Hitched (Promise Harbor Wedding)
Author:Erin Nicholas


“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to unite this man and this woman in holy matrimony.”

“Oh, hell no.”

Every head swiveled toward him as Gavin Montgomery strode purposefully down the center aisle of St. Mark’s Methodist Church.

“Gavin?” Allie’s shocked question was the first thing he heard over all the other noises—gasps, whispers, creaking pews.

The second thing he heard was the groom’s question. “This is Gavin?”

The groom was Josh Brewster. Of course it was. The Brewsters had been close friends with Allie’s family for years. Who else but Mr. Perfect would be standing next to Allie at the altar?

Nobody was more dearly beloved that Josh Frickin’ Brewster.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Josh demanded.

“I’m here to talk to Allie.”

Josh moved to stand between Gavin and Allie. “We’re kind of in the middle of something.”

“Yeah, this can’t wait.” Gavin looked past Josh to Allie. “I need to talk to you. Now.”

Her eyes were wide and she looked pale. Like she-might-faint-any-minute pale. But he wasn’t so sure it was from the shock of seeing him. She’d looked terrible in the wedding announcement in the Promise Harbor Times, too. She was way too thin. She was too pale. She looked…sick and tired.

He suspected, based on the two a.m. phone call he’d received, that she was also hungover.

He knew he looked like shit himself. He felt like shit. He’d been out in the field for the past two weeks and hadn’t known Allie was getting married until last night. He needed a haircut, his beard had been growing, he hadn’t slept or showered or eaten in…he wasn’t sure. A long time. Once he’d heard the phone message from Hayley, his best friend in Promise Harbor, nothing had mattered but getting to Allie. Before she married another man.

Even with owning one-twelfth of a small private jet and living forty miles from the pilot, it took awhile to get from Alaska to Massachusetts. He’d landed in time to rent a car and drive like a bat out of hell to get here. Just as she’d been about to say I do.

In spite of the thinness of her cheeks and the dark circles under her eyes, she looked gorgeous to him. Seeing her for the first time in over a year shook him. He wanted to grab her. He wanted to carry her out of here. He wanted to hold her and take care of her.

He wanted to feed her.

Good lord, she’d always been thin, but now she was downright skinny. Her long, blonde hair was piled on top of her head in a mass of curls and baby’s breath. Her dress was white and lacy and left her shoulders and arms bare, showing off smooth skin that was as white as the dress. She wore three-inch heels, putting her at five-ten, and her big green eyes were watching every move he made.

She looked dazed.

He could work with that.

He started toward her but Josh moved to block him. “I don’t think so, Gavin.”

Gavin sighed. He’d known this was going to be a spectacle, of course. Barging into a church during a wedding and stealing the bride created a spectacle by anyone’s definition.

The church was completely silent, and he saw camera flashes going off from every direction. He was pretty sure this particular spectacle was going to end up on the Internet.

“Listen. I can do this here in front of the whole town. I don’t mind. I’m leaving here with Allie one way or another. But I think keeping some of this private might be appropriate.” He leaned around Josh to look at Allie. “I have some things I need to say before you say I do to another man, Al.”

Josh sighed, stepped closer and lowered his voice. “Don’t do this, Gavin. Haven’t you messed with her enough? Just let her be happy.”

“That’s exactly what I want to do,” Gavin insisted, not backing down an inch. “Is that what you want?”

“I’m standing next to her in a tux in front of a minister. What do you think?”

“I think that if you don’t let her talk to me, you know that she’ll always wonder. You don’t want that, do you? To have your wife wondering about another man?”

Josh blew out a long breath and shoved his hand through his hair. Then he half turned to his bride. “Allie?”

“What would I wonder?” Her voice was weak, and again Gavin wasn’t sure it was completely because of shock. She sounded and looked exhausted.

“You’d wonder what I had to say to you so badly that I would fly over four thousand miles so I could rush in here to stop your wedding.”

She just stared at him for a long moment. There wasn’t a sound in the church. Gavin couldn’t breathe. She looked at Josh. Then she looked into the pews. Gavin knew without following her gaze that she was looking at her father. Then her gaze settled on the groomsmen. Gavin glanced over to see her two brothers, Charlie and Danny, standing in tuxes at the end of the line of groomsmen. Finally she pressed her lips together and shook her head.

But he saw the glint of tears in her eyes.

She was worried about them. As always. Her family and Josh’s were close. Their mothers had been best friends. They wanted this. Gavin knew it. He knew in his gut that this was all more about everyone else in the church than it was about Allie. And maybe even Josh. Allie had never, ever, even once put herself first.

That wasn’t true, he thought a second later. She’d put what she wanted ahead of her family one Christmas. The Christmas she’d spent with him instead. The Christmas before her mom got sick.

“Allie,” he said, stepping forward.

“You’re too late,” she whispered. A tear slipped down her cheek.

“Bullshit,” he said. She hadn’t said I do yet.

He strode forward, bent and scooped her into his arms, then headed for the side door.

“Gavin!” She kicked and he tightened his hold.

“Just a damn minute—” Josh started.

Gavin turned. Several people were on their feet, including Allie’s dad. All of the groomsmen had stepped forward. He picked Hayley out, also on her feet, in one of the front pews on Josh’s side of the church. She looked concerned, but she didn’t move to stop him. No one came any closer. At the moment.

“Give me a chance,” Gavin said. “Let me talk to her. Let me tell her what I came here to say. Then if she wants to come back, I’ll walk her down the aisle myself.”

It was crazy to ask Josh to do that. But he didn’t wait to hear the other man’s response. He started toward the door again.

He knew it was over the top. He knew Promise Harbor was going to be talking about this for years. He knew that he was acting on pure emotion and adrenaline and might regret embarrassing Allie and Josh and their families like this. But dammit, he needed time. He couldn’t just let her walk down the aisle and give her life to another man without at least trying.

Gavin had no actual plan at this point. His strategy had been to get to the church in time. Period. But he had Allie back in his arms. He wasn’t going to stop now. “If you really love him, he has nothing to worry about,” Gavin said low for Allie’s ears only. “And if he loves you, he’ll wait.”

She looked up at him, then to Josh, then back to Gavin. “Am I dreaming?”

His mouth curled at one corner. “I’m real, darlin’. I’m here.”

She sighed and Gavin felt it tremble through her whole body. He became aware of how light she was, how slight she felt. A surge of protectiveness and anger went through him. What the hell? Didn’t they see that she wasn’t okay?

They weren’t taking care of her. He couldn’t ignore that either. Allie’s sense of responsibility and her need to take care of her family were deep and strong. Stronger than anything else. Even her feelings for him. So why he thought he could talk her out of this wedding, he wasn’t sure. But the fact that she was obviously taking care of everyone but herself made him feel like snarling.

Someone had to take care of her. And he was the best one.

He reached the side door and the pianist rushed to open it for him.

The door banged shut behind them, and he’d taken three strides when he heard the inevitable sound of the door swinging open again.

“Wait!” Josh yelled.

Gavin stopped.

“What the fuck, Allie?” Josh demanded. “Are you leaving with him?”

Gavin knew she’d be pissed, but he had to get her away from the church. He could, and would, take Josh on if needed, but if all the groomsmen decided to stop him, he wasn’t sure how he’d do. He sighed, then turned to face Josh. “Allie called me last night.”

Josh’s eyes went to Allie again and he frowned. “You did?”

Allie made a squeaky little noise. Her mouth was wide open, but she said nothing.

“She called and told me that she’d always love me.” That wasn’t entirely true. She’d sung it in a terrible rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. But the message had been clear. On the night before her wedding to another man, she was thinking of Gavin.

If he hadn’t already been on his way, that would have gotten him on a plane. As it was, that was what drove him up the steps of the church to crash a wedding.

He wasn’t truly the caveman type. But when the woman he loved told him she felt the same way, he felt inclined to keep her out of another man’s bed by whatever means necessary.

“Allie?” Josh asked, eyebrows drawn tightly over his eyes. “Is this true?”

She swallowed hard. Gavin could feel her rib cage moving rapidly as she breathed. Finally she said softly, “Well…”

Josh shook his head. “Jesus Christ.” He fixed a glare on her. “Were you drunk?”

“Maybe a little.”

“You called Gavin the night before our wedding and told him you’d always love him?” Josh asked, his voice rising.

“Not exactly,” Allie hedged. “I didn’t tell him to come or anything. I didn’t say that I loved him.”

“Allie. We’re getting married. You don’t just change your mind at the last second about something like this.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

And that was good enough for Gavin. “That’s all I needed to hear.” He turned and headed for the car.

He might feel bad about Josh later, but right now Allie was his only concern.