"Little bit," Jane agreed.
Ellen poked her head in the door. "Music is playing. You all ready? Pick up your flowers in the kitchen and let's get this show on the road."
Ellen wore a bright yellow satin dress with a fitted bodice and flowing skirt. She'd declared that she was playing the mother of the bride and she'd have a dress fitting for the title. "Okay, Jane, let's go make this official. Me and Nellie will breathe a lot easier when you are really ours. We live in fear every day that you'll call it off."
"Why would I do that? I love Slade. Loved him even before I knew I loved him. Loved him before I was willing to admit it. Love all of it, even the fighting. Know what's the best part of a rousting good fight?"
Ellen shook her head.
"The making up. I start fights just so I can haul his ass back to the bedroom and make up with him."
"You really might grow up to be like me. Bless your baby heart," Ellen said. "Now get your shoes on and let's go."
"Ain't wearin' shoes. They pinched my feet and my work boots don't match the dress."
Ellen nodded. "It's your day, honey. You do it the way you want to and to hell with anyone who says a word. Anyone don't like your bare feet, you send them to me and I'll straighten out their ass."
On the right cue the preacher took his place under the arch. A minute later, while the band played "The Dance" by Garth Brooks in the background, Beau and Griffin took their places beside the preacher. Nellie and Slade stepped out of the kitchen door, arm in arm. She wore a yellow dress that matched Ellen's and he wore black Wranglers, a starched white shirt, a black hat, eel boots, and a west ern-cut tux jacket with a daisy in the lapel. Nellie kissed him on the cheek when they reached the arch.
"You finally got that lucky break you've talked about your whole life. Don't ever let her go," she whispered.
"I promise," he whispered back.
Then the traditional wedding march started and Milli made her way slowly down the aisle. The look in Beau's eyes said that if he could, he would repeat his vows to her again that day. He winked when she passed.
Celia made an entrance at the back of the church and Griffin watched her as she strolled down the aisle, a tall, graceful blonde who looked as though she was walking down a model's runway. She smiled at him and he smiled back, but he wasn't interested. Blond-haired women reminded him of his ex-wife.
Everyone stood when Ellen escorted Jane down the aisle. The crowd, both those in the chairs on the deck and the ones gathered around the tables, smiled at her bare feet. Slade grinned the biggest. This was his bride. His Jane. She'd always do things her way and to hell with everyone else. The world disappeared when she put her hand in his and they were the only two people left in the world.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God and this multitude of witnesses to join Ellacyn Jane Hayes and Lester Slade Luckadeau in holy matrimony…" the preacher began.
Multitude of witnesses was right. Jane was marrying into one enormous family and she loved it. Today she was no longer just the maid at the Luckadeau ranch; she was part of it.
"Slade?" the preacher prompted.
"Jane, I've got to admit I did not like you in the beginning."
A universal chuckle went up across the yard.
"I had a whole set of vows memorized but while Granny was walking me down the aisle she reminded me of something. For years I said I could never catch a lucky break. Well, I still didn't catch one. To catch something you have to chase after it. At least that's what Granny said when I whined. I didn't catch you. I tried to outrun you, not catch you. But I was wrong because you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You bring me happiness and joy, and I vow to love and cherish you the rest of my life. You truly are my lucky break. Today I give you my name."
"Slade, I got to admit, I damn sure didn't like you either."
Louder snickers that time and a few little girls put their hands over their mouths at such a word coming out of a fairy princess bride.
"Talk about a lucky break? When I got off that bus in Wichita Falls, Texas, I was running scared, not trusting anyone. But I found a man I could trust, who would protect me with his life and love me with his heart. Slade, I promise you a life of roses, complete with thorns. The sweet smell of roses will keep us in love. The thorns will make us strong. Until the day I die, I will love you passionately. I gave you my heart a long time ago, even before I knew I had. Today I take your name and give you my soul."
The ceremony went on as the guests wiped at their eyes.
"Rings?" the preacher asked.
They exchanged plain, wide gold wedding bands.
Then the preacher pronounced them husband and wife and told Slade he could kiss his bride. When they turned to face the crowd he said, "I give to you for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Slade Luckadeau. They came in as separate people. At this point they will dance their first dance together as a couple."
She melted into his arms. He swept off his hat and held it on her fanny. The band began to play "So Are You to Me," by eastmountainsouth. The female singer with a high soprano voice sang about the simple things, like the wind blowing over the plains, being like him to her.
"Barefoot?" he whispered while they danced to the lovely music.
"Pregnant, too. How do you like that?"
He was so stunned he stopped dancing and looked down into her brown eyes.
"Upset?" she asked.
"Elated." He dipped her deeply and then swung her around. Then he kissed her, hiding their faces with his hat. "I'm the happiest man alive."
"I think it's a girl. Her name is Susan Jo Ellen. Susan was my mother's name. We're going to call her Ellie," she whispered.
"Luckadeau's throw boys."
"Are we fighting? If so, can we go to our trailer and make up?"
"All in due time, Mrs. Luckadeau, all in due time. We've got a lifetime together, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it."
About the Author
an award-winning author who has sold more than forty books, credits her eclectic family for her humor and writing ideas. She was born in Texas but grew up in southern Oklahoma where she and her husband, Charles, a retired English teacher, make their home. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young.
Read on for more from Carolyn Brown and the
Coming in January 2010 from Sourcebooks Casablanca
That evening Julie read the kids a book and then went to her room. She could hear Griffin talking to his mother and sister in the hallway. Their voices floated through the door but she couldn't make out a single word, only the tone. Once or twice Melinda swore and then she laughed. Julie wondered briefly what could be funny, but not for long.
She picked up the new Sue Grafton book she'd bought at the bookstore when she was at the Gainesville mall. Before the fire she'd owned the whole set, from
is for Alibi
right up to
S is for Silence
T is for Trespass
had been out for months but she hadn't had time to read anything lately.
Footsteps came up the stairs. Two sets went to rooms across the hall. One set stopped at her door for a moment then continued on to Griffin's room. She wondered if he was aching for a fight about that kiss. Well if he was, then he should have it, right?
She peeked out into the hallway. She could hear Melinda and Laura moving around behind closed doors. She tiptoed to Griffin's door and raised a hand to knock, then thought better of it. One little noise and at least two doors would open in the hallway, with the possibility of a third, if Annie heard it. Explaining to Annie would be easy compared to Laura and Melinda if they caught her going into Griffin's room. Melinda's temper would ignite into flames and she'd do a dance right there in the hallway for being right about the red-haired, white trash gold digger.
She turned the knob and eased into the dark room. Griffin was stretched out on the bed, his hands laced behind his head. He figured Lizzy was sneaking into his room to ask for a midnight snack. When he looked across the room and saw Julie lit up from the moonlight flowing through the window, he sat up so fast it made him dizzy.
"Which kid needs me?" he whispered.
"Nothing is the matter with the kids. Something is the matter with us," she said.
"Please tell me that kiss didn't spook you into leaving Saint Jo for the holidays…"
"I'm not leaving. Wild horses couldn't drive me away and let your sister win this silly war she's declared on me," she said.
He threw himself backwards with enough force to make the bed bounce. She pulled up a rocking chair to the side of his bed and slid into it, drawing her knees up, propping her forearms on them and her chin on her arms.
"Okay, then what is the problem that you'd invade my bedroom without even knocking?"
She was suddenly tongue tied. What had seemed like a perfectly good idea five minutes before was suddenly sophomoric and silly. She wasn't a teenager and Griffin wasn't the first man she'd kissed.
"It was the kiss, wasn't it?" he asked.
"Well, rest assured it was just something that
happened. Kind of like a knee-jerk reaction to a situa tion. It won't happen again."
"Why?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Why won't it happen again? Am I ugly? Do I repel you?"
He sat up again. "You most certainly do not!"
He was careful to keep the sheet over his lower body. Just looking at her in that silly nightshirt with Betty Boop on the front had flushed him with desire that wasn't easy to cover up, even with a sheet.
"Because you…" he stammered.
"Because I was with your brother, Graham?"
"That, and the fact that you and I could never have a relationship, Julie. Number one, you are not my type. Number two… I can't think of what number two is but give me a day or two and I'll have a whole list."
She was on her feet in flash and put one hand on each of Griffin's cheeks. She leaned forward and kissed him soundly and passionately. When she broke away she ran her tongue over her lips to get the final taste.
"Number one," she said, "you aren't my type either. Number two, I'd rather be your friend. Number three, you kiss damn good and your brother and I were both so plastered that night I can't even remember what his kisses were like. Good night, Griffin. Rest assured, it won't happen again. I just wanted to make sure the first kiss I'd had since my divorce really was as good as I thought it was."
"And was it?" he asked hoarsely.
"I don't kiss and tell." She slipped out the door.