Chapter Seventeen (New)

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Miranda gave the guest house door a couple of wary taps before poking her head inside.

"Dash!" She called out.

"Come on in." He holler back.

She found him in the bathroom wrestling with his bowtie.

"Colt said you needed me? Is everything alright?"

"Would you?" He turned to her, clearly frustrated.

Miranda smiled and went to work. Dash held his breath, hoping to make it through his little speech to her without breaking down.

"You're very quiet, Mr. Pennington." She remarked.

"I'm nervous."

"Nervous my ass." She finished her task and patted his chest lovingly. "You've been ready for this from the moment you saw her in that red dress."

"I'm not talking about Natalie." He took her hand and held it tightly. "I'm talking about you."

Miranda's heart pounded as she observed the honesty in Dash's eyes. "Don't do it, Dashiell Scott. I spent two hundred and fifty dollars on lash extensions and the best mascara Lancome has to offer."

"I know that when you pictured yourself as Mother of the Groom, you..." His voice trailed off as he felt completely overcome with emotion for his surrogate mom.

"Honey, please..." She shook her head, afraid of what he might say.

"I wish it could be Eli standing here with you."

"Dash, don't..." She pleaded, lip quivering.

"I can promise you this. I may not be your son..." His voice cracked. "But I love you as if I were."

He swallowed hard then took her in his arms. They held each other for a long time as tears made silent tracks down her cheeks. The rest of the words he'd planned to share would have to wait. He was lucky to get out the few he had.

"I need a partner for the mother-son dance tonight and there's only one woman who fits the bill." He whispered in her ear. "Would you do me the honor?"

Arms still around him, she took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. "That all depends..." She squeezed him even tighter, smiling through her tears. "Are you gonna let me lead?"

*****

Noah stood behind her, carefully adjusting the train of Natalie's gown.

"I know Vera Wang thinks she's an expert, but I'm not sure about this." He stood back and studied the dress with discernment. "I just feel like the bodice should have been cut a little longer in the back. There's this tiny little pucker of silk..." He smoothed his hand across the fabric.

"Noah, it's fine." Natalie turned and gazed out the window. The sun was shining. She smiled, thinking of the letter and her mother's secret code. Down below, just a handful of white chairs remained vacant. She could see Cecil and Miranda being escorted to their seats. It won't be long now...

"I feel like I'm the bride here. I'm a mess and you're fresh as a daisy. Not even breaking a sweat? Neither are you, Kate. How can the two of you be so calm?"

"Natalie has Resting Poker Face." Kate teased. "Believe me, she's a wreck on the inside."

"I am not. I'm calm because I've waited my whole life for this." Natalie turned and check her reflection in the mirror once more.

"No butterflies whatsoever?" Noah pressed.

"Well, maybe just one tiny little one." Natalie confessed.

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