Stepping out of the car, Anando slipped the keys in his pocket with one hand and checked his tie with the other. He wasn’t used to wearing ties anymore, or even tailored suits. These days, he far preferred jeans, or comfortable slack pants. He did remember how to hold himself to the best effect when dressed to the nines, though, and he didn’t need a mirror to know he looked good. He hoped – no, he knew already – that Virginia would enjoy the view.
He entered the hotel with a nod toward the check-in counter, and followed the path indicated by alternating bows of white, fluffy fabric and sprays of red flowers. He could hear the music long before he reached the gardens.
“I wish it’d rain,” Virginia had sighed yet again that morning, like she had every day for the past week while checking the weather forecast. “It’s supposed to be a sign of future happiness at weddings.”
Anando had only replied with a smile and a kiss. He knew a mage or two in town, and was fairly certain they could summon clouds and rain with spells or incantations, but such magic could be tricky, and its results unpredictable; rain might be a good sign, but tornadoes probably weren’t.
He wished he could have been there with Virginia from the start of the festivities, but at the same time he realized this was probably better; the day belonged to the happy couple, and he wouldn’t have liked for their guests to be distracted by the presence of a vampire hiding from the sun under an oversized umbrella. He considered himself lucky enough that Jane, Virginia’s friend and colleague, had invited him at all.
He finally stepped on the marble terrace that opened onto the garden where white tents were spread around a dancing floor like the petals of a flower, almost gleaming in the moonlight. Under each tent, a few guests in formal wear sat at tables decorated in red and white. Most of the guests were dancing, and the energy flowing from them as they jumped to the fast beat of the music drew Anando forward. His eyes scanned the crowd, looking for Virginia, but there were at least five women dressed in the bright red gown she had donned that afternoon. Not until one of these women started running toward him did he recognize Virginia.
She was barefoot in the grass, and wild strands of hair framed her face, escaped from the slick hairdo he had watched her pin into place earlier. Her smile, when she reached him and threw her arms around his neck, was brighter than the full moon above them.
“Finally!” she said, and her voice had a breathless quality to it, as though she had danced or laughed a lot. “I’ve missed you!”
Anando’s arms slid easily around her waist and he drew her closer. “Missed you too. And you’re absolutely gorgeous.”
Her smile widened a little more before she pressed it to his lips for a quick peck. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she said, patting his tie with a gentle hand. “I should have you dress up for me more often.”
She stepped back and dropped her hand to his. Anando squeezed it gently as he chuckled.
“Anything,” he said in his best bedroom voice. “You know that.”
She flashed him a smile, her eyes sparkling with mirth. “I do know, yes. And I might take you up on it soon.” She started leading him toward the dance floor, but looked back up after a few steps and added four more words with a smile even brighter still.
Anando missed a step and came to a standstill. His hand tightened reflexively over Virginia’s. She turned back to him and laughed. Her words still echoed in Anando’s mind.
I caught the bouquet.