Authors: Melissa McClone
Tags: #romance, #western, #christmas, #american romance, #cowboys, #montana, #wedding
Half an hour later, Meg dropped Brooklyn off at her babysitter’s house for a rare sleepover, then returned to the ranch. Meg stood in the lodge’s empty great room. Only the Christmas tree remained, everything else—including the presents, patchwork tree skirt, wooden nativity set—had been removed from beneath the branches. The stockings had also been taken down. She stared at the blank canvas she’d been given to create a dream wedding for the bride and groom.
Five hours later, Meg double-checked her list. The few remaining items had to wait until closer to the ceremony. Her feet begged for relief, but she didn’t have time to sit. Maybe later, though doubtful, given today’s schedule.
She showered, put her hair up in a bun then dressed in simple long black skirt, white long-sleeved tunic and a silver belt, then slipped her feet into a comfortable pair of black shoes with only a slight wedged heel. No one would be looking at her.
A part of her wished someone would. Ty?
Now, that was being silly.
She’d seen him only in passing since he put up her Christmas tree. Not that she’d had any time for more than a wave this week. Still a part of her wished they could have shared a meal or cup of coffee. But wishes didn’t come true, and she had a wedding to make happen.
Back at the lodge, the countdown to
was on. She stopped by the kitchen to double-check how the dinner was coming along, then she walked into the great room. Rachel, Nate and Ty greeted her with applause.
Rachel wore a lovely red and white above-the-knee cocktail dress. Her silver strappy heels shimmered. She hugged Meg. “This place looks amazing. Caitlin is going to love every single thing.”
Those were the words Meg wanted to hear. She grinned. “I’m so glad you like it.”
“Love it,” Rachel said. “I’ll admit I had my doubts about the arbor in front of the fireplace, but it’s perfect with the matching flowers and red gingham ribbon on the mantle and the three stockings. The mistletoe placement on the arbor is perfect, too.”
“Thanks. Risa did an amazing job with the flowers and arbor. Like you, who did all the baked goods, including the cake with the adorable bride, groom and cat cake-topper. This wedding has been a group effort.”
“Someone had to manage the project.” Nate, looking handsome in a tuxedo, gave her a hug. “Wonderful job. I’m not sure if the personalized tree skirt or all the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling is my favorite. But I do know there will be lots of kissing at the reception.”
Meg beamed with pride. “That’s the plan.”
And if she happened to get a kiss from a certain foreman . . .
No, that wasn’t right. She was working tonight. And they were friends, nothing more. Kissing him again would only lead to complications.
This wedding had her thinking about forever and happily ever after. Two things she knew were much harder to find in real life than fairy tale authors made you believe. At least, that had been her experience.
“Good plan.” Ty wore a black tuxedo like Nate, except with cowboy boots. No man should look that good. Though she’d never seen him look bad, no matter what he wore. “A Montana Christmas wedding at its finest.”
Her heart bumped. That was the best compliment anyone could have given her. She tapped her toes, trying not to grin like a fool.
Meg waited for him to step forward and hug her as Rachel and Nate had. She looked at him expectedly. Ty didn’t move or say a word.
“Thanks,” she said finally, trying not to be disappointed. Friends hugged. No big deal. They were friends, right?
Of course, they were.
She needed to stop overanalyzing this. Maybe he didn’t want to wrinkle his tux. Maybe he wasn’t into hugging. Maybe he’d met someone when he was at Gray’s a week ago.
Ouch. The last thought made her stomach churn.
Meg needed to forget about everything except the wedding. That included Ty. She took one last look at him in his tux, then she straightened.
“Don’t forget to check out the dining room before the guests arrive,” Meg said. “Rachel’s miniature gingerbread house place card holders are the cutest things ever. They’re getting pinned like crazy from the ranch’s Pinterest wedding board. The cookie favor boxes, too.”
“Pins? Boards?” Ty shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“That’s why you’re the foreman, and Meg is in charge of guest services,” Nate joked.
Rachel ignored both. “So glad they’re popular. I had fun with the gingerbread. And I loved your idea of tying a sprig of mistletoe on each favor box.”
“Well, it is a mistletoe wedding.” Meg thought about the tabby cat, who’d arrived at the Bar V5 earlier today wearing a Santa’s hat. She should pin that picture, too. “In more ways than one.”
Rachel nodded. “All I know is working on someone else’s wedding is much easier and more fun than working on your own.”
“I’ll take your word on it,” Ty said. “All I had to do was walk you up the aisle and give you away to the guy on your left.”
Nate gave a mock bow. “That would be me.”
“I’m surprised you weren’t dancing a jig when you took your seat. Finally rid of the pesky little sister,” Rachel teased.
“Oh, I was not only dancing,” Ty joked, and Meg could hear the affection behind each word. “I was flipping cartwheels inside.”
His sister stuck her tongue out at him.
He did the same.
Nate shook his head, then looked at Meg. “See what I have to put up with.”
“And I thought I had it bad with my six year old,” Meg kidded. But seeing Rachel and Ty, sister and brother, made her wish Brooklyn had a sibling. Someday . . .
“In my defense, I’m the reason these two lovebirds met,” Ty said. “I should get credit for that.”
“And for not killing me when he found out I was in love with his sister,” Nate added.
Rachel rose on her tiptoes and kissed Ty’s cheek. “You get all the credit. An A+, bro. I love you.”
“Love you, too, kiddo.”
A bull seemed to be standing on Meg’s chest. She couldn’t breathe. Her eyes stung. She cleared her throat. That helped.
When was the last time anyone but Brooklyn had said they loved her? Meg couldn’t remember. She hadn’t cared. Until today. Now she wished there was someone in her life who would.
“I need to check on the bride.” She needed some space. “Excuse me.”
Something was happening to her. Something she didn’t understand. The wedding must be messing with her brain and her heart. Strange, given she’d coordinated many other weddings for a variety of hotels where she worked, and she’d never felt like this.
Meg walked down the hallway toward the bridal suite. Her name for the room the bride was using to get ready. The newlyweds would spend the night there, too. Ellie promised to slip away during the reception to turn the room into a Honeymoon Suite, complete with a sign for the door, fresh rose petals on the bed, a bottle of champagne chilling and chocolates on the pillows.
“Meg,” Ty called after her. “Wait up.”
That was the last thing she wanted to do. He was a distraction she didn’t need today. But she couldn’t keep walking away from him.
She stopped and waited for him to catch up to her. “Need something?”
Ty hugged her. His warmth and fresh scent enveloped her. Being in his arms felt so good, so right. And that was oh-so-wrong.
He let go of her. “I’m sorry I didn’t do that before—” he brushed his hand through his hair “—but I felt weird hugging you in public.”
She didn’t understand. “Friends hug in public. Why would you feel weird?”
“I wish I knew. Maybe having Rachel there . . . ”
“Your sister’s a grown woman. Married. She knows about the drinking at the Wolf’s Den and Grey’s and a whole lot of other things.”
“And you know this how?”
“Rachel and I talked.”
“I’ll remember that the next time I hug you.”
“Plan to make hugging a habit?” Meg asked.
“Don’t know, but you deserve one today. You’re doing an incredible job.”
This had been an atta-girl hug, nothing more. She ignored the twinge of disappointment. “Thanks.”
“Rachel thinks we’ll have more wedding bookings once word and pictures get out.”
“Maybe. But remember, I’m here for guest services, too, not just event planning.”
Ty nodded. “Nate said if that happens he’ll limit the number of weddings each month since they impact all the guests, including non-wedding ones.”
Meg was surprised how much they’d talked about this. “Let’s see how this wedding turns out before making plans for potential ones.”
“With you in charge, how can the wedding not go perfectly?”
The guy knew the right words to say. She felt as if her feet were no longer touching the ground. “Bet you say that to all the wedding planners.”
“I can honestly say you’re the first I’ve ever met. And you’re the only one I want to know.” He kissed the top of her head. “See you soon.”
Tingles raced through her, starting at the point where his lips had touched her skin. She couldn’t wait to see him again. “Okay.”
“Save me a dance.”
“I will.” A thrill shot through her. Each nerve ending jiggled with excitement. Her smile spread not only across her face, but also to her heart. Meg had no idea why she was reacting like a girl asked out by her long-time crush. She didn’t care. “As long as you save one for me.”
y sat in one of the white chairs on the right side of the aisle. His thoughts kept straying to Meg. Not good in the middle of the wedding ceremony. He forced his attention on the people standing at the front of the makeshift aisle.
Charlie, the maid of honor, looked more like a Charlotte in her pretty red dress and red cowboy boots. She held Caitlin’s white-floral bouquet tied with red gingham ribbon and the end of a white leash attached to Mistletoe, the tabby, who had brought the bride and groom together last Christmas Eve. The cat had carried the rings in a pouch attached to her harness. That had been the second best part of the ceremony. The first had been the couple saying their vows.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the minister said. “You may kiss the bride.”
Noah tilted his head and kissed Caitlin. A collective “ahh” rose up from the seated guests. Charlie wiped the corners of her eyes with a tissue. Mistletoe meowed.
The deed was done. Ty wished the couple the best of luck. Watching a wedding was a helluva lot better than getting married himself. He tugged at his bowtie of his tux. Not a rental. He’d bought it for Rachel and Nate’s wedding. Who would have thought he’d be wearing the monkey suit twice in less than five months?
He couldn’t see himself standing where Noah stood. Ty remembered that his parents’ marriage had been far from hearts and flowers. They’d struggled and fought, more their financial circumstance than lack of love. He knew outside influences posed as much risk to a marriage as internal ones. So much was out of a couple’s control. And everything could disappear in an instant.
Now Meg, on the other hand, Ty could see her standing in Caitlin’s spot. Yeah, Meg would make a beautiful bride.
Ty looked around, but didn’t see her among the other guests. Probably making sure everything was set for the dinner. He hoped she hadn’t missed out on the vow exchange. The words had brought a lump to his throat. He had a feeling she would have liked watching that part.
The minister smiled. “It’s my honor to introduce Caitlin and Noah Sullivan.”
The crowd stood and applauded. The bride and groom exchanged a glance, their smiles as bright as a midday summer sun. Mistletoe jumped into Noah’s arms. People laughed.
Leave it to a cat to upstage the newlyweds.
The newlyweds and Mistletoe walked down the aisle to Beethoven’s 9
“Ode to Joy.” Charlie and best man Jay Patterson followed.
“Hey, Ty,” Dustin said. “You’d better call 9-1-1. Seeing Charlie in the red dress and boots did something to Zack. I think he’s about to throw-up or go down on one knee.”
The Army veteran turned wrangler and shooting instructor stared after his girlfriend. “I knew she cleaned up well, but this . . . ”
Eli snickered. “Hope Meg’s up for planning a spring wedding at the Bar V5.”
“Shut-up,” Zack snapped. “Mention a wedding in front of Charlie, and you’ll be picking up your teeth from the floor.”
Weddings seemed to bring out different reactions from different people. Ty raised his hand. “Today is Caitlin and Noah’s special day. No one needs to talk about any other wedding. We’re not at the Wolf’s Den drinking. If any punches get thrown, you’ll be looking for a new job. Understood?”
All three men nodded. Eli and Zack exchanged glances.
“Go mingle with the other guests,” Ty said, never raising his voice, but he didn’t make threats and not follow through. The wranglers knew he meant what he said. “And behave yourselves,” he added for good measure.
The men walked away.
“Trouble with your cowboys?” Meg asked.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” He took in her black and white outfit, stylish like the woman herself. “Where have you been?”
“In the back, so I could make an easy exit.” She glanced over her shoulder at the happy couple. “Lovely wedding.”