Authors: Kelly Favor
I just wish I knew what his plan is.
I just wish I knew if I could trust him even a little.
She was done showering, and she got out and changed into a new, fresh outfit. She was wearing a form fitting skirt, knee high boots, a low-cut but tasteful blouse. She didn’t have time to dry her hair so she tied it back and applied some makeup before making her way downstairs, carrying her bags.
Cullen was waiting for her near the front door. He had one fairly large rollaway suitcase in hand.
“Are we really coming back by dinner?” she asked. “Because if so, I don’t see why we need to bring bags.”
“You never know,” he smiled, not really answering her. Cullen opened the door.
“What about food?” she asked, as they left together. “My stomach’s grumbling a little.”
“We can eat on the plane,” he said. He picked up her bags for her and carried his suitcase in the other hand.
The limousine was out front and the driver ran out to greet them, smiling and nodding at Ivy and taking their bags to put into the trunk of the car.
Moments later, they were inside the car and driving to the airport.
A newspaper had been left on the seat for Cullen, and he picked it up and began reading it as they drove.
Ivy folded her hands on her lap and stared out the window.
Outside, people were making their way in the city. Walking to and fro, driving, going places. Everyone had a story.
But my story’s more exciting than most
, she thought.
For the first time in a long while, maybe ever, Ivy realized that she was actually on an adventure.
Cullen turned the page of his newspaper and glanced up at her momentarily. “What are you smiling about?” he said, curious.
“Nothing,” she said, now grinning from ear to ear. She shrugged.
“Okay then,” he said, shaking his head a little and going back to his newspaper.
Ivy didn’t need to share this with him, though. Of course, he was a part of it. He was the biggest part of it. But in that particular moment, she was content to be with her own thoughts and to know that things were happening.
My life is never going to be the same, and I think…I think I might actually like that.
The limousine drove on towards their destination.
Ivy had never been on a private plane before, but here she was.
“I’ve never even traveled first class,” she muttered to Cullen as they boarded the private jet.
Cullen chuckled. “First class is like riding in the back of a pickup truck compared to flying in your own plane.”
Two stewardesses greeted them, smiling, welcoming them aboard.
Cullen had already shaken hands with the pilot and co-pilot, who were now going into the cockpit to prepare for takeoff.
Soon, Ivy was settled in her seat next to the window, which Cullen had insisted she take. “You’ll appreciate the view,” he told her, as he sat in the isle.
The rest of the plane was empty, and there were far fewer seats than what she was used to. The seats that did exist were large and plush, like leather recliners.
The engine in the plane started to rumble and they began taxying down the runway. Ivy looked out the oval glass window at the quickly racing runway beneath the jet’s wheels, and the butterflies in her stomach began fluttering.
I can’t believe I’m sitting in this plane next to Cullen Sharpe.
I can’t believe he wants to marry me.
She glanced at Cullen and found he was watching her with a tiny smile playing on his beautifully pink lips.
“Enjoying the ride?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.
She smiled and returned to watching the runway. “As much as I can,” she said, as the plane began lifting off the ground. Her stomach did a dip and roll as the nose of the plane titled up at what felt like almost a perilous angle.
Ivy took a deep breath in. She giggled nervously, turning away from the window as the wing of the plane swung towards the ground and she felt a sense of vertigo overwhelm her.
Cullen grabbed her hand and squeezed. “We’re just swinging towards Nevada,” he said. “This is all perfectly normal.”
“Of course,” she said, but her forehead felt sweaty.
“In case you were concerned,” Cullen added, chuckling again.
The plane stabilized and after a few little bumps from turbulence, the going seemed smooth.
Their captain came over the intercom and told them that they were now cruising at altitude and the weather looked beautiful. He said that he would point out any interesting sights as they went.
And then one of the stewardesses was approaching with a wide smile. “Mr. Sharpe,” she said, batting her long eyelashes. “Would you care for a drink?”
Cullen turned to Ivy. “Are you thirsty?”
She shrugged. “A little.”
He smiled and turned back to the stewardess. “My fiancé and I will each have a mimosa, a couple of blueberry muffins and a fruit plate.”
For a brief moment, Ivy was certain that the stewardess looked crestfallen at Cullen proclaiming himself engaged. Then again, Ivy was stunned at hearing herself referred to as his fiancé.
The stewardess glanced at Cullen and Ivy’s hands as if searching for engagement rings. Ivy wanted to hide her bare fingers, feeling suddenly embarrassed.
The stewardess’s expression was puzzled, but then she looked at Cullen again. “Two mimosas, blueberry muffins and two fruit plates coming up,” the woman smiled, turning and walking down the aisle.
Ivy twisted a strand of hair between her fingers. “Gosh, that was weird.”
Cullen glanced at her. “What was weird?”
“She was trying to see the size of my rock, and then she realized I’m not wearing an engagement ring.”
He laughed. “Don’t be silly.”
“You can’t just say we’re engaged like that. It’s embarrassing.”
He made a face. “You’re embarrassed to be my fiancé?”
“Obviously not,” Ivy sighed. She realized that as a man, and a very reclusive, intellectual man, Cullen didn’t quite get how regular people thought.
“So you feel bad that the stewardess didn’t have some huge diamond ring to gush over,” he said.
“I don’t need a big engagement ring,” Ivy told him. “But this whole situation is completely bizarre and drawing people’s attention to it just highlights that fact.”
Cullen scratched his chin. “You are my fiancé,” he told her, after a moment of contemplation. “It would be wrong not to refer to you appropriately.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed again. “I can see I’m not going to win this argument.”
“You’re never going to win,” Cullen said, his voice lowering but also growing more intense. His blue eyes were cool, icy, captivating. “The more you try and win, the more difficult the game becomes for you.”
She felt her cheeks flush. “This isn’t a game, though.”
“Are you absolutely certain of that?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I didn’t think that entering into a marriage was something to be taken lightly.”
“I don’t take it lightly.” He leaned closer and his hand dropped to her leg, sliding up her bare thigh. “I don’t take anything about you for granted. But I will always get what I want, Ivy. Always.”
She tried to push his hand away, but his arm was like the trunk of an oak tree. Completely immovable.
And then the other stewardess arrived bearing their mimosas. As she handed their drinks to them, she told them that her colleague would be over with the food soon.
“Thank you,” Ivy said, taking the elegant glass and sipping from it. She murmured her approval, as the cool, frothy liquid went down easily. The tang of citrus was perfectly in proportion and she could hardly taste the burn of alcohol.
“Lovely, isn’t it?” Cullen asked.
She took another sip and nodded. “It is.”
“Here’s to us,” Cullen said, raising the glass. “And here’s to the pleasure of victory, and the ecstasy of defeat.”
Ivy clinked glasses with him, noticing that she was once again turned on, despite her urge to fight back against what he was insinuating about the nature of their relationship.
Everything about him was a contradiction, she realized.
He was at once charming and cold.
His care for her seemed genuine and profound, but he was also completely selfish and demanding when it came to ensuring she played by his rules at all times.
Ivy felt that Cullen wouldn’t have committed to marrying her unless he truly thought he loved her, or might be falling in love with her, at the least.
But then again, he also referred to their relationship as a game, and it was very possible that marrying her served a larger purpose to do with thwarting the plans of his enemies.
How could she know what was real?
Who are you, really?
Ivy thought, as she watched him sipping his mimosa, his features so compelling, his mind so complex, his emotions so hidden to her.
She didn’t expect Cullen to ever tell her, and she wasn’t certain that he would ever let her in enough to truly make a judgment on the matter.
All Ivy knew was that being next to him on this plane felt real, and exciting, and thrilling, and that Cullen was a magnet. His words, his voice, his breath, his touch, his mind—she was as attracted to Cullen Sharpe as a moth to a flame.
And like that moth, Ivy was willing to do just about anything to reach her fire, to be close to it, to fly as near as possible.
She just hoped she didn’t get burned to a crisp for her troubles.
After the plane landed in Las Vegas, they stepped out onto the smoldering hot tarmac, where a limousine was waiting for them.
The driver greeted them as the stewardess brought their bags over, and then the driver loaded them into the trunk.
“Where to, sir?” the driver asked.
“The County Clerk,” Cullen replied.
Ivy felt her breath catch in her chest. She swallowed drily.
They got into the limo and then they were off, leaving the airport and heading for the clerk’s office.
On the way there, she reminded herself that of course they had to go and obtain a marriage license if they were getting married. But it was all happening so fast.
Cullen was texting on his phone most of the way over, and Ivy tried to keep her mind off of how nervous she was getting, and instead watched the scenery out the window.
Soon after, they had arrived at the Marriage Bureau, a large building that looked like a cross between a prison and a rundown hotel. Cullen took Ivy by the hand and walked her into the building, and within minutes they’d arrived at the clerk’s office and were filling out the forms for their license.
The entire thing took about half an hour, which made sense, since they were in Las Vegas.
Somehow, the idea of a quickie marriage was becoming more and more unappealing. Yes, she’d agreed to this, but the spirit of it was all wrong.
Where was the romance?
Where was the love?
She didn’t need a big diamond engagement ring per se, but not having any ring at all meant that the whole thing was a spur of the moment impulse.
No ring, no dress, no family and friends to celebrate.
Ivy was crestfallen and couldn’t hide it. On the way out of the building, Cullen took her hand and gave her a long, appraising glance. “You look absolutely miserable,” he told her.
“Thanks,” she said, her lips numb.
“I thought you wanted to do this,” he said.
“I did,” was all she replied.
They got back into the limo and Cullen instructed the driver to take her to a place whose name she didn’t recognize, but she was hardly listening anyhow.
All Ivy could think about was that this whole thing was off kilter, somehow. More and more, she was feeling like Cullen had only wanted to get married to shut her up when it came to his legal problems. He didn’t want her talking to the authorities, and he wanted to control her.
That’s all this marriage was, nothing more.
Her stomach was sour and she felt increasingly depressed. She wished for her phone, so she could at least call her mother.
“Ivy,” Cullen said, snapping her out of her bleak reverie.
“Yes?” she asked, meeting his gaze.
“This is supposed to be a happy day.”
“I know,” she told him.
“Tell me what’s bothering you so I can make it better.”
“I’m just tired,” she lied, not wanting to have the conversation. If she told Cullen the truth, he’d likely take it all wrong.
So Ivy laid her head back on the seat and closed her eyes, wishing for the ride to end.
Wishing for all of the insanity to end.
When the limousine stopped again, Ivy opened her eyes expecting to see some cheesy wedding chapel. She was even prepared to get out and just do the ceremony, not wanting to prolong the pain anymore.
But they weren’t parked in front of a wedding chapel. They were at some fancy hotel and the bellhop and attendants were surrounding their car en mass, opening doors, grabbing luggage, and doing everything but carrying them inside on a magic carpet.
“Mister Sharpe,” a dapper man said. “So glad you and your beautiful fiancé have decided to stay with us on this special occasion.”
Cullen looked at Ivy and took her hand with a smile. “We wouldn’t have considered staying anywhere else.”
“Your suite is ready, of course,” the man said, leading them into the lobby as the swarm of attendants went ahead of them, taking their luggage with them.
“And the other amenities we discussed?” Cullen asked.
“All taken care of, Sir,” the man replied, bowing his head.
Cullen thanked him and handed the man a few half-folded bills. As he did so, Ivy thought she saw something pass from the man’s hand into Cullen’s—but she couldn’t be sure.
It all happened so quickly.
The dapper man thanked Cullen profusely and said that he would be checking in after they were settled in the room, just to make sure everything was to their satisfaction.
They rode up in the elevator with two attendants, so Ivy kept her remarks to herself, although she was certainly confused.
The doors opened at the top floor and then they walked straight to a nearby room, and Cullen opened the door.