Authors: Elisa Elliot
Before you begin reading
I have a super important message that you MUST READ!
I promise it's not spam and I'm not trying to sell you something!
BY Elisa Elliot
Thank You Bonus audiobook of The Best Friend and Alpha Mate by Sicily Duval PLUS 2 extra Free books!
In no way is it legal to reproduce, duplicate, or transmit any part of this document in either electronic means or in printed format. Recording of this publication is strictly prohibited and any storage of this document is not allowed unless with written permission from the publisher. All rights reserved. Respective authors own all copyrights not held by the publisher.
By Sicily Duval
I zipped up my bag and put it by the door. “That’s the last of it.” I tried to tick off my mental list, making sure I didn’t forget anything. “The dress will be there already, and you’re bringing your tux, right?”
I turned to Roman. The poor man stood by the door, hands in his pockets, looking dejected and forlorn.
“I’ll see you in three days, my love.”
“I know,” he said. “But that’s a really long time.”
I walked to him and snaked my arms around his waist, putting my head on his chest so I could hear his heart beating. No matter how short a time we were going to be apart, I was going to miss this so much. Just the thought of being away from him made my heart ache. His chest was muscled under his shirt and his body rock hard under my arms. But when he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into him, I felt protected, and safe. Delicate. Beautiful. Roman was a lot of man, at six feet four inches and with the build of a wrestler it made everyone look twice when he walked down the street. He towered above me, his build making me look tiny. But at the same time he was soft at the center with a core of gold, and he handled me like he knew I could break if he wasn’t careful.
“This is going to be the first time,” he said into my hair. His British accent curled around the ends of his words and I could feel his deep voice humming through his chest.
“I’m just giving you chance to miss me,” I said, smiling. We’d been married for eight months and we hadn’t been apart since before our wedding. He’d lived in England when we’d met, and we’d communicated a lot over social networking until we were able to be together in person. I sounded more optimistic about it than I felt, but I just kept thinking about the reunion afterwards. That would be its own reward.
A car horn sounded at the gate.
“Taxi’s here,” I mumbled.
Roman held me at arm’s length. “Any trouble and you phone me, okay? I’ll be there in a flash.”
“Nothing will go wrong, honey,” I said. “We’re just going to sort out place cards and talk about lace and shoes and boys. You know how my sister is.”
He nodded and picked up my bag for me, carrying it to the car that waited at the gate. When he’d put it away for me he pulled me into him and planted his lips on mine, kissing me hard. In that kiss he told me everything, what I meant to him, what he was going to be without me.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too.” I got in the car and he closed the door behind me. When the car pulled away and I looked back Roman stood on the curb looking after me, and I felt like a piece of me was torn off and stayed behind.
Just three days
I told myself. I would be so busy, anyway.
The drive to the airport was a quick one. I checked in my bags and eventually got on the flight that was going to take me from Oregon to Massachusetts where my little sister was getting married. I was the older sister and her Maid of Honor, and we had three days to make her wedding perfect. She was finally getting married to Don, the guy she’d been dating since high school. At twenty-two she was six years younger than me, and much too young to marry, according to most people. But I figured that if you’d been with your one and only since you were fifteen, you had every right to claim you understood love and wanted to tie the knot.
When I stepped out of the airport in Massachusetts it felt like I was in a different country. Our home in Oregon was in the woods, small and simple. We’d chosen a spot in the forest at the edge of a small town halfway up the Cascades. Roman was a nature man and he needed the seclusion. He wasn’t the social type that would spend his nights around people in bars or at barbeques. Instead he wanted to be away from the noise, away from the crowd, and out in nature where we didn’t have to be reminded of new technologies and social networking, everything that was man-made.
It was ironic if you considered that we met online. He had had that life once upon a time.
Massachusetts had a different rhythm to it. Jade waited for me outside the airport, leaning against her green Volvo and picking her nails. Her blond hair was a curly mass the same color as mine, and she’d been growing it out for the wedding. She looked like a bride-to-be. She squealed when she saw me.
“Sadie! God it’s been too long!” she hugged me before holding me at arm’s length. “You look amazing. If that’s what married life is doing to you I’m glad I’m tying the knot.”
“Stop it,” I said, grinning and hauled my bag into the backseat. I knew she was right, though. I’d lost weight since I’d met Roman. My blond hair was longer and everyone told me there was a glow to me now I didn’t have before. That, I told them, was what happened when you found happiness and love in its truest form.
“How are you holding up?” I asked when we drove away from the airport. Jade and Don had booked an entire hotel on the outskirts of Boston for the wedding and there was a lot that needed to be done to transform the venue.
“I’m losing my mind, sis. There is so much left to do I don’t know if we’re ever going to finish on time. And at this point in time I don’t even know if this is such a good idea anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” I turned in my seat so I faced her.
“Oh, I don’t know. Don and I have been getting stuck a lot lately. We fight all the time, in ways that we never used to. And he’s weird about everything, like when I ask him to help me with wedding things it’s like he turns to stone.”
“He’s probably a bit overwhelmed. Marriage is one thing, the wedding is another. Roman and I should just have gotten married in court and used the money for an expensive honeymoon.” I put my hand over my sister’s on the gearstick. “It’s going to be okay. Tonight we’ll have wine and talk about it, and I’m here now to help with the wedding so Don won’t have to sit with the girl-stuff.”
We pulled into the driveway that led into the hotel property. The road wound through the trees with the leaves creating a canopy over our heads. The sunlight dappled everything on the ground. We stopped in front of an old Victorian-style building with trellises wrapping around it and hanging from the roof like lace.
“Oh, this is perfect,” I breathed. It was magical. Exactly like my sister.
Don appeared on front porch to greet us. He was tall and lanky with dirty-blond hair that always looked windblown. He was the exact opposite of Roman. I pulled out my phone and checked for messages. I was missing him madly already.
“It’s good to see you, Sadie,” Don said and kissed me on my cheek. He’d been around so long he was like my brother already. When he turned to Jade he gave her a tight-lipped peck and stepped back again. I pulled up my eyebrows. They were usually very warm with each other.
When Don walked back into the hotel with my bag, Jade shrugged her shoulders. It wasn’t a questioning shrug, it was a resigned one.
“Do you think he’s getting cold feet?” she asked when we were in the room I would be staying in. She was flustered. Her blue eyes became bigger and they shimmered with the onslaught of tears.
“Sweetie, if he had cold feet he would have left ages ago. You guys have been together, what, almost seven years now? I think when he said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you he meant it. He’d been doing just that since you guys met, in fact.”
“I guess so,” Jade said and sank onto the bed. “He’s just been so different since we got here. The last two days he’s been so switched off I don’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t really talk to me, and when I ask him what’s wrong he just says ‘nothing’.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. If you want I can try to get something out of him.”
Jade shook her head, making her curls bob on her shoulders. “Don’t try. It’s just going to make everything worse.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it, okay? It’s going to be amazing, and you’re going to look stunning. You haven’t even shown me your dress yet!”
Her eyes lit up. Dresses and shoes was something we had in common. Jade had been just as ecstatic about my wedding as I had been, and now I was returning the favor. I followed her to the room she would use to get ready in, and she pulled open the closet doors. A white dress hung from a clothes hanger on the inside of the door. It was made of white shimmery material with crystals sown in a delicate pattern that curled across the bodice and onto the skirt.
“You have to put it on,” I ordered. She disappeared into the bathroom, and I sat down on the bed. My bridesmaid dress hung in the closet too. I had it sent by mail after the fitting in Oregon because I’d been worried about how it would travel. It was aqua blue with a purple sash. Knee-length and form fitted. Just as perfect.
Jade appeared again, and I gasped. She really looked like a dream. The dress was beautiful and it made her look even tinier than she already was.
“It’s going to be perfect,” I said when we both stood in front of the mirror, looking at her dress. Jade nodded but it didn’t look like she believed me.
“We’re having dinner in the hotel restaurant a bit later, please say you’ll join us?” Jade looked more anxious that eager. I wondered if it was to spend more time with her and Don, or if she was really hard up for someone else to join the conversation because it was too awkward between them. Their stiff reaction towards each other earlier was a cause for worry. Since they’d met in high school they’d been the easy-going couple everyone had talked about.
I went downstairs with Jade to the restaurant adjacent to the lobby. It was decorated in shades of cream and salmon, with gold trims. Mock-chandeliers hung from the ceiling, giving it all a very expensive air. This room was going to be the wedding reception after the ceremony took place in one of the conference rooms that would be transformed to look like a chapel.
Don stood up from his seat when we approached, and we sat down.
“This place is amazing,” I said to him. He looked around.
“It’s not bad,” he offered. “Jade chose it.” The way he said it made me think he didn’t like it so much. His face was void of expression and he kept his voice carefully monotonous. When I glanced at Jade she was looking around the room, anywhere but at Don.
“How’s Roman?” Don asked and the tension lifted a bit.
“He’s good, real good. Works’ been good and he says he loves it here.”
“He doesn’t want to go back to the UK?”
I shook my head. It hadn’t been easy for him to adjust to living in the States, but he had told me time and again that he had wanted to do it for me. We could go to England for vacations, but he refused to even talk about moving there. “He doesn’t want to live in England.”
“That’s so romantic,” Jade said and she had a dreamy look in her eyes. “I’m so happy you found someone, Sadie. And he’s such a keeper, too! I don’t know a lot of guys that will just give up everything for the girl they love.”
I smiled and opened my mouth to answer her, but Don interrupted me.
“Actually, that’s all I see guys doing,” he said in a clipped voice.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jade asked and her back was up immediately.
“Most men are just forced into what women want, and they’re not even asked about it.”
The tension was back and elevating quickly. Don’s face was a blank, his eyes closed, and he looked at Jade with a look I’d never seen him use before. He was completely emotionless, no warmth. Jade on the other hand was angrier than I’d seen her in a while. This was a conversation that had started long before I’d arrived.
“Woah, guys—“ I started, but I could have been in a different room, for all they knew.
“I don’t understand why you’re so upset about this,” Jade said. “I this was what you wanted.”
“This? This is costing me a fortune and it’s changed you into someone else. If you ever tried to ask me, you would have known what I wanted.”
“You’re not being fair. I wasn’t going to just give up all my dreams—“
“I think I’m going to go upstairs,” I said loud enough for them both to pause and look at me. I got up from the table and left the room so my sister and her fiancé could fight it out in peace.