Peach - *Book Four*

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At the soft knock on my door, I check the time on my watch. Damn, I’m running late.

“Come in!” I yell while I’m still trying to braid my hair. “In the bathroom,” I add when I hear the door open and close again, and a moment later, Jack stands in the doorway.

“Damn, Peach, you look incredible,” he says with a low whistle.

“Thanks,” I chuckle and give him a quick glance. But my eyes dart back to him immediately, and my movements freeze as I look him up and down. ”Oh boy.”

If I currently didn’t use my hands to braid my hair, I’d need them to fan my face. It usually takes just one look at Jack, and I’m swooning and drooling all over him, but Jack in a tuxedo makes my heart skip so many beats that I’m sure I’m close to a cardiac arrest.

Jack’s chuckle tears me out of my dreamland where I was already all over him, showing him just how hot I think he looks.

“Are you almost ready to go?” he asks with a smirk, pointing to my hair.

With a sigh, I tear my gaze away from him and nod. “Yes, almost. Give me five minutes.”

It’s June, and Ben and Amy’s big day has finally come. We’re about to leave to attend the wedding ceremony, which is held at Henry’s parents’ house here in the Hamptons. Like their other closest friends, Jack and I arrived last night and stayed at this cute little Inn not far from today’s venue. We’re staying until tomorrow when, to round off the weekend, Ben and Amy invited their families and closest friends for brunch.

Once I’m done with my hair, I put on my shoes and grab my purse. When I turn to Jack, I catch him looking at me again, and there’s something in his eyes that makes the butterflies in my tummy flutter wildly. I look down at my floor-length emerald chiffon dress. It’s a halter-neck gown with hardly any cleavage showing, and it’s not even cut out in the back because I can’t skip the bra. So I can’t figure out why he stares at me like that. “What is it?” I ask him.

He smiles and comes over, stopping mere inches from me. “You look stunning. I don’t think I’ll be able to take my eyes off you the whole day.”

A slight blush suffuses my cheeks, and I look down, biting my lips to keep the wide smile from giving away how his words affect me, but he lifts my chin and lowers his head to gently press his lips on mine.

So far, not much has happened between us, intimate-wise. It’s been two weeks since Jack almost stayed overnight after our little fight. And I’m fine with that, but I know Jack is still pressuring himself. Overall, he’s been much more relaxed, but I saw the disappointment in his eyes whenever he had to pull back when a kiss got a little more passionate and turned into a make-out session. I hate how he doesn’t see the progress he’s made. While any physical closeness we shared at the beginning was over way too soon, there’s been the occasional heated kiss lately which already left me looking forward to more, and now I wonder what this weekend has in store for us. Jack booked two separate rooms, as I asked him to because to put pressure on him, is the last thing I want.

“Come on, beautiful, let’s go.” Jack takes my hand and intertwines our fingers, and before he pulls me after him, he gently strokes over my small baby bump that - at 22 weeks - I can’t hide too well anymore.

A short drive later, we walk into the beach house and the beautifully decorated garden that overlooks the ocean. And after saying hello to our friends and the groom, Jack and I find our seats right at the aisle in the third row of chairs that have been set up in front of a wedding arch.

While we’re waiting for the bride, I look over to Ben as he nervously steps from one foot to the other. I smile to myself as I watch him talk to his brother and best man, Aaron, who is trying to calm Ben down a little. And I chuckle as he flinches when the music starts, announcing the imminent arrival of the bride.

I turn my head and see Lauren walking down the aisle first. She’s wearing a beautiful knee-length lavender dress. Holding onto her hand is Bella, Ben and Amy’s daughter, who just turned one, as Jack explains.

The whole wedding party chuckles and laughs when Bella suddenly spots Ben, screeches “Daddy!“, and wants to run off into her father’s arms, completely neglecting her job as flower girl.

“Sorry,” Lauren mumbles, also laughing, when Bella pulls her after her to the front, holding onto her because Bella’s still walking a little insecurely. And once Bella got a cuddle and a kiss from Ben, he hands her over to her uncle just in time for the wedding march.

First, I watch Ben as he looks at Amy walking down the aisle, and man, do I wish that one day someone will look at me like Ben looks at Amy. There is so much affection showing on his whole face, with the huge and happy smile. Amy looks breathtakingly gorgeous in her classic but stunning, floor-length, A-Line wedding dress with a Bateau neckline and a narrow purple belt around the waist, the same color as Ben’s tie. With the Lyon lace bodice and the satin skirt that’s slightly flared-out, that dress fits Amy perfectly. Her long and wavy brown hair is half up, half down, held back by a short veil, and in her hands, she carries her wedding bouquet, made of white calla lilies with a purple center.

Tears fill my eyes when I look back and forth between those two when Amy walks down the aisle, and they are flowing unstoppably when Ben and Amy stand in front of the priest, holding hands, exchanging their vows, and declaring their undying love for each other. It’s a beautiful ceremony that gives me some hope that true love does exist.

After a whole day filled with laughter and mirth and merriment, spent in an atmosphere that seemed to overflow with love and excellent food, I now sit at a table, surrounded by my new friends. We talk about the fantastic job Tessa has done with the flower decorations, while her best friend Ava, as the official wedding photographer, still snaps the occasional picture here and there. After Paul, Henry, and Jack played earlier this afternoon, and Ben and Amy performed their first dance as a married couple, a DJ plays soft music in the background now.

I look around the table at Henry and Lauren who seem to be glued together today, smiling at each other happily. And at Paul and Tessa who look just as helplessly in love, and of course, Ben and Amy, today’s epitome of affection and desire for each other.

I think at some point all of them have asked me one way or another, what the deal is with Jack and me – if we’re official. And all I could give them was a nonchalant shrug because I honestly still don’t know. Yes, I’d say we’re exclusive. Jack would never look at another girl twice, and I sure wouldn’t want another guy. But to call us a couple? Hm.

With those thoughts running through my mind again, my gaze falls on Jack who returns to our table after getting a drink for me. When our eyes meet, his lips lift in a sweet smile, and boy – does that make me tingly all over!

“Here, had that made especially for you,” he says as he hands me the margarita glass. “It’s peach, non-alcoholic of course.”

“Thanks.” My smile widens, and the pleasant feeling that Jack has been responsible for, ever since I’ve met him, spreads through my whole body.

All of a sudden, Amy’s small screech makes us all focus our attention on her. “Oh my goodness!” she yells. “Lauren, are you freaking kidding me?” She jumps up and grabs Lauren’s left hand. “Why haven’t I noticed this before?”

And now all of us are staring at Lauren’s left ring finger that is adorned with an engagement ring.

Lauren chuckles. “I’m sorry, I was gonna tell you, but not before the wedding. I didn’t want to distract you.”

“Lauren, you bitch!” Amy gasps but also chuckles. “How could you have kept that from me? Oh my gosh, I hate you a little bit right now, but I’m so happy for you guys!”

And then everybody jumps up and congratulates Henry and Lauren on their engagement.

It takes us a little while to calm back down, and once we’re all seated around the table again, it’s Ben who stands up and clears his throat. “Okay, people, I’d like to take a minute to thank all of you – our closest friends – for joining us on our special day and being part of our celebration. We hope you enjoyed the day and will enjoy the rest of the evening.” He raises his glass and we all follow suit. And just before he sits back down, he adds, “Oh, Amy and I have an announcement to make as well.” He looks at her briefly, and they smile at each other. “We just found out that we’re having another baby.”

It’s quiet around the table as we all stare at Ben open-mouthed.

Lauren is the first to talk. ”I am the bitch? Damn, Amy, how could you have kept this from me?” She jumps up and pulls her best friend into a tight hug.

And again, words of congratulations echo around the table until Lauren points her finger at Jack and me. “Okay – so we know those two are dating–” She holds up her hand when I open my mouth to say something. “No, don’t even try to deny it,” she chuckles. “Which only leaves you guys.” She looks at Tessa and Paul expectantly.

Tessa shakes her head. “We don’t have anything to announce. You already know we moved in together. Sorry to disappoint you.”

As she chuckles, my gaze falls on Amy, and I already wonder why she tries hard to keep a straight face when Paul clears his throat. “Well, actually–”

I cover my mouth with my hand to keep me from screaming when Paul gets up from his chair and kneels in front of Tessa, who gasps as he takes her hand.

“No way!” I hear Lauren say next to me.

“Shhh!” Amy shushes her.

“Tessa,” Paul says. “You know that I love you with everything I am. You hold my heart. You complete me, a fact that has become more and more obvious to me over the past few months. Every thought of you brings a huge smile to my face, every time I’m with you I can’t help but feel like the luckiest guy on earth. And the thing is, I don’t think I could ever live without you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. So I ask you here, in front of all our friends – Theresa Williams, will you marry me?” He pulls a little velvety box out of the inside pocket of his tuxedo and holds it open in front of her.

With tears in her eyes, Tessa gasps, “Oh my gosh, Paul! I don’t know what to say,” she half laughs, half sobs. “You are kind of crazy to ask me that in front of everyone.” She takes a deep breath, and I think that poor Paul is starting to sweat while waiting for her answer. “Oh, look at you,” she says as she puts her hands around his face. “Don’t look so worried. Of course I’ll marry you!” she finally answers and pulls Paul closer for a kiss.

And again, the cheering begins as Paul slips the beautiful ring on her finger. “By the way,” he explains after everyone is seated again, “I asked Ben and Amy if they were okay with me proposing at their wedding, of course. They gave me their blessing.”

Wow, what a night! The happiness that surrounds me is so contagious, and I can’t stop smiling when I look at our friends.

“Come, dance with me,” my thoughts are interrupted by Jack who stands next to me and holds out his hand. I smile at him as I lay my hand in his and he pulls me after him onto the dancefloor.

“Phew, I can hardly believe what just happened,” I say, as we both gently sway left and right to the slow music. Jack’s hands rest on my waist and my arms on his shoulders.

“Yeah, that was pretty intense,” Jack chuckles. “I need a moment away from them all.”

“Fine by me,” I say, still with this huge smile on my face. “I enjoy – Whoa!” I suddenly freeze and quickly grab Jack’s hand to put it on my belly. “The peanut is moving.”

The baby has been moving a lot lately, but so far I could never share that with anyone. So this is the first time someone else feels it move too. If it’s even possible, the smile on my face grows wider and wider when I watch Jack as he rests his hand as well as his gaze on my belly, waiting for the baby to kick again. And when he looks up into my eyes with a smile just as wide as mine, he says, “Wow, I felt it. This is amazing!”

We stand there for a few moments, smiling at each other, with Jack’s hand still on my belly before he pulls me closer to him again and wraps his arms around me. I rest my head on his shoulder and take a deep breath. His familiar scent fills my nose, and I feel so at ease and comfortable in his arms that I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.

“What?” Jack asks when I chuckle.

I shrug. “I was thinking – we’re slow dancing. Like really close. Who would have thought?”

Jack chuckles as well. “Yes, we are, and everyone is watching us.” He inhales a deep breath and lets it out with a small laugh. “Let’s give them something to talk about.” He pulls back a little and grins at me as he slowly lowers his head.

And then he kisses me. I mean, he really kisses me, like never before. It’s not that it’s very passionate. It’s different. It’s so full of affection and tenderness that it soon leaves me breathless and wondering where this might be going. It’s crazy how little it takes to drive me completely out of my mind. My wildly beating heart and my erratic breathing are a sure sign for what I want. More.

“Jack,” I gasp as I pull back, “everyone keeps asking – is this – are we a couple? Like girlfriend and boyfriend?”

He runs his lips along my jaw to breathe in my ear, “Of course we are, Peach. I’m not letting you go. And I’ll make you mine soon.”

A hot shiver runs down my spine, and a quiet moan escapes me. I wrap my arms around him more firmly, wondering what else can happen tonight.

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