Chapter 8

Elizabeth sighed as Emily left the room. It was crazy but she needed a few minutes alone today. She was marrying Jason. All the long years, all the separations, all the planning. It came to this. In less than fifteen minutes, she would walk down the aisle and pledge her life to his.

She smiled. It was just a ceremony to formalize what had already happened. She had given herself to him in a seedy bar nearly a decade ago and this was the resulting celebration.

Elizabeth had often asked herself what would have happened if she had been more truthful about her feelings in the past. If they had tried too soon, would it have lasted? Honestly, she was so very thankful for Jason and the boys and their life that she couldn't have regrets. She accepted that all the bad times were the price paid for the good. And, boy, were things ever good now.

"Penny for your thoughts."

"Steven, today they're free." Elizabeth twirled, showing off her pale peach gown. "Today, I'm finally marrying the right man for the right reasons. And my handsome brother is here to march me down the aisle."

Steven tilted his head to the right. "You know, with Ric and even with Lucky, I worried. It's crazy because I should be even more worried today."

"Are you?"

Steven sighed and sat on the dressing table's stool. "No and that worries me. You're marrying into the biggest crime syndicate on the East Coast and I'm happy. Maybe I should check myself into Shadybrook."

Elizabeth crossed to him and gently ran her fingers through his hair. "Jason's not in the mob anymore. Even if he was, and again, HE'S NOT, you know that he's a good man. He's perfect for me."

Steven caught her hand and stood. "You realize that it's impossible for me to argue with you today?"

She laughed. "Since this is the last time I'll be a bride, I'm going to use that to my advantage." Elizabeth's eyes gleamed with a devilish twinkle. "How's Emily?"

He tugged her to the door. "Later, dear sister. Let's get you married to the mob first, okay?"

Emily watched as her brother fidgeted. He really fidgeted and she wanted to savor the moment. "Tell me you're not nervous."

Jason met her gaze and shrugged. "I just hate the tuxedo." He paused and shrugged again. "Okay, maybe not nervous but anxious."

"Why?"

Jason squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I want her, Emily. I want to stand in front of the people she loves and say the words."

Emily crossed the room and hugged him tight. "Soon, Jase. A few more minutes and you'll get to do exactly that." Em leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm so happy for you both. I knew long before either of you would admit it that you belonged together. In a way, that makes today my special day, too."

Jason grunted. "Are you telling me that my wedding is about you?"

"Sure."

Jason chuckled and all his concerns fled. "Thank you."

Emily kissed his cheek. "I love you, Jase. I'm so happy for you."

"I love you, too."

Elizabeth was caught up in Emily's eager embrace almost as soon as they made their entrance into the reception. "We're sisters! Can you believe it?"

Liz grinned. "Well, that was the whole point of the wedding."

Emily laughed. "Of course! You don't think Jase thought it was about him, do you?"

The girls' joking only brought smiles to their brothers' faces. The two men didn't speak but the animosity of the past was noticeably absent. It was the best they could do.

Emily watched as her brother led his new wife around the dance floor of the MetroCourt. He was elegant and she was graceful.

"They look good together, but don't tell him I said that."

Emily met Steven's eyes with a mock glare. "You really need to lay off him. He makes your sister happier than I've ever seen her."

Steven held his hands up in surrender. "Agreed. I just don't want him to think I like him. Ruins the whole vibe we've got going."

Emily shook her head in resignation. "You're terrible."

He nodded his agreement. "True but I'm an excellent dance partner. Shall we?"

She took his hand and followed not to the center of the floor but to the balcony. "What are we doing out here?"

Steven pulled her close. "How are you doing?"

She drew her brows together. "I'm wonderful. I'm the one who approves of this wedding. How are you doing?"

Steven sighed. "Not with the wedding. I heard Mr. Guza died early this morning and I know how hard you've been trying to save him."

Emily leaned against the balcony rail. "Some people can't be saved. We all know that."

"That doesn't make the loss any easier."

She straightened and tossed her hair back. "No, it doesn't. Thank you for caring, but I really don't want to think about it right now."

He took a step closer, giving her time to retreat. When she didn't, he put his hands on her waist and drew her close. "If you don't want this…"

"I do," she whispered.

Their mouths met softly, slowly getting to know the taste and feel of each other. When she thought she would float right off the floor, he touched his tongue to her bottom lip and she opened her mouth in response. After that, the sensations were so incredible that she could no longer think. For countless minutes, they delved deep into each other's mouths while their hands stroked their bodies into nearly blind heat.

When Steven broke contact, Em collapsed against his shoulder. "Wow."

He dropped his cheek to the top of her head. "Yeah."

"Steven, I, well, I care about you. A lot."

"I know. I care about you, too."

Emily pulled back slightly and placed a hand on his cheek. "So, let's see where this leads."

Steven smiled. "I like the way you think."

Elizabeth twirled the delicate platinum band around her finger. They had done it. They had stood in front of friends and family and made vows. She glanced at her new husband. "Penny for your thoughts."

Jason smiled down at his bride. "What does that mean?"

She laughed. "Beats me. Steven's big on saying it to me."

Jason looked at the dance floor where Steven was currently swaying with Emily. "Do you think…?"

"Yes."

Jason frowned. "You didn't let me finish."

Elizabeth smiled. "You were about to ask me if I thought Steven and Emily were falling in love and I do. In fact, I think we'll soon be attending their wedding."

Jason continued to frown. "She's been through so much."

"He understands that."

Jason forced his thoughts to brighter things. "Why orange?"

"What?"

"Why aren't you wearing white?"

Her mouth dropped. "This is not orange! It's the palest peach they make!" He just stared. "Okay, I've been married before and I've worn white. I wanted the dress I wore for you to be different and special and unique." She lowered her eyelids and coquettishly glanced up at him. "Do you like it?"

Jason kissed her forehead. "Yes. You're beautiful, more than any other woman."

Elizabeth laid her head on his chest as he wrapped his arms around her. "Thank you for saying that, for believing it. Thank you for giving me all my dreams."

Jason nudged her face to his and gently kissed her lips. "They're my dreams, too. Remember?"

She smiled radiantly. "That moment, when you said you didn't dream, that was such a big thing for me. To have you listen to me and want to share my dreams. I think I finally realized then just how special you are to me."

Jason returned her smile. "Oh, I think I knew it the night you first noticed the stars, after that bike ride."

Her eyes widened as he took her hand and led her to the dance floor. To have a man who swore he couldn't dance voluntarily do that very thing for a second time in the same evening only proved to her how right she had been all those years ago. "I love you, Jason Morgan."

"I love you, too, Elizabeth Morgan."

the end