“My wife is dead set against it, and when Gloria finds out she’ll probably never speak to me again.”
“She came to see me.” Chad took a sip of his beer. “About three weeks ago.”
“So she said. Did you ever ask her why?”
“I know why. She changed her mind again. Frankly, she’s done this to me twice and I’m through playing her games. If she sent you to talk to me, then you’ve wasted your money on good beer.” He paused, as though everything was beginning to add up. “But you said she might not appreciate the fact that you came to see me, so what’s up?”
Roy ignored the question. “I came because I wasn’t going to sit idly by and let history repeat itself.”
Chad stared at him.
“Are you that obtuse, young man?” Roy asked.
Chad’s mouth fell open. It seemed to hit him all at once. His chest expanded and then as quickly deflated. He stood, thrust his hands in his pockets and walked around the table.
“Another beer?” the bartender called out.
Roy shook his head.
“Bring me a shot of whiskey,” Chad told him, and then, looking at Roy, he said, “Never mind. Just bring the bottle.”
Mack had always assumed it was the bride who’d be nervous, not the groom. He certainly didn’t expect to be the one pacing back and forth an hour before the wedding. Everything had come together so quickly that his mind was spinning. Once Mary Jo had agreed to marry him—and once they’d told his mother—the wedding seemed to take on a momentum of its own. But the best news was that Ben Rhodes had gotten David to agree to sign relinquishment papers, although he hadn’t told anyone how he’d managed it or what he’d said. It had happened the day of another wedding—Troy and Faith’s. Some people, like his father, thought Ben had offered David an incentive; others, like Jack Griffin, believed he’d used some kind of leverage. All Mack cared about, however, was the fact that he could now adopt Noelle.
Linnette and Pete’s plan to visit Cedar Cove in early August made the choice of a wedding date easier. If his sister and new brother-in-law were going to be in Cedar Cove, he and Mary Jo should take advantage of it.
Once the date was set, the details all seemed to fall into place. A whirlwind of events followed. His mother had arranged the reception and hired a photographer, while Mary Jo and Linc’s wife, Lori, worked on the wedding dress. Lori had designed it and had seen to its completion in record time. According to Mary Jo, Lori was immensely talented, not that Mack knew anything about women’s clothing. Although he hadn’t actually seen this work-of-art wedding creation, he’d certainly heard enough about it from Mary Jo.
In getting all the arrangements made for the wedding, they’d also attended premarriage classes with Pastor Dave Flemming for two weeks. The sessions had seemed like a waste of time and effort when the pastor first mentioned them. Now that they were over, Mack was happy Dave had urged them to attend. Of the many things they’d discussed, the one that stuck in his mind was the way that assumptions could be detrimental to relationships. Assumptions about themselves and each other.
The six hour-long meetings with the pastor had made him aware of various issues between him and Mary Jo. Issues that could lead to contentious problems later on. Like his tendency to be overprotective and Mary Jo’s to withhold her feelings. He was grateful to have had this opportunity to prepare for marriage and felt confident that they had a good chance of making their life together work.
“You okay?” His father stepped into the small vestibule behind the altar where Mack waited. Waited and paced. He’d sit down and then vault to his feet and resume pacing.
“I’m fine.” He heard the hesitation in his own voice.
Roy chuckled and slapped him on the back. “Linc will be here in less than ten minutes, so you can stop worrying.”
Linc Wyse would serve as Mack’s best man, and Lori was standing up as Mary Jo’s matron of honor.
“You mean to say he’s not here yet?” Mack stopped abruptly. He’d been so consumed with his own nervousness that he hadn’t realized his best man hadn’t shown up.
“Everything’s going to be just fine,” Roy assured him, grinning widely.
Mack scowled at his father. “I don’t know why you think this is so funny.”
“Sorry, I can’t help it. This wedding business brings up a lot of memories. I was a nervous wreck before I married your mother, too. In fact, I nearly fainted at the altar.”
Mack could hardly believe that his highly competent, unflappable father had ever been nervous about anything, let alone his own wedding.
“Your mother was so beautiful I couldn’t keep my eyes off her and when it came time to repeat my vows I was so tongue-tied—”
“Dad, stop it,” Mack said. He was already having enough difficulties; he didn’t need his father regaling him with horror stories just before his wedding.
“Sorry, son.” Roy did have the good grace to look guilty.
“Where’s Mom?” Mack asked, hoping a change of subject would settle his mind.
Appearing cool and relaxed, his father sat on the chair so recently vacated by Mack and crossed his legs. “She’s with Charlotte Rhodes, getting everything set up for the reception.”
The church had agreed to let Mack and Mary Jo use the Fellowship Hall following the wedding for their reception. Mack would have liked the waterfront gazebo, but that had been reserved months earlier by another couple, as was nearly every other facility in town. When Pastor Flemming had offered them the Fellowship Hall, it had been a big relief to his mother, who’d been working diligently on the problem.
“Why is Charlotte Rhodes helping Mom with the reception?” he asked.
His father gave him an odd look. “She baked the wedding cakes.”
Mack remembered that now—or at least the part about Charlotte doing the baking. She was justly famous for her culinary skills. “Cakes, as in more than one?” If he distracted himself with details, he might actually get through this wedding without making an idiot of himself.
“Apparently you and Mary Jo are going to have one big cake and three smaller ones.”
“We are?” Mack didn’t recall that. “Why?”
“Don’t know. That’s what your mother told me.”
Mack had only a vague recollection of their long discussions about the flowers and cake and a dozen other matters. Mack had left most of it to his mother, Mary Jo and Lori. He didn’t have the patience for that sort of thing. He guessed few men did.
As it was, he found wearing this tuxedo downright uncomfortable. The last time he’d worn a suit had been for his grandfather’s funeral and that was… He’d lost count of the years.
A tuxedo. Him? Mary Jo and Lori had said he should rent one. He’d gone along with it, thinking he didn’t really have a choice. Only when he and Linc had gone for the fitting had he figured out otherwise. His brother-in-law had complained at great length, but by then it was too late for them to take a stand. In Mack’s opinion, an opinion seconded by Linc, formal wear was an instrument of torture.
“I understand Ben Rhodes is bringing a special guest,” Roy said.
Mack didn’t have a chance to respond or ask who it was before the door flew open and a breathless Linc shot into the room. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. “I got a flat tire. Have you ever tried to change a tire in one of these getups?” he demanded. He straightened his sleeves and exhaled heavily.
Mack leaned against the wall.
Linc stared hard at him. “You’re looking pale. You’re not going to faint on me, are you?”
“I’m not planning on it.” Now that Linc mentioned it, Mack did feel light-headed. His father’s admission of his own wedding-day troubles hadn’t helped. Feeling a sudden need to sit down, Mack sank into a chair and leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees.
Roy placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “The wedding will go off without a hitch, don’t you worry. You’ll do fine.”
Mack hoped so. Before he could think of anything else to worry about, Pastor Flemming came in. It was time.
His father left. Then Linc and Mack came through the vestibule door to stand beside the altar. He watched as his parents were seated in the front row next to Linnette and Pete. Gloria sat with them, on his parents’ other side. Noelle slept in her arms.
Ned and Mel Wyse sat in the pew across from them, together with some of Mary Jo’s Seattle friends.
As Mack looked at his family he saw his mother reach for a tissue. Trying not to be obvious, Corrie dabbed at her eyes. The music hadn’t even started and already his mother was getting emotional.
This was supposed to be a happy occasion! Strangely, seeing his mother so affected by this wedding seemed to relax him. He found he was smiling. As he glanced at his father, Roy winked in his direction.
The church was nearly full. Mack and Mary Jo had mailed out invitations; he couldn’t keep track of the number of people his mother had added to the list. His parents’ friends had made a point of attending, along with half the fire station. Their support touched him. He’d become close friends with these men in a short period of time. He wasn’t surprised by the number of guests as much as he was honored.
Then the organ music began. Everyone stood as Mary Jo appeared at the back of the church. Mack straightened his shoulders and turned to face the woman who was about to become his wife.
One glance at her, and his breath caught in his throat. He must have taken a small step forward because Linc placed a restraining hand on his arm.
Mary Jo had never looked more beautiful. The dress, lace and pearls over silk, was everything she’d promised. Their eyes met, happiness radiating from hers. He felt her joy and experienced his own profound sense of rightness. For a moment he forgot to breathe. He stood transfixed, unable to move. Not until Pastor Flemming spoke did Mack realize it was time to stand by Mary Jo’s side and repeat his vows.
The rest of the ceremony was lost in a whirl of words. Somehow he managed to say and do all that was required of him. While he’d been nervous earlier, now he felt calm and confident. Deep in his heart, his soul, he recognized that he’d made the best decision of his life when he’d asked Mary Jo to be his wife.
Organ music soared through the church as they walked down the aisle together as husband and wife. Several guys from the station high-fived him as he walked past. Mack’s smile was so big it hurt his face.
Everyone followed them from the church to the Fellowship Hall, where the tables were set up. The area had been transformed with flowers, decorations and balloons. Mack had no idea who was responsible for all this but he guessed his mother, Linnette and Gloria had played a large role.
Together with his parents, Mack and Mary Jo formed a short reception line and greeted their guests as they came through the door.
“You might remember that I mentioned Ben Rhodes was bringing a special guest,” Roy said to him in a low voice.
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