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Chapter One- MAC


I waited for her at the end of the petal-strewn aisle inside the flower-covered gazebo. The minister at my side, I gave a nod to my best man, Dan. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.

     I felt my shoulders rise and fall as I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and wished my father were alive to witness the day. I could hear the string quartet over my shoulder and I knew what was coming next.

I looked to my feet, twisted the Callahan crest ring on my right hand and told myself to hold it together. I wasn’t a man who cried. I was an FBI agent for God’s sake. But after witnessing the birth of my daughter three months ago and signing Dax’s adoption papers just yesterday, I found the emotional lump in my throat reassuring. I’d led a disconnected life in the past and I was beyond thankful to now have moments that moved me beyond words or sentiment.

     Bach’s Air played and suddenly, there she was – my beautiful, blue-eyed wife to be, Samantha Peterson.

She whisked herself into place at the end of the path, the long white gown swooshing in the wake of her fluid movement. Her best friend and maid of honor Polly arranged the veil behind her as I bit my lip to keep it from quivering. I took her in fully and found it hard to breathe as I lay my hand on my chest – my heart pounding.

     Polly walked the path first, giving me a sly wink. Tall, blonde and beautiful in the soft purple dress Sam had picked for her, I knew my FBI buddies would be asking about her later.

     The music began to crescendo and everyone stood without a cue in Sam’s presence as I blinked back the initial flood of emotion.

Sam’s mother stood with the rest of the crowd and helped her ninety-nine year old grandmother Mimi to her feet. Mimi gave me a wink as our eyes met and I immediately felt more at ease.

     Momma sat with my other mother, Miss Celia. Celia and her father Timms, Momma’s long time driver, served as my family and support today. My mother had been on a downhill journey with her Alzheimer’s as of late but was still here and was present in the moment as evidenced by her tears as she watched Sam make her way to me.

     I swallowed hard as she approached me. Samantha Peterson was the most radiant woman I’d ever seen. The flowing white dress was simple, elegant and one of a kind. Just like her. In her hands she carried a bouquet of white roses and purple lilacs – her favorite flower.

I burst with pride as I watched her nod, graciously smiling and acknowledging the group of family and friends who’d gathered to witness our first moments as husband and wife. This amazing woman would soon be mine – until death do us part.

     “She’s amazing, Mac,” whispered Dan as he watched her approach us. He’d been my friend and colleague through thick and thin. Never was there a finer FBI agent. He was my boss in Washington D.C., but today he was my best man.

      The occasion seemed to overcome Sam’s father. Although they weren’t close, I knew he loved Sam and it showed on his face. He was proud of his daughter as he walked her slowly to meet me.

     Looking to her, I leaned down to Dax without taking my eyes from hers. “Mommy is beautiful, Dax.”

     He smiled as he saw her come close and gave her a quick wave causing the crowd to react with an aw.

     Dr. Peterson gave me a firm handshake as I met him and Samantha at the bottom of the stairs. I blindly took her hand and wrapped it around my arm, never breaking our gaze. Together we took the last three steps up and into the gazebo. They were my last as a single man.

     I watched her with intent as her eyes sparkled with tears and I felt my own well up as I swallowed the lump in my throat. Her beauty overcame me. It was an amazing moment and I wanted to remember it forever. I gave her a reassuring nod and smiled.

      A beautiful March afternoon, there was a light wind that sent the fragrance of the lilacs and roses entwined through the gazebo wafting with each gentle breeze. The sun was beginning to set and God had painted a beautiful backdrop of orange and purple in the sky. Everything was perfect on the grounds of my two hundred year old home, Lone Oak.

     I watched as Sam gave Polly a wink when she adjusted the understated veil to pool at the bottom of the stairs. Samantha was as cool as a cucumber.  I was a bundle of nerves.

     “You may be seated,” the minister instructed.

     I couldn’t take my eyes off of my beautiful bride. Her long chestnut hair had been pinned up and away and the small ringlets that framed her face brushed her shoulder at every move.

     I held Sam’s hands in mine and the world became a small, quiet place where only we existed. I heard only the shallow breaths she took every few moments and the beat of my own heart.

     It wasn’t until the minister begged for my attention as he asked us to recite our vows that I realized how entranced I’d become.

 I’d practiced long and hard to memorize them. Still, a copy was in my jacket pocket just in case. Sam on the other hand, didn’t stumble once last night during rehearsal.

     “McKay Waverly Callahan,” Sam began as she pulled me close to her and smiled.  “I promise to be your lover, your confidant, your companion and best friend. Your partner in parenthood, your ally in conflict, your biggest fan and your toughest adversary. I promise to be your student and your teacher. I will be your comfort in disappointment, your collaborator in mischief and I promise not to keep score, even if I’m totally winning.”

     The crowd chuckled, as everyone around us knew Samantha well enough to understand she was a true Southern girl – beautiful on the outside, and a Sherman tank underneath.

     “I promise to put your happiness before mine and to always be worthy of your love. I thank God every day for allowing me to stumble into your life and fall into your arms. God has shown me that I can live happily ever after.”

     She paused and took a deep breath as her voice began to crack with emotion.  “I promise to be your one and only until my dying day. Mac, this is my sacred vow to you.  My equal in all things.”

     Her words washed over me like warm sunshine. I wanted desperately to kiss her when she finished, but knew from last night that I’d have to wait. Instead I lifted her delicate hands to my face and brushed my lips over the four-carat diamond ring she wore that proclaimed to the world that she was mine.

     The minister nodded to me. I took a deep breath and began.

     “Samantha Anne Peterson, I promise to be your lover, your confidant, your best friend and everything you need me to be.  I will love you with all my heart and worship you with my body.”

     I smiled at her as I paused to allow the crowd to chuckle.

     “I promise to be your partner in parenthood, your fiercest ally, and your not so tough adversary. I will be your co-conspirator in all our adventures. I will teach you everything I know and will always be your willing student. I will be your shoulder to cry on, your collaborator in mischief, and your one and only until my dying day.”

     Sam didn’t know it, but I had more to say. I’d held back during rehearsal, saving part of my parent’s vows to each other for today.

“On this day, my hand is yours to hold. My heart is yours to keep for all time. To tell you I will love you forever would never be enough. But with everything I am, I love you and I am yours, now and forever. This is my sacred vow to you, Samantha. My equal in all things.”

     I swallowed hard as Sam’s baby blues glistened with tears. She gave my hand a squeeze and turned her face into me as I brushed a single drop from her cheek.

     Taking a deep breath as I tried to compose myself, I turned to Dax and untied the two wedding bands with shaking hands. Dax smiled at me as if to say, calm down. He’d been amazingly patient during the ceremony.

     The minister said a quick prayer over the rings as they lay in the Bible cradled in his hands and immediately looked to us to continue.

     “Samantha.” I paused to smile at her as I began to slip the diamond wedding band on her finger. I wanted to remember this moment for the rest of my life. “My darling Samantha. With this ring, I give you my heart. I promise from this day forward you will never be alone. My heart will be your shelter and my arms your home.”

     She gripped my hand tightly and I knew she was anxious to put her ring on my hand.

     “Mac, with this ring, I give you my heart and promise from this day forward that you will never be alone. My heart will be your shelter and my arms will be your home.”

     I shook my head in disbelief. It was done. In one agonizingly long year, I’d finally made my dreams come true.

     “By the powers vested in me by the state of Alabama, I now pronounce you to be husband and wife. Mac, you may kiss your bride.”

     I took her in my arms and cradled her bare back in my hand.  I brushed a tiny curl from her cheek and looked into her eyes. “You are my everything,” I whispered.

      Before she could even begin to smile, I pressed my mouth to her beautiful red lips and kissed her deeply. She was mine and I longed to possess every part of her, every inch of her being. I pulled her hips to meet mine and squeezed her body against me. We were one. We were husband and wife and something inside me longed like never before to be as close to her as I could be. The crowd began to cheer at my over-exuberant display of love. It was done. Samantha was my wife.

     She pulled away and gave me a wicked smile. I laughed and couldn’t contain the excitement and happiness that poured out of me.

     “Ladies and gentlemen,” announced the minister. “May I present to you Mr. and Mrs. McKay Waverly Callahan III.”

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