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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.