“Momma, either get on board—” Literally, I think. “Or don’t. But stop complaining about it.” I indicate the walkway that leads up to the yacht, and I wish it was a gangplank.
“This is his wedding day,” Anna Lee hisses at her. “You’ll not ruin it nor miss it.” She links her elbow through our mother’s and tows her up the ramp.
I sigh, glad Macie isn’t there to dissect it. I don’t want her to feel any stress today whatsoever. When she first told me she’d dreamed of getting married on a boat, at sunset, I’d made an internal vow to make it a reality.
I don’t care if my mother hates boats. I don’t care if she thinks this is tacky. It’s about as far from tacky as a person can get, as I’ve seen Macie’s wedding bills, and she’s paying for nice stuff.
The food is prime rib—and when I asked her if that was for me, she’d simply smiled and said, “Yes. Steak is your favorite.” She wouldn’t let Tara and Alec cater, because she just wants her friends—our friends—to enjoy themselves.
We have a full bar, and children are invited. We don’t know that many people with kids, but this way, Callie and Dawson and Jessie and Lance can bring their families. I love watching Macie with their kids, and I know she wants to be a mom incredibly bad. We’ve already talked about starting our family, because she’s convinced she can strap a baby to her body and still make coffee.
Knowing her, she can.
Knowing me, I won’t let her.
Knowing us, we’ll argue about it. I’m fine with that too.
She skipped the cost of flowers in favor of the yacht, her dress, and the food and drink. I told her my momma would pay for dinner, and that created quite a few trips out to my mother’s house for “meetings.”
Macie and Momma actually get along really great, and I’m pretty sure the biggest reason I’m watching my mother get on the boat is because she doesn’t want to hurt my almost-wife. I turn to find her, because she pulled in right behind me.
She’s coming toward me with one of those collapsible laundry baskets in her arms and an overstuffed bag over her shoulder. Bri is with her, and she’s carrying two black garment bags that look like the seams will pop at any moment.
I hurry toward them and take the laundry basket. It holds paper and cards and other stuff I don’t understand. “What’s all this?”
“For place settings,” she says in a cheery voice.
“And you brought winter clothes?” I nod to her bag. “It’s summertime, Mace.”
“This is full of swimming suits, Mister,” she says. “And you better be careful, or you won’t get to see them.”
“Oh, I’m gonna see them.” I grin at her. She’s been teasing me about her “sexy swimwear” for weeks now, acting like it’s her wedding dress and she can’t show me. We’re not actually getting off the yacht tonight.
It’s our wedding venue and our honeymoon, and she chartered it from here to Miami, where we’re getting on a cruise ship for an eight-day cruise.
I’ve never left Legacy for as long as I’m about to, and a thread of worry pulls through me. I shrug it away, because we have good people we trust at the helm there. Bri has promised to send Macie pictures of her dogs every day. Alec is taking care of the bearded dragons for me, because he understands a more unusual pet and the special needs they have.
I’ve asked Dawson, Lance, Jason, and Alec to move the rest of Macie’s stuff into my house while we’re gone, and they’ve agreed.
Everything is ready.
My heartbeat thumps at me that maybe I’m not ready, a blip and then gone.
Of course I’m ready. I’ve been in love with Macie Madsen for as long as I can remember, and though we don’t always agree, we do get along now. I love her; she loves me.
“That goes in the main kitchen on the second level,” she says. “The kitchen staff will set it all up for us.”
“Okay,” I tell her, and I wait for her and Bri to get on the boat.
“Have you taken your stuff on already?” she asks.
“Yep.” I note my non-use of yes, but Macie doesn’t comment on it. The yacht easily holds sixty people, which was our guest list, and it has four complete levels, three above the water. We’ll be staying on the middle deck, with the infinity pool right outside the bedroom. There are three other bedrooms on the yacht, and as soon as I step onto it, Lance says, “Dang, brother. Jessie’s trying to figure out if she can get home, pack a bag, and get back before you guys set sail.”
He grins and takes the laundry basket from me. “This goes in the kitchen?”
Macie takes a deep breath and looks around. “This is so great, Coy. Right?” She wraps her arms around me. “How can your momma be upset about this?” The wind tugs at her hair, and she lets it fly, only gathering it in her fingers when it hits her in the face.
“I don’t think she’s upset,” I say.
“She’s not,” Macie says. “But I bet Jessie isn’t the only one who’s going to try to hitch a ride on our honeymoon yacht.”
“Incoming,” I say, as Anna Lee and Callie are both mincing their way toward us.
“Macie,” Anna Lee says. “Have you seen that infinity pool?”
“Yes,” Macie says, shooting me a look as she steps out of my arms. “You’re not coming with us.”
“Momma’s already moving into the bedroom on the top deck,” Anna Lee says, pointing. I look, and sure enough, our mother is up on the top deck, arms braced against the railing, the biggest smile on her face I’ve seen in years.
I say nothing, because Macie will handle it. She knows how to get my mother to do things neither Anna Lee nor I can.
“Everything is so beautiful,” Callie says. “Come see the tables they’ve set up.” She takes Macie by the hand, but my bride-to-be turns back to me.
“I won’t see you until the wedding. You’re on the—”
“Third level,” I say. “I know.” I put all of my wedding clothes down there, but all of my vacation stuff in the bedroom on the main level. Macie and I will stay there together tonight, and everything male inside me roars for her.
“Ready?” Lance asks as he returns. “Dawson and Alec are downstairs.” He looks back toward the dock and down to the parking lot. “I haven’t seen Jason yet.”
“He just texted to say he locked his keys in his office,” Bri says as she rushes by. “I swear. That man would lose his head if it wasn’t attached to his body. We’ll be back! Don’t set sail without us!”
Alarm pulls through me, because I know Macie wants Bri here for every second of this. “I hope she gets back fast,” I murmur.
“She will,” Lance says. “Have you met Bri? There’s nothing she can’t do.”
I grin at him and pause as Jessie approaches with their baby boy on her hip. “You have to take him, baby,” she says. “Macie needs help with her hair and makeup, and I can’t get her in the dress with him.”
“Sure,” Lance says, smiling down at his son. They’ve named him Rhett, and he’d about the cutest little blonde baby in the whole world. “Come on, buddy. Let’s go help Uncle Coy get in his tux.”
I’ve taken another couple of steps when I look up and see my mother. “Momma!” I call. “Get down from there! Macie’s in the bedroom, and she needs your help.”
“Yes, sir.” She salutes, her voice almost getting whipped away on the wind.
I refrain from rolling my eyes, because I love my mother, and I need and want her here. I follow Lance down to the third level, which has a few foodie folks working in the smaller kitchen here. This level still has all the furniture intact—a great big couch, a huge dining room table, and a brilliant sundeck on the back.
The bedroom is near the front, and we make our way there. Upstairs, all the personal hang-out space has been converted into a space for special events for large groups. It flows from indoor to outdoor seamlessly, and we’ll be married outside, and then come inside for dinner.
I enter the bedroom to Macie’s older brother saying, “There he is. Guess he didn’t skip town.” Ned is all smiles, though what he’s said is horrifying.
“Of course I didn’t skip town,” I say as I shake his hand. I’ve only met him a couple of times, because he and Peter, her younger brother, live several hours away, and Macie and I run a very busy business.
“Howdy,” Peter says, and I get a man-hug from him.
“Hey. Thanks for coming.” I take a deep breath and look around at everyone. “So, the wedding is in an hour. How long do you think it’ll take me to get dressed?”
Dawson grins. “Ten minutes?”
I smile on back. “So…who wants to go try out that couch and big-screen TV for the next fifty minutes?”
“I’m so nervous,” I say as I smooth my hands down my stomach. My dress feels like a second skin—if my skin were the color of coffee grounds. I don’t mind dark colors, and this is the exact shade of coffee-brown Coy picked for our aprons and tees at work.
I actually like how rich it is, and as I consulted with Jessie on my wedding dress, I told her I was okay being unconventional. She wore a blue wedding dress, and she’d seized this opportunity to add something a little more avant garde to her design portfolio.
“Hold still,” she says from the floor. She, Tara, and Callie are threading brightly colored strips of tulle through the darker fabric to create an illusion of light shining in the dark. Colored light, but that’s what I like. I have pink bulbs in my office, and Coy’s used to colored lights, what with the bearded dragons and everything.
“You’re not nervous,” Callie says. “You’re excited.”
“I am,” I admit.
Bri rushes into the room, her face bright red. “I am so sorry,” she says.
“Where did you go?” The wedding starts in twenty minutes, and she’s missed things.
“My husband…” She shakes her head and calms enough to look at me. “Oh, Mace.”
“Don’t cry,” I say.
“I’ll kill you,” Tara says. “I worked for way too long on those wings.”
“Yes, she did,” Jessie gripes as she gets to her feet. Her face is red too, but it’s different on a blonde than a brunette. She actually looks sunburned. “And now we’re behind on the threading.” She thrusts a handful of colorful strips at Bri. “Start on the back please.” Even when she’s stressed and upset, she’s still kind.
“What’s the order?” Bri asks, hurrying around me.
“I wish I could help,” I say.
“No order,” Jessie says. “Macie is a disorganized, brilliant speck of light in this world.”
Callie starts to laugh, and that gets everyone going. Hilde plays on the floor with an errant strip of cloth that I’m sure Jessie will rip away from her soon enough. She passed Rhett, her son, to Lance, much to my dismay.
“You can’t hold a baby on your lap while Tara does your makeup,” she’d thrown at me as she’d taken the boy from me.
I didn’t argue with her, because she’s done so much for me and this wedding. They all have. Tara put me in touch with the caterers doing the food. Dawson and Callie found me this yacht, and they paid for it. I debated with Coy over and over, for weeks, before we agreed to let them do this for us.
In the end, when Dawson had said, “I’m a billionaire, Mace. I won’t even miss the money,” I’d decided to take the gift and be grateful for it. Callie had said they wouldn’t get us a gift, but I’m pretty sure I can call her a liar on that one.
Bri’s brilliant mind helped me plan the whole thing, down to placemats, and the guest list, and the bridesmaids dresses.
I wanted something casual and summery, and I love colors. So everyone got to pick their own sundress, and I’d paid for them. That’s it.
In another twenty minutes, everyone is still threading, and Hilde is starting to fuss. My daddy knocks on the door and pokes his head in. “Sugar-corn, they’re ready.”
“I know,” I say. “I don’t—”
“We’re ready too.” Jessie gets to her feet as Tara stuffs in the last piece of tulle.
“All right, ladies. Check your hair,” Callie says.
“Dresses,” Bri says, adjusting her bra strap.
“Shoes,” Tara says. I’m not wearing any shoes, and I panic.
“My shoes,” I say.
“Right here,” Jessie says, putting a pair of bright yellow heels in front of me. “Step up.”
I do, and I’m looking her right in the eyes. “Thank you.” I grab onto her and hold her tightly. “Thank you to all of you.”
My emotions surge and froth as I hug my best friends. They leave the room ahead of me, and I beam at my daddy. “I’m getting married today, Daddy.”
“You sure are, sugar-bean.” He gazes at me and kisses both of my cheeks. “I wish your momma was here to see you like this. You look so happy, and she would’ve loved Coy.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.” He goes out into the hall, and while this is a sixty-five-million-dollar yacht, it’s still a boat, and the hallways aren’t exactly wide. “I love that boy. He’s so good to you, Macie-Mae, and that’s all we’ve ever wanted for you.”
I nod, everything inside me spiraling up and down and around. Coy is good to me. He holds his own too, and he doesn’t let me steamroll him or tsunami him into things he doesn’t want to do or doesn’t like.
But he is very, very good to me.
The wedding ceremony will take place outside on this level, and the guests won’t sit down for it. Daddy pauses at the bend in the hall to make sure they’re ready for us. Once we make that turn, we’ll only have to go straight ahead, and they’ll be able to see us coming.
“Most everyone is outside,” he says in a low voice. “So they can see and hear.”
“The pastor made it on-board?”
“Yes sirree,” Daddy says in his Southern twang. “And your brothers are still alive, so that’s good news.”
I smile, because sometimes my brothers forget that I don’t need them to watch out for me. Coy’s only met them a few times each, and we have friends here in Charleston that are like family.
“Oh, I’m getting the signal from Callie,” Daddy says. He turns back to me. “Are you ready?”
I take a deep breath. “Yes.”
“You love this man, right?”
“Yes,” I say.
“And he loves you.” He’s not asking now.
“Yes.” I’m channeling all of my inner-Coy with these responses, and I smile at my private joke.
“All right,” he says. “Let’s get married.” He leads me around the corner, and I hear the collective gasp at the sight of us. Daddy in his white tuxedo. Me in my almost-black dress. We’re opposite of the way we’re supposed to be, and that makes me smile so hard, my cheeks start to hurt.
Most of our employees are here. A few of Daddy’s friends. My brothers and their families. Coy’s mother and sister. Callie and Dawson. Lance and Jessie. Tara and Alec. Bri and Jason.
Everyone I want to be surrounding me on a day like today, except for my momma and Coy’s daddy. I just know they’re watching from up above, though, and that thought gets me through the standing crowd to where Coy waits for me, his hands clasped calmly and coolly in front of him.
He’s wearing the traditional black tuxedo, and wow, those shoulders are impressive in that jacket. He’s always said rowing does his shoulders good, and mm hm. He’s right.
His mother and his sister stand next to him, and they both grin at me with stars in their eyes. I hug Anna Lee and say, “Thank you for giving me a second chance.”
“Oh, please,” she says, and that’s all. She knows me, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her.
I stand in front of his momma and cock one eyebrow. “You’re trying to upstage the bride with that dress.”
She trills out a laugh, and I take her into a hug too. At least I got Amanda to leave the hat at home. It was at least a foot tall and resembled a blind bird’s nest. I told her I didn’t think it would fit with these ceilings on the yacht.
“You were wrong about the hat,” she says as she hugs me. “These ceiling are definitely tall enough.”
“You’re right,” I say. “I was wrong.” His momma loves to be right, and I know how to feed her exactly what she wants to hear.
“Momma, enough about the hat,” Coy mutters, and I turn to him, put one hand on my waist, and push out my hip.
He’s admitted to me that he “adores” my curves, and that he used to love it when I’d get mad at him and cock my hip just like I am now. Believe it or not, but that was more of a turn-on than a dressing down, he’s told me.
“Wow,” he says as he drinks me in, that hunger in his eyes now. “Look at you.” His gaze lingers below my waist, where all the colorful tulle is.
“It’s like pops of color in the dark,” I say. “Like rainbows peeking through the storm.”
He lifts his eyes to mine, a question there he won’t ask out loud. I feel great, I want to tell him. Only sunny skies today.
I’ve been working hard for over a year now, and sometimes I am exhausted just dealing with myself. I won’t say I’m better. I’m not. I’m different. I make different choices. One might say better choices. Whatever.
I still rage and storm sometimes, but I don’t let it brew and grow and swirl over warm, open water until I’m hurricaning.
“Rainbows peeking through the storm,” he says. “I love that.” He draws me to his chest and takes a deep breath of the curve of my neck. “Love you, puddin’.”
“I love you too.” We face the pastor together, and he beams at us too.
“It’s a good day to get married,” he says in a clear, loud voice so that everyone in this oddly shaped wedding area can hear.
I agree with him. It’s definitely a good day to get married.