For Raven, tying a cravat usually took less thought than triggering the set-spell that lit a light globe. Why, then, could he not get the damned scrap of white silk to cooperate?
Maybe it was because his hands were shaking.
“Here, best let me do that.” Mick’s Aussie-accented voice was steady and patient. “This might be my only chance. Knowing my other boys, they’re liable to opt for a trip to the courthouse followed by a barbecue.”
Mick’s other ‘boys’, his biological sons, stood off to one side, fidgeting with their unaccustomed ties.
Raven hadn’t expected to be this nervous. In truth, he hadn’t expected to be nervous at all. He’d stood against both dark mages and Guardians in battle and brought down William himself. This was a small, assembled crowd of their closest friends, his and Cassandra’s. Powerful mages, many of them, and people he respected, but no one he feared.
And it wasn’t that he doubted his decision to marry. Certainly, he didn’t doubt his love for Cassandra, nor hers for him. He still had moments when he wondered why any sane woman would want to wed him, but if a woman like Cassandra would take him, he’d be a fool to question his good fortune.
His stomach hadn’t churned like this before his first duel. But then, he was good at magic. He wasn’t sure he’d be as good at marriage. Certainly he’d made his share of relationship blunders along the way.
“You’ll do fine,” Mick assured him.
“Are you talking about the ceremony, or the marriage?”
“Both.” Mick said.
“What if I mess this up?” He heard the uncharacteristic panic in his own words. “I can’t bear the thought that I might hurt her. Again.”
“You will,” Mick said.
The betrayal of those words lanced through his soul, but before he could pull away, Mick grabbed his shoulder and gave a steadying squeeze. “And she will hurt you. Again. Without meaning to, and probably more than once. And you’ll apologize, and she’ll apologize, and you’ll both figure out a way to move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again. At least not in the same way.”
Raven forced a little laugh. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
Mick smiled. “I am.”
“But. . .” He thought of a piano in a house on a ranch in Australia, a piano still kept in tune in the memory of a woman who died of cancer years before.
“Do you think the boy’s mother and I didn’t fight? That whole thing about artistic temper, it’s not just a myth. And Zack, he got his mouth and his stubbornness from me.”
Raven smiled, remembering just how annoying the Aussie Guardian could be. If Zack had lived, probably he would have been Raven’s best man instead of Mick. Or maybe he’d have been the one marrying Cassandra.
He shook his head to clear it. He was old enough to know the futility of worrying about what might have been.
“You don’t need to be perfect,” Mick said. “You can’t be. You just need to remember always that you love each other, and never lose sight of that.”
Just then, he saw Cassandra enter the ballroom they’d rented for the ceremony. They’d both vetoed the idea and the symbolism of the white dress as both outdated and irrelevant to their lives. She stood resplendent in a deep gold silk, and smiled at him. His breath caught in his throat.
If Mick was right, they’d be just fine. Because he couldn’t imagine ever, even for one moment, forgetting that he loved this woman.
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