By Lily Harlem
“It’s perfect, stunning, but...hang on, there’s a crease.” I fluffed my best friend Samantha’s lacy white veil. I was more nervous than her. We’d been in a whirlwind of excitement planning this day for two months and now, suddenly, it was here.
“I’m sure it’s fine, Harmony,” Samantha said, brushing her hand over the copious amounts of tulle that bushed out Cinderella-style from just above her hips.
I pulled in a deep breath, stopped fussing and stepped back to admire her. Samantha was always beautiful, even when she’d just rolled out of bed, but today she was a vision of loveliness. Her masses of soft blonde hair were piled high and topped with a small silver tiara from Tiffany & Co. Her vintage veil had belonged to her husband-to- be’s Russian grandmother and hung over her face and down her back. Her dress was made to measure and designed by Carolina Herrera. She held a bunch of pale pink roses, each one with a Swarovski crystal in the center. The bouquet sparkled as she moved, as though stars from the night sky had fallen into it.
“You look beautiful, darling,” her father said. “In fact, so beautiful I’m not convinced about all this giving-you- away business.”
“Oh, Daddy,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You know I’ll always be your little girl.”
He smiled and I could see love pouring from his eyes.
“The music is playing,” Darya, my fellow bridesmaid said, her accent strong. “My brother will be anxious, Samantha, and he is not a patient man.”
Samantha laughed. “Don’t I know it. Oh, hang on, wait a minute. Daddy, do you have that package I gave you earlier?”
He tapped his breast pocket. “Yes.” He withdrew two small pink velvet envelopes.
“Here,” Samantha said, passing one to me and one to Darya. “A little something from me to the two best bridesmaids in the world. I couldn’t have organized this wedding without the help of my best friend and my soon to be sister-in-law. You really are amazing and I love you both very much.”
My eyes misted and I blinked rapidly, trying not to disturb my mascara. “You didn’t need to—”
“Samantha—” Darya said.
“Quick, open them or they’ll be playing the Bridal March twice,” Samantha interrupted.
Hurriedly Darya and I unwrapped our presents. I held up a hair-thin silver necklace with a pale pink gemstone hanging from the center.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” I said.
Darya said something in Russian that I didn’t understand.
“Put them on,” Samantha said. “They’ll match your dresses.”
We fiddled quickly then I touched the stone that sat just below the dip of my throat. She was right, they did go wonderfully with our short, fitted, baby-pink dresses.
“Are we all quite ready?” Samantha’s father said, looking at his watch and giving a mock frown. “I don’t want to upset a church full of brutish hockey players.”
“I agree,” Samantha said, pulling in a deep breath and tilting her chin. “Let’s do this. I’m going to get married, right now.” She linked arms with her father, set down her shoulders and stepped forward.
Darya and I exchanged a nervous smile and followed Samantha and her father. I took a deep breath. My stomach was rolling and my heart beating wildly. Normally it was the bride who was nervous, but I was walking on weak knees and my palms were damp as I held my small bunch of pink roses.
It wasn’t because I was worried the wedding wouldn’t go to plan. Or that Samantha and hot-shot defenseman for the Orlando Vipers, Vadmir Arefyev, wouldn’t be eternally happy together. They would be, they were a perfect match. No, it was because he would be there, standing at the head of the altar right next to the groom. He’d be all big and gorgeous in an Armani suit that Darya and I had collected the week before. I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with seeing him after all this time. Awkward just wasn’t a big enough word. Soul-achingly cringeworthy went somewhere near it.
It had been several months since I’d captured the eye of Jackson Price, rookie goaltender for the Vipers. He’d given me an autograph, a seductive smile and then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’d felt bad ditching Samantha, for a nanosecond, and then I’d had one of the best nights of my life.
Jackson had taken me back to his place and we’d got straight down to business. We both knew what we wanted and boy, did we take it. He’d been like a stallion all night, endless stamina and a body that was made for being licked all over. And lick I had, and sucked and kissed and anything else he’d let me do which, as it turned out, was whatever I wanted.
My cheeks heated at the memory as the piped organ music pulled me into the moment. Faces were turning our way accompanied by gasps and ohs of delight. Everyone was as wowed as me by Samantha’s bridal beauty.
The aisle was long and a flutter of petals, newly settling from behind Samantha’s voluminous dress, floated around my high heels as I moved. I stared at the back of the bride’s head, studying the intricate lace on her veil. Then I looked at the petals, at my bouquet. I looked everywhere except the pew at the end of the aisle. The groom and his best man were not my concern. I was only interested in Samantha; she was my responsibility.
Eventually the aisle ran out and Samantha turned to Darya and handed over her flowers.
Still I stared straight ahead. A fat church candle, the flame shivering in a draft, held my attention.
“Harmony,” Samantha said, a slight frown creasing her brow.
“Yes,” I said, a smile automatically forming on my lips.
Must not look to the right.
He was there. I could see his massive outline and sense his overwhelming presence. I stepped forward and carefully, still holding my flowers, lifted Samantha’s veil over her head. Cautiously, as though it was the most important job in the world, I then smoothed it flat and neat so that it hung just tickling her tanned shoulders. My hands were trembling but I hoped anyone who noticed would put it down to the nerves of my vital veil job and not Jackson’s proximity.
I started to turn away, but like a magnet my gaze was drawn to him.
He was staring straight at me. Eyes darker than sin and a mouth that was made for kissing...and more.
My stomach rolled and my heart sped up. For a split second it was like we were the only people in the church. Everyone else faded into the background.
Jackson Price was as gorgeous and dangerous as I remembered him to be. His black hair was freshly cut, and his mouth held a cocky half-grin. How could he look so chilled, so unruffled when I felt as though my skin was on fire and my nerves were jangling?
He dropped his gaze down my body and one side of his mouth curled a little more.
Was he remembering me naked? Naked and on my hands and knees with him driving into me, fucking me hard and fast? Or was he thinking about how he’d wrapped my legs around his shoulders and feasted on my pussy until I’d cried out with the exhaustion of multiple orgasms.
“We are gathered here today...”
The Reverend’s voice brought me back to the present. Quickly I stepped away from Samantha and Vadmir and took my place next to Darya in the pews.
I settled my gaze on Vadmir, refusing to let Jackson think he was the only man I wanted to look at, even though it was true.
Vadmir was gazing down at his bride. Adoration was written all over his features. On the ice he had a grim expression—his eyes were like chips from a glacier and the hard angles of his jaw and cheeks only added to the dangerous, bad-boy image he projected. But, I’d noticed, as soon as Samantha walked into a room that all changed. He was like a big fierce Rottweiler whose beloved owner had returned home and now all he wanted was his belly tickled. Suddenly he didn’t look so dangerous anymore, though I dreaded to think what he’d do to anyone who upset his woman.
Love from a man like that was something I longed for. But, working on the airlines as an international stewardess had limited my relationships and I was a one-night stand kind of girl. Though with Jackson I would have happily changed that rule to a two or three-night stand. He was something else. A genius goaltender, looks that models would hurl themselves off the catwalk for, and sexual techniques that put a smile on my face whenever I remembered them.
Damn, I was looking at him again. But that was okay because he was facing forward and offering the rings for blessing. I dropped my gaze to his butt. Beneath the suit jacket, which skimmed the bottom curve of his ass cheeks, I knew the view would be very nice indeed. Remove the pants and it would be damn near perfect. He had such a hot ass. Neat, tight buttocks just a fraction paler than the rest of his sun-tanned skin and a lovely dip in the small of his back that had been just right for stroking my tongue along. His skin was soft, slightly salty and he’d trembled as I’d teased him with my mouth.
I suppressed a shiver of desire. The memories of that night did that to me. Caught me unaware at times and released a shot of lust into my bloodstream. I remembered biting his right ass cheek. He’d actually had a crescent of tiny bruises the next morning. We’d laughed about it then he’d thrown me over his knee, slapped my butt and evened up the score with a mark on my ass, too. My buttocks tingled now and I clenched my cheeks
together. Damn, that had been hot. No guy had ever done that to me before but Jackson hadn’t hesitated. A swift slap and then a kiss that took my breath away. That was right before we’d had to say goodbye and I’d headed to work and he’d hit the rink.
There’d been no exchange of numbers. We both knew it for what it was—one night of fun and as much sex as we could handle.
“You may kiss the bride!”
I startled a little as the church erupted in a round of applause. Vadmir took Samantha into his arms and kissed her with a passion that was not suitable for a place of worship. But it seemed neither of them cared and nor did the Reverend. On and on they held each other, kissing deeper and deeper until Samantha eventually pushed her new husband’s shoulder and broke away with a giggle.
The organ music started up again and the bride and groom linked arms. Vadmir was looking as though he might strip his new wife naked right now. Darya passed me Samantha’s bouquet. Quickly I stepped from the pew, passed the bride her flowers and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Congratulations,” I whispered.
“Thanks.” She smiled and in all my life I’d never seen anyone so happy. It melted my heart. She deserved everything and more.
Vadmir took a deep breath, straightened his tie, then walked his bride away. I stared at their backs and Samantha’s dress disturbing the petals on the aisle once again.
“Shall we?” said a deep voice to my left.
“Mmm?” I looked up.
Jackson was holding out the crook of his arm. Damn, I was supposed to be walking out with an usher called Glen, one of Samantha’s cousins. I glanced around and saw Glen glance up at Jackson and then step back with a defeated expression.
“He’s going with the other girl.” Jackson jerked his head at Darya. “I’ve got you.”
“Oh, okay,” I managed, switching my flowers to the other hand and then slipping my hand through his arm.
He’s got me?