Eli finished fastening the tie around his little boy’s neck. Derek was adorable in his little tux. “There, little man. You’re as good as new.” For at least the next fifteen minutes where undoubtedly Derek would pull the black tie off again. This was the fourth time Eli had fastened it to Derek’s neck.
Derek smiled. “I big boy.”
Eli laughed and poked his son’s nose. “Yes, you are. Now be good.”
Derek’s grin turned sinister and he stalked away from Eli to pull on Anthony’s pants. “Up!”
Eli chuckled and turned away and back at the mirror to finish dressing himself. His stomach had been doing flip flops ever since the rehearsal the night before. It didn’t help that Grant had pulled him away for a private chat right after dinner.
Eli shivered at remembering Grant’s warning—not like he hadn’t heard it over the last two years. And who could really blame Grant? Didn’t most protective dads try to scare their perspective son-in-laws?
It had been just under two years since Sam and Eli had confronted Grant, and since then things had been a little rocky around the Captain. Grant still disliked Eli, and Eli knew it. Eli didn’t like his future father-in-law either, and had never cared for the man since the first time the old man put him in handcuffs.
Handcuffs. And there was another, more fonder memory of the night before where some of Eli’s buddies from the gym, along with Marv and Anthony cuffed him and hauled him out to go on a night of fun.
A knock at the door had Eli shake away his thought and he went to answer the door. A tall, dark man stood there with a sly smirk. “Uh, I…” The voice sounded rough and foreign—German, perhaps?
Eli grinned realizing who he was. “You must be…” Crap, what was his brother-in-law’s name again? “Beth’s husband?”
The guy nodded. “Kai. Bethany wants see you.” His English was rough.
“Send her in,” Eli said and turned to his brother. “Bethany’s finally here.”
“Oh good. Bout time she arrived.” Bethany and her family had missed their connecting flight out of Champs Les Sims two nights ago, and had been waiting on standby for a new flight. Eli was afraid his sister wasn’t going to make it to the wedding.
“ELIJAH!” Bethany shouted and wrapped her arms around him. Her voice held a more German accent than a San Myshuno one. “Look at you. You’re all grown up, and handsome.”
“Thanks, sis. You look good too.”
“Ahem,” Anthony coughed next to them while he put Derek back down.
Bethany turned and her eyes grew. “No way! Anthony?” She hugged him just as had as she did with Eli. “My little brothers. Look at the two of you!”
Eli had to laugh. His sister was quite different than he remembered her. Though, that’s what happens when you don’t see each other for nearly twenty years. She had visited Mom several times while Eli had been in prison, then her son was born, and life took off, and she just never returned. Until now.
“And who is this little guy?” Bethany asked and knelt down.
Derek bit his lip and shied away from her, gripping Anthony’s hand. Eli answered her question. “That’s my little boy, Derek.”
“Aww. Hi, Derek. I’m your Aunt. Can you say aunt?”
Derek stared up at Anthony, and Anthony spoke. “He’s pretty shy, sis. Took him a while to even cozy up to me.”
“It’s true. He still won’t go near his grandpa without a bribe.” Eli smirked at his own lie. Well, he would love to go near his grandpa if Eli didn’t bribe him with chocolate to stay away. He was a bad father, he really was.
Another knock and a little boy’s face popped out from the door. “Mama?”
“Conrad,” Bethany started and continued to speak in German. She ushered the boy to come over to her, and he immediately grabbed her hand. Eli wasn’t sure what she was saying to the boy since it was obviously foreign to his ears, but Eli did perk up at the words, “Onkel Elijah und Onkel Anthony.”
Bethany smiled over to Eli and Anthony. “He doesn’t speak English. Well, not fluently. I’m trying to teach him.”
“Er, how do you say hi?” Eli asked.
Eli knelt down to his nephew. “Hallo.”
The boy grinned and replied back, and then started presumably asking a question in German. Eli had no idea, so he looked up to Bethany for translation.
She laughed. “He wants to know why have tattoos on your fingers. He’s not used to seeing that.”
Anthony laughed while Eli smirked. “Yeah, well I got bored in prison, but you can tell him whatever you want, sis.”
Eli stood and grabbed his suit jacket and put it on. He knew it was getting close to having the wedding to start. “I’m proud of you, Eli,” Bethany said. “I know we weren’t close growing up, and I may have been ashamed for a while, but I am proud of you. You really turned your life around.”
Eli lit up at the words. They weren’t close as siblings, actually they were downright hostile growing up. “Thanks sis, and you’re not the only one who was ashamed of me. I’m still ashamed of my past, but I grew to accept it, and prison truly did turn my life around.”
The door opened again and Marv entered. “They’re ready,” Marv said. He took a long look over Eli, and fixed Eli’s tie. “Nervous, Eli?”
“Not really,” Eli said in complete honesty.
“Good, because this is your last chance to back out.”
Eli snorted. “I’m sure Grant would find a grave for me somewhere if I did.”
Marv laughed. “True, true.”
Anthony lifted Derek up, and everyone left the room. Bethany said a quick goodbye to the boys, and took her son to sit in one of the chairs set up in the church.
Eli shook the reverend’s hand and stood where he was supposed to. The man was his mother’s favorite reverend. The church was also the same one his mother frequented. Eli hadn’t stepped inside it in years until six months ago when he and Sam started going to marriage counseling classes so they could wed in the church. Sam had dreamt of a church wedding—problem was, she wasn’t very religious. Well, she wasn’t until Eli’s mother dragged her every Sunday for the past year along with Derek.
Eli had made peace with his own god in prison thanks to Pops, and really didn’t care for religion as a whole. He was here for Sam, and her dream wedding.
Music started to play, and Anthony stepped out with his mother. They walked down the aisle and turned and Mom took her seat in front of Eli. He took a few steps over and kissed his own mother’s cheeks and whispered his love to her, before standing back up and getting back into position.
Anthony had gone back up the aisle, and now was returning with Sam’s friend, Jen. They walked all the way down, split at the center of the arch and went to their perspective sides.
Next came Marv and Sam’s best friend Bella. Again they split and Marv eased his way between Anthony and Eli. It had been a hard choice, but in the end it was Marv that Eli chose to be his best man. He loved his brother, but Marv was Eli’s closest friend.
Derek stood stock still while Marv’s little daughter, Olivia walked on her stubby little toddler feet down the aisle. Marv picked up his daughter, and held her close as soon as she made it down the aisle.
Grant came out a bit and knelt down and spoke some words to Derek. Derek gave a big nod and then hastily walked down the aisle. Once he spotted Eli, he squealed and began to run. “Daddy!”
Laughter filled the church, and Eli picked up his little boy when Derek got close enough. He gave his son a kiss. “Ready to see Mommy?”
Derek nodded and pointed over to the open arch. The music changed and everyone in the church rose to their feet. Eli’s breath hitched at the sight. He had never seen anything more beautiful than he did at that moment. Sam was beyond gorgeous in her white wedding dress.
His heart pounded, and he had to take a few deep breaths. Wow.
“Mommy!” Derek turned to Eli. “Mommy pretty.”
Again laughter filled the church thanks to Derek’s need to clue everyone in on who the angel was. Eli handed his son over to Anthony and poked his boy’s nose. After the lengthy rehearsal, it was clear someone would have to hold Derek and Olivia or they wouldn’t be able to sit still for the entire wedding.
Eli grinned over to Sam when she and Grant stopped.
The reverend spoke up. “Friends and family, I am delighted to be here with you all today to celebrate the union of Elijah Ryder and Samantha Williams. This occasion not only marks the beginning of their marriage and commitment together, but it is a commemoration of the love nurtured and shared between these two. Together, they embark today on a new life together, built on the foundations of trust, compassion, and mutual respect.”
He paused. “Now, who gives this lovely bride today?”
Grant smirked and kissed Sam’s cheek, before replying, “I guess I have to let her go.” With a few snickers, Grant stepped back and handed off Sam to Eli. He took Sam’s hand she handed her bouquet over to Bella. This was it. Eli was getting married!
Eli leaned in and whispered as the reverend spoke, “You’re absolutely stunning. I love you.”
He met Sam’s warm eyes and returned the smile. She held back her tears, but Eli saw them through his own. The minister continued to speak about God and marriage as a whole, but Eli practically tuned him out while he stared in Sam’s eyes. He had never felt more happy than this moment. This had been his dream since the day he met her.
The minister started again. “Before we continue, I must ask if there is anyone in attendance who has cause to believe that this couple should not be joined in marriage? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.”
Eli and Sam turned to look at Grant. He smirked and made a showing of zipping his lips shut and throwing away the key. Eli sighed in relief that this was happening. He still had doubts about Grant not speaking up, but he had been wrong. Thankfully.
The reverend’s words took Elijah out of his thoughts. “Elijah and Samantha, please join hands.” Eli took both of Sam’s hands and even kissed one. He loved her so much.
“Elijah, do you take Sam as your cherished wife, in front of these witnesses, and promise to stay by her side through sickness and health, joy and sorrow, so long as you both shall live?”
Elijah’s heart pounded in his chest as he answered, “I do.”
The reverend turned to Sam. “Samantha, do you take Elijah as your cherished husband, in front of these witnesses, and promise to stay by his side through sickness and health, joy and sorrow, so long as you both shall live?”
Sam grinned over to Eli and said in her most cheerful voice, “I do.”
“The rings?” Right. Eli turned his head to see Anthony hand the rings over to the reverend. At first they thought Derek could hold the rings on a pillow, but he kept running with the pillow at the rehearsal and they figured the rings would not be safe. So, Anthony stored the rings in his pockets.
The reverend held up the ring and spoke of what it symbolized for a bit. Eli, again tuned him out and took deep breaths as he stared into Sam’s eyes. Finally he was handed the ring he proposed with.
“Elijah repeat after me,” the reverend said. And spoke, and as he did, Elijah followed the script.
“I, Elijah, give you, Samantha this ring as a symbol of my enduring love. Just as the circle of the ring completes itself, so you complete me.” Eli pushed the ring onto Sam’s hand.
Sam, in turn too the gold metal band and repeated the same. “I, Samantha, give you, Elijah this ring as a symbol of my enduring love. Just as the circle of the ring completes itself, so you complete me.”
“And me!” Derek screamed. Laughter ensued throughout the church.
“Yes, you too sweetheart,” Sam giggled and glanced over to where Derek and Anthony stood.
After the reverend’s chuckles died, he continued. “Elijah and Samantha, you two have joined hands and have made vows of your love and commitment. So, by the power vested in me, by the First Church of Simolian, and the city of San Myshuno, I am honored and pleased to pronounce you husband and wife.
“Elijah, you may kiss your bride.”
Eli didn’t need to be told twice. He pulled her into his arms and kissed Sam as the church erupted in cheers and applause.
In the end, it was the reverend’s final words that made Elijah feel like it was all real, and that this was his life…his future finally coming whole.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honor and privilege to present for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Elijah and Samantha Ryder.”