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My uncle stayed for a few more minutes to snap a few pictures of me before he left to prepare for his coveted role in my wedding procession. Audra returned when he left to keep me company as the time drew near. We were nervous, giggling, and chatty. She confessed she had spotted Malachi and he looked “so hot I wanted to tackle him and make-out on the lawn,” but she hadn’t seen Talon, as I wanted details. She did fill me on how everything looked outside. She said it was the most beautiful wedding with the most beautiful people she’d ever seen.
It was twenty minutes until the wedding was set to start, when Audra had to regrettably slip out the door. She was supposed to wait on the steps of the big house with the other members of the wedding party who would make their way to the lake from there. As for me, the plan was for me to be driven up to the locale in a red and white restored 1950’s Chevy truck that Audra’s uncle had been gracious enough to allow us to borrow. The truck was surprisingly Ben’s idea, meant as a joke about having something country tie into the wedding because of their roots, but he said I should show up in a rusty Chevy, and barefoot. Now my uncle would have the honor of driving me up to the lake and escorting me down the aisle instead of Gideon.
I didn’t find myself alone for very long. I tried to just breathe, not mess up my makeup or dress and focus on holding it together. My heart was pounding in both a bad and good way. I had imagined this day as a little girl, minus the scare with Mal, so far it was shaping up to be even beyond my wildest dreams. Just like my groom was beyond anything my little girl mind had ever envisioned.
There was a soft knock on the door. I knew it wasn’t a shifter on the other side, and only two other shifters were on the island besides me, but of course that left a hundred other possibilities. I was really hoping that it was Talon that broke the rules and walked in when I said come in. But I was intrigued, disappointed, and surprised when it was Claire.
Claire was a pretty young woman, but especially so now. And not just because her short hair was in arranged into waves around her face, she was wearing makeup, or her V-neck silver dress that hugged her body, but it also the soft expression she wore. So unusual and out of place for her. Or the tentative smile she gave me as she eyed me from head to toe. I was wary but cautiously optimistic at the same time. She didn’t appear to be here for a fight, but then again I didn’t want special treatment from her because of what I’d done for her mother.
“You look pretty and like you actually have boobs for a change,” she said.
I couldn’t help but grin at that. The old Claire wasn’t completely gone after all.
“Thanks and likewise. Are you closing the door to muffle the sounds of my screams?” I teased.
She smiled again and walked closer into the room. “There’s no need for that. It’s really loud out there with all their carrying on. Mordechai was even testing the sound system by serenading us all with some Sinatra’s I did it my way. And then a dirty joke that got Cain racing to the mic to shut him down.”
“That’s an interesting development. Did anyone get it on video?”
“We’re in the age of social media, so what do you think. I’m sure someone will make it into a vine and post it. You may just come to regret healing that one,” mussed Claire.
“No. He sounds really entertaining. Have you seen Talon yet? No one has in a while and I’m kind of in the dark here.”
I clutched my bouquet tighter to my thumping chest. But Claire mistook my statement for something else. She walked closer, reached down and smelled the flowers, before placing a hand on my arm.
“He may be a little asshole, but he would never stand you up.”
“I didn’t think he would. This was all his idea in the first place. I just wanted to know how hot and sexy he looks.”
Claire made gagging noises and I laughed. “Now I remember why I hate weddings. Too much sentiment and happiness… But I guess today we have many reasons to celebrate. My mother had a scan done at the hospital in Camden this morning and it’s gone. All traces of her cancer are gone.”
Claire was still gripping my arm, but now her eyes were also gripping mine. Her brown eyes misted. And I thought, here comes my own tears. I hoped my supposedly waterproof mascara held up.
“That’s wonderful news Claire. I’m really happy for you all.”
Claire drew in a deep breath as if she were trying to get her emotions under control. “ And it’s all because of you. After everything I did to you, you still…”
Claire let go of my hand and turned away from me as if she didn’t want me to see her cry. But I could still she her in the mirror. The emotions she tried to hide from the world. I placed my hand on her shoulder.
“It’s alright Claire. None of that matters. It’s in the past,” I reassured her.
Claire whorled around to face me. There was anger in her eyes.
“Of course it matters! For so long my world was black and white and I was so full of anger and hurt that I just wanted everyone else to be miserable like I was. Then you came along and I hated you, hated you not only because I was supposed too, because I wanted too, but because you challenged every damn thing I ever believed. You made shades of grey appear. And I felt like I was betraying Kyle because your kind murdered the only boy I’ll ever love. I had to struggle to keep hating you. Because you were supposed to be this unfeeling monster, and yet I realized, I was the monster all along. You’d been through so many horrible, awful things, and yet you were far more human than I was, then I’ll ever be.”