Hildreth went into a dramatic model pose as Jeff looked him over one more time.
“Yep. Looks good.” Jeff stopped in front of him. “You do have the rings, right?”
Hildreth lowered his arms. “Nope! Elsie does. I sure hope she doesn’t forget them. That would be both embarrassing and dang awkward. The priest will be all, ‘Okay. Time to get them rings on yo’ fingers.’ And Elsie will be like ‘Ooops! I knew I forget something today in my madcap rush to get myself married to this fine specimen of manly hotness.’ And she’ll promptly drop dead of embarrassment. Poor Els.”
Jeff chuckled. “I seriously doubt that Elsie would be like that.”
“What? You don’t think she’s over the top ready to marry hot awesome me?”
“Oh, I’m sure she is, but I doubt she’d die of embarrassment that easily. She strikes me as being a lot stronger and more resourceful than that. She’d probably tear off strips of her wedding gown to tie around your fingers as stand-in rings.”
“Ooo. That would be so hot.”
Jeff laughed and gave Hildreth a friendly shove. “Such a dweeb. Let’s get you out of here and on your way.”
“Your car or my car?”
“Okay!” Darius said. “Everyone get into the car!”
All four boys barreled into the backseat. There was some pushing and shoving and yelling, but they all got in.
Darius exchanged a look with Arabella and smiled. She wore a yellow maxi dress with turquoise beading. Her hair was arranged in a loosely styled bun. Citrine drop earrings, a matching tennis bracelet, and turquoise high heels completed her look. “How do you do it?” he asked.
“Manage to wrangle our kids and still look so gorgeous.”
She came over to him and kissed him. “Years of practice, mi corazon.”
He laid his hands on her shoulders and kissed her. It wasn’t the heated, passionate kiss he really wanted to give her. Just a simple, sweet kiss that was totally kid viewing appropriate. “I love you, Ara. Tu are mi luz.”
His Spanish was a hopeless mess, but the sentiments rang true. And she understood.
“And you are mine.” she said. “Come.” She took his hands and led him to the car.
“Ara.” He stopped at the driver’s side door. “I am going to do it. I mean, if you’re okay with it.”
“I want to go to Master Shinowa for additional training.” He shifted his weight. “Unless. Unless you don’t want me to. If you want me to stay, I’ll stay.”
“Mi corazon. Darius. I want you to be safe when you are out there hunting. If that means you must leave me to train with your master, then go do it.” She spread her hand above his heart. “All I ask is that you be safe and that you come home to me.”
He covered her hand with his own. “I will always come home to you.”
She kissed him again. “I know you will.”
He started to move in to kiss her again, but then he remembered. “Ah! I forgot my weapon. Get in the car. I’ll be right back.” He ran back to the house.
Elsie admired her reflection in the mirror one more time.
I am splendid.
I am a queen.
I am beautiful in my white gown and my father’s gauntlets.
Oh, Dad! Can you see me? What would you say if you were here now? What would you tell me? What advice would you give me?
Clarice returned all dressed up and ready to go. She wore a formal rose pink jumpsuit with sheer floor length sleeves. If she stood still long enough, her outfit could have easily been mistaken for a dress. “I bet you were worried that I’d go in my ordinary Jane schmane clothes.” She clipped a pink feather and jeweled fascinator to the side of her frosted blonde hair.
Elsie smiled at her mother. “It never even crossed my mind.”
“Well! That’s a relief! Are you ready to go?”
Elsie thought of Hildreth dressed in a tuxedo. She imagined him waiting for her at the altar. “I am so ready.”
“Then, let’s not stand around here all day talking about going. Let’s go!”
Elsie followed her mother out of the room.
Dad? If you were here, would you like Hildreth? Would you understand why I love him? Would you have any objections to me marrying another hunter?
I wish I could talk to you.
I wish you were here.
Why don’t you appear? Why can’t you just touch my hand and let me know that you are here?
She followed Clarice all the way down the stairs to the kitchen.
Dad, I miss you still.
Just say my name.
Clarice grabbed her keys off the kitchen table and put them in her decorative purse. “All right! I think we have all we need. Let’s get on goin’!”
Appear to Mom. Let her see you. Let her hear your voice. I know she misses you as much as I do. Maybe more.
Clarice looked back at her. “Elsie? Are you okay?”
We miss you.
Clarice gave her a skeptical look.
“Really, I’m fine.” Her thoughts returned to Hildreth and her mood lightened. “I’m marrying the man I love. I’m so much more than just ‘fine’.”
Clarice smiled. “I’d say so! He is sooooo mm-mm-mmmm fine! And don’t you ever deny it.”
Elsie shrugged. “I don’t know why I would.”
“Good girl! Uhh. Let me think. Your bouquet’s at the church already. I had them deliver it straight there.” Clarice thought it over. “I have the veil in the car already. It’s in the front seat. So, we’ll have to move it into the back.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m going to take my car.”
“And you want me to drive all by myself? I guess I can’t blame you.” She grinned. “After all, I know you and hot man Hildreth will want some alone time afterwards. Some much needed lovering time.”
“I won’t admit it or deny it. I’m just going to head to the church now.” Elsie gave her mom a quick kiss. “I’ll see you there.”