She hesitated.


The sound of her name, spoken with such love in that rough velvet voice, proved her undoing. She buried her face against his shoulder, clinging to handfuls of his shirt.

"It's all of it," she admitted, hating that she could no longer hold it in. That she wasn't strong enough. And that she couldn't seem to stop talking now that she'd started. "I know this wedding is important to you, and I know I shouldn't be complaining, and I know Celeste and Carol have thought of everything down to the last detail, and that it will be utterly gorgeous, and I won't have had to make so much as a single phone call for any of it...I know all that, but it's still just so much. The flowers, the cake, the dinner, the venue, the press, so many people, two separate bands—sorry, one string quartet and one band—and I've tried to like it, I really have, but..."

"But you don't like it."

Tears streamed freely now. "I sound like such a spoiled brat. After all you've done, all you've given me...I keep telling Sandy that any woman in her right mind would be thrilled with all of this."

Gareth cradled her face and rested his forehead against hers. "But you're not just any woman, remember? You've never been just any woman. You're my Gwynneth with two n's...and you're entitled to have the wedding day you want."


"And I am entitled to see that you get it."


"Especially" —he put a finger across her lips— "when I don't give two figs about who attends our wedding, or what color scheme we have, or whether the flowers on the cake match your bouquet. None of it matters, because none of it changes why we're doing this, why we're getting married. I love you, Gwynneth Jacobs, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. The fact you feel the same about me leaves me in a constant state of awe and wonder. You could turn up for our wedding dressed in a potato sack, carrying a bunch of wilted daisies, and I doubt I would even notice, because all that matters to me is the you inside the dress. You, Gwyn. I love you."

More tears threatened. Gwyn blinked fast, trying to hold them at bay. "But I thought you wanted a big wedding. All your friends...the studios...Angela...I thought it was important to you."

"And I thought it was important to you. I wanted you to have it all, so you could believe in fairy tales again."

She sniffled again, most inelegantly. "I hate big weddings," she said, and then she gave up pretending to fight the tears.

Gareth wrapped her into his arms and held her close as she cried out months of stress, rubbing her back, tucking a wad of tissues into her hand. He pressed his lips against her hair, murmuring words she couldn't hear over her sobs but that somehow still helped. And then, when her tears slowed, he kissed her spiky-lashed eyelids, her forehead, her cheeks.

"Better?" He relieved her of the soggy wad of tissue and replaced it with fresh from the box on the nightstand.

Gwyn nodded, and drew back to blow her nose. "Better," she hiccupped. "And I'm so sorry, Gareth, really I am."

"So am I." He brushed the hair back from her face. "I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was just nerves. I should have asked."

"And I should have told you." She used a dry tissue to dab at the damp spot she'd created on the front of his shirt. "So now what?"

"We can elope."

She shook her head. "No. The kids would be devastated. They're so looking forward to being part of everything. You've seen Katie and Maggie admiring their dresses...and Nicholas practices carrying a cushion up and down the hall at least three times a day. We can't not have some kind of ceremony."

"Fine. Then we cancel the whole thing and start over."

She grimaced and blew her nose. "The paparazzi would have a field day with that, and they'd just be all over us again when they found out the new date. I don't think I can handle a repeat of that"—she flapped a hand at the tabloid he'd dropped on the bed— "six months or a year from now."

"And I don't think I can wait six months or a year," he said gruffly.

"Which leaves us with the original plan." Her shoulders sagged.

"Which neither of us wants."

"I don't think we have a choice." Gwyn took a deep breath, and with a determined effort, she straightened, injecting cheerfulness into her voice—or what she hoped would pass for cheerfulness. "Besides, just talking about it helped, I think. I'm okay now. I can—"

Once again Gareth placed a finger across her lips. "Stop," he said. "No more pretending. Not with each other. That's what got us into this mess in the first place, remember?"

She sighed and nodded. He lowered his hand.

"Besides, I have an idea. Let's move the wedding up."

"Up—you mean make earlier?" She gaped at him. "But we only have two weeks as it is—when—we can't plan a wedding in a—"

Gareth silenced her with a lingering kiss. Then he swept the hair back from her face, cupped his hands along her jaw, and said with absolute conviction, "I'm going to marry you, Gwyn, and I'm going to give you the wedding you want, and the paparazzi are not going to find out about it. Are we clear?"

The last of the weight Gwyn had been carrying in her heart for the past several months lifted free.

"How?" she asked simply.

"We ask for help."

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