Sempre redemption, p.77
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.77

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 77


  He led Haven into the church and they paused at the beginning of the aisle, giving her a moment to take it all in. Her vision blurred from dizziness, the sight before her overwhelming. The pews were packed full of people, some of whom she didn’t recognize, and they all stood up the moment they entered. She knew a lot of them weren’t there for her, the members of the organization and their families, but she didn’t mind. They came for Carmine, and out of respect for the man beside her.

  Haven glanced toward the front, her eyes falling upon Carmine. He stood frozen in spot, a look of wonder on his face. Haven lost the battle against her tears, a few streaming down her cheeks as they started down the aisle.

  Corrado let go of Haven when they reached the front, nodding at Carmine before making his way over to the front pew with Celia. The music stopped and the priest said a brief prayer, followed by a collective shuffling as everyone sat back down. Haven handed Tess her bouquet to hold as Carmine continued to stare at her, happiness radiating from him in waves. She scanned him quickly, something she always did when she saw him . . . always looking for injuries, making sure he remained intact, and she laughed when her eyes fell upon his feet.

  “Nike’s?” she whispered. “What happened to your shoes?”

  His smirk grew. “I forgot them. ”

  Her tears continued to fall. He quickly brushed a few of them away while the priest started addressing them. “Carmine and Haven, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”

  “Yes,” they said simultaneously.

  “Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”

  “Yes,” they said again, not even having to think about it.

  “This isn’t customary, but the bride and groom have asked to be able to speak and the church has happily agreed to grant their request. ”

  The priest glanced between Carmine and Haven curiously and she cleared her throat, trying to get the lump that was forming to disappear. “The first time you asked me to marry you was three years ago. You told me it didn’t have to be that day, or the next day, or even that year. You just wanted me to swear I would when I was ready. I said yes, of course, and I meant it with everything in me. We were young and maybe we were naïve, thinking we had it all figured out, but one thing I never doubted was that we were meant to be. ”

  Haven paused to wipe her cheeks as more tears spilled from her eyes. “When I first met you I wasn’t sure what to think. You were nothing like anyone I’d ever met before. The things you made me feel were scary, and I wanted nothing more than to stay away from you, but I couldn’t. I was drawn to you. You gave me hope. You believed in me and helped me, and most of all, you loved me. Me. Out of all the people in the world, you picked me. I was used to being overlooked, used to being invisible, but you saw me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you. I love you, Carmine Marcello DeMarco, and I want you to know I’m ready now. I’m ready to spend the rest of my life with you. ”

  “Sempre,” he whispered, choking on the word. He was trying to keep his composure, not wanting to crack in front of so many people.

  “Sempre. ” Haven meant it with every fiber of her being. He was hers forever.

  “I’m sure you remember our first encounter, the morning in the kitchen in North Carolina, and what a disaster it turned out to be,” Carmine said. “I didn’t expect anyone to be there. I dropped my orange juice and you started to clean it up, trying to help, and I, uh, well, you know what I did. ”

  Haven smiled sadly at the memory. He had been so angry back then . . . so broken. Carmine still had cracks in him, scars from where he had once shattered, but he was holding himself together now and that was what mattered.

  “What you don’t know, though, is that as we sat like idiots in that puddle of juice, all I could think about was how beautiful you were. How beautiful you are. You were scared and confused, and I know I wasn’t helping that, but underneath it all you were just beautiful, Haven. You had me the very first time I laid eyes on you. I remember thinking later that morning you were going to complicate my life. ” He paused as he laughed to himself. “And complicate it you did. Everything I knew, everything I believed . . . all of it went out the window. You turned me upside down and made me feel again. You saved my life, even though I didn’t realize it needed to be saved. I thought I was fine, that I didn’t need anyone else, but I was wrong, because I do. I need you. Christ, I—”

  Haven’s eyes widened as the priest inhaled sharply. Carmine stopped talking, realizing what he had just said. “Shit,” he spat instinctively, stammering. “This is a god—”

  Haven knew what he was going to say before the word slipped out and clamped her hand over his mouth before anyone else heard. He stared at her cautiously with panic in his eyes. Haven smiled softly, so he wouldn’t think she was upset, and he visibly relaxed. When she removed her hand, he leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. She kissed him back, parting her lips and softly moaning as his tongue came into contact with hers.

  “Not yet, man,” Dominic said, grabbing Carmine and pulling him away. “You’re getting ahead of yourself. ”

  The priest cleared his throat, and Carmine let out an exasperated sigh. “Sorry, Father. ”

  “Would you like to finish?” he asked.

  “Uh, no. ” Carmine shook his head. “I think I’ve said enough. ”

  “So since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and his Church,” the priest said, obviously wanting to get the service over with. Carmine grasped Haven’s hand, linking their fingers together and squeezing gently.

  “Carmine, do you take Haven to be your wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and honor her all the days of your life?”

  “I do. ”

  “Haven, do you take Carmine to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?”

  “I do. ”

  “You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined, men must not divide. ”

  They exchanged rings at his word and her hand shook as Carmine slipped the simple gold band on her finger, the one she knew belonged to his mother. She gazed at it, emotion overwhelming her when the priest declared them husband and wife.

  “Now you kiss,” Dominic said, nudging Carmine. Haven glanced up again and saw Carmine glare at his brother before focusing on her, his face lighting up with love. He grasped her chin gently and leaned forward, her eyes drifting closed as their lips came together.

  His kiss was sweet but there was passion behind it . . . passion she looked forward to feeling for the rest of her life.


  Just a few more. ”

  Carmine tried to stop squirming, but the suit was beginning to suffocate him. It felt like they had been standing there for hours as the photographer snapped picture after picture, posing them in every position imaginable in order to get a good shot. He did his best to keep his eyes focused on the camera, but his attention was drawn to the woman beside him.

  “Relax,” Haven said quietly, sensing his discomfort.

  “I’m trying,” he muttered.

  “Everyone smile!” the photographer shouted. Carmine smiled on demand, ready to get it over with, and he snapped off a few pictures in quick succession. “That’s a wrap. ”

  He exhaled in relief and loosened his tie. “That shit took forever. ”

  “It wasn’t that bad. ” Haven laughed. “It was only like twenty minutes. ”

  Carmine grabbed her hips and she yelped as he quickly pulled her to him. “You’re wrong, Haven DeMarco. It was that bad, because it was twenty minutes that I couldn’t do this. ”

He smashed his lips to hers, kissing her deeply, and Tess groaned. “I don’t want to see that. ”

  “Then stop fucking looking,” he spat, pulling away from Haven long enough to get the words out. He went right back to kissing her.

  “We’re heading inside,” Dominic said, patting Carmine on the back. “Don’t keep everyone waiting too long. ”

  They stood there for a while, continuing to kiss, as everyone else filtered into Luna Rossa for the reception. Eventually she pulled away from him, panting as she tried to catch her breath, her cheeks flushed. “Maybe we should go inside. ”

  “Fuck that,” he said, trailing kisses down her jaw line as he made his way to her neck. “Let’s leave. ”

  “We can’t leave, Carmine,” she said. “These people are here for us. ”

  “So?” he whispered. She laughed, pushing away from him, and he sighed. “Okay, you’re right. We need to go in. ”

  “See?” she said, grabbing his hand. “It’ll be fun. ”

  “Yeah, but I think we’d have a lot more fun if we were alone right now. ”

  “Maybe so,” she said. “There will be plenty of time for that later, though. ”

  “I sure as fuck hope so. ”

  She started to walk away, tugging on his arm, and he begrudgingly moved from his spot. They were met by loud applause the moment they stepped inside. Haven blushed and ducked her head, and Carmine chuckled as they walked down the path toward the head table that had been set up. She thanked everyone as they took their seats, waiting for the staff to bring out the food. Plates were set in front of them as someone came over with a green glass bottle and filled their glasses. Carmine nodded in greeting as he poured the bubbly liquid in his glass, picking it up and bringing it to his nose. He grimaced at the smell and Dominic laughed from his seat nearby, swirling his drink around in his glass.

  “Never thought I’d be at my little brother’s wedding drinking sparkling white grape juice,” he said, shaking his head.

  “We have white jasmine sparkling tea, too,” Haven chimed in. “And vignette wine country sodas. They look just like champagne but are alcohol free. ”

  Carmine sighed and set his glass down without taking a drink, not liking the turn the conversation was taking. It was an open bar for the guests—Corrado’s gift to them, he had said—but Carmine was still banned from drinking in the place.

  They stopped discussing it when everyone had their plates. Carmine picked up his fork and poked at the food, his stomach queasy. His palms were sweaty and he started shaking his leg under the table, feeling uncomfortable in his own skin.

  The compulsion to drink still lingered in Carmine. He craved the liquor, his body screaming for just a little taste to keep it satiated. He could practically feel the burn in his throat, needing a little of that warmth in his chest again for old times’ sake . . . just enough to keep the panic attack at bay.

  He knew that didn’t work from experience, though, because he had given in to it before. It begged for a tiny sip but that was never enough, because once he got it, he wouldn’t be able to stop. A sip turned into two, which turned into an entire bottle, which eventually led to waking up the next morning with a splitting headache, a very pissed off boss, and no recollection of what the fuck happened the night before.

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