In my Facebook reader group this weekend, I marked the countdown to Love on the Outskirts of Town with a week of fun shares. On Saturday, because of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, I asked if anyone could name the couples in Pine Harbour who’d gotten married. This is a bit of a trick question, because not all of the weddings are on the page.
(The correct answer is Rafe and Olivia, who get married in book 2, Jake and Dani, who get married in book 4, Zander and Faith–the ones who get married off the page!–and Sean and Jenna,who get married in their own book, book 6.)
So, as a reward for everyone who knew that Zander and Faith had a quiet courthouse wedding right after the epilogue of their book, I’ve written that scene. It’s interesting to go back and write about them two years ago, because they’re living, breathing people in my mind–which means I also know what’s going on with them now. And because I’m a cruel writer, I’ve included some of that, too.
WARNING: Don’t read this until you’ve finished Love on a Summer Night! It’s book #4 in my Canadian small town military romance series, and can be read on its own, but most readers recommend starting this series at book #1, which is always free!
The Wedding: a bonus epilogue, Love on a Summer Night
July, two years ago
ZANDER never imagined he’d get married, full-stop. But if he had been pressed to picture his wedding day, he couldn’t have imagined a rainy summer day with his bride wearing a red plaid shirt and the best man not even four feet tall.
“You really want to do this?” Faith asked as he tugged her up the steps of the Owen Sound courthouse. It was their second trip to the small city at the base of the peninsula this week. They’d picked up their marriage license from city hall on Monday, and now they were back on Thursday—the first available booking with a Justice of the Peace.
The whole adventure had started the week before when Faith had gone to see her lawyer. She wanted to set up a literary trust for Eric, and Zander had asked her to find out about the process of adoption—no rush, he’d said, but if she’d be open to it, and if Eric wanted him to become his dad…
Only it wasn’t that easy. The court would want to see a happy, stable marriage, the lawyer advised. An engagement wouldn’t cut it.
Faith broke the news to him on Canada Day in the sweetest way—by proposing to him. He’d had his hand up her shirt at the time, so it had taken a second or two to sink into his thick head.
When it did, he made her back the hell up and start at the beginning again, because he didn’t want to miss anything. He didn’t want her to miss anything, either—not a wedding, or the specialness of being a bride. The countdown and all of that.
They had originally picked a wedding date for a year in the future, but Faith promised him she’d trade all of that in a heartbeat.
Now here they were, doing just that, and the beaming smile on her face promised him it was the right call.
He leaned in and kissed her lips. “Yes, I really want to do this.”
Inside, they were directed to a chamber not far from the entrance. The door was open, and when they peeked inside, they found two women, one in robes.
“Come in,” she said with a warm smile. “You must be my nine-thirty.”
“We’re early,” Faith said.
Zander took his fiancée’s hand. “We’re excited.”
Eric pressed close, and Zander wrapped a protective arm around his boy’s shoulders.
“Well, we’re excited too,” said the justice. She quickly ran through the steps of a civil service. “If you want to exchange your own vows, there’s a spot in the service for that. Do you have rings?”
They’d bought them on Monday, right after applying for the license. Eric held out his hand, showing the officiant the velvet ring box he clutched tightly.
“Then let’s get started.”
Faith took a deep breath and lifted her bouquet of wildflowers. She’d gone out to the garden first thing this morning and picked a thick fistful of them. She rarely woke up before Zander, but today she had, and she didn’t roll over and go back to sleep. She quietly climbed out of bed, pulled on his sweater, and went outside to start her wedding day with a quiet moment of reflection.
Each flower was a whisper of gratitude. For her partner, her life, her child. More children, she hoped. For a second chance at happiness.
“We are gathered here today to witness the formal joining in the legal state of matrimony of Alessandro Minelli and Faith Davidson, under the authority given and provided by the Government of the Province of Ontario. Marriage is an important and serious commitment to a partner, and in this case, to a family.” The justice smiled at Eric, then at Zander. “Please repeat after me.”
Faith’s heart took off at a gallop as Zander listened to the officiant with one ear and gave the rest of his attention squarely to her. His eyes were bright and his jaw firm. “I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I, Alessandro Minelli, may not be joined in matrimony to Faith Davidson”.
“And Faith, now it’s your turn.”
““I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I, Faith Davidson, may not be joined in matrimony to…” She grinned. “Alessandro Minelli”.
“She can call me Zander for the rest of the service,” he said in a grumble.
“Oh no, babe,” Faith whispered. “We’re doing this the formal way.”
He squeezed her hand tight. Yes, they were.
“Zander it is. Since your hands are already joined…” That got a laugh from Eric. “Let’s move on to the vows. I’ll prompt the first part, the legal bit, and then you can add your own words after that. I declare in front of this legal witness that I, Zander…”
“I declare in front of this legal witness that I, Zander, do take you, Faith, to be my lawful wedded wife. I promise to care for you, to protect you, to hold you and comfort you.” He said each word softly, seriously, with such intent she felt them to her core. “Everything that I have, and everything that I am, is yours. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, I am your faithful and loving partner as long as I live.”
They’d written these vows together, the night before, curled up in bed. It was still surreal hearing him say them out loud. And that he hadn’t needed any prompting was impressive. Faith wasn’t sure she’d be able to get through hers as smoothly. She glanced at the officiant, who prompted her with the first bit.
“I declare in front of this legal witness that I, Faith, do take you, Zander, to be my lawful wedded husband.” She swallowed around the lump in her throat and glanced to the justice for another prompt from their handwritten card. “I promise to care for you, to protect you…” That one was hard. It spoke to her greatest fear of losing him. She took a deep breath. “To hold you and comfort you. Everything that I have, and everything that I am, is yours. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, I am your faithful and loving partner as long as I live.”
Zander knelt down to Eric next. “And bud, I have some promises for you, too. I promise to always lie in the grass and look at the clouds with you. To be a safe set of arms for hugs, and a voice of reason when you need advice. Everything that I have, and everything that I am, is yours, too, for your whole life.”
The clerk, who up to this point had been a silent witness, leaned in and handed Faith a tissue. She had her own in the pocket of her jean skirt, but this was better. She didn’t have to dig blindly through her tears for this one.
“Eric,” the justice said. “Now it’s your turn. Do you have the rings?”
He held up the box, and Zander took it, opening it for the officiant with one hand.
She took both rings out of the box and he handed it back to Eric.
“These rings signify your commitment to each other. They are symbols of your vows, a daily reminder of the solemn promises made today. Zander, place the ring on Faith’s finger and repeat after me.”
Faith held out her shaking hand and he carefully slid the simple band up to her first knuckle.
“Faith, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vows to you. Whenever you look at it, know that I love, honour and cherish you above all others.” Zander pushed the ring on the rest of the way, then took a deep breath.
She may be the only one crying, but he was affected, too. She squeezed his hand, then took the ring the officiant offered and repeated the same words back to him.
“Zander and Faith, in as much as you have pledged yourselves to one another, by the exchanging of vows and rings, and by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you to be married.” She paused a beat. “You may now—”
“Kiss the bride. Yes, please.” Zander swept Faith into his arms and tipped her back, covering her mouth with his. It sealed the ceremony with a firm, perfect promise, that she was his in every single way.
May, two years later
IF THERE was anything better than wake-up sex, Faith couldn’t imagine it—and she was a writer with a pretty wicked imagination.
“Never stop doing that,” she panted as Zander slid into her from behind.
His hands tightened on her hips and he bottomed out inside her, demanding space inside her body. It was his to take. She was his wife, his bride, and they had the entire long weekend all to themselves. Her mom and Bill had taken Eric camping.
And Faith was officially off work for the summer, doctor’s orders. For the first time in seven years, she didn’t have a book deadline in her future. She’d think about getting back to writing once she was pregnant.
If she got pregnant.
She pressed her face into the pillow and pushed that thought out of her head. That was next week’s problem, when she started seeing her OB/GYN daily for infertility monitoring and treatment dictated by a reproductive specialist from Toronto.
This weekend was hers and her husband’s. Just the two of them.
“Where did you go?” Zander murmured, bending his big body over her, his lips brushing against her ear.
“A dark place,” she whispered, turning her face so he could kiss her cheek.
He always did. “I love you,” he growled as his beard brushed against her skin. “Exactly as you are.”
With secondary infertility and aging eggs. Yeah, she knew just how he felt. And any hour now, she’d get her period, on their romantic weekend together, because the universe was just that cruel.
“Babe,” he growled.
She groaned. “I know.”
“Do you?” He tangled his hand in her hair, tugging just hard enough to make her squeak.
She smiled despite herself and angled her hips back, urging him to fuck her harder. “Yes.”
“Good. I love you exactly as you are.” He rolled his hips, pushing deep again. “Exactly. Whatever it takes, we’ll do it. Or not.”
She loved that about Zander the most. He was genuinely happy with their family exactly as it was. And Eric was eight now, mature beyond his years. Independence was in sight, and then they’d have endless mornings like this.
But deep inside, she still wanted more.
She twisted beneath him, and he pulled back, leaving an aching void inside her. As soon as she was on her back, he returned, pressing the thick, throbbing crown of his cock against her wet slit. “Like this?”
She nodded, stretching her arms up to catch him. To pull him close.
Lately, she’d always wanted it like this. Him on top of her, face to face.
“Touch yourself,” he murmured as he braced his arms on either side of her head, caging her in. “Touch me. Feel us together.”
She traced her fingers down the dark line of hair from his belly button, where his skin pulled tight over hard muscles, down to the even darker hair he kept trim at the base of his cock. Heat swirled between them as she explored him. Hard, throbbing, and wet, too, from where they joined. He hissed when her fingers left his skin and found her own. She looked up.
He was watching her.
She locked her gaze on his face as she touched herself. Looked at her husband, at the lusty need written all over his face as she rolled her fingertips over her clit. He started thrusting again, slower than slow. Thick, deep pulses that drove her crazy and made her squirm.
“Yes,” she breathed.
She nodded helplessly, need spiralling hard inside her now. Tight, coiling desire. “Zander…”
He didn’t miss a beat, his entire body rolling into her as she crested, her climax a shimmering, clutching release that went on and on and on.
When her hand slipped out from between them, he groaned and buried his face in her neck, finally letting himself go.
“You are my everything,” he whispered when his breath came back. “Perfect in every way.”
Tears threatened to spring to her eyes and she blinked them away. “I love you so much,” she murmured instead.
He rolled to the side, pulling her with him. “Good.”
“Should we get up and have some breakfast?”
“In a minute.” She circled her fingertip on his chest.
“That was really emotional for you.”
“I wish I could take that hurt away.”
And he would if he could. She knew that. She burrowed against him and closed her eyes. “We should talk about something else.”
He smoothed his hand over her hair. “Should we?”
Damn it. She wrinkled her nose. “No, I guess not.”
“It’s going to be an intense experience. But I’m going to be right beside you the whole time.”
“You always are,” she whispered.
“And I always will be, babe. Forever.”