* Clover *
Clover peered down at the bump that was her daughter with giddy glee.
I do. I sooooo do. Yes, I’m Mrs. Thistle, how do you doooo?
She snickered to herself while Aurora flitted around the room, untangling the veil that was the last piece to complete her wedding dress ensemble. Looking into the standing full-length mirror, she twisted to the side to examine how her growing belly would appear to the guest assembled downstairs in the opulently decorated hall.
Pregnant… but glowing.
“Not too late to adopt those cats,” Aurora teased, and Clover stuck her tongue out at their smiling reflections, “Ready to get married?”
“Shouldn’t you have asked me that before I had all this done?” she waved to the fancy hair-do and pound of makeup coating her face.
All morning they had worked her over like a canvas, and the result had her wondering if Mason preferred her this way. She understood half of the city’s most influential persons would attend their wedding, but she didn’t recognize herself. She looked… Plastic.
Clover’s mother, Betty, opened the door, coming in with a glass of champagne for Aurora, “Ten minutes girls. Oh, you’re beautiful. Stunning. How’s your nausea?”
“Better,” she rubbed her belly, “Those ginger candies helped.”
“I told you,” her mom tutted, “Alright, let’s finish up so you go join your father. He’s so nervous, although I don’t understand why. Everyone has been so nice.”
The past week had been a blur of activities, with both their parents flying in to spend time together. They got along well, and Betty surprised her with how chill she received the news she’d been the victim of a sex trafficking ring and would soon be a grandmother. Seemed retirement pulled that judgmental stick out of her ass, and she started behaving as a caring parent should.
Thank fuck for event planners, because her mom might have turned into a mother-in-law-monster otherwise. Since Clover wasn’t one of those chicks who sat around in her younger years fantasizing about the man of her dreams, the company they hired to handle the big details made this day easier for everybody involved. They reserved a block of rooms in a lavish hotel where the ceremony and reception would take place. Her colors ended up being dusty blue and deep red, a mixture Mason incorporated into the scandalous lingerie he gifted her.
Clover grinned as Aurora pinned the veil to her hair. She gazed into the mirror one more time at the white Vera Wang gown with all the tulle and beaded lace, and couldn’t help feeling like a knocked-up princess. Mason spared no expense when it came to tying the knot. She never wanted to read the final bill.
As she left the green room to meet her father, she remembered how she’d woken up to find an ornate platinum engagement ring with an exquisite ruby stone set around six smaller ones on her finger five days after telling Mason she was pregnant. It had nearly poked her eye out when she went to rub them. He had laughed, kissing her until she agreed to marry him. He knew getting on one knee during an elaborate meal surrounded by strangers to pop the question wasn’t their idea of romance. She got a thrill recounting their unconventional love story to uptight fucks at parties who would never consider how she could take the brunt of their suggestive sneers because she bore far worse scares than scathing rumors.
Clover’s parents cooed over her polished appearance while they waited for the entrance cue. Liam McBride’s bright red hair was slicked back, his stocky frame rocking the black suit Mason bought for him, and she gushed how handsome he looked, making him flush. He folded her arm under his, nodding for Aurora and her mother to step ahead.
“I can’t wait to see his face,” she smiled up at her dad, “Think he’ll kiss me before the vows?”
“I hope not!” He warned, but returned her smile, “Ready?”
Clover took a deep breath as the music commenced. Minutes later, the double door to the large reception hall opened. She tried her best to glide gracefully down the light blue carpet towards Mason with her mom and Aurora leading the way.
She gasped when laying eyes on her groom.
He never appeared more gorgeous to her, standing tall and proud in a dark crimson colored tuxedo. She bet the masses found the color off-putting, but it meant something to them. Also, the cocky bastard could pull off wearing a paper napkin and make it seem fashionable. His head turned and his honey orbs zeroed in on her like a hungry hunter who’s prey was in sight.
There were over a two hundred people watching them, but once her father handed her off to Mason, everyone and everything faded into the background. Sandalwood and lemon wrapped around her senses, conjuring up the memory of when she first met him. She — a young, inept secretary. Him — a dynamic but standoffish brute who signed her paychecks for fetching coffee and organizing appointments.
“You’re my waking dream,” he winked, his voice a low timber, immediately turning her on, “Three hours babe, then we’re ditching this mess for an after-party for two.”
“Really?” she hissed, “Judge Mores is right there!”
Since they weren’t religious, Mason asked a judge he sometimes dealt with to marry them. The mild-mannered fellow was the same age as her dad and grinned at them before addressing their guest. She glanced out at the sea of faces, blanching when she spotted Mayor Cullen and his family. Wow, and to think if she had her way, there would have been eight people… max.
The ceremony began and soon enough it was time for promises and rings. She stumbled a little as she read from the thick stock card Aurora gave her. She spoke slowly, saying there would never be a day she wouldn’t show her love or support for anything Mason did or would do in their lifetime. Simple. Public speaking was the worst, and she broke out in a cold sweat before ending her speech. She had warned him of her aversion but felt she did a bang-up job despite stumbling a bit.
Mason licked his lips, grinning as she slid on his custom made meteorite and black zirconium ring before declaring, “Life has taught me many lessons, and I listened. Fate brought us together and I will care for you until my dying day. With you and our future children along for the ride, know my education isn’t over,” he laughed with a self-deprecating shyness, and the crowd ate it up, joining in while her brain tried to rationalize why he’d use the same damn words Bentley would have, “Thank you for loving me — your sweet nature keeps me humble and blessed.”
She paled as he slipped a tasteful ruby studded ring onto her finger. They were told to kiss. Her lips were numb, her body afloat as music signaled for her to walk off the raised stage. Mason nearly dragged her down the aisle before she came out of the fog his jarring vows left her wallowing in.
Without waiting in the reception line, she took off running. She heard Aurora calling her name, but didn’t stop until she arrived at a bank of elevators.
Accept your nature.
Keep sweet, Jade!
Her stomach heaved, and she searched for the stairwell. Mason stormed up behind her, his face reddened with outrage. She had never seen his anger directed at her before.
“What the fuck are you doing, Clover?” he seethed, “You embarrassed me out there! Reporters are itching to rip holes in our relationship and your behavior the perfect meal for those vultures!”
He had to be kidding, right? She bowed her head, covering her mouth as nausea turned her belly again. Not now, little one!
“Oh, sweetheart,” he darted closer, his expression switching at once to worry, “Is it our princess? The bathroom’s down the next hallway. Come on.”
“Don’t touch me!” she slapped his hands away when he reached for her, “How could you spin those phrases in your vows, Mason? Why?”
He scowled, finally catching on to the reason she gave him the most scathing look possible while keeping vomit down. “They are just words, Clover! I can’t say you’re sweet?”
She shook with fury, “Not like that. Did you really think…?” she wouldn’t cry at her wedding. She inhaled a calming breath, “Why would you use his expressions on our day, Mason? He talked about fate constantly! And you know those other terms make me freak out!”
“Enough!” he shouted, crowding her until her back hit a wall, “Dammit, I will not spend the rest of our lives avoiding one fucking word! You are sweet and you’ll be sweet until we grow old and die.”
She punched his chest, “Stop!”
Mason gripped both of her wrists in his large hands, “I love you. Quit giving that asshole power. He’s dead. DEAD. I’ll call you whatever I want. Be it a dirty slut when on your knees sucking my dick or sweet temptress when you won’t!” she gasped in surprise, earning a smirk, “Tell me you’re my sweet wife. It’s only a word, Clover. Just once.”
She hated he was right. What was wrong with her? She knew his vows came from a place of love… but an ominous feeling settled in her gut. He had to realize she’d lose her shit after recycling Bentley’s looney-tunes garbage. She stared up at his hard features as he waited for her to calm down.
This was their wedding day. People were waiting for them.
“Okay,” she whispered.
His grip tightened, her wrist bones protesting, “Okay — what?”
She swallowed, tears blurring her vision. “It’s just a stupid word.”
Mason worked his jaw, his bronze eyes holding her captive, “Tell me you are my sweet wife.”
“I’m your sweet wife,” she ground out.
“Again,” he ordered, pressing a kiss to her flushed cheek.
“I’m your sweet wife.” A single teardrop escaped, and he made a low sound at the back of his throat.
He let her go, stepping backward. With a jerk of his cufflinks, he quickly checked out their surroundings, “Return to the dressing room and fix your face. The photographers and my business partners don’t have all day for you to have a meltdown.”
Her heart pounded as she went to do what he said. What the hell? Mason had never behaved so coldly before. Was their argument about his disregard for her traumatic triggers or something more? Pregnancy hormones left her sickly lately, and she might have overreacted… or not.
When she opened the door to the ladies’ green room, Masons’ familiar arms banded around her waistline, pushing her inside. She heard the lock click before his mouth and hands were all over her as she tried to make sense of his strange behavior.
The small suite didn’t hold much since women in frilly gowns needed space to prance around. A few velvet couches, and tables loaded with heady flower arrangements, and a benched makeup vanity filled to the brim with products Aurora left behind. The table rattled when her hip met the edge.
“It’s our wedding and I won’t let you get lost inside your head,” he scolded, shoving up all the many layers of tulle to find her center, “You’re going to come and then you will go out there wearing that gorgeous smile I fell for. Look at me!” Peering through her lashes, she exhaled, facing his usual warmth, her previous misgiving melting away, “I adore you. We’re starting a family and nothing can interfere with our happiness. Not anymore.”
“Mason!” she cried out when he pulled aside her panties, flicking his thumb against her clit while spreading her open with his knuckles, “Damn you! I’m already so close!”
“Hmm-hmm, that’s it,” he teased her nub in slow circles as her nails scraped the silky material of his suit jacket, “You’re my sweet wife! Repeat it!” he hauled her legs up around his hips after plopping her down on the tabletop, “Repeat it until it sticks in that stubborn head of yours. Do it.”
She shivered, her walls clamping on his thick digits as he continued his torturous tease, “Ah! Please!”
“Not until you say it,” he hissed, pumping slower, “So fucking hungry for it aren’t you babe? Tell me!” he snarled.
He knew just what to demand. How to touch her. She tipped her head back, matching his pissed off glare. Curling her lip, she swirled her hips, taking her pleasure. He bit her exposed collarbone, and she moaned.
“Mmm… Right there!”
“I’ll stop,” he taunted in her ear, and she tensed at his fierce tone, “Leave you wanting while I jerk off on your tits. Baby… say what you know is the damn truth!”
“I’m your sweet wife! Fuck! I’m your sweet wife!”
“Mason, I’m your sweet fucking wife!” she impaled herself on his fingers while meeting his impassioned gaze, “Oh shit! We’re married!” he grinned, his handsome features brightening at her high-pitched realization, “I-I love you so much. I’ll always be your loving wife.”
“Yes, always!” He growled into her mouth, kissing her breathless, expertly working her higher and higher until she broke, clutching him as an intense orgasm wrecked her strained limbs, leaving her limp in his arms.
It was like a wall came down between them. He smashed any lingering shame she held onto. She thought she’d hold on to Bentley’s sick mantras forever. Of course, Mason had enough. She needed his doting strength, but also an ass-kicking when necessary.
When she caught her breath, he readjusted her dress, smirking at her blush.
“Ready Mrs. Thistle?” he opened the door a few minutes later after she fixed her makeup.
She placed a hand on his arm, “Thank you, Mr. Thistle.”
He smacked her bottom, following her into the hallway as the first photographer found them.