Authors: Mary Martinez
Tags: #General Fiction
“Don’t look frightened. I don’t plan to horn in on your practice. You’ve worked too hard to stand on your own.” Cecelia flashed a quick grin. “And I value our friendship too much.”
Rae sipped from her cocktail glass, staring at her over the rim. “You’re going to live on the streets while you build a practice?”
“Ha, Ha. I have money in the bank. It’s not like I’m broke.”
“Isn’t your father going to be watching your accounts for withdrawals before the wedding?” Skye removed her attention from some guy’s butt long enough to ask.
Joy’s words came out soft, full of worry. “So what are you going to do?”
“Clean out my bank account the day before my wedding on my way to the rehearsal dinner. And then we’ll celebrate as if everything is perfect.”
From inside my garment bag, I could tell I’d been hung on a hook from the closet door. I must be in my angry bride’s room.
The scrape at the door, then a squeak as it opened, alerted me. My bride was home.
I could barely make out her silhouette through the plastic.
A click filled the air an instant before a light flashed on. She made her way over to me only to stop and reach out a hand to unzip the bag. The dark-haired girl swayed, blinked then focused. Once she freed me of my confines, she stared. My bodice burned from the intensity of her look.
“My dear…” She hiccupped and giggled then she plopped down on the edge of her bed. “…Bella. You are a beauty. Too bad I’ll never get to wear you. Besides, you deserve to be worn on a happy occasion.”
What was she talking about?
Then her eyes widened, her hand flew to her mouth, she glanced around the room. I wondered if she thought someone else was there to overhear.
No one had entered since her mother had carefully hung me on the rack. I knew we were alone.
Cecelia leaned forward. “Don’t tell anyone, it’s our little secret. Okay?” She crawled into her bed, reached and flicked off the light and the room darkened.
I heard a soft chuckle. Premonition ruffled my lace.
Whatever she’d been talking about couldn’t be good. I waited. I wanted to know what she was planning. If she wasn’t going to wear me, then who would? Why did she pick me?
How I wished the magic Heidi had always told us about was real and I could speak. Then I could shout my questions to the girl who now lay snoring gently.
I sighed, there would be no more information.
Again, I found myself listening to the clock tick the seconds off. Waiting for the light gradually to seep through the slats of the blinds as dawn crested over Manhattan.
If Cecelia isn’t my soul mate, then what is my purpose? Must I do something in order to earn my right to my perfect bride?
My non-bride stirred on the bed. A miserable groan rent the air. The poor girl must be sick. She struggled to sit up, her head hung, her arms bent at the elbows braced on her knees.
“Oh…my…God… Why did I mix wine with the hard stuff.”
She bolted to her feet. My silk chilled as she brushed by me and disappeared into another room. Seconds after the door shut, I heard a strange sound.
What the scrap was wrong with her?
My only experience with people was Heidi and her assistants. They never acted like Cecelia.
Fear ripped down my zipper.
I heard the water turn on, then a few moments later she stumbled back into the bedroom in her robe. Hair plastered to her forehead, her skin looked like gray cotton.
She turned to glare at me as if whatever ailed her was my fault. I wanted to roll up my silk and lace into a tight ball, then hide from her stare.
As she yanked clothes out of her closet, she kept up a running commentary as she dressed.
“This plan had better work.” She glanced over her shoulder at me.
I still hadn’t figured out why she continually thought someone was in the room. Then it dawned. She was talking to me, not to herself, just like Heidi used to.
“I refuse to let my father ruin my life.” She pointed at me as if emphasizing a point. “I’ll show dear old Dad. Chandler won’t care and will thank me when the dust settles. Well maybe not, especially if Broderick actually fires him.”
Once her clothes lay on the bed, she disappeared into the room she’d gone to earlier. She returned a few minutes later and continued without interruption. “I can’t worry about Chandler.” She faced me and I could see tears shimmer in her eyes. “Bella, I’ve known Chandler all my life. I know neither one of us will be happy if we marry. I have to think of the big picture, for both of us. And that’s not being Mrs. Chandler Evans.”
Now I knew why there was no magic, no zip over my beads, mostly, why Cecelia Wilson was not my soul mate.
Cecelia didn’t want to
Water, hot enough to scald, cascaded down Cecelia’s back. The sting felt good. It countered the drummers parading around in her head.
At least Rae had taken notes or she probably wouldn’t remember a thing. Her efficient friend had given each one of them their assignments before they’d left Charlie’s last night. Alone, the note pages would reveal nothing. Only the five assignments together would give away the plan.
Since they’d become adults, they’d thought their scheming days over. Granted, they had been.
Until last night
After toweling off, she quickly applied a little heavier makeup than usual to hide the “morning-after” look, and returned to her room to dress. There was no time to waste. The minutes seemed to accelerate toward the time she’d be expected to put on the magnificent designer gown.
The beautiful lace seemed to quiver in the sunlight accusingly.
A shiver ran down her spine.
Ridiculous, a dress couldn’t
Shoving down any lingering guilt about what she was about to do. She grabbed her briefcase and left her room.
All had to be in place before the rehearsal dinner.
No one could suspect.
It would be nice to live on her own, except for college she’d always stayed in her rooms at her parents. She had an office, bedroom and a separate room for entertaining. It was a bit confining. Since her life had been mapped out for her, it hadn’t seemed necessary to spend money on a separate residence when she had everything at home.
Now she was glad of her decision. As a result, she had a healthy bank account.
All the better to start her new life.
“Good morning, dear.” Her mother sat in her usual place sipping her cup of tea while reading the paper. Her mother favored fancy English tea.
Nothing but the best for the Wilsons’.
“Good morning, Mother.”
Taking a bottle of Tylenol out of the cupboard she popped three extra-strength into her mouth and downed them with water. She needed a brain free of jungle drums for the rest of the week. Who knew how hard starting a new life would be?
“Something wrong? You’re rather quiet.” Her mother barely lifted her eyes from her article.
What had she expected, motherly concern?
“No, a headache is all.”
“Mm… So what are you doing today? Have you called the florist?”
Talking a deep breath, Cecelia counted to ten. Her mother had a one tracked mind.
Marry her daughter off to the Evans heir. Then her life’s mission would be complete. The woman could do whatever her heart desired. Cecelia had always known her mother counted the minutes since the day she was born, for this moment.
Then Sandra Wilson could travel. Ignore her husband and daughter because she’d filled her obligation to the contract.
Yes, her mother and father had married per contract also. Hadn’t Cecelia heard a gazillion times, as she grew up, about how well their union had worked. Cecelia and Chandler’s would be just as successful.
Over the years she’d noticed that not once was
An arrangement made in hell was not for her.
A new resolve entered her. She would take control of her life for the first time in her twenty-nine years.
It was up to her to find her own contentment.
“Yes, Mother, I called the florist.” Her first lie was out. Hadn’t they hired the florist because, like everything else, they were the
? They didn’t need her to call, she had more important things to do. “I’m going to take my coffee on the run this morning, Mother. I don’t want to be late.”
Without a glance, her mother nodded. “Mm…”
Nothing had changed.
Spring had sprung over New York City. The air had freshness to it—if you ignored all the blaring horns and exhaust from the taxis—that matched her mood.
Even the offices of Wilson and Evans seemed to have a lightened mood. Maybe it was just her. The pressure of her upcoming marriage lifted.
The thought of adventure had replaced her dread.
“Any messages?” Cecelia sang her question to the receptionist.
“Just one, from a Ms. Change.” The girl’s brow wrinkled as if in wonder at the strange name. Maybe it was Cecelia’s singsong voice.
Cecelia snagged the message out of her fingers with a grin. “Thanks.”
Her process began. Fanny had the name change assignment. Cecelia had a vague idea of what it involved. Because security at the firm monitored internet activity, she hadn’t dared investigate anything.
She’d been so vocal in her opposition to her wedding, she wouldn’t put it past her father to also monitor the home network.
Hence, the reason she had her friends guarding her back. Or as Skye would say, her ass.
She made it to her office without anyone stopping her, such as her future intended. She planned to avoid him like the plague until the rehearsal dinner. At which time, she’d be celebrating new beginnings.
Let them all assume she meant to accept her new life as Mrs. Chandler Evans.
She squashed the guilt that surfaced, if only she could break the band that seemed to tighten whenever she thought of Chandler. He would find someone who loved him. She just needed to remind herself of that whenever the vise threatened and remorse tried to rear its ugly head.
After taking a deep breath, she settled more comfortably at her desk and deciphered Fanny’s message.
She swiveled her chair to stare at the clock above the window. What was Fanny thinking? Cecelia had ten minutes to get to Java Cup by Rockefeller Center. The firm was at 390 Park Avenue. It was doable. She glanced down at her three-inch heels. Maybe.
Oh hell, this was part of the adventure.
She grabbed her purse then bee-lined to the elevator. Please God, let no one stop her.
“I won’t be available for an hour,” she tossed to the receptionist and slipped inside as the doors slid shut.