Time passed quickly for the happy couple as they made the arrangements for the upcoming nuptials. The only thing they didn't have to worry about was the reception because true to their word Antonio and Rosa Giovanni were taking care of everything. There would be sixty guests at the reception, mostly family and close friends. Even Lew Wickersham had sent word that nothing would keep him away.
Valentine's Day dawned with the sun casting her golden cape over the land, bringing the promise of the start of a wonderful day and a lifetime of happiness for the soon to be newlyweds. Joe had slept, but sporadically as time and again he'd glance at the clock and found less than an hour had passed. By five am he'd given up and made his way to his office. His wounds were healed now, but there were still lingering headaches that sometimes threatened to floor, him, yet he would not let that ruin today's celebration.
"Joseph, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Pa, just couldn't sleep," Joe said and accepted the cup of coffee his father offered. "Thanks."
"You're welcome…what are you working on?"
"I figured I'd write down a few words for Peggy…letting her know how I feel."
"Oh, I think she knows by now," Stefan said and placed a box on the table.
"What's that?" Joe asked.
"Open it," Stefan ordered and watched his son open the black velvet box.
"Do you remember what your mother said the day she died?" Stefan asked and saw the sorrow in his son's eyes. "She told me to make sure the woman you chose to spend the rest of your life with wore that on her wedding day."
"I remember…I remember wishing she…I miss her," Joe finished as he fingered the delicate gold cross dangling from a box link chain.
"Part of her will be there, Joseph. That cross was something she wanted to give your wife…a gift of something old on her wedding day," the older man explained. "Your mother would be as proud as I am today."
"Thank you, Pa," Joe said, and replaced the chain. He would make sure Mama Giovanni gave it to Peggy before she walked down the aisle.
Peggy took a deep breath as she opened her eyes and looked around her bedroom, a room she would soon be sharing with her husband. They had decided to keep her house for now, but they would continue to work out of his home. She sat up and smiled when a knock sounded on the door.
"Good morning," Donna Tobin greeted her friend with a tray full of food. She'd grown up with Peggy and had been excited when she heard she was getting married, to her boos no less. Donna had whooped for joy and told her it was about time and had nearly dropped the phone when her long time friend had asked her to be her maid of honor. She'd accepted immediately and then Peggy had asked if her five year old daughter, Tiffany, would be the flower girl. Tiffany was excited and had been with them through the process of making dresses and picking out the flowers and arrangements for the church and reception.
"This looks great," Peggy said, knowing her son was with Adam Tobias and would soon be joining Joe and Stefan Mannix. The ceremony would take place at two o'clock and pictures would follow by the ocean front park. She reached for a cinnamon roll and smiled at the sweet indulgence.
"Are you ready for this?" Donna asked.
"I've never been so ready for anything in my life," Peggy told her, frowning when she found a small box on the tray. "What's this?"
"Open it and see," her friend ordered and watched as Peggy opened the dark blue satin box.
"These are beautiful," Peggy said of the blue sapphire earrings.
"Yes, hey are and I figured they could be something new and something blue all rolled into one," Tobin told her.
"They're too much…"
"Peggy, how many times have I told you never look a gift horse in the mouth," Donna told her and reached for the second roll. "Oh, we need to get you something borrowed…"
"Mama Rosa gave me a beautiful set of hair pins," Peggy told her.
"So, everything is taken care of," Donna said with a grin.
"It is," Peggy agreed and looked toward the door. "Where's Tiffany?"
"She's still sleeping…I think they wore her out last night," Donna said and looked at the clock. Well, my friend, it's time to get this show on the road."
"Or I could just lie here and languish in all this attention."
"Oh no you don't…you've got a handsome man at your beck and call and I don't think he's willing to wait any longer," Donna said and pulled back the blankets. "I get first dibs on the shower!"
Peggy chuckled softly and climbed out of the bed, glad that her closest friend would be there to share this special day with her.
"Let me do it, Joseph," Stefan ordered. He'd watched his son struggle to get the tie on properly and smiled when he finally relented.
"Are you ready, Joe?" Adam called. He'd arrived with Toby nearly an hour ago and had made sure Joe had everything he was supposed to. The ring was tucked into Adam's inside pocket and would be placed on the white satin pillow before Toby and Tiffany walked down the aisle together.
"I think so…Dad, do you have the tickets?" Mannix asked his father. His wedding present to his wife was a trip to Hawaii and they would be leaving first thing in the morning. Toby would be staying with Adam and his family while they were gone.
"I have them Joseph," Stefan said and herded the group out the door. They would be taking Adam's car to the church and from there they'd arranged a stretch limo for the wedding party. Stefan would be riding with Julie Tobias and her children.
The drive to the church was a quiet one and Joe could hardly believe that this was the beginning of a whole new life for him, Peggy, and Toby. He planned on asking Peggy if he could adopt Toby, but not until they were back from their honeymoon. They pulled into a parking spot and exited the car to find several others already waiting.
"Hello, Father," Mannix greeted the priest and shook hands with him.
"It is good to see you again, Joseph…you gave everyone quite a scare," Gabriel Sheppard told him.
"I'll try not to let it happen again," Joe said and spotted Rosa Giovanni. "Excuse me for a minute, Father."
Rosa spotted him and hugged him as he reached her. "You look good in a monkey suit, Joseph."
"Thank you, Mama, you know if you weren't already married…"
"Oh, Joseph, don't tease an old lady…"
You'll never be old, Mama," Joseph said. "I have something for Peggy and was wondering if you would give it to her for me."
"Of course," Rosa said and smiled as Joe showed her the gift he would bestow on his new wife.
"Tell her it belonged to my mother and her mother before her…so it's something old," Joe explained.
"I will…now you'd better get inside before your lovely bride arrives," Rosa said and shooed him toward the entrance to the church. The others had already gone inside leaving her and Antonio to wait on the bridal party. Peggy had graciously asked Antonio to give her away and she could see the pride on her husband's face as the car pulled into the parking lot five minutes later.
Adam watched the nervous groom as he stretched his neck and looked toward the back of the church. He knew Joe was looking for his bride, but Peggy would not come through the doors until the bridal party had deemed that she was fashionably late to her own wedding. Adam thought about his own wedding day and the jitters he'd suffered from. His father had been the one to calm him down, at least enough to stop making a groove in the floor.
"Where is she?"
"Easy, Joe, she'll be here…you know the bride is supposed to be late…"
"But it's already 2:15…what if something's happened?"
"Nothing's happened," Adam said as a commotion sounded from the front of the church. He spotted Rosa Giovanni move to her seat as the organist began to play the traditional wedding march. "See, nothing to be worried about…"
"The rings!" Joe patted his jacket, searching for the matching wedding bands.
"Joe, Toby has them and he'll be bringing them in shortly," Tobias assured him and straightened his tie as the priest took his place in front of them.
Joe turned and watched as Donna Tobin stepped through the door and walked toward the front of the church. He smiled as she took up position and Toby and Tiffany started down the aisle. They looked nervous, but both were smiling as Tiffany dropped pink rose petals on the floor. He smiled at both as Toby and Tiffany took up their respective positions.
Joe heard the change in the music and looked expectantly toward the door. Peggy stepped through with Antonio at her side and Joe caught his first of the dress she'd chosen. It was a floor length gown made of satin and lace with white roses and buttons down one side. The white lace veil covered her face and he couldn't wait to lift it and look into her eyes.
"You're a lucky man, Joe."
"Don't I know it," Mannix said as Peggy reached him. Antonio lifted her veil, kissed her cheek and turned to join his wife.
Father Gabe began to speak and the ceremony went very well as he told the congregation about the blessing of a union and how no man should try to pull them apart. When it came time for the rings, Adam took one and passed it to the priest, who blessed it before passing it to Joe.
"Joe has something he would like to say to Peggy," Father Gabe told the congregation.
"Peggy," Mannix said and placed the ring on her finger, but didn't push it all the way on. "Today is the start of a new life, one I never dreamed possible until the day you came along. I want to share the rest of my life with you, to love you, to listen to you, and to hold you when you laugh or cry. I want to grow old with you at my side and to tell you how I feel every day of our life. I love you, Peggy, and from this day forth I will do everything in my power to show you just what you mean to me. Accept this ring as a symbol of the love we share and the future that promises to be everything we both desire."
"I do," Peggy whispered past the lump that had formed in her throat.
Peggy felt the tears in her eyes as she felt the ring placed on her finger, a symbol of just how much this man loved her. She watched as Donna passed the priest the matching band and felt a tear slide down her face as he blessed it and passed it to her. "Oh, Joe, I don't know when I started loving you, but I do know that every day you became more than just my boss…you became my friend and finally the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I love you more today than yesterday and less than tomorrow and every day thereafter. You have shown me that it is possible not only to love again, but to be loved and to feel safe. You are my present and my future and I will always walk by your side. Accept this ring as a symbol of our future together and know that our love is strong enough to weather any storm."
"I do," Joe said, staring into her eyes as a hint of a smile formed on his face.
Father Gabe watched as she placed the ring on Joe's finger and continued giving the marriage the Lord's blessing. "Joe, you may kiss your bride," he said and smiled when the happy couple did just that and received congratulations from the best man and maid of honor. When the ceremony ended Father Gabe motioned for the new couple to turn and face the congregation. "I present, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Mannix."
Joe and Peggy walked down the aisle and out of the church where the others had gathered with handfuls of rice. It was thrown over their heads as they reached the waiting Limo and climbed inside. Adam, Donna, Tiffany, and Toby joined them and the driver took them to the beach where the pictures were taken.
"Here they come," Rosa Giovanni called as the limo pulled up outside the restaurant. The happy couple exited the car, kissed, and finally walked toward the door, the rest of the wedding party following close behind. Once inside the happy couple was seated at the head table at the front of the restaurant and everyone took their seats. The tablecloths were white with pink centerpieces that matched the roses in Peggy and Donna's bouquet and the boutonnières in Adam and Joe's lapels. The silverware was polished to perfection and the champagne glasses sparkled as Antonio filled their glasses.
Stefan Mannix, Julie Tobias, Andrew Lewis, Toby, John and Tiffany Tobin were seated at a table slightly to the left of the head table. Stefan had supplied the wine and had convinced the Giovannis that he should foot the bill for the alcohol the party consumed. The wedding cake was three tiered, with white icing and decorated with pink and blue roses and lace ribbons. Friends and family members were seated at the other tables. The tables would be pushed back once dinner and toasts were over giving them a dance area.
There were six servers who would serve the seven course meal. Antonio and Rosa Giovanni had wanted to hire outside help, but soon found that their regular employees were more than willing to help out. Rosa knew the little white envelopes held a fifty dollar tip for each person, a gift of thanks from Joe and Peggy Mannix.
During the meal spoon were tapped on plates or glasses and the happy couple gladly kissed before sitting down. When the dessert was served, Adam stood up to make the first toast.
"Joe, I've known you a long time and usually you act fast, but it seems like it took you forever to see what every one else saw long ago. You and Peggy belong together and I hope you're as happy as Julie and I are. To Joe and Peggy Mannix…may you both be blessed with the happiness you deserve," Adam said and glasses were tipped slightly in salute before everyone sat back down.
Donna stood up and held her glass as she spoke. "Peggy, I've known you since we both learned to ride a bike without training wheels and I cherished every single day. I am honored that you asked me to stand with you on this special day. My wish for you and Joe is that you are always as happy as you are today. Love will make you strong…To Joe and Peggy, may the light of love keep you warm and happy!"
"To Joe and Peggy," everyone agreed and again the glasses were tipped in salute.
Stefan Mannix stood up and looked at his son and new daughter-in-law with deep pride as he spoke. "Joseph, there were times when you made me angry, but I have always been proud of you, but never as much as I am today. You have chosen to bring this beautiful woman into our family and I hope you will bring her to Summergrove so our friends and neighbors will have the pleasure of meeting her. Welcome to the Mannix family, Peggy."
"Thank you, Mr. Mannix," Peggy said, and moved to hug him.
"Mr. Mannix is kind of formal for my new daughter…please call me Pa as my son does," Stefan said, and kissed her forehead before she returned to the table.
The meal was cleared away and the tables pushed back so the DJ could get ready to play the first song. Joe and Peggy stood in the center of the dance floor while their friends and family made a circle around them. Soft strains of 'I Can't Help Falling In Love' came from the speakers as Joe and Peggy held each other for the first dance as a married couple.
"I love you, Peggy Mannix," Joe whispered.
"I love you, Joe Mannix," Peggy told him and was lost in the pleasure of his touch.
A lone figure stood silhouetted against the backdrop of darkness, staring through the slightly parted curtains. The eyes were dark with rage and bitterness, the mouth a straight line that spoke of the anger building inside. "That should be me in there with her…not you! She was never meant to marry you and I will make damn sure I set things right. You're a dead man, Joe Mannix…and I will be there to pick up the pieces and finally hold her in my arms forever."
The figure turned and walked away as the music continued inside Giovanni's Restaurant.