The Right Price


Collins – (One Year Later)

“Are you okay?”

I turned and told him the truth. “I’m not sure.”

He smirked in understanding. “Well, it’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “What’s going on out there and all.”

“Fairy tales aren’t supposed to be real,” I sighed. “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it’s turning me into a nervous wreck.”

Those aqua-colored eyes regarded me intently as Carver made his way over to me. “There is no other shoe, Collins,” he stated, doing his best to keep me from flipping out. “Evander loves you. Anyone with a pair of working eyes can see it.”

I looked down at my white dress, and even though I was minutes away from walking down the aisle towards the love of my life, I was still struggling with accepting my good fortune. It’s been a year, and life with Evander couldn’t be more perfect. He and Nan got along famously, and he loved having her with us. Granted, our house was big enough for ten people, but that didn’t matter. Right now, we were the perfect little family, and even his brother and sister-in-law were incredible with Nan.

“I know,” I muttered, a complete mess. “But…it feels too perfect, Carver.”

He placed his hands on my shoulders. “Don’t get used to it,” he said, being Carver. “Life is messy, complicated, tragic, and often lived by winging it.” He smiled down kindly at me. “You’re going to have your challenges, Collins. This moment is about as perfect as it’s going to get. Soon, you’ll have children that will disrupt your peace, school and sports that will drive you nuts, quickies that will leave you frustrated because you’ll no longer have time for honeymoon sex.” I chuckled at that. “Lots of shoes are going to drop in your life, Collins. However, Evander Kendrick is the type of man that will pick them all up for you.” Carver leaned in and kissed my forehead. “I wouldn’t be walking you down the aisle towards him if I didn’t believe that with all my heart.”

Even though I had stopped working at the club soon after Evander and I had reached our six-month mark, Carver had remained my closest friend, and when I had asked him to walk me down the aisle at my wedding to Evander, he hadn’t hesitated. With my father non-existent, and my mother still as awful as always, our wedding was rather small, only a few close friends in attendance.

Nodding, I said, “Okay. Let’s do this.”

“Let’s do this,” he echoed as he held his arm out for me.

When the music cued up, Carver gave me one last kiss on my forehead, then escorted me out of the bridal room of the church. Taking a deep breath, I let Carver take the lead, and I could hear the sounds of everyone standing up for my big entrance.

The curtains pulled back, and when I looked up, Evander was at the other end of the aisle, looking at me like he wanted to race down the steps and take me in his arms. He was looking at me like I had always hoped the man of my dreams would. Everything was going perfectly, and when Carver handed me off to Evander, it felt like my heart was going to beat clean through my chest.

After handing the bouquet off to Maxine, Evander quickly took my hands in his, and ignoring the quiet traditions of the church, he said, “Marrying you still isn’t going to be enough.” My eyes immediately teared up. “My soul will never be satisfied with just having you by my side, Collins. It needs to be intertwined with yours forever.”

“I love you,” I whispered around my emotions.

“Not anywhere near how much I love you,” he replied. “I love you so damn much, baby.”

“I know,” I mouthed, knowing that Carver was right. Life wasn’t going to be perfect; it couldn’t be. However, this moment was, and I wasn’t going to ruin it with my insecurities.

“Are you ready?” the priest asked, and we both nodded.

A half-hour later, I was legally Collins Katherine Kendrick, and the joy in my heart felt so undeserved, but incredibly appreciated.

“There’s no getting away from me now,” Evander joked.

“Same goes,” I teased back. “You’re saddled with a wife now. I hope you know what that means.”

“I know exactly what it means,” he said wolfishly. “It means more private dances.”

The man wasn’t wrong.

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