Sweet & Sassy Valentine

“The man standing next to the wheelchair of Nick’s dad hasn’t stopped staring at you.”

Roxanne’s head spun to the right. That gorgeous groomsman in a black tux and neatly combed brown hair?

His hazel eyes captured her gaze. She hadn’t attended last night’s rehearsal and hadn’t met Nick’s friends. His frown relaxed and he smiled. She tried to avert her eyes, and then threw another glance in his direction. He winked.

Her nerves already a shambles, she burst out laughing and caught his silent chuckle.

The bridesmaids gasped. “What is wrong with you?” Heather chastised.

“The rings, please,” the priest said. He waited for an instant, surveyed the bridal party, and scowled at each of the ten members. None of them responded. “St. Anthony, help us. Who has the rings?”

The dashing groomsman was still staring at Roxanne and grinning.

“Greg?” Nick grunted. “Where are the rings?”

“Oh, sorry. Here.” Greg extracted the rings from his pocket and handed them to the priest. Turning toward the bride and groom, Greg assumed a more serious expression but kept Roxanne in his line of vision.

“You may kiss the bride.” Father O’Brien exhaled and finished the ceremony.

Roxanne lowered her head. No more kisses for you. Never again. A few tears escaped her.

Beside her, Heather hissed and handed her a tissue. Roxanne wiped her eyes and caught Greg’s gaze. He wasn’t smiling anymore. Astonishment puckered his forehead. He raised an eyebrow, silently questioning her. She turned to admire the newlyweds. Finally, Nick released his bride after an endless and nerve-racking kiss.

Time for congratulations. Roxanne inhaled, forced a weak smile, and threw her arms around Madelyn’s neck. “Sweetie, I’m so happy for you.” She sniffled again. “So happy,” she mumbled between tears.

“Thank you, Roxy. And here I thought you were the cool-headed one among us. The unflappable globe-trotting reporter who runs around the world.” Madelyn patted her cheek. “If you cry that much at a wedding, what will you do at a funeral, you softie?”

“Fu…funeral? Oh no.” Roxanne swallowed a sob. She wouldn’t even attend his funeral.

“Mrs. Preston, my darling, let’s go.” Nick grabbed his wife’s arm. Hand in hand, they sauntered down the aisle toward the door of the church and waited to receive the guests’ congratulations.

Thank God, it was over. The nightmare was over. I mean the wedding.

“It’s almost over. You can stop crying.” Greg scooted next to her and arched a quizzical eyebrow. He pulled a tissue from his pocket and handed it to her.

“It was only a couple of tears.” Carefully, she dabbed the wet spots on her face and raised her head for his evaluation. “I hope I don’t look awful. My makeup?”

“Makeup is stable.” He grinned widely. “You look lovely.” He tucked her hand under his arm and they proceeded down the aisle. Behind them, the cortege of bridesmaids and ushers followed. “By the way, I am Greg Hayes. I work with Nick at St. Lucy’s hospital, in Fort Lauderdale. And you are Roxanne, right? The sister who was sick last night.”

He was doing his best to cheer her up. Nice guy. And so striking. Green specks twinkled in his hazel eyes. “Stomach bug.” She patted her belly.

“Are you feeling better today?”

“Oh yes.”

“So why were you crying so much?”

“Emotion. I’m so happy for my sister and Nick. ” She sniffled and eased out of his hold, now that they’d reached the door.

A moment later, the coordinator called them for pictures. They regrouped in front of the altar.

“Bride and groom first.” The photographer shot picture after picture. “Now the families. Bride and groom. His dad on his right.” He checked the camera. “Great. Now the bride’s family.” They moved Roxanne next to her mother, first, then next to the bride. Her eyes focused on the camera, and then behind, on the second row where Greg sat, an ambiguous smile on his lips.

Darn, couldn’t he stop watching her?

“Now, the bridal party. Ladies on one side, gentlemen on the other.” More pictures. “Now, each bridesmaid with her usher.”

Greg immediately obliged and wrapped an arm around Roxanne’s waist. The warmth of his hand seeped though the velvety material of her dress.

“Hey.” She fidgeted to free herself of his hold. He wouldn’t budge. She grabbed his wrist and moved it away. “Dr. Hayes, put your hand in your pocket if your fingers itch.”

He laughed. “I was obeying the photographer’s order. Look at the other couples. Each usher is holding a bridesmaid against him.”

She didn’t need to glance at the other couples. “Of course. Heather and Sandra are with their husbands; Claire and Tiffany are with their fiancés.” Furious, she pinched her lips at his blank look. He probably thought that poor Roxanne had no one.

He gave her a wry look. “I was told during the rehearsal dinner that I was your date for tonight.”

“My…what?”

He shrugged. “You were not there, so obviously they talked a lot about you.”

“Gossiped you mean.”

“Whatever.” He surveyed the guests. “Do you have someone in mind?”

“No,” she snapped.

He smiled. “So?”

“Please, stand up straight, you two there,” the photographer barked. “I’ve wasted five pictures so far.”

“May I?” Greg arched an eyebrow.

“Oh what the heck. Go ahead. Put your arm back.” She willed herself not to feel the heat.

Guilt speared her. How on earth could she feel any kind of attraction to this man when she was mourning another? A simple arm around her waist shouldn’t be a big deal. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t hugged or flirted with colleagues in the past. Her lips twitched into a grimace.

“For heaven’s sake, Roxy, smile,” Heather admonished. “The photographer is glaring at you. We’re going to be here all night.”

“Che-ee-se,” she grumbled, showing her teeth as if she was at the dentist.

“Great,” the photographer declared. “We’re done.”

Drat, when would this night be over?

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