“What are you thinking? Weeks? Months?” He was wringing his hands, he was getting so excited.
“We’re at a hospital, aren’t we?” I said, shrugging. “There’s got to be a chaplain or a minister or someone who can make us official.”
That look of shock that had been on Jude’s face a few seconds ago? Yeah, it had nothing to do with the new one he had on right now.
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Giving his head a rough shake, he tried again. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
I knew I was crazy, and friends and family would hit the ceiling when they found out, but I’d blame it on the hormones and the way Jude’s eyes were looking at me now.
Life was about compromise. It was give and take, and with Jude and me, I’d been more take than give in our relationship. He’d given me everything and would do it all over again. It was my turn to step up to the give plate. Whether I married him today or ten years from now, I was marrying Jude Ryder. It was time for me to let go of my baseless fears and doubts and grab onto what was guaranteed: Jude.
“If it involves you and me saying ‘I do’ this afternoon, then yeah, I’m saying what you think I am.”
I’d never seen him beam the way he was now. “Just when I think I can’t possibly love you more . . .”
“I go and propose a shotgun wedding at a hospital chapel when I’m knocked up and wearing a T-shirt and plaid skirt?”
His smile stretched higher. “Exactly.” Then, before I knew what had happened, Jude had me in his arms and was rushing out the door.
When we hit the hall, he started running. The heads of nurses and doctors and patients were whipping around to take in the pair of us, laughing and sprinting our way to the chapel.
“We’re getting married!” Jude shouted in between his laugher. “Holy shit!”
Jude hadn’t set me down until we’d made it to the hospital’s chapel on the first floor. He dropped me off at the gift shop, giving me a nice long kiss that made my toes curl in my flats, before jogging off to find the minister. Or the pastor. Or the priest. Or whoever had the ability to marry us. We didn’t care.
I walked up to the gift shop counter, hoping they’d have something that would work as a temporary wedding ring until I could find a suitable one. My prayers were answered.
There were several brushed-titanium bands in the display case. Perfect. I asked the woman behind the counter if I could see one, and, after trying three of them on my finger to compare, I was fairly sure I’d found the one that would fit Jude.
It was a whopping thirty dollars, and after assuring the saleslady I didn’t need it gift-wrapped because it would be sliding onto a finger in hopefully less than ten minutes, I rushed to the chapel.
I scanned up and down the hall, but didn’t see Jude, so I shoved through the door and found who I’d been looking for.
Standing in front of an altar. There was a smile on his face that made me think things that could probably get me struck down by lightning for having them in a church. He’d tucked in his white undershirt, but that was as formal as the occasion got. I was no better. I hadn’t even made a stop in the women’s restroom to run a comb through my hair or dot on a bit of lip gloss.
That was part of the beauty of today. Part of the beauty of Jude and me. We came as we were, minus the frills and the fluff, accepting each other as-is.
“Hello, my beautiful, blushing bride,” Jude said, nodding his head behind him. “I wrangled us up a priest.” An elderly man wearing his white collar and a smile stood behind what looked to be more a podium than an altar. “And a witness.” He motioned to a middle-aged man sporting scrubs sitting in the front-row pew. “Did you find a ring?”
I held up my thumb, where the band dangled from it.
“All that’s left is a couple of signatures and ‘I do’s, then,” Jude said, inclining his head, encouraging me to walk up the aisle.
Throwing my shoulders back and putting on a dramatic face, I held an imaginary bouquet of flowers in front of me and started my left-together, right-together march down toward the man I was about to promise forever to.
“Baaa-bum-ba-bum,” Jude sang in a low voice, “Ba-bum-ba-bummm.”
Even at a slow walk, I was in front of him before he’d finished singing.
“Didn’t I tell you, Father Joe?” Jude said, fitting his hand against my cheek. “Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”
Father Joe’s warm smile grew. “I’d say you’re a very lucky young man.”
“Hell yes, I am . . .” Jude’s voice trailed off as he gave the priest a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”
Father Joe just chuckled and folded his hands in front of him. “Shall we get started?”
“Hel—” Jude caught himself this time. “You bet.”
“Thank you for marrying us,” I said. “I bet you don’t get too many shotgun weddings in a place like this.”
Father Joe leaned in like he was telling me a secret. “You’d be surprised.”
“This is your last chance to run away screaming, Luce,” Jude said, holding his hands out for mine.
I studied the door before turning to him. I grabbed his hands. “How about once we’re done here, we run away together?”
“Deal,” he answered, nodding his head at Father Joe.
“Mr. Ryder said he’d like to keep the vows brief,” Father Joe started.