Through every conversation he’d had with her friends and neighbors during the past week, he had gained a little more insight into the woman he loved. She’d grown up surrounded by so much love that it was no wonder she was overflowing with it herself.
Lucia Ferrer was holding court at the front of the church, beaming with the joy of her dream for her daughter finally coming true. Jack had come to love his soon-to-be mother- and father-in-law a great deal during the days he’d spent in their home, so much that he was more than a little tempted to remain in Italy for a while. Larry and Howie had been extremely happy to hear that Mary’s mother was doing well and that he and Mary had decided to tie the knot right before Christmas. As soon as they’d filled him in on the incredible sales and response to the Pocket Planner, Mary had taken the phone from him and promised she’d have Jack back in California and behind his computer by January second.
Jack’s thoughts were brought back to the present as his gaze was caught by movement at the entrance to the church, where the little girl from across the street was waving at him from the doorway. As their flower girl, she stood proudly in a pretty white dress with a heaping basket of poinsettia flower petals in her sturdy little hands.
Again and again throughout the week, Jack had caught himself dreaming of the children he and Mary would have. Her mother had made him a photo album of Mary’s childhood photos, from birth until she’d left to pursue modeling, and he could so clearly see himself lifting a little girl in his arms who looked just like her mother.
Everyone in the church was dressed in their best clothes, with holly decorating the ends of every pew. He knew the children must be counting down the hours until Christmas Eve and when they could open the packages under their Christmas trees. But, considering all the excitement, they were an extremely well-behaved bunch.
Just then, Jack’s brother Ethan walked in through the side door with a huge grin on his face. Jack had called his family to let them know about the wedding, and though he hadn’t expected any of them to be able to make it to Italy on such short notice, as luck would have it, Ethan had already been in London and promised to make the trip to Italy to support Jack at his wedding. True to form, Jack thought with a matching grin, Ethan had squeaked in just under the wire.
Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” rang out loudly from the organ high above the pews, and Jack instantly turned his focus back to the front doors of the church.
The flower girl skipped down the aisle tossing petals from her basket, and then everyone gasped with awe as Mary appeared on her father’s arm.
Everyone and everything but Mary and the soul-deep love he felt for her fell away. Wonder wove through him as she slowly came up the petal-strewn aisle on her father’s arm.
She was impossibly beautiful in her wedding dress, a dark-haired angel in lace and silk. Even through her veil, he could see all the love she felt in her eyes as she smiled at him, her joy a living thing. She was wearing a crown made of bright green leaves and berries, and as he worked to recover his senses, it took him a few beats longer than it should have to realize it was a crown of mistletoe.
I love you, Angel. I’ll always love you.
He knew he didn’t need to say the words aloud for her to hear them pass from his heart to hers.
At the final pew, Mary’s father pressed a kiss to her cheek, but she never took her eyes from Jack’s. Moving down the few steps that separated them, Jack held out a hand for his bride, and when she took it, instead of drawing her up to where the priest was waiting for them, he couldn’t stop himself from lifting her hand to his lips.
A moment later her arms were around his neck, and her mouth was soft against his in a promise of love that had nothing to do with priests or wedding gowns. They’d come so far, from their first kiss under the mistletoe when they were two strangers drawn to each other, to this beautiful day when they would make vows of forever.
Everyone was waiting to hear those vows, but Jack decided they could wait a little while longer as he pulled her flush against him and deepened the kiss. When they finally drew back from each other with bright eyes and flushed faces to take their places before the priest, the crowd was quite happily scandalized.
As Jack held both her hands in his, the priest led them through the traditional ceremony that they had learned during the past few days of matrimonio classes when the priest had prepared them for their marriage and the vows they would make to each other. Jack drank in every breath, every tremble, every flush of heat across Mary’s soft skin.
Taking the simple gold wedding band from the intricately stitched pillow the priest held in his hands, Jack slid it onto Mary’s ring finger. “Tu sei tutto per me, la luce dei miei occhi, sei mia per sempre.” She was his entire world, the heart of his heart.
When two tears slid down her cheeks and he gently reached out to wipe them away, she pressed her face to his palm in a gesture of boundless trust.
“All my life I dreamed of adventure, and I thought all of my dreams had already come true,” Mary said softly as she slid the gold band she’d had made for him onto his ring finger. “But then I found you and realized you were the dream I had been waiting for all my life. Ti amo dal profondo del cuore e non vedo l’ora di cominciare quest’avventura con te, amore mio.” Everyone in the church sighed as they heard her tell him that she loved him with all of her heart and soul…and that she couldn’t wait to take this adventure with him.
They were already kissing to seal their vows by the time the priest declared them husband and wife, and as applause rang through the centuries-old church, Jack knew that theirs was a love that would transcend time.