Authors: Emma J. King
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
(The One Series: Novella #1)
By: Emma J. King
2014 by Emma J. King
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To living with no regrets.
“I can’t get married.”
It was Lana’s third bold proclamation of the day- her wedding day. The first one had startled her bridesmaids. It wasn’t exactly what you wanted to hear a bride say two hours before her wedding. The second declaration had drawn mild alarm. No one even looked in Lana’s direction after her third panicked cry.
“Of course you’re getting married.” I didn’t put much effort into convincing her. Of all the bridesmaids, and there were seven of us, I was the one least likely to bestow the virtues of commitment. “I didn’t put on this dress for nothing. Besides, you love Trevor.”
Lana mustered up a brave smile. Her perfectly straight, alarmingly white teeth, popped against her over-tanned skin. “You’re right. I do love Trevor. And he loves me. Right?”
“Right,” all seven bridesmaids answered together.
I checked my reflection in the mirror and tucked away a stray strand of dark hair. There wasn’t much I could do about the distant look in my eyes, but I tried to force away the grimace on my face. Lana’s maid of honor, Valerie, caught my pained expression.
“Weddings, huh?” she said with a sympathetic smile.
“Yeah.” I didn’t know Lana’s other friends very well. They had all been in the same sorority in college, and I had only met them a few weeks earlier at the bachelorette party. Lana and I had known each other since we were three. We had been close for a few years, then grew apart in high school. After barely talking at all during college, Lana had tracked me down via email, and we had been playing on the outskirts of friendship ever since. When Lana had gotten engaged sixteen months ago, no one had been more surprised than me when I was called up to the big leagues, also known as the McCourt-Carlson wedding party.
Valerie was still staring at me in the mirror and I knew what was coming next. “Don’t worry,” she said with a wink. “You’ll find someone soon.”
It was my first consolation offering of the day. It would not be the last. Did I mention that all of the other bridesmaids were married or engaged? I, on the other hand, was happily single. But people in relationships didn’t seem to think that is possible. They were baffled by the idea of someone being happy on their own. Didn’t happiness only come in pairs?
I returned her patronizing smile, all the while willing myself not to roll my eyes. Lana had been busy fussing with her long train but now her attention was on me. “Trevor has some hot friends, Livy. And a few of them are even single.”
“Goodie,” I muttered. All of the bridesmaids were staring at me now. Suddenly, I was the freak show at the circus, also known as the single girl at a wedding.
“Laney’s right,” Valerie said. She had slipped on her heels and now she hovered at least three inches above me. “What about that one guy? The rich one.”
“Connor. William Connor, but the guys always call him by his last name.” Lana’s panicked look was long gone. It had been replaced by her scheming look. “That’s a brilliant idea, Val.”
“No thanks. Not looking to be set up with one of Trevor’s rich friends. Thanks, though.” I didn’t want seem ungrateful but I had met some of Trevor’s friends at the rehearsal dinner and they weren’t exactly my type.
“You’ll change your mind when you see him,” Valerie said with a knowing look. “If I thought I had a chance with Connor… let’s just say my husband would have some serious competition.”
“Connor owns his own business,” Lana explained. “He’s 35, extremely smart. Disgustingly good-looking. You two would have beautiful babies.”
“Even if I was looking to hook up with someone tonight, I’m definitely not looking to be having anyone’s babies.” I had enough problems in my life without throwing a fetus and a rich baby daddy into the mix.
“Ladies!” The door to the bridal suite flew open with a loud bang. Lana’s wedding planner was a frazzled mess. “The time has come.”
Showtime. Now the attention could return to its rightful place- Lana.
As the ceremony began, it was clear that Lana’s true purpose in life was to be a bride. She looked stunning in her dress and she basked in the gawking stares of the attendees. Lana’s fairy tale was my worst nightmare. I was the first one down the aisle, and I managed to start things off right by tripping on the carpet that had been drawn over the sand, presumably to make it easier for us to walk. When Lana had first told me that she was having a beach wedding, I was excited by the prospect. A few days of beach and sun sounded like a great idea. But walking in the sand in three-inch heels was just about the worst idea anyone had ever had. Amid the loud gasps of the audience, one quick on-looker managed to grab my arm and prevent me from falling completely.
I turned to thank my savior, but the words caught in my throat as I stared into the most amazing eyes I had ever seen. They were as blue as the ocean backdrop and unnervingly cool.
“You alright?” their owner asked, his voice smooth and deep. It was only then that I noticed the rest of him, and it was hard to look away. But I had an entire wedding waiting on me to make it down the aisle so I quickly pulled my shit together.
“Yeah. Thanks.” I tossed my hair over my shoulder and lifted my chin, determined to play off my near fatal fall. Lana’s grandmother gave me an encouraging smile. When I got to the end of the aisle, I thought about continuing right into the ocean and swimming away. But I’m a pretty bad swimmer so I planted my feet in the sand and kept my eyes focused on the distance.
None of the other bridesmaids had my carpet issues, and Lana was able to navigate it easily even in her puffy dress. Somewhere during the minister’s opening remarks, I noticed the videographer and realized my incident had been preserved for posterity. Swell.
Needless to say, I was the first person at the open bar during cocktail hour. Lana’s creepy uncle let his eyes roam slowly over my body as he said, “So you don’t have a date either, huh?” I ordered another drink.
I kept a low profile during dinner, snagging as many champagne refills as possible while avoiding eye contact and awkward conversation with the strangers seated at my table. The rest of the bridal party was seated strategically next to the bride and groom, but Lana had explained that my solo status would negatively affect the aesthetic look of the room by creating an odd number at the table. I suppose I should’ve been offended, but the table demotion suited me just fine.
“Do you know if they have opened the bar up again?” I finally broke down and spoke to the man on my left. From the introductions everyone had made when we first sat down for dinner, I knew his name was Harry and he worked with Trevor. From sitting next to him for the last hour, I knew he was a loud breather and he liked to stare at my chest.
“I could check for you,” he offered a little too eagerly. I was pretty sure Lana had deliberately placed us next to one another. One of us was an allegedly desperate single
female, and the other one was a male that was attracted to females. It was a perfect match. “I think I saw some people walking by with fresh drinks.”
“Perfect. But I’ll get it myself, thanks. I need to stretch my legs.” I made a big deal about flexing my legs and Harry’s eyes lingered a little too long on them. I could tell he was about to suggest that he accompany me so I skedaddled as fast as my heels would carry me in the direction of the bar. “Whiskey and diet,” I said, smiling politely at the cute bartender. He was probably five years younger than me, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t flirt a little. “Are you having a good night?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered as he handed me my drink. I admit it- that stung.
“You just aren’t having a good day.”
I recognized the silky voice and my hand tightened around the glass. “You have a knack for witnessing my finest moments,” I said. I didn’t look up as I took a long drink.
“Do you have a name, or should I just call you ma’am?” He turned to the bartender. “Scotch neat, please.”
“You can call me ma’am, but you’ll be wearing my drink if you do.” I turned to him with a sweet smile on my face. “If you’d prefer to stay dry, you can call me Livy.”
“Huh,” I said as I took his outstretched hand. The silver watch around his wrist probably cost more than my car.
“Huh?” Connor cocked his attractive head and gave me a taunting smile.
“Sorry. Nothing.” Internally I was thinking how surprising it was that Lana and Valerie had actually been right. Connor was disgustingly attractive, from his smoldering eyes to his come-hither smile. We would certainly have beautiful babies, assuming they were blessed with his genes. “Connor? Just one name? Like Cher or Madonna?”
Connor’s smile tilted higher. “I’m more like Madonna than Cher, I’d say.” As he lifted his scotch to his lips, I tried not to think about what they would feel like against my skin. As if he could read my mind, one eyebrow raised ever so slightly. “Most people call me Connor. You can call me by my first name if you’d like. William.”
“How about Will or Liam? I think I might prefer Willy actually.” As soon as the last one passed my lips I realized the double entendre. I couldn’t stop the flush from spreading across my cheeks.
“Well that’s useful information.”
“So you’re a friend of Trevor’s?” I tried to remember if the girls had told me anything else useful about William. Besides the fact that he was rich and attractive. Both of those things were blatantly obvious from one glance at his tailored suit and the toned body underneath.
“We’re friendly.” William frowned. “I invested in his business.”
“That technology startup that failed?”
“I didn’t say it was a good investment.” William glanced toward the dance floor which was now beginning to fill with people. Trevor and Lana stood in the very
center, staring dreamily into one another’s eyes. “We were in the same fraternity in college and I was trying to help him out.”
“That was nice of you.” Somehow I felt there must be more to the story that William wasn’t tell me. On the other hand, it really wasn’t any of my business. “Are you just in Florida for the wedding or do you live down here?”
“I have a place in the Keys. But my home is in Chicago.” William pointed to my now empty glass. “Another?”
He ordered us another round and then slipped the bartender a twenty dollar tip. “Lana mentioned that you live in Chicago as well.”
“I do.” This was beginning to feel more and more like a setup. Not that I was complaining. “I moved there after college.”
“And you’re a lawyer?”
“Yes. You sure do know a lot about me.” I was beginning to feel self-conscious. I wondered just exactly how much Lana had told him about my past.
“I asked Lana for information.” William wasn’t at all embarrassed by his confession. “You intrigued me.”
“And what did she say?” Lana was hard to predict. One day I was her best friend and she did nothing but sing my praises; the next day she would lecture me about my selfish, immature ways and how I needed to get my act together and settle down. In many ways she was just like my mom.
William’s eyes flicked away from my face as he answered. “Oldest friend. Lawyer. Smart. Available.” His eyes locked back onto mine. “Beautiful. But I already knew that the second I saw you.”
I shrank a little under his intense stare. He had a way of saying more with his eyes than he said with his lips. “Is that all?”
“Something about an ugly breakup and shitty boyfriend. I honestly stopped listening after she said available.” William swirled his drink. “You’re turn. What did she say about me?”
“I didn’t ask her about you.” I tried not to look smug as I took a small sip from my glass. I was less interested in getting drunk now that I had some decent entertainment.
“I’m sure that didn’t stop her. Lana always has something to say.” I could hear William’s phone vibrating in his suit jacket but he ignored it.
Music began playing softly in the background but I barely noticed. “She said you own your own business. She said that you are also available.” I tried to be coy as I added, “She said that we would have beautiful babies.”
William’s eyes widened and I worried that I had misjudged our banter. I had been going for wry humor but it could’ve very easily come off as pathetically desperate. Fortunately, William was quick to recover from his surprise and he laughed. He had a wonderful laugh- deep and warm. “No offense, but I’m hoping we don’t find out if Lana is right anytime soon.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” We clinked our glasses together in solidarity.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen.” The M.C.’s booming voice interrupted us before I could say something else I might regret. “We are going to start with the couples’ dance. We need all couples out on the dance floor.”
“And so it begins,” I muttered subconsciously. I didn’t want to be the bitter single girl, but weddings had that effect on me.
William gently took my drink away. “We are being summoned.”
“What?” I stared at him stupidly for at least ten seconds before I realized what he meant. “Oh. You want to join them?”
“I want us to join them,” he corrected me. He offered me his arm in the old fashioned way, and I uncertainly slipped my hand into the crook of his elbow.