, to draw my mouth closer. In that moment it hit me that this was the man I would kiss for the rest of my life.
And I had zero issues with that.
“I want to get under this dress.”
“No, Levi…it’s a surprise for our wedding night.”
He looked toward the windows and the setting sun. “Close enough,” he said, his voice gruff and tugged at the zipper.
“Yves is gonna come back here any minute to take us into the reception—”
“They’ll wait for us—” he said. His hand was inside my dress now.
“But the door!”
That gave him pause.
“Right, the door. Stay right here,” he said, then stalked over to the door.
He opened it, presumably checking the hall for Yves or anyone else in the wedding party. Seemingly satisfied, he closed it again.
“Shit,” he cursed softly.
“There’s no lock! None of us have ever had a lock on our bedroom doors.” He looked around his childhood bedroom then stalked over to a ladder backed desk chair and carried it over to the door.
“Will that hold?”
“It’ll fucking do,” he said, and then he was stalking back to me with that determined look on his face. A girlish squeal bubbled up in my throat when he caught me up in his arms and yanked my body against his. “Now let me see what’s under my wife’s pretty, little wedding dress…” he whispered while maneuvering us over to the wall by the bookcase that held all of his trophies.
Several parts of that request could be debated. Little? I haven’t been little since the seventh grade. I'm tall and lanky and I’m mostly okay with that. Pretty? Eh. But I think I look pretty damn good today.
I was definitely Levi Raymond’s wife.
And Levi Raymond’s wife was about to get fucked against the wall in her wedding dress.
He was kissing me like we had all night. Like there wasn’t a tent full of people waiting for us to start the festivities. But that was what I loved most about my new husband. Levi took his time with me. The hands under my dress found the lace hold-ups of my stockings.
“What’s this?” he asked, fingering the garter straps.
“It was a surprise for later. I guess it’s ruined now.”
“Nah,” he said shaking his head. “I just won’t look and you can show it to me when we get to our hotel room. Besides…” His hand slid up the interior of my thigh to cover my silk and lace panties. “I don’t need it see my surprise to find what I’m looking for.”
And he didn’t. He reached between my legs and found me wet. I moaned already aching for him. I reached for his belt buckle and pushed down his boxer briefs, freeing his dick. With one hand he hooked my knee over his elbow and with the other he pushed my panties to the side and inside of me.
“Fuck!” I cursed, digging my fingernails into his shoulders.
“Shhh! People are probably right outside the door.”
But I don’t know if it was the angle or the fact that he was my husband now or that everyone who had attended our wedding might be listening to us consummate our union, but I couldn’t keep quiet. Levi tried covering my mouth, but that only resulted in muffled screams. I locked my ankles around his waist and Levi gave up trying to keep me quiet. He just braced himself against the wall and drove into me.
“This is how it’s going to be. Every day. Every night. Me loving you. You loving me. Nothing can come between us. Nothing will tear us apart,” he promised.
I held onto him. Held tight to his words and believed his promises. Especially since Sade had made those same promises on an album of the same name. I kissed and kissed him as I came, chanting his name and bathing us in tears of happiness.
There was still a long way to go. I was still recovering mentally and emotionally from all of the things that had happened in the past year. But for now…me and this man…we deserved to have this moment of happiness.
Levi came, whispering his I-love-you into the curve of my neck.
“I love you, too,” I said.
A knock sounded at the door. “I gave youse an extra two or three minutes,” Yves said from the other side of the door. “Straighten your clothes and come out here so that we can party!”
Levi chuckled. “She was out there the whole time, wasn't she?”
“Of course I was out here the whole time. This is going on my spank bank, baby.”
Levi groaned and rolled his eyes. “We better get out there before she tries to join us.”
“Nope!" Yves said. “Rules are rules. No fucking friends…even if they make hot growly sounds when they’re coming. Now let me in so that I can make sure she doesn't look freshly fucked in her reception pictures.”
“Wow.” He pulled up his trousers and helped me adjust my skirts then walked over to the door to let Yves in.
Yves pushed her way in the moment the door was open. “Whew! Smells like sex in here,” she said and waggled her eyebrows.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Get the makeup case and quit being gross.”
It took about twenty minutes but she put my face back to rights and made sure Levi was put together before we made our way out to the patio. Yves ran ahead and let them know we were ready to be introduced. The music quieted and so did the crowd and the DJ grabbed the mike.
“Now…for the first time in history, I’d like to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Levi Raymond!”
Levi looked at me and grinned. “Yeah, buddy! I like the sound of that!”
And just like I took his name, I took his hand and danced our way into our future.
Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven’t read The Truth Duet yet, read a long excerpt and purchase the books here.