The Billionaire's Convenient BrideBy: CJ Howard
Go on, he thought to himself, go with your friend and have breakfast.
They sat down with their wedding party and her grandfather at the breakfast feast and enjoyed themselves as they laughed and ate, toasted each other with champagne and then headed toward the massive church at Jackson Square. Tourists and locals alike packed around them and cheered as they entered the church together and before he let go of her, Peter looked down and said, “Emma, you look absolutely stunning, and I am one lucky man. Also, I just want to warn you ahead of time, I’m going to kiss you when the preacher tells me to, so please don’t slap me this time.” He winked at her and she gasped at him in mock shock, then he hugged her and kissed her cheek and walked down the aisle, leaving her at the front of the church with her grandfather.
Henri placed his hands on his granddaughter’s face and said softly, “I wish that this was your real wedding day my little one. You look so beautiful and so happy. I only want a love for you that will last all of your days, and someday, I hope you find the right man to share that love with, but until then, I think you have found a friend that will take good care of you, and that’s enough for now. I don’t think this is a mistake, my Emma, I think you made the right choice to do this. I love you, my girl.” A few tears fell from his face and she wiped them away. “I just wish your grandmother could have lived to see you today, she would be so proud of you, all grown up like you are. I know she’s watching over you from heaven, though, so if you feel a raindrop on your cheek, I’m sure it’s from her.” He smiled broadly at her and she hugged him tightly.
The music began to play and her eyes widened, and a feeling of unease hit her right in her stomach and zoomed through her. Her grandfather patted her hand. “That’s alright, Emma, that’ll go away soon enough.” He winked at her and they started down the long aisle together, passing friends they had known all their lives, who all smiled at her and wiped tears of joy from their cheeks. Partway down the aisle she passed Tristan, who winked at her and her heart gave a little flutter. She took a deep breath and smiled back at him, and then she reached the front of the church where Peter was waiting breathlessly for her.
He had watched her walking down the aisle to him and with every step, he could only tell himself how lucky he was to have her in his life in any capacity that she was willing to be with him in. Her dark caramel skin glowed warmly against the bright white dress that hugged her body as she moved toward him, and her veil could not quite hide her eyes and smile as she reached him and he lifted it over her head. The music stilled and an excited hush fell over the church.
“Who gives this woman to be wed?” the preacher asked.
Henri lifted Emmaline’s hand and placed it delicately into Peter’s, looking from her to him in all seriousness. “Her grandmother and I do,” he said as firmly as he could, and then he kissed her cheek and as he turned away from her to sit down, he wiped another tear from his eye.
The pastor read through the vows, and they repeated promises of everlasting love and devotion to each other, no matter the circumstances, trials or tribulations, and after the promises were made, they both slid rings onto each other’s fingers. Even though she knew it wasn’t a real wedding, even though she knew they would be getting divorced in three years’ time, she could not stop the swell of emotion that rose up in her and spilled lightly down her cheeks.
Peter touched her tears away gently with his fingertips and smiled at her, gazing down at her with his brilliant dark green eyes, and she lost herself in them for a moment before returning her attention to the pastor and his sermon about the importance of keeping their promise and loving one’s partner, no matter what, for all the days of one’s life.
After what seemed like a surreal length of time, the pastor smiled at them both, pronounced them man and wife, and then told Peter that he could kiss his bride. He had been waiting for the moment. He had wanted it, and he had dreaded it. He knew that it would only happen once, for many reasons. He was only going to marry once, because after their marriage ended, he would never marry another woman again, and also because this kiss would be the only one of its kind in that he had the freedom to kiss her any way he liked for as long as he liked, because they had to sell it to the public.
He felt like it was a second chance at a first kiss, a way to make it up to her that he had fouled up their first kiss in the garden. This was his chance to get it right and make it count, and the pressure of this moment that he knew was coming had been weighing on him heavily.
Peter looked down at her as she smiled up at him, her dark brown eyes alight with happiness, her scintillating smile reflecting all the happiness within her, her soft full lips colored in warm rose red tones, and he promised himself that he would always remember every single part of this moment. There was a hush in the room, and the ceiling fans whirred above them, everyone was watching and waiting as he placed his hands carefully on her cheeks and lifted her face to meet his. He had wondered if he would close his eyes or not, and he was torn between watching this moment so that he never forgot what it looked like when he kissed her, and closing his eyes so he could feel it in all its beauty and wonder. It might be his last chance.
His eyes stayed open until his lips touched hers, and at the first touch, he closed them. He wanted to lose himself in her kiss again, for as long as he could. Peter pressed his lips against her gently, softly, as he breathed in the scent of her and felt the smooth warmth of her dark skin beneath his fingers. He felt her fingers touching his as she rested her hands on his; they were cool and light. The taste of her lips was sweet and as intoxicating to him as the fragrance of a rose. He cared not what anyone else thought, as this was his only chance. He opened her mouth with his and as their tongues met for the first time, he felt a surge of electricity move through him and touch every part of his body, stealing away his breath and pulling him to her as though she was the center of gravity for the whole universe.
Peter’s hands moved from her face and slid around her waist, pulling her to him as his kiss deepened, and his entire world began to feel as though it was spinning, and to his amazement, she kissed him back. She kissed him with every bit of passion that he gave her, and she never showed any sign of surprise at his boldness with her. As his mouth moved over hers and he held her tightly to him, he slowly became aware that there was cheering around them, and it seemed to grow louder as he came back to the reality that was his.
He didn’t want to let go of her, to stop his kiss, but he knew that it was time to, and as their kiss came to a close, he opened his eyes and saw her lovely face, and he leaned down to kiss her one last time, gently and sweetly before he let her go and she opened her eyes and blinked at him, breathing in deeply and holding his arms. It was then that he realized he had taken her breath away and she was holding on to him to steady herself. He touched her cheek with his hand, and smiled at her, and then he took a deep breath himself and they turned to face the thunderous applause and cheers of their guests.
They walked hand in hand down the aisle and as they exited the church, their guests all followed them out, each one taking a white handkerchief and following them as the jazz band stepped in line behind them and Emmaline lifted her white parasol high over her head, and Peter donned his top hat. They marched through the French Quarter, the band and the guests trailing along behind them in their own parade of happiness.
When the sunshine touched Peter at the doors of the church, it seemed to him like the spell that had taken hold of him in the church was broken and he was somehow released, feeling more himself than he had during the ceremony, but the power of the kiss they shared haunted the edges of his mind all day as their guests enjoyed a luncheon with them, and a dancing party that lasted long into the night.
At some point near the wee hours between yesterday and tomorrow, Peter stole his new wife away in a car and they left their guests with waves and kisses blown into the wind. The car took them to a yacht that was waiting on the great Mississippi River. They boarded it and the Captain began to sail it to the Bahamas where they were going to honeymoon, or at least have a nice vacation together.
They changed out of their wedding clothes and Peter relaxed on the deck, watching the stars as they shone more and more brightly the further out to sea they sailed. Emmaline joined him after a while and sat beside him, enjoying the feel of the cool air on her skin.
They were silent for a bit, and then she looked at him and said, “Well, it’s official.”
He nodded and laughed a little. “It is. You’re chained to me for three years, and then you get parole.” He winked at her and she nudged him with a chastising smile.
“We were convincing,” she said, looking away from him as she spoke. “I nearly fell for it myself!” she said in a teasing voice.
He looked, but he couldn’t see her face for the dark night around them, and he wished desperately that he could. “Well, I had to make it real. I had to make it count,” he said, wondering what she was really thinking.
“It counted,” was all she said in reply.
He sat there a moment longer with her in silence and then found the courage to say, “Emma, I really appreciate what you did for me today. I realize what a huge sacrifice it is for you, and I want you to know that it isn’t going unnoticed.”