Hildreth looked down at his phone and considered calling her back.
I want to talk to her a little longer. I want to flirt with her. I want to say innuendos and talk smut into her ear. I want to make her wild with desire for me.
For just me.
I want her to come racing over here. I want her to knock me off my feet.
I want so many things.
Hildreth sighed and put his phone away. “Tomorrow, Elsie. Tomorrow.”
I want to run to him.
I want to tackle him and knock him flat on his back.
I want to pin him down.
I want to tear his clothes off.
Elsie stopped and quietly thought things over. “I need more practice before tomorrow.” She put her phone away. “I need to buy more dress shirts.”
She started the car up again and backed up out to the street. “Hildreth Mayhew, you are in for such a surprise.”
Tomorrow. My little girl’s gonna be a full-fledged married woman.
Clarice put the wedding favor – a pair of crystal swans – into a pink gift box. The sides of the box had been laser cut into a rose pattern. It looked as delicate as lace. It was an absolute work of art.
She tied up the top with a white satin ribbon and set the box on the restaurant’s table.
She won’t be Elsie Vansing anymore.
She’ll be Mrs. Elsie Mayhew. My little girl all grown up. I never thought I’d live to see this day.
Gerry, I wish you could have lived to see it.
Clarice picked up the next swan couple and put it into a white gift box with a similar rose pattern. She glanced at John.
He tied up the top of his gift box so carefully, tugging the ribbon until it was even and perfect.
Her heart panged for him as she imagined him trying to tie ribbons in little Barbara’s hair.
How long did it take for him to get it right? After all, guys aren’t blessed with that innate ability to tie perfect bows. Their hands aren’t designed for such feminine endeavors.
How did he manage? How did he handle all of her woman-centric questions? Did he have anyone to turn to? Or was he all on his own?
She set her gift box on the table and walked over to him.
He smiled at her. “I told you it was a good idea to start at Your Junk = My Treasures. Although, I must admit, I wasn’t expecting them to have a box of 200 crystal swan wedding favors. That was unexpected.”
“It was very unexpected but convenient.” She pulled up a seat and sat next to him. “So wonderfully convenient.”
John imprisoned another swan couple and slipped the ribbon through the open slots at the top of the box. He tied it once, formed the loops for the bow, and stopped. “Clarice, am I keeping you from doing stuff for Elsie’s wedding?”
“No, I’m actually well ahead of that game.” She patted his hand. “Don’t worry, you hot hunk of manhood you.”
“Hot hunk of manhood…” He smiled and focused on tying the bow. “Thank you.”
He isn’t young.
He isn’t slim or muscular.
He is a little overweight. His hair is graying.
But he is a good man. He has a good spirit and a very kind face.
“Being with you makes me happy. John.”
He looked up at her.
“You make me happy.”
“And you make me happy too, Clarice.”
She picked up a swan couple and put it in a box.
He tied it up in a perfect bow. “I love you. It’s become such an easy thing to say. I love you, Clarice Vansing.”
“I love you too, John Addleston.”
“Are you ready for tomorrow? I mean, really ready? Psychologically ready?”
Clarice nodded. “I guess it helps that she’s already living on her own. I don’t feel so much like I’m losing her.”
“Same here. But all the same.”
She sighed. “Yes, all the same.”
“Our girls are all grown up. They’re stepping into a whole new world. A whole new understanding of themselves.”
“Are you nervous?”
John shrugged. “Yes. And no. I trust Ambrose. I know I shouldn’t. I should be afraid of what he could do to her and, in the back of my mind, I still am. He is a vampire. He could hurt her so easily. It scares me. Barbara’s still my little girl. I don’t want her to get hurt.”
He picked up one of the swans. It had been accidently separated from its mate. He examined the jagged edges. “But she loves him. He adores her. I can see that. It isn’t some sort of trick. It isn’t a lie. Ambrose truly loves her. He’ll protect her. He’ll take care of her.”
John put the swan next to its missing mate. “Tonight, I will give her away.” He made eye contact with Clarice. “I could worry about so many things and I probably will. But I will gladly hand Barbara over to him for better and for worse. She will be his responsibility to love and care for and he will. He will love her. He will care for her. I know he will. I believe him. I trust him.”
“I feel the same way about Hildreth. I have no doubts. No regrets.”
“Same here. In all honesty, I’m looking forward to tonight.” He picked up another crystal swan. “Ahh, we should get back to work. These things aren’t going to pack themselves.”
“So true.” Clarice said.