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My Darling Bride: Chapter 19


When things fell apart around me, like the time I didn’t make the newspaper staff or when I found out my college boyfriend was cheating on me, Gran always told me to breathe, that this part of my life was just a prologue, and I had many other chapters to go. She promised me that good things awaited me in my story, regardless of who or what my parents had done. Ultimately, she said it was up to me. To go forth with my hopes up, to say yes when I shouldn’t, and to live like it was my last day.

Gran was a wonderful soul. Will I ever be like her? To go forward with hope, to go all in without a backup plan? Maybe. The truth is, I’m entering unknown territory with this marriage. I’m scared that I may be in over my head with Graham.

I’ve been pacing in the lobby of the clerk’s office for what seems like an eternity. The hallway has become a blur of people coming and going. Since seeing Kian, my energy level is kaput.

That changes the moment Graham steps off the elevator. He looks breathtaking in his suit. His wavy hair has been tamed, and his broad shoulders seem to expand the fabric of his jacket.

When he sees me, he stops and takes me in with determination on his face, as if he’s ready to face the challenges ahead.

“Hi,” I say weakly.

He runs his gaze over me, little electric sparks igniting the path he takes. “Hi.”

I bite my lip.

“Nice dress. You look incredible,” he says as his gaze lingers on my face, my lips, then the corset bodice of my dress.

“So do you.”

He smiles. “And here we go.”

We sign in and provide our marriage license, one that Graham was able to arrange quickly, along with our appointment. We take a seat in the waiting room alongside several other couples, ones who are giggling and holding hands. We don’t. Instead I pin a small white peony to his lapel, and he thrusts over a bouquet of them. They smell divine, the sweet scent wafting in the air.

“Are you ready for this?” I ask, noticing that he twitches about every five seconds: adjusting his tie, pulling at his jacket, or raking a hand through his hair.

He grunts.

I look away from him. Clearly, he’s dreading this.

The assistant at the desk calls our name, and we head inside the room. The chamber is cold and stark, and my tension amplifies. The officiant waits for us behind a desk, dressed in judge’s robes. Two witnesses, employees obviously, stand by. There’s no photographer, no family, no friends. It suits me just fine. Right?

The ceremony starts before I realize it, or maybe I’m in a daze.

The officiant speaks, his voice echoing off the walls. He speaks about love and commitment and the power of marriage. But I only hear the beating of my own heart pounding in my chest.

Graham and I turn to each other, and he repeats his vows. His lashes flutter, as if he wants to block out the words.

“I, Graham Harlan, take you to be my wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer. I promise to love you and cherish you.”

I was staring at the flower on his lapel, but at those last words, my eyes meet his. I read no emotion there, just fierce resolve.

He takes my hand and squeezes. “Emmy, it’s your turn.”

I blink, realizing I’ve zoned out. I swallow. “I, Emmy Darling, take you to be my husband, to have and to hold, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer. I promise to love you and cherish you.” I feel the weight of the words inside every syllable.

The judge nods. “Today we unite two people in one of the most sacred ceremonies. What have you chosen as a token to seal the sign of your commitment?”

A knot forms in my stomach.

“Rings, Your Honor,” Graham murmurs.

“Please exchange rings,” he replies.

Graham slides a slender band on my finger, nestling it next to the solitaire.

The judge looks at me, and I throw a questioning glance at Graham.

“I have it,” he says as he gives it to me, and I slide the band on his finger. There, it’s done.

“Then, by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss.”

Graham brushes his lips over mine for a second, and then it’s done.

He threads his fingers through mine as we leave the courthouse and walk down the steps. There’s a crowd of people at the bottom and a crew from ESPN. My stomach pitches. I’m still processing the wedding.

“Are they here for you?”

He heaves out a sigh, resignation in his gray eyes. “I thought it would be a good idea to have some photos of us leaving the courthouse. I meant to tell you, but . . .”

“You can’t seem to think straight either.”

A small laugh comes from him. “I was nervous as hell. You?”

“Absolutely terrified. Still am. We’re really married.” My chest rises. “I don’t feel any different, do you?”

“I’m glad it’s you, Emmy. You know that, right?” He glances back at the reporters. “It’s better to rip the Band-Aid off, or they’ll be chasing us around for photos for weeks. This way we can get it out of the way. Can you handle it?”

I school my face and drape my hand over my heart. “Sir. I won an Academy Award at the Golden Iguana. Of course I can manage.”

He laughs, his dimples popping out. “Good.”

“Graham, Graham!” calls a reporter with an ESPN lanyard around her neck.

He smiles at her. “Hi, Shelly.”

She inches closer to us. “Everyone wants to know. Have you been cleared to play this fall?”

I hide my surprise that the first question isn’t about his marriage but his football career. It reminds me of how important he is to New York.

“Yes,” he announces as immediate cheers and claps go through the crowd gathered around us. I notice a few regular people with their phones out taking videos. Excitement etches their features. This is their hero, the man who won the Super Bowl, died, and came back.

Her gaze flits over me as she smiles. “We all saw your engagement post, and I see you’re holding a bouquet. Does this mean you’re married?” She directs the question to me, and I gaze adoringly up at Graham and bat my lashes.

“Yes, to a most amazing man.”

His smile lights up, and part of me realizes that I mean those words, I do, while the other side of me is whispering in my ear to put more armor around my heart.

“Training camp is about to start. Is there a honeymoon planned around all that work?” she asks.

Graham and I have already discussed how to address this if it comes up, mostly in front of his family. He smiles at Shelley. “We’re waiting until the season is over so we can spend some quality time together. Obviously we can’t tell you where we’ll honeymoon this weekend, because we’d like for it to be a private affair.”

She nods. “Tell us—any qualms about taking the field again after what happened?”

Graham squeezes my hand harder as if he needs support, so I lean my head on his shoulder, trying to offer comfort.

“I trust the game. What happened to me was unique and won’t happen again.”

“What does Kian Adams have to say about your marriage to Graham?” a man calls out, jutting his way forward. I frown, recognizing him as the middle-aged man who hung around my apartment for days.

I keep my face blank while Graham visibly tenses, his eyes turning into slits. “You’d have to ask him,” he growls, then whisks me down the steps and away from the man.

The man follows us, along with the crowd of people. “Is it true that you spoke with Kian today?”

Graham whips his head around. “No.”

“I was talking to your wife,” he replies snidely. “There are photos online of Mrs. Harlan outside a bookstore with Kian, right before the wedding. It’s no secret they were a couple before she met you.”

Graham stiffens and with great effort turns to me and pushes up a smile, but I see the fury in his eyes. “Brody’s here. Let’s go, darling.”

Leaving the man and the crowd behind, he ushers me down the steps and opens the door to the back seat of a black Mercedes.

“Congratulations, newlyweds!” Brody calls from the driver’s seat as Graham gets in on the other side of me in the back. Cas waves and smiles from the front next to Brody.

I say nothing. Neither does Graham.

Brody squints at me, then Graham. “Too soon, my turtledoves?”

“Just drive,” Graham mutters as he stares out the window, decidedly not looking at me.

“All righty then,” Brody murmurs as he pulls out into the traffic. We get three blocks before I finally break the silence.

“I was going to tell you about Kian, but there wasn’t time.” Not exactly true. I could have sent a text, but I just wanted the wedding to be over with, and then I would have told him. I didn’t expect the PI to be on the steps of the courthouse. “You’re angry,” I say.

“Yes,” he says as he whips out his phone, taps it, then shows me the photos on a website.

I exhale. The PI captured us just as Kian took my hand. Kian’s face is earnest, yearning evident, while mine is slightly obscured.

“It’s not what it looks like,” I say softly.

Brody glances back at me at a red light. “What’s going on?”

“Kian came to see me at the store. He wanted to tell me that a man had been asking questions.” I pause, searching Graham’s granite profile. “If I’d know someone was taking photos, I wouldn’t have gone outside, but it seemed the better option than talking inside the store and making a scene.”

Graham pinches the bridge of his nose. “I can’t believe you talked to him. You should have sent him away.”

“If this is about the NDA, I’d never tell him. I only talked to him to protect you.”

Mercurial gray eyes pin me. “This isn’t about the NDA. I don’t want him near you, Emmy. You’re my wife, and it worries me that he might hurt you. Don’t you understand?” His gaze searches my face. Endlessly. He continues to trace my features before landing on my lips. His nose flares.

Tension sparks the air, making it potent.

I drop his eyes. “Jane had an axe. I felt perfectly safe,” I murmur as Brody parks on the street in front of a brownstone.

Brody turns around to smile at us. “Okay, my little lovebirds, let’s kiss and make up or put a pin in it. The marriage is done, and we’ve got to face the family and prove you’re legit. We’re doing drinks and finger foods. It shouldn’t be too messy. Your honeymoon is a weekend at the beach, if anyone asks. I have your bags packed in the trunk. Now. Are you ready?”

Cas pumps his fist. “I’m ready for alcohol.”


Graham gets out and comes around and opens my door, then takes my hand. He pulls me against his chest, taking my breath away with the sudden movement. I run my hands up the silky material of his shirt, my hands ending in his hair as I sweep some of it off his face.

“I should have told you about Kian. I’m sorry. Still mad?”

His jaw tics. “I’m putting it aside for now.”

“If you two have finished your spat, we’re waiting,” Brody calls from the steps of the house.


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