Daring Brides

By: Ava Miles

“You take my breath away,” he whispered to her.

“I was just thinking the same thing.”

He flashed her that devilish smile, the same one that had made her heart go pa-rum-pum-pum that first night at Hairy’s Irish Pub. It played the same beat now.

They took their places in front of the minister she’d known all her life, and the ceremony began. Everything else faded away. As she stared into her love’s eyes, she heard the minister talk about how they’d met and then her cousins, Caroline and Matt, read the two passages they’d selected. His was “Every Day” by David Levithan while hers was by “Looking For Your Face” by Rumi.

She mouthed the first line to the Rumi poem as it was read.

From the beginning of my life I have been looking for your face, but today I have seen it.

He raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it with such exquisite tenderness she felt tears form in her eyes.

“I love you,” he mouthed back, and a single tear cruised down her cheek.

When it came time to say their vows, she took a deep breath. They’d decided to write their own—they were journalists, after all—but mostly, she’d wanted this ceremony to be so different from her first that it was unrecognizable.

“Meredith,” Tanner began, holding her hand firmly in his own, “when I came to Dare Valley after traveling the world, I was an empty shell. Burned out. Hollow. I didn’t believe there was any good in the world. I certainly didn’t believe in romantic love.”

She felt a smile touch the corners of her mouth as more tears filled her eyes.

“And then I found you. I know you were looking for someone else, some hero from a Nora Roberts novel. Lucky for me, you think I’m that guy. I don’t know about that, but I do know this. I’m the one who loves you every which way, who wants to curl up on the couch with you on these endless winter nights, who wants to explore and enjoy your mind as we work together at the family newspaper your grandfather built. I promise to always be faithful. I promise to always be there for you, whatever comes. I promise to be a good father if we are blessed with children. And I know it will be easy because loving you and being with you is the single greatest joy of my entire life.”

She had to reach back and shake her hand so Jill would know she needed a tissue. They’d agreed on a signal before the wedding. As soon as it was delivered, he took it from her and dabbed at her tears, his whole heart in his eyes.

After taking a few deep breaths, she smiled and said, “Tanner, when I came to Dare Valley, I was looking for myself, for the woman I’d lost somewhere in New York. With Divorcee Woman’s help, I found her. And I’m grateful for that. I want to come to you whole and complete.”

He tilted his head to the side and gazed into her eyes, likely remembering just how lost she’d been. Her divorce had taken a toll on her, and it had forced her to take a hard look at both the woman she’d become and the woman she wanted to be.

“I returned to Dare Valley on a quest to prove fairy tales still exist like they do in Nora Roberts’ books. But you taught me one very important thing. That a real hero is better than any storybook character, and true love is more incredible than any love story could ever describe. I love you with a heart that seems to have grown a thousand times bigger these last months. And even though I can’t imagine loving you more than I do right now, I know I will as we work together and play together and have a family together here in Dare Valley. Thank you for loving me and accepting me as I am. I promise to love you the same way.”

He pressed their foreheads together when she finished, and she could feel he was struggling with the strong emotion flowing between them. When he seemed more settled, he edged back and traced her face with his free hand.

“For always,” he whispered.

“For always,” she whispered back.

Then the minister blessed the rings, and it made her cry again to see Tanner slide her Grandma Harriet’s ruby and diamond wedding ring onto her finger. She looked over her shoulder to see her grandpa wiping at the tears in his eyes. When he caught her looking, he gave her a thumbs-up, and she simply nodded over the tightness in her throat. Neither of them needed to give voice to the understanding that passed between them.

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