Chapter 8:

The next morning, the kids went off to school, and Aiden and Hope went to the park together.

They held hands as they walked by the water.

"I can hardly wait to marry you. I have an idea for our wedding you know," Aiden said as they walked.

Hope smiled, and rested her head on his shoulder for a second. "What's the idea?"

"Well, I was thinking we could get married on a yacht. Wouldn't it be beautiful to have a wedding on the ship while sailing off into the sunset?"

"Then we could have the reception at night with pretty fairy lights all over the boat! I actually kind of love that idea," Hope said, looking up at him now.

"I know you said you and Bo used to go on your boat together. Would it remind you too much of you and Bo?" Aiden asked, concern in his voice. "Because if it does, we can totally just get married on the beach like we originally planned."

"It will be nothing like Bo and I because I am with you, and yours and my relationship is entirely new and fresh." Hope squeezed his hand. "We'll be making our own memories now."

Aiden stopped her, and faced her toward him, his hands over her cheeks. "I love you so much, Hope. I was so worried I was going to lose you when Bo came back in to town. The fact that you chose me over him, and that you still want to marry me…. You have no idea how happy you've made me."

Hope gently stroked his hair. "If it's half as happy as you make me, Aiden, I know exactly how you feel."

Aiden's eyes lowered with love for her, and they kissed.

After a moment, Hope broke the kiss, licking her lips. "So, I was thinking, I know Ciara had her heart set on being the flower girl, but we both know she is a bit too old for that. I was thinking we could have Ariana be our flower girl. I'm sure if I make Ciara a bride's maid, she'll be just as happy. What part are you giving Chase in the wedding? Her happiness is going to be dependent on her role verses his. She has to be at least equal to Chase. If she is anything less than his role, she will throw a fit. And trust me, Ciara's fits aren't pretty. Certainly not something we want to go through on our wedding day."

Aiden laughed. "Trust me, I know that oh too well. I was going to make him my best man since I don't have many friends here, but to make things easier, I can just make him a groomsman."

Hope placed a hand over Aiden's shoulder. "You know what? I'll just make Ciara my maid of honor. She definitely won't complain about being the most important person on my side."

"Besides you of course," Aiden said, kissing her again.

They kissed for a while more, then Hope broke the kiss again. "Seriously though, you really don't have many friends here. Who are you going to get to be your groomsmen?"

Aiden tapped his lips as if thinking about it. "Well, I suppose I could get Clyde to be in it." He put on his best hillbilly accent. "I reckon he'd be gosh darn happy as a cat in a yarn shop to be in it!"

Hope laughed, and swatted his arm. "Don't you dare!"

Aiden grinned. "Don't worry. I'm sure Daniel and Eric would be willing to be in it. Heck, I'll ask Rafe as well. Three should be good enough, right?"

Hope nodded. "That should be perfect." She latched her arm in his, and they continued to walk. "Do you think it would be too weird for me to ask Kayla to be a bridesmaid?"

"Well, she already gave you her approval when you first started dating me. She knows her brother abandoned you. I think she'd be happy to do it," Aiden replied.

"I know, but now that Bo is back, I'm worried she won't be on our side anymore." Hope knew that probably wouldn't be the case, but still, she worried.

"Talk to her about it. I'm sure she is still on our side." Aiden kissed her cheek. "Who else are you going to have? I'll have to find a ring bearer. Maybe Parker?"

"Parker would be perfect! Jennifer and Maggie maybe as bridesmaids besides Kayla?" Hope asked.

"Are you sure Maggie's not too old to be one?" Aiden joked.

Hope raised an eyebrow at him. "For your sake, I won't tell her you said that."

Aiden laughed. "I'm just saying, you don't see old bags as bridesmaids too often. They're usually young and pretty!"

Hope gasped, and playfully pushed him. "Aiden Jennings, you can be a real jackass when you want to be."

"Aw, come on! You know I was only joking." He pulled her closer to him by the waist. "Maggie is very beautiful and youthful looking, and she's always been on our side, which makes her okay in my book. I'm sure she will be honored to be your bridesmaid."

Hope smiled. "All right, I'll ask her." She hugged him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I just want everything to be perfect, and there's so much more to plan! Catering, color scheme, flowers…"

"We can get a wedding planner. Anyway, everything will be perfect because I'm finally marrying the woman of my dreams," Aiden murmured, his nose buried in her hair.

Hope sighed contently. "And I'm marrying my soul mate."

They kissed some more.

It was Aiden who broke the kiss this time. He took her hands in his own and kissed them. "Let's go back to my place."

Hope nodded. "I believe we have to finish something we started yesterday," she said with a grin, her lips against his ear.

"Why do you think I suggested going back to my place?" Aiden murmured.

They grinned at each other, then kissed once more before heading back to Aiden's hand-in-hand.

Hope arrived at the pub for dinner. After her mid-morning rendezvous with Aiden, they had gotten lunch together, then he had to go to work. She had then gone to Kayla's to talk to her. Kayla had assured her that, though she loved her brother, she loved Hope too, and as long as Hope was happy, she was happy. She was honored to be her bridesmaid.

That alone had put Hope in a good mood, and when Jennifer and Maggie had also happily accepted her offer to be bridesmaids, it had simply made her day perfect. She had even gotten Sonny and Will's permission to have Ari be their flower girl, so now she was all set when it came to her wedding party.

When she entered the pub, she wasn't surprised to see Bo there with Ciara. She had already agreed to have a family dinner together. That is, if she could still call Bo family. She supposed they would always be family.

She walked over and exchanged cheek kisses with Bo, then she sat down at the table with them. "Hello, Ciara! How was school today?"

"So cool! Daddy took me out early to spend the day with me. We went to the zoo and out to lunch. It was so fun!" Ciara said, excitement in her voice.

Hope glanced at Bo. "When did you take her out?"

Bo looked guilty. "Right before lunchtime. I'm sorry. I should have asked you first."

"Don't worry about it. You made Ciara happy, and she hadn't gotten to spend time with you in a while. Just don't make a habit out of it."

"So, how was your day?" Bo asked.

Hope looked over her menu. "It was good. Aiden and I planned out our wedding party." She looked at Ciara. "I was thinking you could be my maid of honor instead of the flower girl. Is that okay?"

Ciara grinned big. "Are you kidding me? I got a total upgrade! Score!" Then she paused. "What is Chase going to be?"

"Aiden's best man," Hope replied.

"Darn! I wanted to be of higher importance than him. Oh well, I'll still do my job better than he will."

Bo smirked. "Of higher importance? Where do you come up with this stuff? And you do realize all you have to do is stand there, right?"

"Not true! I have to help Mom plan the bachelorette party and the wedding," Ciara said defiantly.

Hope gently stroked Ciara's hair. "Um, Ciara, Honey, I think I'm going to leave the bachelorette party to Aunt Kayla and Cousin Jennifer. But I can totally use your help on everything else. Okay?"

Ciara sighed. "Okay I guess. I can hardly wait until I'm old enough to be part of the fun stuff!"

Bo and Hope both laughed.

"That's our daughter for ya," Hope said.

"I'm really going to miss her," Bo replied.

Hope looked at him in surprise. "What?"

"You're leaving again?" Ciara asked, clearly hurt.

"I still have work to do! But don't worry. I'm not going to disappear for years again. In fact, I was wondering if you wanted to spend the summer with me, sailing around the world. We can even stop by and see your brother. It would be nice to see Shawn, Belle, and your niece again, wouldn't it?" Bo smiled at Ciara, hopefulness in his tone.

Ciara looked at Hope. "Can I, Mom?"

Hope nodded. "I don't see why not if that's how you want to spend your summer. But what about the wedding?"

Ciara nodded. "I do want to spend it sailing the world! Can't you make your wedding the end of June when school ends? That way I can be in the wedding, and then we'll leave right after that."

Hope sighed. She supposed one month earlier wouldn't make a difference. Besides, Ciara could use this time with her father, she knew. "I'll talk to Aiden. It shouldn't be a problem."

Ciara squealed in happiness and looked over at her father. "Can we go to Paris? I always wanted to go to Paris!"

"We can go anywhere you'd like, Baby girl," Bo told her.

"Yay! Can you buy me new outfits for our trip too?" Ciara asked.

"Ciara!" Hope scolded.

Ciara shrugged. "What? I'm just asking. Aiden bought me a thousand dollar necklace, and he's not even my dad!"

"What? When did he buy you that?" Hoped asked in surprise.

"He bought me it as a bribe to shut up when I caught him looking through your rings before he proposed," Ciara tattled.

Hope shook her head. "I thought they looked out of place! He must have been looking for a ring so he'd know my size."

"I'll buy you anything you'd like for our trip within reason," Bo said to Ciara.

Ciara clapped her hands together and grinned. "Yay!"

"She's going to come home more spoiled than a rotten egg," Hope muttered.

"At least I won't be buying her a thousand dollar necklace," Bo quipped.

"His intentions were good, I'm sure," Hope defended Aiden.

Their server came then, and they ordered their food.

"I'm going to go tell grandma about my trip!" Ciara said once their server had left. She ran off toward the kitchen.

"Don't take long! Our food will be out shortly!" Hope called out after her.

"Thank you," Bo said to Hope once Ciara was gone. "For agreeing to move your wedding up, and for letting me take her."

"It's fine. Spending time with her father is way overdue and much needed," Hope said in understanding. Her tone turned serious then, and her eyes bore into Bo's. "But don't even think about not bringing her back. I swear to you, Bo, if you do that I will hunt you down and make you regret the day you were born."

Bo held his hands up. "I would never do that to you or Ciara. I know she needs her mother. I also realize now, she needs a steady home life. I know you and Aiden can give that to her. I'm going to try to be home a lot more often."

Hope nodded. "Good! Just so long as we have that understanding."

"That we do," Bo agreed. "But seriously, a thousand dollar necklace?"

Hope smiled and shook her head. "That's just Aiden for you." She knew she should be angry, but she simply couldn't be. The fact that Aiden wanted to surprise her so badly that he paid a thousand dollars to shut Ciara up… It made her fall even more madly in love with him than she already was.

As it turned out, Bo was gone the next morning after seeing Ciara off to school. He had an important job to do, and the less Hope knew the better, according to Bo.

Hope wasn't surprised. It was the same ol' same ol'. However, he promised he would not let Ciara down this time, and would be back to pick her up after the wedding.

Aiden had gladly agreed to move their wedding up, since he had wanted to get married earlier anyway. In fact, upon getting the new wedding date, which they had decided would June twenty-seventh, the last Saturday in June, he rented the yacht out for that date.

"So, Ciara tells me you bought her a thousand dollar necklace?" Hope asked, an eyebrow raised at Aiden as they ate breakfast together at the pub.

Aiden blushed. "I'm sorry. I had no choice. She blackmailed me. I wanted it to be a surprise that I was going to propose to you, but then she caught me looking through your rings. I wanted one so that I knew what size to have your engagement ring made up."

Hope smiled. "It's all right. Just don't go making a habit of buying her expensive things, all right?"

Aiden nodded. "No worries there. However, I'm still going to spoil my girls. You can't ask me not to do that!"

Hope grinned. "You don't have to do that, but I won't complain."

Aiden grinned too. "So, Chase was talking about going to a baseball camp now that Ciara won't be here to hang out with him this summer. I was thinking of sending him."

"But that would leave us the whole summer all to ourselves, newly married," Hope said, feigning innocence. She placed a hand to her heart. "Whatever shall we do, all alone, just the two of us?"

Aiden placed his hands over hers from across the table. "I think we can figure something out," he said, his voice lowered.

"I suppose we'll have to," Hope said, the desire easily seen in her eyes. "I can hardly wait to become your wife."

Aiden kissed her hands. "Five months, and we'll be married."

Hope kissed his hands in return. "Yes," she said with a smile. Five short months—less than a half year—and she would be Mrs. Aiden Jennings. "I'll be counting the days."

"Me too," Aiden replied.

Hope then got out of her seat and sat on his lap.

They the kissed, both so eager and excited for June 27 to finally arrive.

*The End*