Grayson's Vow

Page 29


Not able to help it, I threw my arms around Charlotte, inhaling the calming scent of talcum powder. She laughed a sweet sound and hugged me back. "Now then," she said gently.
At two o'clock I walked up to the main house where Grayson was leaning casually against the stone front. He was wearing a pair of khakis and a blue, button-down shirt. I tried not to note how strikingly handsome he was—it served no good purpose. When he heard me approaching, he looked up and I caught a brief flicker of surprise in his eyes, and then it was gone.
"Ready?" he said simply, making no comment about how I looked. I nodded.
Neither of us spoke for the first five minutes of the ride in his truck. I finally turned to him and his gaze was on my bare legs. I crossed them and his eyes flew to mine. He clenched his jaw. Did he think my outfit was too casual?
"Grayson, I'm . . . I'm sorry about your father's bottle of wine."
His shoulders seemed to release just a bit as he stared out the front windshield. "It wasn't entirely your fault. You couldn't have known that such a valuable bottle of wine would be sitting in the living room. And I did push you to that point, I admit. I'm not innocent for teasing you about your . . . list. I'm sorry, too."
I exhaled even as I felt my cheeks flush at the mention of my list. "We're even, then?"
He gave me a slight smile. "Even. Especially considering you're paying me back for it today." He turned his face to me and gave me a devilish smile that made my heart stutter in my chest. But then it gentled and I saw he was making a joke.
"Ready to pledge forever? Or at least twelve months?" he asked, eyeing me sideways.
I laughed a nervous laugh. "As ready as I'll ever be, I figure. This isn't exactly how I pictured my wedding day."
"No? Pictured the big white dress and all the crème de la crème of society in attendance?" His eyes lingered on me for a second.
It was true. When I'd been engaged to Cooper, that had been what I’d envisioned for my wedding, mostly because that was what my father and Cooper had envisioned. But that had never been my dream. I had just been trying so hard to please them both.
I smiled, but it felt sad on my own lips. "I suppose." I wasn't going to go into all that with Grayson, especially not right now. His eyes searched my face for a few quick moments, but then he looked back to the road, not saying anything.
The mood between us was still slightly tense after that and neither of us spoke, each busy with our own thoughts. Although Grayson had said I was forgiven about the wine, he still seemed a little tense, if the tick in his jaw was any indication each time he looked at me. Ah well, after today, we'd avoid each other. I'd offered my apologies and he'd accepted. If he still harbored a general hostility, it made no difference to me whatsoever. I bit down on my lip until it hurt, trying to distract myself from any thought at all. I didn't want to think about this. I didn't want to consider what I was really doing.
When we arrived at the Napa County Clerk's Office a few minutes later, we both went to get out of the truck, when the sky suddenly opened up and started pouring rain. We quickly closed our doors, scooting back inside.
Grayson chuckled. "The fates are against us."
I gave a small laugh, too. "Apparently. Although I've heard that rain is good luck on a wedding day."
"Only people who get rain on their wedding day say that to make themselves feel lucky. We're going to have to make a run for it."
"Okay. On the count of three," I said, cracking the door. We both jumped out and ran, me squealing as we ran for the building. He grabbed my hand halfway between the car and the office, and his deep laughter rose above the pounding sound of the downpour. For just a moment in time, we were just a boy and a girl, running and laughing in the rain on our wedding day. The moment was sudden, dreamlike, but when we burst into the lobby, we both blinked at each other and I knew he'd felt it, too. The spell was broken, the strange moment ending abruptly as we looked around at people now watching us. There were two other couples obviously there to get married, both holding hands, both looking serene and happy, both looking like it was the happiest day of their lives. It made me intensely aware of what we were about to do. By the look on Grayson's face, he was thinking the same thing.
"Ready?" he asked.
No, no, no. "Yes."
I walked through the next hour as if I were just outside my own body. I tried not to consider the reality of the situation. I pictured the faces of the people at the drop-in center, the small house I'd get settled in once I left Hawthorn Vineyard, anything to keep my focus on what this day was ultimately about. We obtained the marriage license and waited in line to say our vows. Grayson's expression was distant, slightly cold—The Dragon was gone and The Ice Prince was back. I didn't ask what he was thinking, though. My own emotions were difficult enough to manage, so I really didn't need to add his to the mix. He'd be no support to me—he wasn't even trying to make this easier. Although, really, what did I expect him to do? The lightness of the moment when we had been running in the rain was long gone, replaced now by silence and discomfort. Finally, a court employee stood in as our witness, and I recited my vows and promised to love, honor, and cherish Grayson Hawthorn all the days of my life. I felt a snake of fear slither down my spine as I committed the sacrilege of pledging love and devotion to a man I had no intention of loving or devoting myself to. It was a lie, a farce of something sacred. I'd never been a particularly religious person, but I had to wonder if we'd both be punished somehow for this mockery.