She curled up with Andy on the sofa at the Murphy house, watching television with him. A question burned in her mind, and she wanted to know the answer. But Emmitt was within earshot, and she didn’t want to ask Andy in front of his dad. The drone of the noise on television was beginning to lull her to sleep, and he felt her start to doze off, her head on his chest.
“Nae?” he asked. “Are you ready to go home? You seem sleepy.”
“I’m sorry, love,” she apologized. “I had a busy day today. I guess I’m more tired than I thought.” She yawned quietly and snuggled closer to him. Her body moved with his breathing, and she kissed his chest. “I’m not ready to say goodnight, though. I can’t wait until we have our own place, our own lives, living our love story.”
“Nae, you are a hopeless romantic, you know that?” He kissed the top of her head as he rubbed her back. “But it’s one of the things I adore about you.”
“I can’t help it, Andy. You bring out the best in me.” She pulled away from him long enough to kiss him.
“Goodnight, kids,” Emmitt said as he climbed the steps to his bedroom. “Don’t stay up too much later, Andy. We have to be on the road early.” The PR team had a meeting out of town with the O’Reilly family the next morning, and Andy had to be there with his father.
“Night, Dad,” he answered. Unfazed, he pulled Danae close again to snuggle. “Have I told you tonight how much I love you, my sweet?”
“No, in fact you haven’t.” Danae smiled, and snuggled closer, breathing in his scent. His cologne still lingered around him, and she loved the musky fragrance.
“I think you’re pulling my leg,” he teased. “I’m pretty sure I’ve told you at least five times tonight.”
“Hmm, maybe you have.” Danae smiled contentedly. “Babe, can I ask you a question?” She had to get this off her chest. It really didn’t bother her, except when it did.
“You know you can.”
“What was your old girlfriend like? The one you…” She couldn’t finish the question. It was harder to ask than she imagined.
“Got intimate with? Is that your question?” He tried not to sound annoyed with her.
Danae blushed. “I shouldn’t have asked. I’m sorry, babe.”
“No, it’s okay. I understand why you want to know.”
“It’s just, I worry about our first time together. I have nothing to compare you to, but you—”
He stopped her from talking. “Danae, please, you have nothing to worry about. She is the past, and you are now and forever. She and I had a terrible breakup, and there is a less than zero percent chance she is a threat to you.”
“I’m not really worried about that. What I’m getting at is, you’re experienced, and I’m not. What if I can’t satisfy you? What if we aren’t compatible in that way?”
“I highly doubt you won’t satisfy me.” He chuckled a little. How could a woman as sexy as Danae really be worried about that? “Just knowing how I feel when you’re close, when you’re touching me. Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about that, honey. And half the fun of everything is learning to be compatible. I chose you to be my life partner, not anyone else. Whatever doesn’t work right away will work once we learn about each other. I promise, my sweet. We will be fine.”
“I hope so. I don’t ever want to disappoint you that way.”
“Never,” he said adamantly. “You’ll never disappoint me, not in that way or any other way. I am going to tell you something, Danae, and I don’t want you to read into this. But I want you so badly that sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to be able to wait for our wedding night. This doesn’t mean I’m going to let you walk away from your promise, however. I wanted to let you know that you are desired. You already know you are loved. And you are respected, which is why I will wait for you.”
“Anduin Rowan!” a sharp call bellowed from the second floor. “Say goodnight and get to bed.”
Danae snickered. “Rowan?”
“Yeah, it’s not my favorite name, either,” Andy grumbled. “It’s bad enough my first name is Anduin.”
“I think it’s cute,” she said.
“Someone has to,” he replied, smiling at her, but not wanting to say goodnight. “Come, I’ll drive you home.” Andy walked to the stairs and shouted, “I’m going to take Danae home. I’ll be right back.”
Danae got her sweater, and they walked to his car. He drove a fancy sports car, not all that different than Travis’ car. He could have walked her home, but Emmitt was already irritated, and he didn’t want to argue with him. Less than two miles later, he pulled up in front of the Jones house. “Sweetie, I don’t want you to worry about us. I won’t be easy to get rid of, so please don’t try.”
“I just love you so much, Andy. I want our lives, our love, to be perfect.”
“Nothing is ever perfect. We just have to make it ours, and that will be more than enough for me.” He leaned in for a kiss, and she kissed him passionately.
“To remember me by,” she said, flirting with him. “Have a safe trip, and call me at some point. I love you, Andy.” She kissed him once more, for good luck.
“I love you, my sweet. I’ll call you when I get home tomorrow.”
They embraced tenderly and kissed one last time. Reluctantly, she opened the door and got out, opened the gate, and closed it behind her, and blew him a kiss. He drove away and wished she was going with him.
Danae stood at the dress shop, modeling her mother’s wedding gown. The seamstress marked with pins where it needed to be adjusted. “Are you sure I can wear this, Mama?” Danae asked. “Are you sure you don’t mind it being altered?”
“Danae, I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t serious, honey. It looks so beautiful on you.” Charlotte smiled at her younger daughter. This was the third time it would be worn, and the second time in the past twelve months. I guess Mama got her money’s worth from it now, she thought, and smiled.
“Just another minute, Danae, and I’ll be done measuring. Are we changing the length or does this look good, Charlotte?” Abby asked. She was the owner of the newest bridal shop in town, and even though the dress was not purchased in her shop, she was more than willing to do the alterations on it.
“I think it’s good, but I respect your opinion if you think it should be a tad longer.” Abby stepped back and admired the dress. It surely was a gorgeous work of art. She had never seen its equal.
“Nah, I think it’s good where it is. Unless she wears stiletto heels, I think it won’t matter a bit.” Abby marked a few more spots on the dress. “Okay honey, you can get changed. Give me about a week, Charlotte, and I’ll call you for another fitting. We’ll see how close I am on my measurements.” Abby was only joking about being close. She didn’t make her living by winging it. She was good at her work and took great pride in it.
Charlotte giggled. “Sounds good, Abbs. Do you need help getting out of that contraption, Danae?”
“Nope, I’m good, Mama,” she called back from the dressing room. “In fact, I’m already out of it.” She opened the curtains as she fastened the button on her blue jeans, and pulled her shirt over her head.
“Just leave it in the dressing room, Danae, and I’ll come get it in a few minutes,” Abby called to her. “So Charlotte, how’s the wedding planning coming along?”
“Everything’s just about done. Small ceremony, small reception. My brother and his son are in town, and our new in-laws live here in Starlight Shores, too. No out of towners this time around, thankfully!” She walked to Abby and the women exchanged a hug. “Thanks for your work on the gown. After this, we might be able to retire it for a while. My son has already informed me he wants to play the field.” Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Not what a mother wants to hear from her teenage son.”
“Oh, I hear that!” Abby laughed. “I have a boy myself. Someday, I expect I’ll hear the same from him, too.”
Danae and Charlotte left the shop and went to the car. “Three weeks to go, I feel like we’re cutting it close on that dress, Mama.”
“Don’t worry, honey. Abby’s good. She was joking about the measurements. When she does a job, she does it with perfection.” Charlotte smiled at Danae. “Are you getting excited, sweetie?”
“Oh, am I ever, Mama! I still don’t know what to get him for a wedding gift, though. I thought his ring would be enough, but now I’m wanting to get him something more personal. Something he will truly cherish. Something that, when he wears it or uses it, he will think of how much I love him.”
“How about something like this?” Charlotte handed her a bottle of Travis’ musk massage oil from Isla Paradiso. “It’s something you can use together, plus it smells sexy. Go ahead and open it.”
Danae opened the bottle and sniffed it gently. “Ooh! I like that, and musk smells great on him!”
“It comes in that massage oil or cologne. I think it even comes as a gift set, too.”
“Wouldn’t it be weird, though, to have my husband smell like my Daddy?” Danae wrinkled her nose at the thought.
“The nice thing about this musk is that it seems to smell different on everyone. Clint and your dad both wear it, but it smells totally different on each of them.” Charlotte closed her eyes and smiled, as though she could actually smell it on Travis’ skin.
“Oh, that is what Clint wears? I like it on him, too.” Danae thought out loud. “How soon will it arrive if I order it tonight?”
“I usually get it in a week or so. The musk is their most popular scent for guys, so they always have it in stock. Get yourself some of the vanilla while you’re at it. It’s divine.”
“Thanks, Mama. I knew you’d be able to help me out.” She hugged Charlotte.
“You’re welcome, honey.”
“Mama, there is one other thing that is bugging me, and I know you’re an open book when it comes to sex. How long did it take before you and Daddy were… compatible in bed? I mean, was everything great right from the start? I’m really worried about our first time together.” Danae wrung her hands, obviously troubled.
“Well, I was lucky in that your dad had experience, and he was well capable of making things work, pretty much right from the beginning. I had much to learn, and sometimes I think things weren’t as great for him as he made them for me.” Charlotte smiled. “The fun part is learning. I was much, much more shy than you are naturally, and I was more sheltered than you were.” Danae cringed. She and Darcey had been pretty sheltered. “I think you’re much more like Nana than you are me.”
“Why do you say that, Mama?”
“You have a natural curiosity like she did, while I was very content to stay celibate. Then again, I had to live in dread of a man I never met, who always made things hard for Nana. And despite Nana and Pop Pop being very active, like your dad and me, she didn’t talk as openly with me as I do with you. Many of my fears went unaddressed, and my shyness was unabated. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable communicating with him what I liked, a long time before I had actually taken the time to learn how to please him in ways that didn’t involve the act itself. Don’t live with that regret, sweetheart. Life is too short.” She saw Danae blush. “There is no right or wrong answer on this. You and Andy will figure everything out. Just remember to have fun on the journey.”
The chapel was decorated with flowers from Isla Paradiso, where they grew year-round in the balmy, temperate climate. The cake was expertly baked and delivered, the top carefully placed. It was a masterpiece. The dress, precisely fitted and uniquely made, waited to be worn by the pretty young bride. The matron of honor, now four months pregnant, would wear a different gown than Danae had planned, but she was positive Darcey would look radiant, no matter what she wore. The tuxedos were freshly cleaned, shoes polished, and the resort for the bride and groom was reserved and paid for. Every bit of planning over the past eight months had come down to this day. The wedding of Danae Elizabeth Jones and Anduin Rowan Murphy had arrived.
Charlotte and her older daughter fussed over Danae. The dress had been draped on a satin hanger, and Darcey held the gown for her younger sister as she prepared to wiggle into it. Confidently, she waited while her mother zipped the gown behind her, and Danae smoothed the fabric over her body. It fit her perfectly, hugging every curve and accentuating her shapely figure.
“Here, let me fix your hair,” Charlotte said, as she took Danae’s hair down and brushed it. A little spritz of water, a rubber band, and some bobby pins was all it took to get it perfect. A little hairspray for staying power, and it was finished. “It’s perfect, Nae. Simply elegant.” She kissed her daughter’s cheek and sniffled.
“Ooh! I forgot the vanilla perfume,” Danae exclaimed. Charlotte brought a bottle of hers out and dabbed some onto her skin.
“You know, Danae, he will always remember today when you wear it. Just like you will always remember when you smell that musk on him.” Darcey mused. “Every time Clint wears it, I remember our wedding day and night.” She giggled and blushed. She fixed Danae’s makeup, but in truth, she didn’t really even need it. Her freckles were just too cute, and it was one of the features Andy adored about his bride-to-be. She had given Andy his wedding gift the evening before the wedding, after the rehearsal.
“Massage oil? Cologne?” he said, with a funny look on his face. “I have cologne I love already. I don’t understand.”
“But this one is something I picked out for you. When you wear it, I will always remember that was how you smelled on the best day of my life.” Danae caressed his cheek.
“Oh my sweet,” he replied. “I should have known you’d make it romantic. I would love to wear it tomorrow, love.” She smiled at the memory, and hoped he would remember to wear it for her.
Both Charlotte and Darcey stepped back from Danae and admired their handiwork. The total package was nothing short of visual perfection. “Oh sweetheart, Andy is going to flip when he sees you,” Charlotte cried, dabbing tears from her eyes.
“Thanks, Mama,” she said. “I can’t believe this day is here, and in less than an hour, I’ll be Danae Murphy.
“Your daddy is going to cry when he sees you, just so you know, Nae. He’s losing his baby girl.”
“It’s not like we’re going anywhere yet.” Danae and Andy were saving for their own house, and in the meantime would be living in the twins’ old bedroom. Danae had taken great pains to decorate it, to make it their own space.
A soft knock sounded on the door, and Travis was on the other side. “The guys are ready,” he said. “Come, my sweet Charlotte. Your son will escort you, my love.”
Darcey walked from the bride’s room, and Clint was waiting for her. “Hello, little Mama,” he cooed at her and took her arm as he escorted her to the flowered arch where Andy stood.
Danae opened the door about a minute later and stood in her mother’s wedding gown. Her hair was fixed perfectly, and the veil covered her face. Travis hadn’t seen her in Charlotte’s gown before that moment, and he lost it. “My sweet little Danae,” he cried. “Oh, how you remind me of your Mama.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek.
Gently, she wiped a tear from his eyes. “I love you, Daddy,” she smiled at him. “Thank you for such a beautiful wedding. And thank you for loving me, no matter what.”
“I love you, Nae Nae. You’ll always be my little girl.” He held his arm for her, and together they stood at the back of the chapel. “You are perfection, Danae Elizabeth. Andy is a blessed man.”
“You’re going to make me cry!” she exclaimed as they began to walk down the aisle. As they reached the flowered arch, Andy’s eyes filled with tears, not able to take his gaze away from her.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” the pastor asked.
“Her mother and I do,” Travis answered. He lifted her veil carefully and kissed her cheek. “Always my baby girl, Danae,” he whispered in her ear. “Go, be with Andy, honey.”
She stepped forward, and Andy took her hands. After the pastor spoke briefly, they exchanged vows. Andy went first.
“Danae, when we met, my world changed forever. You are my heart, my soul, my strength, and my forever love. The last year of my life has been the best one yet, and it’s all because of your love. Every day with you in it will truly be my best day. I love you so much, my sweet.”
“Do you, Anduin Rowan Murphy, take Danae Elizabeth to be your wife? Do you promise to love her and keep her, honor and cherish her, in sickness and in health, and keep yourself for her alone, as long as you live?”
Andy smiled. “I absolutely do.”
“Andy, the day we met was incredible, and if you would have told me that a year later, I’d be standing here with you, I might have thought you were crazy. But you believed in me when I needed it. You have encouraged me when I felt undeserving. You have loved me when I felt unlovable. I can’t wait to see what the rest of our lives brings us, together forever. I love you so much, Andy.” Danae felt tears of joy welling in her eyes.
“Do you, Danae Elizabeth Jones, take Anduin Rowan, to be your husband? Do you promise to love him and keep him, honor and cherish him, in sickness and in health, and keep yourself for him alone, as long as you live?”
“I do,” Danae squeaked out, overcome with emotion.
Andy placed a golden wedding band on Danae’s hand, and said six simple words: “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Danae likewise took Andy’s hand and slipped a gold and diamond band onto his hand, saying the same six, simple words: “With this ring, I thee wed.”
“As much as we have witnessed here today, with the exchanging of vows and rings, and by the authority vested in me by the county of Starlight Shores, and in the presence of your friends and family here this day, I pronounce you husband and wife. Anduin, you may kiss your bride.”
Andy kissed Danae tenderly and hugged her close. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear.
Danae didn’t want to do a traditional receiving line after the ceremony, so they mingled in the reception hall afterward, greeting family members. Emmitt took them aside briefly. “Andy, Danae, I want to give you this,” he said, handing Andy an envelope. “It’s for your house. Use it however it is needed the most.
“Dad, thank you so much,” Andy said, hugging him. “We appreciate it.”
Emmitt hugged his new daughter in law. “Danae, I so wish Andy’s mother was alive to see this day. She would have adored you, just like I do. Congratulations, honey,” he said as he hugged her. “I finally get the daughter I never had. Good job, son. She’s a keeper.”
“Thank you, Emmitt,” she blushed. “Thank you for him. He truly is the love of my life.”
They cut the cake, and they fed each other a bite of cake. Neither of them resisted the opportunity to get messy and laughed as they kissed cake and frosting from the other. Andy led her to the dance floor for their first dance as a married couple, with Charlotte and Travis joining them.
Emmitt, because his wife was deceased, asked Clint for his permission to dance with his beautiful wife. And of course, he was delighted to let her.
When it was time for Danae to dance with Travis, he lost his cool. He held her close and they swayed to the music, tears rolled down his cheeks. “I remember teaching you to dance, Nae. You stood on my feet, and we danced together. Remember, Punkin?”
“How could I ever forget, Daddy?” She rested her head on his shoulder, and she cried when she felt him tremble. “Don’t cry, Daddy,” she whispered in his ear.
“My sweet, little Danae,” he whispered back, and she smiled. “You will always be my little girl, honey. Forever.”
Andy watched with emotion as his beautiful bride and his Dad’s best friend shared a tender moment on the dance floor. Emmitt approached his son. “I wish your mother was still alive, son. This would have been your dance with her, too.”
“I’ve never missed her more than I have today, Dad. It really hurts.” Andy wiped tears away, as he watched Travis dance with his baby girl.
After their dance, Travis pulled them both aside. “Your Mama and I paid for a few nights at the beach for you, since I know you can’t get away on a honeymoon.” With her increasingly busy schedule, she just couldn’t take more than a couple of days at a time away from work, and Andy understood. “She left a bag with clothing and some other things at the inn, so all you have to do is show up.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” Danae hugged him again, and Andy shook his hand. The young couple made their rounds one last time, to thank family and friends for sharing their day with them.
Charlotte caught Danae one last time before they left. “I just wanted to tell you how lovely you looked today, Nae. Do you need a last-minute pep talk, or are you doing okay?”
Danae smiled at her mother. “I’m doing okay, Mama. I don’t think I’ll ever be more ready than I am right now.”
“This is what all of your willpower was for, sweetie. Tonight, you’ll give Andy the sweetest gift you could ever give. Just remember to have fun.”
“I’m planning on it, Mama,” she blushed. “Thank you again, for such a beautiful wedding. I feel like I’ve spent my whole day with Daddy, and I’ve hardly seen you.”
“Today was much more about you and him, Nae. Tonight, I get to pick up the pieces. He is really taking this hard, much like I did with Darce. But don’t worry, he’ll get over it.” Charlotte hugged Danae. “Go on, sweetie pie. Go be with your husband. We’ll see you in a few days.”
The women shared one more hug, and Danae walked to Andy. “Are you ready, my sweet?” he asked her, taking her hand.
“I’ve never been more ready, my love,” she answered.
Danae woke the next morning with Andy wrapped around her, sleeping soundly. They had settled into the plush rug by the fireplace, and she loved the feel of the fibers on her skin. She really needed to get up, but she didn’t want to disturb him. She noticed his hand on her belly, and she traced his fingers with her own. Suddenly, his fingers tightened around hers, and he snuggled closer. “Good morning, my beautiful wife,” he cooed at her, kissing her shoulders.
“Good morning, babe,” she replied, turning over to face him. His face was serene and peaceful, sleep still heavy in his eyes. She kissed him tenderly and snuggled into his arms. “You don’t have to get up yet. But I need to pee,” she chuckled. The musk she had given him still lingered on his skin, and it smelled amazing on him. She kissed his chin and wiggled away from him. He turned over, getting comfortable, and she covered him back up. The room was chilly, and she thought about starting a fire in the hearth to take the chill from it.
She washed her face in the bathroom sink and patted it dry. The gown hung on a hanger on the door, and she knew she needed to pack it up in the garment bag Charlotte had left for her with their overnight bag. Carefully, gingerly, she placed the gown into the bag and draped it over the chair by the table. Curiosity got the better of her, and she unzipped the small suitcase. A pair of yoga pants and a comfortable shirt, and socks would make a decent hanging around the room outfit for awhile. Besides, she needed to get some coffee and breakfast for them, and she was certain no one wanted to see her walking around naked. In a small toiletry bag, Charlotte had placed a small bottle of vanilla and musk oils, a couple of scented candles and a small bottle of dry champagne, perfect for a romantic evening. She took that from the bag and set it on the table, for later on.
Danae slipped into a pair of shoes and walked toward the kitchen area inside the inn. The host welcomed her. “You must be the lovely bride,” she chirped. “My name is Patty. What can I get for you this morning?”
“My name is Danae, and yes, we are in the honeymoon suite. What a beautiful place you have here.”
“Thank you, Danae. We don’t get many bookings in the winter here. Most people love the beach in the summertime. It’s just you and one other couple here this beautiful morning, so whatever you need, just let me know.”
“We could use a carafe of coffee, and maybe a few bagels or muffins, depending on what you have available.” Danae realized she was ravenously hungry, and she figured Andy would be, too. The last thing they had to eat was a bite of cake the night before.
“I have a beautiful batch of banana and blueberry muffins, still warm. How about I bring a cart with coffee and muffins to your room?” Patty suggested.
“That sounds wonderful, thank you!” Danae smiled, pleased with herself. “It was wonderful to meet you, Patty.”
“The pleasure was mine, Miss Danae.”
She walked back to the suite and opened the door with her key. Andy was still sleeping soundly on the rug, and if she didn’t have breakfast on the way, she would have joined him. He was covered and modest, so she didn’t bother to wake him. Danae sat by the window and watched the snow falling. It looked as though another six inches of snow fell overnight, and if there were any footprints on the property, they had been filled in. The scene was idyllic and peaceful.
A few minutes later, a soft knock came at the door, and Danae retrieved the coffee and muffins from the cart, leaving it in the hallway. She poured herself a cup and breathed in the aroma. The smell of coffee and food awakened Andy. “Breakfast?” he asked.
“I took the liberty of getting some coffee and muffins, babe. I hope you’re hungry.”
“I am, actually.” He noticed the pangs of hunger as he got himself off the floor. “I’ll take a cup of that,” he asked, pointing toward the carafe.
She prepared the coffee for him how he liked it. A half spoon of sugar, and a dab of cream, and stirred it. He took the cup from her and took a sip. “Is it okay?”
“You made it perfect,” he said, smiling. He took a banana muffin and joined her at the table. They ate breakfast together, not speaking much but spending time looking at one another. “These muffins are amazing,” he finally said, spreading soft butter on his second one.
“Patty made them this morning,” she said, savoring every bite of her blueberry muffin. “They were warm when she brought them.”
“Patty must be the host?” he asked.
“She is. We’re one of only two couples here. I guess there isn’t much demand for a beach resort in the winter.”
“I’d imagine not,” he chuckled. He ran his fingers through his hair. It looked messy, but the bedhead looked good on him. Danae reached to touch his cheek, and he nuzzled her hand. “You are so beautiful, my sweet.”
“Even with messy hair, Andy, you’re the most handsome man in the county.” She cooed at him, flirting madly.
“Only the county?” he teased.
“Well, it’s a big county.” She stood and walked to him, and sat on his lap. He wrapped his arms around her waist.
“You look like you’re fertile,” he flirted. “Let’s make a baby.”
Danae smiled at him. “That sounds like a plan, my love.”
Up Next: Chapter Seven, Generation Five