​Bright blinks of starlight shone from behind glossy, emerald leaves, the long strands of translucent lights interwoven among the trees gleaming. The evening air was sweet with the perfume of countless white roses which dangled from ivory ribbons hung in the branches of greenery winding through pergolas in Belgrave Square Garden.

My gaze traveled to a few chairs clustered around a wide aisle that was covered in crimson rose petals, a stark contrast to the white roses, and unmistakably symbolic of my life and relationship with Aurora.

I glanced over the guests, who were patiently waiting for the bride to appear as they tucked silk-lined silver fox fur blankets around their hips to ward off the evening chill. It was a select number. My sister-in-law, Elizabeth, sat closest to where I was standing, giving me a shy smile of encouragement.

There had been a time when I envisioned this moment occurring at Westminster Abbey while surrounded by hundreds of exalted people. My wedding was supposed to be an absolute show of power, the final comeuppance. Showing that a bastard boy born on the wrong side of a duke’s sheets could command foreign dignitaries, royalty, and the corporate elite to attend his wedding would have been my ultimate triumph. I now realized how misguided and egotistical my vision had been. Then, it had been about revenge and showing up all those who sought to destroy me as I reached for heights beyond my station.

Now, I couldn’t imagine sharing this intimate moment with all those worthless strangers.
Now, it was about Aurora, and only Aurora, my love, my life, my all.

A sleek vintage Rolls Royce pulled up to the curb. My brother emerged, giving me a stately nod from across the park. He buttoned his bespoke tuxedo jacket and turned to offer his hand to Aurora as she emerged from the vehicle.

Her gown was a warm, pink ivory covered in thousands of Swarovski crystals which captured the lights from the trees. It sparkled around her like a halo of iridescent rainbows, the very embodiment of sunshine peeking through the darkness.

Just then the string quartet behind me began playing an instrumental version of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. Although I couldn’t see her face behind the veil, I knew Aurora would appreciate the sly humor of my song selection. As Richard and Aurora made their way to the top of the aisle, the wedding procession began. First was Aurora’s best friend and maid of honor, Eleanor, who pointed two fingers at her eyes and then at me in a mock-threatening gesture before giving me a good-humored wink as she took her place across the aisle. Then came my nephew, Billy. Clutched in his little hand was a small basket with more rose petals. Although Elizabeth had practiced with him the motion of carefully scattering the petals as he walked slowly down the aisle all throughout the previous afternoon, the moment he saw his beloved mother, it was all over.

“Mummy!” he cried out before tossing the basket aside and running down the aisle to jump into her arms, prompting amused chuckles from the crowd.

Then a respectful silence fell over the small gathering.

Richard and Aurora took their places. I swallowed past a lump in my throat as my brother offered his arm to my bride. The gesture, although a small one, was an irrefutable show of solidarity. We were no longer adversarial half-brothers. We were brothers.

I accepted the violin handed to me. Tucking the instrument under my chin, I kept my gaze on Aurora as I played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as she walked down the aisle.

Each note, each step, bringing her closer to me.

I handed the instrument back to the musician at my side as Richard raised Aurora’s veil before joining his wife and son. She looked so beautiful, it was almost painful to gaze upon her, as if deep down, I knew I was not worthy of her love. Shaking the feeling off, I took Aurora’s hand in mine. Despite the chill, her skin was warm and soft. As the minister took his place before us, I leaned close to whisper against her cheek, “There is no escaping me now.”

Her lips grazed my jaw as she responded, “Was there ever a time I could have?”

“No. From the second I saw you, I knew I had to make you mine.”

The moment we were pronounced man and wife, I seized her to my chest and claimed her mouth, needing to taste her sweet warmth.

Aurora was breathless when I ended the kiss. Clasping the lapels of my tuxedo, she leaned up and whispered against my lips, “So what happens next, husband?”

I smiled. “We start a new game.”