“Talk about short notice.” Gabe shoved a hand through his windblown hair, making it stand up on end even more than it already was.
“I told her that we’re booked solid and she reminded me that you promised to always have a cottage for her.” Charlie bit her lip against a smile. After a rocky start, Cassidy now loved her stepfather and the feeling was clearly mutual.
Gabe blew out a breath. “It appears we’ve afflicted both daughters with princess syndrome.” He slid his eyes to where ten year old Rory sprawled asleep on the floor in an explosion of pink and purple princess blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys.
Charlie laughed. “Sugar and spice.”
Gabe collapsed into the recliner, the hour late, the long day catching up with him. He held up a finger. “Let’s think a minute.”
Charlie, already curled into her couch corner, only smiled. She liked watching him “think a minute”, his eyes narrowed, he usually ran a hand through his hair a couple of times, cupped his chin in hand and muttered to himself.
In the current dilemma, her freshly engaged 22 year old daughter Cassidy had decided her wedding simply must happen on the island exactly one month from now-during the Christmas celebration. Knowing the Painted Parrot cottages were booked solid, Charlie had tried to talk her into either waiting a bit longer or booking rooms at the resort on the other end of the island with the wedding part of things here on their beach.
Cassidy acknowledged the short notice and agreed that she might have to concede somewhere, but asked that her mother talk to Gabe anyway.
“The only solution I see is to build another cottage.”
Charlie froze, a hand over her mouth mid-yawn. “Wait. What? Did you just say build another cottage?”
“In less than a month?”
Gabe gestured with one hand. “Well, we have the plans for more cottages in place, right?” Then the other hand in the other direction. “The supplies have been coming in, they’re waiting in Keno’s warehouse.”
“Right, I just did the inventory last week. We were waiting for the Christmas season to settle down.” Charlie nodded.
“If I swear on the JohnBToo that I’ll be his lackey and throw in Nash-and even Ford-when possible, I bet Timo will squeeze it into his schedule.” An Australian expat contractor who’d relocated to the island the year before Gabe and Nash had bought the property, Timo was dedicated and time-efficient when working on a project.
When they’d first bought the hurricane ravaged property, Gabe and Nash had largely built the first two of the new cottages themselves. After that, they’d secured better financing and had been able to hire Timo and relegate themselves to helper status to finish the property-eight cottages for guests, Nash and Jill’s home, an office, Gabe’s woodshop, the Painted Parrot bar and restaurant-opening fully functional in less than predicted time.
Muttering again, Gabe worked through the time line in his head then pulled out his phone and texted Timo a brief outline of his plan-and why. Moments later he held up the phone to Charlie. “Timo’s in. We can do it.”
Winking at Charlie, he pushed another button. When the call was answered on the other end, he said, “Book your flights, kiddo, we’re having a wedding.”
Charlie could hear her daughter’s shrieks when Gabe pulled the phone from his ear, laughing.
What a Christmas season this was shaping up to be.
The Wedding Party
“That was the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen.” Katie sighed, dropping into a chair. Toeing off her strappy sandals, she kicked them under the chair. Wouldn’t need those anymore tonight.
“Just perfect.” Reggie copied both Katie’s sigh and disposal of shoes. “And the dessert table was most excellent, Master.”
Katie grinned. “It was, wasn’t it?” She held up a hand to high-five her devoted apprentice, silently reminding herself to talk to Reggie about becoming a full partner in the bakery soon.
“Look at those two.” Jane joined her friends, surreptitiously adding her shoes to the growing pile under Katie’s chair and lifting her chin towards where Charlie danced with Gabe, her hand cupping his face, his forehead touching hers. His eyes were closed as he said something in her ear that made her laugh and drop her head to his shoulder.
“Cassidy’s surprise request for Gabe to dance the first dance with her–was that not the sweetest?” Jane sighed.
“I figured she’d have Charlie do it or dance with Ty, since her dad is gone and Troy walked down the aisle with her.” Reggie said, twisting a springing curl of her red hair with a wistful sigh. “That’s family, finding a way to make it work.”
“Milady.” Matteo, dressed in loose khakis and an untucked white shirt that set off his coffee-toned skin, winked at all three, but held his hand out to Reggie. She laughed and let him swing her out into a hip-swaying, fast-paced dance that sent her tropical flower patterned skirt swirling around her knees.
Jane tilted her head close to Katie’s. “I felt her heart flutter from here.”
“Me, too. Wonder how long it’ll take them to accept it?” Katie watched the couple laugh and pull her five year old daughter Scarlett into the dance with them.
“Reggie swears to the moon and back that they’ll never be more than friends-with benefits.” Jane rolled her eyes.
“We’ll see, won’t we?” Katie laughed.
“Dance with me, Beautiful.” Ford leaned over his wife’s shoulder. Katie smiled, closing her eyes as he kissed her cheek, a hand sliding along her back-bare in the soft peach halter top sundress she wore. She breathed deep of his scent, warm, male, and spicy yet subtle aftershave. “Dance with me, Ace.”
“There’s my date.” Luke, in his informal uniform of cargo shorts and a tee emblazoned with the sheriff logo, sat in the chair Reggie had just vacated. He flashed Jane a smile, the dimple in his left cheek melting her a little as always. The two of them were dancing around the idea of dating, both having been through a lot when it came to relationships in the past. “Hey, Handsome.” She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Feel like dancing?”
Luke grimaced then grinned. “Well, not so much dancing, but the holding you part of it sounds good to me.” As he’d hoped, Jane tilted back her head and laughed, the sound like music to his ears. They joined the dancers, making room for Rory as she went from couple to couple, dancing a little with everyone, enjoying her role as sister of the bride.
Nash was in his element, laughing with his entire family in his arms. He danced with his wife, one arm around her, holding Zane in the other arm, Zeke snuggly in his wrap on his mother’s chest. They moved slowly, Zane content to rest against his dad after the last, fast dance when Nash had swung the boy and Scarlett around and around the dance floor. The baby made soft whimpering sounds, his little head nuzzling his mother. With Nash’s body shielding them, Jill slipped a hand inside the sling and opened her shirt. The baby settled with a sigh and no one was the wiser. She looked up to see Nash’s gaze on her. “You are incredible.” She smiled. “We are incredible.” They finished the song and left the dance floor. When they passed Reggie, she reached out and took Zane, spinning him around into Matteo’s arms.
“Sunset.” Nash said simply, leading Jill out of the tent. He really just wanted his wife alone where he could hold her close, kiss her thoroughly, and maybe peek inside the wrap. He never tired of looking at her anytime, but the miracle of nursing his son was something beyond special that he loved to watch. He sat on the sand just out of the water’s reach, Jill nestled between his bent knees. The sun set, the last rays sending up shades of orange and indigo, every one as amazing as the last. Their twin sighs echoed by the baby brought them both a smile.
The lights of the wedding tent spilled out onto the sand where many had drifted out to dance along the shore, the music and the jingling of the tiny bells tied among the gauzy sides of the tent easily carried along on the breeze. It was party worthy of the island, complete with bare feet and sunset dancing. As the hour grew late, the lights were dimmed, partiers drifted off, the newlyweds having been showered with hibiscus blossoms and sent on their way just a little awhile ago.
In the shadows just out of the light’s reach, Gabe rested against the big rock, Charlie nestled in his arms. They watched the last of the evening’s deep purple color fade from the sky.
“Thank you.” He said softly, his breath tickling her ear.
“Thank you for coming to my island, for bringing the light that is you to my world.”
“Weddings must make you sappy, Captain.” She teased, but turned in his arms to kiss him, his lips warm and soft.
“You make me sappy.”
In case you missed it, click here for the first Island Snapshot : The Trees Are Here!
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