Authors: S Jackson Rivera
S. Jackson Rivera
Published by S. Jackson Rivera
Copyright 2015 S. Jackson Rivera
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Edited by Proof Before You Publish (proofbeforeyoupublish.com)
Formatted by Totencreative (totencreative.com)
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events, either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual places, events, persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
knew it.” Claire’s eyes teared up with sentiment. “I’ve known since the day you two came to our apartment, the morning after the infamous deck party. When’s the wedding?”
Paul, Rhees, Claire and Dobbs sat on the veranda at Banana Tree, a restaurant in
a converted old plantation-style home. Paul had closed the shop early so he and Rhees could make their announcement to Claire before anyone else heard the news. According to Paul, because of his handicap in the emotion-romance department, he might have senselessly let Rhees walk out of his life without ever figuring out the better option.
The restaurant, famous for their breakfast burritos, packed a crowd in the mornings, but their dinner menu was limited and ordinary. Paul had chosen the restaurant for privacy and Rhees pointed out, in awe, his talent for scouting out the best private places.
He hadn’t taken it as a compliment, knowing the reasons he’d learned to do it. There’d been times he’d preferred to enjoy a little time without all the flirtatious attention from random girls, and sometimes he’d just wanted to be alone with some random girl.
Paul and Rhees flashed a quick glance at each other. Neither of them had given the details of the wedding any thought. It’d been such an ordeal, and relief, to finally just agree they
“How long do you need to plan the wedding?” Paul asked Rhees.
Rhees didn’t answer, stunned by the question.
“What kind of wedding do you want?”
She still looked lost.
“Rhees, I want you to have the wedding of your dreams. Anything you want.”
She glanced down. “I’ve never really thought about it.”
“You’ve always wanted to get married.” Paul grinned, thinking she had to be teasing. “Doesn’t every little girl have all the details worked out by the time she’s ten?”
“Maybe most girls, but . . .” Rhees acted strange, like she’d been thrown off balance. “I’ve always wanted to
married, I never thought about
“All right,” Paul said, lovingly stroking her back. “Think about it then. Take as much time as you need to decide what you want, but you should probably figure out who you want to invite though. We’ll have to make arrangements to get them down here . . . unless you’d rather get married in Utah?”
“I don’t have anyone to invite, and no, I don’t want to get married in Utah.”
“Rhees, it’s your home—”
“This is my home. If I have to tell you that one more time, I swear—”
“All right, but come on. You have no one? Relatives? Friends?”
“I haven’t had a really good friend—” She ducked her lips to his ear and lowered her voice so the Dobbsons wouldn’t hear, “Since Kylie.” She gave him a knowing,
you already know that
“My parents were both only children. I remember a couple of family reunions when I was really young, but since my grandparents passed away, there’s no one I know well enough to invite.”
Paul gave her hand a squeeze.
“I’d invite Perry,” she shrugged one shoulder and frowned, “if I knew where he was. I doubt he’d come, but it doesn’t matter since I have no idea where he is.”
“What about Mrs. Michaels? I know you’re fond of her.”
“She’s almost eighty, and she’s on a fixed income. If I invited her, she’d probably come, but what if something happened to her? I don’t want to even tempt her. I’d never forgive myself.”
“Okay. We’ll talk about the guest list later. What about the rest of it? Flowers, decorations, venue—”
“Why can’t we just find a Justice of the Peace? Can’t Worley just do it?”
“No. Rhees—” This didn’t feel right. “I never saw myself getting married, but now that I can’t see myself not keeping you forever, I want the whole shebang. I think we should go all the way.” Paul leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
“That’s how this whole wedding idea started. I wanted to go all the way—you didn’t.” They all laughed and Rhees blushed. “Really! Why can’t we just find someone to marry us, like, tonight?”
“You have to have a wedding.” Claire sounded motherly, authoritative. “You didn’t wait this long to just stand in front of Worley and sign a paper.”
“That’s right,” Dobbs finally joined the conversation. “There’s no reason to rush into this.” Paul and Claire turned to give him a funny look. Dobbs pushed his glasses up his nose and turned his attention back to his dinner.
Rhees glanced at Paul, begging for help. “What about your family? Do you plan to invite your parents?”
“Your sister? I
you love your sister.”
“No.” His expression turned hard for a beat but then changed to acceptance. “It’s not that I don’t want her to come. It’s just . . . inviting her would only make her life miserable. I
want my parents to come, but if Mary came—it isn’t worth it.”
“Aren’t we a pair?” she asked. He noted the sadness in her voice.
After a minute of silently staring at each other, Dobbs and Claire afraid to interrupt, Paul finally decided to stick with his instinct. He didn’t really care, but he was convinced every girl dreamed of a big, perfect wedding, and Rhees deserved the best wedding she could imagine.
“This is the only time I’m ever going to get married. We need a real wedding. We have our shop family, and you have the whole Williams family on the island.”
Rhees dropped her head back and laughed. “That’d be one heck of a party. The Williamses on this island know how to have fun.”
Most of their gatherings centered around a family member in need. Election parties—win or lose—they celebrated. House raising parties, home repairs, new babies, engagements, any need was deemed a reason to get together to help, and then party afterward. At first, Rhees had been uneasy with their insistence that she belonged, but Paul had never known her to shy away from work. He also knew her heart was too tender to turn her back on someone who needed help. The Williams’ style of family had finally drawn Rhees right in.
“See? I know you’ll plan the wedding of the century.”
Rhees stopped laughing and suddenly looked scared. It took him a second, but Paul finally realized the reason for her apprehension. She didn’t feel competent to plan the wedding Paul had in mind. He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her cheek. He’d been acting so mushy, he didn’t recognize himself.
“Don’t worry, Baby. You don’t have to do this alone. If I have to, I’ll plan the whole thing myself. I’ll plan the wedding of my freakin’ dreams.”
“You’ve never dreamed of a freakin’ wedding.”
“Yes, I have.” He grinned playfully. “I’ve just been too embarrassed to admit it.”
She pretended to slap his arm.
“We’ll plan this together, okay?” He flashed his blue eyes, hoping to win her over.
“Of course, Sweet.” Claire rubbed her hands together. “We’ll all help. You don’t have to do this alone.”
“See? Nothing to get all anxious about.” Paul gave Rhees yet another quick smooch.
“We still need a date.” Claire acted so excited.
Paul raised a brow and looked to Rhees for an answer.
“Don’t look at me. This is
freakin’ dream.” She shrugged at Paul. “If it were up to me, we’d be headed to Worley’s right now.”
Paul went blank on her for a second but then smiled and started calculating it all in his head.
“That’s like, three months away!” Rhees gave him a bug-eyed look. “You’re kidding, right?”
“It’ll be here before we know it,” he said in his defense, but by the look on her face, she didn’t believe February fourteenth would ever come.
“It’ll be romantic.” Paul waited for her to agree. She didn’t. “Rhees, Baby. I’m trying here. Valentine’s Day equals romance, right?”
“It’s perfect,” Claire gushed, tipping the vote toward Paul’s suggestion. “Who would have thought? A year ago Valentine’s Day, you two were only weeks away from meeting your destiny?”
Paul reached for Rhees’ hand and pulled it to his lips. She finally smiled as they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes and then fused their lips together with a warmer than casual kiss.
“You guys are going to start getting all mushy, aren’t you?” Dobbs asked. Paul and Claire gave him a strange look when he groaned.
Paul and Rhees decided to risk sleeping on the deck that night. They were nearing the end of the rainy season and it hadn’t rained in a few nights. They left The Room That Had No Purpose open, just in case.
They lay on their mat, next to each other, on their backs, holding hands, and looking up at the night sky.
“I’ve missed this,” she said.
“I’m sorry I’m not more enthusiastic about a wedding. I don’t know what I want, and I’m afraid I could never do it right.”
“I’m sorry I’m not more enthusiastic about a wedding too.”
“But you’re the one who—you said you—”
He laughed. “I’m sorry for taking so long to get around to facing my feelings for you. I’m an idiot. We could’ve been married by now if I wasn’t such a dumbass.” He rolled his head her direction to look at her. “I should’ve just proposed the night you said you were gay.”
She giggled. He was never going to stop describing what happened that night his way.
“I know I’m an ass, but I don’t always realize when it shows. Most of the time I do, and sometimes, I do it on purpose. But there are times—with you especially—I don’t mean to. This is new territory for me. I’ll have to trust you to let me know when it’s hanging out there, at least, more than normal. You reel me in, make me want to try harder. You’re pretty good at it, sometimes, but you also let things slide, sometimes, too. There are things I don’t want you to let slide, you know? I have to be able to trust you to not let too much slide. Okay?”
“It’ll be my pleasure,” she joked because she wasn’t sure she really could.
“And while we’re on the subject . . .” He paused.
“Uh-oh,” she said with a groan. “Here it comes.”
He rolled onto his side to face her, so she faced him too, and they gazed at each other for a while. He tried to smile to ease her concerns and she let it work because he looked so beautiful, she couldn’t help it.
“I need you to promise me you won’t run away from me again.”
Her smile dropped and she looked away.
“See? You’re doing it now, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
.” Paul’s voice grew quiet on the last word. He didn’t expect the subject to be so hard to talk about. He closed his eyes and let out a loud breath, trying to rein in the sudden emotion making it so hard to speak.
“I was sure I’d lost you.” He cleared his throat. “In both senses. I had no doubt I’d lost your heart, but I thought I’d lost—aw, Dani Girl,” he choked out. “I was so sure you were going to die.”
“I knew it was a risk, but I didn’t care anymore.”
“I swam out, waited for you to—I planned to swim to you, and . . . die with you.”
“I fell to my knees and thanked God when you made it.” He stroked the side of her face. “It worked out this time, but . . . I need you to—
.” His voice cracked again.
“I saw the lengths you’re willing to go to get away from me, and I can’t live the rest of my life, worrying you’re going to feel the need to get away from me again, so badly that you’d rather die.”
“I ran because I thought you didn’t want me, but we’re getting married. I know now, you love me. I won’t need to run again.”
His countenance fell. He knew it couldn’t be so simple. “Fight or flight.”
She looked confused.
“I’m a fighter. You’re a freaking pilot! You look away, close off, curl up into a little ball—you run . . .
or you swim
out into the fucking ocean and try to fucking kill yourself!”
She put her arm over her eyes, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I wasn’t thinking about what it would do to you—all I could think about was—”
“Getting away—from me. I know.”
“It hurt. I needed to get away from the pain, not you. I’m sorry.”
“I can’t make that promise. It’s a reflex. I don’t even know I’m doing it. How can I not do something I don’t realize I’m doing until it’s too late? The doctor can’t say, ‘I’m going to hit your knee with this hammer, but I need you to promise not to jerk your leg’.”
Paul sat up. He needed to think. “Okay, I guess it
too much to ask. It’s instinct, but . . .
!” He kept saying that, a sign of the trauma he’d endured, and he still hadn’t recovered. She sat up and snuggled into him and he put his arms around her, protectively.
“You have to promise me you won’t run
,” he said, looking down at her, speaking as it came to him. “If you need to run, don’t run so far that I can’t find you, okay? No more airplanes, or ferries, or fucking
” He flashed a wide-eyed look as if to ask,
‘What the hell were you thinking?’
He glanced away for a second and shook his head, exasperated. He turned back with red-rimmed eyes and emphasized each of the words that came out next. “And no more swimming fucking channels with strong, fucking currents and . . .” Another sob burst from his throat. “No more trying to kill yourself. Got that?”
She moved to sit between his legs but turned to her side so she could put her arms around him. She laid her head against his chest. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Aw, Dani Girl
.” He cleared his throat and composed himself. “If you need to get away from me, just tell me you need some space. I’ll have to learn to let you go. But maybe you could just . . . go get a massage or something, you know? A shopping spree—even a drunken binge would be better than what you did today.” He exhaled while he grabbed her face between his hands and looked deeply into her eyes, hoping she’d understand the dread she’d caused him.
“I like to eat when I’m upset,” she suggested. It was far from true. She lost her appetite in the face of the slightest crisis, but she attempted humor, hoping to lighten his mood. “How will you feel if I put on a few pounds?”
“A few?” He chuckled. Her plan worked. “You’re going to get er-really
putting up with my shit.” Still holding her by the sides of her face, he leaned in for a tender kiss. When he pulled away, his eyes remained closed. “Rhees, I wouldn’t care if you gained a thousand pounds. I just need you to promise me—” His eyes opened and she saw the plea looming in the stormy blue. “—Promise you’ll never run so far away that I can’t get to you.”