“How did she even get my number?” I asked.
“Who knows? But I wouldn’t put much past her.”
“Yep.” He stopped and pulled me closer. “I think we should go in there.”
I looked across the way and saw Victoria’s Secret. I didn’t even answer before he was damn near tugging me toward the bright pink storefront.
“Oh yeah,” he said, looking around like a kid in a candy shop. “This is going to be fun.”
I shimmied into another garment that Preston had picked out for me. He was surprisingly patient for a man shopping, but I was showing him all the “outfits” so he couldn’t complain much.
He sat right outside my dressing room and somehow talked the sales lady into giving us complete privacy. After giggling and fiddling with her hair, she closed off one whole batch of rooms so we could be alone. It was nice to know that Preston’s charm didn’t just work on me.
I heard him speaking, but couldn’t make out the words. I adjusted the French maid-inspired pink and black get-up and slipped my black heels back on for effect. When I opened the door he looked at me and—
Was that my cell phone he was talking into?
“Hang on just a second, Kate, she’s right here. It was nice talking to you too.”
My whole face went cold and I knew blood must have drained from it. Preston confidently rose from his perch and handed me my phone.
“By the way,” he looked me over and traced his fingers over my thigh, “this one is a keeper.”
I swallowed hard and put the phone to my ear.
“Oh my God, Megan! You’re getting married and you didn’t tell me? I called you to see what was going on and your fiancé answers the phone and…just…wow!”
“I ah…it just sort of happened.” I glared at Preston who went back to sit down and looked at me with the smuggest grin I’ve ever seen a man wear.
“Well, I understand how that goes, but…is everything okay. I mean, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m good.”
There was a pause and I knew poor Kate was struggling. She cared. I knew she did and I would have been floored, hell, I was floored, when she told me she and Adam were engaged all those months ago.
“Are you happy, Meg? Does he make you happy?” Her tone was soft, doing the same thing I would have—gauging my reaction.
“He does.” I left out, “most of the time.”
“Well, okay then. This is amazing! I had no idea you were even dating someone. But Preston filled me in a little. He sounds great.”
“He’s something alright,” I grated between clenched teeth.
“He said you were waiting to tell everyone and nervous because it’s all happened so fast but Meg, I’m so happy for you. I’d never judge you, you know that right?”
My heart hurt a little. I did know that. But this situation was complicated and I had waited to tell Kate not because I didn’t think she’d be supportive, but because I didn’t want to lie to her. And omitting the details that this was a contractual thing was technically lying.
“You aren’t going to tell me that this is happening too fast?”
“With anyone else, I might,” Kate sighed. “But this is you, Meg. If you say he’s the one and you’re happy, then I’m not going to tell you otherwise. Sometimes love just sneaks up on you.” I could hear the smile in her voice and once again was so happy she and Adam had found each other. But the word “love” and Kate’s unconditional support tore at my chest like a fresh wound, and the guilt was already starting to fester.
“Thanks, Kate. I ah, I want to talk more about this but I’m kind of,” I looked down my body, “indisposed at the moment, can I call you tonight?”
“Of course! You have to call me.”
“Promise I will.”
I hung up the phone and threw it at Preston. He caught it effortlessly and smiled. “Ooh, looks like I’ll have to punish the maid for throwing a tantrum,” he teased.
“I can’t believe you told her.”
“I can’t believe you haven’t told anyone. A man might think you’re ashamed of him.”
I looked at the ceiling and begged for patience. “I told Emma.”
“Because you had to.”
“I was waiting on everyone else. Planning my moment.”
“Uh-huh, well with the wedding coming up quick, I suggest you get on that.”
He twirled his finger. “Now, let me see the back.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Nope, let me see the goods, sweetheart.” He winked and I couldn’t help but hide my smile. He was so cute when he was at ease and playful like this. But I still feigned being somewhat upset. Part of me was grateful Kate knew.
I spun in a slow circle and Preston took a rough breath. When I turned back around his eyes were still on me but he was pulling out his own cell phone from his pocket.
“What are you doing?”
“Calling the hotel. I think I just found the new housekeeping uniforms.”
I took a deep breath and walked into the hotel restaurant. Darlene was sitting at a small table in the corner. Four days to prepare and I still wasn’t ready to face her.
“Hi there.” She stood and kissed my cheek.
Weird. My friend Kate was the one with space issues, but right then I understood not liking someone too close to your face. Especially when you were pretty sure that person was harboring some serious claws.
“How are you, Darlene?”
We both sat. I opted to go for a causal look in jeans and a pink sweater. Darlene however was dressed to the nines in another tight red number with a plunging neckline. I was seeing quickly how attention tended to divert down when speaking to her.
“I’m great! I just thought we should get to know each other, you know, sister to sister.”
Something about the way she said that made a gross taste rise in my mouth and it wasn’t this relentless flu bug I had been fighting recently. Feeling exhausted almost all the time now was bringing on dizzy spells and I had little patience for games. I wasn’t an idiot and it was obvious Darlene wasn’t happy about me marrying Preston.
Preston however had no desire for Darlene. I replayed last night in my mind when we tested out the new maid uniform. I believed Preston when he told me things. Darlene wasn’t a threat…not in a sexual way at least. Everyone had a past and this woman was not atop my “people I like” list but she was going to be my—gulp—sister-in-law. No sense in adding to the awkwardness. The fact that she was a ragging bizzo was apparent and accounted for.