Slave To Love

Chapter Thirty Four

Pure bliss. It was written all over the bride and groom's faces. Tara had stars in her eyes as Bobby held her in his strong and gentle embrace, while he, himself, could not stop smiling. The sight of their happiness caused a warm feeling to trickle down Sue's spine.

She was so close to having the very same thing as her two friends.

Not that she wasn't happy. On the contrary. Jack was always finding ways to please her. He'd even taught her how to dance. Or at least, he'd tried. She still found herself stepping on his toes more than anything. And the best part about it was that he hadn't complained one bit. He might have winced one or twice… or ten times, but never had he forced her to stop. He'd only feigned a smile and continued to encourage her.

She knew it was because he was too much of a gentleman to say otherwise.

Sighing contently, she ran her thumb over the band of her engagement ring. No one had suspected anything. Of course, she really hadn't expected it. All eyes had been on the bride and groom. Of course, Lucy had commented on the multicolored stone on her right hand, asking where she'd gotten it.

She'd almost spilled the beans, then. She was so anxious to reveal her secret. But she'd held herself together and had merely shrugged, saying something about it being a present.

"You know, no one is going to realize the truth if you keep hiding it from everyone." Jack smiled at her, his voice barely above a whisper as he said the words only to her.

She shook her head, but couldn't stop smiling. "It's their day, Jack. Let them have it."

He nodded in agreement as he wrapped his arms around her waist, pressing his lips to her forehead. "I think I keep forgetting who I fell in love with. I'm used to showmanship and fanfare. Keeping things quiet is certainly different."

"It won't be for long. Maybe we'll announce it when they come home from wherever Myles is sending them." He'd said something about his family's vacation home in the mountains. His mother and sister certainly wouldn't be using it this time of year, so what better place for a romantic hideaway? Besides, perhaps when they got back, she'd finally be able to come to terms with the fact that she was a woman engaged to be married. The fact still hadn't registered in her mind.

"You do realize that the people in this house are the epitome of nosy. If there's a secret to be sniffed out, they just might find it." He couldn't resist the urge to brush a strand of windblown hair behind her ear. It was an excuse to touch her. Soon, he wouldn't need excuses.

His fingers barely brushed against the shell of her ear, but the gentle contact set all of his nerve endings ablaze with passion. He needed to feel more of her. Taking his time, he reveled in the feeling of the smoothness of the one part of her that defined her to others. Her ears didn't work, so therefore, she was worthless… a burden… a thing.

But she was so much more to him.

He knew the outside of a person did not always reflect what they were like on the inside. With the ragtag group of misfits he was proud to call family, he had to know that.

No. It was her heart that drew him to her. It was her heart that he loved most about her. Her integrity, her caring for others, her intelligence were all things that made him fall in love with her. He couldn't wait to spend the rest of his life with her by his side.

His thumb floated down the creamy white flesh of her neck. She shivered as he touched the whiter line marring her once flawless skin. Hayden's knife hadn't cut deep, but it had left its mark behind.

A cold shiver ran down his own spine. He'd come so close to losing the love of his life.

A chuckle shook his shoulders lightly as he thought about that. It was funny to refer to her as that. They'd barely known one another a week and he'd already known that she was "the one", the woman he would devote all of his love and fidelity to. She would be the woman he made love to every day of wedded bliss they would be blessed with. She would be the woman who bore his children. She was the woman he would love with all of his heart until the day he breathed his last breath.

"Would that be a problem?"

He shook his head to clear away his thoughts. He hadn't realized he'd drifted so far away from their conversation. "Would what be a problem?"

"If they found out about…" she motioned back and forth between the two of them. It was almost as if she couldn't find the word.

"Us?" he offered, which only caused a rosy tint to dust her pale cheeks. She nodded. "Well, sweetheart, they already know about us."

"That's not what I meant." Still she couldn't resist smiling. No matter what the circumstance, he could always make her smile. But, then it began to fade and her eyes clouded over.

Was that guilt he saw in her eyes? "What's wrong, Sue?"

Nipping nervously at her bottom lip, she tried to shrug her thoughts away from the happiness of the day. Shaking her head, she turned her gaze away from him so she wouldn't have to see the emotion in his eyes. "It's silly."

Tenderly cupping her chin, he pulled her back toward him. "Nothing you have to say is silly, Sue. Something is bothering you. Please tell me."

She tried to fight back her tears. She tried to ignore the sinking feeling in her gut. She tried to pretend this fear and guilt hadn't been hanging over her head since the day he'd told her he loved her. "I just… I don't want you to regret choosing me over another woman who can give you everything you want. A normal family. Normal children. A normal wife."

He brushed away the tear that slipped down her cheek and made certain she was looking at him before he gave her a piece of his mind. "You are normal. Don't let your doubts about yourself cloud your perceptions of how much I love you." Reaching out, he grabbed her hand and placed it over his heart. There she would feel the beating of the organ. There she would feel his love for her take flight. "Because I do, Sue. I love you with every fiber of my being. I love you so much that there are nights I lay awake thinking just how lucky I am to have finally found you. You are the one I've been searching my entire life for. You are the one I want to spend every single day of the rest of my life with. You are the only one my heart beats for."

More tears streamed from her eyes, now ones of joy.

He pulled her into the strength of his arms and held her close. "I don't want you to ever doubt my feelings for your, sweetheart," he said once her eyes were focused on him again.

"Oh, Jack," she sniffled into his chest, taking in the manly scent that was a hint of spice but mostly all him. "I love you so much. I just don't want you to wake up one day and realize the mistake you've made."

"It's not a mistake," he told her with conviction in his tone that was reflected out through his eyes. "And who in their right mind would ever regret falling in love with you?"

She smiled up at him, feeling all of her doubts fade away. "Kiss me?"

He was only too eager to comply. Leaning down, he brushed his lips lightly against hers, feeling the breath rush out of her lungs in a gasp of pleasure. He felt his own reaction all the way down to his toes and his heart continued to burst with joy at the thought that this woman was his and there was no way he was ever going to let her get away from him.

"Whoo-hoo, Sparky!"

Bobby's familiar call made him break away from the kiss. The heat of embarrassment crept up his neck as he found himself staring into the eyes of six very interested passersby. Seven, including Levi. "We have an audience," he mouthed to Sue. She blushed in her own bout of embarrassment and tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her get far. Snaking an arm around her waist, he held tight just so he could feel the warmth of her body against his.

"So, do you two have something to tell us?" Tara asked, mirth glittering in her eyes.

"And don't think we haven't noticed that ring on Sue's finger. It might be on the wrong hand, but I recognize that, Jackson," Lucy said matter-of-factly.

He rolled his eyes. Of course she would recognize his mother's engagement ring. "Haven't you all gone away yet?" he asked with a hint of teasing in his tone. In reality, he had completely forgotten they'd all been lingering about. Of course, now it made sense. They were probably all keeping a close eye on him and Sue to see if their suspicions were right. Turning his gaze to Bobby and Tara, he frowned. "Shouldn't you two be getting a move on? It's getting late."

"Still early enough, Jack. The summer house isn't that far. I think we'd all like to hear what the two of you were just talking about in such hushed tones." Myles smiled that devious little smile that annoyed Jack so.

"After Bobby and Tara come back from their honeymoon," Sue promised with a wink.

"We even have to wait until then?" Lucy stuck her lower lip out in protest.

"It's not like you're going to be here either, Leland. I thought you were taking your wife someplace… special." He'd been hinting at it at least and he'd hoped it might draw Lucy away from her current train of thought. Unfortunately, it didn't work. She just shook her head and gave him a knowing look that bored directly into his soul.

"I've known about that since it popped into his head. There's nothing Myles can hide from me, Jack. Now, spill."

"D, Donna, shouldn't you be getting on the road too? It's a long ride back to the city." D had finally decided to take up Jack's offer about visiting his family.

But that was where the problem lay. Bobby and Tara would be away in the mountains somewhere. Myles and Lucy would be off on their own excursion. Dimitrius would be in the city with his wife and children. And he and Sue would be left alone… in that great big house… together…

He gulped as he felt the collar of his shirt tighten. Too bad pastor Garrett had already left to perform another wedding or else he wouldn't be so afraid to be left alone with his bride-to-be.

"I should probably be leaving as well," Sue piped up as if she'd just realized the time.

"You, Sue?" he asked, clearly puzzled by this announcement.

"Lily invited me to stay with her family for a while, Jack. After all, it wouldn't be proper of you and I staying in this house together… all alone." He watched the hint of pink creep upon her skin and wished to see just how far down that blush traveled. "Did I forget to mention that?" She winked playfully at him before motioning to Levi to fetch the bag she'd left on the porch which held the things she would need during her trip.

"How long will you be gone?"

"A week… or two. After that, we can all celebrate Bobby and Tara's welcome home and you and I can share our news with everyone." Her smile was innocent, but her eyes held a devious glint in them. She'd been planning this since she'd first discovered they were going to be left alone together. Smart girl.

"Just don't forget where you belong after the two weeks are up," he told her sternly.

"And just where do I belong?"

He smiled, enjoying this playful side of her he'd recently discovered. Opening up his arms, he enveloped her in them and pulled her close. "Right here," he whispered before his lips lowered to hers once again.