This Man Confessed (Page 173)

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‘You should have left me put some shoes on, then.’ I grumble, missing that step and leaping down to the next.’

‘Ava, no jumping.’ he huffs. ‘You’ll shake the babies up.’

‘Oh, shut up!’ I laugh, jumping my way down the rest of the steps until my feet are warm and sinking into the golden sand. ‘Come on!’ I start to run down to the shore, but as soon as my head lifts from my feet to look where I’m going, I stop dead in my tracks.

They are all looking at me. Every single one of them. My eyes run down the line of people, noting everyone I know, including Jesse’s family. I gasp, a little delayed, and swing round, finding Jesse towering over me, looking down on a smile.

‘What are they doing here?’ I ask.

‘They’re here to witness me marrying you.’

‘But we’re already married.’ I remind him. ‘We are, aren’t we?’ I’m suddenly considering the possibility of him announcing that we’re not married at all, that The Manor, in fact, had no licence.

‘Yes, we are. But my mum and dad missed our day, and we should have done it this way before.’ He takes my hand and tugs my reluctant body gently, until I follow his lead down to the shoreline, where both of our family and friends are waiting, all smiling, all relaxed. They part, letting Jesse pull me through, and I look at each of them in turn, but all I get are happy faces, my brother smiling broadest of all. I can do no more than shrug a little, demonstrating my surprise. It’s only now that I register Jesse’s shorts are white and so is my sundress. We’re getting married again?

I’m positioned in the wet sand with the gentle waves lapping at my feet, and then we’re greeted by a man who looks as relaxed in his attire as Jesse and me and all of our guests. I’m quiet and accepting as he welcomes us and joins our hands in the space between our close bodies. I’ve been caught off guard, but I accept what is happening and repeat the words being asked of me as I look up into Jesse’s addictive eyes and smile around each and every word that I say to him. I re-affirm everything. I renew my promise to love, honour and obey him and I reach up to kiss him gently on his luscious lips when I’m done. I’m on auto-pilot, just doing what is asked of me, but not because I don’t know what else to do, but simply because it’s what I’m supposed to do. Despite everything, I entrust myself to this man. He leads the way and I follow. Because I know it’s where I belong.

When it’s his turn to speak, the registrar steps away and Jesse moves in closer, lifting both of my hands with his and resting his lips on them, leaving them lingering for the longest time. ‘I love you.’ he whispers, stroking his thumbs where his lips have just left. ‘An eternity with you wouldn’t be enough, Ava. From the moment my eyes fell on you in my office, I knew things would change for me. I plan on devoting every second of my life to worshipping you, adoring you and indulging in you, and I plan on making up for empty years without you. I’m taking you to Paradise, baby.’ He stoops and clasps me under my bum and lifts me high so it’s now him looking up at me. ‘Are you ready?’

‘Yes. Take me.’ I demand, running my hands into his hair and giving it a yank.

‘Oh, I took you long ago, Mrs Ward. But right now is where it really begins.’ He kisses me hard. ‘No more digging to get beneath me. You know everything there so to know. And no more confessions because I have nothing left to tell.’

‘I think you have.’ I whisper, nuzzling into his neck and taking a hit of him in all of his fresh water, minty loveliness.

‘I do?’ he asks, carrying me into the glimmering coolness of the Med.

‘You do. Tell me you love me.’

He pulls back, green eyes sparkling, my smile gracing his perfect mouth and his dirty blonde hair a glorious, dishevelled mess with my hands tugging demandingly at it. ‘I love you so f**king much, baby.’

I smile, dropping my head back and closing my eyes as he starts spinning us in circles, the sun warming my face and his body close to mine, warming everywhere else.

‘I KNOW!’ I scream, laughing before we’re under the water and homing straight in on each other’s lips. I cling on to him like my life depends on it because it absolutely does.

* * *

This is it. This is us. This will be our normal forever and ever, no more shocking discoveries and no more confessions. His two perfect mars on his insanely perfect stomach are a constant reminder of our journey together, but the relentless gleam of happiness in his shockingly green eyes is a continuous reminder that I still have this man.

And I always will.

The End.

Epilogue

F**k me, how long have I got to endure my home being bombarded and my wife and babies being hogged? Too f**king long, that’s how long. Hours, probably. I should snatch their gifts and throw them a piece of cake before shutting the door in their face. I smile on the inside, picturing Elizabeth’s face if I did exactly that. This is going to be painful, and to rub salt into my moody wounds, we have school friends this year, too. And their mothers—lots of women, who have taken Ava up on her offer to stay, if they would like to. And, of course, they would like to.

My stroppy feet are pounding down the staircase of our lovely little Manor, as I button up my shirt and chew my lip, thinking of any excuse to avoid this. I come up with nothing. My babies are five years old today, and not even daddy’s amazing negotiation tactics will convince them that a party is a bad idea—not now they have their own mind. I’ve tried for the last four years and fallen flat on my face, but only because my beautiful wife always intervened on their behalf. I know this year, though, if I got them alone, I could break them down with something. Skiing again, perhaps?

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