Grayson's Vow

Page 28


I sagged back on the bar stool. That was a lot. "Even though his father treated him so terribly before that?"
Charlotte nodded. "I believe because his father treated him so terribly before that. To Grayson, redeeming this vineyard means redeeming his own value."
I nodded slowly, biting my lip, thinking about how much Grayson Hawthorn and I had in common. Both raised by fathers who never thought we were enough.
"Thank you, Charlotte. I understand him a little better now. And I can relate." I pressed my lips together in thought. "I'd even think maybe we could be friends except that . . . he thinks I'm a witch, and I'm still pretty sure he's a dragon. At least when it comes to me."
She laughed, apparently finding that amusing.
"Why did you tell me all that, Charlotte?" I asked, tilting my head in question.
She grasped my hands again. "I think you can see people in a different light when you understand their motivations. And perhaps you think you bring out the worst in Grayson, but since you came into his life, even though it's been such a short time, he's been more alive than in the entire year he's been home . . . even if that's translated into lots of fire breathing." She squeezed my hands tightly again. "I believe that's a good thing. Grayson can be arrogant—due to his looks largely. But inside, his hurt runs very deep." She looked sad for a moment, but then smiled at me. I couldn't help smiling back. There was something so wonderfully comforting about Charlotte. "Here, let me cut you a big slice of cinnamon apple cake straight from the oven," she said as she stood.
"And by the way, my dear," Charlotte said, resting her hand on mine on the counter, a glint in her eyes, "forget the prince and princess. I always imagined the real story was between the witch and the dragon." Her musical laughter rang through the kitchen.
I hadn't envisioned my wedding day quite like this. I'd awoken alone, taken a frigid shower, and then quickly left the Hawthorn property for downtown Napa to buy something to wear. But once I'd started browsing in a few shops, I'd realized how ridiculous it was. Why did I need a new outfit? And what did one wear to say false wedding vows to the man they were marrying for money? The man who most likely hated me after what had happened the day before. I took a deep breath. Still, I was going to go through with it. I’d made up my mind as I lay in bed the night before, thinking about my own reasons for needing the money Gram had left me, and thinking about Grayson's reasons as well. I couldn't help feeling like we had even more in common than either of us knew. And perhaps we'd never know the full extent, but somewhere deep down, I felt a sort of peace about sharing the money with him, dragon or not.
I finally picked out a semi-casual, white lace sundress and a pair of silvery-blue strappy sandals. It wasn't fancy, but at least I'd look like I'd put some effort into looking like a bride to the people at the clerk's office. It's all about show, I thought sadly.
As I drove back to Hawthorn Vineyard, a memory suddenly came into my mind. When I was seven or eight, I'd found my gram's collection of catalogues and old magazines. One of them had bridal gowns in it so I'd cut out all my choices for an entire wedding party, and glued them to a piece of cardboard. I'd spent hours going through each book, picking out flowers, and cakes, and whatever else I could find that added to my vision. When I'd proudly shown my gram, she had gushed over it, of course, as my gram tended to do, but then she'd asked me why there was no father of the bride. "Oh," I'd said, "he was working. He couldn't make it." My gram had looked at me so sadly and then hugged me tightly. "You are going to be the most beautiful bride, my love," she'd said, "and your groom is going to love you to pieces."
I felt a lump form in my chest. "Oh, Gram, I'm so sorry about this," I whispered into the silence of my car.
Just as I was finishing getting dressed, I heard a soft knock on my cottage door and startled slightly, wondering if Grayson had come to get me rather than meeting at the house where we’d planned. Or maybe he was coming to call it off? My heart took up an erratic beat as I called, "Come in."
A moment later I heard Charlotte's sing-song voice call out hello and I relaxed my shoulders. She smiled as she entered my room. "Oh my, you look lovely, my dear."
I gave her a small smile, fidgeting slightly. I hardly wanted her to make this seem as if it was in any way a real wedding day. It would only add to my shame.
"I brought you a little something for good luck," she said, holding open her palm to show a small, silver and crystal pin in the shape of a rose.
"Oh, no, Charlotte. I couldn't. This marriage doesn't require any luck. We already set it up to fail," I said, my cheeks heating.
"Well, then, it's good luck for you," she said. "Please, let me. My mother gave this to me on my wedding day and I don't have a daughter to give it to, nor will I have any granddaughters. It would mean the world to me if you would accept it."
"I really couldn't," I squeaked, trying not to tear up.
"How about just for today?" She smiled hopefully. "You can give it back if you want." She clapped her hands. "Oh, that's even better. Something borrowed."
I let out a laugh on a breath. "Okay. Only if you'll let me return it."
"Here," she said, leaning in and pinning it to the bodice of my dress. She leaned away and smiled gently. "Lovely."