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Authors: Suzannah Daniels

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Teen & Young Adult, #Love & Romance, #Romance, #Contemporary

Delirious (9 page)

BOOK: Delirious
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“Works for me.

“There,” she said, tightening the lid on her nail polish. “Crimson gave this to
me.” She held the bottle up. “You like?”


That could quite possibly be the most beautiful color I’ve ever seen in a nail polish.”

She
put down the bottle of polish and tossed a throw pillow at me. “Smart aleck.”

I grinned. “
Babe, I’m a guy. I can appreciate the fact that you look beautiful with your tanned legs and your painted toenails, but I don’t really care whether you’ve painted them with Poppy Red or Cotton Candy Pink.” I pointed at her. “That’s why you have Crimson and Scarlet.”

She rolled her eyes. “Remember that the next time you want me to listen
to the difference between a two-streak engine and a four-streak engine.”

“Stroke
,” I stressed. “It’s a two-
stroke
engine and a four-
stroke
engine.”

“Whatever,” she waved her hand in the air as if it were
of no significance. “Red. Pink. Streak. Stroke. It’s all the same.”

I grinned at her. “You’re pretty when you pout.”

“I am not pouting.”


Fine.” I stood and picked the bottle of nail polish up off the table. I flipped it over and read the name of the color. “Are your Watermelon Wench toes ready to climb on the back of my motorcycle with its powerful four-stroke engine?”

“Absolutely.”
She slid on her sandals, being careful of her freshly-painted nails.

When we were settled on the bike, I started the engine and slowly navigated my way through the gravels. Once I hit the smooth pavement, I accelerated,
smiling when I felt her grip tighten around my waist. Riding with her on the back of my motorcycle could very well be my favorite pastime. Okay, maybe not my favorite, but it was close.

I pulled into a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant. A large cowbell rang as we opened the glass door.
After taking a seat at a booth along the row of windows at the front of the building, we waited for our server.

Reaching over the table, I held Dara’s hand, running my thumbs along the soft flesh of her palm. “Is there anything we have to do this weekend as far as the wedding’s concerned?”

“For the most part, everything’s taken care of. I am gonna pick my mother up in the morning and go to the dress shop. My gown’s supposed to be ready, so I’ll just try it on one more time to make sure the alterations are good.”


My mother wanted me to tell you that she’s scheduled the rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding instead of the night before. She thought that might be less stressful.”

“That’s fine with me. I just want everything to hurry up and get here.”

“In a hurry to get started with the honeymoon, huh?”

“Why should I be?”
She cocked her dainty, blond brows at me.


Because on the back of a motorcycle isn’t the only place that I’m a badass.”

She shot me a playful look of disbelief
.

I grinned. “Wait and see.”

The server brought us menus, but we waved them away and ordered vegetable plates, which were delivered fairly quickly. It didn’t take us long to wrap up the meal and arrive at the theater.

Pulling out my credit card, I paid for our tickets, and we found
a couple of seats near the back of the theater.

I motioned for her to enter the row before me, and I held the seat down for her while she sat. “Do you want popcorn?” I asked.

“I’m not really hungry, but it does sound good. Maybe just a small one.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Standing in line, I purchased us each a small drink and popcorn and carried the cardboard tray back to our seats.

I didn’t pay much attention to the movie. Instead, I focused on Dara.
I placed my arm around her shoulder, and she cuddled against my chest. I closed my eyes, breathing in the scent of her hair. It smelled clean and fresh, but with a floral scent that was definitely feminine. Her palm rested on my jean-clad thigh, and she rubbed her fingertips back and forth in a gentle stroking motion. Damn, I wished we were on our honeymoon. Weddings were stressful enough, but this fiasco with her father was enough to send me over the freaking edge, and if he caused more trouble, I wasn’t sure what I’d do to him. That’s what worried me. Despite what he’d done to my family, he was still Dara’s father, and I was walking on a thin layer of ice between the hatred that my family manifested and the unconditional love of a child.

I let my thoughts turn back to Dara and our honeymoon.
We’d talked of spending it in Hawaii, but since we were trying to save our money for our new house, Dara wanted to go to Florida, instead. I couldn’t deny that she’d had a point when she said we’d most likely be spending a lot of time in our suite, so we decided to save Hawaii for our wedding anniversary.

I
booked a moderate-sized house in Destin, a place she’d wanted to visit for a while. The white sand and transparent, blue waters made for one of the most beautiful beaches in America, and I couldn’t wait to see her face. Despite the fact that Tennessee was no more than a few hours from several beaches, Dara had never been to the ocean.

I kissed her temple and squeezed her to my side, wondering why I hadn’t already taken her to the beach. We’d been busy with coll
ege and with growing the business. Dara, her mother, and I had poured a lot of time and effort into making Quail Mountain Books a success. I refused to let Luke down, and even though Dara had never met him, she felt as strongly as I did.

Her mother had surprised us both with how diligently she had worked at the bookstore
, and once Tom moved to Hamilton Enterprises, Dara’s mother had been the obvious choice to replace him as the manager. Our arrangement had been advantageous to all of us for different reasons.

When we left the theater, darkness had consumed the sky and offered relief from the hot temperatures of the day. Under the cover of nightfall with my girl wrapped firmly against my body, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, and I reveled in it. I breathed deeply
, exhaling the chaos of the last few days.

For the first time, I was convinced that I’d done the right thing by protecting her from her father’s actions. Dara was happy, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let anything ruin that for her.

 

Chapter 10

 

Dara

 

The next two and a half weeks went by in a blur.
Between working and getting everything ready for the wedding, I felt like I had no spare time.

As I stood in front of my dresser mirror putting in my earrings, Stone walked up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist.

“You look beautiful,” he said softly. I watched his reflection as he pressed a kiss to my hair. “In two more days, you will officially be Dara Hamilton.”

Giddiness welled in my chest. I’d been waiting for this for such a very long time.
After I pushed the back on my earring, I turned and hugged him. “I’m so happy.”

His fingert
ips dipped into my hair as he pulled me close to him and rested his forehead against mine. “You deserve to be.”

He released me. “You ready for rehearsal?”

“I’m ready.”

“Then let’s go, Mrs. Hamilton.”

By the time we got to the church, our parents had already arrived. When we walked in, Emma immediately spotted Stone. She took off running, her blond curls bouncing with each step.

“Stone!” she squealed as he scooped her up onto his hip.

“My little candy monster,” he greeted.

With her small fingers, she pried his mouth open. “
You eatin’ candy?”

He opened his mouth, so she could see. “Not right now.”

“You have candy foh me?”

I cleared my throat.
“Emma, what about me? You’re not even going to say ‘hi’ to your sister?”

She focused on me with wide, green eyes. “Hi.” Then, she turned back to Stone. “I need candy.”

“You
need
it?” he asked, laughing at her.

She nodded, shaking her whole body with the movement.
“My belly’s hungwy.”

“Well, we’re gonna eat supper in just a little bit,” he said as
he set her back down and fished in his pocket. He poured some Skittles into his hand and handed them to her. “I’ll give you a few. Make sure you don’t drop them, okay?”

“Okay,” she promised as her tiny hand clutched shut.

I scooped her up. “Before you get a messy, candy mouth, you better give me some sugar.”

She puckered her lips and gave me a kiss.
“Dawa? You know what?”

“What?”

“Mommy said we get to put on pwincess dwesses in two days.” She held up two fingers with her hand that wasn’t carrying the precious, candy cargo.

“I know.
It’s gonna be fun, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

She started wiggling, and I set her down. She turned and ran back to my mother to show her the candy that Stone had given her.

I spotted Mrs. Hamilton at the front of the church
talking to the minister, and when she glanced our way, she waved for us to join them. We approached her, and she and Pastor Nixon began briefly explaining the procedure we would follow once the entire wedding party had arrived.

Someone opened the door, allowing bright sunlight to spill into the sanctuary.
I turned to see Scarlet enter with Dylan right behind her, a baby carrier in his hand. Crimson followed them in.

As Stone and I went to greet them, we spotted Mike Waters sitting
alone in a pew in the back corner. I nudged Stone’s arm. “Look, Mike’s here.”

“Hey, man,” Stone called to him. He approached Mike, and they bumped fists.
“Long time, no see. What’ve you been up to?”


Working.” Mike shot him a grin. “So you two are actually gonna do it, huh?”

“She’s the only one that’ll have me,”
Stone told him as he sat on the pew beside Mike, his long legs taking most of the aisle space.

“That’s true,” I
said, grinning as I sat beside Stone.

“How about you?”
Stone asked. “You got a girl?”

“Not right now.”

“What happened to that sexy redhead you were dating?”

“She went back to her ex.”

“Bummer,” Stone said.

“Not really.
That chick was nuts.”

“Oh,” I interrupted. “There’s Brandy and Chloe. I think Tom’s the only one we’re waiting
for.”

“Tom’s over there talking to Dylan,” Stone said.

“I didn’t even see him come in.” I called to Brandy and Chloe, and they joined us.

“Mike!”
Brandy called to him in her high-pitched voice while Chloe hugged me.

Mike and
Stone stood up, greeting them.

After we spent a few minutes chatting, we got the rehearsal underway, so that we could be finishe
d in time to eat.

We had a blast as everyone socialized and clowned around. Once the rehearsal was
completed, we went to the reception hall where Mindy, the caterer, had everything set up.

Sinc
e our wedding would be formal, Stone and I had wanted the rehearsal dinner to be somewhat casual, so that we would have the chance to just enjoy our friends and family. White and pink flowers decorated the buffet, and after our guests had finished the meal and were starting on dessert, Stone’s father proposed a toast.

As I watched Mr. Hamilton prepare to speak, it amazed me just how much he and Stone truly looked alike. Mr. Hamilton was a handsome man, and I knew that if he was any indication, Stone would age well.

“I promise to keep it brief.”

Mr. Hamilton stood silent a moment, gathering his thoughts.

“I want to thank everyone for joining us this evening. At times like this, we’re blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, people that we love. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you taking time out of your busy schedules to celebrate this special occasion with my family.” He looked directly at Stone. “Out of my boys, Stone has always been, by far, the most mischievous and the most independent.” A few knowing chuckles arose from the guests. “When he was young, he was quick to disappear if his mother turned her back for even a minute. But Olivia and I always knew where to find him because more often than not, he would be on his motorcycle, and while that hasn’t changed a whole lot, I have seen a lot of changes in him. While he is still independent, he has also learned that everyone needs someone. Having been happily married for two and a half decades myself, I can safely say that marriage isn’t just about finding someone you can share your life with. It’s about finding that one person that you can’t live without. And Dara,” Mr. Hamilton said as his eyes found me, “for Stone, that someone is you.”

Stone put his arm around me, his fingers caressing the curve of my shoulder
as he watched his father intently. Mr. Hamilton continued, “Stone, you have grown into a fine, young man, and I’m immensely proud of you.” Mr. Hamilton stopped as he pursed his lips, emotion evident on his face. “And I,” he said, and then he paused and swallowed hard. “I’m lucky to be your father.” Mr Hamilton’s eyes found me again. “And we’re all lucky that you have chosen Dara to be your wife. I love you both. So raise your glasses to Stone and Dara. May their love story have the fairytale ending that we all dream of.”

Glasses clinked as the guests murmured, “Hear, hear.”

I was touched that he thought me a good match for his son, but his sentiment toward Stone made me even happier. I knew that they didn’t always mesh, maybe because they were so much alike, so it warmed my heart that Stone knew without a doubt how his father felt about him.

As Stone started to rise, Dylan stood up. “Before Stone responds, let me add a toast for my little brother.

“Stone, you’ve been a pain in my butt more times than I can count.”

Stone cast him a lopsided grin as if images and tiny snippets of memori
es were flashing in his head.

“Through the years
,” Dylan continued, “Stone, Luke, and I have gotten into all kinds of trouble. I remember one time when my mother planted a Japanese maple tree. About two days later, her precious maple tree was snapped in half by a little boy driving way too recklessly on his dirt back. Stone was always on his dirt bike, jumping ramps, popping wheelies, so I figured Mom would already guess that it was Stone who’d mowed over her prized maple. And just in case she hadn’t figured it out on her own, I went and told her what Stone had done. A few minutes later, she called me into the house. She didn’t say much. She just told me to go to my room and think about what I’d done. So I figured I was in trouble for tattling. It was years later when I found out that my mother hadn’t believed me because Stone rode well enough that it was unlike him to crash into anything. So Mom had asked Stone, and even though Stone had seen me do it, he told Mom he had no idea what had happened to her tree.

“So while I was lying, hoping that he would take the blame, Stone was refusing to rat me out.

“Well, then Mom asked Luke, who always told the truth, and Luke confirmed her suspicions by telling her that I was the one who had destroyed her tree.

“Stone’s always had my back, even when I didn’t have his, except maybe one time when we got into an argument over a girl
.” I heard a few snickers, but as I looked at Stone, he cast his eyes downward on that last comment. “But even then, he had my back because I may have lost one girl, but he introduced me to that special someone that Dad was talking about, that one person that I couldn’t live without. He introduced me to my lovely wife, Scarlet, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to repay him for that one.”

“Aww,” the girls at the table said in unison as I patted Stone’s thigh. He pulled me to him and pressed a kiss to my temple.

“What I’m trying to tell you, Stone, is that our family has been through some good times and….” Dylan paused, his chin quivering, and he looked away from Stone. He took a moment to compose himself, and then, he continued, “…and we’ve been through some really rough times…but through it all, you’ve had my back…even when I didn’t have yours. But I’ve got your back now, and I always will.


You’re a good brother, Stone, and I know that Luke is raising his glass right now to you and your beautiful fiancée. I hope that the two of you are infinitely happy together because I can’t think of two people who deserve it more.”

I wiped the tears from the corners of my eyes as eve
ryone murmured their agreement, and as I gazed around the table, I realized that Mr. Hamilton and Dylan had both evoked powerful emotions in those that were here and knew them well.

Tears streaked down Mrs. Hamilton’s face,
and she quickly dabbed them with her napkin. Stone squeezed my hand with more strength than usual, and as my eyes studied his face, I could see the emotions battling within him.

He stood, and he had to clear his throat a couple of times before he could speak. “
Dad, Dylan, thank you for your kind words. I know I don’t always make things easy, but I love y’all.” His eyes searched out his mother. “I love you, too, Mom.”

She nodded and silently mouthed “I love you.”

Behind us, the door to the reception hall quietly opened, but Stone continued to talk. “I, too, want to thank everyone for coming. You’re here tonight because you are special to Dara and me.”

“Shouldn’t someone have invited me?”

Stone stopped talking, and the room fell deathly silent.

Slowly, Stone turned toward the door, and I followed his line of vision.

“What are you doing here?” Stone snarled.

“Well, I am the father of the bride.”

My eyes flew to the man’s face, and panic seized my chest. Was that my dad? With his graying hair, extra girth, and jailhouse tattoos seeping from beneath his short sleeves, he looked much different than I remembered.

Stone’s father rose to his feet.

“This is a private ceremony. You need to leave,” Stone demanded, his voice brooking no argument.

“You
gonna let them treat me like this, Dara?” His words were slightly slurred, much like they’d always been in the memories of my youth.

My mouth gaped, and my hand flew to my chest. I needed to say something, but I had fallen into a stupor, my mouth opening
and closing silently as I searched for words. “Dad?”

It wasn’t much, but it was the only word I could form.

“Come here and give your daddy a hug.”

Obediently, I stood and walked to him.
He hugged me briefly, the smell of whisky on his breath.

“You’re out? How did you know where to find me?”

He pointed towards my mother. “Your momma told me she’d be at the church tonight for the rehearsal dinner. The way these people have your wedding plastered all over the newspaper, it wasn’t hard to figure out which church.”

He’d obviously seen our engagement photo. I turned to look at my mother. “You knew he was…in town?”

My mother look frightened. “Yes, but he told me not to tell you. He said he wasn’t sure whether he wanted you to know and he wanted to think about it first.”

BOOK: Delirious
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