Candace and I exit Jimmy’s Pancakes and Burgers, into a crisp New York City October morning.
“I don’t know Jimmy, or why Jimmy loves Pancakes and Burgers, but he’s a brilliant chef,” I say.
“Somehow I doubt Jimmy is a chef,” she laughs, catching my arm. “And Jimmy wasn’t here today.”
“He created the recipes. He trained the staff. And after a breakfast of champions that includes waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, and egg whites—gotta be healthy—I’m not sure how you can insult Jimmy that way. He’s Top Chef material. This is going to be our new Saturday morning spot.”
I guide her onto the busy sidewalk, and there is no question my little sugar plum of a bride-to-be is looking delicious herself in an emerald green sweater, dress slacks, and a Burberry trenchcoat. I, on the other hand, am in the uniform of the gods: jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, at the sugar plum's request—a nice one at that without any dirty slogans on it—and boots. The leather jacket was her idea, as well.
We round a corner and Candace squeezes my arm, pointing at the imposing masterpiece of two towers ahead of us, which also happens to be our destination. And of course, the location of the meeting that had her changing her clothes over and over this morning. “There it is!” she proclaims. “It’s so incredibly gorgeous. I cannot believe Blake arranged for us to be married in St. Patrick’s cathedral. Well, if the priest approves our wedding. Today will tell all. But I mean, when we decided to move the wedding here, instead of Texas, I never dreamed this could happen. There’s a waitlist years long.” She laughs. “I’m rambling. I’m a little excited, if you didn’t notice. But coffee with the wedding coordinator went well, don’t you think?”
“I wasn’t there,” I remind her.
She laughs again. “Right. Nerves are getting the best of me. And today is what matters. You’ll be with me and we’ll talk to the powers that be for a final approval of the wedding. This is it. This is the real deal.”
She’s so damn excited. She’s dreamed of our special day for so long. And I don’t want to ruin it for her, but there’s a potential problem that’s punching at my mind, refusing to be ignored. A big-ass fucking problem. And yet, my baby girl is all but bouncing toward the steps leading up to the doors to the cathedral. The problem being the walk up, and I tell myself I can do this. One step. Two. My feet are lead, but I keep moving up.
We stop at the doors, and I turn to Candace, hands on her shoulders. “I don’t know about this, Candy, baby.”
She blinks. “What do you mean?”
“Come on. You know who I am. You know what I am. I’m marked for the devil. I’m not sure I can walk into that church.”
She smiles. “Don’t be silly. You’re not marked for the devil.”
“Candace,” I whisper, a plea for her to understand, to see the truth.
She wraps her arms around me and says, “God knows what’s in your heart. I know what’s in your heart.”
“You,” I say softly. “You are.”
“I love you, Rick. Let’s go talk to the priest and do the walk-through Friday night.”
“What if he—”
“Loves you as much as I do?”
I cup her head, thinking of all the people I’ve killed. “I think you love me too much. You’re blind.”
“You’re the one who is blind, Rick. You always think you’re the devil. And that almost tore us apart.”
I cup her head and lean in close. “I am the devil, baby. You just cut my wings.”
“Stop it,” she orders. “Rick Savage—”
My mouth slants over hers and I kiss her deeply, drink her in, my anger, my salvation, and when I come up for air, I hear, “Save that for the honeymoon, please.”
At the sound of a woman’s voice, I curse. “Fuck.”
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