“Just when you think it can’t get worse, it can. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it can.”
She was terrified. She was aware that she was supposed to put one foot in front of the other and walk down the aisle, but she could not bring herself to move. She closed her eyes, but they immediately shot open when her father asked her, “Are you alright, sweetheart?”
She took a deep breath and prepared to confess, but one look in his eyes and she changed her answer, “Of course, Dad. Just need a moment.”
He smiled as she knew he would. He gave a reassuring squeeze to her hand and the familiar gesture brought tears to her eyes which she refused to shed. She turned her head and faced the front. She could not tell him, would not tell him. His delicate heart condition and his joy at finally seeing his daughter married was way too risky to be spoiled. She mentally prepared herself. Except her, only her two cousins, Chloe and Sara knew, and they each guarded the other’s secret with their life.
How could she tell her father that the man she was going to marry was forcing her into it? How could she tell her Dad that the only way to pay off the loans was to sell the house he was living in; the same house that he and his beloved wife had built together? The loans they had taken to cure her brother, Ashton had been too large an amount for her to repay it on her own. And the bank was not being very kind either.
Michael Fury had literally swept in like a knight in shining armour ready to sweep her off her feet. Except that his armour was made of tin, had bumped her car with a Mercedes instead, and swept her out of the road. The fact that he had the audacity to accuse her of being blind wasn’t what made the man infuriating, it was the fact that he was already tearing out a cheque and telling her to pay for her own damages. Then he wanted her to go to a hospital for a check-up so that she could not file a suit against him. When she had refused, he had simply leaned his hip against the fender of the car and calmly told her that he could easily lift her and carry her in the car if she was not willing. She was not ready to go, she had a million things to do and she did not have time to go to the hospital. But when he simply dangled the keys of her car out of her reach, she knew she had no option. Even now, just thinking about that incident made her blood boil.
She was jolted from her thoughts when Chloe came rushing in. She came to halt when she saw her expression and tried to smile reassuringly, but they both knew that it was strained.
“It’s time,” Chloe said.
Chloe tried to lend courage to her cousin with her eyes. God knows they both needed it but her cousin needed it more than her. She relaxed a bit when Violet nodded. A gesture that communicated that she was as ready as she would ever be. She allowed her elder sister, Sera to walk before and followed after her.
When Violet heard the wedding march, she gripped her father’s arm. He patted her hand in understanding and started walking. When she entered the church, a hush fell over the crowd. She didn’t want to think about what they were thinking; knowing that most would be snide and nasty thoughts about her questionable pedigree and lowly profession.
She lifted her eyes and looked at him and was unexpectantly caught in his eyes. She could not read the expression in them but they were intense. It made her heartbeat quicken and she felt the stirring of butterflies in her stomach. With a jolt she realised that it was a pleasant sensation. She pushed the feeling aside. When she reached him, her father took their hands and looked up at Michael, “Take care of her,” he said. He put her hands in Michael’s hand and walked towards the front row.
As soon as their skin touched, she felt that same electric thrill go up her arm but she forced herself to ignore it. She looked up at him and was sucked into his eyes. They were still intense but now they had softened a bit. The emotion confused her but then she remembered the audience.
The priest continued……..as she heard the words, she felt the panic bubbling inside her. It threatened to choke her. The poem that she had written flashed through her mind and she almost jerked her hand out of his hand. But he held on and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. He rubbed his thumb back and forth across the back of her hand. It helped her to relax but it also reminded her that leaving was not an option.
How many times had she dreamed of a day like this? How many fantasies had she woven about love, weddings, marriage and a husband to go home to? She sighed quietly. It was time she knew to let the dream go. It was time she knew to bury her idea of the perfect husband, wedding and marriage. It was time to let go of her previous life and accept the new.
She was jerked back to her surroundings by a firm squeeze of her hand that bordered on being painful. Her eyes immediately lifted towards Michael’s. She almost flinched at the hardness of his gaze and was immediately caught up in his eyes. When the priest asked her to confirm her vows, she repeated them with a quivering but strong voice. To others, it seemed that she was tearing up because of her love towards her husband, but Chloe and Sara knew that it was because of the conflicted state of mind their sister was experiencing. Violet was still trying to decide between the options.
As Michael started repeating his own vows, Violet was pulled into another memory.
“Are you kidding me?” shrieked the attractive brunette.
Michael winced. The woman sure did have a good pair of lungs. “No, I am not kidding you. if you look at it, it’s a win-win for both of us. You need money and I need a wife. Violet, even you have to admit that it will be a symbiotic relationship.”
“You are mad! Certified mad. If you ever come to me for a check-up, I will send you straight to the facility. And the facility would not even question it once they know the reason! I am leaving.” Violet swiftly picked up her purse and prepared to make a quick exit out of the room.
He began without a preamble, just as she reached the door.
“If memory serves right, and it usually does, then according to your last bank statement, you owe the bank three hundred thousand dollars, two hundred thousand to your Uncle Steve and four hundred thousand dollars to a Mr. Reynolds. This deal will go a long way in dealing with those pesky little problems, don’t ya think?”
Violet froze mid-step. She stiffened and whirled around to face him. Her eyes were deathly wide and her skin had gone a ghastly shade of white. He experienced a brief sense of regret and guilt at forcing her hand, but the emotions were quickly disposed of. His eyes reflected those emotions but his posture remained the same he gently guided her towards the couch
“ Ho- How do you know ab- about that? Who told you?” her voice was quivering but she fought hard to control it.
“Sweetheart, you don’t reach this position without learning a few tricks,” he smirked.
She swallowed and cursed her heart for its rapid beating when she saw his smirk. If he was not such a ruthless man, she would be instantly attracted to him. Aren’t you already? A small voice whispered in her head, which she immediately dismissed.
“What do you want?” she asked with a much calmer and composed voice.
“You already know that.” He said. She didn’t know whether to punch him or kiss him. She must be more stunned by this announcement than she initially thought, if she was thinking of kissing him.
“See the rules will be pretty simple. We get married, I pay off your loans, and you give me a child. You take care of the child, I provide for its needs. And we stay out of each other’s way. Except, we both remain faithful, at least in public.”
Her eyes widened again. She sputtered out, “Marriage? Child? Infidelity? Are you crazy or are you crazy? ”
His eyes hardened. She was testing his patience now. She was also making him a bit uncomfortable. He was extremely aware of her beauty and her petite figure. She was short but he instinctively knew that they would fit well. He shifted in his seat to become more comfortable and forced his mind away from his less than decent thoughts.
“This is the last time I am going to make this offer. I know you need money. I also know that if you don’t pay back the bank, the beloved house of your parents will be taken away. Think carefully before you insult me again. There is only so much that I can take.”
He didn’t mention that he would have thrown her out if it was someone else talking to him this way. He looked at her impassively. She took her bottom lip in between her teeth and bit it. He mentally groaned and shifted again in his seat. He had half a mind to drag her against him and kiss her senseless. He resisted. Barely.
“Can I think about this? I ne-need to consider ever-everything before making a decision,” she stuttered out in a wavering voice. She flinched mentally at herself for sounding so weak.
“A day,” he said narrowing his eyes.
“A day! That is not much time!”
“I don’t think you’re in a position to make demands Ms. Cartwright.” He said it in a low, dangerous voice.
“Meet me here tomorrow at the same time,” he said briskly.
She was jerked out of her thoughts when Michael tugged on her hand.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride,” the priest announced in a cheery and jovial manner.
Her hand trembled in Michael’s hand. She looked up into his eyes and saw so many emotions that she could hardly identify any. He wrapped his arms around her waist and tugged her closer as he leaned down to kiss her lips. She didn’t have any moment to panic as he brushed his lips against her.