available from Decadent Publishing
available from Decadent Publishing
The day had gotten away from him. After checking his watch, Ross Marshall decided to walk back to his office anyway. It was only a few blocks; besides, a little fresh air -- at least, as fresh as it could get in Los Angeles -- never hurt anyone.
His meeting that evening had been successful, and he’d agreed to take the job. There would have been a time his security firm, The Guardian Agency, would have taken any job that walked through the door. Not anymore -- now he could afford to pick and choose. He employed fifteen men he hired out as bodyguards to Hollywood’s elite, and another five whose specialty was commercial security. It was his area of expertise, but he wouldn’t be able to start the new job for another week. He had to follow up on some previous work. One requiring him to travel to a sunny, less smog-filled location, and the building he had to evaluate happened to overlook the Caribbean Sea.
Yeah, at times his life was hard. He grinned.
As he neared the church on the corner, his footsteps slowed. A white Hummer limousine was parked at the curb in front of the church. Curious, he slowed down even more as he approached the car. He wasn’t alone. A handful of people had stopped on the sidewalk to watch the partially open door of the church.
“I think it’s a wedding?” he heard the woman in front of him say. She might have been correct because right beside him, the words ‘JUST MARRIED’ were spray-painted across the back window of the limousine.
“No one famous,” someone else said. “I don’t see any paparazzi.”
A man chuckled. “Probably hiding behind a bush.”
Ross grinned at the man, but a sound from the doorway had him swinging his head back in that direction.
“Oh, I hope we get to see the bride,” another woman said.
“Wait, I think that’s her.”
The door opened wider, and a woman in a wedding dress ran out of the church. The lights flanking the walkway illuminated the garment, causing it to sparkle against her warm brown skin; a trail of white floated like a cloud behind her over the stone steps.
His lungs stopped working for a second at the picture she created. It took another second for his brain to register what he had seen.
She ran out of the church alone.
“Wait!” The shout came from a woman in a long emerald dress clutching a small suitcase in her hands. She made her way quickly down the steps. The would-be bride had reached the sidewalk, but stopped and turned to wait for the woman to catch up to her.
Ross heard her say, “Here, you’ll need this.” Then she shoved the suitcase and a purse toward the bride.
“I…I’ll call you in a few days.” Her voice was soft, shaky. They hugged; the bride’s back was to him, but he could see tears in the other woman’s eyes. Whatever had happened, he was sure no wedding had taken place. He felt something stir in his chest for the woman in white. She turned around and, for an instant, their gazes collided.
Her lush mouth trembled in an oval face. Large, dark eyes were red from crying, but her makeup remained intact. She was close enough he could reach out and rub the tear tracks from her face. His hand rose to do just that, but instead of touching her he turned his arm and opened the rear door of the limo.
“Thank you,” she whispered, still watching him.
She glanced away before climbing in, pulling her dress and train up and out of the way. He shut the door and stepped back. A woman near him on the sidewalk said to no one in particular, “I wonder what happened to the groom?”
To his surprise, an angry voice behind them answered. “The bastard was kissing the best man in the damn dressing room.”
He turned toward the voice. It was the woman who had come out of the church bringing the suitcase, and who closely resembled the would-be bride.
She snorted before continuing. “Thank God, before the ceremony.” After making that announcement, she turned and ran back up the stairs. By then, other people drifted out of the church.
“Show's over,” Ross said, and continued on his way back to the office to retrieve his car.
But even after he’d arrived home and packed his bags for his early-morning flight, he wasn’t concentrating on work. Instead, he couldn’t get the image of the sad, soulful eyes of the beautiful almost-bride out of his head.