She reached for another, hesitating as she noticed Colin standing a few feet away. “Have you spoken with your sister?” she asked, very cold and professional once again.
“Yes. Will we still have a rehearsal?”
“Yes.” Natalie set down a snowflake and turned toward him. “It’s not just for the benefit of the bride and groom. It helps the pastor, the musicians and the rest of the wedding party. They only have a best man and maid of honor, so it might be a short rehearsal, but it’s still needed to get everyone else comfortable with the flow.”
“Are the others here?”
“We’re just waiting on the maid of honor.”
“What about the parts for the bride and groom in the ceremony?”
“We’ll have to get someone to stand in for them both. I’ve had to do this before—it’s not a big deal. I had a bride get food poisoning, and she missed everything leading up to the ceremony. It all turned out fine.”
“Okay.” Her confidence made him feel better despite the anxious tension in his shoulders. “I’ll stand in for Frankie, if you need me to. I’m not in the wedding party, so I don’t have anything else to do.”
Natalie smiled politely and reached for her paper snowflake again. “Thanks for volunteering. You can go into the chapel and wait with the others if you like. We’ll begin momentarily.”
Even though he was angry with her, he couldn’t stand to see the blank, detached expression on her face when she looked at him. He wanted to see those dark brown eyes filled with love, or even just the light of passion or laughter. He wanted to reach out and shake her until she showed any kind of emotion. Anger, fear, he didn’t care. She had been so afraid to feel anything before they met. He worried that after their blowup, she’d completely retreat into herself. He might not be the one who got to love her for the rest of her life, but someone should.
Natalie would have to let someone, however, and he had no control over that.
He wanted to say something to her. Anything. But he didn’t want to start another fight here. Instead, he nodded and disappeared into the chapel to wait with the others. That was the best thing to do if they were going to get through all this without more turmoil than they already had.
The maid of honor walked in a few minutes later with Natalie on her heels. She had her headset on and her stiff, purposeful walk had returned.
“Okay, everyone, I’m going to go over this once, quickly, then we will walk through the whole ceremony so everyone gets a feel for their roles and how it will all go.”
Colin stood with his arms crossed over his chest as she handed out instructions to the string quartet in the corner, the ushers and the wedding party.
“Colin is our stand-in groom today. After you escort in your parents, you and the best man are going to follow the pastor in and wait at the front of the church for the ceremony to start. Everyone ready?”
All the people in the chapel, excepting the musicians, went out into the hall. Colin and the best man, Steve, followed Pastor Greene into the chapel, taking their places on the front platform. The string quartet played a soothing melody that sounded familiar, but he didn’t know the name. At the back of the room, Natalie gave a cue to the pastor before slipping into the vestibule. He asked everyone to rise. The musicians transitioned to a different song, playing louder to announce the coming of the bridal party.
The doors opened and the maid of honor made her way down the aisle. She moved to the opposite side of the landing and waited for the doors to open a final time. The music built a sense of anticipation that made Colin anxious to see what was about to happen, even as a stand-in groom for a rehearsal.
The doors of the chapel swung open, and standing there holding a bouquet of silk flowers, was Natalie. His chest tightened as she walked down the aisle toward him. She was wearing a burgundy silk blouse and a black pencil skirt instead of a white gown, but it didn’t matter. The moment was all too real to Colin.
But with every step she took, reality sunk in even more. This wasn’t their rehearsal and they weren’t getting married. She had turned him down, flat, in front of a couple thousand people and a country music star. The sentimental feelings quickly dissipated, the muscles in his neck and shoulders tightening with irritation and anger.
Natalie avoided his gaze as she approached the platform. She looked only at the pastor. Her full lips were thin and pressed hard into a line of displeasure. Neither of them seemed very happy to have to go through all this so soon after their blowup.