alexis morgan



Alexis Morgan
© 2024.

alexis morgan

"Uh, oh. Grab your food and head for the car. Make it quick."

What had her mother sounding so panicky? Abby had just helped the very pregnant Bridey get comfortable at a nearby picnic table and had serious doubts that Bridey could move anywhere quickly. She frowned back over her shoulder to see what was going on. It was hard to tell. At the moment her mom and Tripp's were standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking the view of whatever had them both riled up.

Ignoring her mother's peremptory order, Abby sat down next to Bridey and began unpacking the grease-stained paper bag that held her burger and fries. Bridey did the same, sighing with satisfaction when she popped a fry into her mouth.

Meanwhile, her mother was hollering at them again. "Come on, ladies. Get a move on. They're here, and we can't all be in the same place."

If the woman thought any of that made sense, she was sadly mistaken. Rather than ask for clarification, Abby decided to enjoy her meal.

"Abigail McCree, didn't you hear me?"

Oh, brother. Seriously? Abby hadn't heard that degree of aggravation in her mother's voice since she was a teenager. Yeah, those were the days. The memory had her responding just has she had back in the day. "Yes, Mother. I heard you."

By that point, her mother was standing at the end of the picnic table, hand on her hips, and glaring at both Abby and Bridey. "The men just pulled into the parking lot. If they're here, we need to leave. It's bad luck for you and Tripp to be together today."

Abby fought the urge to pound her head on the table. "Seriously? You really believe in that old superstition?"

"Even if you don't, it's still a tradition."

The woman wasn't going to give an inch, but Abby made one last ditch effort to change her mind. "We were here first. Go tell them to leave."

If nothing else, it would buy her and Bridey more time to finish their lunch in peace. Sadly, the plan failed completely. Instead of confronting the men, her mom grabbed the sack off the table and stuffed Abby's lunch back inside.

"Up and moving, ladies. Quick like a bunny."

"Sorry, but I'm too pregnant to move fast." Bridey gave both mothers her best grumpy look and made an unsuccessful attempt to keep them from absconding with her food, too. Surrendering to the inevitable, she finished the last fry she'd managed to grab.

Abby circled around the table to help Bridey up. "I'm so sorry. I don't know what's got into them. I'm pretty sure both moms were at least semi-sane before Tripp and I decided to get married."

Bridey managed a small laugh. "At least by planning a wedding this fast limits how long they can drive you crazy. Just imagine if you'd set a date a year out."

Okay, that was a scary thought. It also brought back some ugly memories. "My ex-husband and I got engaged eighteen months before we got married. We only spent the last six months planning the wedding, but I'd almost forgotten how weird it all got. You wouldn't have believed all the drama."

They'd reached the car. Her mom already had the motor running, obviously prepared to make a quick getaway. Their plan almost succeeded. Almost.

She was still helping Bridey into the car when a familiar voice spoke from right behind her. "Hey, ladies. Where are you off to in such a hurry?"

Abby turned to face Gil. "My mom is afraid that it will jinx everything if I talk to Tripp or even see him before the ceremony tonight."

She kept her eyes focused directly on Gil, doing her best not to give into the urge to run straight toward Tripp. Meanwhile, her favorite biker buddy was laughing. "Seriously? You buy into that idea?"

"No, but evidently both moms do. I don't know when they lost their minds, but I don't want to spend the rest of the afternoon being lectured on the importance of honoring traditions."

"Okay, I'll go reassure Tripp that you haven't changed your mind and aren't going on the lam with the two moms and a pregnant lady."

She shuddered at the very idea. "Thanks for that a scary thought."

At that point, her mom started revving the engine. Gil ignored the loud hint that it was time for him to get lost. "Seriously, Abby. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"A hug would be nice."

He gathered her in close and held her long enough to offer comfort but not so long as to upset Tripp. Stepping back, he tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear. "You'll get through this, and I have every confidence you and soldier boy back there will be happy together."

Her eyes teared up. "Thanks, Gil. I'm so glad we're friends."

"Me, too." Then he dropped his voice to a whisper. "You know the guys and I offered to provide escort from your house to the park. The moms want to nix the idea, but it's your wedding. We'll be there if you want us to be."

She shot a dark look back toward the two women in the front seat. "It is our wedding. Tripp and I want all of our friends to celebrate it with us. I'm honored that you'd do this for us."

Gil looked decidedly happier. "Well, my burger is getting cold, so I'll head back over to tell the guys what's going on. Get some rest this afternoon if you can. You have a lot of names on your dance card tonight."

She gave into the impulse to kiss him on the cheek. "This is going to be fun."

Then she got into the backseat, closed the door and then her eyes. "For the record, Mom, I'm going to be very unhappy if my burger and fries are cold or if my shake melted."

A bag came flying at her from the front seat. "Eat it now while you can. When we get home, you can take an hour nap, and then it will be time to get ready."

Abby took a bite of her burger and sighed. It was barely warm, but she ate it anyway. She was going to need every ounce of energy she could muster to get through the hours ahead.


Tripp studied his image in the hotel mirror and frowned. "Maybe I should have gone with the tux instead of my uniform."

Gage moved up to stand next to him. "If you'd done that, I'd look like an idiot for wearing mine, not to mention everyone else in the veterans group. From what I've heard, we'll have members representing every decade from the fifties on up to the present, especially since a couple of your active duty buddies were able to fly here despite the short notice."

That so many people were put in so much effort to make this day special for him and Abby meant a lot. "Did you hear that Gil, his brother, and the rest of their crew really are providing escort for Abby to the park?"

His father joined the conversation, his expression confused. "About that—I'm actually surprised Abby accepted their offer, especially since the moms didn't approve."

When both Tripp and Gage cracked up laughing, he asked, "What?"

Gage regained control first, so he answered. "First and foremost, Abby is fiercely loyal to the people she cares about. She understands that Gil and the others are acknowledging her as one of their own. There was no way she would hurt their feelings by rejecting their offer."

That was true. Abby was loyal to the core, one of the many reasons Tripp loved her. One of her greatest strengths was how she always accepted people as they were, warts and all. Although she hadn't grown up in Snowberry Creek, she had quickly developed deep connections in the community across a broad spectrum of friends: elderly ladies, bikers, the pastor, local law enforcement, politicians, veterans, and him, a former soldier who still needed to prowl in the night when the memories became too much.

Pastor Jack joined them. After nodding at the other two men, he smiled at Tripp. "So, how are you holding up?"

"So far, so good. Gage convinced me wearing my uniform was the right choice. My mom and Phoebe warded off any bad luck by whisking Abby away from Gary's Drive-in when a bunch of us guys happened to stop there for lunch, too." Then he pointed out the window. "And the rain has stopped."

Jack laughed. "All good things. Any questions about how the service is going to go?"

"Nope. I've memorized the cheat sheet you gave me. Zeke is going stand beside me, and Gage promised he'd catch me if I faint."

It occurred to him to ask. "Does anyone know if Abby's dad was able to make it? I've never met the man, so I wouldn't recognize him."

Jake didn't look happy. "No, he didn't. Something about him and his wife already having nonrefundable tickets for some trip they were going on. Abby didn't seem all that surprised or even disappointed. In fact, she'd already asked Owen to fill in since he's engaged to her mom. He's both thrilled and surprised that she'd offer him that honor."

"Abby considers him family."

Tripp knew he wasn't the only one who was glad that Owen was willing to step up to bat and escort Abby down the aisle. She'd known it was only a remote chance that her father would come, but Tripp had hoped the man would make an effort to be there for his daughter at least this once. The two of them weren't particularly close, but still. If he ever did meet the man…well, now wasn't the time to be thinking about his future father-in-law.

In fact, it was time to head for the park. They'd arrive earlier than really necessary, but he wanted one last chance to make sure everything was in place.

"Everybody ready to go?"

Without waiting for them to answer, he led the charge out of the hotel room. In a little over two hours he'd be a married man. He couldn't wait.