Only when the woman turned to watch the bridal procession did Tabitha start with recognition. Amy Dellier was one of the top models in Australia, and, judging by the extremely favourable write-ups in all the glossies Tabitha devotedly devoured, she was all set for international fame. Suddenly the golden chiffon and coral which she had been so pleased with only a few moments ago seemed a rather paltry offering, standing so close to this stunning woman.
As the organ thundered into the ‘Bridal March’ they all stood, every eye turning as the bride entered and started her slow walk down the aisle. Every eye, that was, except Tabitha’s. She had seen more brides this summer than a wedding photographer. Instead, some morbid fascination found her gaze constantly straying to Amy Dellier. She truly was beautiful—stunningly so. Not a line or blemish marred her perfect complexion, and her make-up highlighted the vivid aquamarine of her eyes.
‘Excuse me.’ A deep voice dragged her back to the proceedings. ‘I need to get past.’
The voice was deep and sensual, and as she turned her head Tabitha almost braced herself for disappointment. It probably belonged to some portly fifty-year-old who did voice-over commercials part-time. But there was nothing disappointing about the face that met hers. If Amy Dellier was the epitome of feminine perfection, then standing before Tabitha was the male version. Jet hair was brushed back from a strong haughty face, and high cheekbones forced her attention to the darkest eyes she had ever seen. At first glance they seemed black, but closer inspection revealed a deep indigo, framed with thick black spiky eyelashes. The heady scent of his cologne and his immaculate grooming indicated he was freshly shaven, but the dusky shadow on his strong jaw conjured images of bandanas and tequila, a world away from the sharp expensive suit he was wearing. He looked sultry and masculine—animal, in fact. As if no amount of grooming, money or trappings could ever take away the earthy, primal essence of man.
‘Of course.’ Swallowing nervously, she pushed her legs back against the pew in an attempt to let him past—but her bag was blocking the way, with Aiden’s foot on the strap. Aiden, totally mesmerised by the wedding, was happily oblivious to the obstruction he was causing.
‘Sorry.’ His apology was mere politeness, exactly as one would expect when a stranger had to push past—the same as at the movies, when the inevitable hordes returned with their dripping ice-creams and you had to lift your legs up and squash back into the seat to let them past. Except demi-gods like this never appeared at the movies Tabitha attended—at least not off screen—and this moment seemed to be going on for ever.
If he didn’t want to fall, he had no choice but to steady himself briefly on Tabitha’s bare arm as he stepped over the small bag. The pews were impossibly close, each jammed to capacity with guests. As his hand touched the flesh of her arm Tabitha found she was holding her breath; two spots of colour flamed on her carefully rouged cheeks as he brushed past her, the scent of him filling her nostrils.
Aiden turned then, a smile of recognition on his face as he mouthed hello to this delicious stranger. The bride was passing, and he had no choice but to stand between Tabitha and Aiden as the procession slowly passed.
It was probably only a matter of seconds.
It seemed to last for ever.
Never had she felt such awareness—the whole focus of her attention honing in on this everyday occurrence. Her skin was stinging as she stood next to him, every nerve in her being standing rigid to attention, so painfully aware of his close proximity. But all too soon it was over; the procession had dutifully passed, allowing him to slip into the pew in front and Tabitha to finally breathe again.