Protecting Lulu

By: J.M. Jeffries

Lulu patted her stomach, feeling a slight flutter inside her. “I have a bun in the oven. No time to wait.”

Aiden sighed. “Lulu Bennington, baby mama. Where did I go wrong?”

He fussed a bit more and stood back to sigh at the sight of her.

“What,” she asked.

“I don’t know if I should tell you know or wait until after the honeymoon.”

Lulu hated when Aiden was all mysterious. “Just tell me now.”

“Mark found something on Noah’s sisters. It’s not much, but he’ll be following through while you two are on your honeymoon. I thought you would like to know.”

Lulu smiled. “Thank you, Aiden. And thank Mark, too.”

“Yeah,” Aiden said in a dreamy voice. “I’m not having a four month rush on mu wedding.”

Lulu tried not to laugh. “When you and Mark get married, we’ll plan a grand affair.”

“I’m going to be the bride,” Aiden said, his eyes half closed in ecstasy.

“Let’s get me married first.” Lulu looked out the window. The chairs had been set up across the lawn. Julia’s gardens were in bloom and the fragrance hung over the entire area. People milled about as they were shown to their seats. Aunt Julia and Grandma Penny stood in front of the gazebo, their laugher ringing out. The gazebo had been decorated with lots of tulle and flowers.

A knock sounded at the door and it opened. Wilder peered around the jamb. “Are you ready yet?”

“Almost,” Aiden chirped.

Wilder entered and stood looking at her, admiration in his eyes. “You’re beautiful, Lulu.”

“Thank you,” Aiden replied as he gave one last twitch to her train.

“Sweetie,” Lulu said, “we need to get started.”

“Oh my God, we’re running off schedule.” He threw up his hands and ran out of the room.

Lulu watched her brother come into the room. He looked so handsome in his tux. A tiny bit of lipstick smeared across the corner of his mouth. Lulu picked up a tissue and dabbed at his lips. She looked at the tissue. “Cherry red,” she mused. “Not Candace’s color. But then you haven’t seen Candace in months and cherry red is E.J.’s favorite color.”

Wilder’s cheeks turned ruddy. “Detective work is not your forte. Dad should be the one walking you down the aisle, not me. Mom should be crying buckets of tears like every other mother giving away her daughter.”

“You can’t change the past. I think if mom and dad were here, they’d be angry at you.”

“For what?” He drew away from her.

“For living in a box. It’s time for you to go out and find your own happiness. You will always be my hero, but you don’t need to protect me anymore. Find a woman who is strong enough to be Mrs. Wilder Bennington.”

He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “I’ll think about it.

The day was beautiful with a cloudless sky, seagulls soaring on the air currents and the faintest hint of surf hitting the beach below the bluff.

Noah stood nervously in front of the gazebo. Music floated across the lawn from the small orchestra set off to one side. Harrison stood next to him while his wife and three children sat in the second row. Dante stood behind Harrison fidgeting.

On the other side of the gazebo stood Aiden as Lulu’s maid of honor and next to him was Isabelle, Lulu’s friend. Isabelle wore a silk dress of navy blue while Aiden wore a matching tuxedo. Harrison, Dante and Noah wore vests of matching blue. Dante continued to fidget. The rest of Noah’s friends sat in the first row smiling encouragingly at him.

The music swelled and a door from the house opened. Wilder stepped out and held out his hand. Lulu stepped gracefully from the door and Wilder escorted her to the center of the lawn.

As she stepped down the aisle between the chairs, Noah’s heart swelled. How had he managed to score such a gorgeous, loving woman? He was going to make a life with her. He glanced at her stomach. He was making a family with her.

Harrison nudged him. “Stop thinking so hard.”

Noah just grinned at him. “Says the man who just won enough money to put his kids through college.”

“I’m enjoying the moment.”

Lulu stepped onto the white runner and Noah saw her dazzling smile. Yes, this was what he’d always wanted for himself and never thought he’d ever get.

Lulu walked slowly down the aisle, her bouquet in one hand, her other hand tucked around her brother’s elbow. Noah’s throat went dry wondering what she saw in him. Then she smiled at him, and he knew.

Wilder stopped in front of the minister.

“Who gives this woman in holy matrimony?”

“I do,” Wilder said quietly. He leaned over to kiss Lulu on the cheek. “Be happy,” he said. He turned to Noah and put Lulu’s hand in his.

Noah couldn’t take his eyes off her. She held his hand as he turned to the minister, aware of the warmth of her skin on his and the scent of her perfume wafting over him.

He wasn’t going to just enjoy the moment, he was going to enjoy the rest of his life.

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