Authors: Kelly Favor
It opened into a lavish room that practically defied imagination.
The room was filled with beautiful furniture, and the array of windows that looked out onto the gorgeous Vegas skyline was mind-blowing.
The attendants let down their bags. The taller one spoke. “Sir, we’ve already brought up a complimentary tray of chilled drinks, fruit, assorted pastries and sandwiches, in case you and your lovely fiancé are hungry from your travels.”
“Lovely,” Cullen said, and then handed each attendant a fifty-dollar bill.
They left and closed the door behind them.
Ivy hadn’t yet even seen the entire room, because it stretched around a corner and as she walked into the rest of the living quarters, she saw a table by the window with the best view, and near to it, the room service tray the attendant had mentioned.
There were also plenty of chairs, two couches, a large flat screen television, and even a pool table over by the far wall.
“Cullen,” she gasped, “this room is…”
“Fit for a queen,” Cullen finished, grabbing her around the waist. He looked into her eyes. “Did you honestly think I wouldn’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated on your wedding day?”
“I don’t know what I thought,” she said, and then he was kissing her ever so softly on the lips, and her body was melting into his, as she always did.
Cullen stopped kissing her too soon, only to take her lightly by the hand. “Come,” he said, walking towards the bedroom. Before they opened the door to the bedroom, he turned and faced her again. “I want you to understand that I take this very seriously,” he said, and then he grabbed the doorknob and opened the door.
Ivy walked inside and her jaw dropped as she saw the lush furniture, the huge bed, the gorgeous windows with light pouring inside.
But what was most shocking was what was on the bed. Lying there, as if it was waiting for her, was a long white dress.
“Cullen,” she cried out, moving towards it and stroking the fabric of the gown.
“Go ahead, try it on,” he said.
She turned and looked at him. “But how?”
“I have my ways. Remember, my friend was able to get your measurements at her store. And when I want the best for my bride-to-be, I get the best.”
This was clearly a top-of-the-line wedding gown, probably from the hands of a famous designer. She was almost afraid to ask. But then, Ivy saw there was a tiny card pinned to the shoulder, and when Ivy unpinned it and turned it over, the card read:
I have never met you, but if Cullen Sharpe is willing to commit his life to you, then you must be an amazing woman. I hope the both of you are very happy together, and consider this dress my gift to you.
Ivy gasped again. Della Veradonna was one of the hottest new fashion designers, and she’d been taking the world by storm. Veradonna had her own line of clothing that Ivy had come across in the department stores, but she’d never been able to afford any of it.
And now, she was getting a piece of haute couture straight from Della’s very own hands.
To have gotten all of this done in a matter of hours since they’d decided to get married the previous evening was absurdly difficult. Nearly impossible. But then again, she couldn’t put anything past Cullen Sharpe.
“This is incredible,” Ivy said, turning around with the dress held tightly to her chest. “I love it.”
Cullen was watching her with a satisfied expression on his chiseled face. Suddenly, he was sinking to one knee, and producing a small black box, opening it and holding it aloft.
Ivy stepped back out of shock, the back of her legs hitting the bed frame, and then she sat down hard on the mattress. Her eyes were so wide she couldn’t even blink.
“Ivy Spellman,” he said, “will you do me the great honor of becoming my wife? Will you marry me?”
She stared at the giant, glimmering diamond ring staring up at her from the box in his hands.
“Of course I will,” she answered, nodding, tears in her eyes.
Cullen removed the ring from the box and fit it easily onto her finger. Ivy couldn’t take her eyes off the stone. She knew that it cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, but that wasn’t even what had rendered her speechless.
It was simply that Cullen had surprised her yet again. She’d begun to think that all of this marriage stuff was just a bunch of empty political maneuvers.
Now, though, she was feeling like she’d been wrong about Cullen’s motives.
This was truly romantic, and beautiful, and she was overwhelmed by his generosity and kindness.
“I love it,” she whispered, studying the ring before looking at Cullen, as he rose to his feet and then leaned over and kissed her again.
She was melting still.
Her heart fluttered in her chest.
“Do you want to try on your dress?” he asked.
She nodded. “How long do we have until the ceremony?” Ivy asked him.
Cullen checked his watch. “Not long,” he said. “But plenty of time to try on your dress.” He smiled.
“You can’t see me in my dress before the wedding,” she told him.
“That’s fine.” He laughed and checked his phone. “Actually, I need to quickly meet with someone about the arrangements, so I’ll go and take care of that.”
“What arrangements?” she said.
“Let me worry about everything,” Cullen said. “I’ll be back in about an hour.”
“Where are you going?” she asked, suddenly nervous. “What if I need to get in touch with you?”
“I’ll leave my cell number with you and you can call it from the room here. But you won’t need me, Ivy. I’ll be back in no time. You’ll probably still be staring at your dress in the mirror when I return.”
She nodded, as he caressed her cheek, and then turned and left the bedroom.
Moments later, she heard the door to the hotel room open and then close. Ivy fell back onto the bed and squealed, staring up at the ceiling. She was smiling ear to ear, and there were tears of happiness in the corners of her eyes.
Cullen had shown her a completely new side of himself: he was romantic after all, and he did want to make her happy.
Ivy still was holding the wedding dress against her chest, feeling the soft silkiness of the fabric, and marveling at the glimmering diamond ring that Cullen had somehow procured for her in this short timeframe.
He was nothing if not resourceful.
Giggling a little at the insanity of it all, Ivy hopped off the bed and got out of her clothes. Than she managed to climb into her wedding gown, with quite a bit of effort.
It might’ve been nice to have a couple of willing bridesmaids to help her, but in the end, she managed to get into the dress.
It actually fit perfectly.
“Amazing,” Ivy said, as she stood in front of the mirror and looked at herself. It was like she’d been instantly transformed into a princess. Her face was glowing, and her eyes were radiant.
The dress brought out the best qualities of her body and seemed to naturally downplay problem areas.
Her eyes filled with tears again and she wiped them away, shaking her head at herself for being such a baby.
But then again, she was getting married. It made sense to be emotional, excited, completely overwhelmed by the occasion.
She twirled in front of the mirror, checking herself out from the front and then the back.
At that moment, there was the sound of a doorbell ringing.
Ivy frowned. This room had a doorbell?
She supposed it did. It was more like an apartment than a room, anyhow.
She contemplated ignoring it, but then the doorbell rang again and someone knocked. “Room service!” they called out.
“Oh.” Ivy knew she didn’t have time to change out of her gown and still get the door, so she picked up her dress to keep the hem from dragging on the carpet. And then she hurried to the door and opened it.
It wasn’t room service, and the moment Ivy registered that fact, she couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been.
Lucas, and another man she’d never met, walked past her into the room and then the strange man shut the door and stood in front of it to block her escape.
She contemplated screaming.
Lucas smirked. “Go ahead and yell bloody murder. We’re the fucking FBI.”
This gave her pause, as she glanced at the older, gray haired, thin-faced man in the dark suit standing by the door. He didn’t acknowledge her presence or speak.
“What are you doing here?” Ivy said, trying not to show her fear.
Lucas walked by her. “Nice digs,” he said. “Never stayed in a place like this, myself. I’m more of a Holiday Inn man.”
She gave the older man one more nervous glance and then followed Lucas into the main living space. “I don’t have any information for you,” she said. “If that’s why you’re here.”
Lucas spun around and faced her. He was also wearing a dark suit, and his beard had grown in slightly, making him look definitively older than she’d thought the first day they’d met.
“Don’t play me for a fool,” he said, his eyes boring into her as his smile disappeared.
“Lucas, what are you talking about?”
He pointed at her dress. “We know what you’re up to, and it’s not going to work. You’re trying to get married so that you can invoke Spousal Privilege.”
She swallowed, putting a hand on her belly to try and steady her breathing. From behind her, a deep voice spoke. “You’re going to be made an example of, ma’am.”
She yelped, startled by how close the voice was. Turning around, she saw it was the older thin-faced man, who’d somehow managed to creep right up behind her while she’d been paying attention to Lucas. “You scared me,” she said.
“That’s kind of the point,” Lucas said from nearby.
Now she spun and saw that he was wandering the room, picking up objects, putting them down, and generally appearing to snoop.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she said. Her body was numb and she was barely holding it together. She wished that Cullen had never left the room.
He’d left her all alone. Ivy wished she’d begged him not to go, or better yet, tried to go with him.
Lucas picked up a small paperweight and hefted it in his hand examining it. “I’m trying to help you,” he said.
“You’re scaring me. That doesn’t feel like help, it feels threatening.”
The thin-faced man spoke. “When you’re a criminal, the police can seem like villains.”
“I’m not a criminal.”
“Are you sure?” Lucas asked, putting the paperweight down and walking towards her again.
“I haven’t done anything wrong. And if you had something on Cullen, you wouldn’t be bothering with me,” she said.
The thin-faced man just stared at her with his beady eyes. Lucas came closer, and his expression was one of barely disguised contempt. “You’re about to walk face-first into a buzz saw and we’re trying to hold you back. Yet, in your confused mind, we’re the enemy.” He shook his head and chuckled.
“It’s sort of sad,” said the thin man.
“Tell me what you want from me,” Ivy said, as she clenched her fists.
Lucas glared at her. “You will
marry Cullen Sharpe,” he said. “I’m telling you, Ivy. If you marry him, one day soon you’ll go to jail with him.”
“What has he done? Just tell me.” She waited for his response.
Lucas shook his head. “We tell you and then you tell him. But I prefer that we let him dangle a little longer. I like watching him scurry around like a rat in a maze.”
“You’re the rat,” she said.
“Excuse me?” Lucas said, his voice raising.
Ivy cleared her throat. “You heard me, Lucas.”
His disbelief resolved itself in yet another smirk. “The guy is bad news, Ivy. We’re watching him for a reason. I’m with the counterintelligence division of the bureau. Do you know what treason is?”
She shook her head. “Sort of, but—“
The thin-faced man barked a loud, jarring laugh. “Doesn’t even know the word, but she’ll go to prison for committing it.”
“Look it up,” Lucas said. He casually swatted one of the expensive table lamps as he strode by, and it fell to the side, shattering into pieces.
The thin man leaned forward and his coffee breath blew in her face as he spoke. “You might be dumb enough to marry that criminal,” he said. “Don’t think he hasn’t picked you for exactly that that reason, little girl.”
Ivy’s hand went to her face, as if to shield herself from their vicious presence, but it wasn’t necessary. They were leaving the room.
Once she heard the door open and close again with a loud slam, she sunk to her knees and cried.
By the time Cullen had come back to the room, Ivy had changed out of her dress and swept up the smashed pieces of the lamp, putting them into the trash can by the ornate desk.
He walked into the room with a grin. “Miss me?” he asked, but his smile went away when he saw the look on her face.
“Cullen,” she started, and then her throat worked and she couldn’t continue.
He rushed over to where she was standing and took her in his arms. “Tell me what happened.”
So she did, immediately describing what had happened when she’d opened the door and let the two FBI agents into the room. When she was done talking, Cullen went and checked the trashcan where he saw the remains of the lamp.
“So that’s how they operate,” he said, shaking his head. “They’re desperate, Ivy. They’ve got nothing and they know it.”
She nodded, folding her arms across her chest and shivering. “But somehow they knew we were in Vegas, Cullen. They even found our room. They’ve been following us.”
Cullen went to the window and stared outside, as though he might see them on the street below, despite the fact that their room was many stories up. The people below looked about the size of ants.
“They’re trying to scare you because that’s how they work. It’s a time honored tactic, to go after someone who can be manipulated and controlled.”
She looked at him. “That’s what they say about you.”
His eyes turned frosty as he glanced over at her. “Do you believe them?”
“I don’t want to,” she whispered. “But I don’t know what to think. They mentioned treason, Cullen. Doesn’t that mean you’ve committed crimes against the United States?”