Authors: Susan Stoker
Caroline turned when the pastor walked in with Alabama.
“I’m so sorry, Caroline. I let everyone know what was going on. They’re all very concerned about Matthew and the other men, but Alabama said they would be all right?” At Caroline’s nod, the pastor continued, “Alabama says you wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes please. Alabama, you have the keys to Christopher’s car right?” When Alabama nodded, Caroline ordered, “Okay, get Fiona to the car, I’ll be right there.”
Without a word, the two women gathered their purses and headed out the door. Caroline turned to the pastor to ask a huge favor.
Not too much later, Caroline hustled toward Christopher’s car, holding the skirt of her wedding dress up so it wouldn’t drag on the ground, her flip-flops thudding against the pavement as she walked briskly. At her arrival at the car, Alabama’s and Fiona’s eyebrows lifted, but they didn’t say a word. Caroline ignored the concerned looks of the guests who were now leaving the church, and settled herself into the back seat. She took a moment to lean forward and put her hand on Fiona’s shoulder and squeeze reassuringly.
“Let’s go, Alabama. Our men need us.”
Wolf sat in the waiting room with his head in his hands. He looked down at his uniform, which was splattered with blood. This was the first time he’d really sat down and had time to think. The last hour had been horrifying, but his military training had kicked in and he’d been operating on auto-pilot.
He noticed briefly, that his hands were shaking. Wolf’s team had been joking around one minute, and the next they’d been thrown around the back of the limousine as if they were popcorn kernels inside a microwave bag. After the glass had stopped flying, Wolf looked up and saw his teammates also groggily sitting up, except for Cookie.
Wolf would never forget the sight of his friend lying motionless on the floor of the limo. The side of the car where he’d been sitting was dented in and there was glass covering everything, including Cookie.
Wolf had seen dead bodies before. Hell, he’d seen way too many dead bodies, but most of the time they didn’t really
anything to him. But the sight of Cookie lying motionless, covered in blood, meant something to Wolf. He’d immediately crouched down in the wreck of the metal surrounding them, and breathed a sigh of relief when he felt Cookie’s pulse.
They’d quickly extricated themselves from the twisted metal, checked on the driver of both the limousine and the car that hit them, and waited for emergency personnel to arrive. It hadn’t taken long. A bystander had called 911 and the sirens had sounded quickly afterwards.
Wolf and Dude had ridden in the ambulance with Cookie and the cops had driven the rest of the guys to the hospital. They’d all refused medical treatment at the scene, knowing they were banged up, but not seriously injured. But Cookie had still been unconscious when he’d been loaded into the ambulance for the trip to the emergency room.
“I called Alabama,” Wolf heard Abe say quietly. Wolf looked up at his friend.
“Fuck.” Wolf knew he fucked up. He should’ve called Caroline way before now. “What time is it?”
“Calm down, Wolf, it’s okay. The girls are on their way here.”
“Fuck,” Wolf repeated. He’d missed his wedding. Caroline would be so disappointed. She and Cookie had been planning this day for months.
“Don’t even go there, Wolf,” Dude warned, easing himself into the seat next to his friend. “Ice’ll be cool.”
Wolf couldn’t get any words past the disappointment in his throat. He wasn’t worried about Caroline being pissed about her wedding. He knew she’d be cool. But he’d been looking forward to this day. He wanted to make Caroline his for so long, now he’d have to wait even longer. Finally he answered Dude with a terse, “I know.”
“You’re disappointed,” Mozart said suddenly from across the room.
Wolf didn’t answer, it didn’t matter if he admitted it or not, there wasn’t much he could do about it now.
Benny stood up and paced the small room. “Maybe we can still make it. Mozart, call the Commander and get him over here with a car. We’ll go to the church and…”
“It’s fine, Benny,” Wolf said with determination. “We need to stay here for Cookie. Caroline and I will get married, don’t fucking doubt it, but not today.”
The men fell silent. There wasn’t anything they could say that would make their leader feel any better about missing his wedding.
The rest of the people in the waiting room gave the SEALs a wide berth. They were all big men and they were covered in bloodstains. Their white dress uniforms would never be the same again, they’d have to be thrown away. The flying glass, along with caring for Cookie at the scene, had ruined any chance of their uniforms being able to be saved.
The team was restless and took turns pacing the small room. Their jaws were tight and there was an aura of danger emanating from their corner of the waiting room.
“When the hell will we hear anything? What’s taking so long?” Benny complained to no one in particular.
“They’re waiting for Fiona. They won’t talk to us, because we aren’t related,” Dude explained.
“The hell we aren’t related!” Benny exclaimed, saying what they all were thinking.
“You know what I mean,” Dude again tried to calm Benny down.
Wolf could only laugh, and not in a ha-ha kind of way, but in a wow-is-that-an-understatement, kind of way.
Wolf looked up as the front door of the emergency room opened. Alabama and Fiona swept in, followed by Caroline. Everyone in the waiting room stared at the women. They looked as out of place in the hospital waiting room in their bridesmaid dresses and Caroline in her wedding gown, as a cowboy would look in a New York City dance club.
Wolf couldn’t take his eyes off of Caroline. “Jesus,” he muttered under his breath. She literally took his breath away. Wolf knew he’d be overwhelmed at how beautiful she’d look as she came toward him in the church, and he’d been right. It didn’t matter that they weren’t in a church. It didn’t matter that they were in a county emergency room. It didn’t matter that he was covered in bloodstains and scratches from flying glass.
It was as if he was watching Caroline walk toward him through a long tunnel. He couldn’t get his mouth to form words, he couldn’t get his feet to move. All Wolf could do was stare at his fiancée.
Wolf didn’t hear the reunion between Abe and Alabama and he didn’t hear Fiona’s sobs as Mozart took her in his arms to reassure her.
Caroline finally stopped in front of him. Wolf lifted his hand and rested it on the side of Caroline’s neck and he gripped her tightly. “Fuck, Ice.” They weren’t the words he’d dreamed of saying to his bride when he saw her in her wedding gown for the first time, but it didn’t seem to matter to Caroline.
Her face crumpled and she took a step toward him, preparing to bury herself in her man’s arms.
Wanting badly to take Caroline in his arms and whisk her away from the hospital, away from the pain he knew she was feeling about Cookie and about missing their wedding, but Wolf didn’t want to muss her up. He put his hands on her shoulders and held her away from him. “Caroline, I’m covered in blood.”
“I don’t care.”
“I’ll get your dress dirty.”
“I don’t care.”
“I. Don’t. Fucking. Care.”
At her words, Wolf did what he’d wanted to do from the first time he’d seen her. He crushed Caroline to him. One hand went to her waist, and the other curled around to the back of her neck, where he held her to him. Wolf felt Caroline’s arms snake around him and grab onto his white dress shirt at his back.
Neither spoke for long moments. They simply held on to each other as if they’d never let go.
“Thank God you’re okay.” Caroline finally broke the silence between them. Her words were spoken into his neck, and were soft and low, but Wolf heard them.
“I’m okay, Ice. I’m okay.”
“I know. I’ll be okay in a second. Just…don’t let go yet. Please?”
“I’m not letting go. I’m not fucking letting go.”
Caroline smiled at Matthew’s words. He’d never win an award for sweet-talker of the year, but he was hers and she didn’t care. He was here in her arms, whole, and mostly unharmed. She’d take it.
Caroline finally pulled back out of Matthew’s arms when a nurse called out, “Is there a relative here for Hunter Knox?”
Mozart called out, “Here,” as he guided Fiona toward the nurse. The rest of the group followed behind, making quite a spectacle of themselves. Five large men, covered in scratches and bloodstained white military dress uniforms, two women dressed in lilac bridesmaids dresses, and one woman in a strapless wedding dress with a short train trailing behind her on the dirty waiting room floor, could never go unnoticed or uncommented on.
The nurse looked at the large group converging on her in consternation. “Uh, Mrs. Knox, if you’ll follow me, we’ll go into over here to speak in private.”
“I said no.” Fiona had straightened away from Mozart and had her arms crossed in front of her chest. She was holding her elbows, so her position looked a bit more vulnerable than she probably wanted it to be, but no one said a word. She continued, “These men are as much his family as I am. They’ve fought next to him, they’ve suffered alongside him, they train with him. Whatever you say to me, you can say to them as well.”
The nurse looked flustered, but didn’t disagree with the obviously distraught woman standing in front of her. “Okay, well, let’s still go over here to get out of the way, and I’ll explain what’s going on.”
The nurse gestured toward an empty room to the side of the waiting room and everyone crowded in.
“Mr. Knox is conscious and doing fine. From what we can gather, he hit his head pretty hard on the window when the car was hit. That’s why he lost consciousness for so long. He’s got some superficial cuts and scratches, much as most of you do.”
“When can I take him home?” Fiona asked. Dude was now standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders supporting her.
“He can go home later tonight, but the doctor wants to keep him here for observation for a while, just to be sure he’d okay. Because he was unconscious for so long we want to make sure he doesn’t have a concussion.”
“Wouldn’t be the first,” Mozart said under his breath.
Ignoring Sam, Fiona asked, “Can I see him?”
“Of course,” the nurse said, looking glad the conversation was almost over. Obviously being in room with that much testosterone was too much for her. “Follow me, and I’ll take you to him.”
Caroline asked quickly, before they nurse could leave the room. “Can he have other visitors?”
“Well, I’m not sure…” the nurse hedged.
“Please? You said it wasn’t serious. It’d mean a lot to of all of us if we were able to go in there and see him.” Caroline pulled out the big guns. “He was supposed to be in my wedding today. He’s a groomsman and we’d all like to see that he’s okay for ourselves.” Caroline tried to put an innocent look on her face.
The nurse thought about it for a moment, then finally agreed. “Okay, but you’ll have to make it quick. It’s not fair to all the other patients to have a ruckus going on in one of the rooms.”
Caroline beamed at the nurse. “Promise. No ruckus. Thank you.”
Wolf turned to Caroline. “What are you up to?”
“What makes you think I’m up to anything?”
“I know you.”
Caroline laughed. “I love you, Matthew.”
you’re up to something.”
Caroline snuggled back into Matthew’s arms and sighed as she felt his arms go around her again. She hadn’t been able to breathe right until she’d seen for herself that Matthew was all right.
“Do you trust me?”
“With my life,” was Matthew’s immediate response.
Caroline felt her insides melt even more. She looked up at Matthew, noticing the rest of the guys had left the room. They were alone. “I want to marry you.”
Wolf felt his insides seize up. Fuck. “Ice, I’d move heaven and earth to become your husband today, but I’m afraid we’ll have to do it later.” Wolf looked at his watch. “It’s been two hours since we were supposed to exchange our vows. I know members of the church are patient, but this might be pushing it a bit far.”
“I kinda bribed the pastor to come to the hospital with me.”
Wolf leaned back and put his hand under Caroline’s chin and forced her to meet his eyes. “What?”
At the stern look in Matthew’s eyes, Caroline stumbled over her words. “Uh, yeah, well, when I heard you guys were in an accident, but that you were okay, I kinda lost it and refused to believe that we wouldn’t be able to get married today. We’d been looking forward to it for so long and Hunter put so much work into everything, I really wanted to do it for him. I didn’t know if he’d be okay or not, but I hoped…so I told the pastor that if she came to the hospital with me and agreed to marry us here, you’d make a ‘sizeable’ donation to her church.”
Wolf threw his head back and laughed. He felt lighter than he’d felt since he realized they’d been hit. “You can still be my woman today?”
“I’ll always be your woman.”
“I mean, you can still officially be my woman today in the eyes of the law?”
“Fuck.” Wolf couldn’t get any other words out. His throat seemed to close and he squeezed his eyes shut. He felt, rather than saw, Caroline reach up and kiss his lips, then both closed eyelids.
“I’d marry you anytime, anywhere, Matthew, but I wanted to give this to Hunter. He’s almost as invested in our marriage as we are.”
“I love you, Ice. You’re everything I ever wished for in my life. When I was little and saw how happy my parents were, I prayed that I’d find someone like my dad had. I didn’t really understand it then, and as I grew older, I realized how lucky they were. It’s fucking hard to find that kind of love. But at thirty six thousand feet, I found it. I found you.”
“I know I haven’t told you this yet today, but you are absolutely beautiful. You in this dress? Jesus, Ice. I’m so fucking glad you’re mine. I can’t wait to get my ring on your finger and get you home, and unwrap you from this dress. Then I’m going to spend the rest of the night showing you how glad I am you’re officially, and legally, mine.”
Now it was Caroline’s turn to tear up. “It might not be a traditional wedding, but you’ll never find anyone more in love with you than me.”
Wolf leaned down and took Caroline’s lips with his own. He didn’t hold anything back, but devoured her. Caroline turned liquid in Matthew’s arms as she let him take what he needed. She loved it when Matthew got all dominant on her. She wasn’t usually submissive, but it was obvious he needed it right now. Besides, Caroline knew she’d reap the benefits when they got home.
Wolf finally lifted his head and ran his thumb over Caroline’s kiss swollen lips, now devoid of any kind of lipstick. “Can we go and get hitched in the eyes of the law anytime soon yet?”
Caroline smiled up at the man who would soon be her husband. “Yeah, let me make sure the pastor hasn’t been scared away and let me sweet talk the nurse some more. We’ll go see Hunter and get this done.”
Wolf leaned down and kissed Caroline one more time. “I love that you want to give this to Cookie. He’s my brother in all ways other than by blood. You doing this for him means the world to me.
mean the world to me.”
“I know. You can pay me back tonight.”
“You better believe it.”
They walked out of the room to find the pastor. It was time for a wedding.