Camille’s face turned bright red, and I silently cursed myself for the empathy I felt.
“You’re different, T.J. Everyone can see it.”
Thomas began to speak, but she cut him off, “No, I’m glad. We’re all glad. You’re the man you were meant to be, and I don’t think you could have done that if you were with me.”
“What are you getting at, Camille?” Thomas asked.
Camille winced. “I know Liis doesn’t work at the university.” She held up her hand to me when my mouth fell open. “It’s okay. It won’t be the first secret I’ve kept.” She walked toward the door and turned the knob. “I’m just so damn glad for you both. You’re exactly who he needed. I just…I heard your discussion at the party last night, and I thought it would be best if we at least had a conversation. We need to put this behind us, T.J., as a family, and Liis is a big part of that.”
Thomas stood next to me and smiled. “Thank you for stopping by. We’ll make more of an effort to visit—as our jobs allow.”
“Okay. See you at the ceremony,” she said before closing the door behind her.
“Is she going to talk?” I asked, panicked.
I sat down and covered my face, feeling tears burning my eyes.
“What?” Thomas said, kneeling in front of me and touching my knees. “Talk to me. Liis?” He paused when he saw my shoulders trembling. “Are you…crying? But you don’t cry. Why are you crying?” he spoke the words in staccato, flustered at the sight of me.
I looked up at him with wet eyes. “I’m a terrible undercover agent. If I can’t play the part of your girlfriend when I am your girlfriend, I am officially a failure.”
He chuckled and touched my cheek. “Jesus Christ, Liis. I thought you were going to say something completely different. I have never been so scared in my life.”
I sniffed. “What did you think I was going to say?”
He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. The only reason Camille knows you’re an agent is because she knows I’m an agent.”
“Anthony serves agents every night of the week. The locals call that neighborhood the Eagle’s Nest because of the concentration of federal agents.” He used his thumbs to wipe the tears from my cheeks, and then he touched his lips to mine. “You’re not a failure. I would never fall this hard for a failure.”
I quietly giggled, and the green in his hazel eyes sparked.
He touched my bottom lip with his thumb. “I wish I didn’t have to go. I would love to lie in a hammock on the beach with you.”
Camille was right. He was different, even from the man I’d met at the bar. The darkness in his eyes was completely gone.
Thomas nodded and then kissed me good-bye, his lips lingering on my mouth.
“It’s a date,” he whispered. “I won’t see you until the wedding, but Dad is going to save you a seat in the front row. You’ll be sitting with Camille, Falyn, and Ellie.”
“Forever? I should have made you chase me a little longer. I think I made it too easy for you.”
He hopped up and walked across the room. After stuffing socks in a pair of shiny black dress shoes, he grabbed the plastic-covered tux hanging in the closet. He swung the hanger over his shoulder. “See you soon.”
He stood with his hand on the door, turning his head to the side, while he waited for me to speak.
“Do you feel like we’re going a hundred miles per hour?”
He shrugged, the things in his hands pulling up as his shoulders did. “I don’t care. I’m trying not to think too hard about it. You’re doing that for both of us.”
“My head is telling me that we should tap on the brakes. But I don’t really want to.”
“Good,” he said. “I don’t think I could have agreed to that.” He smiled. “I’ve done a lot of things wrong, Liis. Being with you isn’t one of them.”
“See you in an hour,” I said.
He twisted the knob and closed the door behind him. I sat back in the chair and slid down, taking a deep breath and refusing to overanalyze the situation this time. We were happy, and he was right. It didn’t matter why.
Travis pulled Abby into his arms and leaned her back a bit as he kissed her. We all clapped, and Thomas caught my eyes and winked.
Abby’s veil blew in the Caribbean breeze, and I held up my cell phone to snap a picture. Camille, on one side of me, and Falyn, on the other, were doing the same.
When Travis finally righted Abby, the Maddox brothers and Shepley all broke into cheers. America was standing next to Abby, holding the bride’s bouquet with one hand and wiping her eyes with the other. She pointed and laughed at her mother, who was dabbing her eyes, too.
“I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Travis Maddox,” the pastor said, his voice straining over the wind, ocean waves, and the celebration.
Travis helped Abby descend the steps of the gazebo, and they walked down the aisle before disappearing behind a wall of trees and shrubs.
“Mr. and Mrs. Maddox ask that you join them at the restaurant Sails for dinner and the reception. I speak for them when I say thank you for being present on this most special day.”
He nodded, and everyone stood, gathering their things.
Thomas joined me with a wide grin, seeming relieved that the ceremony was over.
“Say cheese!” Falyn said, holding up her camera phone.
Thomas wrapped me in his arms and kissed my cheek. I smiled.
Falyn smiled, too, showing us the picture when she was finished. “Perfect.”
Taylor tapped her shoulder, and she turned to hug him.
A palpable tension overwhelmed the space around us when Trenton pulled Camille into his arms and kissed her.
Jim clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Grab your ladies, boys. I’m starved. Let’s eat.”
Thomas and I walked, hand in hand, following Jim with Trenton and Camille. Taylor and Falyn, and Tyler and Ellison were not far behind.
Thomas nodded. “I thought he was going to pass out when she texted him, saying her plane had landed. I don’t think he believed she was coming until then.”
We walked to the outdoor restaurant. Large white canvases shaded the tables from the glow of the sunset. Thomas led me to a table where Shepley and America were sitting with who I recognized as Jack and Deana from my research prior to the trip. We had barely sat down when the server approached, asking for our drink orders.
“I’m so glad to see you, sweetheart,” Deana said. Her long lashes blinked once over her hazel-green eyes.
“It’s good to see you, too, Aunt Deana,” Thomas said. “Have you met Liis?”
She shook her head and then reached across Thomas. “We didn’t get a chance to meet before the ceremony. Your dress is absolutely stunning. That violet is so vivid. You’re practically glowing. It’s perfect with your skin and hair.”