- Beautiful Redemption
Abby strolled across the room and sat next to me, watching the boys from her new seat. “Wow,” she said. “I think they’re trying to scare poor Cami off.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” I said, wiping my cheeks.
Abby watched me until I looked at her. “She’s going to be my sister-in-law soon, I hear.”
“Yes. The proposal was quite entertaining.”
She turned her head to the side a bit and clicked her tongue. “Trent always is. So, you were there?”
“I was.” I wished Thomas had never warned me about how smart she was. Her calculating eyes made me want to sink back into my seat.
“For the entire thing?” she asked.
“For most of it. Travis was the first to leave.”
“Were there strippers?”
I sighed in relief. “Just Trenton.”
“Dear Jesus,” she said, shaking her head.
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, I spoke up, “It was a beautiful ceremony. Congratulations.”
“Thank you. You’re Liis, right?”
I nodded. “Liis Lindy. Nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. Poker phenom? So impressive,” I said without an ounce of condescension.
“What else did Thomas tell you?” she asked.
“He told me about the fire.”
Abby looked down and then to her husband. “A year ago today.” Her mind drifted off to somewhere unpleasant, and then she snapped back to reality. “We weren’t there, thank God. We were in Vegas. Obviously. Getting married.”
“Was Elvis there?”
Abby laughed. “He was! He was. We were married in the Graceland Chapel. It was perfect.”
“You’ve got family out there, right?”
Abby’s shoulders relaxed. She was as cool as ice. I wondered if even Val could get a read on her.
“My dad. We don’t speak.”
“So, I guess he didn’t go to the wedding.”
“No. We didn’t tell anyone.”
“Really? I thought Trent and Cami knew. But that can’t be right because he was at the fight that night, right? Christ, that’s scary. We’re lucky we’re looking at him making an ass of himself right now.”
Abby nodded. “We weren’t there. People say”—she chuckled—“that we ran off to Vegas to get married to give Travis an alibi. I mean, how ridiculous.”
“I know,” I said, trying to sound disinterested. “That would be crazy. And you obviously love him.”
“I do,” she said with conviction. “They say that I married him for something other than love. Even if it were true—and it’s not—that’s just…well, it’s fucking moronic. If I had whisked him off to Vegas to marry him for an alibi, it would have been out of love, right? Wouldn’t that have been the goddamn point? Wouldn’t that have been the ultimate act of love for someone? To go against your own rules because you love that person too much?”
The more she talked, the angrier she became.
“Absolutely,” I said.
“If I did save him, it was because I loved him. There is no other reason to do that for someone, is there?”
“I don’t know of any,” I said.
“But I wasn’t saving him from the fire. We weren’t even there. That’s what pisses me off the most.”
“No, I totally get it. Don’t let them ruin your night. If they want to hate on everything, let them. You get to determine how this plays out. This isn’t their story to tell.”
She offered a smile, shifting nervously in her seat. “Thank you. I’m glad you came. It’s nice to see Thomas happy again. It’s nice to see Thomas at all.” She smiled and sighed, content. “Promise me you’ll have your wedding here, so I have an excuse to come back.”
“It’s still new with Thomas and you, right? And he brought you to a wedding. That’s a very non-Maddox thing for him to do if he’s not head over heels, which I’m willing to bet that he is.” She turned to watch the dance floor, satisfied. “And I never lose a bet.”
“He didn’t want to be the only one without a date.”
“Bullshit. You two are as thick as thieves. You’ve got it bad. I can tell,” she said with a mischievous grin. She was trying to make me squirm and enjoying the hell out of it.
“Is this your version of an initiation?” I asked.
She laughed and leaned over, touching her bare shoulder to mine. “You caught me.”
“What are you doing, bitches?” America said, shimmying over to us. “This is a fucking party! We’re dancing!”
She tugged on Abby’s hand and then mine. We joined the mob on the dance floor. Thomas grabbed my hand, twirled me around, pulled me until my back was against him, and then folded his arms across my middle.
We danced until my feet hurt, and then I noticed Abby and America hugging America’s parents good night. Then, Jack and Deana left, and we all hugged Jim before he left for his room.
Travis and Abby were eager to be alone, so they thanked us all for coming, and Travis carried her away into the night.
We said our good-byes, and then Thomas pulled me along the dimly lit curved sidewalk until we were at the beach.
“Hammock,” he said, pointing to a dark form twenty yards from the water.
I pulled off my shoes, and Thomas did the same before we strolled through the white sand. Thomas sat down on the woven ropes first, and then I joined him. It rocked as we struggled to navigate the hammock without falling out.
“This should be easier for us,” Thomas teased.
“You should probably—”
The hammock jerked. We held on to each other and froze, our eyes wide. Then, we both burst into laughter.
As soon as we were settled, a drop of rain hit my cheek.
More drops fell, and Thomas wiped his eye. “You have got to be kidding me.”
The rain began to fall in big warm drops, tapping at the sand and the water.
“I’m not moving,” he said, squeezing me in his thick arms.
“Then, neither am I,” I said, nuzzling my cheek against his chest. “Why did Toto’s babysitter and Camille both call you T.J.?”
“It was how they talked about me without letting anyone know it was me.”