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Izzy 

 

     I remember when I was sitting on the bus driving away from Smallwood. I remember the feeling of the cold window against my forehead as the tears kept falling down my cheeks. I remember telling myself that it would be a cold day in hell before I’d ever put on a wedding dress again. 

     Yet here I am, about to get married for the second time to the man of my dreams. In a white dress and everything. 

     My how things can change when you least expect them to. 

     “I’d like to propose a toast.” 

     Everyone in the bridal suite grabs their flutes of champagne—or apple juice if you’re Magnolia—as Oliver’s mother, Suzanne, begins to speak. 

     “As we all know, my son has gone through his fair share of girlfriends. And all of them have ended with him asking a question that every time earned him the answer he didn’t want to hear.” 

     Everyone laughs, including Magnolia. 

     “Then one day I was talking to Oliver on the phone. He was driving away from his last day of school and on the way to pick up a woman for a weekend trip to Vegas.” I smile as Suzanne turns her sights to me, a smile slowly forming on her face. “They say a mother’s intuition is never wrong, and it turns out that day I knew exactly what was going to happen. There was just something about Oliver’s voice in how he talked about Izzy. It was something different that I’d never heard from him before. I knew. I knew if he didn’t come back married he was going to come back in love. He did both, despite me asking him to not get married in Vegas without me there.”

     Everyone laughs at the joke, even me. The laughter is helping keep the tears at bay.  

     “But I wasn’t upset when I found out. Not at all. Because I saw the smile you put on his face, Izzy. I’ve never seen him like that. My boy loves hard, always has, but the way he looks at you? The way he loves you? I didn’t know a person could love like that. And I know you love him too. And I thank you. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for marrying him. To Izzy.” 

     “Too Izzy!” 

     I smile and take a sip of the champagne with everyone else. As soon as I'm done, I hurry and wipe away the tears. My makeup was done an hour ago and I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry. 

     I knew that was a fool’s errand. 

     “Here,” Magnolia says, handing me a tissue. 

     “Thanks girl,” I say as I dab my eyes. “Have I told you today how pretty you look?” 

     Magnolia, always the fashion influencer, does a little spin in her pink dress that she picked herself. I must say, the girl’s got good taste. “Thanks. It has pockets.” 

     The tears are immediately stopped as I start laughing at this little angel, who has her hands in those pockets, showing them off like a seasoned pro. 

     “Come here girl,” I say as I hold out my arms, which she walks into for a big hug. “Thank you for being the best flower girl ever.” 

     “Thank you Aunt Izzy,” she says. 

     And just like that, I’m crying again. I didn’t know hearing “Aunt Izzy” for the first time from this little one would send me over the edge, but here we are. 

     This is a prime example of how my emotions have been on a roller coaster all day. I think I’ve bounced between calm, to excited, to panic, to dread, back to calm, skipped back to panic, then excited at least five times today. The fact that I’ve only cried now twice is actually impressive. The fact that I’ve only semi-panicked once is equally monumental. 

     I wipe away the tears as Magnolia makes her way over to the mirror to inspect her dress again. It gives me a chance to take in the room and everyone here. Hazel and my sister are obviously here as my two matrons of honor. I wanted Oliver’s mother here because I’m about to have the best mother-in-law in the world. Betsy is hanging out with us to make sure Magnolia is ready to go and Whitley, the best event planner ever, is running around like a woman on a mission. It’s everyone I want in this room. 

     Well, not everyone. But Oliver’s with the guys, as he should be. This is the day he’s dreamed about his entire life—I didn’t know guys had wedding binders—so I want to make sure this day is as perfect for him as possible. 

     He deserves it. 

     “Okay!” Hazel calls out. “I think it’s time to put on the dress!” 

     I take a breath and stand up as Jessie brings over the silky white dress I picked out. Shopping for this dress almost sent me into a straight panic attack. Just the thought of purchasing a wedding dress was sending me into a tailspin. But I wanted to do it for Oliver. He said he didn’t care what I wore, but the man has literally moved mountains for us. The least I can do is give him the best second wedding he could ever ask for. 

     It also didn’t hurt that this dress was nothing like the one I wore when I was eighteen. That one was modest with the fullest skirt that could be manufactured. This is silky, fitting and very, very backless. 

     My mother would hate it if she were here. Oliver’s going to love it. 

     It’s the perfect dress. 

     I slip off my robe as Jessie takes the dress off the hangar. Hazel’s job is to make sure I don’t fall as I step into it. Or that anything rips as I make sure it hits every curve that it’s supposed to. I let the two of them make sure everything is right before I turn around to look at myself in the mirror. 

     Shit…

     I feel the panic attack build and I can’t push it down. All I can do is stare at myself in this mirror in a white dress. It might not look like the one I wore all those years ago, but that doesn’t matter. That’s all I see. I see the eighteen-year-old girl who’s about to have her life flipped upside down. I feel my body starting to shake in a cold sweat. 

     “Izzy?” Hazel says in a panic as I drop to a chair. 

     “Sis?” Jessie runs to me and lowers herself to her knees so she can be more at my level. “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” 

     I shake my head, trying but failing to breathe. “I don’t think so.” 

     I start gasping for air as I see Oliver’s mom, Betsy, and Magnolia leave the room. Good, it was getting too much in here. I feel like the walls are closing in on me. 

     “Breathe,” Hazel says, pulling my hair up and off my neck. “Slow breaths.” 

     I hear her saying words, but that’s not helping. She and Jessie are both saying something about breathing and that everything’s going to be okay. 

     But all I can think about is that it’s not going to be okay. 

     What if I’m a horrible wife? 

     What if Oliver realizes one day that he was caught up in the moment and he wants something more? 

     What if he leaves me like everyone else did? 

     What am I doing? I can’t think like this. I don’t want to think like this. But I can’t help it. 

     “What can we do?” 

     I look over to Hazel, who looks stumped right now. “Get Oliver.” 

     Hazel’s eyes nearly jump out of her head. “You’re not supposed to see the groom before the wedding.” 

     “Fuck that,” I say. “We’re already married and I’m freaking out. Go get my husband. Now.” 

 

~~~ 

 

Oliver 

 

     “To Oliver!” Shane says as he holds up his shot glass full of whiskey. The rest of my grooms' people follow. Yes, people. Of course Amelia was going to be standing up next to me along with Shane, Wes, and Simon. Frankly she pulls off a tux better than most men I’ve seen. 

     “We knew one day that we’d be toasting Oliver Price before his wedding. We didn’t think it would be a second wedding to the same woman, or that we wouldn’t be invited to the first one. We definitely didn’t think it would happen with one of us wearing a pink tuxedo.” 

     We all turn, and try to hold in our laughter, as we look at Simon, who looks every bit as ridiculous as we expected him to be. “It’s puce you fucks.” 

     “My apologies,” Shane says. “Raise your glasses to Oliver. Here’s to a life of happiness. A life of love. And a life where you will never have to propose to another woman again!” 

     “Hear, hear!”

     The five of us clink our shot glasses before sending back the shot of whiskey. The burn is good going down. It’s also going to help with my nerves as the clock ticks down to the ceremony. 

     Why am I nervous? I’m already married. I’ve already proposed. I should be excited. I mean, I am excited. I’m about to marry the woman of my dreams again. So why do I have this dread in my stomach that a house is about to fall on my head? 

     “You okay?” Shane asks. “As your best man I feel like I should check on you when it looks like you’re about to puke.” 

     “Rub it in, why don’t you!” Simon yells. “I swear to fucking God I better be someone’s best man. Wes! When are you thinking about proposing to Betsy?” 

     I shake my head as I take a seat, Shane sitting next to me. “I don’t know man. Something just feels off.” 

     “It’s probably nothing,” he says. “You haven’t seen her since last night at dinner. Probably just a little nervous because of that.” 

     “Maybe,” I say. After our rehearsal dinner, which was really just a dinner because we didn’t rehearse a thing, the guys took me for a traditional camping night at Wes’s childhood home while Izzy went back to our house with her sister’s family. “I don’t know though. Something just doesn’t feel right.” 

     As if on cue, a pounding on the door sends off every alarm in my body. Shane picks up on it as he sprints to the door and opens it to find a panicked Hazel on the other side. 

     “What?” I ask. “What’s the matter?” 

     “She needs you. Now.” 

     I don’t even have to question it. I all but push Hazel out of the way as I bolt to the otherside of the venue where the bridal suite is located. I also don’t knock. I don’t care. My wife says she needs me. And I’m never not going to be there for her. 

     “Izzy,” I say in a pant as I kneel down in front of her. I can’t see her face, she’s bent over, trying to breathe as Jessie holds a cold compress to the back of her neck. “Baby…” 

     She slowly looks up at me and I can see where her makeup is streaked of tears. 

     Fuck…

     This was the other shoe. This was what I was scared of.  

     “Come here,” I say, standing up and pulling her up with me just so I can sit and bring her to my lap. Like clockwork, her arms go around my neck, clutching onto me for dear life as I hear sobs coming from her. “I’m here baby. I’ll always be here.” 

     I don’t say anything else as Jessie and Hazel give us the room. I just hold her. That’s all I can do. That’s what she needs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Elizabeth McCall-Price over the past few months, it’s that most of the time she doesn’t need words. It’s actions. That’s her love language. And if that’s what she needs, I’ll make sure she gets that every day of the rest of our lives. 

     “I’m sorry,” I hear her say. I tip her chin up only to see a pair of sad eyes staring at me. 

     “What are you sorry for?” 

     “This,” she says as she makes a circle around her face. “The tears. The panic. Seeing me before the ceremony. I just…I don’t know.” 

     I do know, but I’m not going to make her say it out loud. She’s in a bridal suite in a wedding dress. It might not be the same place as she was on the day that her life got turned upside down, but it’s damn close enough. I asked her once if she was sure about this, wondering if it was going to trigger anything, and she was insistent she’d be fine. And I believe she thought she would be. 

     But that’s okay. Just one more dragon to battle before the rest of our lives begin. 

     “There’s nothing to be sorry for,” I say, rocking her in my lap. “We can do whatever you want. This is entirely your call. We can stay here all day if you want to. We can send everyone to the reception for a party and we’ll get there whenever we do. I’m sure Simon can entertain them.” 

     This makes her laugh as she sits up. “I want this. I really do. It was…it was the dress. I love this dress. I loved it in the store. I wanted to see your face as I walked down the aisle to you in it. I still do. But something about it today, turning around and seeing it, I don’t know, it hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting.” 

     “You know you could have worn a green and blue polka dot dress on stilts and I wouldn’t have cared.” 

This gets me a small smile. “I know. I wanted it for myself. I wanted a good memory associated with a wedding dress. I wanted to look back at pictures and see me in this, and you in your tuxedo, and have that perfect wedding memory. And…I wanted to give you the wedding you deserve. You’ve done so much for me, this is the least I can do for you.” 

     “Hey,” I say, taking her chin in my hand. “I don’t need a wedding. I don’t need all of this. I have everything I need. And that my lovely wife is you.” 

     I bring her in for a kiss that I think both of us need right now. As soon as our lips touch, I can feel her relax in my arms, which immediately puts me at ease. And I know right then and there, everything’s going to be okay. 

     “Okay,” she says as she pulls away. 

     “Okay what?” 

     Izzy takes a deep breath. “Okay. I’m ready.” 

     I nod and stand both of us up, keeping her hands in mine. “You take your time getting ready. If Simon won’t entertain them, I’m sure Magnoliahas numerous routines ready in her arsenal.” 

     She nods, and it’s at this moment that I actually get to see her in the dress. 

     Holy fuck she’s gorgeous. 

     I had wondered for years how I’d react when I saw my bride coming down the aisle. I figured I’d be the blubbering cryer. And hell, I still might be. Izzy walking toward me, flowers in hand, is probably going to send me over the edge. 

     But I’m glad I have this moment right here to appreciate the goddess that is my wife. To stare at her in all of her vulnerability and beauty knowing that she and I have a lifetime together. 

     I’m the luckiest man on the planet. 

     “Oliver?” 

     “Yeah?” 

     “Thank you,” she says. “Just…thank you.” 

     I bring both of her hands to my lips, slowly kissing each of them. “I should be thanking you.” 

     She tilts her head in confusion. “For what?” 

     I smile. “For being the one to say yes.”  

Thanks for reading Oliver & Izzy! Now, what's next? 

Next up in the Rolling Hills crew is Shane and Amelia in The One I Love, coming January 2024 (preorder now available). Shane has been in love with Amelia for years. So how do they end up fake engaged?

Just you wait...

Was this your first Rolling Hills book? Well then you need to make sure you go back and read Wes and Betsy's story in The One I Want! And yes, Magnolia has a major role in that story. Some can even say she was the match maker of her dad and the nanny. 

Speaking of match makers, did you know that Hazel from this book has her own story? Yup, you can read about her and Knox went from fake relationship to couple goals in Match Maker,

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