One Gang and a Bronze Battle

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Chapter 29, A Long Ride


[BY AMBER MARIGOLD JILTEN]


Xavier and I finish our dance and I’m out of breath. Already a new song starts playing and couples are filling the dancefloor. I look over and watch Nessa and Paul waltz pass me. The twins both grab guests to dance with and Daniel... Looks like Daniel while sitting alone and depressed.

I spot Owen at the table and can’t help smiling. I’m so glad he walked me down the aisle.

“Xavy...” I start, but my husband raises his hand to stop me.

“No need to ask. Go dance with him,” he says.

I grin at Xavier before giving him a peck on the cheek and walking over to Owen where he’s in his wheelchair by the table. “Hey, Mister Fancy Coat,” I say to get his attention.

Owen smiles up at me. “Hey, Goldy,” he greets back.

“Want to dance?” I ask.

“But, I...”

“Oh, just take my hand,” I say and pull Owen with me to the dancefloor. Once we’ve got a good spot, I turn back to Owen and take his other hand as well. We just sway on the spot as I hold both his hands and step in and out. At one point Owen gets fancy and makes the wheelchair rotate so I hold on to his extended hand while I skip around with him.

“You don’t have to do this. This is probably embarrassing,” Owen says.

“Trust me, you were worse at dancing before the wheelchair. Now you actually have a unique flare. And I don’t have to worry about stepping on your toes,” I joke.

Owen laughs and it brings warmth to my heart.

“Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion,” I say smugly.

“Oh, so we’re back to the Jane Austen quotes?” Owen chuckles - wiping a tear from his eye.

“Of course. I’ll always be a fan,” I smile.

Owen goes a little quiet. Only a small smile remains when he says: “I don’t know any quotes anymore. I only got them from my mom and well...”

I lose my smile and the warmth in my heart goes cold. “Owen, I’m so...”

“No,” Owen says, “Don’t be sorry. The only person that’ll be sorry is Jane. I swear on my life, as soon as I have Kelly back, I’m... I’m making that woman suffer an agony unknown to man. I think about it more than I care for. Ways to torture and torment her. I promise you that I’ll have that woman begging for mercy before I’m through.”

I stare at Owen. He has every right to hate Jane, but... This is scaring me.

At least he has something to live for. It’s more than his father had. He has a purpose. He has drive. And with time, hopefully, he can learn to live with his situation. My only problem is... Hatred is never a reason to live. Revenge shouldn’t be what drives him. Because all that’s left once that revenge is fulfilled is emptiness, because hatred... It eats at you. I’ve hated plenty of people before. Hell, I’ve even hated Xavier, but... I would never let it consume me. I would never let hatred drive my choices.

At least... I hope so.

“Mind if I cut in?” A familiar voice asks behind me. I look over and Nessa is grinning like a madman.

“Not at all,” I smile and step away.

Nessa, being the classy lady that she is, goes and sits right on top of Owen and tells him to ride around to see how many people’s ankles they can break.

I shake my head in amazement before I notice Paul next to me. “You want to dance?” I ask the quiet giant.

Paul looks down at me with puppy eyes and I take it as a yes. The next few songs I spend like this. Dancing with my friends. Paul just let me stand on his feet while he sways around. The twins decide to both dance with me when a fast pace song starts and though neither of them are any good, I laugh and have a ton of fun. Bryan has always been the more responsible one of the two, apologizing when his brother steps on my toe, while Ryan goes crazy and just enjoys the moment. It’s a subtle difference but easy to pick up on if you know them long enough. I even manage to get a dance with Daniel. He’s been sulking at the table all night and doesn’t take my joke about his blow-up doll too kindly, but quickly loosens up and gladly dances with me. I make sure to thank him for his speech too.

Only once Nessa takes the mic again, do I stop with all the dancing. “Lasses and lads, Mister and Missus Marigold Jilten shall now have the honor of cuttin’ the cake!” she announces.

FINALLY.

I rush over to where the chef is pushing the cake in on a tray cart. Calling it huge is an understatement. The thing has five layers stacked on silver pillars. As tradition would have it, it’s a white cake, but we added our own flare with edible dark red roses and golden flakes curling all around. The detail of fine patterns added to the frosting blows my mind and the tiny figures at the top get me to smile.

“You like it?” Xavier asks next to me.

“It’s lovely. The figures on top are cute too,” I comment.

“I made a special request to have it,” Xavier explains shyly.

I don’t quite get it, but on top of the cake is a small girl figure digging into the cake while a boy stands off to the side and watches. I know it’s supposed to be Xavier and me, but I can’t quite tell from when.

“Careful now, it’s sharp,” Nessa warns as she hands me the knife.

I take it and look up at Xavier for help. Xavier smiles and puts his hand over mine as we go to cut a piece of cake together. The crowd has gathered around us and when we make the cut, applause erupts.

However, my mischievous side seems to take over.

I grab the piece of cake by hand and stuff it into Xavier’s face with a wicked grin. Xavier dodges a second too slow, getting a good chunk of white frosted chocolate cake smeared across his cheek.

“Oh, now you’ve done it, Marigold,” Xavier grins right back before he grabs a chunk of cake and smears it across my jaw and neck.

“Eek!” I cry out and try to avoid the most of it.

The crowd laughs and I can’t help but laugh as well. We’re such children sometimes. I look up and Xavier has that spark in his eye that I’d die for - his laughing expression only sending more quakes of giggles running through. Xavier then reaches with his hand towards my jaw to swipe a piece of cake and slowly brings it to his lips before he licks his finger. I shake my head and laugh at my husband before I do the same. I let my finger run across the smeared cake on his cheek before I have a taste.

Ah, the heavens have answered my prayers. Death by chocolate. “It’s pretty good,” I comment.

“Tastes divine,” Xavier says.

“I’ll have to thank the chef.”

“The cake was good too,” Xavier adds and I can’t help but blush like crazy.

“Uhh, let me go wash my face,” I say and rush to the bathroom.

“Hey, Amber, wait up!” Jessy calls as she runs after me. I turn and stop to let my cousin catch up before we both make our way to the guest bathroom. “You guys are so cute together,” Jessy beams.

“Xavier can be such a flirt sometimes,” I chuckle.

“Gosh, Liam is the same. No matter how long we’ve known each other, he still makes me blush sometimes,” Jessy confesses.

“I know right? I feel like a tomato at this point,” I comment.

Jessy and I share some laughter before we get to the bathroom. I get some paper towels and start my attempt at cleaning my jaw and neck as much as possible. Some of the cake got onto my dress, but I can’t really be bothered with that. I look in the mirror to make sure I didn’t ruin my make up before I nod at myself and turn to Jessy.

“Okay I need your assistance,” I tell Jessy.

“For?” she asks.

“I need to pee.”

Jessy rolls her eyes. “Of course,” she says before we both laugh again. Jessy then proceeds to help lift my dress as I go to sit on the toilet. Unsurprisingly, it’s not awkward at all. Jessy and I are just too close to be awkward with each other.

“I’ve never seen you this happy before,” Jessy says.

“Uh, I’m just peeing,” I reply.

“No, not like right now,” Jessy laughs, “I mean today. I’ve never seen you this happy before. Even when you smiled and laughed, after your parents... you were always zoning out and your smiles felt like they were more for my sake than because you were actually happy.”

I nod slowly. “There’s truth in that. I... I really am happy right now and for the first time in a while, it feels real. There’s still some fear though... Fear of something going wrong, but... Xavier makes me feel safe.”

Jessy smiles at me. “I’m glad you found your soulmate,” she says. “And there’s nothing to fear today.”

I let go of a heavy sigh. “Actually, there’s something that terrifies me,” I admit and finish up before flushing the toilet and heading back to the mirror.

“What is it?” Jessy asks cautiously. I watch her through the reflection of the mirror and my expression is deadly serious.

“I’m losing my virginity tonight,” I announce.

Silence.

A little more silence.

And....

“BHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” Jessy bursts out laughing, “AT LAST, YOU PRUDE!”

“It’s not funny,” I say, but Jessy’s laughter is getting to me.

“Oh, how I’ve waited for this day,” Jessy howls in laughter - clutching her stomach.

“What if like, I don’t know... Something goes wrong? I’m not very... I don’t know... Urghhhh... I’m going to be so awkward about it. I’ll be the biggest turn off ever,” I cry and cover my face with my hands.

Jessy tries and fails to stop laughing. “Come on Amber, it’s not so bad. With the way Xavier’s been looking at you all night, I don’t think you could do anything that would turn the guy off.”

“But, like, what if I do something embarrassing?”

“Like what?”

“Like... I don’t know. What if I fart or something in the middle of it?”

“BHAHAHAHAH!” Jessy continues to laugh.

“I’m being serious!” I plead with my own laughter reaching me.

Jessy calms herself down enough to form words again. She puts her hand on my shoulder as she steps towards the door. “You’ll be fine, kiddo. For all we know, Xavier will probably have a fart fetish.”

“Gross!”

“Come on, let’s get back. I believe we don’t have long before you have to get going to your worst nightmare,” Jessy says and opens the door.

“You revel in my misery,” I say hopelessly while following her out of the bathroom.

We head back to the ballroom where the music has picked up to something more modern. Everyone is chatting with champagne or wine in their hands while a few others are dancing. I look over to where Paul is showing Pollock off to Aunt Tessa. Missus Sauvage and Nessa are debating something that I have no doubt are probably very interesting and relevant while the twins mess around with Owen. Daniel has his arm around Xavier and the two of them joke about something I can’t hear. Curious, I walk over.

“No, Xav, you can’t just scare her on the first night. You’ll have to restrain yourself if you-”

“Scare who?” I ask.

Daniel jumps in fright before he turns around and gives me a nervous smile. He pats Xavier on the back as if to ask for help but Xavier looks equally as guilty when he turns around to face me.

“We were just uh, talking about stuff. We’re not scaring anyone,” Xavier says.

“Yeah, we were talking about this year’s Halloween party,” Daniel adds.

“Exactly!” Xavier says.

“Mhhh,” I say and cross my arms. I raise my eyebrow at the two of them with a little smirk.

“Oh, look, Bagpipes is going to say something!” Daniel says to change the conversation.

I look over and sure enough, Nessa has the mic. “Can all the eligible lasses out there form a group over ’ere and, where is that, oh, Amberry, make yer way to me and bring that bouquet of yers,” Nessa says.

I go up to the stairs where Xav and I ate. Nessa stands there waiting for me before she goes down to join the crowd of ladies. I grab the bouquet from the table before staring down at the smiling girls. “You guys ready?” I ask. I’m surprised to see Missus Sauvage join the crowd, but hey, I’m not judging.

“Alright!” I say and turn around. “One... two... three!” I shout before tossing the bouquet over my shoulder. I spin on my heel to see who catches it and honestly, should I have been surprised?

Nessa uses the girl in front of her as leverage as she jumps up to snatch the bouquet - nearly ramming her heals in the girls around her in the process. She grabs the bouquet - crushing the flowers in the process before she turns to the crowd around her and yells out some sort of warrior victory cry that I’m not going to question.

The girls all quietly shuffle away from her.

Still high on some sort of adrenaline rush, Nessa comes running up the stairs and takes the mic from the table before she turns to the crowd. “Now, mah favorite part. Can all the eligible lads please form a group. Dipshit, get yer arse over ’ere.”

Xavier walks up the stairs, smiling at his second in command.

“Could ye remove the garter?” Nessa asks before snapping her fingers. Two waiters bring over a chair and I take the hint to put one leg on the chair. The one with the garter. Fortunately, the slit of my dress allows the garter to be visible, making it easy for Xavier.

Xavier goes to remove the garter, but Nessa is quick to stop him. “Nah, tradition demands ye remove the thing with yer teeth,” she says wickedly.

Xavier raises his eyebrows before handing me a look that sends butterflies rioting in my stomach.

No need to ask me twice, his eyes seem to say as he leans over - his face right above my thigh. He’s so close I feel his hot breath on my skin and it sends goosebumps running up and down me. Xavier grins at me suggestively as he takes hold of the garter with his teeth. He keeps that grin while moving down my leg - dragging the garter with him and leaving a burning trail in his wake. He doesn’t break eye contact and I’m nearly shaking by the time he gets to my foot and finally removes the garter. Xavier hands me one final look before he turns to the whistling crowd of men in front of him.

With Xavier’s attention away from me, I can finally let go of a breath I’ve been holding and grab onto the table to steady myself. Goddammit, he knows what he’s doing. Bastard.

I look over as Xavier tosses the Garter. I kind of expect Paul to catch it, but he just watches it fly right past him and land in Daniel’s arms.

“The fuck?” Daniel and Nessa say simultaneously.

I start laughing just as Xavier does and the two of us turn to each other to laugh together.

“Well, that concludes the wedding! Don’ worry, lasses and lads, the party will continue for those of ye who are up for the task, but it’s time we see Mister and Missus Jilten off!” Nessa announces.

The crowd cheers and I make sure to grab another bite of cake before Xavier and I link our arms and make our way to the glass doors. Already, the guests have formed a pathway for us through the garden. I start walking past them and they all throw rice at us while cheering and clapping. I can’t help but to laugh and Xavier squeezes my hand before he rushes past everyone, dragging me along with him in a fast-paced walk. By the time we get to the back wall of the estate, to the gate that leads to the forest outside, I’m covered in rice from head to toe.

We pass the gate and enter the forest where our closest friends are waiting for us by the car. Ryan, Bryan, Paul, Pollock, Daniel, Nessa, Owen, Jessy and Liam are all standing there.

“Enjoy the honeymoon!” They greet in unison.

“Goodbye!” I cry out and throw my arms around Jessy. It’ll be a while before I see her again. It’ll be a while before I see any of them. While Xavier and I go on our honeymoon, the inner gang will be on their way to save Kelly and after that, Xavier and I have to head over to Africa to attend the international gathering and I don’t know when I’ll see these losers again. I go to hug the twins and tell them to stay idiots forever. I embrace Paul and encourage him to scold the others if they swear. I snuggle my dog. Pollock, the poor thing, can’t stop licking me. I even hug Liam and tell him to look after my cousin. Daniel, I wrap my arms around tightly and ask him not to let Nessa get too under his skin. Nessa goes ahead and grabs my ass when we hug and warns me to pace myself with Xavier. I blush at that before going over to Owen. I throw my hands around my friend and hold on to him like I never want to let go.

“You’ll get your sister back. You’ll get Kelly and then we’re getting Blake and making Jane pay for her crimes,” I say into his ear. I feel Owen squeeze me tightly in response.

When I’m finally done with all the goodbyes, Xavier and I get into the car and before I know it, the driver has us speeding down the dirt road through the forest.

“Had fun?” Xavier asks once’s I’m snuggled next to him in the back seat. He has his arm wrapped around me and I feel warm in his embrace.

“More than I deserve,” I sigh.

“Well, good. Because now it’ll be my turn to have fun,” Xavier says with a feral glint in his eye.

I unintensuionally gulp and look straight ahead. This can’t actually be happening.

“Get comfortable, Marigold. This’ll be a long ride” Xavier smirks, “Though the drive will be short.”


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