It Happened One Wedding Page 86

He stared right at her.

So intense and direct was his gaze, Sidney found herself unable to look away—her eyes stayed locked with his the entire way to the altar. Then she walked up the two steps, and took her place next to the other bridesmaids.

“Well. That was interesting,” Simon said, standing between her and Vaughn.

The church’s wedding coordinator cued the processional music, and Sidney watched as Isabelle came down the aisle on their father’s arm. The pastor ran through an abridged dry run of the ceremony, making sure that the two readers and the soloist all knew their cues, and then Simon and Isabelle started off the recessional.

Sidney and Vaughn were up next. He stepped toward her, and she slid her arm through his. They moved down the steps in tandem and began heading up the aisle.

“I got your message last night,” Vaughn said. “I wanted to call you back, but it was after two o’clock in the morning by the time I heard it.”

“Late night, huh?” Wondering why he’d been occupied until two A.M., she felt her stomach tie in a knot when she realized it was entirely possible that he’d been with another woman. Which he was entitled to do—obviously, she had no claim over him.

“We need to talk,” he said, ignoring her question.

“Okay, talk.”

“Alone,” he said. “Stay back when the rest of the group leaves for the restaurant. I’ll drive you.”

They were almost at the end of the aisle, where Isabelle and Simon were waiting. Sidney hesitated, suddenly not sure what anything meant—the way Vaughn had looked at her while she’d been walking the aisle, her mother’s purse, his mysterious late night out, and now his wanting to “talk.”

“Please, Sidney,” he said, his voice more sincere than she’d ever heard it.

She nodded. “Sure.” Then she smiled as they reached Isabelle and Simon. “Whew. That is one long aisle.”

The rest of the bridesmaids and groomsmen filed in behind them. Because they’d started so late, the next wedding party was already waiting in the vestibule as they finished. Things turned chaotic after that, as the wedding planner wrapped things up and tried to hustle everyone out of the incoming group’s way. Purses and coats were quickly gathered from the church as people coordinated who was driving with whom to the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner.

Sidney watched as Vaughn spoke with Simon, presumably to explain that he would give her a ride to the restaurant. The brothers exchanged a look, and Simon clasped Vaughn’s shoulder before heading off to join the others.

Vaughn returned to Sidney, putting his hand on the small of her back to lead her through the crowd in the direction of a side door. They stepped outside, into an open-air portico with wide stone arches that looked out at a serene garden.

“This way,” he said, cutting through the garden. On the far end of the grounds was a bench hidden almost entirely by green shrubbery.

He gestured to the bench. “Why don’t you sit down?”

Now he was starting to freak her out a little. He was just acting so . . . serious. “All right,” she said cautiously, taking a seat.

Vaughn peered down at her. “Just a heads-up, I’m probably going to fumble my way through this. So bear with me.”

She wasn’t following. “Fumble your way through what?”

He looked at her for another moment, then bent down on one knee.

Sidney’s heart leapt out of her chest. “Oh my God, what are you doing?”

“Um . . . getting eye-to-eye so we can talk,” he said, as if this were evident.

“Oh. Right.”

“And . . . here I’d felt a little awkward before.” Vaughn got up and took a seat on the bench. He ran his hand through his hair, as if debating where to begin. “Yesterday, something happened at work. Things got a little hairy during an undercover meeting.”

Sidney frowned, not liking the sound of that. “How hairy?”

“One of the guys went for his gun, so I pulled out my gun, and then his five friends all pulled their guns on me.”

“Oh. So, by ‘a little hairy,’ you meant that you almost got killed yesterday. Granted, I’m not an FBI agent, so maybe I’m not down with the lingo, but to me that sounds more than a little hairy. Like, I’d probably call that monumentally hairy. Or colossally hairy. And, well . . .” She trailed off, all riled up and feeling relieved and worried at the same time. But more than anything, she wanted to be sure of one thing. “Are you okay?”

He touched her cheek. “I’m okay. You know what helped? When I got home last night and heard your message. Your voice made me smile, just like you always make me smile.” He turned to face her. “We’re good together, Sidney. And I know you feel it, too. These past couple months I’ve been fighting the way I feel because this is definitely not what I had planned, but the truth is . . . I’m in love with you.”

When her eyes widened in surprise, he kept right on going. “I know you’re afraid of getting hurt again. I know you think I’m not the right man for you. You sized me up the moment we met and made up your mind right then. And you’re right, the guy who walked up to you that day in the coffee shop wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. But that guy is gone.” He peered down into her eyes. “He’s been replaced by a man who can’t imagine his life without you.”

She cocked her head, her voice soft. “Vaughn . . . ”

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