Rival Page 74

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Jared followed with Tate in his car, and Madoc and I led the way in his. Sovereign’s Pub was on the north side of Chicago, between the Clerk’s Office where we’d come from and Northwestern. We parked in the rear, and I led the way into the bar, knowing exactly where to go.

Sitting in a back room that could be closed off with red velvet curtains, I saw Father McCaffrey sitting at a round table with three buddies. Two of them priests like himself and one old-timer in a leather jacket.

“Father, hi,” I greeted, my hand still in Madoc’s.

He pulled his pint away from his lips and looked at me wide-eyed. “Fallon, dear. What are you doing here?”

He had a strong Irish accent even though he’d lived in this country for more than twenty years. I think he worked hard to maintain the accent. Not only did his parishioners love it, but I knew he helped my father with business and having the accent helped when dealing with Irish clients. And since he’d baptized me, I knew him well. He had graying dark-blond hair, light blue eyes, and a bit of a beer belly. Other than that he was in good shape. His freckles made him look younger than he was. Dressed in his black pants and dress shirt, he also wore an emerald green sweater vest that allowed his clerical collar to be visible.

“Father, this is Madoc Caruthers. My . . . fiancé.” Madoc and I exchanged sideways glances and smiled.

In one respect it felt strange to say “fiancé” when I’d never even called Madoc my boyfriend.

“What?” Father McCaffrey’s jaw hung open.

Right away my heart started to sink. He was going to put up a fight.

“Father, I know this is unusual—”

“Father.” Madoc stepped forward, interrupting. “We’d like to get married. Can you handle that for us or not?”

Way to sweet-talk him, dude.

“When?” Father asked.

“Now.” Madoc tipped his chin down like an adult speaking to a child. “Right here, right now.”

Father’s eyes about popped out. “Here?” he gasped, and I almost laughed.

I had actually thought I’d coerce Father McCaffrey back over to the church a few blocks away, but Madoc seemed to want to get down to business. Fine by me. If I had a choice between a staunchy Clerk’s Office, a drafty church, or an old Irish pub smelling of furniture polish and Guinness, I’d rather be here. The wooden bar and tables and chairs all shined with the afternoon sun pouring in through the windows, and the green curtains made the place feel comfortable and homey.

“Father,” I started, “when you’re not in the church, you’re at the bar, and we’re ready.”

“Fallon, shouldn’t you be waiting for your father’s blessing, dear?” The worry was clear all over his face.

“My father,” I stated firmly, “trusts my judgment. You should as well, Father.”

Madoc grabbed my hand, slid the ring off my finger, and set it down with the marriage license and the silver band he had picked out for himself this morning on the table.

“Marry us, please, or we’ll have to go to the courthouse with or without the Church’s blessing. That is something her father won’t like.”

Jared snorted behind us, and I looked back to see him and Tate trying to bite back smiles.

Glad they were enjoying this. Sweat broke out across my forehead.

Father McCaffrey sat there, and so did everyone at the table. They looked between Father and us, I looked between Father and Madoc, and Father looked between Madoc and me.

I wasn’t sure whose move it was, but I didn’t think it was ours.

Father finally stood up, and slipping his hand inside his vest, he pulled out a pen and leaned down, signing the paper.

I dipped my head, a huge smile stretching my face. Madoc turned to me, cupping my face, and leaned down to plant a soft kiss on my lips.

“Are you ready?” he whispered.

I breathed him in through my nose, inhaling his rich scent, and started taking off my coat. “Children will wait until after college,” I stated low enough for only us to hear. “Agreed?”

He nodded, his forehead rubbing against mine. “Definitely. As long as we can have five later.”

“Five?!”

Jared cleared his throat, bringing our attention back to the people around us, while Madoc laughed under his breath. I took a deep breath and swallowed.

Yeah, we were going to have to talk about that later.

Father brought us around to sign our parts under “Groom” and “Bride,” and then Jared and Tate came around to sign as witnesses, also having to print their names at the bottom with Father McCaffrey as the officiant.

“Everyone quiet now!” Father shouted to the fifteen or so people in the bar. They quieted down and turned to us, finally noticing what was going on behind them. The bar fell silent as the music was cut off, and Madoc turned to me, taking my hands in his as they hung down between us.

Father began the short service, but I barely heard him as I looked up at Madoc. His blue eyes that always held a bit of mischief. His angular jaw and high cheekbones that looked even more amazing when they were wet from a pool or shower. His broad shoulders that could encapsulate me with warmth.

But what I thought of most as Father bound us together was how little I was thinking about myself right now. Forever since I can remember, I’d thought about how much I hated my mother or missed my father. I thought about the disappointment and the anger, the wrongs and the loneliness.

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