I had to reach up to brush away a tear. My throat felt so tight. I took a deep breath, trying to prevent my voice from cracking as I began:

“Ben, you so quickly became such a crucial part of my life. Anything that you might have seen as a sacrifice on my part honestly was no sacrifice at all. I did it because I wanted to, because there was no other way I could think to act. You own a piece of me, now and forever. The barrier of physicality is no barrier to us. I promise to respect and adore the man you are, for all time… in whatever form that might be.”

Even as I said the words, they felt painfully insufficient. I wasn’t sure there was any way I could truly express to Ben what I was feeling inside right now.

We exchanged rings before Einhen exclaimed, “Now, seal your oaths with a kiss!”

Lifting my veil, Ben lowered to me and, taking my waist, he pressed his lips to mine in a soft, tender kiss. A kiss I wished would go on forever. As everything faded into the background, we were lost in a world that only Ben and I inhabited. A world that we would make brighter for each other each and every day.

River

As Ben and I drew apart, each of us smiling from ear to ear, I realized the other brides were already throwing their bouquets.

“You’d better throw it.” Ben chuckled.

My back to the crowd, I tossed the flowers over my shoulder. There was a wave of cheers and when I turned around I realized that Lethe had caught it. He looked positively thrilled as he examined the bouquet.

Well, good luck, Lethe…

The band began to play, and we followed the couples off the stage. The chairs were pushed aside to make room for tables, where another grand banquet was being laid out. I didn’t think my heart could swell any more with happiness as everyone we loved surrounded us with their congratulations. Aiden and Kailyn came up to us and hugged us both, before Aiden held up Kailyn’s hand to show us a silver ring on her finger. It looked as though if he smiled any wider, his mouth would split.

“Oh my God! You two are engaged!” Ben gasped.

“I decided to propose the same hour she returned to me,” Aiden replied, wrapping an arm around Kailyn.

“It was about time,” Ben said, patting his grandfather on the shoulder.

As we all took our seats, I could barely stomach anything, and neither could Ben. We were hungry for each other and nothing else. Our eyes barely parted throughout the meal.

All the other couples left the table as soon as the meal was over, after bidding everyone good night. Ben and I, however, had far more well-wishers to speak to before we could finally break free.

We left the hall and moved swiftly up the staircase, hand in hand. My heart was racing. I knew what was about to follow. As we reached our corridor, he scooped me up in his arms and carried me to his apartment, through to his gorgeous bedroom. He laid me down on the bed and gazed down at me, a sky of stars shining through the window in the ceiling above him. My dress suddenly felt too tight. My mouth was drying out. This would be my first time. As embarrassed as I was to admit it, I didn’t really know much about how it all worked. In a bout of insecurity, I found myself wondering whether this was Ben’s first time too. I knew he’d had girlfriends before he met me, but I didn’t know the depth of those relationships.

Apparently sensing my tension, he brushed his thumbs against my cheeks. “You’re so gorgeous when you blush,” he said, his voice husky.

I hadn’t realized my cheeks were already so flushed.

Pulling me to sit upright, he sat next to me and placed an arm around me. “There’s no hurry,” he said softly. “We have all night.”

All night.

He moved onto the bed and stood on the mattress, pulling at the blinds to reveal more of the stars through the window, until the entire ceiling above us was the night sky.

Then, stepping off the mattress, he circled it and turned off the main lights, leaving only the bedside lanterns to cast a soft light around us.

Removing his jacket, he leaned back on the headboard and beckoned me to him. As I crawled to him, he spread his legs, creating a place for me to sit between his legs, my back against his chest. His arms wrapped around me, hands resting on my stomach. Silence fell as we both gazed up at the stars.

The way I sat against him was lighting me up, any insecurity I’d initially felt quickly ebbed away. I craned my neck to brush the base of his jaw with my lips.

“Unzip me,” I whispered.

His fingers moved readily to the top of my zipper. It was clear he’d just been waiting for me to make the first move.

Shivers ran through me as he bared my back. His hands slid from the base of my neck down my shoulders as he rolled the dress off until it had pooled around me, leaving me in my underwear. Although as I turned to face him, his intense green eyes roaming me, I felt as if I wasn’t wearing anything at all.

His hands engulfed my waist. I unbuttoned his shirt and removed it, then worked on his belt and pants. I lost all sense of timing after that. Before I knew it both of us were bare. As we kissed, we moved together, our skin touching, our forms molding. His tongue explored my mouth. I felt intoxicated. He pushed me into the soft mattress, one hand running down the side of my ribs, down the curve of my waist, and then down further still.

His kisses grew more intense, more demanding. Lowering more of his weight against me, I felt his tenseness between my legs.

As I sensed he was seconds from moving deeper, he unclasped his lips from mine. His green eyes hooded and blazing with passion, he whispered, “You’re my life, River Novak.”

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