The weather cooperated beautifully for Liz and Blake’s wedding.
Meg took in the sway of the wildflowers in the light breeze, the slopes of the bowl verdant and colorful from the recent spring rain, and the popcorn clouds against the blue, blue sky. Blake had bought a new suit and Liz wore a simple white sheathe with a lace overlay and mid-length sleeves. A ribbon under her breasts accented her baby bump, but in the cutest possible way. She had a handful of white rosebuds woven into her hair and the most adoring smile for Blake.
He looked incredibly tender as he spoke his vows.
If only their parents could be here, Meg silently yearned. That was the only way the day could have been more perfect.
After the ceremony, it became the kind of party ranchers lived for: good food, good music, and good company. Blake had rented a giant tent in case the weather turned, and tables were set up beneath it, but aside from a couple of speeches and a toast by the father of the bride, the reception was casual. The food was buffet, kids ran too and fro, and everyone mingled freely.
“Meg!” Petra called, coming to where she and Linc were finishing up some mighty fine barbecue and trying to decide if they had room for dessert.
“Hi, sweetie. Having fun?” Meg asked, smiling at the girl Petra had with her. Her long dark hair and native features were vaguely familiar.
“Do your remember Carly? She was at the toboggan party at Christmas. She lives on, um, which ranch is it?”
“Oh, your dad is Tom Matsch,” Meg realized. “One of Blake’s best friends growing up,” she explained to Linc. “It’s nice to see you again, Carly. Are your parents here? I’d love to say hello.”
“They’re coming back. They went home to do the chores, but um, Petra told me you’re expecting twins?”
“I am,” Meg said ruefully. Her hand automatically went to her middle, which was competing size-wise with Liz’s, despite the fact she was two months behind her sister-in-law’s due date.
Linc stretched his arm across the back of her chair and he sent her a glance of warmth and pride.
“That’s really cool,” Carly said, and sent a nervous glance to Pet.
“I was telling her how busy my Dad’s new wife was after her twins came,” Petra explained. “Of course, Ethan and I will come and help out when we can, but Mom will have a new baby, too, and I thought you might want to know someone else in the area.”
“I could, like, get off the bus at your place after school,” Carly offered. “Or ride over on the weekend, even if you just wanted an extra pair of hands. I have my first aid and I helped Mrs. Heath when she broke her arm and had a new baby. Also, I’m in 4-H and take care of my own horse.”
“And horses are really expensive and you could use the money?” Meg teased.
“So expensive,” Carly agreed with a wide-eyed, pleading look that made Linc snort.
At that moment, Liz’s brother came up to their table, the infamous Uncle Sea Bass. He’d been in town a couple of weeks and was ridiculously good looking in the wholesome California way that Liz and Petra wore so effortlessly. He and Pet typically ribbed each other mercilessly, but today Petra stiffened at the sight of him.
He gave his niece a cool, sidelong look and set an open bottle of beer in front of Linc. “That micro-brewery I was telling you about.”
“Thanks,” Linc said, turning the bottle to read the label.
“If Ms. Tierney was here, you could ask her to be a reference for Carly,” Petra said with lift of her blond brows and a pert tension around her mouth.
“Being Tom’s daughter is good enough reference for me,” Meg said mildly. “I’ll definitely keep you in mind, Carly. I’m sure we’ll be grateful for some help.”
Carly smiled, but Pet kept that displeased look on her face as she nudged her friend into leaving the table and the tent.
Meg glanced at Bastian. “What happened there?”
“Just a disagreement,” Bastian said, gaze flinty as he drank from the second bottle he’d kept for himself. “What do you think?”
Linc sampled and they traded opinions for a minute before Bastian was called away by one of his nephews to show the other kids how he could juggle.
“I was wondering why Piper wasn’t here,” Meg murmured as Bastian walked away. Meg had known the music teacher very distantly when they’d been at school. Piper had been a few years behind her, but once Piper started teaching, she’d begun coming to Skye’s book club meetings. Meg was only in town for the odd one, but those evenings were always quality time with really awesome women.
“The woman from dinner last week? He’s just staying at her parents’ house, isn’t he? They’re not dating or anything. Why would he bring her to his sister’s wedding?”
“Are you really that naïve, Linc Brady?”
“No.” He let his disparaging chuckle go into the neck of his beer bottle. “Neither is his seventeen year-old-niece, apparently.”
“I’ll have to call Piper, see if she’s okay. She is on the naïve side. Mmm, Skye is coming back for our wedding. We’ll all get together and I’ll find out what happened.”
“This is nice,” Linc said with a chuck of his chin at the boisterous crowd. “But I’m glad we’re keeping ours small.”
They hadn’t wanted to compete with Blake and Liz’s ceremony and hadn’t had time to organize anything big anyway. They were getting ready for the babies and the ranch was non-stop work this time of year. Meg was trying to put in a small garden, but Linc was insisting on doing all the work…
“And you’re still okay with small? Even after seeing all this?” he asked. He’d asked her more than once if she was sure she didn’t want a bigger wedding. “You obviously have a lot of friends,” he added as she waved at someone across the tables.
“We do, but… I’ll take small and fast over big and waiting. I just want to be married.” She leaned across and he met her with a kiss. The important people would be there. Skye was flying in and Linc’s aunt was coming with one of his cousins. Blake was giving her away.
“Good. Me, too,” he said.