Chapter 5

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Gwyn closed the door behind the wedding coordinator and her assistant with a relieved sigh. She leaned against the wall and let her eyes drift shut against the throbbing behind them. She thought Celeste would never finish that storyboard thing. Seeing the entire event laid out like that, in all its minute, detailed glory, had made her feel more than ever like throwing up. Not quite the effect the wedding planner had been going for, she suspected, but then again, Gwyn wasn’t quite the caliber of bride Celeste was accustomed to dealing with, either. She had never, even in her dreamy youth, wanted a big wedding. Not ever. Even now, a mere three weeks out, she’d chuck the whole idea in a heartbeat if it was up to her.

But Angela, Gareth’s agent, had been right all those months ago when she’d finally abandoned the idea of an L.A. wedding and presented Celeste, Ottawa’s premiere event planner, as an alternative. It wasn’t just up to Gwyn. Not when she was marrying one of the most visible men in the world.  As much as she wanted to cling to the private life she and the kids led, and as much as Gareth assured her he would try to protect that life, the reality was that marrying him came with certain expectations. Certain changes.

Gwyn sighed. No, if she wanted to be with Gareth, she would have no choice but to make some concessions—starting with her wedding preferences.

A reluctant smile tugged at her mouth. Besides, sitting there on the couch with Gareth and her daughters, she’d felt distinctly outnumbered in her view of the proceedings. In fact, if she had to hazard a guess, she’d say Gareth had been almost as spellbound by the pageantry as Maggie and Katie had been. Heck, even Nicholas had joined them for a while, his round eyes speaking to his own enthrallment with the goings-on, especially when Carol had presented him with the dark blue velvet cushion he’d be carrying as ring bearer.

“Don’t worry, Gareth,” he’d said to his future stepfather, straightening his shoulders and holding cushion with a reverence new to Gwyn. “I promise I won’t lose the rings.”

 “I have every faith in you,” Gareth had responded, the twinkle in his eye belying the gravity of his voice.

The only hitch in the proceedings had come when Celeste produced a sketch of the church interior, pews filled with people, and began describing how Maggie, as flower girl, would lead the procession, strewing rose petals in their path. Maggie had pressed against Gwyn’s side and looked up, her blue eyes shadowed with concern.

“I have to go first?” she asked. “By myself?”

“It’s a very important job, Maggie,” Celeste assured her brightly. “You’ll lead the way for everyone, and all the guests will be watching you in your pretty dress. Isn’t that exciting?”

Maggie’s face had disappeared against Gwyn’s ribcage. To her credit, Celeste adjusted quickly.

“How about this—you and Katie can walk together. Will that be better?”

But the little girl’s head had shaken from side to side. “I want to be with you, Mommy.”

Gwyn met Gareth’s amused gaze across her daughters’ heads.

“I don’t see why not,” he said, at which point Nicholas had demanded he be allowed to walk with Maggie and Gwyn as well, and poor Celeste’s storyboard had required minor reconfiguring.

Still, as Carol had pointed out while packing up at the end, it was far better to find out these things now and avoid having one of the kids melt down on the day.

“Well?” Gareth’s voice rumbled now near her ear, pulling her back to the present. “Are you going to survive the festivities?”

Gwyn opened her eyes and made herself smile past the headache. “Of course. A bit overwhelmed, maybe, but I’ll be fine.”

Now aren’t you glad we hired a planner?” He tugged her away from her leaning post and planted a kiss on top of her head. “Can you imagine having to take care of all this yourself?”

She shuddered at the thought.

Gareth chuckled and then, his voice studiedly casual, said, “You do know that hiring a housekeeper would make just as much of a difference in your life.”

“No housekeeper.”

“The whole house could be clean all at the same time.”

A little wistfully, she pushed away the appeal of that idea. “No.”

“And you’d have more time for your work.”

“We’ve had this conversation a hundred times, and the answer is still no.”

“More time for the kids…”

She scowled. “Gareth, I said—”

“Not to mention more time for me,” he murmured suggestively, nuzzling into her neck.

“That’s cheating…” Gwyn croaked, inhaling his musky male warmth.

“I do my best.” He trailed kisses along her collarbone.

“But the answer is still no.”

“How about just until the wedding is over? So you don’t have as much to worry about.”

“Isn’t that why you said we needed to hire Celeste?” she reminded him dryly.

“But when my parents are here—”

“I’ve looked after guests before, and I’ve survived. I’m sure your parents won’t be any trouble.”

He drew back with an aggrieved sigh and an eye roll. “You’re a stubborn woman, Gwynneth Jacobs. My mother will adore you for that alone.”

“Being stubborn?”

“She’ll refer to it as not letting me have my own way all the time, but yes. Being stubborn. Now come and have dinner before the kids stage a riot. That storyboard thing took forever.”

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