Chapter 13

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Gareth closed the door behind Sean and Amy, the last of their company to leave. From upstairs came the sound of the kids' excited chatter and the lower-pitched tones of his parents as bedtime rituals began. He smiled. Good. That would keep everyone occupied for at least a few minutes. Hands in his pockets, he strolled back toward the kitchen, where Gwyn cleared away the dinner dishes. She looked up at his entrance and smiled. Deep, warm satisfaction filled him.

This. This was how she was supposed to look before their wedding.

Radiant, glowing, almost bubbling over with happiness. He plucked the dish cloth from her fingers and tossed it onto the counter, then drew her into his arms.

"It's good to have you back," he said gruffly. "I missed you."

She didn't pretend not to understand. "It's good to be back."

"You're happy with what we came up with today?"

"My head is still spinning, but yes. I'm more than happy." She drew back, her gaze searching his face. "Are you?"

"Very."

"You're sure. It won't be anywhere near as grand as-"

He stopped her with a kiss. "Here's a thought. How about we agree to be honest with one another? If there's something I don't like, I'll tell you, and if there's something you don't like, you'll tell me. And then we'll discuss it like the adults we're supposed to be, and we'll work something out. Does that sound doable?"

Gwyn's expression became thoughtful. "I don't know. It sounds awfully complicated, but I suppose we could give it a try. It might work."

Gareth chuckled, shaking his head. He pulled her close again. "Oh, what a mess we nearly landed ourselves in, Gwynneth my love. I hated seeing you so unhappy."

"I hated being that unhappy," she mumbled into his shoulder. "And I still can't believe we're doing this...changing everything. Celeste is going to pitch a total fit when she finds out."

"She'll have no reason to if I'm paying her in full."

Gwyn shook her head. "Trust me, it's not just about the money for Celeste, it's about the prestige of planning Gareth Connor's wedding. Losing that spotlight will not go over well."

"And my wedding-our wedding-should never have been about someone else's ego. Besides, we won't be making the call to her, remember? We'll be winging our way to sunny Jamaica for a whole, blissful week to ourselves. Just you, me, the beach, and the palm trees." He nuzzled into her neck, tasting her skin, inhaling the faint, lingering vanilla scent of her shampoo. The very thought of an entire week alone with her, no kids, no interruptions...

Gwyn cooperatively molded herself a little closer to him and lifted her arms to encircle his neck. "You know Sean is an absolute saint for volunteering to call her for us."

"He has his moments," Gareth agreed, then he chuckled. "Although personally, I think he's quite looking forward to it. He wasn't a big fan of hers from the beginning."

"You never told me that." Gwyn leaned back. "Here I thought I was the only one who had Celeste issues."

"I thought you had enough on your plate, and I didn't want to worry you...which brings us back to the whole being honest with each other idea."

"A concept that sounds better and better the more I think about it."

The sound of a throat being cleared came from the kitchen doorway. Gareth looked over Gwyn's head to his father. "Hey, Dad. Problems?"

Steffan, not a demonstrative man himself, looked everywhere but directly at them. "Telling your mother he's allowed two bedtime stories, young Nicky is, but Maggie says otherwise. As both are equally convincing, I've been sent to confirm."

Gareth sighed and met Gwyn's dancing eyes. "He never gives up, does he?"

His fiancée shook her head. "Never."

"I'll take care of the matter, shall I?"

"He's all yours."

He gave her a last kiss, holding tight to the promised bliss of their upcoming honeymoon, and then headed past his father on his way to the stairs.

"Tea, Steffan?" he heard Gwyn offer behind him. "You must be ready for a cup after all the excitement today."

Dealing with Nicholas required little more than a stern look and the point of a finger to hustle the boy into bed, but Maggie was another story.

"What does make a giraffe mean?" she asked as Gareth leaned down for a hug.

"Um..." Gareth raised an eyebrow, at a loss. "I honestly have no idea. Where did you hear it?"

"Nain said it. She told Taid she didn't want to make a giraffe by letting Nicky have two stories."

Gareth nearly choked on his laughter, but managed to swallow it so he didn't offend the little girl. He waited a moment to be sure he had himself under control, then cleared his throat. "A gaffe, sweetheart, not a giraffe. A gaffe is a mistake."

"Oh." Maggie considered the explanation. She wrinkled her nose. "Nain and Taid talk funny."

"Want to know a secret? To them, you're the one who talks funny." He tapped the end of her nose.

Maggie frowned. "Really? But I talk like everyone else."

"In this country, perhaps, but Nain and Taid come from another country, remember? In Wales, everyone talks like they do."

"You come from Wales, and you don't talk like them."

"I do when I'm there. But when I'm here, I've learned to talk like you."

"So in Wales they speak another language?"

"They have another language called Welsh, but that's not what Nain and Taid are speaking with you. They just use some words that are different than the ones we're used to."

"Well, it sure sounds like another language." Maggie sighed. "It's very confusing."

Gareth swallowed another laugh. "You'll get used to it," he assured his step-daughter-to-be. "I promise. Now, off to sleep with you. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow."

"Gareth?"

His hand on the light switch, he looked over his shoulder. "Yes, love?"

"I'm glad we're not having as many people at our wedding. Too many people make me nervous."

"I'm glad, too, Maggie. Good night, now."

"Gareth?"

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"Thank you for letting us call you Daddy after we're married."

He returned to the bedside, sat down, and gave her the biggest hug he could without squeezing the air out of her. "Maggie, darling, thank you for asking," he said, the tightness in his throat making his voice husky. "Now, to sleep with you. Sweet dreams."

"Sweet dreams to you, too."

***

Happy spring, everyone!!! It's finally warmed up in my part of the world, and I am sooooo glad. It was a long, long, cold winter. Of course, my Giant Dog isn't quite as keen on the rising temperatures, because (a) he's part husky and actually prefers the snow; and (b) he hates--and I do mean hates--flies. If you'd like to see what Giant Dog looks like, btw, you can find photos of him on my Facebook page (the link is on my profile here).

What about you? Do you prefer the heat of summer or the cool of winter?  Does it snow where you are?

P.S. As always, if you don't want to wait for the next chapter of the story, you can find the completed e-book on Kindle, Kobo, Nook & iBook...buy links are on my website. :)

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