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My Darling Bride: Chapter 33


A few days later, I announce I’m going to the bookstore, not to work but to hang out while Jane and Andrew do their thing. She makes me swear that I won’t do anything strenuous. I can walk up the stairs and relax in my office or sit in one of the lounging areas and read a book. It’s a relief to get out of the apartment.

Graham has called, but we haven’t spoken. I just need time to process if what Graham said is actually true.

I can’t resist helping a customer when I notice a man on the third floor. An older man, maybe in his seventies, he shifts from one foot to the next as he stares uncertainly at the books on the shelves and blows out a long breath. It’s a cry for help.

“Hi, I’m Emmy,” I say as I get up from the comfy leather lounger I was sitting in. I straighten my loose linen pants and matching peasant blouse. “I work here. Can I help you find anything?” I smirk. “It will actually make my day if I could find you a book.”

The man smiles engagingly as he speaks in a slow southern drawl. “I don’t want to bother you, but I’d appreciate it. I’m Carl.”

“It’s no bother.” I go to stand next to him, and he tells me that he’s in town to visit a friend of his, River Tate, a Python player who told him about the store. I reply that I saw River play once, at the preseason game.

Carl smiles and gives me his life story, about how he lives in Ellijay, Georgia, and knew River when he was in college. Then he describes a museum in Ellijay dedicated to UFOs. Apparently, the locals claim that part of Georgia is a hotspot for extraterrestrial activity.

“I was abducted once, you see, and I thought I could find some books about true-life stories of people who’ve experienced the same thing.”

I nod sagely, keeping my expression blank. “I have just the thing. We have an entire section and even a brand-new book of interviews from whistleblowers who once worked for the government and have come forward with stories. I flipped through it when it came in, and it was fascinating. Follow me.”

I escort him to the display we have on the second floor. He’s chatting to me about aliens with big eyes, and I nod in all the right places. He’s just wrapping up a long-winded story about how he hopes they come back and take him to their planet when the PA system goes off.

I start at Graham’s voice. “Emmy, you have a cream situation in the rotunda. Please meet me there. It’s me. I’m the cream. I’m waiting for you.”

My breath catches.

I tell Carl to excuse me and head down the staircase. Butterflies dance in my stomach when I see him standing in the rotunda next to the manual typewriter.

Jane and Andrew are at the counter, all wide eyes and smirking, while Babs has literally taken a seat at one of the tables with Brody to watch me. I start when I notice Vale at the counter, a couple of books in his hands. He smiles at me, a knowing expression on his face as he looks from me to Graham.

I lick dry lips. Graham looks gorgeous, his dark hair swept off his chiseled face, his gray gaze watching every step I take.

“Hey,” he murmurs when I reach him, his greedy eyes eating me up.

“Hey,” I reply shakily. “Um, good to see you.”

“How are you feeling?”


“Have I given you enough space?” he says with an earnestness I can’t deny. “I know things are happening fast—your surgery, my retirement. I wanted to give you time to think. I can’t stop thinking of you, though. I want to be the one who takes care of you, Emmy. I want to protect you, from whatever comes, whether it’s an old boyfriend who won’t leave you alone or a health issue.”

“Oh,” I say, letting the words settle inside me. I bite my lower lip to keep the tears pricking my eyelids from falling. “I’ve missed you.”

His warm hand cups my cheek. “Oh, baby, I’ve missed you. I want to show you something. Look.” He points down at the manual typewriter, and I scan the various messages people have left. He picks up the three-ringed binder where we keep older messages from the beginning of the year. He flips back several pages to one dated in late June. “This is the day I came to the store after our honeymoon. I’d been gone for seventeen days, and I missed you for every one of them.” He reads the message aloud. “‘I am obsessed with you, Emmy. From the moment you stepped out on that balcony. From the moment you called me your prison boyfriend. From the moment I dreamed of you on the football field. You are mine. You are my saving grace, my reward, my happiness, my darling.’”

“You wrote that?”

He nods, a gleam in his eyes as he caresses my cheek tenderly. “I couldn’t tell you that day, but I left you at the beach because I was terrified none of it was real, that I’d end up hurt and betrayed or alone with nothing, just like I did with Divina, but you’re not her; you’d never be her. You’re good. You’re kind. And you’re mine. When I married you, I meant it. I kept telling myself we were temporary, but inside of me, my heart knew the truth; I just had to let everything fall apart before I realized that I can’t be without you in my life. I’m not a smart man when it comes to feelings. I’ve never had a good romantic relationship. I’ve got massive flaws. I’ve never learned how to compromise, to resolve conflict, to express myself, but I love you, Emmy.”

Happiness swells in my chest, and a tear falls as he gently wipes it away. “I love you too.”

He smiles softly. “As soon as I saw you in that hospital bed, everything clicked together. I knew I never wanted you on the other side of that, wondering if I was going to be okay, or healthy. I’m sorry I’m an idiot and couldn’t communicate how I felt.”

“It’s okay. I forgive you.”

“We’ve got some living to make up for. The first thing I want to do is take you on a real honeymoon.”

Uncaring of the crowd of people who’ve gathered around us, I lean my head on his chest as my arms wrap around his waist. “Will you miss it? The game? I don’t want to be the reason you don’t play.”

He chuckles. “I’ll miss the camaraderie and the test of my skill. I certainly won’t miss two-a-day practices and bumps and bruises. I won’t miss worrying if I’m going to get my next concussion. I’ve got faith that life is gonna be good for us. Life gave me you. I dreamed of you before I even met you.”

He tips my face up, his eyes searching mine. “I thought I knew everything I wanted before I met you, but I was wrong. We’re starting a new chapter of our story. We’re going to write the book on being happy. The bookstore is ours, not just mine. You have to know that I bought it just for you. We’re gonna make it the best place in New York to come and buy books and see fantastic windows. Are you in it with me? Do you still want me?”

I laugh, a flood of joy hitting me so hard I feel drunk. “God. Yes.”

He laughs, and I smile. “I just don’t want you to get bored.”

“I’ve been talking to my coaches and players. I’m not the only one who’s dealt with a TBI. It’s a lot to think about, but I’d like to bring more awareness to concussions, maybe find ways to prevent them on the field.”

“I could use some help at my luxury gym,” Brody calls out. “I’ll let you make the juice drinks.”

Graham rolls his eyes. “Sorry, they tagged along. The three of us were looking at a place for the gym when Jane called me and said you’d be in today. They insisted on coming.”

I wince. “So your dad knows about the marriage of convenience thing.”

“Hmm. He’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” He pulls my rings out of his pocket. “I’ve been carrying these around with me.” His eyes meet mine. “I have a question for you.”

My nerves flare to life. This moment feels momentous and beautiful. I swallow. “Yeah?”

He types out a message on the typewriter, then whispers in my ear: “I want this to be for us, something to remember. Look at what I wrote.”

Emmy, will you stay married to me? are the words he’s typed. Tears well over and slide down my cheeks as I pull his face to me and crush my lips against his. “Yes,” I breathe when we come up for air.

Cheers go up around us, and I hear Babs crying in joy.

Graham gazes down at me. “We’re gonna make some beautiful magic, darling.”


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