Read Marrying Caroline (SEAL of Protection) Online
Authors: Susan Stoker
“Alabama, I have no idea what song to pick for our first dance,” Caroline complained to her friend. “I know Hunter would probably pick a great one, but I want to do this. But I have no idea what to choose.” Caroline knew she was whining, but had no idea how to stop it. “Help me Alabama! Give me some suggestions!”
“Okay, let’s see….you could go old school…
Only Fools Rush In
Caroline wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll ever decide. How about this, just name some songs off real quick off the top of your head and I’ll see if any of them strike me.”
, Lone Star;
Here and Now
, Luther Vandross;
Steady As We Go
, Dave Matthews;
You Won’t Ever Be Lonely
, Andy Griggs;
, Eric Clapton;
From This Moment
, Shania Twain;
Your Arms Feel Like Home
, 3 Doors Down;
Grow Old With Me
, John Lennon;
Could I Have This Dance
, Anne Murray;
I’ll Be There For You
, Bon Jovi;
, Barbara Streisand;
Loving You Forever
, New Kids on the Block;
Because You Loved Me
, Celine Dion; or
Everything I Do, I Do For You
by Bryan Adams.” Alabama took a deep breath.
“Hopeless,” Caroline moaned. “I mean, every one of those songs are awesome. They’re all romantic as hell and would make a great first dance song.”
“But none are really what you want, are they?” Alabama commiserated.
“No. But that’s the thing. I don’t know
“I think you’ll know it when you hear it, Caroline.” Alabama tried to soothe her friend.
“But time is running out. Seriously!”
Fiona took Caroline by the shoulders and shook her a little. “Relax, Caroline. You. Will. Figure. It. Out.”
“You’re right. Fuck. I mean, I was held captive by terrorists, this should
be freaking me out. Right?”
“It’s not a big deal. Whatever. I’ll just pick one. No, I’ll just have Hunter pick one for me. That’ll get everyone off my back about it.” Caroline saw the look Alabama gave her and sighed. “Okay, I won’t do that. I don’t want to do that. I’ll figure it out.”
“Come on, let’s go and get some ice cream or something. It’ll help you relax.”
“Any excuse for ice cream is okay with me.” Caroline smiled at Alabama. “Thanks for being here for me.”
“Of course, Caroline. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Come on.”
* * *
Caroline puttered around the kitchen working on the salad she was making for dinner. She knew she had to bring up an uneasy topic with Matthew, and wasn’t sure how to do it. She’d been thinking about it for a while now, and wasn’t any closer to knowing how to approach Matthew. Finally she decided just to go for it. Maybe if they were both busy doing something, it’d be easier.
“Hey, Matthew, I need to tell you something about the wedding.”
Wolf looked up from the steak he was grilling on the stovetop. “Shoot.”
Caroline bit her lip and looked down at the green pepper she was slicing. It was now or never. She rushed through her words. “I’mgoingtowearHunter’stridentpinasmysomethingold.” Caroline could feel the air in the room go still. She’d known Matthew wasn’t going to like it. She didn’t know exactly why Matthew wouldn’t like for her to wear Hunter’s pin, but there was something about it that Caroline knew was a big deal, but she didn’t know what.
She rushed on, still not looking at Matthew. “I figured since he’s had it for a long time and he gave it to me, so that it would qualify for something old. I mean, since he gave it to me it can’t be something borrowed so…” The knife Caroline had been using to cut the vegetables was suddenly taken out of her hand and she found herself turned around.
Wolf turned Caroline until she was facing him. He knew he needed to take care of this before now, but he hadn’t wanted to bring it up. “Ice, you know what our Budweiser’s mean to us, yes?” At her slow nod, but confused look on her face, Wolf knew she was lying. Caroline didn’t know just what that pin meant to a SEAL. He continued, “I…” Wolf’s words stuck in his throat.
Ever since he’d learned that Cookie had given his SEAL trident pin to Caroline when she was in the hospital, he’d been unhappy. It should have been
giving her his pin. He’d been an ass and had tried to give Caroline up. Abe had prodded and poked until he’d known he could never do it, that he needed Caroline in his life. But before he’d figured it out, Cookie had claimed her in his own way. It ate at Wolf, knowing Caroline had another man’s pin.
Wolf loved Cookie as if they were related, but it didn’t stop the feelings. Wolf loved Fiona as a sister and knew that she and Cookie were tight, that Caroline having Cookie’s pin didn’t mean anything as far as a relationship other than brother/sister went, but he still hated it. Wolf even knew deep down in his heart Caroline was his, and that Cookie knew Caroline was his. That Caroline considered herself his, but her having Cookie’s pin still bothered him.
It wasn’t rational, but it was what it was. Wolf cleared his throat and tried to continue, tried to get his feelings across to Caroline without looking like a jealous ass. “I fucked up that day.” When Caroline shook her head, he put his finger over her lips. “Please, let me finish.” She nodded and Wolf continued.
“I fucked up. I’d decided you were better off without me, and my friend and teammate did what I should’ve. I know you belong to me, I know you love me, but it eats at me that you have
There was so much more Wolf knew he should say, but he didn’t know where to start or how to say it. He put one hand behind Caroline’s neck and the other went to her waist. He pulled her into his embrace, resting his forehead against hers. “I love you, Ice. It scares the hell out of me how vulnerable you make me. Emotionally and physically. All it would take is one person threatening your life and I know I’d lay down every weapon I had and beg them to hurt me instead of you.”
“Shhhh, let me get this out. Please.” At her nod, he continued. “Our Budweiser’s are a fucking important thing to every SEAL. We work our asses off for the pin and when we finally get it, it’s a validation of all our hard work and it’s also a validation that we’re a part of the brotherhood that is a SEAL. You know the saying, ‘A SEAL doesn’t leave a SEAL behind, ever.’”
Caroline nodded again.
“I know I left you behind and it kills me. I’m trying to figure out how to explain it to you so you’ll understand. I know on the surface it sounds as if I’m just being a caveman and I’m jealous, and no lie, that’s a part of it, but it’s more. You having Cookie’s pin is like if I wore a ring another woman gave me on a chain around my neck.”
At Caroline’s sudden inhale of breath, Wolf tightened his hands and then relaxed them again. He hated to hurt her, but he had to make her understand. “Yeah, no one could see it, but you’d know it was there. Even if it was given in friendship, even if it meant nothing to me other than friendship, you’d still know it was there.”
“I get it, Matthew. I do. I’ll give it back to Hunter tomorrow.”
“No. I don’t want you to do that.” At the look of confusion on Caroline’s face, Wolf sighed and backed up a step. He leaned over and turned off the burner on the stove. If the steaks were ruined, so be it. Wolf took Caroline’s hand and led her to the couch. They seemed to talk best when they were in each other’s arms.
Wolf sat, then waited as Caroline sat next to him, then turned into his arms. He curled his arm around her upper back and ran his free hand through her hair.
“I don’t want you to give it back. That would hurt Cookie. He gave it to you because it meant something. The two of you went through some pretty emotional stuff in the waves. You have a connection as a result. I’d be an asshole if I tried to take that away from either of you. I’m gonna spell it out here, Caroline. I want you to wear
pin in our wedding. I want to give it to you and have you keep it close to your heart.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“Because it makes me sound like an asshole.”
“No. It doesn’t.”
“Well, then it makes me
like an asshole. Like I’m in competition with my friend, but I know I’m not. I can’t explain it, but it’s like me putting my ring on your finger. That pin is the most important thing to me. Being a SEAL is a part of me, and giving you that pin is like giving you a piece of who I am.”
“I won’t wear Hunter’s pin.”
Wolf sighed. “Thank you, baby.”
“I knew you weren’t thrilled with me having it, but I didn’t understand. I wish you would’ve said something earlier to me. I don’t like you feeling that way and not letting me help you with it.”
“I know, I should have. But the longer it got, the harder it was to bring it up. It wasn’t like I could just bring it up out of the blue or anything. I love you, Ice. I’d be honored if you would wear my Trident on our wedding day as your ‘something old.’”
“I will, Matthew. I promise.”
Caroline laughed. “Yeah.”
“Okay, then, up you go. Let’s do this.”
Wolf knew he’d gotten off easy, but that was Caroline. There was no way she’d make him wallow in his jealousy or guilt. She listened to him, heard how he felt, and immediately gave in. No drama. It was one of million and one reasons he loved her.
“It looks like everything is set, Ice.”
Caroline nodded at Hunter. They’d both worked really hard over the last month or so to make sure everything for the wedding was planned and ready to go. Okay, well, Hunter had done most of the work, but he’d made Caroline agree to most of the arrangements. Caroline had only broken down once when they’d discussed who would walk her down the aisle. Her dad wasn’t around to do it, and it hit Caroline really hard that he’d never see his little girl get married to the love of her life. They’d finally decided she’d make her way down the aisle by herself. Caroline didn’t mind, she’d been independent a long time.
“We just have the first dance song and the arrangements the day of, to nail down.” Cookie looked at Caroline expectantly. He’d been on her for the last month to figure out what song she wanted to dance to, and she still hadn’t made a decision. It’d become somewhat of a joke between the two of them.
“Hunter, I’ll figure out the song before the time actually comes, don’t worry about it.” Caroline tried to placate Hunter, but the truth was she was nervous as hell about that first dance, but didn’t want Hunter to keep harping on her about it.
“But, what if the DJ doesn’t have the song in his playlist? You have to tell him before the reception so he can be sure he’s got it.”
“I said, I’ll figure it out.” Caroline’s voice was testy. She was quickly losing patience.
Knowing he was on thin ice, Cookie changed the subject. “Okay, then, so the day of. You and Alabama and Fiona will come here to the church and get ready. Yes?”
Caroline nodded, relaxing now that Hunter was dropping the subject of the song choice. She freaking loved the church they’d chosen. She wasn’t terribly religious, but liked the thought of getting married in a House of God. Matthew didn’t have a church of choice and had told her that he’d get married in any kind of church she wanted, as long as they got married.
Caroline and Hunter had looked at several churches in Riverton before deciding. The church they’d picked had a bright red door, and that had clenched it in Caroline’s eyes. There was just something about a religious building that had the guts to paint the door bright red, that made it feel right to her. Knowing it wasn’t usual to allow random people to get married in random churches, Caroline and Matthew had met with the pastor and she’d agreed to marry them.
Cookie continued with describing his schedule for Caroline’s wedding day. “So while the girls get ready at the church, Wolf and the rest of us will get together at his house. Then we’ll take the limo…”
Caroline rolled her eyes. She still couldn’t believe the big bad SEALs were going to rent a limo. It all seemed so normal, but for her man and his team, it was anything but.
“…and we’ll get to the church about thirty minutes before the wedding. I don’t want to risk Wolf seeing you in your dress before the ceremony. Bad luck you know.”
It was supposed to be bad luck, but Caroline had put her foot down on one tradition and refused to spend the night before her wedding away from Matthew. She’d declared it a stupid tradition and told Hunter that she spent enough nights away from Matthew when he was on missions, that she wasn’t doing it the night before her own wedding. Luckily, Hunter had acquiesced without further cajoling needed. But he hadn’t budged on Matthew seeing her in her gown before the ceremony. Caroline had relented on that, as long as she didn’t have to spend a night away from Matthew when he was Stateside, she was okay with the other tradition.
“We’ll take all the pictures after the wedding while the guests are making their way to the reception. There are lots of h'ordeuvres for them to eat while they wait for us. Not to mention the open-bar. You and Wolf will take the limo to the reception and the rest of us will follow in our cars.”
“How will your cars get to the church?” Caroline asked, knowing the answer, but wanting to hear Hunter spit it all out.
“We’ll drop them off the night before so they’ll be there ready for us.”
Caroline smiled. Hunter was so funny. He had no idea she was just teasing him.
“Then after the reception, you and Wolf will go on your honeymoon.”
“Yeah, about that. How am I supposed to pack if I don’t know where we’re going?” Matthew had refused to tell her where he was talking her. Caroline hoped it was a warm beach, somewhere like Maui, but even when she’d begged, and even after one particularly energetic night in bed, he’d still refused to tell her.
“Fiona will pack for you.”
Caroline groaned. She thought for sure she’d be able to use the “I have to pack” excuse to get someone to tell her where they were going.
“The Commander gave him the week off right?” Caroline wanted to be sure she and Matthew would be able to get away and not worry about having to rush back in case something came up.
“Yeah, Commander Hurt knows Wolf is getting married. He agreed that the rest of us could have a week off as well. I’m going to have a second honeymoon with Fiona, and Abe is doing the same with Alabama. I think Mozart is heading up to Big Bear Lake and who knows what the others are doing. But the bottom line is that you don’t have to worry about being interrupted, you and Wolf will have the full week to yourselves.”
Caroline smiled. Thank God.
Knowing Hunter was in a mellow mood, Caroline decided now was a good time to bring up the issue of his Budweiser pin. If it meant that much to Matthew, she had to discuss this with Hunter.
“Hunter, I want to talk to you about something.”
“Okay, go for it, Ice.”
“It’s about the SEAL pin you gave me.”
Cookie turned his full attention to Caroline. “Go on.”
“You know it means a lot to me…” She didn’t get anything else out before Hunter interrupted her.
“Wolf finally talked to you about it?”
Caroline looked askance at Hunter. “Yeahhhh.” She drew out the word wondering where Hunter was going with his thoughts.
Cookie leaned over and took both of Caroline’s hands in his. “I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Ice, Wolf was never happy you had my pin. Hell, he ordered me once to take it back, but I refused.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Ice, me and you went through something I’ll never forget in all my life. I’m a battle hardened Navy SEAL, but I’ve never been so touched by anything as I was with you while we were under the ocean. You didn’t panic, you stayed strong, and the first thought when you came up out of the ocean was for Wolf.”
Caroline nodded, waiting for Hunter to make his point.
“I gave you my pin because you proved yourself to me, and to the rest of the team. You deserved it and I was happy to give you something that meant so much to me.”
“But?” Caroline could tell Hunter had something else to say.
“But now you’re getting married. Wolf is your man, he isn’t happy you have my pin.”
Caroline got it. “Here’s the thing, Hunter. Not to sound mean, but in regards to this, Matthew doesn’t have a say.” She held up her hand when it looked like Hunter wanted to speak. “I love the man more than life itself, but I don’t think he has a right to tell you to take your pin back, or to tell me to give it back. Be that as it may, I think I need to give it back to you.”
Cookie didn’t say anything, just continued to look at Caroline.
“I didn’t understand what it meant, or even how much it meant to the SEALs. But now that I do…” Caroline sucked in a breath. “I don’t really know how to say this. And I know it’s going to come out wrong.”
“It’s okay, Ice,” Cookie soothed.
“So here’s the thing. You have your own woman now. Even though I know Fiona doesn’t really understand the pin thing either, now that I
know, it makes me uncomfortable to have your pin when Fiona doesn’t. Does that make sense?”
Cookie reached over and pulled Caroline into his arms. “It makes sense.” The words were spoken quietly, but with heartfelt emotion.
“I don’t need your pin to know how you feel about me, Hunter. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart. We don’t need to give each other jewelry to solidify that,” Caroline paused, and in order to lighten the mood, continued, “unless you want me to give you a friendship bracelet or something.”
Her words did what she wanted them to do, lightened the atmosphere.
Cookie pulled back, kissed Caroline on the forehead and let go. “No exchange of jewelry necessary.”
Caroline smiled at Hunter. “Thanks for understanding. Will you talk to Fiona and explain it to her? I can’t…I don’t want her to…”
Caroline sighed in relief. Hunter understood her fears without her having to say them out loud. She didn’t want to lose her friendship with Fiona after all they’d been through together, especially after something that didn’t mean anything to her, at least not in
way. “I’ll return your pin the next time I see you.”
“Which will be tomorrow. We still have to nail down the party favors.”
Caroline rolled her eyes. “Right.”
“And work on figuring out that first song tonight would ya?”
Caroline nibbled on her lip. “Okay.” They both knew she wouldn’t, but luckily Hunter let her off the hook.