Nila and I had returned to Almasi Kipanga. We’d given every worker bonuses, set up fair work practices, and arranged a proper building estate to be erected to house those who wanted to stay.
Once completed, we sent word to our other mines: emeralds in Thailand, rubies in Burma. The other Black Diamond factions changed their practices to better suit our loyal workers.
The new regime was named after the man who’d planned all along to improve our employees’ conditions: Kestrel.
While in Botswana, we also overturned Cut’s commands that any worker injured in the mine had to leave. We tracked down those employees and rehired all those he’d fired and rehabilitated those who’d lost limbs in tragic accidents. We also compensated the families who’d lost loved ones working for us. Money couldn’t bring back their family, but it could make their future a little easier.
Vaughn and Jasmine officially announced they were together, and Tex had finally started to shed some of his guilt.
Together, the Weavers worked to find Jacqueline. Only last week we were told there might be a lead on a woman matching Nila and Vaughn’s birthday living not far away in Cornwall.
Things were healing. And Nila had healed me in return.
And now…she’d given me the best gift she could ever do.
My hands fisted as she appeared at the top of the aisle. All around us, the ocean glistened as the sun set on the most spectacular day.
This had been V’s idea. He’d seen the photos I’d doctored when I first stole Nila. The ones of me hugging her on a private yacht and kissing her at sea. He’d jokingly said a couple of months ago when we set the date that our nuptials would have to be on a boat to honour the almost futuristic prediction of those photographs.
I couldn’t agree more.
My heart thundered as Nila drifted forward. Her father clutched her tight while his face glowed with pride and love. Her dress was the one she’d refused to let me see the night she didn’t come to bed.
She’d somehow conjured exactly what I envisioned. After making love to her that night, the strangest thought popped into my head and never left.
The black gown I’d torn from her when I threw her on my motorcycle had always haunted me. I’d felt what that dress meant to her. The countless hours of hardship and skill she’d poured into the fabric creation. I hadn’t let her see how much her despair affected me that night but I wanted to somehow change that memory—just as we’d changed all the others.
Either she’d sensed my desires or I’d picked up on her thoughts of what she busily created—either way, she drifted toward me in the mirror image of the dress, but instead of black, she glistened in silver and white.
My eyes smarted, drinking her in. This was the first time I’d seen the gown but not the first time I’d been teased with it.
Once she finished the dress, she’d called George and Sylvie who’d done the Vanity Fair article when Nila had returned to Hawksridge. As promised, they were offered an exclusive release, hiding the gown from me but preparing the four-page spread for the world.
I glanced over at the two reporters, snapping pictures and taking notes on our wedding. Part of the arrangement included coverage of the ceremony so the last nasty rumours were put to rest—along with every other transgression and hardship of the past year.
Vaughn apologised for causing the social media backlash, but I didn’t accept his apology. He’d done what he could to save Nila. He was a pain in my arse most days, but he loved his sister, and in turn, I loved him because of that.
George waved his pen in my direction, smiling in his tuxedo.
They were the only invited non-family guests at this wedding.
We’d kept it small—partly because of my condition, but mostly because a marriage was private. Really, it was between two people and that was it. A spectacle didn’t need to be made when all we needed was a celebrant, a ring, and a shared vow.
My back straightened as Nila ghosted closer. She looked like a princess, a queen—my queen.
White and soft grey feathers covered her cleavage, sewn with immense skill to transform from feather to gemstone further down the bodice.
The hooped skirt swept like a bell as Tex brought his daughter closer to me, gifting her to me in an age-old tradition.
The first time I’d stolen Nila, I’d threatened him and taken her without his approval. This time, he willingly gave her to me to safeguard because he knew without a doubt I would die for her, I would fight for her…I would change history for her.
The sea breeze caught the edge of her veil, fluttering the lace around her face, activating the large diamond secured in her hair to drench her in rainbows.
The diamond collar gleamed like fire, picking up the orange of the sunset and the flash of white heels peeked under the layers of skirts with every step. The only thing on her that wasn’t white was her engagement ring and bracelet.
The black diamonds sucked in what the white diamonds glittered off. The onyx gem absorbed the emotions and celebration of such a day, storing deep within its priceless heart, kept safe forever.
“You’re a lucky son of a bitch.” V’s whispered words came from beside me.
Glancing at him, I grinned. Today was bittersweet. I never thought I would get married. And if I ever found the one to take me on, I envisioned my brother as my best man. Kestrel wasn’t there in body, but he was in spirit. I felt his pride on the sea air. I saw his smile in the sunset. And my new brother stood in his place. My brother-in-law.