Daring Brides

By: Ava Miles

Tanner swept the seven-year-old into his arms for a quick hug. “You bet.” If he hadn’t been so eager to spend every moment of the reception with his bride, he would have offered to give them a tour himself.

Because he was an adjunct professor at the Hale School of Journalism, he’d struck upon the idea of holding their wedding reception there. Didn’t they host banquets for award-winning journalists and other events? Why not a wedding reception?

Meredith, being a journalist herself, had loved the idea, and her cousin, Natalie, had agreed to cater the event. Arthur had been preening like a peacock from the moment they’d announced their engagement, and the news that the event would be held in a school of journalism had only amplified his excitement. He was imagining all of the baby journalists Tanner and Meredith would create together, ensuring his famous newspaper, The Western Independent, stayed in the Hale family for generations to come.

His phone rang, and he checked the display. His brother. David hadn’t been able to make it to the wedding due to his wife’s advancing pregnancy, and it was probably for the best. They weren’t on good terms right now, which he hoped would change.

“Hi, David,” he said when he answered.

“I know you’re busy since it’s getting close to the ceremony, but I was thinking about you and wanted to wish you congratulations on your big day.”

“Thanks,” he replied. “I’m just hanging out with Peggy and Keith and my best man.”

“Tell them all hello,” David said. Then, abruptly, “Well, I’ll let you go.”

“It was nice of you to call, David.”

“Bye, Tanner,” he simply said and clicked off.

Peggy didn’t say anything, but she didn’t need to. The frown on her face said it all.

“Peggy, weren’t you going to show me your version of the chokehold?” Asher asked. The note of forced cheer in his voice told Tanner he hadn’t missed the tension in the room.

Leave it to his best man and his sister to bond over chokehold techniques.

“I still can’t believe someone as pretty as you even knows what one is,” Peggy said with some sauce in her tone.

“Many have been fooled by this face,” Asher said, holding up a hand to the profile Tanner had seen dozens of women drool over.

“All right,” Peggy said, standing up and planting her feet. “Show me what you’ve got.”

As Peggy and Asher circled each other, Tanner extended his hand to Keith. “How about you and I go find Arthur?”

The boy simply nodded. “I like our new family.” Hearing that was like feeling warm sunshine pour into his heart.

“Me too,” he replied and escorted his nephew out of the room before things got too crazy. Peggy was already wrapping her arm around Asher’s neck.

Arthur was being his endearing, curmudgeonly self when Tanner and Keith found him in the vestibule with the rest of the males in the Hale family and their single female representative, Natalie. Tanner had met Meredith’s Denver cousins already, and they all seemed to be cut from the same cloth as their Dare Valley counterparts.

“Well, well, well,” Arthur drolled. “If it isn’t the groom. Although it’s hard to recognize you as such since you’re not wearing a tuxedo.”

“I hate monkey suits,” Tanner told him with a shrug.

Thank God, Meredith had understood how much he hated formal attire. She’d been okay with his choice of a cream tan suit with an open-collar white shirt. No tie. It was more of a beach look, Jill had told him, but he’d added a splash of panache with the red silk handkerchief in deference to Meredith’s choice of red amaryllis flowers for her bouquet.

“Can I have a red hot?” Keith asked the elderly man, who dutifully dug one out of his pant’s pocket.

“Do you want one?” Arthur asked, turning to him.

“Better not. It might give me a red tongue, and that would be awkward for when I say, ‘I do.’” He stuck his tongue out playfully to Keith, who laughed like he’d just said the silliest thing ever.

“I want a red tongue,” Keith said, sticking out his tongue and pointing to it before he popped a candy into his mouth.

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