Ben smiled across at Viki, George repeating the same with Jessica, Joe with Clarisse, as they all stood up as witnesses for Eric and Stephanie. The air was perfect around them, a light breeze gently ruffling the ladies’ dresses and hair, mesmerizing their respective men.
Tattoo looked from one couple to the next and rolled his eyes. He’d never seen so many people completely gone on each other in one place with so many things in common. Handing the rings to the appropriate person when prompted, he sighed. Weddings were usually something he enjoyed, but this one was just more mush than he could handle.
Roarke nodded at Eric, signaling him to speak. As he listened to the heartfelt words, he smiled in satisfaction. It wasn’t often that he got to help so many couples at one time, and never had any of them been quite like these.
Stephanie sniffed, laughing slightly when Eric reached up to wipe at her tears. “I’ve always loved you, from the moment I caught you looking at me at that party,” she whispered as she slipped his ring on his finger. “This time,”
“This time is for keeps.” Eric finished for her as he kissed the back of her hand.
Stephanie nodded. “Keeps,” she whispered, tears once again on her cheeks as Roarke pronounced them man and wife. Her eyes closed when Eric leaned toward her, touching his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.
Everyone gathered around the couple to offer their congratulations. Each lady took their turn hugging Stephanie and kissing Eric’s cheek. The men shook Eric’s hand and kissed Stephanie’s cheek.
“You’re beautiful, Stephanie.” Viki told her friend. “An Eric Forrester Original.”
“Of course.” Stephanie smiled as she brushed her hand over the gauzy material of her dress.
“You came prepared.” Ben laughed as he looked at Eric. “See? I’m not the only one.”
Stephanie frowned. “What?”
Viki laughed and patted Ben’s cheek. “He’s a romantic, and I’m guessing the men found that out.”
“Yeah.” Ben nodded. “Told them about waking up on Valentine’s Day,” he whispered as he looked down at Viki.
Viki’s eyes watered as she stared up at Ben. “Did you tell them what Valentine’s Day means to us?”
Wiping at a tear that rolled down her cheek, Ben shook his head. “No.”
Viki turned to look at their friends, a soft smile on her face. “We fell in love on Valentine’s Day in a blizzard that trapped me where Ben was working at the time.”
George shook his head. “So that’s why you woke up on Valentine’s Day.”
Ben shrugged. “Maybe it was.”
Eric clasped Stephanie’s hand and smiled at her then looked at their friends. “I suppose it’s the lady that makes us romantic.”
Ben nodded. “That’s what I always tried to tell my brothers and my friends when they’d rag on me about being ridiculously romantic. I was never a romantic before Blondie.”
Clarisse blinked. She felt that. “No wonder,” she murmured.
“What?” Joe asked.
Jessica nodded, knowing that Clarisse meant – she’d felt it too. “Now I understand why you like to hear him call you that,” she whispered, looking at Viki.
George frowned. “What?”
Ben was even confused and looked at Eric who wore the same confused look. “Don’t ask me. I don’t know this one.”
Stephanie laughed and agreed with the other ladies. “It’s the same as Eric calling me Sweet girl.”
Eric smiled, finally understanding. “The ladies must have discussed our nicknames for them. You just called Viki by your nickname for her,” he explained.
Ben shrugged. “It’s all I knew when we first met. She wouldn’t tell me her name.”
Stephanie laughed, “I think we need to hear more of the story. We know how everyone met but the two of you.”
“Well, they can tell us over dinner. Mr. Roarke has prepared a special wedding celebration for us.”
Stephanie kissed his cheek. “And are we going to honeymoon here?”
“I thought we might. It’s beautiful here and somewhere we’ve never been before.”
“Well then Ben and I will be seeing you more.”
Stephanie looked at Viki, an eyebrow arched. “You aren’t going home? Surely Ben’s family will want to know he’s alive.”
“They will. We’ve asked Mr. Roarke to send for Ben’s mother and ask her to bring his brother. The oldest brother,” Viki shook her head. “That wouldn’t be a good idea. He’s never cared for Ben.”
“And Sammy is gone.” Ben whispered.
“Yes, Darling, he’s gone.” Viki soothed, caressing his arm.
“Sammy?” Clarisse asked.
“Ben was adopted. Sam was his brother from the Davidson family. Renee is Ben’s mother, his other brothers are half brothers. One of which is one of my exes.”
“Oh.” Clarisse murmured.
“I know. Crazy and mixed up. My kids were a little confused at first. Was Ben, uncle? Was he, step-dad?”
“We settled on forgetting all of that. No way do I want to be called Uncle Ben.”
Everyone laughed at that, the ladies shaking their heads. No wonder Viki was so in love with the man.
Stephanie sat with her head on Eric’s shoulder, watching his fingers moving along the piano keys, their friends dancing to the soft sounds of the song he was playing. “You always know the right song to play,” she whispered.
Eric pressed a kiss to her head. “This is as much for all of them as it is us. Look at them, Sweet girl. Watch how they move together. It’s just like us.”
Stephanie watched their friends dancing. “You’re right. We have always moved wonderfully on the dance floor.”
“Even when we weren’t very happy with each other, we always danced like that.” Eric pressed another kiss to her head. “That should have told me something.”
“You’re here, you love me, it’s all that matters.”
“I’ve always loved you, Sweet girl.”
Viki smiled as Ben turned them so that she could see Eric and Stephanie. “We didn’t think things would turn out well for Stephanie.”
“Eric wasn’t sure, either. He’s hurt her a lot in their years together.”
“Yes, he has, but she’s always loved him.” Viki snuggled closer to Ben when he twirled them around. “I think she was abused, Ben.”
“What makes you say that, Blondie?”
“She said that Eric had given her something she’d never had, safety.”
Ben squeezed Viki, pressing a kiss to her head. “I think you’re right. Seems Mr. Roarke knew more than we thought.”
“Because of my abuse,” she whispered.
“Yes, Blondie. You can be a great help to her if she needs it.” Ben caressed her cheek.
Jessica smiled as she and George moved passed Ben and Viki. “It’s wonderful,” she whispered.
“What is, Jessie?” George asked.
“Them,” she answered as she nodded toward Ben and Viki.
George looked at the younger couple then looked down at the woman in his arms. “You wish it were you,” he murmured.
Jessica blinked up at him and shook her head. “At one time, yes, I would have, but not now. I’m happy right where I am.”
Caressing a curl behind her ear, George leaned down and gently kissed her soft lips. “I love you, Jessie.”
“Mmm.” Jessica hummed then winked. “That’s very good because I love you.”
Pulling her closer, George moved them around the dance floor. “Did you know Eric could play the piano?”
Jessica shook her head. “No clue. Stephanie only told us that he sings,” she answered just as the swirled passed Joe and Clarisse.
Clarisse sighed as she settled closer to Joe. “This is nice.”
“It’s wonderful not having to worry about how close we’re dancing.” Joe whispered as he kissed her cheek. “I love being able to kiss you.”
Turning her head, Clarisse caught his lips with hers. “Oh yes,” she murmured then settled her head on his shoulder. “Do you think we can really be together at home?”
“I do, if it’s what you want.”
“After our time here, I couldn’t go back to the way it was before.”
“I couldn’t either, Clarisse. Making love to you, holding you, kissing you – I’m addicted.”
Clarisse laughed, “You make me sound like a drug.”
“You are. A very lovely drug.” Joe kissed her nose, winking at her when she gently pinched his arm.
Roarke watched the couples as they stopped dancing and moved back to their table, laughing and happy as they drank their champagne and ate the meal he’d provided. He’d known the couples would all be great friends to one another.
“Another happy ending, Boss?” Tattoo asked as he looked up at Roarke.
“A happy beginning, my dear friend. A happy beginning.”