F I F T Y - S I X
I tried to take a deep breath and stared into the mirror.
It wasn’t the dress that made it a little difficult for me to breathe but the fantasy of this day. No less than that forty-eight hours ago, I asked Dominic if he would marry me here. And like the spectacular man that I have fallen in love with, he wanted to marry me right then and there.
Surely, I wouldn’t marry him without the collective presence of our families. In fact, they were the only people I wanted and needed to be around when I vow to be his wife. For me, the rest of the world could have disappeared, and I would not even care.
“Where’s the crown braid?” Mia hollered from behind me, as exasperated and nervous.
Ever since I had announced about the wedding, Mia took it upon herself that she would let no shadow cast on our day and arranged all that she could in record time.
She only caught a nap for a few hours last night, waking up before everyone else, and I could only imagine how pissed off Viktor would be.
“Oh, god! I don’t think this veil is going well with the dress!” she exclaimed as I twirled around and inspected the lace in her hand.
“It’s perfect, Mia,” I assured her as she contemplated between her limited choice.
“It’s supposed to have a longer trail and detailed work.”
I smiled. “It’s beautiful as it is.”
I didn’t know the fashion intricate, but I knew it didn’t matter if the veil was mismatched, or if I had made a complete fool out of myself while walking down the aisle. I knew the man I was marrying; I was aware of every dark recess of his mind and his heart.
“Are you sure you are happy with the dress?” Mia wanted to be absolutely sure.
“It couldn’t have been better.”
Italy was the fashion hub of the world, and finding couture for a bride wasn’t much of a challenge. Moreover, I wasn’t that picky either and only opted for a simple, ball gown dress with a detailed back. But somehow, the dress stood out even more today. The regal silk flowed down aesthetically and exemplified the style and elegance ten-fold. I couldn’t wait to have him see me in this.
Reaching out, I plucked the crown-attached veil off the table, but Mia quickly stopped me. “Wait! I have a small surprise before you walk down the aisle,” she said with her happy, cheesy smile.
She trotted over to the door and wrenched it open. And there it was - my surprise in the flesh.
“How could you even think of getting married without me?” Anna shrieked her way into the room and took me by a complete surprise.
And before I knew it, she threw her arms around my neck and embraced the life out of me.
Would I ever complain about such warmth and affection? Behind Anna, there was Noah. He has that serene smile plastered over his face and dressed exactly the way the best man should.
The happiness felt so overwhelming, and I almost choked on my tears. “I can’t believe you guys are here,” I croaked, looking from Mia to the only two friends I had in the world.
“We would not miss it for the world,” Noah said, pulling me in for a half-embrace only because Anna sanctioned a little space.
“Honestly, I am so mad at you,” Anna glared, but within seconds an exciting grin broke out as she shrieked. “But you are getting married, Lilliana! In freaking-Italy!”
“I know... it’s still surreal.”
“Umm...I hate to interrupt,” Mia said. “But we really have to get going.”
“Right, right. You can’t be late for your own wedding now,” Anna agreed and took the veil from my hand. I almost forgot I was holding that until she helped me put it on. “I will see you at the church.”
With that, Anna and Noah breezed out as I reached for Mia’s hand. “I have no idea how you managed to pull that off and someday I will pester you enough to reveal that. But thank you, Mia. Having my friends fly down to Italy means the heap to me.”
“We do everything for the family, Lilliana.” She smiled. “And you are family now.”
As soon as I stepped out of the room, there was Ralph. He gazed at me with the same glossy eyes and a serene smile on his lips with which he often regarded me, but today he seemed phenomenally saturated.
With a word, his arms outstretched, and I hustled over to fold into his embrace. There was nothing like a father’s adoration on the day his daughter gets married.
When I pulled back, Ralph was still staring down at me. “I think you are going to cry,” I gaped.
It wouldn’t be a first, but every time I see the glossy happiness in his eyes, it made me wonder. A man of his repute was always measured without the utmost lack of emotions. Yet Ralph never held it back when it came to me, or even Marco, to some extent.
"Lil...sei la mia vita, il mio sangue, il mio respiro,” he breathed, kissing my forehead. (Lilliana, you’re my life, my blood, my breath.)
I sniffed and then smiled big. “Love you too, papà.”
Ralph held on to my hand the entire ride to the church and never let it go even for a second. It was his way of saying that he was still, mentally, not ready to let go of me. And I only squeezed harder to resonate that endearment.
It was a short commute, and the moment the car arrived at the venue, excitement gave away to nervousness. It was a little ridiculous, but somehow I did manage to take Ralph’s hand and step out of the decorated car.
The church compound was beautifully decorated with the aisle paved with rose petals that led to the church door’s arched entry. Bracketed with the most beautiful white flowers and lace drapes around the old wooden door, I could only imagine the kind of hard work everyone has put in for my special day.
When my eyes had enough of the aesthetic decorations, it landed on Marco. He looked every bit striking in a tuxedo, even with a cane as his support.
“You look like a vision,” he whispered as he kissed my cheeks.
“Thank you.” I blushed.
"Andiamo, mia cara,” Ralph said, linking my arm through his. (Let’s go, my dear.)
Every step of the way, I felt blessed, honored, and beyond happy.
Nervously, I looked around the aisle to distract myself and saw the happy faces of our families. Alessandro Romano had his eyes fixated on Ralph, watching him with a smile that only spoke of joy. Beside him was Samantha in a stunning red dress. I could also see Mia and a couple of other known faces, stopping at Anna near the altar.
And then my eyes fell on Dominic. The blue of his eyes was fierce, consuming me in a way he wanted nothing but to devour me. At that moment, I did not know if I fell in love with heaven in his eyes or the devil in his smile because I loved him just the way he was.
For better or worse, we chose each other. Dominic and I had seen the worst of each other before we unequivocally decided to exchange our hearts and souls. And standing here, at this point, I could say with absolute certainty that this man, Dominic Romano, was worth it.
He was worth every flinch of pain, tear, and suffering.
I saw him watching me, staring at me like he saw for the first time, or he does not want to take his eyes off me ever. And then a smile spread across his lips. A surge of emotion filled me more than I could fit inside my body. The word ‘love’ finally found meaning in my heart. The term ‘love’ signified only Dominic.
I was almost near the altar when my impatient man reached for my hand. As Ralph pressed a slow kiss to my cheek, he slowly placed my hand on Dominic but didn’t let it go.
“She is all I have,” he told Dominic, with so much vulnerability that it broke my heart.
“I have her now,” Dominic assured him. “I will have her.”
I tried so hard not to cry, but the unbridled love flooded the dam.
Dominic took my hand in his, and I finally remembered to breathe, exhaling like I had reached my destination. Breathing would never feel the same way again. As Ralph stepped away, his other hand cupped the side of my face and brushed a thumb to wipe off the tear. The blue of his oceanic eyes bore into mine when he told the officiate to begin.
The ceremony was long and laden with religious stipulations and finally came to a halt with our vows. Dominic took my hand and gently spayed my fingers to push the glittering diamond ring onto my finger.
As a woman, I could go on and on about the beauty of the ring he chose for me, but in reality, I was so lost in the symbolism of his love that all I could d was grin like a fool.
And then it was his vow that took my breath away.
“I love you, Lilliana. I have loved you long before I was able to recognise my feelings for you, and even though I am far from perfect, I will strive every day of our lives to be worthy of your love. You are my heart, my soul and my conscience. No words can possibly express the vow that I give to you now, but I will still say this. Lilliana, I will love, cherish and protect you until my last - that is my oath to you.”
Only a man like Dominic could proclaim his love with revered words and a fire in his eyes.
Exhaling, I braced for my turn and wondered if I could rightly translate the depth of my feelings into words. But I still wanted to tell them with utmost power and acclaim that Dominic was mine as much as I was his.
“I would not have known love if it wasn’t for you. Everyday, I wanted to convince myself of otherwise, you just proved how easily you owned my heart. You are my guide to love, my every wish, and the person I want to grow old with. Dominic Romano, I vow to love and cherish you a lifetime from now.”
Anna handed me the ring as I slipped into his finger and never took my eyes off him. The officiator took over, murmuring words that neither of us paid attention to until we heard that very line.
“...now I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
His mouth slammed against mine and moved into a measured, sensuous rhythm. It was not a hurried kiss, but the one that marked me as his wife in front of an audience. I felt his arm band around me and slowly gave into the ardent kiss.
Only when we broke the contact was that the cacophonous roar of claps and cheering floated into our ears. I looked at everyone and then to the man I have just married, who had no qualm as he nuzzled into my hair and whispered against my ear, “I want to dance with my wife.”
I smiled and silently placed my hand on his.
I don’t clearly remember how we swayed to the slow beat, but every time he tucked a strand behind my ears or kissed my lips endlessly or the way his blue eyes captivated me, I knew I belonged to him.
In my bones, in my blood, I felt him. I felt his love coalesce and effervesce every passing second.
Dominic and I, we were as one. In every brilliant shape and story.
I am just left with a couple of chapters, the epilogue and a pretty smut one ;) haha. Will try and post within a couple of days. Until then, enjoy the chapter.