This was it. My moment. Our moment.
I’d dreamed about it for as long as I could remember. What little girl doesn’t? Standing at the back of the cathedral in her wedding gown, arms linked with her father’s, hundreds of guests on their feet, the organ music echoing thunderously. I’d imagined every detail—the gown, the roses, the aisle, the vows, the kiss.
My breath caught as I saw Jack walk to the alter at the front of the church, so tall and strong and handsome my knees nearly buckled. I loved him in his worn-out jeans and muddy boots and tight t-shirts, the everyday man who worked so hard to keep his farm running, but damn if he didn’t wear the hell out of a custom suit, too. It almost didn’t seem fair.
The groom was one thing I couldn’t have imagined, and if anyone had told me back then that I’d marry a widowed ex-Army sergeant who farmed for a living, I’d have laughed uproariously. The women in my family married lawyers or bankers or philanthropists. Men whose family names went back as far as mine did. Men who were born into money and privilege and power, and never questioned their place at the top of the feeding chain as long as they made an effort to see that no one beneath them starved (usually those efforts took the form of checks written to charitable organizations at black-tie fundraisers where people dressed like Gatsby, drank highballs, and called each other “old sport” for fun).
Not my Jack.
He was grounded and real and tough. A soldier. A survivor.
He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and he loved the way he worked—hard. No one had ever loved me the way Jack did, so fiercely, so protectively, so passionately. And I’d never felt anything like what I felt for him. I hadn’t even known such a feeling existed.
I started walking toward him, chills sweeping over my skin as our eyes locked. Guests on either side of me whispered to each other and smiled, and several of them dabbed at tears. As I got closer to Jack, I saw the slight tremble in his jaw, the mixture of adoration and anxiety in his dark eyes. He was nervous—crowds always made him nervous—but he knew how much this wedding meant to me. And he never said no to me, claimed he’d never been able to, not from day one.
My composure slipped, my vision blurring, and for a moment I feared I might burst into happy tears. What had I ever done to deserve such a good man?
But instead, I took a deep breath and let our shared gaze work its magic, let our eyes say all the things our lips couldn’t for the moment.
It’s OK. I’m here. I love you. I’ll never leave you.
He stepped toward me, shook my father’s hand, and took mine. “My God,” he whispered.
I waited for the rest of it—My God, this is torture. My God, this is it. Even My God, what am I doing here?
“My God, what?” I said softly.
“My God, you’re beautiful.”
My throat tightened, and I fought the urge to jump into his arms and let him carry me out of here like I knew he wanted to. He tipped his forehead to mine and I closed my eyes, feeling him squeeze my hand. The minister was surely waiting to begin, but I needed this.
Because no detail about this wedding—not the gown or the flowers or the music or the guests or even the rings—was more important than the connection we had. The strength we gave each other. The love we shared. In that moment, a promise was exchanged.
I do. Forever.
But three hundred people were waiting to hear it spoken out loud, so a few heartbeats later, we faced the minister, and the ceremony began.
She was more beautiful than I’d ever seen her.
It was crazy to me that this gorgeous, elegant, smart, kind, sexy woman wanted to be my wife. More surreal than any dream. But when the minister presented “Mr. and Mrs. Jack Valentini” to hundreds of guests who rose to their feet, she was the woman at my side. Hers were the lips that I kissed. Mine was the ring on her finger.
And hers was the ring on mine.
It struck me how perfect the symbol was, a ring. I’d come full circle with Margot. She’d brought me back to life after I’d spent years believing I’d never be happy again, never feel whole again, never deserve love again. And maybe I didn’t deserve her, but she made me feel like I did, and it was more than enough. She’d changed her whole life for me. I wasn’t sure what kind of future she’d imagined for herself before we met, but I was damn sure it hadn’t included living on a farm and marrying a man like me who hated dressing up, felt anxious in a crowd, and came in from work every day sweaty, dirty, and smelling like a barn.
But here she was. And I was never going to let her go.
We walked back down the aisle, and even though I felt uneasy with so many bodies in the room, so much noise and chaos between the music and the cheering, Margot’s hand in mine was an anchor, keeping me tethered to her and the moment. Reaching the back of the church, she pulled me into the stairwell and shut the door behind her.
“We did it,” she said breathlessly, tears in her eyes.
“We did it.”
She threw her arms around my neck and I held her tight, breathing in her perfumed scent.
“Are you OK?” she asked. “I know it’s a lot going on, a lot of people.”
“I’m fine. You make everything better.” I ran my hands up and down her back and buried my face in her neck. “But is it over yet? I like this alone thing.”
She laughed. “Not even close. And I do too, but we should go back out there before they think we ran off and left them.”
“No. Let’s run off and leave them.” Holding her so close to my body was doing things to me. I kissed her throat, running my tongue along her pearl necklace, and she shivered in my arms.
“Jack, stop. You know what that does to me.”
“Can’t we have a few more minutes, Mrs. Valentini?” I kissed my way down one bare shoulder.
“Oh my God,” she said softly. “That’s me, isn’t it? I’m your wife.”
“The one and only.” My pants were getting tight in the crotch, and I knew I’d better stop before I got carried away, but I couldn’t seem to let her go.
“Mmmm, that feels so nice and you smell so good and I love the way it sounds when you call me by your name.”
“It’s your name now, too. Everything I have is yours.” My hands were wandering all over her body. I was desperate to feel her skin, but her dress was made of something thick and and stiff and heavy.
“Oh, God. You’re making me want to behave very badly right now,” Margot panted.
“Good.” I ran my hands up the sides of her ribcage, my thumbs trailing over her breasts.
“But I can’t.” She stepped back, putting the hand without the bouquet on my chest to keep me at arm’s length. “We can’t. We have to go back out there.”
I growled like the animal I was beneath the fancy suit. All the custom tailoring in the world couldn’t change the way I wanted her.
She smiled. “I know. Me too, darling. Just give me a few more hours, OK? I promise it will be worth the wait.”
“Are you ready?” We were standing outside the ballroom doors, waiting to hear ourselves announced so we could enter the reception.
“Is this really necessary?” Jack looked pained. “I hate all this attention.”
“I know you do, babe.” I kissed his cheek, then wiped the crimson kiss mark off with my thumb. “Just smile and try to look…I don’t know. Triumphant.”
“Triumphant? I don’t think I have that expression.”
I faced him. “Try it. Let me see.”
He attempted to ease his features into something resembling a smile, but he still had the two little frowny lines between his eyebrows.
Laughing, I took his hand again. “Never mind. Just look at me. I’ll smile at the crowd, and we can head straight back to our table.”
“And then what?”
“And then we cut the cake, eat dinner, and have our first dance.”
Jack took a deep breath. “OK.”
My heart thumped with love and gratitude as the huge doors opened and the event coordinator stepped out, a smile on her face. From inside the ballroom, the band leader’s voice carried. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my sincere pleasure to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Jack Valentini!”
The room echoed with applause and whistles as we entered, and I kept Jack’s hand tightly in mine. I felt breathless as I took in all the details—it was like seeing a dream come to life. The chandeliers were turned down low, and the tall, tapered candles in the candelabra centerpieces bathed everything in soft, flickering light. The sixteen piece big band began to play “Unforgettable,” the song I’d chosen for our entrance. The servers carried around flutes of champagne. Off to one side was the cake, a glorious work of art in fondant adorned with flowers in shades of blush, dusty rose, and gold. The photographer snapped photos as we made our way to the back of the room.
It was perfect.
And best of all, at my side was the man of my dreams, the love of my life, the real reason I was so happy.
My husband. My husband. My husband. Would that ever get old? God, I hoped not. As we reached our table, I couldn’t resist rising on tiptoe to whisper in his ear. “My husband.”
“Nothing.” I smiled guilelessly at him. “I just like the feel of those words in my mouth.”
He leaned over to whisper in mine. “The feel of what in your mouth?”
I giggled. “Patience, darling. Right now I’m going to put cake in my mouth, but later on, I’ll let you have a turn.”
“Will you keep the dress on?”
I looked up at him in surprise. It wasn’t often he asked me to stay clothed. “I thought you’d be dying to get this thing off me.”
“I am. Believe me.” He spoke low, right in my ear. “But there’s something deliciously obscene about the thought of ravaging you while you’re still wearing that beautiful, elegant, pristine white gown. I get hard every time I think about it. So we’re going to leave it on for a while.”
My stomach muscles cartwheeled and clenched. Dammit, was it me who’d said we had to stay here for hours yet? Was dinner ready? Maybe I could hurry things along. What time was it right now?
“Ready to cut that cake?” Jack’s eyes were dancing.
“Uh, yes. Get me the fucking knife. Now.”
I got through the early part of the reception by staying focused on Margot. It wasn’t difficult—I don’t know how anyone could focus on anything but her. Sure, the room glittered and glowed, but not like Margot. The only thing more incredible than her radiant smile was the thought that I had something to do with putting it there.
“My husband,” she kept whispering in my ear. It was as if she couldn’t believe it, and honestly, neither could I. Sometimes I wondered what she saw in me. Sometimes I marveled at the way she and I had come together. Sometimes I laughed when I was reminded of how different we were. She was so far above me, it was ridiculous.
But we belonged together. She would raise me up and I would ground her, and we’d build the kind of life both of us had always dreamed about.
“Care to dance, Mrs. Valentini?” I offered her my hand. The event coordinator had just brought us to the side of the dance floor, and the band was preparing to play the song Margot had chosen for our first dance. To be honest, I didn’t even know what it was, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.
“Yes, thank you.” She gave me that starry-eyed smile that made my chest feel as if it might bust the buttons from my shirt and took my hand.
The tuxedo-clad vocalist stepped to the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Valentini!”
More applause and whistles from the guests as we took the floor, and I fought off the edge of anxiety that always threatened when I had to be at the center of a crowd. Taking a deep breath, I pulled Margot into my arms, placing my right hand on the small of her back and making sure to keep a proper distance between us. I felt every eye in the place on me like needles in my skin.
She looked up at me as the band began to play and the photographer’s camera flashed, making me blink. “You OK?”
“I should say yes, right?”
“Not if you’re not OK.” Her eyes were sincere. “If this is too much, we can make a run for those big doors behind me.”
I chuckled. “Now who wants to leave early?”
“I’m serious, Jack. I’ve made you do all these things today and you’ve been so sweet about it.”
“You know I’d do anything for you. I just hate being watched while I do it.”
She nodded. “Dance me over to the bandstand.”
I wasn’t sure what she wanted, and God knows I wasn’t that skilled as a dancer, but we managed to move in that direction. The vocalist hadn’t started singing yet, and she looked up at him. “Can you invite everyone on to the dance floor? We’d like to share our first dance with our friends and family.”
He nodded and addressed the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, the newlyweds would like to invite you to share their first dance with them.”
Within half a minute, we were surrounded by other couples, and I pulled her toward me, crushing her against my chest and lifting her right off her feet. “Thank you.”
“I love you,” she said softly. “I want you to be happy, and if dancing in the spotlight doesn’t make you happy, then we’re not doing it.”
“God, you’re perfect.” I set her back on her feet and looked down at her. “What the hell are you doing with me? You could have had anyone.”
“No.” She lifted her lips to mine. “It was always you.”
Her kiss ignited a need inside me that burned hot and deep. “How much longer until we can go upstairs?” I asked her. We had a gorgeous suite waiting for us, and I planned to hang that Do Not Disturb sign immediately.
“Not long. I promise.”
“Good. Because I’m having trouble keeping my hands to myself, and I wouldn’t want to be anything less than a gentleman down here.”
“And upstairs?” She stopped moving.
“Upstairs is another matter entirely.”
Shortly after ten o’clock, we’d both reached the limit.
I was talking to some guests over by the bar, and Jack was standing near the bandstand with his brothers when our eyes met. He didn’t gesture, he didn’t smile, he didn’t mouth any words, but the heat in his stare made my skin sizzle. My breath catch. My thighs clench. I needed his hands on me. I needed more than that.
I nodded slightly and excused myself from the conversation, and I saw him do the same. We walked toward each other, our eyes locked, and came chest to chest beside the dance floor.
“Now,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“Now,” I repeated.
We said a rushed goodnight to our families and I hugged Jaime goodbye—Claire had ducked out with Theo already—then we joined hands and walked out of the ballroom.
My heart was beating hard and fast, but Jack walked calmly, so calmly I wondered if he wasn’t as anxious as I was to be alone. But the moment the elevator doors closed and we were finally by ourselves, he moved quickly, caging me against the back wall and crushing his lips to mine. His hips pushed against me, and I hated that my dress was so heavy and thick I couldn’t feel the shape of him.
The elevator slowed and then stopped, but Jack didn’t break the kiss until the doors were open. Then he took my hand and led me to a set of double doors, pulling a card from his wallet to open one. Once we were inside, he shut the door and turned to face me. God, those dark eyes. That body. Those hands. My stomach was jumping—he was so fucking hot. Was he really my husband? I wanted to attack.
I rushed toward him but he put a hand out. “Stay there. Let me look at you.”
It was difficult, but I remained still, as still as my panting breaths would let me.
Jack’s eyes took me in from head to toe then moved toward me slowly, loosening his tie. “You are unforgivably beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I whispered.
He took my face in his hands. “Are you really my wife?”
I smiled. “Almost.”
As always with Margot, I was torn between two extremes, between wanting to treat her as if she were exquisite and fragile, like blown glass, and wanting to be rough with her, make her mine by coloring her body with bruises and red marks that spoke of my animalistic desire. Her looks and sweetness inspired one urge; her words and actions the other.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked, her hand sliding over the erection that bulged against my pants. “I believe you promised me an deliciously obscene ravishing in my wedding dress, and I’m growing impatient, Mr. Valentini. I—”
But before she could say another word, I covered her mouth with my own, my fingers working into her hair, loosening the pins that held it coiled at the back of her head. As I worked the long, blond waves free, they spilled over my hands onto her shoulders. “I remember,” I whispered against her lips, “the day I first met you, thinking about your hair. Wanting to know what it felt like.”
“Do you?” She undid my pants and slipped on hand inside, wrapping her fingers around my cock.
“Yes.” I wound her hair around my fist. “I wanted to do this.” I pulled her head to one side. “And this.” I devoured her neck, gliding my tongue along her pearl necklace the way she liked. “And this.”
She moaned and tightened her grip on me, moved her hand faster. It felt so good I was in danger of losing control, and I wanted to be inside her what that happened. I wanted the deepest part of her surrounding me, sheathing me, pulsing around me. Dropping down, I reached for the bottom of her dress and lifted it up, and she gathered it at her waist. Her eyes closed as I slid my hand along the lace between her legs, and she gasped when I edged a fingertip inside. She was wet and warm and soft and my dick throbbed with the need to feel her. Quickly I dragged the lace down her legs and she stepped out. I straightened, hitching her up on my body. “Wrap your legs around me.”
She did as I said, and I positioned myself between her thighs, turning to brace her back against the wall. We both moaned as she slid down, gliding tight and smooth over my bare cock until it was completely buried.
I’d like to say I took a moment to appreciate it was our first time as husband and wife. I’d like to say I found time to admire her beauty, no less stunning now that she was undone and wanton with desire than when she was walking down the aisle, a perfect angel. I’d like to say I whispered loving, romantic things to her as we spiraled higher and higher toward the peak—
But I didn’t.
I drove into her in savage, rhythmic thrusts, her arms clinging to my neck, our mouths sharing quick, hot breaths, our skin growing slick with sweat beneath out clothes. I still wore my coat, she still wore her shoes. I might have uttered a few words, but they were most likely “fuck” or possibly “oh fuck,” maybe even “oh God, oh fuck,” but nothing to match the feeling in my heart when we finally sailed off the edge together, our bodies expressing what our lips could not.
We are one. We are one. We are one.
Catch up with Jack and Margot in FROM THIS MOMENT!