Page 53

A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:26

“I know,” Natalie said with a sigh. “I realized that today when we were standing on the altar during the rehearsal. Up there, holding his hands and looking into his eyes, I realized that I want to be with Colin. I want to marry him. He’s worth the risk. But it’s too late. I’ve ruined everything. He won’t even speak to me about anything but Lily’s wedding.”

“I think he might just need a little time. You’ve both got a lot on your minds with the wedding. They’re so stressful. But once that’s done, I say reach out to him. Put your heart on the line the way he did. Take the risk. If he says no, you haven’t lost anything. But if you can get him to listen to how you feel, you can gain everything.”

Natalie nodded and dried the last of her tears. Gretchen was right. How had she become a relationship expert so quickly?

She knew what she had to do now. She had to hand her heart to Colin on a silver platter and pray he didn’t crush it.

Colin was trying to keep his mind occupied. Just a few more hours and all this would be over. He could give the keys to the house to his sister, pay the bill for the wedding and walk out of this place like he’d never fallen in love with Natalie Sharpe.

Sure, it would be that easy.

He was busying himself by greeting guests as they came into the chapel. He assisted the ushers in handing out programs, hugging and kissing friends and family as they came in. A lot of folks had shown up for Lily’s big day and he was pleased. They had sent out a lot of email invitations, but in the rush, he wasn’t sure who had accepted until they walked in the door.

He was very surprised to see Natalie’s mother and father walk into the chapel. They had big smiles on their faces as they chatted and made their way over to him. Perhaps time and distance had healed their wounds, even if Natalie’s remained fresh.

“Mr. Sharpe,” Colin said, shaking the man’s hand.

“Doing well,” he lied. “So glad you could make it for Lily and Frankie’s big day.”

He hugged Natalie’s mother and the usher escorted them all down the aisle to their seats. Casually, he glanced at his watch. It was getting close to time. He’d expected to see Frankie by now, but every bearded, tattooed guy that caught his eye was just a guest of the groom.

Glancing across the foyer, he spotted Natalie and instantly knew that something was wrong. She looked decidedly flustered and he didn’t expect that of her, even after everything that happened last night. She looked very put-together, as usual, in a light gray linen suit with her headset on and her crystal-encrusted tablet clutched to her chest, but there was an anxiety lining her dark eyes.

As much as he didn’t want to talk to her, he made his way through the crowd of arriving wedding guests to where she was standing. “What’s the matter?”

Taking him by the elbow, she led him into the hallway near her office where they were out of the guests’ earshot. “They’re not here yet.”

“Your sister and her fiancé. The flight they were supposed to be on landed four hours ago, I checked, but I haven’t heard a word from either of them. I’ve got a hair and makeup crew twiddling their thumbs. The wedding starts in thirty minutes and I’ve got no couple to marry.”

An icy-cold fear started rushing through his veins. He’d worried about this almost from the moment he’d insisted that Lily have a formal wedding. It didn’t surprise him at all. She’d given in to his request far too easily. He should’ve known she’d do something like this when the opportunity arose. “I’m sure they’re on their way,” he said, trying to soothe her nerves even as his lit up with panic. “This has to happen all the time, right?”

“No. It’s never happened. I have had grooms bail, brides bail, but never both of them together. You’ve got to track her down. Now. She’s not answering my calls.”

“Okay. I’ll try calling her right now.” He stepped away from her office and went down the hall to the far corner where the sounds of the crowd wouldn’t interfere. As he was about to raise the phone to his ear, it vibrated and chimed in his hand. When he looked down, it was like someone had kicked him in the stomach. The air was completely knocked out of him.

It was a photo text from his sister. She and Frankie were standing under the Chapel of Love sign, sporting wedding rings. They were wearing jeans. She had a little veil on her head and a carnation bouquet in her hand. “Guess what? We decided to stay in Vegas and elope! Sorry about the plans.”