Nanny for the Athletes
A Few Months Later
I was sitting in the second row, behind the other families, as soft violin music played. It was a beautiful June day, unseasonably pleasant compared to the past few scorching summers we’d had. Which was a good thing, since this wedding was taking place outside.
There weren’t bridesmaids and groomsmen up on the dais with the priest who was waiting, because this wasn’t your traditional wedding. There were two Best Men, one for each bride. Logan and Braden wore matching black tuxedos, with seafoam green pocket squares that matched their ties. Logan was staring straight ahead, as serious as he might be at a funeral, but Braden had a smile on his face that hadn’t disappeared since he walked up there. His gaze passed across mine, and he gave me a quick wink.
The music rose in volume, and everyone twisted to look back down the aisle. Claire’s flower girl dress was covered in ivory lace, with a pink ribbon tied around the waist and another in her hair. She took her job with the utmost seriousness, delivering a precise handful of flower petals onto the ground, stepping forward a measured amount, and then releasing another cluster of petals.
“She’s so pretty!” I whispered to Christian next to me.
“She knows it, too,” he whispered back. And he was right: Claire was eating up the attention, giving everyone she passed a bashful little smile. I blew her a kiss as she walked by me. When she reached the front, she stood in front of her father, who squeezed both of her shoulders lovingly.
The music swelled once more, and everyone stood up. Emily, Logan’s sister, came walking down the aisle first, by herself without anyone escorting her. Her dress was stunning; I loved the off-the-shoulder neckline, and it was covered with intricate lace details and delicate beadwork. The flowing A-line silhouette and subtle train accentuated all of Emily’s features, and drew gasps from others in the crowd.
But up at the dais, Braden was laughing to himself. He tried covering it up, but it was obvious to anyone not enamored by the sight of Emily. Logan shot him an annoyed look, so Braden jumped over to his side and whispered in his ear. The burly hockey player’s eyes widened, and I saw him mouth the words: “No way.”
What’s going on? I wondered. Emily must have been wondering the same thing, because she gave the two boys a confused look. Braden waved her off.
Everyone remained standing as Leslie appeared at the back of the ceremony, escorted by her father. For a brief moment I eyed the tall man, whose long blond hair was tied in a ponytail that ran down his back. I hadn’t met Braden’s or Christian’s parents yet, but that was going to change today. And I was nervous about it.
Laughter on the dais, this time from Emily, made me forget all about Braden’s dad. It was immediately obvious why she was laughing: because Leslie, her soon-to-be bride, was wearing the exact same dress as hers. Quite literally the same in every way, right down to the diagonal beadwork across the bust.
“I must admit,” the priest said when the ceremony began, “I’ve performed thousands of weddings in my life, but this is the first time the lovely couple has accidentally worn the same outfit to the ceremony!”
“We should have coordinated better!” Leslie said with a laugh.
The priest shook his head. “On the contrary, I think you two have coordinated perfectly. You truly are two halves of the same soul.”
That comment had many members of the crowd sniffling, myself included. Christian squeezed my hand tightly and didn’t let go for the rest of the ceremony.
When it came time for the rings to be presented, Braden’s dog Pickles appeared at the back of the aisle, guided by Suzie. He trotted up the aisle, lolling his tongue and wagging his tail at everyone he saw. There was a special box tied to his collar which contained both rings.
“Thank goodness he’s not wearing the same dress as you two!” the priest quipped.
Leslie and Emily exchanged vows. I spent the whole time dabbing tears away from my eyes while Christian held my hand. Weddings always got to me. It was just so beautiful watching two people agree to spend the rest of their lives together. It was an inherently hopeful act, requiring as much faith as it did love. Something about that always squeezed my soul.
“Did you see me?” Claire asked at the reception. “Did you? Did you?”
“I sure did!” I replied. “Didn’t you see me watching? I blew you a kiss!”
Claire rolled her eyes. “I didn’t have time to see that, Beth. I was busy. I had a job.”
“Oh, right,” I replied.
“You look like a million bucks,” Braden told me, leaning in to kiss me on the cheek. “I want you to know that I showed a tremendous amount of restraint by not squeezing your ass just now.”
“You truly are a hero,” I replied with a grin.
“Out of the way, second-best man,” Logan growled.
“Hey!” Braden shot back. “We’re both best men! Both of us!”
“If you say so.” Logan’s hungry eyes found mine, and he wrapped me in his arms. “I couldn’t stop looking at you during the ceremony.”
Then without warning, he dipped me. I had the sensation of falling, and was certain I would hit the ground, but Logan’s strong hands stopped me while I was nearly horizontal. He held me like that, his face inches away from mine, then kissed me.
“What’s gotten into you?” I asked.
“I’m swept up by wedding emotions,” he replied, grabbing my ass and giving it a squeeze.
“Hey!” Braden said. “I was just telling her that I showed restraint by not grabbing—”
“Your loss,” Logan interrupted.
I gazed around the wedding reception, which took place under a huge outdoor tent large enough to fit an army. I had sat with Christian during the ceremony, holding hands and sharing more than one kiss. And now, at the reception, I was being hugged, dipped, and kissed by Braden and Logan. Yet nobody seemed to notice, or even care.
It was nice.
The two brides arrived to the reception, drawing cheers and hoots from the crowd. Their first dance was emotional—both of them were bawling, and Leslie loudly complained that she didn’t want her makeup to run. Braden grabbed his pocket square and ran up to her, carefully dabbing the tears from he eyes while they continued dancing.
Food was served, and then it was time for speeches. Braden went first, taking the microphone from the DJ and looking out at all the guests with a broad smile. “When I look at Emily and Leslie, I think about all the best pairs throughout history. Because a true couple brings out the best in each other, allowing them to become something greater together than they are by themselves.”
“Wow, this is pretty deep for Braden,” Christian whispered to me.
“A lot of people told me that some pairings are unnatural,” Braden continued. “That they’re an abomination.”
Leslie and Emily shared a look. I was thinking the same thing: where is he going with this?
“But I disagree. Even two people who are complete opposites can be beautiful together. Which is why I am proud to announce a new partnership with Alpha Milk.”
I almost spit out my wine. “What?”
“Alpha Milk is a scientifically-developed sports recovery and entertainment drink,” Braden explained. “It has all the protein and carbohydrates you need after a tough day at the gym, while also containing ten percent alcohol by volume! Each of you, reach underneath your table and you’ll find a box of Alpha Milk. That’s yours! You get to take it home! Consider it a wedding favor.”
“We have wedding favors!” Leslie hissed at him.
“Yeah, but I bet they won’t get you drunk!” Braden pulled a plastic bottle of Alpha Milk out of his tuxedo pocket and popped the top. “Seriously, this stuff is better than champagne.”
Logan took him by the arm and began dragging him off the dance floor.
“Available this fall at all WalMart and Target locations!” Braden managed to say before having the microphone ripped away from him.
“Oh shit. There really is a box under here,” Christian said.
Leslie took the microphone. “That’s what I get for telling my brother that he could say whatever he wanted during his speech. Next up is the other best man, my wife’s brother and now my brother-in-law, Logan Landry!”
The guests clapped as he took the mic. Unlike Braden, he had a stack of notecards in his hand. He squinted underneath the overhead lights, and cleared his throat.
“I think he’s nervous,” I whispered to Christian.
“No way. He can’t be… can he?”
“The dictionary defines love as…” Logan began, stiff and unnatural. “It defines love as a strong feeling of warm personal attachment, or deep affection.” He cleared his throat again. “When I look at my sister and her wife, I know… I know…”
He abruptly tossed the cards aside.
“Emily and grew up alone,” he said in a more conversational tone. “We relied on each other, because that’s all we had. I loved her more than anything, and I knew she felt the same way.” His eyes found me in the crowd. “I never thought I could trust someone the way I trusted Emily. I grew up certain of that. Recently, I’ve discovered that I was wrong.” He held my gaze a moment longer, then turned to his sister. “The love you two have for each other is more powerful than any sibling love shared by me and Emily. It’s rare to find that. Don’t give it up without a fight.” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “And Leslie? If you break my sister’s heart, you’ll have to answer to me.”
“I’m not afraid of you!” Leslie replied warmly. “I’ve got my own brother to protect me.”
Braden barked a laugh. “You may not be afraid of Logan, but I sure as hell am!”
Everyone laughed, and Logan handed back the microphone. He joined me at our table, his eyes red and teary.
“I’m proud of you,” I whispered.
“For being more in touch with your sensitive side,” I replied.
He shrugged. “I’ve got a daughter, now. I need to show her what it means to be a real man.”
I smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
The cake was cut, and then everyone went onto the dance floor. I led Claire out there first, eager to get a dance in with her before Suzie took her and Pickles home early. Claire danced like any eight-year-old, bouncing up and down and waving her arms. She looked like she was pretending to drown, but she was concentrating very hard at it.
“You’re a good dancer,” I said.
“Thanks. I can give you some lessons. If you want.”
I laughed. “I might take you up on that.”
Suddenly I realized that a man was standing next to me. Braden’s father, with the blond ponytail. “May I cut in?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “But watch out. Claire has some moves!”
The man smiled. “I will certainly take a dance with the young lady at some point. But no, I was asking if I could dance with you, Beth.”
My stomach leaped up into my throat, and I swallowed it back down. “Of course. Claire, go dance with your dad.”
Claire sprinted off and tackled Logan from behind on the other side of the dance floor. He looked in my direction, then elbowed Braden. The blond football player’s mouth hung open when he saw me joining his father in a dance.
“I’m Beth Foster,” I said. “You’re the father of the bride, right?”
“I am indeed. Bill Carter.” He took my hand in his and placed his other hand on my hip, then began to lead. “Emily is such a wonderful young woman. This isn’t the wedding I expected to see her at when she was a little girl, of course, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I smiled. “That’s good to hear.”
“You’re dating my son.”
I missed a step, and almost fell on my face. Only Bill’s firm grip kept me on my feet.
“Braden and I have been dating,” I admitted.
“And yet you were sitting with Christian, and kissing Logan.”
I cleared my throat. It was suddenly very dry. “Yes. The four of us are… sort of in an unusual situation.”
Bill studied my face for several steps. I knew he didn’t approve. How could he? I just hoped whatever he was about to say didn’t cause a scene.
Abruptly, he hugged me. When he pulled away and we returned to dancing, there were tears flowing down his cheeks. “Thank you, Beth.”
“My son loves you. I can tell. He’s never been good at hiding his emotions, and he loves you more than the sunrise. My wife and I… we want what’s best for our children. We want to see them happy.”
“I hope I make Braden happy,” I said.
He beamed at me. “I can assure you: Braden is happier than we have ever seen him before. And not just because his sister is getting married tonight. He loves you, and I can tell you love him, and that’s all that matters. Take good care of him, Beth. I would consider it a great personal favor to me if you did.”
Tears were running down my cheeks now, but I made no move to wipe them away. I glanced over at Braden, who was dancing with Claire. “I promise, Mr. Clark. I promise I will.”