Natalie took a deep breath and nodded. “I can’t believe it either, really. But let’s make it happen before reality sets in and I launch into a panic attack. Go tell everyone the bride is ready and cue the musicians.”
Gretchen disappeared and Natalie waited a few moments until she knew the doors to the chapel were closed. She stepped out to find her father, looking dumbfounded, on the bench outside. “Hi, Daddy.”
He shot up from his seat, freezing as he saw her in her dress. “You look amazing. I’m not sure what’s going on, but you look more beautiful than any bride I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Natalie leaned in to hug him. “It’s a long story, but I’m glad you’re here.”
The music grew louder, cueing up the bride. Natalie nearly reached for her headset before she remembered she was the bride this time. “Let’s go get married, Daddy.”
They walked to the doors and waited for them to swing open. The chapel was filled with people, all of them standing at the bride’s arrival. It was hard for her to focus on any of them, though. Her eyes instantly went to the front of the chapel.
Colin stood there in his tuxedo, looking as handsome as ever. There wasn’t a touch of nervousness on his face as he watched her walk down the aisle. There was nothing but adoration and love on his face. Looking into his eyes, she felt her own anxiety slip away. It was just like at the rehearsal. Everything faded away but the two of them.
Before she knew it, they’d walked the long aisle and were standing at the front of the chapel. Her father gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek before passing her hand off to the waiting Colin. “Take care of my girl,” he warned his future son-in-law before taking his seat.
They stepped up onto the raised platform together and waited for the pastor to start the ceremony.
“Dearly beloved, we gather here today to celebrate the blessed union ? of Frank and Lily.”
Colin cleared his throat, interrupting the pastor as a rumble of voices traveled through the chapel. “Colin and Natalie,” he corrected in a whisper.
The pastor’s eyes widened in panic when he realized his mistake. Natalie had worked with this pastor before and knew that he had the names typed into his text. “Oh yes, so sorry. To celebrate the blessed union ? of Colin and Natalie.”
The pastor continued on, but all Natalie could hear was the beating of her own heart. All she could feel was Colin’s warm hand enveloping hers. When the pastor prompted them to turn and face each other, they did, and Natalie felt a sense of peace in Colin’s gaze. He smiled at her, brushing his thumbs across the backs of her hands in a soothing motion.
“Are you okay?” he whispered.
Natalie nodded. She had never been better.
“Do you, Colin Edward Russell, take Natalie Lynn Sharpe to be your lawfully wedded wife? Will you love and respect her? Will you be honest with her? Will you stand by her through whatever may come until your days on this Earth come to an end?”
“And do you, Natalie Lynn Sharpe, take Colin Edward Russell to be your lawfully wedded husband? Will you love and respect him? Will you be honest with him? Will you stand by him through whatever may come until your days on this Earth come to an end?”
She took a deep breath, a momentary flash of panic lighting in Colin’s eyes. “I will,” she said with a grin.
“Fra-Colin,” the pastor stuttered. “What token do you give of the vows you have made?”
“A ring,” Colin replied, pulling the same ring box from his coat pocket that he’d presented her with on the stage Wednesday night.
“You had the ring with you?” Natalie whispered.
“I was mad, but I hadn’t given up on you yet.” Colin opened the box and settled the exquisite diamond ring over the tip of her finger.
“Repeat after me. I give you this ring as a token of my vow.” He paused, allowing Colin to respond. “With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you, and with this ring, I thee wed.”
“...and with this ring, I thee wed,” Colin repeated, slipping the ring onto her finger and squeezing her hand reassuringly.
“Natalie,” the pastor asked, “what token do you give of the vows you have made?”
In an instant, Natalie’s blood ran cold. She’d planned every moment, every aspect of this wedding. Everything but the rings. She had no ring. “I don’t have anything,” she whispered to the pastor.
The pastor hesitated, looking around the room for an answer to the problem as though there would be rings dangling from the ceiling on threads. This was probably the most stressful ceremony he’d ever done.