Part I - The Wedding
January 1, 2012
Three hours before her wedding Kate was kneeling in the bathroom, losing the contents of her stomach into the toilet. Finished with the latest bout, she leaned back against the wall. Charlotte passed her a damp washcloth and Kate pressed it gratefully to her cheeks and forehead.
“This isn’t good,” Kate chuckled. “Do you think the pastor will mind if I bring a bucket down the aisle with me?”
“I think it won’t be necessary. The past two days you’ve been fine after your bout of sickness.”
“Today is different, though,” Kate said, smiling.
“You’re nervous?” Charlotte asked.
“A little,” Kate admitted. “Oh no!” She hunched over the toilet and lost more of her breakfast and light lunch.
Charlotte disappeared and came back with a small cup of water. Kate sipped it appreciatively and braced herself against the wall to stand. Charlotte reached out and helped Kate to her feet.
“Are you sure you’re ready?”
“My foot is falling asleep, I need to move around.”
“I meant ready to marry Edward,” Charlotte corrected.
“Of course, why do you ask?”
“You said you were nervous,” Charlotte explained.
“Oh,” Kate smiled. “I am. I’m nervous about his wealth, nervous about living in this amazing house, nervous about the paparazzi, nervous about being here in England full time, the list goes on. But,” Kate said slowly turning to look Charlotte in the eye. “I’m positive I love him, positive we’re meant to be together and excited to begin our life together.”
Charlotte smiled, relief shining clearly in her eyes. “The money means little to him, he has a hoarde of staff to help you with this house and once the excitement of your wedding and the death of his bachelorhood dies down, they’ll leave you mostly alone. Especially as he’s stepping away from acting and settling into family life with you and Mary.”
“He is happy, right?” Kate asked in a moment of weakness.
“Immensely, I’ve never seen him happier,” Charlotte assured her. She reached out and patted Kate’s arm. “I know this is a huge change for you. You’ve moved away from everything you know and those you love. And it’s only been two days since you’ve arrived. Barely any time to settle in. Are you sure you want to go through with this today? We can postpone.”
“No, no, no!” Kate said softly but firmly. “The one thing I know is that I want to marry Edward. We’ll work everything else out.”
Charlotte’s face lit up. “How are you feeling now?”
“Better, I think I’m okay now.” Kate stepped up to the sink and splashed her face with cool water. She picked up her toothbrush and got started on getting ready for her big day.
Charlotte glanced at her watch. “The hair and makeup people will be here in about thirty minutes. Do you want to rest for a bit before they get here?”
Kate nodded. “Can you bring Mary in? I’d like to cuddle with her for a bit before the world goes crazy this afternoon.”
“Sure, I’ll be right back.”
Kate pulled the covers back from the bed and slipped inside. She was excited about the wedding this afternoon, couldn’t imagine anything she wanted more than to marry Edward. Charlotte was right, the past month had been hard and everything was new and different. But Edward loved her and Mary, and they both loved Edward. It would take some time to get used to being here, but Kate welcomed the challenge. Other than Mary, her life had been largely empty since Brad’s death. And with Georgie’s betrayal still fresh, Kate relished the move.
“Hi sunshine, come snuggle with me for a bit,” Kate said patting the mattress.
Mary climbed up on the bed and scooted under the covers. Kate wrapped her arms around Mary and breathed in the coconut scent of her shampoo.
What felt like only seconds later, Kate was being gently shaken awake. “Kate, dear. Wake up,” Charlotte said softly.
Kate opened her eyes slowly and blinked several times. She looked up and saw Charlotte’s smiling face.
“Hello dear, the hair and makeup people are here,” Charlotte said softly.
Kate nodded and then realized she was alone in the bed. “Where’s Mary?”
“Playing downstairs. She said you fell asleep and she wanted to play.”
Kate chuckled. “I guess I’m still catching up on my sleep.” She threw the covers back and slowly sat up, hoping her sickness was done for the day. When her tummy didn’t revolt, Kate got out of bed with a relieved sigh.
“Edward is downstairs with Mary. I told him he’s not allowed to see you before the wedding,” Charlotte smiled. “He’s worried about you and the baby.”
“We’re fine, you can tell him that. And I’m feeling much better now,” Kate said.
Charlotte nodded. “Are you ready? Can I let them in now?”
“Yes, I’m ready. Let’s get this party started!” Kate laughed.
Kate stood with her father at the top of the staircase in Edward’s home. She could hear the strains of Handel’s Adagio play from the harpist as Barbara and Charlotte were seated. She was calm and determined to remember every second of the day. Her eyes softened as they gazed on her daughter, standing with Mrs. White at the door to the ballroom. Mary looked beautiful in her tulle gown with tiny crystals applied all over the skirt. Her blond hair was pulled up in a high bun on top of her head and she wore a tiara. Mary was excitedly shifting from foot to foot, impatient to walk down the aisle and spread the rose petals along the path. She had spoken of little else for two days and Kate smiled.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D began and Mrs. White nodded her head, letting Mary know she could start down the aisle. Mary squealed with joy and skipped into the ballroom. The harpist had agreed to play the song out, whether Mary got to the front quickly or not.
“You ready, Kate?”
“I am. Are you, Dad?”
“Yes. Never thought I’d have to do this twice for you. I’m so glad you found love again,” he said, placing a kiss on her forehead before lowering Kate’s veil over her face.
“He’s a good man, Dad.”
“I know and you deserve a good man. He’ll keep you happy and safe. That’s all a father can ask.”
“I love you, Dad. Thank you for being here,” Kate said, holding her tears back.
“Ah, Katie. I love you to the moon and back,” he said. Kate smiled, it had been a long time since he’d said that to her. How funny the things that took a backseat as a person grew up.
Kate’s heart skipped a beat when The Bridal Chorus began. Her father tightened his hold on her hand and helped her down the stairs. They moved slowly, and when they reached the bottom of the stairs, Kate let out a small sigh of relief. She’d been a little terrified of walking down the stairs in her heels and long dress.
They crossed the foyer and when they came to the door she heard a collective intake of breath. Her eyes scanned the room, taking in the beautiful decorations. She’d been banned from the ballroom since she’d arrived. Charlotte and Izzy had wanted the decorations to be a surprise. Flowers were everywhere, lining the aisle and hanging from the ceiling. There were candles lit on the window sills and soft lighting shone in the room. A special dais had been brought in to raise Kate and Edward above the floor. There was an arch on top, with flowers, tulle and candles decorating it. Kate could see the pastor, standing in the middle of the arch.
And she watched as Edward stood at the bottom of the dais, waiting for her. Kate’s pace quickened when she saw him, but her father tugged slightly on her arm. “Slow down, Katie. He’ll still be there without you hurrying,” William whispered.
Kate did as she was told, slowing down and enjoying the walk and the view. Edward looked quite dashing, when didn’t he?, and Kate knew she’d remember this moment for the rest of her life. His tall lean body wore the tuxedo as if it were made for him. And truth be told it probably was, Kate sighed. The black jacket and pants contrasted smartly with the gray vest, tie and hanker chief. The crisp white shirt made his tanned skin look extra dark. His black shoes were shined to within an inch of their life and Kate surreptitiously admired how well Edward filled out his tux. She couldn't wait for this evening's activities when she'd be able to fully appreciate him.
When they reached the steps to the dais, Edward reached out and shook William’s hand. William placed Kate’s hand in Edward’s and took his seat next to Barbara.
Edward smiled widely and squeezed Kate’s hand. “You're stunning, Kate. You take my breath away,” Edward whispered in her ear before helping her up the steps.
“You too, Edward. You really know how to wear a tux.”
Kate stood next to Edward and they waited for everyone to seat themselves and settle down.
“My Mommy looks like an angel!”
Kate giggled when she heard Mary’s loud whisper. Kate turned slightly and waved to Mary. Mary laughed and waved back.
The pastor cleared his throat, raising his eyes from his bible and looking out on the guests.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sign of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony..."
Despite wanting to commit every aspect of the wedding, the day, to memory, Kate listened to the pastor with half an ear. Her eyes darted around what she could see of the front of the ball room. She was delighted and awed at all Charlotte had accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Kate felt Edward squeeze her hand and brought her attention back to the ceremony. She sighed happily as the Pastor continued with his speech and hearing her signal, Kate reached out and placed her bouquet on the small table next to the pastor. Edward turned toward her and clasped both hands loosely in his. His eyes sparkled with love and Kate felt her heart melt. She was elated and humbled to know that she would get to love this man for the rest of her life.
The pastor turned to Edward. “Do you Edward Daniel Kent take Kathryn Faith Walker to be your wife, to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Edward said in a strong, firm voice.
The pastor turned to Kate. “Do you Kathryn Faith Walker take Edward Daniel Kent to be your husband, to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon him your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live?”
“I do, I will,” Kate promised.
Mary jumped from her seat and ran up the steps. “I do too,” she said loudly, clasping Edward’s hand.
Kate smiled as Edward reached down and held Mary’s hand. The three of them stood on the dais, hands clasped, love surrounding them.
“What token of your love do you offer? Would you place the rings in my hand?”
Edward reached into his pocket and withdrew both rings, placing them in the pastor’s hand.
“The wedding ring is the outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace, signifying to all the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. It was Saint Augustine who said, ‘The nature of God is like a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.’ May the rings that I hold symbolize the nature of God in your lives, and as often as either of you see them, may you be reminded of this moment and the endless love you have promised.”
The pastor turned to Edward and placed Kate’s ring in his hand. “Edward, as you present Kathryn with her wedding ring and pledge your love and your life to her, will you please give her your promise.”
“Kate, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. With all that I am, and all that I have, I promise to love and honor you always. With this ring, I thee wed.”
The pastor turned to Kate and placed Edward’s ring in her hand. “Kathryn, as you present Edward with his wedding ring and pledge your love and your life to him, will you please give him your promise.”
“Edward, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. With all that I am, and all that I have, I promise to love and honor you always. With this ring, I thee wed.”
The pastor then turned back to Edward and nodded. Edward dropped to one knee in front of Mary and took out a small promise ring. Taking her left hand, he placed the ring on her middle finger.
“Mary, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and my promise. With all that I am, and all that I have, I promise to love you, guide you and keep you safe. With this ring, may you be reminded of my promise.” He pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek.
Kate’s battle of the tears was lost with Edward’s touching display. Kate reached for his hand when he stood with Mary in his arms.
“Edward and Kathryn, inasmuch as you have consented to be joined together in the holy state of matrimony, and having pledged and sealed your vows by the giving and receiving of rings in the presence of both God and this company, it is with great pleasure that I now pronounce you husband and wife. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Congratulations! You may kiss the bride.”
Edward reached out with his free arm and pulled Kate into his embrace. Smiling widely, he lowered his lips to hers, kissing her senseless.
From a distance, Kate could hear the cheers and applause of their family and friends, but what really got her attention were the giggles bubbling from her daughter. Mary was watching the show in front of her with great amusement and Kate pulled back from the kiss knowing there would be lots of time for that later.
With joyous smiles on their faces, they turned and presented themselves to their guests. “It is with great joy and honor that I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Kathryn and Edward Kent!” The pastor boomed.
Another round of applause and cheers went up as Kate and Edward stepped off the dais and down the aisle.
From across the room, Edward watched his wife chat with his aunt. Kate looked stunning in her wedding finery. Her gown was cream-colored and fell to the floor. The sheath fit her snugly and was overlayed with a lace design that fell to the floor also. It gathered in the back, with pearl buttons, and a sexy bow that he couldn't wait to untie. Her hair was pulled up loosely in one of those woman styles. Loose tendrils framed her face and her veil hung in layers behind her. He knew she was barefoot, having taken her wedding shoes off after their first dance.
He glanced around the room, gratitude filling him. So many of their friends and family had made the journey to be here with them. His aunt and uncle from Scotland, and all their children. His sister Izzy was here, enjoying the break from her classes. Even Meaghan was here, with her husband Rufus, despite the vehement disapproval of her doctor. Meaghan had made the hour-long journey and promptly situated herself on the couch in the library so as to obey her doctor’s long-standing bed-rest order. Rufus and Edward had carried her to the ballroom for the ceremony and when the staff had moved all the chairs out of the ballroom to set it up for the reception, Meaghan had kept her seat until they’d moved her to a lounger. She was being a good sport and seemed genuinely happy to sit and watch the events.
Mary had kept her busy throughout most of the reception, entertaining her with stories of the move and the excitement of getting ready for the wedding. She’d fallen asleep right after the cake-cutting, not surprisingly. He and Kate had taken her upstairs to her room, and gotten Mary ready for bed. They’d said their goodbyes and tucked her in tight. He knew Kate was a little uncomfortable leaving Mary behind and he’d done his best to do everything to keep Mary safe while they were gone. He’d had his entire house wired with the latest in security systems. He’d hired another security guard, who would travel with him and Kate to Italy. He was leaving Jason here to watch over Mary, and he knew that had been what calmed Kate the most.
Charlotte was the only one in his family who knew Kate was pregnant. With the chaos of moving and the wedding, they thought it was best to keep the news until after. He glanced at his wife again and noticed her face was pale and her eyes showed signs of fatigue. He’d have to convince her to leave soon.
Kate’s parents were chatting with Charlotte, seemingly enjoying the distraction. He knew they were saddened by Georgie’s betrayal and the stress of her upcoming trial was weighing on them. They planned to stay on while he and Kate celebrated their honeymoon in Italy and would return to the States once he and Kate returned. Charlotte had offered to care for Mary, but with the impending arrival of Meaghan’s twins, Kate thought it a better idea to keep Mary at Edward’s home with her parents, allowing Charlotte the freedom to hie off to Meaghan’s at the first sign of labor.
Charlotte caught Edward’s eye and nodded toward Kate. He grinned and started across the room. The last item on their list was the garter and bouquet toss. He planned to do it at the entrance to the ballroom so they could make their escape immediately.
He slipped his arms around Kate’s waist, kissing her softly on her neck. “It’s time,” he whispered in her ear.
Kate turned in his arms and wrapped hers around his neck. She rested her head against his chest. “Good, I’m exhausted.”
He held her close for a moment and then helped her to the door and the chair that awaited her. The band struck up the music and Edward called out for all the single men. He knelt at Kate’s feet and reached up under her dress. “I can’t wait to take this dress off you,” Edward whispered, eyeing her wickedly. Kate laughed and squirmed a bit in the chair. Edward stood up, the garter held high in celebration.
The sexy music pumped and Edward swirled his arm around in a circle. Turning his back on the crowd he flung the garter backwards. Cheers and laughter filled the room. Edward felt Kate standing next to him and pulled her into his side. They turned to see who had caught the garter and burst out laughing when they saw Jason holding it. A bemused expression on his face which was turning brilliantly red, he held the garter away from his body as if it contained a deadly disease.
Kate held the toss bouquet and glanced up at Edward, nudging him with her elbow. He looked down and nodded. Clearing his throat, he called out for all the single women. Once they’d assembled in front of them, he turned Kate slowly in a circle. When he got her in position, she threw the bouquet over her head and not waiting an instant, spun around to see who caught it.
“Izzy!” Kate squealed, thrilled.
Edward picked up Kate’s chair and carried it to his sister. Izzy sat down and Jason stepped in front of Edward. “It’s your sister!” Jason said strangling on his words.
Edward chuckled. “I know.”
“You want me to do this?”
“You caught the garter, Jason. You really don’t have a choice!”
Kate walked up. “Don’t be shy, Jason. And don’t skimp, either. I want to be married to Edward a long time!”
Jason rolled his eyes to the ceiling and let out a deep breath. Edward clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, mate. It’s all in good fun!”
Jason knelt in front of Izzy and placed the garter over her ankle. To the sounds of cheers and whistles, he slid the garter slowly up her calf. When he got to her knee, he started to take his hands away.
“Don’t even think about it, Jason,” Kate growled.
Edward laughed and Izzy encouraged Jason to keep going.
Placing his hands on the garter again, he quickly slid the garter up her thigh, hands disappearing beneath Izzy’s skirt. The cheers were deafening when Jason finally stood.
Edward shook hands with Jason and hugged his sister. Kate reached out and hugged Jason.
“Thank you,” she said. “And thank you for keeping Mary safe while we’re gone.”
“You’re welcome,” Jason said. “Have a fun time.”
Edward watched Kate give Izzy a quick hug goodbye and then he whisked her away out of out the ballroom. Once through the door, Edward swept Kate into his arms and carried her out to the waiting limo.
Once safely ensconced in the limo, Edward pulled Kate into his arms lowering his lips to hers. “I’ve been wanting to do that for hours,” Edward said against her lips.
“Me too,” she agreed. “It was such a lovely day, Edward. I’m so full of happy I feel like I might burst!”
“How are you feeling? We’re going straight to the airport, our plane leaves in two hours.”
“I feel wonderful, Edward. Just a little tired.”
Edward slipped his hands around Kate’s waist and settled them on her tummy. “I’m so excited to meet this little one.”
“We have our whole life ahead of us, Edward. It’s such a heady feeling.”
“It is. I’ve waited my whole life for you, Kate,” he said resting his cheek against her head. “You’re my whole world now. You, Mary, this little one and any others we’re blessed with.”
“Oh Edward,” Kate said softly. “If I hadn't done so many times already, I'd pinch myself to make sure this is all real!"
Edward nuzzled Kate's hair as she lowered her head to his shoulder. When she went limp in his arms, he chuckled quietly. She wasn't kidding about being tired and Edward was more than content to hold her close while she rested on the way to the airport.
When they reached the airport, Edward handed Kate out to his new bodyguard and was surprised she didn't wake up. He took her back in his arms when he exited the car and quickly walked up the steps and into the plane. He settled back on the couch and cradled Kate in his arms.
No one knew where they were going, he'd kept it very secret. He wanted their honeymoon to be special, private and secluded. And he was going to get it. James had hired a pilot from the States to fly the married couple to a remote island off the coast of Italy. They'd spend a couple of days there, before moving into Italy proper. They were traveling under fake names and Edward prayed people would largely leave them alone.
Smiling as he felt the engines roars to life, Edward held Kate close and thanked Fate.
Mary stretched and sat up. Her parents were on their way to wherever they were going and she was here with Gram and Pap. Mary was excited they were staying with her while her mother was gone. The house was huge and still intimidating to her. She loved it, loved the space, the acres of grass that she could run and play on (something she hadn't had at their apartment in the city back home), loved that Mrs. Smith, the housekeeper, would dote on her and sneak her treats throughout the day.
Mary had a list of things she wanted to make sure were done before her parents returned. And the first was riding horses first thing in the morning.
She bounced out of bed and raced down the stairs to the dining room. Gram and Pap were already at the breakfast table, along with Aunt Meaghan and Aunt Izzy.
"Aunt Izzy, can we ride the horses?" Mary smiled brightly at Aunt Izzy.
"Good morning to you," Gram said at the same time.
"Sure, as soon as you eat some breakfast and put on something a little more substantial than that nightgown."
Mary laughed and sat down between Gram and Pap.
"How are you doing this morning, dear?" Gram asked her.
"What can I get you to eat?"
"Fruit and toast, please."
Gram got up and fixed a plate for Mary. Pap cleared his throat and smiled at Mary.
"Is there anything else you'd like to do today besides ride the horses," he asked.
"I want to dance in the ballroom!" Mary said enthusiastically.
"I'm sure we can arrange that," he agreed.
"Meaghan?" Izzy asked.
Meaghan nodded, taking deep breaths. "Ru..." she said, pausing to breath. "Rufus!"
Izzy bolted from her chair and raced up the steps.
"What's wrong Aunt Meaghan?"
"I think the babies are ready, sweets."
"They're coming?" Mary ask excitedly. She jumped from her chair and raced around the table. She placed her hands on Meaghan's belly and rubbed them in soothing circles. "Babies! Do you hear me? I can't wait to hold you!"
Meaghan ran her hands down Mary's hair and patted her back. "You'll make a lovely cousin, Mary!"
Rufus raced into the room and knelt at Meaghan's side. "You're sure?"
"Yes," she nodded.
"I'm calling the doctor. Making it to almost 37 weeks is good. He shouldn't be too upset with us!" Rufus walked out of the dining room, fingers already racing over the numbers on his phone to make the call.
"Izzy, can you get Mum?"
Izzy nodded and left the room.
"Can I get you anything?" Barbara asked Meaghan.
"No, thank you."
"Are you having the babies here, Aunt Meaghan?"
"I don't know," Meaghan said. "I hope not. I'll feel better at hospital, especially with these babies being so early."
"Meaghan?" Charlotte's high-pitch voice told everyone in the room how worried she was about her daughter.
"I'm okay, Mum. Rufus is calling the doctor."
"We're having babies!" Mary said excitedly, oblivious to the tension and worry in the air, as six-year olds tend to be. "I can't wait! Wait 'til Mommy and Daddy find out!" She danced around the room singing a song about the babies.
Could life get any better? She had a Daddy now. She was getting brand new baby cousins. She had horses to ride and soon she'd be starting her new school! She was the LUCKIEST six-year old around!