I stood nervously as Olivia pinned a wreath of white flowers into my hair. I smoothed my gown and swallowed a lump in my throat.
“You look lovely,” she said. I looked at her. “Just like your mother.”
“Are we making a mistake?” I whispered. She shook her head.
“No,” she said, and rested her hand on my heart. “Waiting longer would be a mistake. The wheel is turning and you don’t know what’s going to happen next, but this way you’ll know this,” I swallowed. “Athena, this won’t go away. It’s solid.”
“Thank you,” I said, “how did you know that’s what,” she shrugged.
“When I married Caleb,” she said, “I thought about my father, and the conditions he put on his love, and Anton, who would be distracted by well, anyone,” I smiled, “and Tom, who couldn’t stand still long enough to build anything, and I worried, so much that this would flee from me too.” She smiled. “But Aaron’s like his father. He wouldn’t commit to anything that would falter.” I realized I was crying.
“I wish he was here,” I said softly, “I wish my parents were here,” she hugged me.
“Me too,” she whispered and wiped my eyes, “smile, darling, you’re going to be my daughter now.” I laughed.
“Are you ready?” Tristan asked, walking up to us, with Martin not far behind him. I nodded and looped my arm through his. “I suppose this means you’ll outrank me forever.” I laughed.
“Yes, I think it does,” I said, “I actually think my babies will even outrank you which is the best part.”
“You two can squabble about this all day,” Thomas said, “but you’re both still runt recruits.” We reached a courtyard, shaded by willows arching over it. A few rows of chairs had been set up and Aaron was standing at the end of the aisle, beaming at me. Marina was behind him, dressed in her simple blue healer dress, which pleased me.
I walked towards him and took his hands.
“Hello, love,” Aaron whispered to me.
“Hello,” I said softly. I glanced out at the assembled group, Annalise was standing her hand in Eric’s. Harran hadn’t left yet, and winked at me. Thomas, Tristan and Trey, Carolina and her father. Mercy and Elodie. I swallowed and looked at Aaron.
“It is my honor,” Marina began, “to unite Count Aaron of Pantona, and Commander Lady Athena Dugarry in marriage,” Aaron winked at her and she giggled. “Aaron, do you vow to love Athena, to cherish her and support her, to honor her will, joy and sorrows?” His face was serious now.
“I so vow,” he said and squeezed my hands. I smiled. Marina nodded to me.
“Athena,” she said, my eyes were fixed on Aaron’s, “do you vow to love Aaron, to cherish him and support him, to honor his will, joy and sorrow?” I swallowed.
“I so vow,” I said, though if I made any noise at all, it would surprise me.
“And do you both vow to share your home, warmth, and hearts, to build a family worthy of your ancestors?” She said.
“We so vow,” we said in unison. She them placed my right hand over Aaron’s.
“I bless you, and your union,” her voice was soft and steady. “In the name of the great god, Cornan, the holy goddess Rana, and the lines of Pantona and Dugarry. May your marriage be the greatest of all blessings.” We smiled at her and then he pulled me close and kissed me.
“What do you think Countess,” he whispered to me. “Did it suffice?”
“Perfectly sufficient,” I whispered back. “Thank you.” He laughed into my neck. “I love you.”
“You’re the best parts of me, Thena,” he said softly. I kissed him again and he pulled me close.
“You’re my home,” I said as we pressed our foreheads together. Realizing finally that I’d arrived there.