A Short Story
Danielle Lee Zwissler
A Young Adult Love Story
Falling for You Book III.I
©2016 Danielle Lee Zwissler
Firefly & Wisp Books
Also published by Shakespir
Copyright © 2016 by: Danielle L. Zwissler
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or use of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of Firefly & Wisp Books.
First Firefly & Wisp Publishing Printing 2016
All the characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. All work is from the imagination of the author.
So you’ve read the first three books of the series, and you got to the end of the last and were like, “Are you kidding me? There’s more!… Well, just the wedding.
Sorry, I couldn’t leave you hanging.
So, I decided to make this a freebie on my website, and if you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you already know that this was free. But only for subscribers, and only for those that have already purchased “The Man I’ll Marry”. I’m cool like that! Ha!
So, without further ado, please, enjoy this little snippet into Keri & Payton’s life, and who knows… I may just have some more bonus’s in the future, like the birth of a child, or perhaps Jack and Seth’s stories… Maybe.
Thank you once again for being loyal readers, and don’t forget to Read, Fall in Love, and Be Happy!
Much love and happiness,
R Danielle Lee Zwissler
Many thanks to all of you that have read books 1-3 of this series. Without your support, this little short wouldn’t have come to life.
Thank you to the people at “The Owl Promotions”, I’m looking forward to working with you.
Thanks to my Street Team for reading and reviewing!
The wedding video on my website is called “Take my Hand”… you can find it here:
“Take My Hand (The Wedding Song) [Feat. Will Anderson]” by Emily Hackett.
The invitations were crafted by yours truly. I wanted you all to get the feel of an actual wedding. Payton and Keri have truly made my heart complete. I hope you feel the same.
I also made the “Wedding” teaser that I featured on my Facebook page. Thanks to the many people that have reviewed the different books in the series. I’m so happy that you’ve liked them.
For my Happily Ever After,
happy fifteen years, Baby!
Danielle Lee Zwissler
Whoever said, “Good things happen to those who wait,” must not have known how much waiting sucked. I mean, I, Keri Richards, had to wait three whole years until I got to marry my soulmate, Payton Taylor.
Payton knew the pain, at least that’s what he told me every day for the last three years. I believed him…mostly.
It was hard to love someone so much that you felt as if you’d burst. Some people don’t think marriage is any different than living together, but I can’t imagine that being right. Even though I have lived with Payton now for three whole years, I still couldn’t wait to sign the piece of paper, and tie myself to him in all ways imaginable.
I know, it seems odd, since you’ve been with me the entire time, learning, and seeing what I couldn’t see: that Payton and I are meant to be. But, for me, I never got it, well, not until that day at Jessup’s apartment. But now that I do, waiting is just…well, it blows.
Mom had a hard time at first, with us living together. People didn’t do that back then, when she was a teen. They didn’t have divorce rates like we do either.
Even though in my heart I knew we’d make it, my head was a whole different matter. Me, Keri Richards, and my life-long bestie were getting married! In less than 24 hours!
I took a deep breath and took one last look in the mirror.
It was the day before our whole ‘nuptials’ and I was nervous. Not nervous in marrying Pay, but nervous because of the whole “Dad-giving-the-daughter-away” thing, and the whole “walking-down-the-aisle-in-front-of-the-entire-world” thing. It just wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but with everything that Pay and I had gone through, it was kind of necessary. There were loads of people that wanted to be there for us, and if I was to be honest, I kind of liked knowing that everyone—including my new stepsister, Patti—knew that Payton and I were attached…permanently.
As in forever.
Yes, Patti. Patti’s dad married my mom a year ago last week. The wedding was of the ‘Vegas’ variety, so unlike Mom, but it was perfect at the same time. Mom said the wedding was different, completely, from hers and my own father’s, and she preferred it that way. She’d told me that she loved my dad, and would always love him, but she also loved Jeffrey, and even though I can’t imagine loving anyone like I love Payton, I decided to be happy for her.
And not only has our little family grown, but Patti and Mitch have been together for two years now. Patti and Mitch also have a little boy named Toby. Toby, my little nephew, as well as Payton’s, how weird is that, was now nine months old today, and of course, cute as a button. He was also a total surprise.
My brothers, Seth and Jack, are both seeing someone. Not the same girl, thank God, and are living about a mile from our mom and Jeffrey’s new place. We all still get together every Sunday at Mom and Jeffrey’s. And it’s fun, but there’s been something missing.
Dad. I miss him like crazy.
I miss Dad’s laugh, his sweet smile, and his great personality. I miss hugging him, feeling safe, and I miss hearing his voice. The worst thing about getting married to the man of my dreams is knowing that my dad won’t be there to hold my hand. He won’t be there to walk me down the aisle.
And, Payton and me, well, we just moved back home to Texas, after three long years of being in Ohio, and Mom gifted us the old house that I grew up in. The memories of her and Dad’s old life were too much for her to handle, but she couldn’t bear for anyone else to live in it, especially knowing that the tree fort between the two properties would always tie Payton and I together.
That brings us full circle.
I smiled as I put on my light pink lipstick and fixed my hair. My rosy cheeks were testimony to thinking of the whole “wedding night”. Payton and I decided to forgo sex for an entire month before the wedding, and to be honest, I was quite nervous.
“Are you still in there?” Alexis, my college roommate and other best friend asked.
I laughed. “Yeah, still.”
“Let me in if you’re decent.”
I walked to the door and released the lock. Alexis was on the other side with a huge grin on her face.
“Still thinking about the epic sex you’re going to be having tomorrow night?”
I grinned, knowing that Alexis had read me like a book. “Um, yeah.”
She laughed, and patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t forget to text me after.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going to text you after.”
Alexis looked unmoved as usual. “Yes, you are. Oh, have you seen my stud? I’ve been looking for him.”
I giggled. “Todd was with Payton the last I heard. Did you find out about the bachelor party?”
Alexis rolled her eyes. “Those two lugs at a bachelor party still blows my mind. No, have you?”
“Payton called me last night.”
Alexis’s eyes rounded. “You’re kidding. What did he say?”
“He said that they went to the ‘Stables’ for some drinks and Mitch got them a stripper.”
Alexis shook her head. “I am so telling Patti.”
“Did someone say my name?” Patti said, pushing her way into the bathroom. She looked at me. “Still thinking about the sex?”
I rolled my eyes. “How many people know?” I asked, worried that my mom was going to come in next.
Patti grinned. “Just about everyone. So, listen, Toby is being good right now, and your mom said she’d watch him tonight. I was thinking… one last go out?”
Alexis looked at me and we both grinned. I nodded. “We have the rehearsal dinner.”
“After. We’ll be all fueled up for the main event,” Patti said, and then looked down at her nails. “What time’s our nail appointment for tomorrow?”
“Ten,” Alexis chimed in. I looked down at my own nails and shuddered.
“We’ll have plenty of time then,” Patti said, then started for the door. “See you tonight.”
“See ya,” I replied, and then Alexis bumped her shoulder against mine.
“So weird. I still can’t believe we’re all friends now. You, me, Patti. Well, you and Patti.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of weird,” I muttered. “But she’s family now, and life is short.”
“Too short,” Alexis said, and patted my shoulder. “You okay?”
I took a deep breath and blew it out. “Yeah. It’s going to be hard tomorrow,” I replied, immediately thinking of my dad again.
“Jeff walking you down?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t ready for that yet. “No, Jack and Seth.” I thought about it for months, years really, and couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone but my brothers. “And what about you? Are you going to have both your dad and step dad walk you down the aisle next month?”
Alexis laughed and blew out a breath. “Hell no. Dad would have an aneurysm if I asked Mick to walk me down. Nope, just Dad, and Mom and Sheri will be in the front row, probably flipping out.”
“Are you okay with Payton and I getting married first, even though you and Todd were totally engaged before us?” I asked, hoping that Alexis wasn’t mad. After all, she was one of the biggest reasons my dumb ass was here right now, waiting to marry my high school love.
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t want it any other way. Besides, Todd and I haven’t known each other since birth like you two.”
I laughed, and Alexis snorted.
“And, Todd and I, living down here in Texas… Well, it’s crazy, but we don’t know what we’d do if we’d have to be too far away from you and Payton. We’re used to you… you’re like a bunch of ticks.”
I grinned and then swatted Alexis’s shoulder. “I know; it really wouldn’t seem right.” I smiled, and thought of the past three years. We’d all lived together; Todd, Alexis, Payton and me, and we’d become best friends. There were a few ups and downs along the way, but we helped each other. Payton and Todd were close, and were planning on starting their own business together. Payton, after moving to Ohio with us, began working on a farm down from the University, and then took night classes for an Associate’s in business. He had some great ideas about expanding his family’s ranching business, and since his dad was ready to retire, Payton was going to take over, and bring Todd in. Todd just finished with his degree in Animal Sciences.
A match made in man-heaven.
And since mom gave us the house, the huge house that I lived in when I was a kid with my twin brothers, we had enough room for a few more people. And who better to live with than the people we shared an apartment with for three years…four for me. So, the deal was, Payton and I would get married first, and then as soon as we got back from our honeymoon, Todd and Alexis would get married. They had to wait because someone had to work the ranch while Payton and I were gone, and who better to do it than our two good friends.
Well, our one good friend. Todd. Alexis didn’t lift a finger on the ranch. She hated working with her hands, but she was pretty great at answering the phone.
When we got back to Ohio, Alexis applied to my old elementary school for a job, and since teachers were off summers, she was free. Luckily for Todd, Alexis worked in food service for the four years she spent at Ohio State, so she could make a mean grilled cheese.
I looked at Alexis. “What do you think he’s doing right now?”
Alexis grinned, knowing that I was talking about Payton. And worrying, as usual. “I bet he’s thinking about tomorrow night.”
I smiled and sighed. “I hope so. I’m just so…It’s nerve-wracking, you know? Tomorrow, everyone is going to be staring at us, waiting for us to make a mistake or whatever.”
“No, everyone will be talking about how gorgeous you look in your gown. Nobody is going to care about anything else. I know I’m just excited to finally see you two stop moping.”
I grinned. “Me, too.”
“Now, let’s get ready for that rehearsal. You ready to knock ‘em dead?”
I nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
I walked out into the main part of the church and tried to calm my already-jumping nerves. Nothing helped. I was a complete mess. I looked around, trying to find Payton in the herd of people.
I didn’t see him, and my heart stopped. What if he didn’t show? What if he decided that this wasn’t where he saw himself for the rest of his life… what if?
“There’s my girl,” Payton said happily as he made his way toward me. I took a deep breath and let my stress fall from my shoulders. He was here. Thank God.
“Hey,” I said softly. “I missed you.”
Payton leaned in and kissed my lips. “I missed you, too. Only one more day, and then you’re mine forever.”
“I’ve been yours for a long time now,” I whispered.
He leaned in once more and brushed his lips against mine. “Yes, but after tomorrow, you won’t be able to get out of it.”
I grinned. Payton thought of our marriage the same way I did. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“Me, too,” he said, laughing softly. “Wait ‘til you see Todd.”
I looked into Payton’s eyes and then around him. “Why?”
“He’s drunk as a skunk.”
I snorted, wondering how Alexis would take the news. Not only did we find out about Payton’s last minute bachelor party, but the best man was also three sheets to the wind—and there were talks of a stripper last night. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, we went back to the tree fort last night, and Todd and I had shots. He’s pretty messed up.”
I laughed. Okay, never mind. Alexis would be perfectly fine with that. “So, what about the stripper?”
Payton’s eyes lit with laughter. “Nothing to worry about. She was…an inexpensive dancer, if you know what I mean.”
I snorted once more. “No, I’m sure that I don’t. Enlighten me.”
Payton laughed. “She was butt ugly, and she couldn’t have been seductive if she tried. Mitch got her from a friend at work. Well, her number. It was her first time dancing, and let’s just put it this way, there was a towel in between her legs at one point, and another she was making some weird-ass sound as if she were Tarzan, or Jane. Really, I couldn’t tell which one she’d rather have been.”
I started really laughing now. Payton leaned in once more and kissed my lips. “That’s what you get for having a stripper.”
He nodded. “I know, and that’s what Todd said to me. Actually, he made me promise not to involve Mitch in his bachelor party plans.”
Just then, I looked over toward the doorway where Todd must have been regaling his tale with the late night ‘dancer’ to Alexis. She was also laughing, and Todd’s ears were a magnificent shade of red.
Payton nudged me. “Looks like Alexis is taking it well.”
“Looks like,” I replied.
Mom walked in to the church just then. She came over to me and enveloped me in her arms. “I can’t believe today is already here. My baby’s getting married.”
I swallowed. The whole moment was so surreal that it was hard to breathe. “I can’t either,” I said softly.
“Your dad would have been so proud.”
I nodded, but didn’t say anything.
Jeff came up, too, and put his arm around me and my mom. “You’re going to be a beautiful bride.”
I leaned back and kissed Jeff’s cheek. “Thank you.”
He smiled softly at my mom, and then to me. “Payton, you take care of her. She’s a good girl.”
Payton pulled me away from them and into his arms. “Always.”
“It’s time,” a voice called from the hall.
I still couldn’t look at him. Payton and I had our pre-wedding counseling, and the questions were not only ridiculous, they were also very personal and embarrassing. My face turned red and I could hear Payton’s soft laughter.
“You should see your face right now,” Payton whispered. “It’s all red. Are you thinking about tomorrow?”
“Shut up,” I whispered and giggled. “He’ll hear you.”
“If he hears this then he’ll definitely hear us tomorrow night. I don’t plan on being quiet.”
My eyes rounded, and I swatted Payton’s shoulders. “Pay! Stop it.”
Payton chuckled and Todd came up to us. He looked at me. “What’s up there, giggles?”
“Don’t you start, Todd,” I cajoled. “I’m having a hard enough time.”
Todd grinned and Alexis stood next to him, tugging his arm toward the sanctuary. “We better get to our places.”
Todd nodded, and looked toward Payton. “Let’s go, man.”
Payton then looked at me. “I’ll see you up front.”
His quick smile was all I needed to make my heart melt. I was going to marry him. Tomorrow, he would be mine forever.
Seth and Jack came up to me and were their usual joking selves. It was hard, thinking of my brothers as serious men at all, and luckily, they didn’t disappoint. They were fighting over who would take my left vs my right arm.
“Just stand where you are,” I said, and then put both of my arms into my brothers’.
I could hear the music playing and then I could hear the minister giving direction to Patti, and then my mom, and Payton’s.
Soon, it was my turn to walk in, and I couldn’t concentrate. Payton was already at the front as he was supposed to be, and he looked different. Adult, I guess.
I wanted to throw up. Being in front of my friends was hard enough, but doing this in front of a group of people was a whole other story. I looked at Payton. He took a deep breath and walked toward me.
“It’s okay, honey,” he said, knowing that I was a wreck. “There’s nothing to worry about now. One more day, remember?”
I nodded, and my brothers looked a bit freaked. Maybe they thought I would bolt or something.
“I’m sorry, I’m just nervous.”
“You’re going to be fine. Over before you know it.”
I laughed nervously, and he leaned in and kissed my lips.
My Payton. He was always so strong, and wonderful.
“I love you,” I said, and smiled at him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now, let’s get fake married.”
I grinned. “Lets.”
Four hours later, after the whole ‘rehearsal dinner’ and going over the reception with my mom and Jeff, Alexis, Patti and I, were off.
“So, where are we off to?” I asked, clearly glad to be far away from the church and my nervousness. Alexis grinned.
“You’ll never guess, and that’s okay. It’s nothing huge or anything, but it’ll get your mind off things.”
“Now I’m scared,” I admitted, joking somewhat.
“Don’t. Here, put this on,” she said, handing me a blindfold. Patti started giggling. I must have shown my fearful face.
“Just do it,” Patti said.
“You know you want to,” Alexis cheered.
I did what I was told, reluctantly, but realized that the car ride wasn’t that long. Hell, I’d only had the mask on for a few moments before I heard Alexis cut the engine. “Where the hell are we?”
“You can take off your blindfold now,” Alexis said, laughing.
I did, and that’s when I saw the sign for the old “Skate Place” a place where Payton and I hung out in as kids. “You’re shitting me,” I said, grinning. “Skating?”
“Oh yeah,” Alexis agreed, and Patti nodded. “Now, we know you love the movie 13 Going on 30, and we are totally giving you the ‘girly’ experience.”
I grinned and unbuckled my seatbelt fast. “And where’s my ruby red lipstick and my feathered boa?”
“There’s the spirit,” Patti said, and pulled a pink and purple boa out of her big bag. “This one’s yours.”
My eyes lit up in excitement, and I took the boa out of her hands. “Let’s get going!” I said, and we quickly got out of Alexis’s car and headed in to my past.
The inside was decorated like a really bad disco, and it made me grin so big that I thought I’d never stop. “Thanks so much for this, you guys.”
“No problem.” Alexis put her black boa around her neck and Patti was putting her blue and white one around hers. We stood out like a sore thumb. We were old…not ancient, mind you, but compared to the ten or eleven year olds in the place we may as well apply for residency in a nursing home.
“So, how stupid do you feel 1-10?” I asked Patti.
Patti shrugged. “I’d say four. This isn’t the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. You?”
“About a seven, but I love it.”
Alexis shrugged. “Zero, but then again, I’m going to be teaching some of these kids next year. Best get to know them now, so we have something to talk about in the fall.”
I smiled. “You’re going to be a great teacher, Lex.”
“And what about you? Has the library called yet?”
I shook my head. I was the only one out of our group that hadn’t gotten a job yet. “Nope. I guess I’ll cook for all of you guys while you’re working.”
Patti cringed, and then looked at Alexis.
“I’m not that bad,” I said.
“Hell, I’m not bad, but you are way worse than I am,” Alexis said. “I think the saying, ‘she could burn water’ comes to mind.”
“Har, har,” I said, and then went to the counter to get my skates. Alexis paid for both Patti and me, and we all sat down on one of the benches near the rink to put on our skates.
After about five minutes of trying to get everything ready, we were all out on the rink, looking dumb as ever, but laughing and living it up. Alexis looked like a damned pro, shocking both Patti and me.
“Are you kidding me with this?” I asked, pointing to Alexis. “You’re fantastic.”
Alexis shrugged. “I took years of lessons.”
“Who takes skating lessons?” I asked, snorting.
“Me, dumbass. I wanted to be in the Olympics.”
“Roller-skating?” Patti wondered.
“Oh,” I said, feeling a bit stupid. Roller derby was pretty cool.
“Yeah, it is what it is.”
“Whatever happened?” I asked.
“My parents divorced. And it just wasn’t important anymore.”
I took a deep breath and thought about that for a moment and Alexis’s eyes widened. “I didn’t mean to say that… You and Payton are going to be fine.”
“I wasn’t nervous today because of that, Lex, it’s okay.”
Alexis sighed. “Good… Why then?”
“It’s all very overwhelming. Just wait,” I said, and then Patti nodded.
“You think getting married is bad? Wait until you pop a kid through your vag—”
“Okay,” Alexis interrupted. “We’re good.”
I grinned and looked at Patti. “We’ll take your word for it.”
Patti smiled. “When do you think you and Payton will start trying? Toby would love to have someone to play with.”
I reddened just then. “I don’t even want to…”
“I’m pregnant,” Alexis said, and then looked at both Patti and me. I immediately stopped skating and my eyes widened. Alexis was half way around the bend before I could move. Patti was smiling now.
“What?!” I cried. Alexis was pregnant? I skated as fast as I could to catch up just then, and all three of us sat down in the small food court.
“What?” I asked again.
Alexis shrugged. “I just found out.”
“When?” I was dumbfounded. If I thought anyone would be pregnant, I would have thought me. I never in a million years would have pictured Alexis pregnant this young.
“Last month. I didn’t want to say anything, but I’m really emotional right now, and today you scared me at the rehearsal. Please tell me that you’re not thinking of skipping out on Payton, because I don’t think I can handle that.”
I looked at Alexis. Really looked at her, and I could see something different. Really, I had no idea how I hadn’t seen it before. “Oh my God!” I got up just then and wrapped my arms around her. “Congratulations!”
Alexis laughed softly. “Promise me.”
“I promise! I’m in love with him; I’m just nervous, that’s all.” And I was. A total wreck.
“Okay,” she said, and then Patti got up next. She did the same as me.
“Toby is going to be so happy.”
Alexis nodded. “Glad I could help.”
“Now, answer my question, Keri,” Patti said, and looked pointedly toward me. “When?”
I blew out a deep breath. “Honestly, my mind hasn’t even wrapped around the thought that Pay and I will be married tomorrow. I can’t imagine thinking about having a kid. Five years from now maybe, but probably not until then.”
“Five years?” Alexis asked. “That’s a long time for Sammy to be without a Taylor buddy.”
I giggled. “Sammy?”
“Yeah, Todd loves the name. So, we’re going for it.”
“I forgot about Todd. What did he say?” I asked, knowing that Todd was going to be an awesome dad.
“About two seconds after I told him, he had already come up with four names for girls and one for a boy. Sammy for the boy. He told me that he already knew it was a Sammy.”
“Sounds like Todd,” Patti said, laughing.
“Yeah,” I agreed, and it did.
“Let’s just get me through this wedding, and then we can all discuss my baby-making later…after the honeymoon.”
Alexis winked. “Hey, you never know, you may come back with a surprise to tell all of us.”
I laughed, hoping that wasn’t true, and at the same time, it didn’t seem all that bad. Payton, like Todd, would make an excellent father.
Forever and Always
I just got to the church, after a night of worrying about Keri. She’d had a bad time of it at the rehearsal, and then she was quiet at the dinner afterwards. She wasn’t usually so nervous, and that’s what really bothered me. She assured me that she’d be here today, and I knew that she wouldn’t dessert me on our wedding day, but my head sometimes interfered with my heart and it played out all sorts of bad scenarios.
Like Keri not showing up.
Or, Keri finding someone else.
Or, Keri running out on me during the ceremony.
I hated feeling like this. I looked into the mirror and straightened my tie. I was wearing a white tux with a black bow tie. I looked pretty good; better than usual, I suppose.
“Why the long face?” Todd asked as he walked into the room. We were in the church basement in our area for the wedding. The girls were all upstairs.
I sighed. “Keri. Have you seen her?”
Todd nodded. “Yep. She looks gorgeous.”
I let out a deep breath and looked up, silently thanking God. Wait, what? “Gorgeous, huh?”
Todd laughed and put his hands up. “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger; besides, I’m already taken. Way taken.”
I laughed and then looked at Todd curiously. “Why way taken?”
“You’ll never believe this, but…I’m going to be a daddy.”
My eyes widened. “A daddy?”
“Yep,” Todd said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Found out a month ago. I wasn’t allowed to say anything until Alexis told Keri. I guess she told her last night.”
This was news.
“Holy shit, dude. That’s amazing.” Payton pulled Todd in for a hug and patted him on the back. “Wow. That’s just…”
“I know. It’s pretty huge. So, I’m totally taken, and you have nothing to worry about, not that you did anyway.”
I grinned. “I’d say so. Wow. So, I guess we should all prepare for weird late night cravings and the sound of a baby in less than nine months?”
Todd nodded. “Man, I guess I didn’t think about that. We probably should have said something.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s good. I just…this is crazy. I guess I never thought of me and Keri having kids anytime soon, and now you and Alexis. Wow.”
“Head rush?” Todd asked, as I sat down. I nodded. It was a total head rush.
“What if Keri wants kids right away?” I asked, freaked out a little. “Did she know about this before the rehearsal?”
“I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. Alexis told me this morning that she’d told Keri, and that it was okay if I told you.”
“Oh, wow. You guys are having a kid, Patti and Mitch have a kid, and now…”
“Dude, don’t sweat it.”
I was starting to worry for some reason, and it was choking me. “I need some water.”
“I’ll get it for you,” Todd said, worrying. “Dude, whatever you do, don’t tell Keri that I told you. You are freaking out. Babies are awesome. Don’t worry about it.”
“I know, it’s just… Wow.”
“I know. And you and Keri probably talked about kids before, right?”
I nodded and thought back to our one conversation about kids. We were going to wait at least five years. But what would happen if Keri wanted them now because of Alexis and Todd. I blew out another deep breath.
“I need to talk to Keri.”
Todd’s eyes widened.
All night I worried about the ‘baby conversation’ and it was wearing on me like a vice-grip to the throat. Alexis told me during our hair appointment that Todd was going to tell Payton today about the baby, and I was freaked out.
What if Payton changed his mind about waiting a few years?
“I never thought of this before, but we’re all living together. And you guys are having a baby, and…”
“Don’t sweat it, Ker. If we get to be too much, we’ll move out. We’ll save up for a place while I’m pregnant and then find somewhere nice to rent once the baby’s born.”
That sounded reasonable. I nodded. “Okay, but…”
“Stop worrying,” Alexis said, and then put her arms around me. “Had I known that me being pregnant would stress you out so much, I wouldn’t have told you.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I’m just worried, that’s all. It’s just…I really need to talk to Payton.”
“But what about it being bad luck?” Alexis asked.
“I really don’t believe in that sort of thing, do you?” I asked, hoping that I wouldn’t disturb the fates.
Alexis shrugged. “No, but you never know.”
“Can you get Payton for me?” I asked, and Alexis nodded.
A minute later, if that, Payton was in my room, and my eyes widened along with his. We both blurted out at the same time: “I’m not ready for babies. You aren’t? Good.”
We both started laughing. Payton was then kissing me, and we didn’t stop there.
Hell in a hand-basket
Payton and I were totally going to Hell. I was breathing heavy now, and my chest was moving up and down, making my breasts jut out. Payton was grinning, and breathing hard, too.
I leaned my head back. “Got any cigarettes?”
Payton laughed. “No, I wish. Damn. What we just did…”
“Illegal in churches? Yeah, probably. Once again, we’re going to hell.”
“It’s not that bad, we’re…”
“Not married yet. Totally bad, Pay.”
A knock sounded on the door. “Honey, it’s time. Have you seen Payton?” Mom called from the other side. My eyes widened and I let out a giggle.
“Um… Mom, can you give me a few seconds.”
I looked at Payton and we both hurriedly buttoned ourselves up. My dress was now wrinkled a bit on top, and Payton had my red lipstick on his mouth. “Shit, you need to get that off. Soap and water.”
Payton walked over to the mirror and started laughing. “Seriously, Ker? Where the hell am I going to get soap right now?”
I giggled. “Out there. Go to the men’s restroom.”
“Your mom’s out there, she’s going to know what we’ve been doing.”
I laughed once more. Yeah, she’d definitely know. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Keri, honey, you only have five minutes until the organ starts!” Mom cried again, and I laughed. Payton was looking adorable with his red-lipsticked cheek that matched his now reddening ears.
“I’ll be there, Mom, I promise. Go ahead and get seated.”
“If you’re sure,” Mom said, worriedly.
“I’ll be there. I promise.”
A few minutes later, after I was sure that Mom was gone, I let Payton out of my room, and watched him run past Seth and Jack toward the men’s restroom. Everyone in the hallway started laughing, and both Seth and Jack shook their heads.
“Hey, you’ll be here one day.”
“I’m going to kill that guy,” Seth said, and Jack nodded.
“No you’re not,” I said, and laughed. “You guys ready to walk me down?”
Seth nodded, and started to get misty-eyed. I looked toward Jack. He smiled at me and kissed me on the cheek.
Just then, I watched as our flower girl walked down the aisle, and then Patti started down, and soon after, Alexis. Alexis looked back at me and blew me a kiss. I caught it and put it to my heart.
Then I heard the wedding march.
Seth and Jack both gripped my arms tightly and helped me walk toward Payton. I could feel my dad’s presence in the church, and I started to cry. I pictured him at Christmas playing Santa Claus, then again at my high school graduation. I pictured him tucking me in at night, and I heard him say, “I love you, Keri Ann.”
I let the feelings wash over me, and tears started streaming down my cheeks. My dad was here, I knew it.
Payton started toward me, just like he did at the rehearsal, but this time he held out his hand, and I took it. He leaned in and kissed my lips, and then wiped my tears. “You okay?”
“My dad, he’s here,” I said, feeling somewhat stupid, but happy all at once.
Payton nodded, and I could see the tears come to his eyes, also. “I can feel it, too.”
People all around us were quiet just then, and it was just me and Payton, and we were staring into one another’s eyes, smiling as if we had nothing better to do. I grinned. “I’m ready now.”
“Good,” Payton said softly, and a few people laughed.
My brothers then took their seats, and I handed my flowers over to Alexis.
The minister looked at us and smiled.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in celebration of Keri Ann Richards, and Payton Charles Taylor. These two, from what I’ve heard from Keri’s mother, and Payton’s parents, are extremely special. They’ve not only been best friends for all these years, but have recently discovered that they felt more for each other. Aren’t they lucky?”
I looked at Payton just then, and he winked. We were pretty damned lucky. Payton squeezed my hand, and I squeezed his back.
“So today, in the presence of friends and family, I present these two to God, and join them in holy matrimony.”
After a few moments, and a prayer from the pastor, we said our vows to each other, and then lit the unity candle. Then, a prayer was offered for my father, and we all had a moment in silence for our loved ones that couldn’t be here with us.
Then we were told to turn, and the minister said, “I give you Mr. and Mrs. Payton Taylor.”
A round of applause was heard, followed by tears of happiness from our friends and family, and then we were off. Down the aisle, and on our way to the reception.
It’s Electric…boogey woogie woogie woo…
In my life I have never seen so many people dance so poorly. Payton and I grinned as we watched our friends and family get their collective grooves on. We, however, sat this one out. I looked at Pay.
“I love you, husband.”
He grinned, and winked. “I love you, wife.”
“That sounds so good, doesn’t it?” I asked, and leaned in toward him. I felt an immense relief once the vows were finished, and once we were out of the church where we fornicated earlier.
“Want to do it?” Payton asked, and I burst out laughing.
Payton’s eyebrow hitched. “Not at the table, but maybe in the back somewhere.”
I smiled. “Family restroom?”
Payton flinched. He was probably still thinking about the baby conversation from earlier. “Hmm… maybe we should wait? I think that would be too much Karma for one evening.”
I smiled and kissed his lips. “Better not chance it. We also shouldn’t drink any of the water tonight.”
“Good idea. Champagne all the way.” Payton wriggled his eyebrows, and I kissed him once more.
Just then, the DJ announced that it was time for the bouquet and garter toss. We both walked to the center of the dance floor, and a chair was brought on which for me to sit. I sat gracefully, and watched as Payton worked the room. He smiled and got down on his knees, eliciting wolf-calls from half the men, and laughter from the women. I waited as Payton’s hands made their way up my legs and onto my thighs, he brushed his hand over me swiftly, and I grinned. Naughty.
“Taking your time?” I asked. Everyone laughed.
Payton smiled. “You know it.”
He stood then with my blue garter wrapped around his finger and looked at the crowd of men. The DJ started playing a real swanky tune, and Payton used his finger as a slingshot and sent the garter flying.
A second later, it landed right in my brother, Seth’s lap. Seth hadn’t even been paying attention.
Seth’s girlfriend’s eyes widened, and Seth’s face reddened. I laughed, and Payton did, too.
Then it was my turn.
I picked up my bouquet, and turned around. All of the women, including my own grandmother Marjorie, were there, with their hands up, vying for the flowers. But it was Patti that caught them.
Patti smiled shyly and waited for the clapping to die down, and that was when I saw Mitch walking toward her.
And then he was in front of her on his knees, with a ring box in one hand, and Toby curled into his arms.
Tears came down Patti’s face, and I looked at Payton and smiled. Everything was falling into place. Everything was perfect.
Payton came over and kissed me just then, once again reminding me why I loved him so much, and said softly, “I love you.”
“I love, too.” And I did.
Alexis came up to me just then, followed by Todd. “Congratulations, Mrs. Taylor.”
I grinned, and said thank you, and an hour later, Payton and I were off and on our way to Mexico for the next seven days.
Alexis and Todd…
8 months later
I paced the small hospital waiting room and waited until the doctor came out to let me know how my wife was doing. Alexis had an emergency c-section, and even though I was allowed in there to watch our daughter being born, I wasn’t allowed to stay afterwards. And Alexis was my whole world.
“Everything okay?” Keri asked as she and Payton walked into the waiting area. I’d called them an hour before to let them know that Alexis was having problems.
I nodded. “Yeah, the baby’s fine.”
Keri’s eyes widened. “He’s here?”
I smiled softly, thinking of our little girl, our little Lexie.
“So, Sammy Sosa?” Payton asked. Payton seemed just as nervous as I was, and I knew why. He’d just found out a month ago that he and Keri were pregnant.
“Lexie Elizabeth,” I said, and Keri’s eyes widened.
I smiled. “Yes, eight pounds and five ounces’ worth of baby girl. She’s gorgeous. I’ll be allowed to see her again soon. They’re checking her over, and making sure she’s all right.”
Keri put her arms around me and squeezed. “I’m so happy for you, Todd. I can’t wait to meet her.”
I took a deep breath and let it out. The stress of not knowing if Alexis was okay or not was really getting to me. “I’m worried.”
Keri nodded. She still had ahold of me and she squeezed once more. “Me, too.”
The doctor came out just then.
“Everything’s okay. We have her all sewn back up, and she’s going to be out for a while, but everything looks good. Momma’s okay, and baby is ready for some visitors.”
I coughed, and cleared my throat. “Thank God. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome. Now, come on, your baby girl needs her daddy.”
I smiled. “I need her, too.”
One day later, we were all gathered around Alexis and Lexie. Everyone was happy, and we were all truly blessed. Work was going well, and Payton and I had done well with our business, and Alexis had a great job at the school. Keri was still out of work, but had an understanding with Alexis that she’d watch Sammy, I mean, Lexie, once she was born.
“So, ever hear anything about Seth?” I asked, wondering how he was. After the wedding, Seth’s girlfriend had broken up with him. Apparently, she would have done it before the wedding, but felt bad. Seth, after announced at the wedding as being next because he caught the garter, was relieved.
“He hasn’t been around much, other than Sunday dinners. Mom says she thinks he’s depressed.”
I looked at Keri. “I saw something in the paper the other day…”
Keri looked curious. “What?”
“Well, your brother…he placed an ad.”
“An ad?” Payton asked, wondering what I was talking about.
I looked at both Payton and Keri and took a deep breath. “For a wife.”
To follow Seth’s journey, check out “The Ad” this December!
If you liked this short story, please let me know!
About the Author Danielle Lee Zwissler is from a small town in Ohio, and enjoys reading about cowboys, writing about cowboys and looking at them. (Do you see a theme here?) She loves Harry Potter, Sam Smith’s music, and Caramel Macchiato creamer in her coffee. She has two wonderful children, a sexy husband, two guinea pigs—Pudding Cup and Flower, a turtle named Lilly and a minivan filled with books and kid stuff. She loves to hear from people that actually read her books, and she will be forever grateful if you mention her books to anyone…
If you’d like a signed copy of any of her books, please email her at: or you can find her on facebook at: or on twitter: She can also be found signing books around the US at several different comic cons. All author visits will be posted on her Amazon page or on her homepage at:www.shewritesromance.com
The moment you've all been waiting for is here: The TAYLOR/RICHARDS wedding! This is the wedding only! If you've received your invitation, please click on the download button. Book 1: The Boy Next Door Book 2: The Boy I Love Book 3: The Man I'll Marry and now: The Wedding.... A bonus from the author.