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“It’s a celebration all right.” Jacy couldn’t help the snort pushing out of her. She took one last look out the window and dropped her hand, letting the curtain fall between her and the scene outside.
Even she admitted it was breathtaking.
Photographing weddings, Jacy knew she didn’t want something large or fancy for her own. To her, it was a pledge to the man she loved. But once she and Trace announced their engagement, the reality was a stark contrast to her humble idea.
Marni's gentle, “I beg your pardon,” belied the censured look she stabbed them both with when Jacy told them she wanted a small wedding.
That should have been her first clue. And once word spread, Jacy had no idea she’d have to contend with Anastasia Barton and her grandmother, or Flory Johnson on top of Dani, Tamara, Summer, and Maddie.
Not for the first time Jacy thought, we have gotten ourselves into a heap of a mess.
By that time, she and Trace were sucked into the vortex of all their plans. By their, Jacy meant his family, her friends, and the entire town of Landmark.
She had sent hundreds maybe even thousands of invitations, it seemed, to every man, woman, and child; and she believed, at least, a few horses and someone’s pet doves, her friends from Clarksville, her most loyal customers who would be devastated if she didn’t invite them, and Trace’s buddies from college, Paris, and Dallas.
“Let’s elope,” Trace whispered one rare night that they actually had seen each other, let alone him taking her home and holding her in her bed.
“Not on your life, mister.” Jacy longed to say yes and sneak away. She lowered her voice fearing from even the miles between the Tumbling B and Clarksville, Marni Blackwell could hear their intimate conversation. “If I have to suffer your mother and sister-in-law then you do too.” She let out a snarky laugh. “Besides, they would never forgive me.”
“I’d tell them it was my fault.”
“Oh, don't make the mistake of thinking that your mother wouldn't know exactly whose fault it was, but I’d still be blamed.”
"Let's face it, we're stuck." They'd both commented at the same time. After that they spent the night making love, forgetting everyone but each other.
That had been weeks ago. After the first week, she had given up and let them plan. Marni had been so thoughtful making sure nothing was too gaudy or garish, which Jacy should have realized would be the case; the woman was understated elegance herself.
Still Jacy was hard pressed to be angry. The Blackwell women, only a pair of adults and a girl child, in the past few weeks had welcomed her as another female into the fold. In fact, everyone in Landmark had treated her with kindness from the beginning. Now she was family.
There wasn’t a day that went by that someone emailed her a picture, dropped by with swatches, theme ideas, and floral suggestions. Somehow purple became the chosen color. It certainly wasn’t what Jacy had in mind, not that she had a moment's peace to actually think. But the wildflower arrangement Flory Johnson had brought by had been Jacy’s favorite. From that, Cally, the owner of Calico Cuts said they should be displayed in Mason Jars.
Then there was the food. In the beginning, there had been a ton: beef sliders, chicken kabobs, ribs, pork and beef, and pimento cheese sent her way. That last dish had been a new one on her since it was a favorite in Kentucky and not Texas. Each to his or her own idea, though. Once Jacy had made it clear the meal was Mr. Blackwell’s domain, the food stopped coming. And not a moment too soon. Secretly she had enjoyed every dish, but it had created havoc with her weight. She had gotten back down and was able to fit into her dress again.
Jacy's heart swelled with the love and acceptance of the people of Landmark. And now she was certain she had done the right thing by sending out 'thank you' notes to every person who had made some suggestion for the wedding.
Pushing aside the curtain, Jacy could see the barbecue set up back by the barn. Several wire grates the size of hay bales sat on metal poles above a long row of burning charcoal and hardwoods. Three different kinds of meat were being cooked, at least. She had heard someone say something about the shrimp better be grilled to perfection since he had spent last night shucking shells off the three pounds that had been ordered at the last moment to accommodate the influx of guests. Whatever that meant.
Jacy’s gaze fell on tables. She inhaled sharply at the simple, but elegant decorations. Jacy was so thankful, and she had expressed it to Marni and the women who pitched in and helped, but she would do so again. Maybe the scrapbook she put together would please them.
Jacy had captured each part of the process with her camera. She laughed remembering the day Janice Walker came into Lucy B's wearing an aqua green strapless chiffon dress and cowgirl boots. The dress was stunning and it went so well with Janice's golden skin and hazel eyes. She had been proud as punch walking up to Jacy saying, "this would be a perfect bridesmaid dress," and then asked Jacy who was standing up with her. Jacy had told her she had, and with the crestfallen look on her face, then immediately mentioned Marni needed help with serving, and the girl tripped over her feet beating it out the door. Jacy noticed several other women had hastily followed.
One hand clutched the curtain the other her throat, Jacy watched the people of this small town work together to make her wedding day memorable. Tears filled her eyes. Now she couldn't fathom having a wedding without every last one of them. Yes, she thought once again. The digital scrapbook was the perfect gift for her new friends.
Streamers of flowers dripped from the trees. Wooden troughs and metal wheelbarrows held drinks.
"A hay bale sign would be as cute as could be," someone had suggested. Jacy couldn't miss the oversized placard with the word wedding for out of town guests as she drove up to the house this morning. Marni insisted the barn be painted white, the front anyway. After that, Jacy didn't bother to keep up with all of the suggestions. But Jacy couldn't agree more that it was the perfect backdrop for the ceremony and reception.
Though the size of food stations, reception tables, and the ceremony seating area reminded Jacy of a two-ring circus, somehow it was...perfect.
Smoothing her hands down the lace front of her wedding dress, Jacy’s thoughts drifted to Trace. She stood in his old bedroom now at the Tumbling B; a whirlwind four weeks after he asked her to marry him; the ceremony just minutes away. Jacy fingered the veil in her hands. It complimented the dress, but Jacy was still unsure if she wanted to wear it. Fearing to separate her view of Trace with even the slightest scrap of material.
Jacy inhaled deeply. Trace’s manly scent filled her lungs. It was silly really, that something so him could soothe her so easily. Surprisingly once she let herself trust her own heart, it was easy to give that same trust to Trace. Glancing around the room, she focused on his belongings, what was left of them. Most of his things had been moved to her house earlier in the week. Jacy was astonished, pleasantly so, when he insisted they live at her place. He wanted to build at the Tumbling B, but that could wait a while, he said, whenever Jacy was ready.
All that was left in his room now was the king-size bed and dresser. She wondered if the empty surface was normal or because of the move. Her bare feet whispered over the hardwood floor, then the black and brown rug as she moved to the nightstand. What had caught her eye, and drew her to the side of his bed, were the books. Three hardback crime novels lay stacked neatly one upon another.
She ran a finger along the spines before picking up the silver, wire-rimmed reading glasses. She smiled tenderly thinking how cute he'd look in them before gently laying them back in place. As often as possible these last few weeks they talked of their future. Trace had told her early on his love of reading. It wasn’t the proof that awed her, but Trace’s desire to get to know her.
There was still so much they didn’t know about one another. But she had told him of her fears the night he asked her to marry him. She had waited for him to laugh at her silliness, but he’d turned her in his arms, cupped her face in his big, calloused hands, lowered his head, and gently kissed her. Since then it had been easy to believe, to dream and plan their future together.
Music wafted up from the grounds below breaking into her reverie. It was time. Her heart stuttered to a stop and the butterflies in her stomach flitted furiously. Taking a deep breath, Jacy settled her nerves once more.
Calmness settled into her entire being and then an unnatural giddiness. She was ready. Ready to walk down the aisle, more like float if her feelings were accurate, toward Trace and their future together.