Julian bent and kissed her shoulder, his arms sliding around her waist, his hands caressing her stomach. “You are the most beautiful bride I have ever seen.” He smiled at her through the mirror.
“Julian!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here? You know you are not supposed to see the bride before the wedding.”
“Yeah, yeah, I didn’t see Ivy for a whole week, and look where it got me,” he laughed.
Eve turned in his arms, chuckling. “Well, I don’t believe in that stuff anyway.” She raised her arms and placed them around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss.
A few minutes later, breathless, Julian pulled back. “I’m afraid if I don’t leave now, we won’t make it to our own wedding.” He laughed.
Eve stepped out of his arms and admired him. He was dressed in a black tux, with his hair gray and neatly trimmed, and his crisp white shirt hugging his broad chest. This, together with his beautiful eyes and sexy grin, to Eve, made him look incredibly handsome. “Julian, you had better leave right now,” she insisted.
“Why?” he asked in surprise.
“You are, without a doubt, the most handsome man I have ever had the pleasure of being within arms length of, and if you don’t leave right now, I will not be held responsible for my actions,” she warned.
“Ohh…” His eyebrows shot up in delight. “I won’t hold it against you.” He grinned as his lips settled on hers.
As his mouth moved over hers, Eve laced her fingers behind his head as she relaxed in his embrace. Her heart pounded with excitement as she welcomed his kiss and all the tender love and desire that he poured into it.
Julian’s hands caressed her back, pressing her closer, gently, enjoying the feeling of their unborn child pressing against his stomach.
Suddenly he pulled back and gasped. “The baby kicked!” he cried in surprise.
Eve took his hand and placed it against her stomach, watching the pleasure on his face as the baby put on a big show for him and moved its leg from one side of her stomach to the other.
“This is incredible,” Julian said. “I had no idea he could move so much.”
“Well, he will for a little while longer, till HE or SHE,” she laughed, “gets too cramped in there.”
He smiled. “I understand, but is it normal to move so much? I mean, you could see him OR her move all the way across your stomach!” he said in awe.
“It happens. If you think seeing it is something, you should try feeling it. It is the most amazing thing. Sometimes the baby puts a foot up against my ribs…That is not too comfortable.” She laughed lightly.
“Wow, Eve, I had no idea.” Tears filled his eyes as he looked up at her. “That was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced - our baby, alive in your womb - no doubt a Crane who doesn’t mind objecting when the need arises.” Julian chuckled.
“I am so glad you finally got to feel the baby move. What a wonderful wedding gift for you!” Eve beamed.
“Yeah, it seemed I was always too late to feel anything.” He laughed as he placed his hand against her stomach again in hopes of feeling the baby kick once more.
After a few minutes, Eve said, “The baby has settled down; I don’t think you will feel anything again for awhile.” She kissed him and laughed at his disappointed expression. “Don’t worry, it will happen again. After all, we have our entire honeymoon ahead of us… lying around, in bed. I am sure he or she will make an appearance sometime.” Eve smiled.
“I can’t wait. Ivy never let me see her pregnant, let alone feel the baby,” he explained.
Eve reached up and caressed his cheek. “You missed out on so much, Julian. I am truly sorry for that.”
“You don’t have to apologize, especially not now, when I have been given a second chance with you and our new baby…a chance to get it right, to make up for all the things I missed out on.” He kissed her tenderly.
A knock on the door interrupted them.
“Come in,” Eve called out as she stepped out of Julian’s arms.
Whitney entered the room, wearing a beautiful blue gown. “What are you doing in here?” She wagged her finger at Julian.
“I just had to see my beautiful bride.” He bent and kissed Whitney’s cheek in greeting.
“Well, you better get out there; the minister is waiting for you.” Whitney pointed him to the door.
“I agree.” Eve grinned at him.
Julian held up his hands in defeat. “I know when I am outnumbered.” He walked to the door and turned to smile at Eve and Whitney. “My beautiful girls…” His heart pounded with love for them.
Whitney and Eve smiled at his obvious pleasure as he winked at them and then left the room.
Eve held out her arms to Whitney.
Whitney embraced Eve tenderly, careful of her pregnant stomach. “How are you feeling, Mom?”
“A bit tired. Thank God the morning sickness is gone,” Eve said. “I wish, though, that Simone were here. She just can’t find it in her heart to forgive me for divorcing TC.” Eve sighed unhappily.
“I know; she is mad at me too. She still thinks I stole Chad from her,” Whitney said.
“Well, all we can do is pray that she’ll come around someday soon. But I am afraid that right now, things don’t look good,” Eve said, as a tear escaped her eye.
“She will, Mom; you’ll see. She can’t stay mad at us forever,” Whitney tried to reassure her.
Eve nodded numbly. “I hope so,” she said as she smoothed her dress and started for the door.
“Before we go out there, there is something I want to say,” Whitney began.
Eve pushed a strand of Whitney’s hair back from her cheek. “What is it?”
“I just wanted you to know how happy I am for you. It is very obvious how much you love Julian, and I know that he loves you with all his heart.”
“Oh, Whitney…” Eve started.
“I also wanted to tell you that I couldn’t ask for a better mom. I am so grateful that I am your daughter.” Tears filled her eyes.
“Oh, honey, I am so glad too. I always loved you as my very own, and now to know that you are, I feel truly blessed.” She hugged her close. “I love you, Whitney, and I know Julian does too.”
Whitney stepped back from her embrace. “I know he does. I feel it every time he is near me. He just beams the whole time.” She chuckled. “I have a very deep respect for him; he has been so good to me.” Whitney smiled. “I love him, I do. But I also love Daddy,” she said cautiously.
“I know, and you should. No one expects you to stop loving TC. Julian would never ask that of you, and neither would I. TC raised you, and he did a wonderful job.” Eve smiled.
“I agree!” Julian said, poking his head through the open door. “I’m sorry; I couldn’t help but overhear,” he explained as he stepped into the room and closed the door. “Your mother is right, Whitney. I would never ask you to give up your love for TC. Your mother and I are getting married today, and we want nothing more than for you to be happy and to share your life with us, as our daughter. But know this… TC raised you, and he deserves that place in your heart reserved for fathers.” He selflessly gave TC that spot in her heart. “I wasn’t there for you when you grew up, and he was.” He caressed her cheek with his thumb. “I know I don’t deserve your love, or your mother’s, but I thank God for second chances.” He smiled tenderly. “Just know that I love you… I will always love you…and your mother.”
Whitney stepped into his arms and hugged him. “Thank you for being so wonderful to me and Mom. In my heart, TC will always be my dad. But I want you to know that I am glad that you are my father.” Whitney hugged him tightly.
Julian held her close, then reached out his arm to Eve and drew her into the hug as well, trying to hold back his tears. They stood there holding each other, creating new memories together.