Tuesday Teaser 2/23/16: Olivia’s Mate
We’re almost at the end of the story! No, I still haven’t finished the rough draft. But I WILL. I swear, I’ll get over this stupid pneumonia soon. Anyway, I think another 2000 words will finish the draft. Most of those will be the wedding night that Kit has been longing for all this time. Olivia is pretty enthusiastic too. *wink* Enjoy!
Kit stood at the far end of the restaurant at the Plane Women’s House. The big room was empty of tables, but chairs had been lined up in rows, and they were filling fast. Almost all the guests here were for Olivia, and they filled both sides of the chairs. He had been told that traditionally the guests of the bride sat on one side of the room and the guests of the groom sat on the other, but his guests were only the few members of the Madison Pride: Eddie Madison and his mate Lisa, their children Ray, Emily, and David, and his brother Marty. They were all friends of Olivia’s too. A tiny part of him wished for someone from his Pride to be here today for him, like Justin and Teresa, or Dev. At least his side wasn’t empty. Olivia’s family more than filled the chairs. In fact, there weren’t enough seats for everyone to be able to sit. The young men stood in the back of the room. They stared at him, some with simple curiosity, others with hostility, and still others with acceptance.
Wasn’t it time to start yet? He wanted to hear the magical words that would make him married to Olivia. His palms were wet. He almost wiped them on his suit pants, but remembered that wasn’t appropriate when he was in his best clothes.
“Relax,” muttered Marty Madison beside him.
Marty was his best man. Like the whole concept of a wedding, the idea of a man to stand beside him during the ceremony was odd. Was he supposed to keep Kit from running away? He would never run away. His mate’s kin had decreed the ceremony was a necessity, so Kit raised no objection. Marty was a good choice to be his best man. His own Pride had cast him off, so Kit was glad to have another cat stand with him. And Marty’s brother Eddie, the First Male of the Pride here, was the mayor of Kearney. He had the power to make people married. Kit wasn’t sure if it was magic, but he suspected it was. Kit glanced at Eddie Madison standing three feet in front of he and Marty with a black book in his hands. He eyed the book with respectful curiosity. Maybe the book was the source of the magic.
“Ah,” said Eddie Madison, looking from the back of the room to Kit. “We are about to begin.”
Kit watched his mate’s mother walk along the open space down the center of the chairs and seat herself in the front row. She gave him a small smile and a nod. All the people in the chairs turned to look at the other end of the room. His breath left him in a relieved sigh. There stood the tall woman who would stand with his mate as her maid of honor today, and a few feet behind her was Olivia in a wide, white dress and a piece of flimsy fabric over her face. Her father stood beside her, tall and stern.
Marty made a guttural cat sound of awe. “Isn’t she the most gorgeous woman you’ve ever laid eyes on?”
Yes, Olivia was more beautiful than any other woman. But a quick glance at Marty showed his stare fixed on Victoria, not Olivia. The tall woman was pretty, but she didn’t compare to his mate. Kit drew himself up straight as Victoria walked along the aisle between the seats with a slow steady step. When she reached the front she turned and placed herself on his opposite side, leaving a space for Olivia to stand beside him. Everyone stood up then, looking back to Olivia.
Kit’s heart swelled with pride as she, holding her father’s arm, walked slowly toward him. Even through the veil he could see her smile. A few sniffs from the women could be heard when her father lifted the filmy stuff away from her face and bent to kiss her cheek. He fumbled a little lowering the veil back over Olivia’s face and a tiny smile cracked his solemnity. Kit felt a little bit of awe when he noticed the man’s eyes were a little brighter than usual with unshed tears.
“I love you, baby girl,” the older man murmured into his daughter’s ear, smoothing the veil down to hide her face again.
“I love you too, dad,” Olivia said.
Kit’s fingers trembled when the man took Olivia’s hand and gave it to him. He clutched her fingers tightly, aware of her scent and the warmth of her body standing by his.
“Take care of her, son,” Tracker said, and the sheen of tears was gone, leaving coldness behind.
“Yes, sir,” Kit said.
Tracker stepped back and went to sit beside his mate. Kit smiled down at Olivia. She smiled back and squeezed his fingers as they turned to face Mayor Madison.
Eddie Madison opened his book and began to speak.
“Good afternoon. We are here to join this man, Christopher McQueen, and this woman, Olivia Anne Stensrud, in marriage. Do you, Dan and Tami Stensrud, give your daughter to this man?”
Silence. A cord tightened around his heart, stopping its beat, until Olivia’s father and mother stood up. “We do,” the man said, not quite sourly, and they sat down again.
Almost light headed, Kit stared at the outline of Olivia’s face behind the veil. She was smiling at him.
“Marriage is more than just two people living together.” Eddie Madison had been looking out at the people, but now he focused on him. “It is two lives lived as one. It’s balanced, with neither one nor the other being more important. The husband considers the needs of his wife, and the wife considers the needs of the husband. You will stand as partners, working together not out of mere duty, but out of love and joy. Neither of you are perfect, so you will need a spirit of forgiveness and patience during the years ahead. Are you prepared for that?”
Kit swallowed and nodded. A breathless assent came from behind the veil.
“Olivia, will you have Christopher as your husband? Will you love him in good times and bad, forsaking all others and being faithful to him alone?”
“Christopher, will you have Olivia as your wife? Will you love her in good times and bad, forsaking all others and being faithful to her alone?”
Eddie nodded gravely. “Do you have a ring?”
“Yes!” Kit turned eagerly to Marty, who gave him the ring. He waited until Olivia had handed her flowers to Victoria. “Olivia, this ring belonged to Teresa’s grandmother. Teresa is the mate, er, wife of my brother Justin. She helped me learn to be civilized. She knew I would look for you until I found you and I would do everything I could to win you for my wife. She said civilized people exchange rings to show they belonged to each other, so she gave me this ring. She said her grandparents loved each other, so this ring is a ring of love. Will you wear it for me?”
The salt of tears scented the air. Not only Olivia’s tears, but also tears from the people in the chairs. Olivia gave an inelegant sniff. “Yes, I will wear it.”
He slid the ring over her finger and pressed her hand to his heart. Olivia let her hand stay there a moment before tugging free. Victoria passed her a ring.
“Kit, this ring isn’t a family heirloom or anything fancy, but I bought it with the wages I earned at the restaurant. That makes it mine, and I want to give it to you. Will you wear it for me?”
Kit could feel an exultant yowl rise in his throat. He forced it back. “Yes!”
The yowl pushed, wanting out, when the ring was securely on his finger. Eddie cleared his throat, bringing attention back to him.
“By the authority of my position as Mayor of Kearney, I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
Exercising strict control over himself, Kit lifted the veil away from Olivia’s face. Her smile trembled for a moment before it firmed into blinding joy. At first it was hard to form a kiss because they were both smiling, but after a moment their lips relaxed and heat built. He wanted to get closer to her, but her stupid dress was too big. Her father had probably designed it that way to keep them apart. Sliding his tongue along the seam of her lips, he decided it didn’t matter. In a few hours she wouldn’t be wearing that dress. She wouldn’t be wearing anything but him.