She did the same, grabbing Jim’s outstretched hand. Ellison watched the exchange with a warm smile, but Camille tried her best to ignore it.
Uh-oh. Wonder what that’s about?
Music began to play from a few speakers placed on each side toward the front, and the pastor took his place, followed by the men.
The groomsmen were in order by age from youngest to oldest. “Is that Shepley? The best man?” I asked Jim.
Jim nodded, scanning all the boys like a proud father. I could see they were a close family, and I wondered how anyone managed to keep any secrets.
Taylor looked incredible in his tux, but I felt weird thinking that because he looked exactly like Tyler, whose sort-of girlfriend was sitting two seats away from me. Taylor winked at me, and we all chuckled when the other brothers did the same at nearly the same time to their love interests.
The wedding procession began, and I sat back and watched as Travis and Abby renewed their vows, pledging their love to one another. It was beautiful and raw and genuine. They were young, but the way they looked at each other was so touching that it made my heart hurt.
They had a long future ahead of them, a future that included children and grandchildren. As far as I knew, Taylor was the only brother standing who was guaranteed not to have that same chance. There he stood, undeniably happy, as he watched Travis renewing his vows, peeking over at me when his brother said words like forever and always.
Less than ten minutes after Abby joined Travis in the gazebo, the pastor instructed them to kiss, and we all cheered. Jim hugged me to his side, chuckling and wiping his eyes with his other hand.
I held up my phone to snap a picture as Travis held Abby in his arms, sealing their future with a kiss. I made sure to get Taylor watching them with a grin in the shot.
The wind blew Abby’s veil as Travis leaned her back, and the pastor raised his arms.
“I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Travis Maddox,” the pastor said, struggling to be heard over the wind, the ocean waves, and the applause and wild cheering from Travis’s brothers.
I could hear nothing else but rejoicing as Travis helped Abby down the steps of the gazebo. They rushed past their delighted guests before disappearing behind a wall of tall bushes and palm fronds.
The pastor descended the steps, standing in the aisle. “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.”
With his hands, he let us know we were free to go, and then Jim stood, prompting everyone else to stand as well. The men stood around with their hands in their pockets while the women gathered their purses and attended to their smeared mascara.
The brothers relaxed, taking the few steps to the front row.
I held up my phone to Thomas and Liis. “Say cheese!”
Thomas stood behind Liis, enveloping her in his arms, and kissed her cheek.
I snapped the picture and then flipped my phone around to show them the result. “Perfect.”
Thomas hugged her to his chest. “She is.”
Someone tapped on my shoulder.
When I saw it was Taylor, I hugged him, feeling the stiff fabric of his tuxedo beneath my fingers. “Are you hot?” I asked.
“Well, you look intolerably sexy,” I said quietly.
His eyes burned when they met mine. “Yeah?”
“There is something to be said about not having all this beauty outside. Makes it easier to stay inside.”
Taylor pulled me against him. “I’m flexible. There’s a perfectly good beach over there.”
Jim clapped his hands and rubbed them together, reminding us other people were around.
But no one was paying attention to our quiet flirtation. Instead, people seemed to notice the palpable tension between Thomas and Liis, and Trenton and Camille.
Walking hand in hand with Liis, Thomas followed his father, Trenton, and Camille.
“What is all that about?” I asked Taylor.
Ellison leaned in. “They both dated Thomas. It’s going to be awkward for a while, but it’ll get better.”
“Well, you’ve both kissed the same guy,” Tyler said.
Ellison playfully punched him, but the contact still made a thud.
Taylor cackled and then interlaced his fingers in mine, and together, we strolled to Sails, the restaurant parallel to our building. The patio was on the opposite side, and the twins sat at one of the empty tables marked Reserved for the reception.
Seconds after we sat down, a server approached to take our drink orders.
“Sounds good,” he said. He was smiling, but his tone and the skin around his eyes told a different story.
The server looked to me.
“Sparkling,” I said. At least that would feel a little more like I was celebrating with everyone else.
Liis and Thomas were across the way, seated with Shepley and America and Shepley’s parents. Looking content and in love, Camille and Trenton were chatting with Jim two tables away, completely oblivious of Thomas and Liis at the other table. Whatever awkwardness lived between the two couples must have been one-sided, but I was only speculating.
Taylor pulled off his tuxedo jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white button-down. He leaned over, pointing to his bow tie, and I helped him loosen it along with his top button.
“Goddamn, I’m glad you’re here,” he said, leaning the remaining inches to kiss the corner of my mouth. “I was really sweating it until you texted me.”
He scanned my face and touched his thumb to my bottom lip. “I want you. Just you. Nothing else. I’m not just content with that, Falyn. You’re not part of what I want. You’re everything I want. Anything else is a bonus.”
I sat back against my chair, trying not to stare. His forearm tensed when he reached up to rub the back of his neck, and I had to cross my legs to control the ache between my thighs. It had been more than two weeks since I felt his skin against mine, and my body was letting me know about it.
“What?” he asked, a coy grin stretching across his face.
“Nothing,” I said, looking away as I tried not to smile.
Abby and Travis arrived. Travis held his wife’s hand high in the air as her other hand held her bouquet. The hostess announced their arrival over the PA system, and everyone in Sails clapped and cheered. A rock ballad came over the speakers, and Travis pulled Abby out to dance. She looked absolutely beautiful, her elegant caramel waves nearly blending in with her skin that had already been bronzed by the Caribbean sun. The stark white of her dress only made her tan look even darker.
I looked down at my arms, a sad shade of Colorado pale. Whatever time we had left, I committed right then and there to spend it in the sun.
We ate, danced, and listened to the speeches from the best man and maid of honor. We laughed, everyone but me drank, and the men left the covered patio for a bit to smoke the cigars Jim had brought.
Sometime after ten o’clock, Shepley’s parents decided to turn in. Jim followed suit not long after.