“Oh my gosh, Jewel – you can not eat a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich with that dress on!” Jenna says crossly. “What if you get purple all over it? Are you crazy?”
“I can’t help it. I’m starving, and the only thing I have is this sandwich. I’ll pass out during the ceremony if I don’t get something in my stomach.”
“Well, at least take it off to eat.”
“Are you kidding me?” I snort. “It took me ten minutes to get into this thing! I don’t have the patience to do that again. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” I start to raise the sandwich to my mouth, but Jenna’s war whoop stops me in my tracks.
“Stop!” she commands. “Okay, if you insist on being difficult about this, hold on.” She runs out of the room, then comes back a few seconds later with a large, fluffy towel. “Lean over the towel while you’re eating,” she orders.
“So now, I’m going to get jelly on Sydney’s towel?” I joke. “You sure you’re ready for her wrath?”
“Sydney!” Jenna calls out. “We’re using one of your towels so Jewel doesn’t destroy her dress!”
A moment later, there’s an indistinct reply from the other side of the house, which Jenna decides to take as consent. “There, you see? No problem.”
I obediently allow Jenna to drape the towel over my lap, more to stop her from barking at me than anything. But down deep, I can’t be mad at her. She’s been great all through the process of organizing the wedding. I don’t know if it’s her advanced mom skills, but she can corral a mess of kids and a bunch of outlaw bikers better than anyone I know. I barely had to do anything for today other than choose a dress and show up. She and the other old ladies took care of practically everything else. Including Sydney letting me get ready for the wedding at her and Brick’s house.
I bite into the sandwich and roll my eyes in ecstasy, suppressing a moan. I was so nervous all last night and this morning that I haven’t had a single bite to eat since lunch yesterday. The mere thought of food made me want to barf. Then, about half an hour ago, I became suddenly ravenous, and decided I neededto have a PBJ with grape jelly as though my life depended on it. Which is weird, because I’m not even that big a fan of peanut butter. Sydney didn’t have anything but marmalade – gross — so I had to call Jude to bring me one, stat. Thankfully he complied, because I didn’t want to have to call Angel, and risk having him see me in my dress before the wedding. Call me superstitious. Guilty as charged.
It’s not that I’m nervous about getting married to Angel. I don’t have a single doubt in my mind that he’s who I want to be with for the rest of my life. It’s more that I’ve always been more of a “behind the scenes” kind of person. I’m more comfortable behind the bar than in front of a crowd. Even though everyone at the ceremony today is someone I consider part of my big extended family, it’s got me a little freaked out that I’m about to be the center of attention for an entire day – not only as the bride, but as the future wife of the club president. I know our marriage is going an event that the club has been looking forward to for months. And even though there’s nothing I want more than to be Angel’s wife… I have to admit, it’s a lot of pressure.
So it’s been a real blessing that Jenna and the other old ladies have taken charge of the planning part of the wedding and the party afterward. I’ve been able to mostly focus on how wonderful it will be to be married to Angel, and try to forget about the ceremony itself. But now that we’re so close to go time, the thought of being up in front of all those people is making my stomach churn. For the last couple of days, I’ve been fighting an increasingly nervous stomach. This morning, I even threw up before I took my shower.
My sudden hunger means that I polish off the sandwich in record time. I briefly lament that I didn’t ask Jude to bring me two PBJs instead of just one — but before I can even think to ask if there’s anything more to eat, Jenna has whisked the towel way. She opens her purse and produces a roll of breath mints. “You can’t get married with peanut butter breath,” she murmurs, holding them out. “Too bad we didn’t think to pack you a toothbrush and toothpaste.”
“Is there some sort of wedding rulebook I’ve never read?” I tease as I take two mints and toss them into my mouth.
“Yup,” Samantha says, appearing behind Jenna. Sydney is by her side. “There is. The last thing you want is for Angel’s final thought before kissing his bride is, ‘I wonder whether she ate crunchy or creamy?’”
In spite of myself, I snort. “Crunchy, obviously. Angel knows my views on peanut butter. Creamy is an abomination.”
Sydney rolls her eyes. “Good lord, how have I known you for so long and didn’t know you have horrible taste in condiments?”
“Come on,” Sam continues. “If you’re finished eating, let’s go across the lake and get some photos of you in that dress before the guests start arriving.”
Sam, Sydney, and Jenna pick up the various bags of makeup and accessories we need, and we make our way out to Sam’s SUV, which is sitting in Sydney’s driveway. Sydney and Brick have a house on the east side of Birch Lake, which is where we are now. We pile into the car and Sam gets behind the wheel to drive us to our destination on the west side of the lake. Angel and I just bought a lot on that side, and with the Lords’ help we’re going to build a house there. There was an old, ramshackle cabin on the lot, which has since been torn down. Right now, all there is of our future house are the footings for the new foundation. That’s where we’re getting married: standing in the spot that will one day be our living room, the center and heart of our new home.
I haven’t been out to the property in about a week, and I’m not expecting it to look like much since there’s nothing out there but grass and trees. But as we round the gravel corner and turn into our drive, I draw in a breath and gasp in amazement at the scene that greets me.
“Oh, you guys. This is so…” Tears spring to my eyes. “It’s so beautiful!”
The space where our future house will be has been transformed into a sort of outdoor cathedral. A simple archway decorated in gauzy white material marks the entrance to the space, at roughly where our front door will be. White paper lanterns have been hung from the trees, and dot the sky above our heads. Rows of white chairs draped in the same fabric create an aisle down the middle. At the end of the aisle, another arch, wound with white flowers, marks the spot where Angel and I will stand and become husband and wife.
Isabel, Alix, Eden, and Brooke emerge from the RV that sits far off to one side of the lot. They’re dressed for the wedding, and they’re all beaming with pride as they watch me take in the scene.
“I can’t believe you did this,” I whisper, trying not to cry my makeup off as each one of them hugs me. “This… It’s just…”
“It’s what you deserve,” Brooke beams at me. “You and Angel both. It’s an important day for you. For all of us. We wanted it to be something you’ll remember forever.”
I laugh wetly and dab at one eye. “Well, you’ve definitely managed to do that.”
“Sorry to interrupt, ladies,” Sam breaks in, pointing to her camera bag. “But we don’t have a lot of time before Angel and the men get here, and I have some ideas for some pictures of just Jewel.”
Sam asks Isabel to help her, and the other women move off to put some finishing touches on the decorations. Sam takes enough pictures of me to fill an entire album. She puts me in all sorts of poses, from close-ups to far-away shots that show off my dress. I try my best not to squirm as she puts me through the paces (like I said, I’m not great at being the center of attention). Then, finally, she looks at her watch and gives me a brief nod. “Okay. Let’s go inside. People will be here soon.”
I pick up the hem of my dress as delicately as I can, and we make our way towards the comfortable RV that Lucy and Smiley have set up for today. Inside, the other old ladies are waiting, and Jenna opens a bottle of sparkling apple juice for a toast.
“Seriously? Apple juice?” Brooke teases her good-naturedly.
Jenna’s gaze flicks to me. “We don’t want poor Jewel to be too drunk to say her vows!” she jokes. “She needs to be clear-headed. What if she changes her mind at the last minute?”
“Girl,” drawls Alix dramatically, batting her eyes. “Ain’t nobody ever gonna have second thoughts about marrying a man like Angel!”
The other women laugh and nod in agreement as we all raise our glasses.
“To Jewel!” Jenna announces. “Queen of the Lords of Carnage! May Angel make her wedding night so memorable she can’t leave the bed for days!”
As we all drink, a low rumble of engines off in the distance announces the arrival of the club.
“Oh, gosh!” I squeak, as a flock of butterflies take flight in my stomach. “It’s almost time!”
Sam nods. “Yup. That’ll be the men. And the kids won’t be far behind.” Geno and his old lady Carmen hosted all the young kids at an epic slumber party at their farm last night. They, Lucy, and Smiley, are bringing them all over this morning. I can’t even imagine how they’re managing to round up that many children, but they seemed more than happy to do it.
Isabel fusses over my dress and hair, and reapplies a little powder on my nose. I listen, half in a haze, as the other women as they talk logistics. Brooke, Sam, and Sydney go outside to check on the guests. Eventually, there’s a sharp rap on the door, and Jude pokes his head in.
“Hey, big sis,” he grins. “You about ready for the main event?”
I swallow and nod nervously. “As ready as I can be.”
Jenna, Isabel, Alix, and Eden stand up. “We’d better get out there and take our seats,” Alix says. One by one, they come up and give me a hug. “Good luck,” Jenna whispers in my ear. “I’m so happy for you, girl.”
“Thanks,” I smile, tears springing to my eyes for the dozenth time today. “I’m pretty damn happy for me, too.”
Then, it’s just Jude and me in the RV.
“Angel looks like he’s about to jump outta his cut,” Jude smirks as he takes a seat beside me. “I ain’t never seen him this antsy.”
“He’s not the only one,” I giggle. “Thanks for bringing me breakfast earlier.”
He lifts his chin. “No problem.”
“How about you?” I ask. “You good with this?” I realized I’ve never really asked him how he feels about me marrying Angel. I know Jude likes him, and even looks up to him. But suddenly, it feels urgently important to me that he approves of what I’m about to do.
“Are you kidding?” he grins. “I’m gonna be related by marriage to the prez of the Lords of Carnage. Thanks to you, I’m a shoo-in to get patched into the club when the day comes!”
“I’m serious, Jude.”
My brother’s grin fades. He looks me in the eye. “Seriously? I couldn’t be happier for you, Jewel. Or him.” He nods. “It’s good. You both deserve each other. I mean that.”
It’s the most Jude has ever said about Angel and me. Sitting there with him, I’m incredibly happy to have my brother here with me today. He’s the only one of my family members who will be in attendance. I did send my parents a wedding invitation, but I never received a reply. I wasn’t surprised – and frankly, I was relieved. I know they wouldn’t approve of Angel, or the life I’ve made for myself here in Tanner Springs. I know they wouldn’t understand the love I’ve found.
Just then, strains of music drift toward us from outside.
“Sounds like it’s time,” Jude grins, rising. He waits for me to stand, as well, then opens the door and steps out of the RV. I take a deep breath, then follow him down the metal stairs.
Here goes nothing.
Jude crooks his elbow, and I take his arm. Then, together, we walk toward the makeshift chapel. One of the men shouts when he sees us, and everyone turns and stands to watch as we walk down the aisle. In a daze, I stare at the sea of people – men in leather, women in lace – as they smile and nod at us. All of the Lords of Carnage are there. All of their old ladies, and all of their kids. The Ironwood chapter of the Lords is here as well, and the staff of the Smiling Skull. Everyone I know and care about in once place. Here to help Angel and I celebrate the next chapter in our lives. All of my family. My realfamily.
I couldn’t be more grateful.
As we walk through the crowd, I see Angel up ahead. He’s dressed in his cut, as the president of the MC should be. His eyes are locked on me, and when my gaze meets his, he raises his eyebrows, a corner of his mouth lifting in that sexy, lazy grin I know so well. And then, I’m standing in front of him, and Jude is stepping away. Angel claps him on the shoulder.
Then, Angel takes my hand.
He leans in toward me, tilting his head so he can whisper into my ear. “I missed you.” The crowd is on the opposite side, and he takes the opportunity to nips at my neck since no one can see him do it. I stifle a yelp that turns into a breathless moan by the time his lips leave my skin.
“It’s only been a couple of hours,” I manage to gasp.
“I know. It was hell.” His eyes twinkle as they meet mine.
“Perv,” I smirk, feeling instantly more relaxed.
Angel’s face grows serious. “You look beautiful, Jewel. You’d make any man proud.”
“There’s only one man I care about,” I whisper back. “And he’s standing right in front of me.”
From the front row, Ghost rises. Angel and I turn to face him.
“We all know why we’re here,” his voice booms out into the crowd. “Our brother, our president, is getting hitched today. To Jewel, who has been one of our family for as long as I can remember. It’s about damn time, is all I can say.”
A loud ripple of laughter wells up from the crowd A few of the men shout, “Yeah!” and “Damn right!”
When the noise has died down, Ghost continues. “I’m lucky enough to have Angel as my best friend, and my prez. But he’s also my brother-in-law. And now, Jewel’s gonna be my sister-in-law.” He grins. “Couldn’t ask for better than that. And we couldn’t ask for a better old lady for the president of our MC. Jewel is one of us. She knows us all, and we love her. Angel, I know I don’t need to tell you to treat her well. And Jewel, I know I don’t have to tell you what it means to be the wife of an outlaw biker. You’ve both chosen each other, but you both chose the club, too. And that’s what today is about.”
From the back, Thorn calls out, “Oh, Christ, get on with it, then!” Isabel punches him in the arm.
“I’ve been asked to get on with it,” Ghost calls with a grin. “Okay, then. Here we go!”
The next few minutes are a blur. All I see is Angel’s face. All I hear is his voice as he promises to love and protect me for the rest of our lives. I hear my voice as I say my vows, and somehow I keep it together and don’t start crying. Then, Beast stands and hands the rings to us. I slide Angel’s onto his hand. And then I feel the cool, solid weight of mine as it slips onto my finger. It feels right. I can’t imagine ever taking it off.
And then, it’s over. Ghost proclaims us husband and wife. Angel kisses me, so deeply that I’m dizzy when we break apart. And just like that, I’m Jewel Abbott.
The luckiest woman in the entire world.
* * *
Six hours later, and the Lords and their family have put away enough booze and food to feed a small army – which, to be honest, we kind of are. The men have made a large bonfire at the edge of the property, and the older kids are supervising the younger kids making sure they don’t get too close. A bunch of the prospects got too drunk on Jack Daniels and they’re off somewhere pretending they’re MMA fighters. The Lords are laughing and yelling and carrying on, clearly pleased as hell that their president has finally tied the knot. I can’t help but think back to the day of Noah’s twelfth birthday party, when I learned that Jude would be coming to stay with me in Tanner Springs. So much has happened since then, I can hardly believe.
Somewhere along the line, the two of us have found a home, where we least expected it.
“So, when are you leaving on the honeymoon?” Samantha yells her question above the din, as we watch Hawk and Angel trade shots back and forth. The night is warm, and we’re sitting under one of the paper lanterns in a pool of soft golden light. I keep meaning to change out of my white dress and into something more comfortable, but I keep remembering that this is my one day to wear it, and I just can’t do it.
“In a couple of days,” I call back. Angel and I are flying out to Las Vegas for ten days, leaving Monday morning. Angel has arranged to rent a Harley Electra Glide that will be waiting for us when we land. We’ll spend a couple of days in Vegas itself, and from there we’ll ride out to Red Rock Canyon State Park, Lake Mead, the Valley of Fire, Mount Charleston, Hoover Dam, and Zion. I’ve never seen any of it before. For me, it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime. Especially because I get to do it with Angel.
Sam gets up to grab another drink and asks if I want anything, but I decline. My stomach has started to feel gross again, after a few hours of being totally fine. I ate dinner, but now I’m regretting it. Sam heads off, and a couple of seconds later, Jenna and Sydney approach.
“How’s the bride?” Sydney asks me, flashing a smile. “Shouldn’t you be over there sharing a dance with your groom?”
“In a few minutes, I will,” I reply with a shrug. “I’m feeling a little off. I’m sure it’ll pass.”
Jenna cocks her head and glances at Sydney, one hand going to her hip. “Is that so?” The tone of her voice is odd, like she’s thinking something she isn’t quite willing to say. “Well, are you feelin’ good enough to come inside the RV with us for a few minutes? Syd and I have a little present for you to open.”
I start to say that Sam will be back in a minute or so, but then I notice she’s over on the other side of the yard talking to Brooke and Isabel. “Sure,” I say, getting up. “You’ve definitely got me curious. You got me a present aside from the spa day?” The old ladies had all chipped in on a gift certificate for a girls day out after the honeymoon, saying that after ten days on the back of a motorcycle, I’ll be looking forward to a little pampering.
“It was kind of… last minute,” Jenna murmurs, taking my arm. “Come on.”
Inside the RV, I gape at the opened package in front of me. “I don’t get it,” I stammer.
“It’s called a pregnancy test,” Sydney deadpans. “You pee on it to see if you are.”
I roll my eyes. “I know what it is,” I shoot back. “I just don’t know…” My voice trails off as I turn to stare at Jenna, who is looking expectantly at me, arms crossed. “You think… my stomach queasiness is because I’m pregnant?”
Jenna nods. “I do.”
“But… but…” I stutter. “I’ve just been nervous for the wedding! I haven’t been eating all that well, and… I mean, it’s not…” All my defensive explanations die in my throat as my brain starts to add everything up.
As though Jenna is reading my mind, she raises a hand and starts counting on her fingers. “You’ve been nauseated for days. This morning you had a very specific craving for a very weird breakfast. And now, the wedding’s over, and you’re still feeling queasy, even though there’s nothing to be nervous about anymore.”
“But I can’t be pregnant,” I argue, even though I realize there’s actually a possibility I could be. Angel and I haven’t exactly been careful lately. And I think the approaching wedding made him even hornier than usual — we’ve been going at it like rabbits for the past month.
“I can’t be pregnant,” I repeat more softly, almost to myself. “Can I?”
“Only one way to find out,” Jenna says, picking up the little box and handing it to me.
It’s been years since I took a pregnancy test, but the little white wand looks pretty much the same as it always has. I take it into the bathroom of the RV, do what needs to be done, and go back out into the main room with Jenna and Sydney. The instructions on the box say to wait three minutes, but I give it five, just to make sure. They just might be the five longest minutes of my life. But by the time they’re over, my gut tells me what the answer is before I even go back into the bathroom to look.
My God. I’m pregnant. Angel and I are going to have a baby.
Jenna and Sydney are wild with glee. I make them swear that they won’t tell anyone, not even Ghost and Brick. They jump up and down and give me bone-crushing hugs. Then, I go back in the bathroom to get the pee stick and the box, and the three of us go back outside, where I try desperately to pretend like nothing totally earth-shattering has just happened.
Back outside, I go to find Angel, who is still over talking to Hawk. Brick, Beast, and Thorn have joined them, and the three of them are laughing and joking around like the friends and brothers they are. When Angel sees me walking toward him, he detaches himself from the group and comes to meet me.
“You about ready to get goin’?” he asks me, grabbing me around the waist and pulling me close. “I been thinkin’ about takin’ that dress off you for hours now. Not sure I can wait much longer.”
“You think I can ride on the back of your bike like this?” I chuckle. My nerves are jangling, but as always, Angel makes everything seem exactly as it should be, just by being there.
“I don’t see why not. It’ll make a hell of a sight, too,” he rumbles. “Let’s give it a shot.”
We say our goodbyes, and all the guests line up to watch us leave. Their whistles and applause follow us into the night as we drive away, back toward town and the house that we’ll be living in for just a few more months. The whole way there, I lean against Angel’s back, breathing him in, and wonder whether I should tell him tonight or wait until we’re on our honeymoon.
In the end, I realize it was never a question. I can’t keep anything from Angel. Especially something this big.
My husband insists on carrying me over the threshold. I joke about him being a caveman, even though I love it and he knows it. Once we’re inside, Angel almost immediately reaches to start undoing my dress, but I stop him.
“I have something for you,” I murmur, trying to ignore the hammering of my heart in my chest. I pull out the box Jenna originally wrapped the test in. I re-tied the ribbon on it so it doesn’t even look previously opened. “Happy wedding day.”
Angel takes the box from me, his brow knotting. “I thought we said we weren’t gonna give presents to each other,” he frowns. “Shit, Jewel, I didn’t get you anything.”
“This was kind of a last-minute gift,” I tell him. “And, um, it’s kind of for both of us.”
He’s still frowning as he shakes the package a couple of times, then slips off the ribbon and opens it. He stares down at the object inside and freezes.
“This is why I’ve been so sick to my stomach for the last couple of days,” I say around the lump in my throat. “Jenna was the one who figured it out.”
Angel is silent for a few seconds. Then a few more.
“Holy fuck,” he finally rasps.
My heart starts thudding even harder. “Is that a good ‘holy fuck’ or a bad ‘holy fuck’?” I ask with a quaver in my voice.
Angel finally turns to look at me. His deep, gunmetal gray eyes are wide and clear.
“The best.” His strong hand slips down over my still-flat belly. “The best fucking thing I’ve ever heard.” He shakes his head and snorts softly. “I didn’t think there was anything that could make this day any better, but somehow you managed to prove me wrong.”
“You’re really happy?” The quake in my voice is still there.
Angel leans down and kisses me. Our tongues dance until I’m dizzy with want. “Hell yes, I’m happy,” he murmurs against my lips. “How far along are you?”
“I’m not sure,” I breathe, trying to think. “Maybe… six weeks? Maybe a little longer?”
“So…” He draws back to look at me, his eyes twinkling. “Sounds like we only got a few months left before everything changes around here?”
“Uh-huh.” I nod. “You mean before we basically never sleep again.”
“Fuck sleep,” he scoffs, picking me up in his arms. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I got other stuff on my mind.”
I burst out laughing. “What other stuff would that be?”
“You know damn well what I mean,” he growls as he carries me down the hallway. “I’m takin’ you to bed, Mrs. Abbott. We’ve only got seven months before Junior gets here. And I ain’t about to waste a single minute of it.”
I hope you loved Angel and Jewel’s wedding! You’ll be seeing more of them in the next books of the Lords of Carnage series — I promise!