There Goes the Groom
Left at the Altar, Book 2
by Jana Richards
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60174-159-2
[ Contemporary Romance ]
Eight years ago Tony left Olivia at the altar, certain she didn’t want to marry him. Now he’s back, and still in love with her, but she’s engaged to someone else. Olivia knows her fiancé is wrong for her, but she won’t hurt him. Will Tony abandon her again?
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She was going to faint. Or throw up. Or trip over her dress. Perhaps all three, possibly at the same time.
Olivia Taylor’s legs trembled as she walked up the aisle of the church on her father’s arm, a smile frozen on her face. Was she out of her mind? She was barely twenty years old. What did she know about marriage?
Olivia amended that thought. In the past few weeks she’d learned more about marriage than she cared to know. She stole a glance at her father, so tall and distinguished, his smile confident and relaxed, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. She shuddered, her limbs shaking with anger. How could he act as if nothing had happened? How could he pretend nothing had changed?
Everything had changed.
Tony stood at the altar looking handsome in his rented tux. Her heart lightened. Her beautiful, wonderful fiancé. She loved Tony DiPietro with all her heart. He was smart, funny, kind, and his touch sent her hormones into overdrive. Tony was everything a potential husband should be.
But do I want to marry him?
Her bouquet quivered in her hand. Where had that thought come from? Of course she wanted to marry Tony. She loved him and she knew he loved her.
But is love enough?
She wanted to scream at the little voice in her head to shut up. She forced her smile to shine a little brighter.
Olivia and her father reached the front of the church and her father handed her over to Tony. His hands were cold and clammy, and she noticed a bead of sweat on his brow. He managed a smile for her and she beamed back at him. Her mother’s voice played in her brain. “Nobody needs to know your world is falling apart.” Olivia felt her smile dim a little.
The minister began the marriage liturgy in a loud monotone, droning on about loving and obeying, forever and ever, Amen. Soon they came to the part where the vows were to be exchanged. They faced each other while the minister recited the vows. Tony repeated the words.
“I, Anthony James DiPietro, take you, Olivia Jane Taylor, to be my lawful wedded wife, from this day forward, till death do us part.”
The impact of those words hit Olivia. They were promising to love each other for the rest of their lives. How could anyone make a promise like that? How could she possibly know at twenty how she would feel at forty?
She swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment, thrusting the thought from her mind. All she knew was that she loved Tony. They’d have to figure out this marriage thing as they went along.
Like my parents figured it out?
Something inside her snapped, like an elastic band reaching its breaking point.
What if Tony and I don’t make it?
The minister continued the liturgy. “Olivia, repeat after me, ‘I, Olivia Jane Taylor–“
“I can’t marry you.”
She stared at Tony, stunned by his words.
“What do you mean you can’t marry me?” she whispered. The idea that Tony didn’t want to marry her stung her pride and wounded her heart.
He shook his head, his eyes full of misery. “I can’t.”
The minister looked from Tony to Olivia, while his round face turned an alarming shade of red. He mopped his brow with the sleeve of his vestments.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “Are you certain about this?”
Olivia looked into Tony’s dark eyes. She saw sadness there, but also conviction.
“Yes,” he said.
For a moment the church remained deathly quiet, and then the guests suddenly exploded in a cacophony of excited voices and shouts. The organist took the noise as her cue to begin playing ‘O Promise Me’.
“Are you out of your mind?” Nick, Tony’s brother and best man, cuffed Tony on the shoulder. “You can’t just walk out of your own wedding!”
Tony’s sister Daniella hitched up her bridesmaid dress with one hand and smacked her brother Nick in the chest with her bouquet. “Leave him alone, Nicky.”
Nick and Dani began a spirited argument to which his other four brothers, their wives and Olivia’s three other bridesmaids eagerly and loudly entered. The minister put up his hands and raised his voice in an attempt to quell the dispute, but was soundly ignored.
She heard the sound of Tony’s mother’s sobs, and the acrimony of her parents’ quiet quarrel, but Olivia felt strangely disconnected from the melee surrounding her. She and Tony faced each other in the eye of the storm.
“I’m sorry, Liv,” he said. “You deserve so much more than I can give you. I’m sorry, it just won’t work.”
Panic rose in her throat. “Don’t do this, please.”
“I know you’re not happy. I just want you to be happy.”
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, his lips soft and warm on her skin.
“Take care of yourself.” His voice caught on a sob and he swallowed. “Be happy, sweetheart.”
With a final squeeze of her hand he turned and walked out of the church.
While the arguments raged around her, Olivia stood motionless, unable to process exactly what had just happened. Had Tony really told her he didn’t want to marry her?
Her first reaction was intense sadness, followed closely by anger. How dare he humiliate her like this? How dare he tell her he loved her, only to abandon her?
On the heels of that thought came profound relief. It made her lightheaded, almost giddy. She didn’t have to get married today.
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