Authors: Kathryn Kelly
Parnell’s eyes widen but Josh throws his Mother a disgusted smile.
I don’t give either of them a chance to speak. “Cassandra, shut the fuck up or get the fuck out.”
She gasps, but I lift my brow, and she presses her lips together, the hurt look in her eyes reminding me she isn’t altogether right in the head.
I look at Georgie. “What do you mean?”
“I-I mean if I tell them we only had sex once.” Blushing, she sidles her father a glance. Parnell looks sick. Josh wants to separate me from my cock. We enter into a glaring match and I don’t back off. He does when Georgie starts talking again. “You didn’t know I was having your baby and once you confirmed she was yours, you were determined to do the right thing. Since you never had plans to marry, you don’t see a problem with marrying me for Bryn’s sake, though we’ll lead separate lives.”
By the way her shoulders slump and her eyes water, the words devastate her.
“And then what?” I ask, because I’m curious. “Do we live apart?”
She lowers her gaze, then throws her mother a quick glance. “You don’t want a wife or baby on the road with you,” she mutters.
Raising her chin, Cassandra nods, as if to confirm
put those thoughts in Georgie’s head.
“I appreciate your suggestion, Georgie.” I take her in my arms and hug her. “But no. No fucking way am I announcing we’re separating. For any reason. It isn’t happening. I’ll be heading to LA with the guys in a couple of days. As soon as I have your security detail in place, you’ll be joining me. For the time being, the Denver residence is safest for you and Bryn.”
“You’re really hiring dancers for your upcoming tour?”
As I nod, Helen integrates herself into our group. “Your father’s a jackass,” she fumes, then looks at Georgie, who has hung her head. “You’ve married the boy, Georgiana. Look lively and don’t bow your head to anyone. You’re my granddaughter. They bow to you.”
“Did you fix this mess, Mother?” Cassandra asks, rubbing her temples. “I can’t abide any additional comment about a jailbird son-in-law.”
“Quiet, dear,” Helen admonishes.
pointed that out to me, Mother.”
Helen plays both ends to the middle, exploiting Georgie’s vulnerability and Cassandra’s shallowness. One day, each side will catch fire and consume her in the flames. If only Helen and Cassandra are burned, she can continue with her games until infinity. But Georgie’s involved, so she’s at risk.
“Don’t worry, Cassandra,” Helen soothes. “My attorneys will take care of the problem.”
“No need, ma’am,” Groveston interrupts. “I think Rand and I have gotten a solution.” He looks at me with meaning. “If it works, I’ll let you know.”
“What is it?” Georgie beats me to the question.
“Nothing to worry about, child,” Helen says. “Mr. Groveston was just leaving. We can’t have another minute of your wedding ruined. Mr. Mason, take my granddaughter to the ballroom for her first dance as your wife.”
I kiss Georgie, then look at Josh once Dad and the attorney walk out. “Would you escort her there? I have a surprise for her.”
“I need to check on Bryn,” she says, the baby always uppermost in her mind.
“It’s your wedding day, Georgie,” Parnell says gruffly. “Your daughter is fine. We won’t allow anything to happen to her. When you’re needed, Zelda will call for you.”
Her eyes widen. “I don’t have my cell phone.”
“Let’s hope you’re not that gauche,” Cassandra sneers.
“Enough, Cass,” Parnell asserts, his balls making an appearance when I growl.
“Jaeger,” I call.
“Find Kiln. Have him bring Georgie’s phone to the ballroom.”
Jaeger stomps away, playing nice for a change.
“Come on,” Josh insists, tugging Georgie toward the door.
“Everything’s set up?” I ask Maitland the moment they’re gone.
He nods. “Instruments are just waiting for us to play them.”
“I can’t wait to see Georgie’s face,” Quint says.
“Mr. Mason,” Helen cuts in, with grating superiority.
“What’s Groveston going to do?”
“Keep you out of jail.” She waves away any more questions I may ask. “Georgie will be eighteen in a matter of weeks, young man. I can’t continue to pull tricks out of my hat.”
“Don’t you mean out of your cauldron?”
“You’re quite the court jester, sir.” She draws herself up. The guys snicker, but I don’t. I’m fucking serious. If they knew her like I did, they wouldn’t be laughing. “As I was saying, I advise you not to flaunt your marriage to her until then.”
“Deny her a little more?”
She narrows her eyes. “You’re not dumb, boy. You don’t have to deny her, in the least. Just don’t publicize the two of you together for a few weeks.”
Expecting me to obey because everyone does, she glides away.
“Figure it out later,” Adam tells me. “Let’s do Georgie’s song and see what she thinks.”
I smile, feeling more peace than I have in a very long time. “Yes, it’s time for us to celebrate.” My wife. My daughter. My marriage. And getting the fuck out of my father’s house.
When Josh and I enter the ballroom, I crash to a halt. A lot of people are in attendance, most of whom I don’t know. The strangers are pushed to the back of my mind as I stare in awe at the flowers. Pink and white roses are everywhere, filling the room with their sweet scent and beautiful blooms. A banner hangs from the center of the room with the words,
Dreams do come true.
Sloane remembered the dream I told him about, the one where Bryn had just been born and pink and white roses filled my hospital room.
“This way, Mrs. Mason,” an usher says, breaking into all the thoughts overwhelming me.
“Don’t start crying, Georgie,” Josh whispers, keeping in step with me as I can’t walk an inch without being congratulated.
At the table closest to the area with the band’s equipment, the white gloved usher makes a grand gesture to indicate my white chair, the only seat decorated with roses. Josh helps me into my seat as I gaze around. There’s not a lot of room for dancing, but full bars are set up on each side of the room. For those not interested in that, formally attired attendants are serving chocolate-covered strawberries and glasses of champagne.
Rand, Abby, Mom, Dad, and Grandma join us. A few minutes later, Kiln comes in and sets my phone on the table.
“Sleeping,” he answers grumpily.
I search around for Sloane. Seeing no sign of him, I look at the instruments. Maitland’s black drums have the letters PR written in white curlicue and intertwined with a red phoenix.
“Are they performing?” I ask no one in particular.
Offering me a shit-eating grin, Josh winks at me and I swat at his arm. “What’s going on, Joshua McCall?” I demand as Sloane and the guys approach the stage after walking in the room from a side door.
“Saved by my brother-in-law.” Josh’s light-hearted teasing has been absent from my life for a very long time. He’d been lost in business. I’d been lost in drugs.
Adam has removed his tuxedo jacket, tie, and shirt. He’s kept the pants on, but he’s bare-chested, just as he usually is onstage. Sloane has a familiar mesh shirt on, the one he was wearing the night we met. His tattoos run down his arms and when he turns, I see his back piece. The phoenix rising from the flames.
He faces away from me for just a moment. When he looks at me and winks, I know he wanted me to see my favorite tattoo.
I blow a kiss to him, and he crooks a finger to me, summoning me onstage. I stand, and hoots, hollers, and whistles rise up. Heat bathes my face, all the attention so embarrassing.
“Hush, heathens,” Sloane orders. “You’re embarrassing my wife.”
“Who are they?” I whisper when I reach him.
“Road crew and their families. Some of my old friends. Relatives of Maitland, Adam, and Quint. Acquaintances of Josh and Parnell.”
As two ushers carry my chair up, Sloane affixes earpieces to me, similar to the ones he and the other guys have in their ears. He steals a kiss, then guides me into my seat, bending down and slanting his mouth over mine all too briefly.
He straightens and I’m handed a glass of champagne. Our flutes are different from everyone else’s, more delicate.
“We’re foregoing the usual toasts by the best man and maid-of-honor,” Sloane announces and raises his glass. It looks suspiciously amber, not at all the golden color of my champagne. “Join me in saluting Georgie, the most gorgeous girl in the world, mother of my daughter. My wife.”
“Hear, hear,” everyone chants and clink glasses.
Sloane and I do the same. He gulps from his glass. I sip from mine. “I want to toast you.”
Grinning, he leans in to kiss me again. His tongue fills my mouth and I taste the scotch.
“Save the toast to me for later.” He saunters to where his guitar is racked. Once he has it in his hands, he takes his position in front of the mic. “I’ve been working on a song, Georgie,” he tells me. “One I wrote especially for you.”
Maitland crashes his sticks on his drums and Sloane immediately follows, picking the strings in the hard riffs that are his signature.
The fire inside of me. The love that I feel,”
he starts as Quint and Adam add in keyboards and bass,
“is what dried up my heartache and tears.”
Lights are flashing around us, but nothing is more enrapturing than the blueness of Sloane’s eyes as we meet each other’s gazes and hold them.
“Your love made me heal. Your love made me feel. Your beauty consumed me. Your touch was my torch. That turned into an inferno. Inferno. Inferno. Inferno.”
Sloane has given me one surprise after the other today. They’ve finally caught up with me and taken a toll that releases through the tears rolling down my cheeks.
I’ll gladly cast. My soul into the flames. As long as you join me. And bathe me in your sweet love.”
He smiles and everything inside of me melts. I sniffle and wipe away my happy tears.
“Your love made me heal. Your love made me feel. Your beauty consumed me. Your touch was my torch. That turned into an inferno. Inferno. Inferno. Inferno.
“You’ll always burn inside of me. Your amethyst eyes are the mirror to all that we share. You’re the only girl who’ll ever own me.
Your love made me heal. Your love made me feel.
Your beauty consumed me. Your touch was my torch. That turned into an inferno. Inferno. Inferno. Inferno.”
Once the chorus is finished, the guys rock out, but I only hear and see Sloane, the way his fingers are moving. He’s no longer looking at me, lost in his music. Eyes closed. Head thrown back. Muscles rippling. They play the instrumental section for two minutes, before Sloane’s rasp graces us with more lyrics.
“You’re the moth to my flame. The raven haired beauty who made me heal. Your love is an Inferno. My inferno. Inferno.”
They slide into the ending and applause rings out around us, but my senses are completely engaged in Sloane as he removes his guitar and heads for me.
“Now, we dance, sweetheart.”
Adam croons the song and the band’s beat is slow and sexy.
Leading me to the dance area, he takes me in his arms and I bury my nose against the dampness of his chest, inhaling his musk and cologne. His erection presses into my belly and I stand on tiptoes, teasing him with a small gyration.
For the entire dance, we stare into each other’s eyes, as if we are the air we each need to breathe. I can’t believe I’m finally his wife.
My happiness hasn’t dissipated. It’s there and it’s real.
“Are you disappointed that I planned your entire wedding?” he asks toward the end of the song.
I’ve only heard it once, but I already am familiar with where the instrumental part comes in and where it closes. “I would’ve been lost,” I admit. “It isn’t like Mom or Grandma would’ve helped me.” I lay my fingers against his inked arms. “Are you going back to jail?” I whisper, the rush of the moment receding and reality intruding.