The smell of hairspray permeants the room as Mia continues to tug and twist my long locks. She’s been working on the up-do for the past hour and turned me away from the mirror ten minutes ago so I couldn’t see the finished product until she was certain it was perfect.
It’s a good thing I trust her.
She wouldn’t be my maid of honor if I didn’t.
I certainly wouldn’t have handed over the planning of my wedding to her if trust was an issue.
After secretly conspiring with Spencer to plan their wedding, Mia demanded her and Jay got to do the same thing. It’s been hell the last six months, watching them whisper to each other. Keeping me in the dark. They won’t even let Spencer in on any of the details.
The only input they allowed me to give was on a date.
A winter wedding.
The rest of today is going to be icing on the wedding cake in my opinion. Especially if the snow continues to fall the way I hope it does.
“Five more minutes,” Mia promises, her voice muffled by the hairpins she’s holding between her lips. “I’m almost done.”
“You said that five minutes ago.”
“I also said I loved your hair but that was before I remembered how thick it was and how much of a pain in the ass it could be to work with.”
With a huff, Mia tugs what I’m hoping is the last strand, twists it around the growing bun at the base of my neck, and shoves three pins in to secure it. Seconds later, I’m covered in a mist of pungent spray as she goes crazy on my locks.
“That’s plenty,” I cough, the smell practically gagging me.
“You say that now but if it starts to fall during the ceremony because the snow breaks down the chemicals in the hairspray, you’re going to wish I put another layer on.”
Fat chance. I barely ever use any product in my hair. Not that I style it this nicely on a daily basis, but still. I have more hairspray in my hair right now than I’ve used in the past ten years. Maybe longer.
“Can I see it yet?” I ask, anxious to move on to the next phase of the process.
Not true. Makeup is next. What I’m really ready to do is walk down that aisle and promise to love Jay for the rest of my life. To read the vows it took me the last three weeks to write. To watch our son play his part in our union by carrying the rings.
Spinning me in the chair, Mia holds a mirror behind my head and angles it so I can see her handiwork.
Last week she put soft golden highlights in my long blonde locks. They’re subtle but she managed to make them stand out, weaving the tones of my hair expertly around the bun.
“Mia!” I gasp, our eyes meeting in the mirror. Tears are threatening to fall but I hold them back. “Thank you.”
Smiling softly at me, I’m waiting for her to reply when she spins me back around and pulls me out of the chair, removing the cape she had covering my button up shirt in one swift motion.
“Time for makeup,” she declares, her voice cracking as she averts her eyes.
Before she can protest, I pull her in for a hug, wrapping my arms tightly around her. Today is a happy day. We’re crying happy tears. And we’re going to get them all out before she starts applying any type of makeup to my face because I don’t want to ruin it.
Mia hugs me back with the fierceness I need. She’s been feisty lately. Since giving birth to Bridgette, Bridge for short, almost ten months ago, Mia has changed a lot.
It’s the last few weeks that I’ve seen even more of a dramatic shift in her personality, though. From happy one minute to upset the next.
She’ll be smiling but in tears.
Irrationally angry over nothing.
Spencer said it’s only getting worse. She’s unpredictable and he’s worried about her. We all are. Which is why we’re making her go see a doctor next week. To help her find her balance.
It’s been a rough couple of years for all of us. We’ve each had our ups and downs but we’ve all pulled through by leaning on each other. And we’ll help Mia through whatever this is.
“You okay?” I ask when she doesn’t release me after a few minutes.
“Yeah, just feeling a little all over the place today. I’m excited for you guys but sad at the same time.”
“Why are you sad?”
“I have no idea. Spence and I talked about it this morning while we were getting Bridge ready to go to my parents for the night. He thinks I’m depressed and maybe having a breakdown.”
“He said that!” I scream, pushing her out of my embrace and holding her at arms-length.
“Not in so many words but I can read between the lines.”
“What an ass.”
“It’s true. I have no idea what the next five minutes holds. By the time we finished talking I’d gone from sad to angry back to sad and then wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. I feel like my hormones are-“
I see the moment she connects all the dots. I’m not far behind her, reading her expression.
“Shit,” she mutters.
“Do you think?” I ask as she rushes toward her purse.
Phone in hand, Mia starts tapping the screen feverishly. When she stops, her eyes practically bulge out of her head.
“I’m definitely pregnant,” she states, her words bringing a smile to my face.
“At least this time you’re not alone,” I say, heading toward the back of the salon where I know she set up earlier to apply my makeup. Looking over my shoulder at Mia as I walk, I wait for the light blub to turn on.
Mia follows, her eyes still glued to her phone, shaking her head. When my words finally register, she slowly raises her head, her feet coming to a stop, and stares directly into my eyes.
“I’m not telling Jay until after the ceremony,” I state. “And you can’t either.”
“What? When? Why?” she fires off question after question as she gives me a once over.
“When he proposed, I told him I didn’t want to marry him until I wasn’t pregnant, so I didn’t waddle when I walked down the aisle. I’m afraid he’ll want to wait even though I’m not showing and my thighs still touch when I walk.”
Mia rolls her eyes, moving past me and assessing her layout of brushes and colors. “There’s nothing that could stop him from marrying you today. Trust me. You could be in labor, as big as a whale, and he’d still want to make you his.”
“I’m already his.”
“Yeah, yeah. So you guys have been saying for more than a last year and a half since you got engaged. Scratch that. More like over two and a half years since you reunited. I’m just glad you both finally figured it out before Spencer and I locked you in a room together.”
“You really think that would have worked?”
“It would have been fun to try. Not that I want to hear what would have happened in that room to help you pass the time. I guarantee you wouldn’t have talked much.”
Laughing, Mia motions for me to take a seat in the chair on her right and I plop down feeling lighter than I have in weeks. Keeping this pregnancy a secret from Jay has been hard. Every time he asks me a question I feel like I’m lying to him.
“How was your day?”
What I really should be saying is it sucked. I spent a good portion of the morning with my head in the toilet. This child is already kicking mommy’s ass.
The next hour is nothing but baby talk. If Mia calculated her due date right on the napkin she wrote on with lip liner, we’re due weeks apart. This time, we’re truly in it together.
I can’t wait to see the look on the guys faces when we tell them what happens next. And Mia came up with the best way to break the news to them.
“Are you ready sweetie?” my dad asks, popping his head in the tent where I’ve been hiding for the past twenty minutes, waiting for the rest of our guests to arrive.
“Let’s do this,” I exclaim, removing the white shawl I was wearing to stay warm.
Looping my arm through my fathers, we exit the tent and round the back of the barn where the reception is being held. As soon as Mia catches sight of me, she nods her head and music begins playing as she disappears out of view.
The closer we get, the more anxious I am. I’ve never been more ready, more certain of anything in my life. Once I finally admitted to myself that I was in love with Jay, that I’d always been in love with him, and that it was okay to love him, marrying him felt inevitable.
And here we are.
On the far side of our property.
Getting married next to the bar he spent the last year restoring.
With only our closest friends and family in attendance.
Rounding the next corner of the barn, the tiny ceremony comes into view, the music changing again. Instead of the traditional wedding march, our song is playing as my father walks me up the aisle to my waiting groom.
He looks jaw-droppingly handsome in his three-piece suit. The navy blue tie stands out against the slate grate of his jacket. Both bring out the colors of his eyes.
Eyes I could stare into for the rest of my life and never tire of.
That’s what today is all about.
I really am a lucky girl.
Summer clears her throat as our guests take their seats. When Jay and Mia refused to tell me who was marrying us, I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be Summer. She’s been a part of our lives since before Sam died. She’s Sammy and Bridgette’s godmother. It’s only fitting that she conducts the ceremony.
“We’re all gathered here today to celebrate the union of two people we love very much,” Summer begins. “A couple that gives us all hope at the end of the day. Who know how to fight for what they want, for each other, and for love. We should all be so lucky to find someone to share our lives with, our heart with, the way they have.”
She pauses, her gaze directed over my shoulder. I don’t have to turn to look and see who she’s staring at. The biggest secret ever kept in Great Falls, aside from Sam’s murder, was Summer’s relationship with the dean. Even now, not many people know about it but they’re no longer hiding it either.
“Love is only part of the recipe for a successful marriage. Love doesn’t make the world go round, but it certainly makes the ride worthwhile. Nathan Workman said… Who we marry is one of the most important decisions in life. One that will influence the level of happiness, growth, and success, like no other choice. I couldn’t agree more and I believe that these two are making a wonderful decision in marrying each other.”
Nodding at Jay, he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper.
“Drea, I spent a lot of time trying to put into words exactly how much I love you. You’d think after close to eight years of loving you, it’d be easy but I think with every passing day it gets harder. So my promise to you is this… to love you every day for as long as I live. To fight for that love with everything I am. To fight for us, our family, until my last breath. You were made for me. The day you fell into my arms I knew you were the one and I still believe that to this day. Love at first sight isn’t just a thing you read about in your romance novels. It’s real and our love proves that. Because I love you more than I did that day, more than I did yesterday, but not as much as I plan to love you tomorrow.”
The first snowflake falls as he folds up the paper back up and slide it in his pocket. My eyes are glistening with tears. I knew they would be. He’s always been passionate about his love for me. Now it’s my turn to tell him how much I love him so he never doubts I feel just as passionately as he does.
“Jay, the way you love me warms my heart. I wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing I feel. Not the chill in the air. Not the warmth of your embrace. It’s your love. It makes every day worth living. Every day worth fighting for. It wasn’t your love for me that kept me going the years we were apart, though, it was my love for you. A love that consumed me, captured my heart, and refused to let go. Words will never be able to describe how madly, deeply I’m in love with you. And I fall more and more every day. Every morning when I open my eyes it feels like I’ve given another part of my heart to you even though you already have it all.
“When I was afraid to love you, you were still there. When I tried to push you away, you pushed back. When I finally gave in to the way I felt, you were there to catch me. And for the rest of my life, I vow to be there to catch you as well. Today is the beginning of the rest of my life and there’s only one person I’ve ever wanted standing by my side. My best friend. My one true love. You.”
I can hear Mia behind me sniffling. She read my vows earlier. She knew what I was going to say so I can only imagine it’s her hormones getting the best of her.
“The rings, please,” Summer says, kneeling so Sammy can bring her the pillow with our rings tied to the top.
He bounces off my mother’s lap, runs over and throws the pillow at Summer earning a chuckle from the guests. Jay captures him before he can run off, balancing him on his hip as Summer hands him my ring.
“Repeat after me.” Jay nods at Summer and she begins, Jay echoing each statement as he holds my wedding band at the tip of my finger.
“This ring is a symbol of my love for you. With it I promise to honor, cherish, and protect you, for the rest of my life. To remain faithful to you and only you. My partner. My best friend. For the rest of my life.”
“For the rest of my life,” Jay says, punctuating his statement by slipping my band in place next to my engagement ring.
Summer hands me Jay’s band, and as I repeat the same words, I stare at my soon-to-be husband and son. My family. My everything.
“For the rest of my life,” I repeat, smiling as I wiggling the ring until it slides in place over Jay’s knuckle.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride,” Summer declares as our guests begin clapping.
Handing Sammy off to Spencer, Jay pulls me in close, places a hand on either side of my face, and gentle captures my lips. All the promises we just made each other are exchanged in that kiss. To love one another. To honor and cherish.
But if he keeps kissing me the way he is, we’re going to give our guests a show they didn’t pay to see.
Jay’s grin when I pull away is sinful. He knew exactly what he was doing with that kiss and he did it on purpose.
Not that it’s the first time. And I pray it’s not the last.
“But I don’t wanna go,” Sammy pouts, attempting to pull his hand from Summer’s.
“You don’t want to have a sleepover at Grandma Summer’s house?” I ask, knowing damn well it’s his favorite thing to do. He asks every day if he can have a sleepover with his favorite grandma.
“I wanna stay here and dance,” he protests through his yawn.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Summer says, lifting him into her arms, his head immediately resting against her chest. “I’ll turn up the music really loud when we get home and we can have our own dance party. Deal?”
“Okay,” Sammy grumbles.
It’s been a long day for all of us. The reception is starting to wind down, all the parents and older crowd having left already. With only twenty or so of us left, Mia gave me the signal ten minutes ago that our surprise for the boys is set and ready.
Which meant I needed to get Sammy out of here. I want Jay and I to tell him together. We’re going to explain to him what it means. So I pulled Summer aside a few minutes ago and let her in on the surprise.
She cried tears of joy. The same way she did when I told her we were expecting Sammy. She’s going to be a grandma again. And this time, she’s getting two at once.
After Summer and Sammy are out the door, I pull Mia out of the barn and into the tent so we can get ready. With only a little bit of time to prepare, I’m surprised she was able to get everything we needed.
Slipping out of my dress, I carefully hang it up and slip into a pair of jeans. Mia tosses her dress on the floor, not bothering with a hanger, and pulls the shirts she bought from the bottom of her bag.
“I thought you said you were going to get us the same one?” I ask as I look at both the ones she’s handed me.
One says Does this shirt make me look pregnant? The other says Guess What? with a heart around it.
“I tried but I could only find one of each in our sizes,” she says, grabbing the Guess What? shirt from my hand and slipping it over her head.
Leaving our stuff laying around, we slip into our coats to cover the shirts until we’re ready to reveal them and head back to the barn. Jay and Spence are over by the bar, talking to Mindy, exactly where they were when we left ten minutes ago.
“Are you sure this is a good idea? You haven’t even confirmed you’re actually pregnant yet,” I whisper as we give the boys a wide birth and head toward the D-jay booth.
“I took a test before the ceremony. Damn thing took like fifteen seconds to confirm the results.”
Laughing as we approach, the d-jay removes his headphones and leans down so Mia can whisper in his ear. His eyes light up and he starts laughing when she flashes him her shirt. He nods in my direction as he cuts the music. Picking up a microphone, he gives it a light tap, the tiny poofs echoing off the ceiling of the barn.
Now or never.
There’s no going back.
“For those of you still here, the bride and maid of honor have a special surprise for the groom and best man. Enjoy the show.”
Mia and I take our places on the dance floor, keeping our backs to the guys. They started in our direction, both with a look of delight on their faces, as soon as the d-jay turned off the mic. Everyone else followed and there’s a small crowd at the edge of the dance floor.
I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred starts blaring through the speakers and I can’t help but giggle as I start shaking my hips. I’m not much of a dance but I can follow directions so I let Mia take the lead as we get further into the song, copying her moves.
As the songs about to end, she shoots me a look. I nod, letting her know I’m ready to reveal my shirt. Not only that, but I’m sweating my ass off in this jacket.
Here we go…
I’m too sexy for this song.
Pop the hip. Rip the jacket open. Reveal the shirt.
It all happens so fast I barely hear the audible gasp from our friends. I’m breathing heavily as I let the jacket fall off my arms.
I see Spencer lift Mia in his arms and spin her around out of the corner of my eye but there’s no sign of Jay anywhere. Scanning the room, I finally spot him behind me, taking to the d-jay. When I see him grab the microphone, I tilt my head in confusion.
Making eye contact, Jay walks over to where I’m standing, staring at my shirt the entire way. Once he finally reaches me, he leans in, gently kisses me on the lips, and pulls away just as quickly.
I hear the microphone come alive and then Jay’s voice is booming overhead.
“I’d like to be the first to congratulate Mia and Spencer on the announcement of their pregnancy. I’d also like to announce that for the first time in a long time, Spencer owes me fifty bucks instead of the other way around.”
“Screw you,” Spence yells.
“I’m pretty sure you did that to your wife and look how that turned out.” Spencer just shakes his head, pulls his wallet out of his back pocket, walks over and slaps the bills in Jay’s outstretched hand. “Thanks. Now I just need to win about a hundred more bets against you and we’ll be even.”
“Tell you new wife what you bet,” Spencer taunts. “Double or nothing she smacks you.”
“Not a chance in hell.”
“Why not?” I ask, looking up at Jay.
“Because you will smack me and I just won this money. I’m not giving it back.”
Sticking out my bottom lip the way Sammy does when he wants something from his daddy, Jay lets out a sigh and turns the microphone off. Leaning in close, he whispers the bet in my ear.
Spencer was right. I smacked Jay in the chest.
“How did you know?”
“I know you’re body, Drea. I knew the second you were pregnant. I do love the shirt, though. And you’re a sexy dancer.”
“Liar,” I state, rolling my eyes. “I can’t believe I didn’t surprise you.”
“You surprised the hell out of Spence. He thought I was full of shit. Especially when I told him Mia was probably pregnant too with the way she was acting.”
“Seriously? You figured that out too?”
All he does is smile, lifting his gaze to where our friends are standing only a few feet away, accepting congratulations. Spencer is beaming. Mia is rubbing her flat belly.
“Drea,” Jay growls, pulling my body against his. “I think it’s time we left. You know, since it’s our wedding night and all. Have a little fun. Practice making more babies.”
“I don’t think you need any more practice, Mr. Ross. You seem to know exactly what it takes to make a baby. You’ve done it twice now,” I tease.
“Practice makes perfect, Mrs. Ross.” God, I love the way that sounds.
“Say it again.”
“Mrs. Ross.” He draws the words out, causing a shiver to run up my spine.
“Again,” I urge, closing my eyes and enjoying the feel of his body against mine.
“The next time I say it, I want to be deep inside you.”
Without giving it a second thought, I agree, grab his hand, and pull him toward the door. Because Jay is the only man that I would do anything for. Right now. Next week. In twenty years. He owns my heart and my soul and I own his.
Wherever we are, as long as we’re together, will always be home.
Thank you for reading Jay & Drea’s happily ever after. If you’re in the mood for another steamy book that’s filled with angst but will hit you in the feels, check out the first book in my Lake State University series, Dirty Little Secret. DLS is a brother’s best friend romance and you will fall head over heels in love with Finn!