Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

As soon as we got out of the chapel and into the hall, I steered her away from everyone else, finding an empty dressing room and pulling the door closed behind us.

“We’re supposed to go to the reception and help—”

“I know,” I interrupted. “We will. But not until I’m sure you aren’t going to start World War III.”

She pouted up at me, her full lips looking so damn kissable and her eyes as perfectly sulky as they’d ever been. “If I was going to make a scene, I would have already done that.”

“That’s your mother?” I prodded.

Sara nodded. “I haven’t even seen her in over a decade. I don’t know if she would even recognize me.”

There was way too much family resemblance for that woman to not recognize her own daughter, but I didn’t think that was necessary to point out. “You gonna be okay if they come over to talk to you?”

“No.” Her hair was swept up in an elaborate updo with flowers interspersed here and there. A tendril dropped free, falling along the side of her face.

I eased it back into place, using one of the pins already there to fasten it where it belonged. “Can you get through the reception?”

“Yes.” She scowled up at me. “How the hell did you do that? I’ve been trying to get it to stay put for two hours.”

“Three younger sisters,” I reminded her. “Stick close to me through the reception.” It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her to avoid going postal on her mother; I just didn’t have any idea what her mother might do, and I’d rather be there if anything happened.

“I don’t have a fucking thing to say to that woman, Cam. You don’t have to babysit me all afternoon.”

Sara might not have anything to say to her, but I sure as hell did. Maybe I wanted to keep her close so she could be the one to prevent me from losing my shit.

I WASN’T SURE how it had happened but the style of dress they’d chosen for Noelle fit perfectly within the overall wedding theme, and yet it was completely her, as well. No, the fabric wasn’t covered in flowers, and yes, the colors were subdued, but the skirt flowed around her legs as she walked in exactly the same way as her everyday attire always did. Besides, she still had flowers; she was just wearing them in her hair, like the brides and the rest of the bridesmaids, instead of on her clothes. That suited her more than just about anything else I could imagine, actually.

She looked amazing. In fact, I was enjoying myself watching her so much today that I didn’t mind not being the one standing right beside her. I’d definitely experienced a twinge of jealousy during the rehearsal yesterday, but it just didn’t make sense to feel envious today. Particularly not after the way she’d reacted to my suggestion of having a memory room in our house. I’d wanted it to be a surprise, but her exuberance had made telling her before it was finished worth it.

And she wanted Liv to be part of it. I never would have suggested it, especially not after Noelle had felt she was competing with Liv’s memory early in our relationship. But Noelle wanted some of Liv’s wind chimes in our new house. I didn’t know of many women who would want any reminders of their man’s first love around, but this just proved, yet again, how very unlike other women Noelle was.

I grinned in her direction as Nicky and I made our way through the receiving line to the reception, well before we reached her. She flashed me a dazzling smile in return but stayed in position between Burnzie and Babs. They were helping to greet everyone that was coming into the reception. Almost as soon as she gave me that smile, she turned back to the couple in front of her and reached out to take the woman’s hand, falling into an easy sort of conversation with the pair as though she’d known them her whole life.

It always astounded me how readily she adapted to change and how quickly she made friends. I was fairly positive that the only people she knew at the wedding were those she’d met through me. And she’d spent her whole life in Portland. This was the first time she’d ever flown all the way across the country—she’d only taken short trips through the Pacific Northwest prior to this—but tomorrow she was going to take a far bigger step away from life as she’d always known it. She would be flying across the Atlantic Ocean with me.

We were planning to spend the night here in Providence after the wedding and reception, before traveling to Gothenburg tomorrow. Finally, I was going to be able to take her home. To my home. To meet my family. To meet Liv’s family. To see all the things that my life had consisted of since before I’d come halfway around the world to play in the NHL.

I had to be ten times more anxious about it than she was, even though it was all new and different for her. Noelle was handling the idea of coming with me to Sweden much better than the thought of letting go and allowing her brothers to handle a few things while we were away.

I’m sure they’ll be fine, she’d told me dozens of times in the weeks leading up to our trip here, but then she would say something along the lines of, Won’t they? It’s not like they’re going to burn the place down or anything. Oh God, what if they burn down the house?

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