Trina’s father gave Wade a hard time, entertaining the small crowd.
When Avery walked back down the aisle, this time on the arm of Wade’s best man, a stab of jealousy smacked Liam’s brain.
He reminded himself that the other guy was married.
That didn’t stop Liam from swooping in as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“Looks like everything is set for tomorrow.”
“I don’t think they forgot anything.”
They took a seat in the back row of the chairs set up for the next day. “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”
She blinked as she looked at him. “Are you having a good time?”
“Weddings are always an adventure.”
“Adventure sounds like drama.”
He shook his head. “None of that from what I can see.”
She turned back to look at the bride and groom, who were talking with the minister. “Let’s hope it stays that way. Trina deserves her day.”
Liam had heard through some of the conversation around him that Trina’s first husband had died. No one had elaborated on the details, and he didn’t feel at liberty to ask.
“At my sister’s wedding, my brother-in-law got hammered.”
“Fall down, pour him into the car drunk. Michelle told me it took him two days to sober up.”
“What an ass,” Avery said.
“Yeah. They’re divorced now. Took her some time to get over him.”
“Trina cared for her late husband, but it wasn’t anything like her love for Wade. Which is a blessing, all things considered.”
Liam took the opening to learn a little more. “Reed implied that he died.”
Avery kept her eyes glued in front of her. “Killed by his own dad. Doesn’t get more dramatic than that.”
Chills ran up his arms. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. It was all over the papers last year.” She nodded toward the mother of the groom, who stood to the side of where the ceremony was going to take place the next day. “Vicki didn’t heed the threats of Trina’s former father-in-law and ended up kidnapped. I think that’s why she’s so butt hurt about Trina. Not that any of it was Trina’s fault.”
“Kidnapping and murder?”
“Money does crazy things to people.”
He sighed. “Makes me happy I don’t have much.”
Avery grinned. “You didn’t like the private jet?”
“I didn’t say that. But not at the risk of someone killing someone I loved for it.”
“Those are the risks when dating someone who has a big bank account.”
Liam rested his arm around Avery’s shoulders. “Trying to scare me off again?”
“I’ve been warned.”
She turned to him then, eyes stoic. “You’re really okay with all of this?”
“The wedding?” he asked, confused.
“Not just the wedding. The jets, the private cars, celebrities?”
“The question isn’t if I’m okay with it so much as are you? I can’t compete with any of this, so there’s no use trying. Doesn’t mean I can’t buy a meal or a round or two.”
She offered a soft smile.
“I’ve been crushing on you long before I realized this was in your back pocket.”
That smile grew. “Crushing?”
“What’s the matter, hasn’t anyone ever crushed on you before?”
“Maybe in junior high.”
He envisioned short skirts and attitude. “I bet you had all the boys wrapped.”
“What do you mean, had?”
Liam leaned his head back and laughed.
Saturday was a blur. Twice Avery flushed out Liam to check on him, even though she told him she wouldn’t. Between bridesmaid duties and the chaos of getting ready for such a big event, Avery had a hard time breathing.
When the hour finally came and Shannon, Lori, and Avery surrounded Trina right before walking down the aisle, there were misty eyes all around.
Trina wore her dark, long hair down and draped to the side. Her slim-fitted dress was a bright contrast to her dark complexion. The off the shoulder neckline matched that of her bridal party’s dresses.
Avery and the girls wore dusty gray three-quarter-length gowns by Ralph Lauren, with shoes that would be a part of Avery’s collection for years. They’d made a pact when Lori had married that the bridesmaids’ dresses would probably be mothballed in six months, but the shoes had to last. So far, Avery was pleased with her collection.
Even though the venue was closed to the public, that didn’t stop security from being everywhere.
A massive canopy had been lifted above the outside seating for the ceremony to discourage media helicopters from flying overhead. Not that it completely stopped the paparazzi from trying.
Avery poked her head around the corner of the courtyard and took in the guests. “That’s a lot of people,” she said to the girls.
The wedding coordinator slipped around the corner. “You ladies ready?”
Avery turned to Trina and her father.
Trina offered a thumbs-up.
Music quieted the guests, and Wade and his groomsmen made their way to the spotlight.
One at a time, Shannon and Lori slowly preceded Trina to the front of the celebrity packed crowd.
When it was Avery’s turn, she painted on a smile and concentrated on walking slowly. She spotted Liam next to Reed and a few of their friends. Even through the mass of people, she read Liam’s lips as he mouthed the word beautiful.
Her cheeks grew hot and her eyes lowered to the ground as she walked past him.
No matter how good she might look, nothing would upstage what came next.
The second Trina rounded the corner, Avery heard Wade’s heartfelt swish of air escape from his lungs. She turned to look at the groom and saw tears in his eyes. For the first time in well over a year, Avery felt moisture sting the backs of hers. The love Wade had for her friend was palpable. In that moment, she knew this was a marriage that would last.
Thirty-eight minutes later, after Trina and Wade had delivered their own vows to each other and the minister had given his blessing, and all the I dos and kiss the bride were over, Avery sighed as if she had been the one getting married.
She had two minutes to breathe while she signed as a witness on their marriage certificate and kissed the bride and groom. Then they were whisked off for pictures.
Liam stood to the side and brought her a glass of champagne.
“You took my breath away,” he told her.
She touched his tie. “You clean up pretty well yourself.” Most men in suits did nothing for her. Her father had worn one every day to work, and Bernie never went anywhere without one. She couldn’t remember if Bernie owned a T-shirt. Probably not. Liam, on the other hand, filled his out perfectly. Avery wondered what he would look like in a suit tailored only for him.
She handed Liam her wine and moved beside the wedding party and smiled for the camera.
Trina had opted for an oversize round table to accommodate their wedding party and significant others. Considering Avery hadn’t seen much of Liam the entire weekend, it was nice to have him sitting next to her instead of across the tent next to some Kardashian wannabe.
Food rolled out in courses, and she knew from experience that if they didn’t eat quickly, the guests would descend and make it hard to chew.
“Did you help with the guest list?” Liam asked close to her ear.
He glanced over his shoulder. “Is that Steven Tyler?”
Avery lifted a fork to her lips. “Yup.”
“Doesn’t that make you a little giddy?”
She looked again. “Sure does.”
“I’d love to know the story of how Wade and him met.”
Without missing a beat, Avery lifted her voice. “Hey, Wade . . . how did you meet Steven Tyler?”
Liam nudged her under the table.
“The Grammys. Three years ago. Had a complete fan moment backstage, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
“What does a Wade Thomas fan moment look like?” Reed asked.
“There was stuttering involved. It wasn’t pretty.”
“Good to know you’re not unaffected,” Liam told him.
“This guy was a complete dork for years once we went big,” Gus, Wade’s best man, said.
“I’m much better at playing it cool now.”
During their limited dinner conversation, Avery sensed Liam start to relax.
Once the dinner plates left the table and settings were in place for cake later in the evening, Avery and Liam mingled around the room and were introduced to dozens of people. Reed stood by a tall, olive skinned woman she’d never met before. He motioned them over when he caught her staring.
“I don’t think you’ve met Sasha.”
The woman wore Versace. The black dress stuck to her like a glove. The angle and cut crossed over the front of her body in an asymmetrical way that only a woman as lean and fit as this one could pull off. Avery had instant arm envy. The woman didn’t appear to have an ounce of fat on her.
“I have not. I’m Avery.” They shook hands.
“I know.” Her exotic voice matched her dress. “You must be Liam Holt.”