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Silver and Drew fell in love in Not Quite Over You.
Silver Tesdal had always loved playing dress-up. When she was little and her mom would leave her alone to go on dates with random men, Silver would raid her mom’s closet. She’d learned how to walk in heels in a dumpy apartment in Tucson.
As a teenager, she would saunter with pseudo confidence into boutiques to try on everything that caught her eye. Not that she could afford to buy anything.
Her love of dress-up was probably one of the reasons she’d started her mobile wedding bar business, AlcoHaul. She got to come up with costumes to coordinate with every theme wedding, from princess to Cleopatra.
But she’d never felt more beautiful than she did in this moment. In her wedding gown.
“I want to wear this every day for the rest of my life,” she said.
Today was her wedding day, and she was in the bride’s room at Weddings Out of the Box, a theme wedding venue in Happily Inc, California, surrounded by women who loved her. Her friends Pallas and Carol had torn themselves away from their infants, although they weren’t planning to stay for the reception. Bethany and Wynn were sitting on the love seat, laughing about something. Leigh was braiding Autumn’s hair. Natalie, Silver’s maid of honor, was stepping into her dress and Renee, her friend and wedding planner, was looking out the window.
Silver frowned. What was Renee looking for? Or who?
“You really like the dress? Yay!” Violet had come all the way from England to not only attend the wedding but to make Silver’s dress. Despite the distance between them since Violet had moved overseas to marry a genuine duke, she remained one of Silver’s closest friends.
The dress, of course, had about a thousand pearl buttons up the back. Violet had an unnatural obsession with buttons. Other than that, the back was sheer because Silver wanted to show off her tattoos. Including the dragon on her shoulder, who was sporting a temporary tattoo top hat, courtesy of Natalie.
Silver couldn’t wait until Drew saw it. The love of her life. Joy filled her from the inside and bubbled out as a laugh.
The dress was a soft golden cream color that coordinated beautifully with the wedding palette. In honor of the daughter she and Drew had given up for adoption, they’d decided on an Autumn theme.
Renee was still at the window. She was always tightly wound, but Silver had worked enough weddings with her to know that something was up.
“You look so pretty,” Autumn said as she approached.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Silver said. “So do you.”
At twelve, Autumn was no longer a little girl, so instead of making her a flower girl, Silver had asked her to be a bridesmaid. Autumn looked very grown-up in the dark red, capped-sleeve dress.
Silver put one arm around Autumn and the other around Leigh, Autumn’s mother. “I’m so glad you’re both here.”
“We wouldn’t have missed it,” Leigh said.
Silver felt a rush of gratitude to the woman who had allowed her to be part of her daughter’s life. They weren’t the most traditional family, but they were family nonetheless.
When Renee pulled back the curtain to look outside again, Silver had had enough. She joined her friend at the window.
“What is going on?”
Renee dropped the curtain as though it had given her an electric shock. “What? Nothing. Nothing.”
“Is Drew missing, or something?”
“Oh no, Silver. No. He’s in the groom’s room, ready to go. If anything, he’d like to start early.”
“Then why are you acting so squirrelly?”
The pop of a champagne bottle kept Renee from answering. They joined the others in the center of the room where Wynn was filling champagne flutes.
“Can I have some, Mom?” Autumn asked.
“You can have a sip of mine.”
“Yes!” she whispered and pumped a fist.
Natalie raised her glass. She had just returned from Hawaii and still had a honeymoon tan. “We’re all so happy for you, Silver. You are one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. Drew is a lucky man. To the bride!”
“To the bride,” everyone echoed.
As Silver took a drink, she knew she and Drew were both lucky to have found their way back to each other. She tried not to waste time regretting the years they’d lost. They had the rest of their lives to love each other.
Renee left the room for a couple of minutes. When she returned, she stayed in the open doorway and said, “It’s almost time. If you’re not in the wedding, you should find your seat. You can hug the bride later. I don’t want her dress to get wrinkled.”
Soon only Silver, Renee, Natalie and Autumn remained. Renee busied herself handing out bouquets, then tucking a loose strand of Silver’s blond hair into her updo.
“Practically the whole town is out there,” she said, “but I don’t see Jasper. Isn’t he a friend of Drew’s?”
“He’s on book tour, so he couldn’t make it.”
Silver watched her friend in the mirror. That sounded like a loaded “oh,” and Silver would swear that Renee’s shoulders had slumped. Was she interested in Jasper? Or was Silver projecting her own romantic feelings onto her friend because she was so happy and in love?
Renee stepped back and smiled, the efficient wedding planner once again. “You’re perfect. Let’s get you married.”
Silver’s focus narrowed to one thing: today was her wedding day. Today was the day she would finally promise herself to the man she loved, the start of their lives together.
As the music began, she stood at the back of the chapel, out of sight but where she could watch Drew. He looked so handsome in his custom-made tuxedo. His gaze was filled with affection and pride as he watched Autumn walk toward him. Step, together, step, together, step.
Natalie was next, and then it was Silver’s turn. She took a tremulous breath, then moved into the doorway. Drew’s visible gasp of admiration was gratifying. Their gazes met and held as she walked down the aisle.
“I love you,” she mouthed as she reached him.
In response, he pressed a kiss to her knuckles. She hadn’t thought she would be nervous, but she had to lock her knees to stay upright.
She wasn’t nervous about Drew. Never that. She knew they were made for each other, and she felt no hesitation whatsoever about marrying him.
She was just surprisingly nervous about being the center of attention, even though everyone in this room loved her—with the possible exception of her mother-in-law.
When it came time to say the vows, Silver passed her bouquet to Natalie and put her hands in Drew’s. Her hands were shaking. He raised his eyebrows, and she gave a subtle shrug.
The preacher asked, “Drew Franklin Lovato, do you take this woman to be your wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?”
“Silver Grace Tesdal, do you take this man to be your husband, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?”
She opened her mouth but no sound came out. Drew squeezed her fingers and she squeaked, “I do,” causing Autumn to giggle. Silver cleared her throat and said more strongly, “I do.”
Moments later, the preacher pronounced them husband and wife, then gave Drew the all-clear to kiss her.
As he cupped her face in his hands, he was close enough that she could see the flecks of gold in his beautiful brown eyes. He kissed her with such tenderness and reverence that she nearly cried.
“My wife,” he said in a low voice only she could hear. It sounded like a benediction.
Two hours later, they walked together to the head table in the banquet room. So far, they’d managed to grab only five minutes alone together, between greeting guests and wedding pictures. Just as they settled into their seats, someone began clinking silverware against crystal in a time-honored demand for a bridal kiss.
Drew obligingly leaned toward Silver and kissed her softly to much hooting from the crowd—mostly from the boisterous Mitchell brothers.
“Get a room!” Mathias shouted.
“Now that’s a good idea,” Drew whispered against her lips.
“Hold that pose,” Renee said as she rushed forward brandishing her phone. “I want to get a picture for Instagram.”
They held the kiss. Just as Silver felt herself sinking into it, Renee said, “Oh shoot, one of the waiters needs me. Be right back.”
She raced away, leaving her phone on the table. Silver picked it up.
“What are you doing?” Drew asked.
Instead of responding, she kissed him. She held the phone at arm’s length and took a picture.
With reluctance, she pulled away. “To be continued.”
“How long do we have to stay?” he asked.
“Probably another couple of hours.”
“But I happen to know that Pallas has a very comfortable sofa in her office,” she whispered into his ear, placing her hand on his thigh.
“And a lock on the door.”
“Hold on, let me just...” She searched for the Instagram app on Renee’s phone. She knew the other woman wanted to post the kiss picture to promote Weddings Out of the Box, and she was happy to help.
But when she opened the app, she paused. “Interesting.”
“What?” Drew asked.
She showed him the phone. “Her last search was for #JasperDembenski.”
“She was searching for Jasper? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know, but it definitely means something.” Something she’d have to ask her friend about when she returned from the honeymoon. But for now, she was much more interested in getting that honeymoon started a little early.
As quickly as she could, she posted the picture. Then she grabbed her husband’s hand and they snuck away from their own wedding reception.
And they lived...wait for it...happily ever after!
Renee and Jasper will fall in love in Meant to Be Yours!
Natalie and Ronan fell in love in Why Not Tonight.
Natalie Kaleta woke up on the morning of her wedding, alone in bed for the first time since Ronan Mitchell had proposed ten months ago. He had stayed until 11:55, then ducked out, despite her protests, to spend the night at his twin brother’s house. Well, not exactly his twin brother, but that was a story of its own.
“Bad luck to see the bride before the wedding,” he'd told her.
Who knew her artist husband-to-be was so conventional?
She smiled sleepily, stretched beneath the summer-weight blanket, then reached for her red-framed glasses. The luxurious master bedroom came into focus.
“Good morning,” she said to the blue glass statue in the corner as she did every day. So far, the eight-foot winged fairy had never replied, but Natalie was an optimist.
She glanced at the clock and groaned when she saw it was only 8:30. Planning the wedding for sunset had seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, she and Ronan were both night owls—it was one of the things that had drawn them together in the first place—but now she wasn’t thrilled about not seeing him for almost eleven hours.
After brushing her teeth, she walked barefoot to open the door to the hallway. From downstairs came the happy sounds of a group of women laughing and chattering in the kitchen. She smiled, then looked over the railing into the great room and watched unobserved.
All four of her future sisters-in-law were there—Pallas and Carol from Happily Inc, Maya and Shelby from Fool’s Gold—plus her friends Renee, Bethany, Silver and Wynn. Although they hadn’t spent the night, they all wore pajamas that matched the pair Natalie was wearing, in their wedding colors, cream, with teal and coral piping. Ronan had given them to her last night and, evidently, had also given matching pairs to her friends.
Her fiancé was proving himself to be such a thoughtful man.
He must have had a hard time finding a pair that was small enough for Renee. She’d had to roll up the cuffs of her legs and sleeves, and she still looked like a child playing dress-up.
Wynn was making herself at home in the kitchen, opening cabinets until she found a stack of plates to put on the counter next to two large, covered buffet serving dishes.
Pallas caught sight of Natalie. “The bride is awake!”
All the women cheered and called out to Natalie as she descended the wide staircase. She stopped halfway down and did a little dance on the step. “I’m getting married today!”
They cheered again. She hugged each of her guests and thanked them for coming. “You didn’t have to make breakfast.”
“Oh, we didn’t,” Silver said as she pressed a mimosa into Natalie’s hand and guided her to a bar stool. “Ronan sent the food with a caterer.”
“And a note,” Carol added. She reached around the side of the refrigerator and pulled out a paper airplane, which she glided toward Natalie.
Natalie read the note once to herself, then aloud.
My love, I can’t wait to be your husband. I want you to enjoy every minute of the day, so I have a few surprises for you. Enjoy breakfast with your friends, then get ready. You’ll be picked up at eleven. – Ronan
“We’re all going,” Pallas said.
“Where? Do you know?”
Pallas mimed locking her lips and tucking the key into her cleavage. Which was impressive—she, Carol, Maya and Shelby had all had babies within the last six months.
“Where are the cousins?” Natalie asked.
“With their dads,” Maya said. “Knowing Del, he’s organizing diaper races.”
Shelby showed Natalie a picture on her phone, of the four infants swaddled individually, sleeping in a row. Natalie’s heart melted. She wanted that. Not right away. First, she wanted to enjoy a couple years with just her and Ronan, but after that, babies, she thought happily. Lots of babies.
In the meantime, in eleven more hours, Natalie would legally be the cousins’ aunt. After years of being alone in the world, she was finally going to have a family.
“I miss my mom,” she said. “I wish she could have been here.”
Wynn, the only one of the friends whose hair was as curly as Natalie’s, hugged her from behind. “I think she is. She’d be so proud of you.”
After a few too many mimosas and pastries, they got dressed and stepped outside just in time to watch a stretch limo navigate the turn into the driveway. She and Ronan lived up the mountain outside of Happily Inc. What they sacrificed in terms of convenience, was more than made up for with the peace, solitude and natural beauty of the woods. Natalie had never been more inspired, and the artwork she had created since moving here at taken her career as an artist to the next level.
Of course, that might also have something to do with falling in love.
She laughed when the car came out of the shadows. “It’s red! He knows how much I love red cars. Where on earth did he find a red limo?”
“He brought it in from Vegas,” Carol said. “I know all his secrets. He and Matthias have had their heads together for months.”
Renee stepped forward. In her businesslike dark green dress and killer five-inch hills, and with her red hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, she looked much more grown-up than she had in the oversized pajamas. “This is where I say goodbye.”
“You’re not coming with us?” Natalie asked.
“I’ve got a few last-minute details to oversee. Have a good time, and I’ll see you in a few more hours.”
Renee had been amazing from the moment Natalie and Ronan had booked their wedding at Weddings Out of the Box. When Renee had asked if they had a theme in mind, they’d replied, “Fun” in unison. They wanted their wedding to be the most fun, the most joy-filled event Happily Inc had ever seen. Renee had taken the idea and run with it, with brilliantly creative ideas that would knock everyone on their butts. Instead of a formal meal, they would have a selection of takeout favorites—Chinese, pizzas, a taco bar. Instead of formal tables and chairs, they would have cushioned conversation areas. Fire pits for S’mores, party games from the Boardroom Pub, a photo booth with accessories, and of course, a DJ and a lighted dance floor so their guests could kick it until well past midnight.
Natalie could not wait. She glanced at her phone. Ugh, eight more hours.
Why did we schedule this so late? she texted Ronan.
Three dots, then: So every year, we can celebrate at sunset.
She smiled. I miss you.
The limo took them to the most luxurious spa in Happily Inc, where they were massaged, plucked, buffed, and generally pampered until it was time to go to Weddings Out of the Box.
In the bride’s room, her friends helped her step into the gown. She thought Ronan might be surprised by its simplicity, considering her normal tendency to overdo, well, everything. She hoped he would like it.
When Pallas finished with the hook-and-eye closures at the back, Natalie turned to look at herself in the triple mirror. She had left her brown hair down, billowing around her shoulders in ringlets. Ronan liked to wrap a curl around his finger when he kissed her sometimes. The dress was ivory silk faille, with wide straps that were almost but not quite off the shoulder, a fitted bodice, and a fit and flare mermaid skirt with a short train. Her red glasses perched on her nose as always—she kind of wanted to be able to see Ronan as he said “I do.” Call her crazy.
“You look so beautiful,” Silver said.
“Your turn next,” Natalie replied. Silver and Drew were getting married just a few days after Natalie and Ronan would return from their honeymoon in Hawaii. They’d coordinated their wedding dates and had a joint bridal shower and bachelorette party, and they were serving as each other’s maids of honor. Although Natalie supposed she would technically be the matron of honor when her turn rolled around.
Just then, a soft knock sounded on the door, and Ronan’s mother popped her head in. “May I come in? I come bearing a gift.”
Natalie rushed toward the older woman. They had grown close since the engagement. Natalie would never understand how Elaine could have failed to protect her sons from their temperamental father, but she knew Elaine loved her boys, loved her family. Ronan had forgiven his mother for her failures, so Natalie certainly wouldn’t hold them against her.
“You’re welcome here even without a gift,” she said.
“It’s from Ronan,” Elaine said, handing Natalie a small pink box tied with a white ribbon.
Natalie read the card. You have my heart.
With trembling fingers, she untied the box and gasped when she saw what was inside. Ronan had made her a hand-blown glass pendant in the shape of a heart. Swirls of red, orange and yellow made it look as though it was still glowing from the kiln. It was almost ethereal in its delicacy, but when she looked more closely, she saw that he had shaped the glass around a metal core. White gold? Platinum? She wasn’t sure, and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that she knew the pendant symbolized how Ronan felt about her. He always told her that she had the strongest heart of anyone he’d ever met because she had lived through so much pain and yet still loved so fully. He said he’d learned that lesson from her.
“Will you put it on for me?” she asked Elaine.
Renee stepped into the room. “It’s time.”
After all of Natalie’s impatience, the day had flown by. She lined up behind Wynn, Carol, Pallas, and Silver, each of them carrying a bouquet of origami flowers that Natalie had lovingly crafted over the past two months. The bridesmaid dresses were coral, the same color but a different style chosen by each friend.
They stood just outside the doors at the back of the wedding hall. Natalie caught a glimpse of the end of the slide show that had been playing on the wall-sized screen at the front of the room. When the wedding started, the live high-def camera feed would start to play, showing the view of the sunset from her and Ronan’s favorite spot on the mountain. One of Renee’s brilliant ideas.
The double doors opened, and the soft music began to play. One by one, her friends stepped forward, and then it was Natalie’s turn. She was walking herself down the aisle, but at that moment, she wished she had someone’s arm to hold onto because she wasn’t sure she was going to make it.
She stepped past the door, saw Ronan, and began fighting tears.
He had one hand over his heart, watching her. He and his brothers wore black suits with teal ties. They all looked handsome, but Ronan, with his light brown hair and green eyes, stood out.
“I’m happy,” she told the guests as she walked down the aisle, crying and laughing. “These are happy tears, I swear.”
Three years ago, she had come to this quirky little town to get married and had been left at the altar. Thank God. Thank God. If what’s-his-name hadn’t jilted her, she never would have known the joy of belonging, of marrying the man she truly loved, surrounded by the best friends she could ever hope to have.
Ronan met her halfway up the aisle. With a smile, he lifted her glasses and used a handkerchief to wipe away her tears. “You’re a mess.”
“Yet somehow, you still look like an angel.”
Together, they walked hand-in-hand to stand before Mayor Marsha, who had come from Fool’s Gold to officiate. The mayor was wearing a pale gray blazer and skirt with a white silk blouse and pearls. Behind her, the wall-sized screen showed the sun beginning to set over Happily Inc, the giant sky awash in colors. Natalie could just make out the lights of Weddings Out of the Box, which gave her the odd feeling of being both in the moment and outside of it as the ceremony proceeded.
Silver took Natalie’s bouquet, and Natalie placed both her hands in Ronan’s so they could say their vows, which they’d written together.
“Natalie, you are the love of my life,” Ronan said. “I promise to cherish you, to honor you with my heart, my body and my actions. I promise to respect you, to listen to you and value what you say. And when we have disagreements, I promise that I'll work with you to get through them. I'll be your partner in every sense of the word. Most of all, I promise to love you, today and every day for the rest of our lives.”
His word made her chest tight, so it was difficult to speak. She drew in a breath, wanting him to know how much she loved him and how precious he was to her.
“Ronan, you are the love of my life,” she said. “I promise to cherish you, to honor you with my heart, my body and my actions. I promise to respect you, to listen to you and value what you say. And when we have disagreements, I promise that I will work with you to get through them together. I will be your partner in every sense of the word. Most of all, I promise to love you, today and every day for the rest of our lives.”
After they exchanged rings, Mayor Marsha said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
With a whoop, Ronan threw his arm around Natalie’s waist, dipped her until her hair trailed on the ground, and kissed her against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset. The crowd cheered.
Still dipping her, Ronan said into her ear. “I have one more surprise for you. Three... two...”
As he reached one, he righted her so she was facing the giant screen just in time to watch fireworks light up the darkening sky. Everything about the moment was perfect.
Behind them, their guests gathered around to watch the spectacular show. When it finished, Ronan kissed her again.
"That was a wonderful surprise," she told him.
"You're my best surprise."
After another kiss, then turned and urged their guests toward the reception.
Everything was so perfect, Natalie thought happily, leaning against the man who was now her husband. She couldn't believe she got to love Ronan for the rest of her life, and she was excited to see what happened next.
Not surprisingly, they lived...wait for it...happily ever after.
Bethany and Cade fell in love in A Very Merry Princess.
On the morning of her wedding, Bethany Archer ran away from home. But it wasn't just any home, and Bethany wasn't just any woman, and to be honest she only planned to be gone for about a half hour, but still. She was certainly starting off her wedding day with a little defiance. Nothing her parents would approve of—certainly not her father. After all, she was the royal princess of the Kingdom of El Bahar, and her home was the historic white palace. And if she was caught…well, she wasn't going to think about that. Or get caught.
She pressed her back against the cool stone wall and quickly scanned both ways for the palace guards.
She ran lightly through the gardens. On her left, early morning sunlight sparkled on the water of the Arabian Sea. Not a single cloud marred the pale blue sky—all in all a perfect wedding day. The scent of jasmine did its best to tempt her to stop, but she ignored it and kept moving.
And there, ahead of her, was her destination—the stables. Or more specifically, the handsome man leaning against the stable fence.
Cade Saunders, the tall, broad shouldered, American cowboy brave enough, or foolish enough, to marry an El Baharian princess, with all the pomp and circumstance that entailed. He could have had anyone and yet he'd chosen her. She still couldn't believe it.
He straightened when he saw her, and she felt her heart stumble at the love in his eyes. He was hers and she was his and they were going to be together for the rest of their lives.
Without hesitation, she rushed into his arms. He pulled her close and lifted her as he kissed her. She melted against him, knowing it would always be like this for them.
"Hey, beautiful," he murmured. "How's life back at the palace."
"I'd rather be back in California with you," she admitted. "And I'm sorry about all of this."
"You keep saying that. Bethany, stop apologizing," Cade said easily. "You're a royal princess. Palaces and big deal weddings come with the package. You'd be worth it a thousand times over."
She leaned against him. "Thank you. I'll just be glad when it's over, and we can go home. Thank you for sneaking out. I needed to see you."
"Always." He kissed the tip of her nose and set her away from him. "See you at the altar, honey."
"I love you."
"I love you, too. Now get."
Reluctantly, Bethany walked back to the palace. She loved her parents and her brothers, and she even loved the kingdom and its long history of traditions, but this wasn't her home anymore. She felt more herself in Happily Inc than she had ever felt trying to fit in with the jet set in El Bahar.
She missed her life on the ranch, she missed being normal and not having to deal with bodyguards or a thousand years of tradition. She missed her girlfriends.
Annoyed with her own moping, she shook her shoulders and directed her mind to happier thoughts. She was getting married today! If she could just ignore the fact that her wedding would be attended by hundreds of dignitaries she barely knew and watched on television by a few million El Baharians, maybe she could focus on the fact that she was marrying the man she loved, in the company of her mother, father, and younger brothers.
"There you are!" Her mother, Liana Khan, rushed toward her. Her blond hair was the same shade as Bethany's, and her eyes the same color of blue. "We've been looking all over for you."
"I went to the stables."
The queen rolled her eyes. "Of course you did. I should've known. You and your horses."
Bethany said nothing about her rendezvous with Cade. Liana may be an El Baharian queen, but she had been born and raised in California and would be horrified that the groom had seen the bride before the wedding.
"Come. Let's go to the harem. Your hair and makeup people are waiting."
Bethany smiled at the thought of hair and makeup people in the harem. Truth be told, the harem was her second-favorite place at the palace, after the stables. It had stopped being a harem in the traditional sense in her great-grandmother's time. Now it was a very luxurious lounge—no boys allowed. So when she was a teenager, it was a place where she could escape, to read in peace when her brothers were being annoying.
As they approached the intricately carved gold door, Bethany heard the muffled sounds of feminine chatter. Her mood lightened. All of her aunts would be in there, as well as about a dozen girl cousins, to help her get ready for her special day.
Her mother gestured her forward, so Bethany opened the heavy door and stepped inside.
"Surprise!" a crowd of voices greeted her.
She stopped, unable to believe the sight before her. Her aunts and cousins were here as expected, but so were all her friends—from boarding school and college and all the way from halfway around the world in Happily Inc.
"How did you—What did you—"
Her mother nudged her farther into the room so she could close the door. "See? There's an upside to having a father with a fleet of private jets."
Bethany laughed through happy tears as she was hugged and congratulated. With everyone talking at once, she only caught about a tenth of what was said, but it didn't matter. She had known Cade's sister Pallas would be at the wedding, of course, but the rest were a total shock. Natalie and Silver, both newly engaged. Carol, who had reached the glowing stage of her pregnancy. Carol's sister Violet, who had flown in from England. Wynn, regal in a fitted midnight blue gown. Even Renee, the newest member of their girlfriend group—looking more relaxed than Bethany had ever seen her. Probably because this was one wedding she didn't have to plan.
A cacophony of feminine voices bounced off the marble floors. Someone pressed a cold glass of champagne into Bethany's hand.
"I'm so glad you're all here," she said while Silver carefully applied kohl to Bethany's eyelids, as was tradition in El Bahar. Two henna artists were working on her hands and feet, so Natalie had assigned herself the task of giving Bethany occasional sips of champagne.
"How did this happen?"
"Your mom arranged it," Silver said. "A couple of us had to get quickie passports, but it turns out that it's not a problem when a king asks the Secretary of State for a personal favor."
Bethany chuckled. "Yes, the government oil does grease a few wheels."
"We all said yes, of course," Wynn added. "The BBQ party was great, but we really wanted to be here for you on your wedding day."
"Thank you," Bethany said. "Although it's pretty much a formality at this point. Cade and I are committed to each other even without a piece of paper."
Before she knew it, Bethany was stepping into the royal wedding dress, and a heavy white velvet robe was placed over her shoulders. Beautiful designs embroidered in gold thread decorated the robe, one for each bride in the family for the past 120 years. One by one, each aunt stepped forward and pointed out her design, an item of significance chosen by her groom and sewn by a female relative.
When Bethany spotted the design that had been made in her honor, her breath caught in her throat. A magnificent horse raced across a flat landscape, his muscles highlighted in gold.
"Is that Rida?" she asked.
"Of course," her mother said. "Cade requested it, and I embroidered it. And I have the scars to prove it." She waved her fingers.
Bethany was touched more than she could say. They couldn't have thought of anything more perfect. Not only did the image represent her lifelong love of horses, but Rida was the one who had brought her and Cade together in the first place.
Well, Rida and her father. King Matchmaker.
"I'm ready," she said.
Her mother hugged her, careful not to wrinkle the dress or robe. "I'm so proud of you."
Bethany gave her a watery smile. "Thanks, Mom."
In single file, the women trooped out of the harem. Bethany was the last to leave.
Her father, King Malik of El Bahar, waited in the corridor, wearing his dress robes. He had adopted her when she was eleven. She still remembered the first time she had seen him, storming the plane that had brought her and her schoolteacher mother to the wealthy desert kingdom. He looked no less handsome nor imperious today than he had back then.
He waited until all of the women had walked away before saying, "Daughter of my heart, you are beautiful."
"Thank you, Dad. Are you ready to give me away?"
"Never. But I will allow this marriage if I must."
"I should hope so," she said, "since you were the one who set me up with Cade in the first place."
His dark eyes twinkled, but he neither confirmed nor denied her matchmaking suspicions.
Only when they were halfway across the palace did Bethany realize they were heading in the wrong direction.
"Aren't we going to the great hall?"
"My daughter will have the best wedding."
Since the great hall was the most opulent room in the luxurious palace, his words made no sense, but she continued at his side out of curiosity. Besides, questioning him further would do no good. King Malik revealed what he wanted to, when he wanted to.
Despite that, when he turned toward the family section of the palace, she said, "What did you do?"
He smiled and kept walking.
"Is this why we've been eating all our meals in the formal gardens?"
Two attendants in uniform flanked the double carved-wood doors to the family area. The king gestured at them not to open the doors yet.
"My daughter will have the best wedding," he repeated, adding, "the best wedding for her. For you."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Dad."
"Only family and close friends."
"Thank you!" She didn't care if she wrinkled her gown. She hugged him tightly, this wonderful, frustrating, affectionate, overbearing man who had taken her into his heart from the moment they'd met.
"I am also the father of my people," he said with a note of caution. "This is a special day for them, too. After the private ceremony, you will have to say your vows again in the great hall. But first, I wanted the daughter of my heart to have the wedding of her heart to remember always."
"I understand. Thank you so much!"
He nodded at the attendants, who swung open the double doors. The large family room had been decorated with beautiful flowers. Rows of silk-covered chairs lined a central aisle. And there, at the end of the aisle stood Cade, her American cowboy, wearing traditional El Baharian wedding robes. And a headdress that looked nothing at all like a cowboy hat.
In that moment she knew they would be happy forever—that their love would endure through life's ups and downs. No matter what, they would have each other.
"Let's go," she said with a tug on her father's arm.
Soft sitar music played as she took measured steps toward her groom, smiling at the people closest to her in the world. Before she got to the altar, she stopped for one last hug from her mother, and for once got no objections when she hugged her brothers, too.
At the front of the room, Cade stepped forward.
"Treasure her," the king commanded as he placed her hand in Cade's. With a little squeeze of emphasis, he added, "Or else."
"I will, sir," Cade replied, eyes locked with Bethany's.
They exchanged smiles and then vows, and as Bethany said, "I do," she suddenly understood what Pallas had meant when she said, "You might be surprised." Because wow, this did feel different. Yes, they had already loved each other and had lived together and had been committed. But this felt different. They were married now. Let no one tear them asunder. They had declared themselves before family and friends, and it meant something.
It meant everything.
"I do," Cade repeated. Then, before the officiant could give the okay, Cade kissed his wife.
And they lived… wait for it… happily ever after.
Ulrich and Violet fell in love in Second Chance Girl, Happily Inc book 2.
"You're not going to throw that, are you?"
Violet looked up to see her sister Carol skeptically eyeing the bouquet she held—a bouquet with not a single flower in it. It was made entirely of antique lace and buttons, the most treasured buttons in Violet's collection. The buttons were shades of pearl and pink and 18K gold, scattered with jewels to catch and reflect the light. She'd made it herself for her wedding day, the one nontraditional touch in her exceedingly traditional wedding to Ulrich Sherwood, Duke of Somerbrooke, and a whole bunch of other titles she hadn't yet learned to string together.
"Heavens, no!" Violet said. "Not only would I risk damaging my precious buttons, but I might knock some poor girl unconscious."
"'Heavens, no?' Are you getting a British accent already?"
"Mayhap," Violet said with a wink, then gave Carol an impulsive hug. "Oh, I'm so happy!"
"I know you are," Carol said, hugging her back. "And I couldn't be happier for you, even though this means we're going to live halfway around the world from each other."
"London to LAX takes less than twelve hours."
"I wouldn't do it for anyone but you," Carol said.
"Don't make her cry," their friend Silver warned. "I just finished her makeup."
She pulled out her cell phone and made the sisters pose for a few quick shots, which she immediately emailed to the friends who had remained back in Happily Inc.
The women were in Violet's parlor—the duchess's suite—at Battenberg Park, an estate that had been in Ulrich's family for more than five hundred years. Carol, her maid of honor, wore a champagne-colored dress with wide straps and a vee neckline. Her short, red hair had been slicked back. Violet's bridesmaids—Silver, Pallas, Natalie, and Wynn—wore dresses in the palest rose, each in a style that flattered her particular figure. Violet had strategically placed a mother-of-pearl button edged in gold on each woman's dress, a memento of the occasion. The same button was prominent in her button bouquet. She wondered what Britain's upper crust would make of the tattoo on the back of Silver's neck, exposed by her upswept hairstyle.
From paintings on the wall, generations of prior duchesses gazed down their noses with haughty but benign expressions, reserving judgment on the American upstart who had captured the heart of the duke. One of his ancestors, still very much alive, swept into the room as majestically as an 82-year-old could.
"It's time, dear girl," Ulrich's beloved grandmother said. "Let me have a look at you."
Violet stood still while Carol and her bridesmaids fussed with her train and her veil. She felt like Cinderella when the birds and the mice readied her for the ball. She was a bit nervous about the pomp and circumstance of the upcoming ceremony, but not about Ulrich. Never about him. They were meant to be together, and somehow, despite living on different continents, they had found each other.
The women backed away and collectively gasped.
"You'll do nicely," Nana Winifred said. Violet could tell she was trying for a stiff upper lip, but the tears in her eyes betrayed her emotion. "Come now, your father is waiting. And more importantly, so is your groom."
Violet's heart skipped as she linked arms with the dowager duchess. Together, they walked to the grand hallway where her father and uncle Ted waited. The two men looked like bookends—standing ramrod straight in matching gray suits that only made their shock of red hair look brighter. And when they saw her, matching smiles appeared.
The next thirty minutes passed in a blur. Violet and her entourage—maid of honor, bridesmaids, father and uncle of the bride, groom's grandmother, and two distant young cousins of Ulrich's, who would serve as flower girls—made their way to the carriages waiting along the drive. When Violet had tried to object to the open carriages, the dowager duchess had reminded her that the nearby villagers were curious and had the right to get a look at the new duchess. And Violet did feel very much on display as the carriage wound its way through the village, to the charming abbey where she would marry the man she loved.
She was guided into the church. One by one, her bridesmaids and Carol left, then it was her turn to step into the doorway at the back of the church. Hundreds of people stood at her entrance, but she only had eyes for the man who waited at the other end of the aisle.
Impeccably dressed as always, he looked more handsome than ever with his dark blond hair neatly trimmed and combed away from his face. Their gazes caught and held as she floated down the aisle toward him on her father's arm. As soon as he touched her hand, time righted itself.
He fingered her bouquet. "Buttons?" he asked with amusement in his piercing blue eyes.
"It seemed appropriate."
And then her fiancé leaned over and whispered something very inappropriate in her ear about what he planned to do with the buttons on her dress as soon as they were alone. A fiery blush blazed through her, and it was all she could do to repeat her vows without stumbling over the words.
When the vows had been said and rings exchanged, the officiant proclaimed to the congregation, "I present to you the Duke and Duchess of Somerbrooke!"
And they lived. . . wait for it. . . happily ever after!
Carol and Mathias fell in love in Second Chance Girl, Happily Inc book 2.
As the sun rose over the savanna outside Happily Inc, Carol Lund took a moment to appreciate the view of her giraffes silhouetted against the colorful sky. One giraffe, Millie, walked toward her, somehow both graceful and ungainly. Millie leaned her head forward and Carol obliged with a leafeater treat and an affectionate pat along her long neck.
Today was Carol's wedding day, the third of March. 3/3. Chosen in part because Mathias said the number three is an artist's best friend, and in part because the weather in March was perfect for an outdoor wedding. Carol couldn't imagine getting married anywhere but here. A large, luxury tent had been set up for the reception, and a cadre of electric golf carts decorated with streamers stood ready to take guests from town on tours of the game preserve.
Tomorrow, after she and Mathias left for their honeymoon in South Africa, her father would feed the animals while she was gone. But Carol wanted to do it today—one last time before her wedding. Her animals grounded her. She didn't feel nervous at all about marrying Mathias, but the thought of standing up in front of all those people had her nerves humming.
She looked over her shoulder and saw Mathias on his back porch, watching her, holding a mug of coffee and wearing only low-slung sweatpants. As he waved, the sun highlighted the muscles of his torso. Her heart leapt. He was so handsome. And he loved her. Her! Bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding? She didn't believe in bad luck anymore. Not when she'd gotten so lucky in the husband-to-be department.
She waved back, then went to work.
The wedding. . .
At four that afternoon, Carol stood still in the office at the game preserve as her sister fussed with her dress one last time. Violet had flown in from England a week ago, with her fiancé, an honest-to-goodness duke, in tow.
"I'll say this for you," Violet said with a twinkle in her eye. "You clean up well."
She had been horrified when Carol had clomped in at nine that morning, sweaty and disheveled, with a streak of gazelle poop across her cheek.
Violet had ushered her into a hot shower, and had spent the rest of the day making Carol beautiful. Carol didn't argue. She wanted to knock Mathias's socks off, and knew it would take a village to transform her ordinary self.
Now, as she stood on the precipice of her new life, Carol pulled her sister into a hug. "Thank you for talking me out of the pantsuit."
Her wedding dress was an elegant silk column, with a deep scoop neckline that showcased her collar bones and cap sleeves. Violet had added tiny, sparkling button embellishments at the waist. Carol had insisted that the skirt end at her knees. A long skirt would be impractical for an outdoor wedding on the savanna, and Carol was nothing if not practical. Even so, it was the most feminine thing she had ever worn. Around her neck, she wore a simple white gold chain, from which hung a glass heart pendant in swirls of red and orange, a gift from her husband-to-be.
The door opened, and their father stood framed in the sunlight, which made his red hair look as though it were on fire. "Are you ready?"
Carol nodded. Violet went first, then Carol, with her hand looped through her father's arm. As she stepped outside, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. When they did, a feeling of peace and happiness settled through her. Mathias waited for her at the base of the gazebo they'd built for the occasion. His dark hair was freshly cut, brushed back from his face. His dark suit made his shoulders look immense. But what really captured her attention was the smile on his face, filled with joy and love. She saw forever in that smile.
Her friends and family came to their feet as she walked past the rows of white folding chairs. On the other side of the fence, the giraffes approached with curiosity.
When Carol was within a few steps of her groom, he stepped forward, too impatient to wait any longer. He surprised her by cupping her face between his large, warm hands and bending down for a deep kiss.
"You're amazing," he said when he pulled away. "I love you. I'm going to keep saying that for the rest of our lives." He leaned his forehead against hers and ignored the catcalls from his older brothers. After a lingering moment, he drew back and together they stepped up into the gazebo. Violet and Nick, maid of honor and best man, followed.
Carol knew that the one shadow on the day was that Mathias's erstwhile twin had refused to be his best man. Ronan still hadn't reconciled himself to the fact that they were half-brothers, not full, much less the twins they had been raised to believe they were. So although Ronan had agreed to attend as a guest, he had refused to stand alongside Mathias at the altar. Time would heal, she told herself and hoped she was right.
The reverend greeted them with a smile, then invited Mathias to recite the vows he'd written.
Mathias cleared his throat, and Carol's heart melted. Mathias, who never seemed rattled by anything, was nervous. She handed her bouquet to Violet before putting her hands into his.
"Carol, you've changed my life. You've made my life. I'm yours, and I promise to do everything in my power to make you as happy as you've made me. I will be true to you and honest with you. When problems come, we'll face them together because we're stronger together than either of us could ever be on our own. You're my best friend. I love you. For always. I want to be the father to your children and the grandpa to your grandkids, side by side the rest of our lives."
Carol felt her eyes well up with tears, but she choked them back as she said, "Mathias, I love you more than I knew it was possible to love another human being . . . or even an animal."
A smattering of laughter came from the crowd, since Carol's love for animals was well known. Mathias squeezed her hands, encouraging her to continue.
"I'm a mate-for-life kind of girl, and you're it. My one and only. I I'm so grateful that you moved into the house next door. Your heart is as beautiful as the art you create. You fill my life with color and meaning. I look forward to our future together. From this day forward, you are my family."
They exchanged matching gold bands, then the reverend pronounced them husband and wife.
With a tremble so slight it was almost unnoticeable, Mathias kissed his bride. And they lived…wait for it . . . happily ever after!
Pallas and Nick fell in love in You Say It First, Happily Inc book 1.
As the owner of Weddings out of the Box, Pallas had attended more weddings than she could remember, but this was her first time as the bride. She had a new understanding of the word "jitters." It wasn't about being nervous. She was so excited to marry Nick that she felt on edge. Unfettered energy zipped through her body. She couldn't sit still, and yet, she had nowhere to go until it was time for the wedding. In less than an hour, she would be married to the man she loved, in what had to be one of the most beautiful places on earth: the isle of Capri, Italy.
She stepped onto the balcony of her luxury suite and tried to soak in the moment. They were staying at the Amante del Mare, the five-star hotel that had purchased Nick's stunning sculpture of Neptune for the lobby. The linens on the bed probably cost more than she made in a month. Although it was February, it was an unseasonably warm 60 degrees outside, and yesterday's rain had left the sky the purest, deepest blue she'd ever seen. The Mediterranean stretched out before her, its surface never still. The sea was as filled with energy as she was, rolling over itself to get to shore.
It being the slow season, they practically had the hotel to themselves, which was a good thing, since they both came from big families who didn't quite grasp the concept of elopement. Three of Nick's brothers had come, along with wives and fiancées and parents. Only Ronan had stayed back in Happily Inc. Her mom and brother Cade had made the trip, as well as her cousin Drew. In truth, Pallas was glad to have them here, especially Grandpa Frank, who would give her away.
As if her thoughts had called him, Grandpa Frank knocked lightly, then entered her sitting room. "You ready to do this?" he said.
"Ready." So ready to see Nick. To marry him! "Grandpa Frank, are you crying?"
"Proud to see you wearing your grandmother's wedding dress. Adeline would've been mighty proud, too. You're a good girl, Pallas."
"That's so sweet." She tucked her arm through his. "Shall we?"
Her friend Violet had modified the bodice of the 1950s-style dress, then embellished it with antique buttons, transforming the knee-length gown from old-fashioned to vintage chic. Pallas felt like a princess as she walked down the marble steps on her grandfather's arm, the full skirt swooshing from side to side with every step. She wore her brown hair in a simple updo and carried a bouquet of pale blue hydrangeas and delicate white baby's breath.
Her maid of honor—and future sister-in-law—Carol was waiting for them in the lobby. She hadn't gone so far as to wear a dress for the occasion, but she did consent to a periwinkle silk blouse over flowy white pants.
"How are you feeling?" Carol asked.
Carol hugged her, then preceded her out to the white stone courtyard. Pallas and Grandpa Frank paused in the doorway. A string quartet was playing softly off to the side. When she'd asked Nick if they could afford all of this, he'd just said, "I want you to have everything you want, Pallas. This is your day."
As the musicians segued into the Wedding March, everyone stood and turned toward her. And there, just ten steps away, was the man she loved. Nick looked so handsome in his charcoal-colored Italian suit and blue silk tie. His chiseled jaw was clean shaven, his short hair neatly combed. He looked at her and visibly let out a breath he'd been holding.
She didn't even try to restrain her smile as she moved toward him as if in a dream. The happiness and love in his eyes filled her spirit to bursting. How did she get so lucky?
The Italian priest officiating the ceremony said in heavily accented English, "Marriage is what brings us together today."
Pallas nearly burst out laughing at the familiar line from The Princess Bride, one of her favorite movies. How very perfect!
Nick held both her hands in his, gaze locked with hers, as he repeated the traditional Italian wedding vows in English. "I, Nick Mitchell, welcome you, Pallas Saunders, to be my wife. I promise to be faithful to you always, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor you all the days of my life."
Pallas's eyes filled with tears. Through a tight throat, she said, "I, Pallas Saunders, welcome you, Nick Mitchell, to be my husband. I promise to be faithful to you always, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor you all the days of my life."
"Per favore, Signor Nick, kiss-a your wife," the priest said.
Amid the cheers of the people who loved them the most, Nick swept Pallas into his arms and kissed her.
And they lived happily ever after!
"You sure about this?"
Libby wasn't sure which "this" her dad meant. Getting married at all, getting married to Glen, or not having one of the lavish weddings for which Happily Inc was known. In any case, the answer was, "Yes."
She was far too practical to want a big ceremony or, God forbid, a ridiculous theme wedding. She'd decided to use the money for a down payment on a house, instead. Unlike her older sisters, she and Glen wouldn't start married life in a rundown apartment. They'd start in a rundown house which they could fix up, then sell in a few years at a tidy profit.
So Dad opened the door, and together they stepped into the air-conditioned courthouse, with her mother and Glen following close behind. She hadn't invited any of her siblings, and Glen was an only child, thank God. He'd told his parents they didn't need to make the trip from Portland for such a small ceremony.
The cool air was a relief after the heat outside. She'd swapped her trademark dark suit for a white one to mark the occasion. Off-white—after all, they'd been living together since college. The big shoulder pads made her look powerful, she thought, a real take-charge 80s woman. Glen had surprised her with a bouquet. She couldn't bring herself to be annoyed with him for wasting the money when he'd remembered that orange roses were her favorite.
She reached for his hand and squeezed it surreptitiously. Her heart warmed when he squeezed back. Her partner. Her love.
"Saunders?" the court clerk called from the doorway of the judge's office.
"That's us," Gene said, drawing Libby forward.
Saunders would be her last name starting today! She'd thought about keeping her maiden name or hyphenating, but she'd decided to go the traditional route so no one would look at their children funny. Libby Saunders. Mrs. Elizabeth Saunders. Mr. and Mrs. Gene and Elizabeth Saunders.
"Mike!" Dad called as he stepped into the judge's chambers. Dad knew all the bigwigs in town on a first-name basis. Libby hoped she'd be able to say the same one day, but she didn't have the personality for schmoozing.
"Frank, what are you doing here?"
Dad put his arm around her shoulders. "Daughter #4 is getting married, and she decided to save me a bundle by coming to you. And no, she's not knocked up."
A furious blush heated Libby's face.
"Frank, stop, you're embarrassing her." Mom smoothed the front of her yellow dress. She was a little soft around the middle, but that was to be expected after seven children. Still, she looked fresh and pretty. "Leave the poor girl alone, today of all days."
"Yes, dear," Dad replied with a wink.
What did the wink mean? That he planned to continue to tease Libby, as usual? He had always seemed to delight in her discomfort, from the time she was a little girl. She knew he loved her, but he just didn't relate to her more conservative ways. No matter. Gene got her. She could put up with anything with Gene at her side.
"So how do you want to do this?" the judge asked. "Standard vows, or did you write your own?"
"Traditional," Gene said.
"Except leave out 'obey,'" Libby added. "I won't make a promise I don't intend to keep."
"You want me to ask him to obey you?" the judge said.
She laughed politely, although it didn't sound like a terrible idea.
The judge stepped around to the front of his desk and began to speak from memory. "We're here today to witness the union of Glen Saunders and Libby Dineen. Glen and Libby have committed to joining their lives from this day forward. May your love create a soft place to fall for you both, and may you come together during the hard times life inevitably brings, so that your bond strengthens with each trial.
"Do you, Glen, take Libby to be your wife? Do you promise to love her, honor her, and cherish her all the days of your life?"
Glen gazed into her eyes as he firmly said, "I do."
Libby's heart skipped, and when it was her turn, she said, "I do," too.
"This ring is a symbol of my love and devotion." Glen slipped the plain gold band onto her fourth finger.
"This ring is a symbol of my love and devotion," Libby repeated.
"By the power vested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife. Glen, you may kiss the bride, and Libby, you may kiss the groom."
With a smile so wide that she felt her face might split, Libby Saunders kissed her husband. Her husband!
In 1954, Happily Inc wasn't the bustling small town that it is today. Back then, it wasn't even called Happily Inc. It was Santo Elias, named after the mountains to the north (which were named for the patron saint of sleep). 1954 was years before young Franklin Dineen would have the brilliant idea to rebrand the town as a wedding destination, years before the birth of seven daughters would motivate him to concoct the fairy tale that saved the town from extinction.
Santo Elias was little more than a speck on the map, but it had the sweetest little white chapel on the banks of the Rio de Suenos, and that was where Frank waited, uncharacteristically nervous. His bride was late, which was not unusual, but today of all days, he had hoped she would be on time.
He heard a noise at the back of the chapel . . . and there she was! Adeline, his Adeline. Seven years younger than him and ten times smarter. And she had agreed to hitch her star to his.
She glided toward him on her father's arm. Her figure was va-va-voom in a white dress that swished around her legs without touching the floor. Tonight, he would finally get to see what was under those clothes. They'd gotten close a couple times in the back seat of his Buick, but she always managed to come to her senses in time to stop him.
Don't think about that now, he cautioned himself.
When Adeline reached him, he realized that her hands were trembling something fierce. Her dad did the whole handing-over bit, and then Frank took the bouquet from her, passed it to her best friend, and gripped her hands gently in his. "Changed your mind?"
"No," she whispered. "Just nervous. Everyone's looking at me."
"That's because you're prettier than Doris Day."
She blushed just a little, but he could tell she was pleased. Doris Day was her favorite actress. She'd even bleached her hair to look more like her.
Together, they turned toward the minister. Seemed like it was just the blink of an eye later when Frank found himself saying, "I, Franklin Rodrick Dineen, take you, Adeline Elizabeth Knowlton, to be my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
When Adeline said the words back to him, her voice growing more confident as she went on, he felt all choked up. He didn't know how he got so lucky, but he was determined to be worthy of her.
"You may now kiss the bride," the minister said.
And so Frank did.
Have you always dreamed of a theme wedding? Then Weddings in a Box is the venue for you. Weddings in a Box offers a set menu of themes, everything from cowboy weddings to princess weddings to gladiator weddings. Yes, you can arrive at the altar in a palanquin, carried on the shoulders of four muscular young men in togas!
Adventurous brides and grooms should consider planning an outdoors wedding at Honeymoon Falls, about five miles northeast of Happily Inc. If you don't mind getting a little wet, you can even get married in the intimate space behind the waterfall, though only you, the officiant, and two witnesses will fit. For larger wedding parties, there's a deck up top with a stunning view of the town.
If traditional is more your style, you'll love the Chapel on the Green, a small, white historic church that sits right on the banks of the Rio de los Sueños in the middle of Chapel Park. No cars allowed in the park, but you'll enjoy heading out in a "Just Married" horse-drawn carriage.