Not a Chance (Sweet Nothings)
Author:Carter Ashby

Epilogue

6 months later

Travis glared at himself in the mirror. He tugged at the bow tie for the thousandth time, intending just to loosen it. But as it had been so loosened already it finally managed to come untied.

"She's going to kill you if you can't walk up that aisle and stand there for ten minutes without falling apart." Dustin leaned coolly against the doorframe. His arms were folded over his chest and one foot was crossed over the other. He was chewing gum and staring out the window. His tux was immaculate.

"I fucking hate weddings," Travis said. "I told her that."

"You can put someone else's needs ahead of your own comfort for a couple of hours," Dustin said.

Travis turned his glare on his brother. "Where's Neil?"

Dustin shrugged. "Probably outside flirting with the bridesmaids. In any case, he's dressed and ready to go. You're the only one causing trouble."

"I'm not causing trouble," Travis said. They were in one of the church classrooms and he sat on the edge of the table and started tugging at the buttons on his cuffs. "These God damn cuffs are too tight," he grumbled.

"Would you stop cursing? You're in church."

Travis sat with the sleeves of his shirt and jacket now rolled halfway up his forearms. His knees bounced up and down and he watched the second hand on the wall clock tick extremely slowly. He buried his face in his hands and shoved his fingers through his hair, growling. "What's taking so long?"

"Just fifteen more minutes, man. What's the big deal, anyway?"

"I just hate weddings. I hate dressing up and standing in front of people and all the flowers and women crying."

"So sorry to inconvenience you."

Travis stood then and looked at Dustin. "Why couldn't you have just eloped? This is crazy."

"Emma wants a wedding. Emma gets a wedding." Dustin spat his gum in the trash can. "Be right back," he said, disappearing out the door.

Travis sat again on the edge of the table. A few moments later Dustin returned, his hand on Arden's back, leading her into the room. Travis stood when he saw her and his mouth dropped open. The bridesmaid's dresses were form fitting and then flared slightly at the knee. The sleeves hung off the shoulder. Arden's was a pale, rose pink. Her hair hung down and was swept over to one side, hanging down that side of her face.

She exchanged an eye-roll with Dustin and then smiled sympathetically at Travis. "Good God. You are such a man child," she said. With a deep breath she reached for his tie.

Travis caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and saw what she saw. He was completely disheveled, his tie hanging loose, his shirt half untucked and wrinkled, and his hair standing out in all directions. He watched her as she tied his tie.

Without looking at him, she reached up and tilted his chin up so she could fix his collar. But he couldn't stop staring at her. She unrolled his sleeves and buttoned the cuffs. Then she gave him a quick, mischievous grin as she tucked in his shirt. He closed his eyes and smelled the top of her head as her deft little hands maneuvered about his midsection.

"This, I'm leaving," she said, reaching up to run her fingers through his thick, unruly hair.

He returned her grin and relished the way she was adoring him just now. He glanced past her and saw that Dustin had gone. Then he tipped her chin up and leaned in for a kiss. She pulled back just as his lips touched hers.

"You'll mess up my makeup," she said.

"I'm going to walk barefoot up the aisle because these fucking shoes are a size too small...and you're worried about your makeup?" Without waiting for an answer he grabbed her round the waist and pressed his mouth to hers, slipping his tongue between her lips and kissed until he felt her relax like bread dough in his arms. He dipped down and buried his face in her breasts, kissing the exposed cleavage and listening for her sigh of pleasure. It came with a soft moan and he smiled, standing back to his full height.

Slowly she opened her eyes, a look of lazy contentment on her face. "You're not going barefoot," she said.

"Oh yes, I am," he replied. He slid his arms around her again, one hand dropping below her waist to give her butt a playful squeeze. He pulled her against him and rested his cheek on the top of her head.

"If you go barefoot I'll break up with you."

He pushed back and stared down into her eyes. Then his eyes roamed back down the full length of her body. "That dress is not going to last very long tonight," he said.

"Good. I feel about this dress the way you feel about your shoes. You can tear it off me in shreds when we get home."

"I'm not sure I can keep from tearing it off you right now." He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers, fighting against the rush of images that were suddenly forming in his mind.

Arden stepped back and went to the mirror. She pulled a tube of lipstick from her purse and fixed her lips. Then she turned, offered him a smile, and held out her hand. "Time to go," she said.

Travis took her hand and led her out to where the bridesmaids and groom's men were lining up. Travis was best man, so he had to walk down the aisle with Emma's hippie cousin, who was maid of honor. He held out his arm to her and she took it with a pleasant smile.

While they waited for the queue, he leaned forward to speak into Arden's ear. "Are you going to do this to me someday?" he asked.

"Do what?" she asked, turning to look at him over her shoulder.

"Make me walk up the aisle. In a stupid penguin suit."

"If I decide to marry you...yes."

"If?"

"Yes. If. And if I do...I will definitely want a wedding. And it will be big."

She turned back to face the front. Travis pondered for a moment. "I'll make a deal with you," he said.

"What's that?" she asked, glancing back at him.

"I'll do the whole wedding thing--picking out invitations, going to rehearsal dinners, renting the damn tux...I'll do all of that with a smile on my face, no complaining at all...full cooperation."

Arden faced him, an elegant brow raised. "And what do I have to do to receive this great reward?"

"You have to promise me, right now, that when I propose to you, you'll say yes."

Arden suppressed a smile. "I don't know. I kind of enjoy stringing you along. Keeping you guessing."

"I know. You're sadistic like that. Not too fun for me, though."

She grinned and sized him up, trying to determine whether he was serious about his deal. "Okay," she said. "It sounds like a good deal. When you propose, I'll say yes. Then you're my willing slave through the whole wedding ordeal. Shall we shake on it?" She held out her hand and he shook it.

A hush in the sanctuary caught his attention and Arden turned to face the front. She took Neil's arm and they waited their turn to walk down the aisle.

Travis leaned down to Emma's cousin, whose name was Gabriela and whom he'd only just met this morning. "I hate weddings," he said, "But it's a pleasure having a beauty like you on my arm."

She blushed up at him. Neil turned and shot him a look. Arden rolled her eyes. "I've been warned you're a terrible flirt," Gabriela said. "But thank you all the same."

"You're quite welcome." Travis stood a little taller as the organ music started. He exchanged flirtatious banter with Gabriela until it was their turn to walk down the aisle. Then he took his place at Dustin's side and waited to see Emma.

Suddenly the wedding march started and everyone stood. Emma's radiance took his breath away. He glanced at Dustin who, though he had been cool and collected moments ago, now was breathing irregularly and turning red in the face. His eyes went wide when he saw Emma and he swallowed. He took a step forward as though he intended to meet her halfway. Travis reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him back.

Emma's father had asked a friend of his to officiate so that he could walk his daughter down the aisle. He handed her to Dustin and sat down. Travis grinned as he watched Dustin and Emma's eyes lock. True love. Travis had always been a believer in it. It was an amazing thing to see.

Then the service started. Travis turned his eyes to Arden as the service proceeded. When it came time to exchange rings, he handed the ring to Dustin and watched with pride as his brother slipped it onto Emma's finger. His hand didn't shake. His voice didn't quaver. And Emma beamed up at him as though he were bright and shining and perfect.

He looked back at Arden and knew he wouldn't wait long to propose. He'd only waited this long for her. Now she was ready. He would plan something special. Nothing expensive...how could he possibly ever impress her that way? But something special all the same. For tonight, though, he only had plans to get her to his house and out of that dress.

She glanced up and met his eyes. She smiled, a few tears splashing down her cheeks. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, no doubt irritated at herself for crying in public. He winked and then silently thanked God for blessing him far beyond what he deserved.