Felix followed Crystal with his eyes. Her laughter filled the air around them. She seemed intent on sneaking up on a butterfly. She got within a hand’s distance before it flew away.
“Damn it” she stamped her feet trudging towards him.
“Next time use a net” he suggested.
She glared at him a moment before her infectious smile spread across her face. “That’s your problem Felix. You always want the easy way.”
“What’s wrong with that” he asked.
She gave him a look that clearly said he had to be kidding. “Getting things the easy way has never brought you happiness.” She walked towards him “it was all about instant gratification. Then you were off to the next best thing. It left you feeling hollow. Empty.”
He stared into her eyes a moment. He wanted to deny her summation of his previous life. He brought a hand up to caress her cheek “you weren’t easy. I had to fight myself to get to you.”
“Oh” she ran her fingers up his shirt stopping when she reached his heart. “How did that make you feel?”
The heat from her fingers penetrated through the thin material of his shirt. “I’ve never been happier in my life than when I’m with you.”
“So” she grinned standing on her tip toes “good things come to those who wait.” She pressed her lips gently to his. She could feel his lips moving in sync with hers. Their tongues connecting in a complicated dance. She pushed him away as his hands tightened around her waist threatening to drive them to the next level.
“What” he breathed hard running a hand through his thick colorful hair. He took several more breaths seeking calm “what did I do wrong?”
“Nothing” she shook her head, her hair swirling around her shoulders. “I just can’t” nodding towards a frowning figure. “Not when my Dad’s watching and glaring at us.”
A part of Felix wanted to sweep her up into his arms and carry her off to his lair to make sweet passionate love to her. “We’re getting married tomorrow. He’s going to have to get used to me kissing his little girl.”
“I know. It’s just” she bit her lip “I am his little girl. Give him time.” She made sure she had all of his attention before continuing “imagine how you’d feel if it was your little girl getting married.”
“That’s easy” he grinned “she wouldn’t be getting married.”
“Oh” her eyebrows rose “why’s that?”
“Simple. I’ll have her locked up inside a tower where no one could find her” his tone serious.
“That didn’t work for Rapunzel” she giggled at his pained expression twisting out of his arms.
He watched her run up to her father throwing her arms around him. Kissing his cheek. He wondered if that could be him in twenty odd years. His eyes went to Charity and Ryan. They had their hands full chasing after two little ones. Twin boys just learning to walk. Felix smiled seeing the way the little boys clung to their parents hands, their knees wobbling as they took small hesitant steps.
“What’s on your mind” Britland asked gently rocking an infant in his arms.
“Do you think I can do this” he asked beseeching his best friend.
Britland nodded seeing the panic in his friend’s eyes. “Do you love her” he asked “don’t think about. Just listen to the little voice inside you. What’s your heart telling you?”
“I love her” he glanced across the manufactured meadow where Crystal was laughing with her parents. He envied her relationship with them. “What if I hurt her” he mumbled “you know I have no idea what a family should be.”
“Nonsense” Britland held his son out for Felix to take. “You’ve been a part of my family for years. You’re my son’s godfather. His Uncle. If anything were to happen to me or Carson I know you’ll be there looking out for our son.”
Gazing into the eyes of the tiny bundle in his arms Felix relaxed. “You trust me that much? You’re not worried I’ll botch the job?”
“No more than I’m worried that Carson or I will botch the job” Britland smiled. “It comes with the territory. You’ll always worry because you care. Once you stop caring, you stop worrying. That’s when you’ve failed.”
Handing the baby back Felix sighed. “Thanks for believing in me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Lucky for you, you don’t have to” Britland grinned cheekily. “No matter where you go Felix I’m just a phone call away.”
Nodding Felix walked away thankful for the well-meaning words from his friend. It did however bring up unpleasant feelings for him. After the wedding he and Crystal would be moving. Britland wouldn’t be right down the hall from him. What if he couldn’t do this without him?
“Having second thoughts” a deep voice asked beside him.
“What” he looked up to find Crystal’s Dad peering at him in a none to friendly manner.
“Err” he swallowed over the lump forming in his throat making it difficult to breathe. He wanted to run. To hide. To do anything but stand there enduring the man’s disapproval.
“Easy son” Trent’s voice was less imposing then it had been just a moment before. “Is something wrong?”
Felix stared at him a like a deer in headlights. “What if I fail? What if I get scared and run?” He thought for sure the man beside him would knock his head off for even having doubts. This was the father of the girl he was going to marry. He was marrying this man’s little girl and he just admitted he was having serious doubts.
A small stiff smile graced Trent’s lips. “Son if you didn’t have doubts I’d be worried. This is a big moment for you and Crystal. It’s only natural to wonder if this is the right thing for you.” He rubbed his chin giving the young man before him an appraising look. “I have a feeling that’s only part of the problem.”
Felix stiffened “what makes you think that?”
“Crystal told me about your father’s job offer.” Trent could tell by the look on the young man’s face that he had struck a nerve. Felix’s whole stance became tense, unyielding almost angry. “Tell me about it” he offered “maybe I can help.”
Something snapped inside Felix as he stared into the older man’s eyes. The gaze he’d always thought was cold, harsh, almost judgmental. Now he could discern a warmth, a kindness, an understanding he never realized was there. All the things Crystal had said were there. The things he’d never received from his own father. Not even when his father offered him the position of taking over one of his many acquisitions. “I didn’t take it” he mumbled half turning away afraid to see disappointment in the older man’s eyes.
Trent watched the myriad of emotions that flashed across Felix’s face. Foremost was the pain he could perceive in the young man’s eyes. “It came with too many strings attached, didn’t it?”
Felix nodded staring at his feet. “I….” gulping his fingers curled into fists “he wanted me to choose between the position and Crystal.” He lifted his eyes towards Trent “he thought I’d choose the prestige, the money over her. He thought the money would mean more to me. I love her. Not his money.” Tears trickled down his cheeks unheeded “I can’t help but wonder how I’m going to manage without his money though. I’ve never had to worry about making a living before. I don’t know how to set a budget, led alone how to live within one.” To his shock he was engulfed by a pair of strong arms hugging him tight.
“Why didn’t you come to me” Trent demanded patting him on the back. “I would have helped you.”
“I…I” he groped for words “I wanted to figure it out on my own.”
“Son you’ve been doing that for far too long,” Trent said “it’s time you learn to ask for help.”
“I thought….” Felix shook his head overwhelmed “what do I do?”
“First let me ask you something. Why are you moving to Brooklyn Heights?” He waited for his future son-in-law to answer.
“Crystal suggested it” he sighed his eyes searching for her. “She said she could still take classes and commute to Bridgeport when she needed to.”
“The job study program” Trent nodded in understanding “she mentioned that to us.” He gave Felix a penetrating look “what about your classes?”
He laughed harshly “what classes? Without my Dad’s help I can’t afford school. My grades weren’t the best in high school so I don’t qualify for scholarships.”
“You’re not stupid” Trent pointed out.
“Well it certainly wasn’t smart to think Daddy’s money would never run out” he mumbled. He chuckled a little “who would have thought that my Dad would cut me off over a girl. A girl, who this time deserves so much more than me.”
“I’d say he’s testing you” Trent suggested “give him time. Hopefully he’ll come around.”
“I don’t care” Felix said forcefully. “All my life I’ve done everything I could think of to get his attention and for what? A few emails. A text message. Money enough to ruin myself with.” He shook his head “I finally get my life together and he cuts me off. He didn’t even give her a chance. He doesn’t even know her.”
“Then walk away” Trent advised him. “Crystal loves you. Gayle and I will do everything we can to help you. All you have to do is ask.”
“You’d do that for me” he asked, after a moment of silence like he didn’t quite believe what he had heard.
“I’d do that for family” Trent said stepping forward gripping Felix’s shoulder. “You’re family now.”
“I don’t” he blinked “know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything” Trent assured him. “Just know that you’re always welcome to come to me for advice.”
“Thank you” he shook his head unable to maintain his composure. Once again he felt the comforting warmth of being hugged. It felt like coming home.
Britland glanced over at Carson a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. The vows that Felix was saying filtered through his mind “to love, to honor, to cherish, till death do us part.”
“I know what you’re thinking” Carson’s lips were close to his ear sending puffs of warm air across his skin. The sensation was oddly sensual. “What am I thinking” he asked smiling up at him.
“You’re wishing that was us up there” Carson jerked his chin towards the bride and groom.
“Since when have you been able to read minds” Britland teased turning to face Carson in time to miss the happy couples first kiss as man and wife.
“I don’t have to be a mind reader to know what you’re thinking” Carson teased “I do want to marry you.”
“I never thought otherwise” Britland assured him. “It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen.”
“You don’t think I’m making up excuses to put it off” Carson inquired.
“No of course not” Britland reached out to caress Carson’s cheek. “We just have really bad timing. Seriously bad timing.”
Looking down at the tiny sleeping bundle in Britland’s arms Carson smiled. “I guess we have had other things to deal with.” He lifted his eyes to meet his fiance’s “I do want to marry you more than anything.”
“I know” Britland returned his smile. “We don’t have to wait. We could go down to the courthouse. Make it official.”
Looking around at the lavish decorations Carson opened his arms wide “don’t you want all of this?”
“No” he shook his head “I don’t need anything fancy.” Taking Carson’s hand he squeezed it tight “all I need is you.”
Carson snorted softly “if I live to be a hundred I’ll never know why you chose me.”
“Here I thought it was you who chose me” Britland shook his head. “We make a good pair. All we really need to know is that we love each other. What more do we need than that?”
“You’re right” Carson agreed “so on Monday, shall we go to the courthouse and get married?”
“Sounds like a plan” Britland beamed happily “just let me tell my parents so they can be there.”
“I wouldn’t dream of getting married without them” Carson admitted. “Go tell them maybe they’ll even volunteer to babysit for a day or two so we can have a little alone time.”
“Don’t go taking advantage of my parents like that” Britland teased.
“I’m not” Carson blinked innocently “they offered to babysit any time we needed them.”
“So they did” Britland agreed “I’ll go ask them now.”
“There’s no hurry” Carson called after him.
“I know but they’re standing in the receiving line” Britland explained “this way they can’t disappear on me before I get over there.”
Tucking a stray strand of hair behind Crystal’s ear Felix asked “how do you feel Mrs Stokes?” His fingers gently caressing her soft smooth skin.
“Like I’m on top of the world” she gazed up at him, her eyes shining with love for him.
“I’m counting the minutes until we can be alone” his eyes traveled down her dress before coming back up to meet hers again.
“We don’t have to wait” she giggled “there’s all kinds of store rooms around….”
“As good as that sounds I’m going to have to say no” he kissed the tip of her nose. “You have no idea how difficult it is for me not to take you up on that. I want tonight to be special.” He groaned as Crystal pressed her body into his as if trying to get him to change his mind. “Are you trying to get me to lose all control? I want you so much it hurts.”
Giggling she ran her tongue across his cheek to his ear “your loss.”
“I hate to interrupt this moment” Carson cleared his throat getting their attention. He smiled thinking of a time when he had despised the scrawny little man who now stood with his arms wrapped protectively around his wife. Things had certainly changed in the past couple of years. “I wanted to offer my congratulations to you two. I hope you’ll be happy together. If there’s ever anything I or Britland can do all you need to do is ask.”
“Well there is something” Felix started to say only to grunt rubbing his side. Turning to Crystal he demanded “what was that for.”
“To remind you to be nice” she chided him.
“I’m always nice” he protested.
“That’s debatable” she shook her head at him “you were saying?”
“Um yes” Felix grinned “take good care of my best friend. You hurt him and you’ll have to answer to me.”
Carson looked down at him, arms crossed unimpressed. “I promise that I’ll die for him if it meant protecting him.”
Holding his hand out Felix continued as Carson shook it. “That’s why I’m not worried about him. He’s in good hands.”
“Thanks” Carson said sounding relieved “that means a lot to me. I know we haven’t actually…”
“Don’t worry about it” Felix assured him. “I was as much at fault as you. I didn’t like the idea you were going to replace me as Britland’s best friend. That was more my issue than yours.”
“I could have trusted Britland in his choice of friends more than I did” Carson added. “I thought you were an annoying little man.”
“What do you think now” Felix asked puffing himself up.
“Well” he rubbed his chin “you’re still an annoying little man.” He grinned at the crestfallen younger man “but you’re growing on me. You’re Britland’s best friend. I hope one day to call you friend too.”
“I’d like that” Felix admitted throwing his arms around him. “If we make a habit of hugging each other, do you think we can make Britland jealous?”
“Hey cool it you two” Crystal slapped playfully at Felix’s shoulder. “I’m your wife. I’ll not stand by while you talk about making another man jealous.”
Turning from Carson he pulled her close “you my dear wife have nothing to worry about.”