Hustled To The Altar

By: Dani Collins

“I told you, I’m not fixated on marriage anymore. As long as we have fun—”

“Thinking I was going to lose you wasn’t fun.”

“You’re hurting my hand.”

He relaxed his grip and kissed her knuckle, but retained her hand. “I always saw marriage as the end of the game, when all the pieces got put back in the box. I like your vision of us as teammates, working around the board together.”

“Me, too.”

“We won a helluva game today, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yeah. Championship level, in my opinion.” The backs of her eyes prickled.

“I’m thinking we should recognize the moment.”

“I’m sure we could find a trophy shop in the morning.” Her mouth wanted to smile, but her lips were trembling.

“Or we could wear rings.”

“This is really hard for you, isn’t it?”

“You’re not making it easy.” They were squeezing each other’s hands again, hurting, but laughing too. “Are you going to quit torturing me with talk of bridge and canasta and tell me yes?” he asked.

“You want my answer before you ask the question? Not likely.” She gulped back happy tears.

“Okay, I’ll ask.” He straightened his leg so he could get something out of his pocket, then showed her the ring he’d bought that morning.

She held her breath.

He tilted so his forehead rested on hers. “You love me, right?”

“Would I be here if I didn’t? Of course I love you.”

“Thanks. I needed that.” He smiled, but still didn’t ask.

“I’m thinking Las Vegas,” she said in a voice that caught. “We could do it tonight, before you lose your nerve.”

“I’m not going to lose my nerve. Will you marry me?”

She could hardly speak, her mouth was smiling so wide. “I’m game.”

8:17 a.m., Saturday

Jacob walked into Mona’s kitchen and headed straight for the coffee he had smelled from the top of the stairs.

She already had one steaming beside her elbow. She was playing solitaire but folded the game and pushed the deck and cribbage board to the center of the table.

He sat opposite her and cut the deck, showed her the card. She did the same, won the deal and took the deck to shuffle.

“Did I hear the phone. Was it them?” he asked when the first traces of caffeine began activating his brain cells.

“They’re in Las Vegas.” She beamed. “Married. Con promised they’d be back this afternoon, so the reception is still on.”

It pleased Jacob that he’d pleased her. Mona Burke was the most generous person he’d ever met and even though he had fallen a little in love with Renny, he would die for this dear lady.

“You look like you could use more sleep,” she remarked.

He had collapsed on his bed in the wee hours after giving her the briefest of explanations. He wore yesterday’s clothes and hadn’t shaved. His feet were bare. “Not a good look for the first day of work, is it? I’m hired, right? They’re married, so I passed probation?”

“With honors.” She patted his hand. “And see how misplaced your concern was about Felix? I told you they wouldn’t be able to resist stopping him, and it wasn’t dangerous at all, was it?”

He thought about how hair-raising yesterday’s antics had been. No, he decided, he couldn’t worry her be being honest.

“Do you think they’ll be angry when they realize how much of a shill I was?” he asked through the fragrant steam of his coffee.

Mona dismissed his concern with a wave of her hand. “They both appreciate there are times when a little chicanery is the right thing to do.”


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