Authors: Mary Martinez
Tags: #General Fiction
A slow burn nestled in the pit of her stomach. If she were honest if only to herself, she would admit that the main reason she was letting herself be forced into the union was her father. Would he finally love and respect her? Or would she still be a possession to him? Something her father could use to gain power for the almighty firm.
When she was younger, she’d dreamt of her father walking her down the aisle, he’s face wreathed in a proud smile. Love shining through for her big day. A sigh came from the depth of her lost soul. She wasn’t a daughter but a commodity, one that could bring another addition, the prestigious Evans name, to the firm. And Chandler’s family money would be a big bonus.
Cecelia was seriously considering her options. If only she hadn’t been born a Wilson. How different her life would be. Looking to the ceiling for a moment an idea filtered over her… that’s it. She could always change her name.
She turned so the assistant could help her out of the beautiful gown. A second sigh escaped before she could prevent it, she’d have to go through with their parent’s plans.
She mentally shrugged, what choice did she have? Chandler didn’t seem to care. There were always rumors about him at the firm and his latest flavor of the month. He’d probably continue to live his life as always.
Fast cars. Fast women. She really didn’t want to know what else. The iron vise squeezed tighter forcing the breath from her lungs; she tried to suck in some air. Dots danced before her eyes, she blinked to focus. Her ears tinkled as if they had little bells hanging from their lobes.
She and Chandler were both in the same position. She couldn’t judge him harshly. If it weren’t for the contract they’d probably be good friends.
, he wasn’t expected to produce the heir to the Wilson-Evans throne. At least they, the four parents, were gracious enough to
her to hyphenate her name.
Well give them a freakin’ lollipop for their generosity.
She was finally able to breathe in some much needed air as the band came loose and dropped away.
“Miss, are you all right?”
Cecelia’s eyes focused on the assistant; Darla, Darling, something or other, and realized she’d been off in her own little world. She now stood in her bra and panties.
“I’m sorry, Dar…”
“Darlee, really I’m fine, thank you. I can get dressed. I’ll take Bella. My mother has all the details of where you should send her.”
The girl paused as if wanting to say something.
Darlee’s shoulder lifted in a slight shrug, and then she turned and left with the ivory lace over white silk cradled in her arms as if she protected a small child.
How would it feel to be loved and treasured like that?
The ride to Park Avenue was anything but peaceful, Cecelia’s mother and Chandler’s mother yakkety-yaked a mile a minute. By the time they dropped her at the firm, Cecelia’s head danced to the tune of their drummers and she was sure the beat would go nicely with a little
The elevator emptied before she entered and she had the car to herself. She used the short ride to the top floor offices to her advantage. Her eyelids dropped. She inhaled a deep cleansing breath, counted and exhaled. The doors slid open and she stepped into the plush offices of Wilson and Evans. At least she was fortified for the moment.
She asked for her messages from the receptionist. Then hurried to her office hoping no one would stop her.
Luck was not with her.
“Cecie, hold up.”
Cecelia stilled, and glanced over her shoulder at her
. A viselike force gripped her chest, again. “Chandler, can we take it to my office?”
Without waiting, she continued on the way to her corner office. By the time he entered, she’d dropped her briefcase on the desk and hung her suit jacket on the rack.
Cecelia settled into her chair, snapped open her case, took out the disclosures she needed and laid them on the desk.
Chandler still stood at the front of her desk.
His intense gaze burned the top of her head. Sucking air into her lungs she glanced up, “What?”
He raised that blond brow of his, irritating the hell out of her. “Mind if I sit…” ended with a mocking, “Dear.”
All the energy drained from her body, it was a surprise she wasn’t in a puddle under her desk. “Can we
do this today Chandler? I’m already behind on my discoveries.”
“I just want to know how the dress hunting went. Did Mother make you get the gaudiest creation she could find?”
The humor in his voice reminded her how charming he could be if he put his mind to it. Even so, could she wake up every morning and sit across the breakfast table from him? A tremor rushed over her skin.
No, she could not face the life she pictured. Even if, after marriage, they found a common ground to form a friendship she wouldn’t be happy. He didn’t love her. She sure as hell didn’t love him.
She pushed away from her desk and swiveled her chair to regard the Manhattan skyline. “Chand? Do you
want to marry me?”
Silence answered her question. She spun to face him.
His expression unreadable. He shoved to his feet, made his way around until he could lean a hip on the desk. He bent over to place a kiss against her forehead.
He straightened then gave her his sassy grin. “You’re not half-bad to look at. I’m sure we’ll do fine in the sack.”
A gasp wrenched up from her center, her hand raised then dropped when she saw his expression had sobered. “You’re joking Chandler and I’m not in the mood. I’m serious.”
He shrugged before returning to the seat across from her. Chandler’s gaze focused on the window behind her for a considerable amount of time before his attention came to rest on her.
Cecelia’s sadness in her heart mirrored the sorrow in his eyes. “There’s a contract and it’s the grand Wilson-Evans plan. We’re lawyers; we both know its binding.”
“You’re willing to sacrifice your happiness for the firm? Or are you planning to follow the example of our fathers?”
A deep rosy hue filtered over his cheeks telling her more than words could, she had guessed correctly. He planned to carry on as usual. That didn’t make him a bad person. He’d been dealt the same hand she had.
“You make me sound shallow.”
She settled into her chair and folded her arms over her chest. “Would you mind if I did the same?”
Shock replaced the embarrassment from moments ago. She held in the laugh, because it wasn’t a joke. They had to have this discussion. Both their lives and happiness depended on it.
He’d scooted to the edge of his chair. He must have realized her intent of placing him in her shoes. “Point taken, even in the twenty-first century the rules can be different for a woman. What do you want to do?”
She swung back to the New York view to think. Not wanting to watch his expressive face, her guilt may make her confess. Even if he didn’t want to marry her, he may try to stop the plan that had begun formulating in her mind.
“You never answered the question. Do you want to marry me,
, not the firm or the great legacy of Wilson-Evans? Do you want to marry me because you love
Keeping her view of the tall concrete jungle that made up New York, she waited for him to answer. There was only one to give her. Still, she wanted him to put it into words.
“Cecie, I care for you. I’ve grown up with the knowledge you’d be my wife. I haven’t allowed myself to become involved with another woman, emotionally, because of that fact. Do I love you?”
His pause was so long, she whirled the chair to face him. In the pit of her stomach, a small fire ignited. Could she share her thoughts? No, in the end it would be better if he didn’t have any part of whatever she devised.
Though now more than ever she knew they could not marry.
Lost in her thoughts, his quiet answer startled her.
“No.” He stood and walked to the door. He waited there as if he knew she had more to say.
“Well I love you.” She smiled.
“You do?” he asked. The look of horror on his face was almost funny. She didn’t laugh.
“Yes I do. You were the brother I never had,” she said.
“You had me worried. I feel the same,
.” Again, his grin scampered over his handsome features.
“Someday I hope we’re good friends.” He gave her a quizzing look so Cecelia continued before he figured out a germ of a plan was growing. “Chandler we have less than a week before the wedding. I suggest we both pour over the contract once more looking for loopholes.”
She was surprised at the devilish smirk. “Believe me, Cecie, I intend too.” He pulled the door opened, glanced over his shoulder to toss the words as he left. “Cecie, I think we’d make
Cecelia sat as motionless as a statue staring at the closed door.
What was she going to do?
She couldn’t marry him.
No. She would
marry him. He deserved better.
Guilt washed over her. She wasn’t a bad person either. She just wanted what every other girl wanted. An image of her reflection, when she had been dressed all in white, flitted crossed her mind.
Money and a place in the almighty Wilson and Evans firm was not
Her head dropped to her desk. “What the hell am I going to do?”
When she straightened, the open file on her desk seemed to mock her. She had to read the discovery. A least she could lose herself in work for an hour or two.
The strike of Cecelia’s heels echoed on the sidewalk. Glancing at her watch she was pleased to see she’d only be a few minutes late to meet her friends, her co-conspirators, or they would be by the end of the evening.
Music slammed her the moment she stepped into Charlie’s, their favorite bar. Exactly the medicine she needed. A few drinks with the girls in a fun environment. Except not conducive to conversation and that was what she needed more than a girl’s night.
After her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, she found her friends, front and center. That wouldn’t do.
Raising a hand in greeting to the bartender, Jake, she weaved her way until she stopped by their table. She waited for one of them to notice.
“Hey it’s the bride-to-be,” Rae squawked over the band. “Sit.”
“We need to talk.” Cecelia mouthed then motioned toward a table in the far corner, away from the hustle and noise. Knowing Rae, with her usual competence, would rally the others to follow. Spinning around, she marched toward the booth she’d indicated and slid in to the middle. Her friends joined her, two on each side.
Skye’s brow rose quizzically. “What’s up?”
Cecelia waved her hand around her ear, “I can’t
.” The last word echoed over the suddenly quiet bar.
Warmth curled up her chest and over her face. The band had managed to end their song as she shouted. At least now, that the group had decided to take a break, they could talk.