A/N: Hey all! Sorry about the wait. I’ve been apartment hunting, road tripping, and writing chapters that require a ridiculous amount of set-building, posing, and makeovers *face palm* On that note, prepare for some major picture spam, lol.
The song for this chapter is All I’ve Ever Needed by Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed. Since it’s essentially a duet, no color-coding this time. Also, the wedding vows and readings are not mine, but are adapted from other sources. As for the wedding venue, I recolored it and changed some of the decorations, but it was created by minasavenue on Tumblr—you can find it here. The nectary is by MeBella1 of the TS3 Exchange, which you can find here.
Lastly, this chapter is rated mature for some strong sexual content. If that makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to scroll past that scene, though apologies for any glimpses you might get of mature photos in the process.
Happy reading and hope to hear from you—comments fuel my inspiration! ❤
My bedsheets feel empty
When you’re not home
It was early in the morning, the sun’s light palely peeking in through the windows as if asking for permission to start the day. I stretched leisurely, my toes arching toward the foot of the bed and my fingers grazing the headboard behind me. Rolling over, I reached for Gabriel, fully planning to go right back to sleep nestled against his warmth, but all I came into contact with was empty air and cold blankets. I opened my eyes, my pulse increasing marginally. Where did he go?
Your heartbeat helps me sleep
Your breath soothes my soul
I laid very still and then realized I could faintly smell coffee and hear a soft tune playing from downstairs. Evidently, he’d already started his day. I hugged his pillow for a moment, still rather tired and hoping to fall back to sleep, but I found the pillow to be a distinctly unacceptable substitute for Gabriel’s arms and eventually slid out of bed.
Padding to the bathroom, I brushed my teeth and my hair before making my way down the stairs. The music was much more easily heard from here and I found myself pausing at the bottom of the steps as I watched Gabriel pour himself a cup of hot coffee.
The sight wasn’t exactly the most unusual in the world, but he was quietly singing along to the song and nodding a bit to the beat. How was it that he always sounded so lovely? I bit my lip, tilting my head and watching as he added a touch of milk to his drink and then blew on it softly before taking a sip. He continued to sing afterward, turning to sit at the table, but his eyes caught mine instead and when they did they brightened up like a brilliant summer day.
Baby, you’re all
“Good morning, beautiful. I didn’t wake you, did I?” he asked with a small smile, and I felt my heart melt as I absently twisted the sparkling engagement ring on my finger and shook my head. He looked so happy. He was so happy, and I…I helped make him happy.
It was one of those moments in a person’s life when everything abruptly and inexplicably makes sense. Like all the pieces fell together in exactly the right manner, and now instead of a jumble of blurry images, half-truths, and uncertainty, what lay spread out before you was the entire picture of your future—as crystal clear and certain as the arrival of dawn. I supposed the moment could have been called an epiphany of sorts.
Why I should have had an epiphany at that precise second in time I had no idea, but what I did know suddenly and without any doubt in my heart, was that somehow I made this incredible man before me happy and because of that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He wanted to live out our dreams together. He wanted to start a family with me. He loved me—with every fiber of his being he loved me—and I made him happy.
Baby, you’re all
“Are you okay?” Gabriel asked, the smile sliding from his lips and a crease of concern appearing between his brows.
I nodded, hastily reaching up to wipe my eyes of tears that I hadn’t even felt fall. My heart seemed to be beating unnaturally fast as a flurry of further certainties bombarded me all at once. I hadn’t exactly planned to bring this up now, but what better moment would ever exist that the one in which I felt so abruptly sure of everything going on in my life?
“I’ve been—been thinking about going off my birth control.”
“You….” He paused, the lines on his forehead becoming ever more pronounced as he set his coffee mug down on the table. “Wait, what?”
“I want a baby with you,” I said without hesitation, taking a few steps forward. “I’ve been thinking about it like crazy ever since that day in China and this seems like the perfect time. I mean, we’ve recently finished a tour so we’re not likely to start one again right away, and we’re slowing things down anyway what with the wedding planning and all, so what better time to start trying than now? And—and it’ll probably take a while for the birth control to wear off or whatever anyway, so we still have some time—potentially a lot of time depending on how easy or difficult it ends up being and—”
I took in a breath, my stomach fluttering as I concluded in a whisper, “I really, really want a baby with you.”
Gabriel’s face softened significantly. He seemed at a loss for words, for every time he opened his mouth to speak he closed it again until he ultimately averted his gaze, biting down hard on his lower lip. It was a gesture I’d rarely seen him do before. The music played on; an upbeat, cheerful tune.
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed
I took a few more steps further, coming to a stop right in front of him and reaching up to gingerly place my hand on his cheek. “Gabriel?”
His eyes met mine. “Are you…sure?” he asked, his voice sounding somewhat strained. “I don’t—I don’t want this to be because you feel rushed. I meant it when I said—”
“I’m sure,” I interrupted, a smile rising to my lips as an overwhelming happiness began to bubble up within my chest at this wonderful realization. “And I’m sure that I’m sure, and I’m sure that I’m sure that I’m sure!”
Gabriel laughed—just a little; a small, nervous sound. Oh, love….
“I want a baby with you,” I repeated firmly. “And if it turns out you want to wait longer after all I’m willing to do so, but personally I’d…I’d really like to start trying now. I mean, the wedding is only four months away anyway so even if by some miraculous chance it happens right away, I still wouldn’t really be showing by then so—so it all works out.”
I took his hands in mine, gripping them tightly as I continued, “Plus, I’ve realized that the majority of my fears about this are either one, completely normal for anyone contemplating having their first child, or two, completely mitigated by the fact that I obviously won’t be alone in this. I’ll have you by my side, and I love you, and there’s absolutely no one else that I would rather do this with. I mean I—I’ve given this a lot of thought!”
“I can see that,” he said with another short laugh, though this time not quite as nervous.
I beamed up at him, practically bouncing on the balls of my feet. “So can we start trying? Is that—I mean—would that be okay with you?”
Gabriel bowed his head, his eyes falling shut and his nose brushing mine. “Yes,” he answered quietly, a small smile gracing his lips. “Absolutely, 100% yes.”
You’re all I’ve ever needed
* * * * *
I love you more than I knew
I could ever love someone
Our wedding took place in the senescence of summer, when the hot hazy days begin to be infused with the first soothing wisps of autumn. The sky was a cloudless, cornflower blue and the sun cast a pale citrine glow on us all.
“Well, I think I’ve outdone myself, kid—you look fantastic!” Mom proudly announced as she took a step back to admire her work.
“Very beautiful,” Gemma confirmed.
“EEEEE, yes you’re just gorgeous!” Sammy added with a high-pitched squeal, excitedly hopping in place. “Oh, I can’t wait to see the look on Gabriel’s face when he sees you!”
I smiled nervously as I studied my reflection in the mirror, unable to deny that I did feel very pretty. My stepmother had done a wonderful job.
“Come on,” Mom said, clapping her hands together once, “we should get out there.”
Sammy and Gemma nodded and the two headed out. I stood up too, but Mom had me stop and stand in place in order to examine my dress for the umpteenth time, smoothing away invisible wrinkles with slightly shaking hands. “It all looks perfect,” I assured her. “Thank you.”
She brushed away the thanks, but then briefly bit her lip as she looked at me through sparkling brown eyes. “God, Jo….I still remember your tiny hands reaching out for me to pick you up. This is crazy,” she said with a laugh. I bit my lip too, afraid to say anything in response because I was sure that if I did I’d start crying.
Mom put her hands on my shoulders, squeezing them firmly and giving me a serious look. “Now, you probably have, and will continue to hear, all kinds of advice today, but I’m going to give you my two cents anyway: Don’t ever give up.”
“Marriage isn’t easy,” she continued fluidly. “It isn’t this sudden, magical happily ever after. I mean…we grow up with this idea that you find the one you love and then that’s it—you’re head over heels in love with them for the rest of your lives together, but it isn’t exactly like that. The truth of the matter is that there will be times when you wonder how your body could possibly ever contain the overwhelming love you have for the person by your side, and there will be times when you’ll wish that you’d never even met them.”
“So you’ve got to work for it—together. You’ve got to communicate and you’ve got to take efforts to keep your relationship strong. There’s a reason that they call it a commitment. It doesn’t just mean you’re only going to be with this person—it also means that you will do everything in your power to keep your connection alive. Now sometimes it doesn’t work out, but at least even then you’ll know that you did everything that you could.”
Mom let go my shoulders then, gently sweeping my long hair behind them. “That probably sounds a little scary,” she acceded with a nervous chuckle, “but it’s not. Not really because…because every second of it is worth it….or at least, it has been for me.”
My heart warmed with this statement, a smile spreading across my face, but my mind was at an utter loss for words until I finally managed to convey the one feeling that I was sure of: “I love you.”
Mom reached up to carefully wipe away my tears. “I love you too,” she said, and then laughed when I reached out to carefully dry hers too.
* * * * *
And got it all so deep
I can barely even breathe
One thousand manic butterflies took flight in my stomach when the wedding procession started, which was rather problematic seeing as I was at the end of the line. To try and steady my nerves I clung to my father’s arm so tightly that I was sure he would soon no longer be able to feel it. I wanted to say something to him and I could tell that he wanted to say something too, but we were both so overwhelmed and anxious that our tongues seemed glued to the roofs of our mouths.
I couldn’t see anyone near the front of the procession, but I knew that Candice, as my stepmother, was at the head and that she had already walked out holding a lighted candle in her hands that was to symbolize my mother, Maddie Cinders. Both she and Dad were certain that she was among us today in spirit and I agreed with them, hoping that she was proud of me.
After Candice would be Dante and Ryan as Gabriel’s groomsmen and Best Man, followed by Gabriel himself with his grandmother Camilla. Even though I couldn’t see them, I knew that they were also holding candles: one for Gabriel’s mother, Christiana Marie Peters; and one for Gabriel’s father, Jonathan Roman Peters.
The farthest people ahead I could see were Gemma (my Maid of Honor) and Sammy (a fellow bridesmaid). Behind them and in front of my dad and I were my little brother Thomas, who was our ring bearer, and my youngest cousin Meagan (daughter to my aunt Kira and Uncle Nolan). They were both bouncing in anticipation, Meagan scowling at Thomas in irritation when he almost made her drop her basket of flower petals.
The procession continued to move, and I began to fear that there was a serious risk of me fainting.
“You’re shaking,” my dad finally said in a hushed voice.
“I thought that was you,” I whispered back.
We glanced at one another and then suppressed tiny laughs, realizing that more than likely, it was both of us.
Dad looked over at me again then, his comfortingly familiar face taking on an expression of disbelief. “God….I still remember bringing you home from the hospital.”
“Oh no, not you too!” I despaired, tugging at his sleeve, for I knew that if he started I was going to be a bawling mess.
He laughed and then reached up to adjust his glasses. “I’m serious, Jo. I remember it like it was yesterday because I made a promise to you that day that even though I was a complete f—, well, that even though I was way too young to be a father, I was going to do everything in my power to look after you and make sure you were happy. Today is…difficult to process because I realize that now, I’ll be sharing that promise with someone else.”
“That being said,” Dad added as tears streamed freely down my face, “I couldn’t have asked for someone better to share that promise with. I trust Gabriel and well…even though I get the feeling that he doesn’t really see it himself, he’s a good man.”
“Yes he is,” I whispered in agreement, and suddenly it was like the manic butterflies had settled down to sleep and in their places blossomed only overwhelming gratitude and happiness.
Our progression up the procession rounded the corner and together, my father and I came into view and began our walk up the aisle.
If I need a shelter from the storm
Baby, you’re all
Baby, you’re all
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed
It’s funny that so many hours go into perfecting every miniscule detail in a wedding because as I walked down that flower-strewn aisle, I barely noticed any of it. I didn’t notice the carefully designed seating arrangement. I didn’t notice the painstakingly selected color scheme or the dozens of flowers or the archway or any of it—all I noticed was Gabriel, and how amazingly handsome he looked and how much his features softened when he first caught sight of me, and how incredibly and insanely in love I was with him.
We could have walked for minutes, maybe hours, I wasn’t sure, but eventually we came to the end of the aisle and the music quieted. Our officiant, Richard Abate, an ordained friend of Gabriel’s grandparents, stepped forward and then held out his hands in front of him.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses to join Joanne Madeline Winters and Gabriel John Peters in matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all; and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. Into this these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
A silence fell upon us all and the officiant smiled before continuing, “Marriage is in itself a blessing, but doubly blessed is the couple who comes to the marriage altar with the approval and love of their families and friends. Who has the honor of presenting this woman to be married to this man?”
“On behalf of her loving family and friends,” my father stated, “I do.”
Dad and I turned to face one another and then he pulled me in for a hug. I hugged him back, burying my face briefly in his neck. He smelled like honey, soap, and the books he so loved to write; just as he always did. My throat tightened badly as he moved to kiss my cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I whispered, and kissed his cheek as well before my father stepped back to place my hand in Gabriel’s.
“Take care of each other,” he murmured, and then joined the others, leaving me with eyes welled up anew with hot tears, but also all-consuming joy as Gabriel and I met one another’s gazes.
We exchanged giddy smiles and then turned to face the officiant as he continued with the opening readings, but like so many of the other carefully chosen details, I found myself hardly aware of the words that were spoken and highly aware of the man standing beside me and the unnaturally rapid beating of my heart.
Baby, you’re all
“Now, please turn to face one another and join hands to express your vows of love and devotion each to the other.”
Gabriel and I turned, our hands and eyes finding one another’s as the manic butterflies in my stomach began to stretch their many wings.
Baby, you’re all
“I, Gabriel John Peters, take you, Joanne Madeline Winters, to be my wife and my partner in life. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles that we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both…for as…for as long as we both shall live,” he finished with a slight wince at his stumble.
I gave his hands a brief squeeze of reassurance.
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed
“I, Joanne Madeline Winters, take you, Gabriel John Peters, to be my husband and my partner in life. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles that we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”
“The word of God tells us what love is like and what love does: Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous. Love does not brag and is not arrogant. It does not act unbecomingly. It does not seek its own, it is not provoked, and it does not take into account a wrong suffered. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, for love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things, but above all, love never fails.”
“Having this kind of love in your hearts for one another, you have chosen to exchange rings as the sign and seal of the promises you are making to one another today. Let them be the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible bond which already unites your two hearts in love.”
Every promise I made
Has led us up to this day
“I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. As a ring has no end, neither shall my love for you. I choose you to be my wife this day and forevermore.”
Please, remember my love
When you’ve forgotten your way
“I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. As a ring has no end, neither shall my love for you. I choose you to be my husband this day and forevermore.”
“Joanne and Gabriel, you have come here today before us and have expressed your desire to become husband and wife. You have shown your love and affection by joining hands, and have made promises of faith and devotion, each to the other, and have sealed these promises by the giving and the receiving of the rings. Therefore, it is my privilege that I now pronounce you, husband and wife.”
“You may now kiss the bride!”
Gabriel moved to kiss me with passion and fervor, my knees nearly giving out as I clung to him and kissed him back…and kissed him and kissed him, while the crowd laughed and cheered, and tears of utmost happiness still managed to escape my tightly shut eyes.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you for the first time Mr. and Mrs. Winters!”
Mr. and Mrs. Winters.
The new titles felt strange to me, stranger still because instead of me taking Gabriel’s name as I had been fully prepared to do, he had quietly requested to take mine, stating that “Mrs. Peters” had thus far been an unlucky appellation. I’d argued against that falsity, but his firm and candid response (“If you want to take my name, I won’t deny of you that, but to be honest I would sooner not change our names at all than have that done”) had me agreeing that he could take mine, for I didn’t want it to become a confusing issue later when we had children, and because I rather liked being a Winters anyway.
After much more cheering and tears, we led the recessional out to the wedding reception (which was hosted at the same venue, just on the other side) where there were drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music, and countless photographs taken, which might have been tiring had I not felt as if I were dancing on clouds.
Once the pictures were taken we all gathered together for a formal dinner, where I barely even had the chance to try much of anything as everyone kept coming up to congratulate us or shout for us to kiss. Ryan did this so many times that when he opened his mouth the seventh time Gabriel stuffed a biscuit into it, causing us all to double over with laughter.
Despite this, Ryan’s toast soon after was truly heartfelt. Well…up until the end of it when he slipped an ice cube down Gabriel’s back, causing him to yelp and fall right out of his chair. Dante helped him back up while Ryan, fearing swift and severe retaliation, fled.
To my surprise Gemma gave a toast then too. She was oddly subdued in her speech, but her words were very kind and I couldn’t help but stand and hug her tightly afterward, grateful that even though she didn’t have to write one, she had taken the time to do so anyway.
And this ache in my heart
Makes me want to stand tall
When the meal came to an end we gathered around the dance floor where Gabriel and I had our first dance as husband and wife. I kissed him so many times that my cheeks began to hurt, although that also could have been because I couldn’t stop smiling.
Following this, I danced with my father while Gabriel carefully took his grandmother out onto the dance floor. Grandma Camilla hadn’t stopped crying since the ceremony ended, and I felt a rush of affection for my new husband when I noticed him comforting her and drying her tears.
When everyone else started dancing I went back to Gabriel and his grandmother, who kissed my cheek and pulled me into a tight hug as she murmured into my ear, “Thank God for you.”
Aside from the moment when I officially became Gabriel’s wife, the dancing was probably my favorite part of the wedding, for everyone looked so joyous and carefree….
Dad reduced Mom to an uncharacteristic puddle of giggles when he unexpectedly dip-kissed her in the middle of the dance floor…..
Augustus happily danced with his new boyfriend, Patrick, who was really very shy, but seemed kind and was undeniably smitten with my brother….
Meagan and Thomas boogied on down and made all of us laugh as they tried their best to outdo the other….
Tobias dragged Gemma onto the dance floor, insisting that just because they were single did not mean they couldn’t join in on the fun too….
Sammy agreed to dance with a rather insistent Dante….
….and Ryan danced with a pretty woman named Shanta McCloud whom he’d met in Bridgeport and seemed to be getting along with quite well.
This had actually surprised me because I’d originally thought that Ryan liked Sammy, but evidently, as Gabriel had to explain to me, it had all been a risky scheme Ryan had concocted to get Dante to step up and pursue Sammy himself.
Apparently, Dante had liked Samantha since they were kids, but instead of “manning up” and telling her, he’d taken to frequently teasing her instead, which was not exactly the best way to win a woman’s heart. In fact, Sammy was frequently irritated by Dante from what I’d seen, but perhaps he was really trying now because since he had asked her to dance, the smile on her face hadn’t faded even once.
When we weren’t dancing, Gabriel and I visited with as many of our guests as we could: my Aunt Kira and Uncle Nolan; Aunt Amelia, Dad’s youngest sister who had recently returned from an extended trip through China; my cousin Ruth (who was five months pregnant!) and her husband Dereck Redwood; Uncle’s Mitch and Chris (who weren’t actually my uncles, but Mom and Dad’s best friends since high school); Spectra Weiss who’d been good friends with Gabriel and Ryan while they worked at Valencia Records and her husband of only a few months, Saul Wood, who oddly enough was a very distant cousin; and lots of fellow colleagues at Freezer Bunny Music who had also been invited to join us in our happiness.
I let them take me down
What if this isn’t my fault
Then there was the cake cutting; lots of champagne (which I knew I was able to drink because I’d taken a pregnancy test before the wedding just in case and it’d been disappointingly negative); more dancing, including with each of my three brothers; more greetings and quick conversations; the bouquet toss (a displeased Gemma caught it, or rather, it flew directly at her head and if she hadn’t, it would have smacked her in the face); the garter toss (Dante caught it….HMM) and then even more dancing, this time finally with Gabriel again…my new, incredible husband.
At the end of the evening everyone was ushered together to see Gabriel and I make our “grand exit” from the reception and into our awaiting limousine, during which there was much cheering and tossing of flower petals and, thanks to Sammy, Dante, and Ryan, loads of guitar picks.
Tell me it’s not my fault
It was, without a doubt, the best wedding that anyone could ever ask for, but as we realized as soon as we returned home and were barely able to get up the stairs, it was also the most tiring.
On that note: To any newly wedded couple that actually has enough energy to have sex on their wedding night, serious kudos, because as tired as were and with the prospect of a 6 AM flight to Monte Vista, Italy for our honeymoon looming over our heads, Gabriel and I gave each other one look, and then, still in our wedding attire, promptly and blissfully passed out on our bed.
Tell me it’s not my fault
* * * * *
Monte Vista was an old, Tuscan city located right on the Mediterranean coast. Like many other cities within the Tuscany region of central Italy, it was known for its high culture, being able to trace its roots back to the birth of the Renaissance itself.
It was also where Gabriel’s mother’s family was originally from, his grandmother Camilla having been brought to Bridgeport when she was only 6 years old. Unfortunately, since her parents were firm believers in full assimilation into their new culture, she didn’t know much of the language and hadn’t been able to pass it down to either her daughter, or Gabriel, though he apparently did know random phrases like greetings and how to ask for directions.
Still, he’d never been and since we’d been able to visit China, we figured it was only fitting that we visit Italy as well. Plus, from the pictures we saw online Monte Vista looked amazing, and so it was that we booked flights there for our honeymoon.
The pictures did not do the city justice.
With its rolling hills, expansive growths of cypress trees, Renaissance-style architecture, and the deeply rich blues of the Mediterranean Sea not even a mile away, it was like something straight out of a glorious fairy tale.
The city center itself was even surrounded by a massive stone wall, and within this enclosure were miles and miles of closely winding streets, upon which were dozens of cafes and tiny shops of all sorts.
Unsurprisingly, we found that the hotel in which we were staying (Palazzo Verona) was also completely gorgeous. An abandoned 16th century palace turned into a premiere hotel after it was in danger of being demolished, the building was a prime example of the Renaissance-style architecture resplendent in the city and as such, was home to sprawling gardens; countless paintings, tapestries, and sculptures; and even a fountain that could be viewed from our suite.
“There’s a legit olive tree out here,” Gabriel remarked in wonder once he heard me step out of the bathroom, his forehead pressed against the mullioned glass. “I’ve never actually seen one in real life before, have y—oh fuck, Joanne,” he suddenly breathed, for he’d finally turned his head to look over at me.
Baby, you’re all
I blushed deeply, feeling every inch of my skin heat up at hearing this reaction.
“So you like it?” I asked with a tentative smile, nervously adjusting the lace garter belt that held up my stockings.
Baby, you’re all
By means of answering, Gabriel closed the space between us and caught me in such a passionate kiss that it made me feel as though I’d just spontaneously combusted. As such, I couldn’t quite prevent the moan that escaped me, especially as Gabriel entwined one hand in the long tendrils of my hair, the other gripping my cinched-in waist before roving downward to my ass. I slipped my hands beneath his shirt, running my fingers along his abdomen and then around to his back to pull him even closer. His skin was hot to the touch. I felt dizzy with pleasure as Gabriel trailed heated kisses along my jaw and down my neck, sucking at the pulse point there and causing me to gasp.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” I uttered breathlessly. Gabriel smirked, and I let out a hum of contentment as he moved to kiss the tops of my breasts. Although I had guessed that he would like the lingerie that Gemma helped me pick out, I hadn’t quite expected a reaction like this. It made me feel so incredibly…sexy.
I tugged upward on Gabriel’s shirt and he took a half-step back so that I could remove it. Once it was cast aside I pushed him backward onto the bed. We kicked off our shoes and he made to grab me, but I pinned him onto his back, straddling his waist and leaning down to catch his lips in a feverish kiss. He let out a rare, soft groan at this, his hands finding my thighs and running up their length before lightly snapping one of the garter belts and causing me to jump.
“Sorry,” he hastened to say, but I only laughed and replied, “Don’t be,” for though it had surprised me it had also sent a delicious shiver racing up my spine.
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed
I kissed him again, my tongue gaining access to his mouth as I shifted downward some, purposefully brushing against him and earning another quiet moan. Feeling encouraged, I slid my tongue to his neck, kissing and nipping the sensitive skin there and slinking steadily downward as my lips made their way to his chest and then his navel, licking the exposed skin just above his waistline. Gabriel’s breathing increased and as I glanced up at him I could see that he had his head tilted back against the pillows, his eyes shut and his lips slightly parted. The sight made the already obvious ache between my thighs even worse.
I impatiently undid the button of his jeans, though with his help carefully pulled them down along with his boxers and socks. When I crawled back up the length of his long, lithe body to kiss his full lips again, I decided without any doubt that my husband was the sexiest man I’d ever seen and as such, I was the luckiest woman in the world.
His calloused hands found their way to my hips, sliding down the lace some to touch the skin there. I bit my lip, desperately wanting more, and I knew that I could get it when Gabriel moved to try and flip us, but I placed my hands on his chest instead, blocking his attempts to do so.
He raised an eyebrow at me and I responded by shifting downward again, pressing my lips to his chest. I left behind a path of nips, licks, and kisses as I crawled backward, wondering if he would be louder if I—
Baby, you’re all
Gabriel’s hips moved toward me and his hands reached out to entangle themselves within my hair, but I grabbed his forearms, pinning them down on either side of him and relishing his taste; the sounds of his barely suppressed groans; and the fact that I was the one who could make him feel this way.
When I thought that I might have really been getting the hang of it, Gabriel abruptly gasped out, “Oh fuck Joanne, come here!” and I released him with a touch of fear, worried that I’d done something wrong.
As soon as I crawled up toward him though he pulled me against him and brought his mouth down to mine in an incendiary kiss. I kissed him back hard as his hands once again found their way down to my hips, only this time he pulled down the lace and panties, slowly backing up as he removed my stockings from my legs. I was simply burning when his lips found mine again, for not a second after this he slipped two fingers within me, both of us letting out a moan once he did. I suddenly found myself as desperate to further this as he was, if not even more, especially since these moments had become far too rare in the stress of planning the wedding and keeping up with the band. I leaned into him, my breaths coming out in short pants.
“God Jo,” he whispered, and then cruelly removed his fingers as he reached behind me to remove my corset. I despaired at the loss, though heard Gabriel give a sigh of relief when he discovered that it was a zipper fastening me in and not tightly wound strings. He undid it quickly, tossing the garment aside and then grazing my nipples with his thumbs. My subsequent moan was muffled by another feverish kiss. Unable to take it anymore, I placed my palms on Gabriel’s chest and pushed him onto his back once more.
Baby, you’re all
He looked up at me questioningly until I determinedly straddled him. “Oh,” he said softly, and then a louder, totally different kind of “Oh” fell from both of our lips as I sheathed him between my thighs. Oh, so many ohs; his hands gripping my thighs as I began to rock my hips. My moans became more frequent as I leaned forward a little, arching my back and steadying myself with one hand on his chest and the other over the hand that he now had firmly on my hip. Oh, nothing like—oh, that crescendo. Gabriel pushed up into me as I circled my hips and I gasped as little sparks began to ignite all along my body. Oh, and then—oh—
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed
The shout that escaped me when I lost it was one hundred percent unavoidable as one hundred thousand lights and colors overwhelmed me all at once, but I barely had time to recover before Gabriel wrapped his arm around me and finally succeeded in flipping us over. I gasped as he made love to me, my legs wrapped around his waist. Oh and there was that crescendo again because gods he knew what he was doing.
I held onto him tightly as I brought my hips up toward his. He grasped my thigh, his pace becoming ever more purposeful, and then there was infinite starlight and another cry from my lips as Gabriel pushed into me hard and lost himself right along with me.
We held each other for what felt like a very long time, panting and trembling as we waited for our senses to return to us.
When they finally did Gabriel fell onto the pillow by our side and I went to lay my head on his chest, still feeling as though I were floating. He looked down at me and I tilted my head up to gently kiss him.
“I love you so much,” I whispered, because even though that was obvious I still felt like the words were aching to be spoken.
“I love you too—so very much.”
We both closed our eyes, drifting between hazy wakefulness and sleep. “You know,” I said softly, a small smirk rising to my lips, “I think I love Italy too.”
Gabriel gave me the funniest look, causing me to burst out laughing, and then I moved atop him, taking his face in my hands and kissing him….
….and kissing him…and kissing him…until we once again felt those embers ignite and I thought to myself: Yes, I love Italy so.
You’re all I’ve ever needed
* * * * *
The necessity of food was eventually what lured us out of our hotel room, our stomachs growling angrily at having been neglected for so long.
“I’m so hungry,” I groaned, clinging to Gabriel and exaggeratedly dragging my feet as we walked. “Like if I were a video game character, my hunger meter would be flashing red and I’d be yelling at my idiot controller to feed me RIGHT NOW.”
“If you were a video game character, you could satisfy your hunger by drinking a juice box,” Gabriel pointed out.
“Yeah that’s…just not going to fly,” I said, feeling appalled, and Gabriel laughed. The sound of it brought a smile to my lips.
“Come on,” he said, giving my shoulder a brief squeeze, “there’s a pizzeria up ahead. Let’s try that.”
Authentic Italian pizza contrasted greatly from the pizza at home: it was made to order; cooked in a wood oven, and had a very thin, crispy crust. Although the ingredients were very similar, the taste was quite different. It had me feeling like I wasn’t actually eating pizza at all, which was silly because obviously Italian pizzas were the original kind. That being said, Gabriel and I both loved it and agreed that this would not be the last time we ate it before we had to return home.
After eating so much pizza that I was now complaining that I was overly stuffed, Gabriel and I did some sightseeing; walking leisurely along the winding streets, snapping photos, and simply enjoying the time we had together in such a beautiful place. When it got dark, we unhurriedly made our way back to the hotel, watching as the city became illuminated by the golden glow of dozens of streetlamps.
Once we’d returned we took full advantage of the ornate tub in our bathroom: filling it up with warm water, scented oils, and bubbles; lighting candles; and then sinking into its soothing depths where I made Gabriel laugh by playing with the bubbles, softly blowing them into the air (“Be free!) or designing little “hats” for ourselves.
That is, until we became interested in other pursuits; our lips finding each other’s and our hands learning just how wondrously different one another could feel when made slippery by soap and our rising passions…..
While Gabriel and I became undeniably familiar with our hotel room, we also managed to become more acquainted with the city: spending a day at the local summer festival, where we ate handmade gelato, danced to Italian folk music, and watched dazzling fireworks; and visiting loads more major landmarks, the sight of which I hoped would remain permanently etched in my mind even if we did have the photos with which to remember them.
When it got particularly warm, we stole the opportunity to take a bus to the coast where we waded into the waters of the gorgeous Mediterranean, enjoying the feeling of the hot sun on our backs and the salty taste of the breeze coming off the sea.
I love you more than I knew
I could ever love someone
On the fifth morning of our honeymoon I woke up particularly excited because we were going on a day long, horseback riding tour through the Monte Vista countryside, where we’d be riding to an old vineyard and winery before heading back on another trail that cut through red poppy fields and forests of ancient cypress trees.
Thus, we woke up early and had a quick breakfast before taking a short train ride out to the stables, where we met fellow tour-goers and were paired up with horses. I had never ridden before and neither had Gabriel, but the horses were specially trained to work well with beginner riders and of course, the entire tour would be guided.
“It looks like it wants to eat me,” Gabriel said matter-of-factly, giving the chestnut mare he’d been paired up with a look of deep suspicion. The horse flicked its ears back, somehow looking appropriately offended by this accusation.
“They’re herbivores,” I said with a giggle, reaching out to pat my own horse—an energetic, ebony mare named Notte, Italian for “Night.”
His horse, Noce (Walnut), nickered softly and rubbed her head against his shoulder, her long pink tongue coming out to try and lick him. Gabriel leaned away from it in alarm.
“Awww, look, she likes you.”
“She’s trying to sample me—seeing if I’m worth the kill,” he argued. For a moment I thought he was serious, but then I took note of the fact that he was pressing his lips together, trying not to laugh.
“Dork,” I muttered, and Gabriel grinned as he finally reached out to pat his horse on its muzzle. Noce, evidently seeing a window of opportunity, took that instance to successfully lick his head, causing Gabriel to let out a small shout and duck. A tuft of his hair stuck straight up in the air.
I burst out into laughter, Notte even taking interest and looking curiously at them. “Now you have a cow-lick…or rather, a horse-lick!” I exclaimed, and then laughed even more as Gabriel scowled and tried (unsuccessfully) to smooth his hair back down.
The head tour guide, who introduced herself as Gianna Baldi, gathered us up then to give us an informational briefing, which she gave in both Italian and English. During it she taught us general do’s and don’ts and, on her own palomino mare, demonstrated how to properly mount our horses, how to hold the reins, how to get them to speed up or slow down, how to get them to turn, and so on. She also stressed though that for the most part, our horses would fall in line as they were well-trained and quite familiar with the route.
After checking for questions and answering a few, she instructed us to go ahead and get on our horses while she and a couple other tour guides circulated and provided assistance to anyone who needed it.
Gabriel helped me onto my horse first, though I honestly didn’t have too much trouble with it. The most difficult part was simply that the horse was so tall. Once I was safely seated and grabbing up the reins like we’d been instructed, Gabriel mounted his horse. We waited while the tour guides ensured that everyone was holding their reins correctly and felt comfortable, and then they hopped onto their own horses, gave them a firm kick, and set off.
I had a little trouble getting my horse to walk at first as I was afraid that I would hurt it, but my light tapping on its flank with the heel of my sneaker probably felt like no more than a fly landing on it, so I finally sucked it up and prayed that my horse wouldn’t attack me as I too gave it a firm kick. I yelped in surprise as Notte immediately started walking, failing completely when I grabbed the horn of the saddle, which we had just been told not to do.
“You okay?” Gabriel asked, awkwardly guiding his horse to walk up alongside mine.
“Yeah,” I breathed, and then slowly let go of the horn as I took up the reins instead.
I still felt rather unsettled, but the longer that nothing terrible happened, the more I began to relax, until I felt a little silly for having been frightened in the first place.
Giana took the lead as we set off down the road, while two other guides rode in the middle of the group or followed up in the far rear. Each of them occasionally provided interesting facts about the area that we were journeying through and generally made sure that no one strayed off the path.
The sun was wonderfully warm as we rode, the air suffused with the sweet scent of pears from miles of orchards on either side of us. I took in a deep breath as we rode past their rows, wishing I could leap off my horse and pluck one right off the tree.
As the pace we took was unhurried, it gave Gabriel and I plenty of time to admire the rich greens and yellows of the rolling hills; gaze out at the aquamarine expanse of the Mediterranean sea when it came into view; and to listen to the sounds of birds chirping, the muted clopping of our horse’s hooves against the well-worn path, and the occasional laugh or comment spoken in Italian by other couples or families on the tour with us.
After about an hour, the guides stopped and we hopped off our horses to walk amongst sprawling acres of grape vineyards and then go on a guided-tour of the Monte Vista nectary.
There, we were able to sample some of the fine wines they produced, as well as buy bottles of our own and neat little souvenirs which they sold in their gift shop. It was a little gimmicky, but they had some pretty handcrafted items too, so I couldn’t help but make a few purchases for both myself and my family back home.
Since the nectary had a small café too, we were given an hour of free time in which we could choose to eat, or continue exploring the expansive nectary grounds. As we were both hungry, Gabriel and I opted for a bite to eat, ordering a light, yummy “lunch” of salami, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and marinated olives served with focaccia bread before we set off once again to begin our return journey.
Baby, you’re all
The sky was cast into soft shades of rose and peach as the sun began its evening descent. A chilly breeze blew in from off the sea and in the distance little lights appeared like fireflies as the city prepared for the darkness of the night.
It was all very beautiful and extraordinarily peaceful….
…..that is, until about forty minutes into the trek, when the calm was abruptly and violently broken by Notte letting out a panicked whinny, evidently spooked by something unseen as she bolted forward like a gunshot.
It caught me so off guard that I tightened my grip on the reins a second too late and they slid out of hands as I was bounced right off my horse and onto the ground. I landed so hard the breath got knocked out of me and for a moment I didn’t even realize what had happened until Gabriel, having apparently jumped off his own horse, was suddenly at my side, frantically asking if I was okay and looking so pale that I stupidly found myself asking if he was okay.
“What? Yes, I’m fine! Jesus, Jo you were the one thrown off a fuckin’ horse!” he snapped, and it was only then that I heard the terrified note in his voice.
Having dismounted as well, Gianna hurried over to us, her brow knitted with concern. “Stai bene? Sei ferito? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” she asked, her words lightly accented. “I am sorry. I do not know what happened. Notte is usually one of our best. Are you able to stand?”
“Yes, I—I think so,” I replied, wincing as I attempted to do so. Gabriel’s hand was instantly at my arm to help me. I looked over at him, still feeling more alarmed at the expression on his face than by my own situation. Yes, my lower back hurt some, but this seemed fairly normal seeing as I’d just fallen on my ass. “I’m okay,” I said, more to him than to our concerned guide.
“Are you sure? Are you able to walk?” Giana pressed, sweeping her bangs out of her eyes.
I nodded and took a few experimental steps, Gabriel still steadying me.
There was a slew of further questions then and a brief scramble as the other guide went to fetch Notte, but I was hardly aware of any of it. Gabriel had finally let me go, but he seemed to be shaking, a fact that he was trying to cover up by hunching his shoulders and shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Hey….I’m okay,” I repeated truthfully, for the pain was already beginning to fade. “It’s okay.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything else, not even when Noce came over and nuzzled him, though he did eventually reach out to pat her.
Our journey back was silent and tense. The other guide had managed to coax Notte back over and calm her, but to be safe Gianna decided to switch horses, riding Notte herself and helping me onto hers, named Adalina.
Gabriel stayed close beside me the entire time, which his horse seemed to think was pretty fun as she occasionally tried to rub up against mine before the older mare would put space between them again, seeming to be trying to model professionalism for the younger horse. This all I noticed because it honestly scared me too much to see the look on Gabriel’s face, so I’d kept my gaze on the horses instead of him. It was like he wasn’t there even though he was riding right beside me.
When we arrived our guides again apologized and asked if I was all right, but I insisted I was and then we got on the bus back into town—another journey that was absolutely silent. I felt like crying and very nearly did, but Gabriel blessedly spoke once we were within the walls of the main city.
“Do you want to get something to eat, or do some more sightseeing?”
Baby, you’re all
It was such a simple question, but I was so relieved to hear him speak at all that I threw my arms around him and hugged him tightly. “I’m sorry,” I said desperately. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I don’t know what happened, but I’m fine, I promise—just a little bruised. I’m sorry I scared you.”
“It’s not your fault,” he mumbled. “I’m fine.” Still, his arms came to wrap around me and we held each other for a long time, not paying attention to anyone else around, or the fact that we might have looked a little odd standing on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house and hugging.
“Jesus,” he finally said, pulling away and ruffling up his hair.
I looked at him for a moment, biting my lip, and then said, “Let’s get something to eat.”
Gabriel nodded and we set off in search for some food, finding a restaurant that we hadn’t yet tried.
There, as the evening grew older, my husband appeared to relax once again, but still I couldn’t quite get the look on his face out of my head. It made me endlessly grateful that I hadn’t been hurt—not for my sake…but for Gabriel’s.
Over the next few days Gabriel seemed fine, albeit a little more watchful, and together we explored museums, ate more delicious food, walked through botanical gardens, spent many a passionate night in our suite, went dancing, and even attended an opera playing in the local theatre.
In this way, the incident was forgotten, and once again we found ourselves swept up in the beauty and wonder of Monte Vista.
For the last full day of our honeymoon we took a trip down to the waterfront where we snapped dozens more photos, took a tour of the breathtaking cathedral, explored the colorful shops, ate carbonara on a water-side terrace, and went on a long gondola ride through the canals, during which I marveled at the fact that every instant I thought that I couldn’t possibly be happier, I was swiftly proven entirely wrong….
……and I had never been more overjoyed to be so.
On the flight home Gabriel fell asleep curled up against the window, his fingers loosely interlaced with mine as I rested my head on his shoulder. I was tired too, but I couldn’t quite manage to fall asleep, instead replaying the perfect memories I had of our beautiful wedding and our equally as beautiful honeymoon. It was like everything that I could have ever dreamed of, but never actually expected to get, and yet, here they were—all these wonderful memories that I shared with the perfect man fast asleep by my side.
I looked forward to creating more memories with him…And I hoped that someday soon, we’d be holding a little baby in our arms who could share them with us too.
Baby, you’re all I’ve ever needed