Daring Brides

By: Ava Miles

“I’ve been trying to tell you that for hours,” he said in a huskier voice than usual.

“I asked Grandpa to tell me the keys to a happy marriage.” Tanner’s dark eyes never left her face as she relayed what he’d said.

When she finished, he said, “I’m not worried about it.”

Even though she wasn’t either, she asked, “You’re not?”

His smile was devilish and charming at the same time. “No. If marriage is anything like running a newspaper, I plan on winning a Pulitzer.”

And as he swept her up into his arms, she whispered in his ear, “Me too.”

Jill & Brian

When Jill Hale had imagined her wedding as a child, she’d envisioned hundreds of friends and families seated in purple velvet chairs under a pink circus tent, the smell of lemonade ices perfuming the air as she married her best friend, Brian McConnell. The morning of her wedding would be magical and straight out of a storybook, just as it should be for a princess.

As she entered her teenage years, her vision changed, and her dream wedding took on an earthier feel. The large gathering would take place in one of the mountainous valleys surrounding her hometown, just as the wildflowers popped open. Then she and Brian had a picnic in just such a bucolic valley with their best friends, Jemma and Pete, and were swarmed by an avalanche of bugs, which put an early end to that notion.

After Brian McConnell broke her heart and took off to New York City after high school to become a chef, her big day changed yet again, turning edgier. She would marry an artist with shaggy long hair who liked to write her poetry. A love priestess would bless their union   with wild sage incense and ribbons the same colors of each chakra energy center in her and her partner’s bodies.

Now, at twenty-six, she was finally getting married, and her plans didn’t match any of her earlier visions.

Truth be told, she wasn’t having a large wedding, and though she’d looked into the pink circus tent out of curiosity, it turned out they were nearly impossible to rent, least of all to assemble. She wasn’t having it in a valley dotted with wildflowers—even if they could have sprayed for bugs, it was too cold on this early May day. And she wasn’t marrying a hippie artist to match her own creative self.

But she was marrying Brian McConnell, her best friend from childhood and the love of her life, and when it came down to it, nothing was more important.

They were getting married on a Friday, which was the only day they could book their local pastor on short notice. Speed was a must because she and Brian had accidentally made a bun in the oven way before they were ready. But they were finally in love. Correction. Brian was finally in love with her. That blockhead had made her wait nearly her whole life, but now that he’d found his brain like the Scarecrow Groom he was, she didn’t care.

She was mostly over the moon about the baby now—except for the puking part—but having a baby had prompted a different approach to wedding planning.

It was like they’d ordered the fast-food wedding special—even though Brian hated it when she called it that. He was such a gourmet food snob sometimes. But she wasn’t complaining. She’d dreamed about marrying Brian McConnell since the third grade. Now she was going to have him for good.

But everything had been so hectic lately, what with her new “Love”—emphasis on the capital L—relationship with Brian, the BABY—who deserved all caps—her new job with The Grand Mountain Hotel, and training Margie to be the new manager of her coffee shop, Don’t Soy With Me. And that was why she was currently locked in her sister Meredith’s bathroom while her mom, her sister, her Denver cousins, and her dear friend, Peggy McBride, chatted outside. They were laughing about something, and she felt a little left out, but it felt good to take this quick moment for herself.

“Jill!” Meredith called. “Did you fall in or something? Come on, we need to get to the church pretty soon.”

Her makeup was flawless, she had to admit, and it did a great job of covering the red splotches on her face from an early-morning bout of morning sickness. She hadn’t put on her dress yet or her shoes. She prayed no one would notice that the bride wore a size eleven heel. Please God let them be too busy gazing in wonder at the most beautiful bride they’d ever seen. Her. She could finally look in the mirror and see her beauty. Brian had helped with that, but she’d mostly done it herself.

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