I sat, trying to sort out my emotions, trying to understand what just happened, anger brewing amidst the confusion.

“Ouch.” The word came from my right, and I glanced over to see brown eyes studying me behind thick glasses, the girl’s mouth twisted into a wry grin.

“Yeah,” I muttered.

“It is a kick ass ring, though.” She smiled, dipping her pen in the direction of my hand.

I smiled politely, closing my own textbook with a sigh. So much for studying.

♥♥♥

While I planned my future, Rebecca planned my wedding, Olivia cursed my relationship, and arrangements of a completely different nature occurred in the seedy underbelly of the city. Money was exchanged, plans were constructed, and my fate was determined.

For the second time in twelve months, my life was in danger. And just like before, I was completely oblivious.

Chapter 36

“What’s going on with your law school application?” Brad’s voice came to me through the darkness and I turned, watching the light of the pool reflect off his muscles as he pushed up and out of the water.

I leaned back against the cushion of the pool chaise, my own skin almost dry. We had been swimming almost nightly, the unseasonal heat wave perfectly complemented by laps in the pool. We aimed for dusk, the sunset through the palm trees creating a perfect oasis and a half-hour of darkness before the bugs came out. He cocked an eyebrow at me, waiting for a response as he grabbed a towel off the chair beside me. “I haven’t given much thought to it,” I responded vaguely.

“You should be giving a lot of thought to it. What’s your top choice? We can shoot for admission there.”

I shot him an odd look. “My top choice? I was only going to apply to State. It’s the only law program nearby.”

He shook his head. “State is fine, but we’d be foolish not to use my contacts. Ignore the distance, where do you want to go?”

Where do I want to go? I hadn’t even allowed myself to think that way. I was getting married, would spend the next umpteen years of my life in this city. Me trotting off to a strange city for law school didn’t seem the prudent thing to do. “Ignore the distance?” I laughed. “Brad, that’s easy to say, but you don’t mean that.”

He stopped in the middle of drying his hair and looked at me. “Julia, this is a huge decision for you. It’s three years out of our entire life; we can make arrangements to make it work. Pick your school, and we will work out the rest.”

“I don’t want to live my first three years as a wife away from my husband. I can go to State. It’s no big deal.”

He frowned, sitting on the edge of my seat, his eyes locked with mine. “I don’t want you to be punished because you decided to marry me. I want you to make the right choices for your career. Do you know what field of law you want to practice?”

More decisions. “No. Not corporate. I died of boredom in the West Wing. Maybe criminal.” I reached out and caught his hand, stopping him as he rose. “Being your wife will never be a punishment. I chose to marry you, and living here is part of that choice.”

He leaned over, placing a soft kiss on my forehead and then leaned in more, brushing his lips across mine. “Regardless, make a list of your top five choices. State can only take up one spot. I’ll see who I know in each alumni base, and Rebecca can start collecting references.” He snagged my towel and held out a hand to help me up.

“I can collect my own references.”

“She can collect better ones.”

♥♥♥

The damn man had the annoying quality of always being right. I assembled my list, bringing it to Rebecca with dread, expecting some bitchy ass comment about adding to her workload. But she held the side of sass, glancing over the paper with a low whistle. “Damn girl, you don’t mess around.”

“It’s my dream list. I didn’t say it was realistic.” I grinned.

“Give me a few hours. Brad’s got enough favors hanging out there that this should be a cinch.”

“You’ve got time. I don’t need to send in apps ‘til the end of the next month.” I prepared to leave, standing and grabbing my bag, but was stopped by her outstretched finger.

She grabbed a pink flower post-it and scribbled something on it, then ripped off the top copy. “This is the next LSAT prep course. With those schools, you’re going to need one hell of an LSAT score. I already signed you up last week, per the big man’s instructions.” She held out the daisy-shaped note, and I took it reluctantly.

“I’m really just happy going to State ...” I ventured before she stood up with a start, her chair making a grotesque sound against the stone floor.

“Julia, that man will never forgive himself if you short-change your life because of him. I won’t go getting in your business, but trust me. He worries day and night about making you happy. Pick the damn school you want to go to.” She cocked a hip and fixed me with a look you might give an unruly child.

“You won’t go getting in our business?” The statement was so absurd I literally burst out laughing. I had no doubt the woman probably knew every aspect of our lives, right down to the time of my monthly cycle.

She laughed, then fixed me with a wry smile. “Hey, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Now, attend the damn LSAT course and leave me be. I need to find you some references so good that admissions will overlook your paltry three-point-eight GPA.”

I didn’t even question how she knew my GPA, her investigative skills way too advanced for a mortal like me to ever understand. Screw LSAT prep, I needed to take classes in Rebecca 101.

Chapter 37

MAY

Days until wedding: 108

Rebecca and my mother had taken over wedding preparations. Like, locked me out of the room, forbade me to touch their plans, taken over wedding prep. Which was great, because the details alone were enough to raise my stress level tenfold. I loved the thought of a big wedding, had Pinterested enough images for a hundred weddings, but when it came to organizing it all? Tasting cakes, picking out calligraphy? My chest seized at the sheer enormity. So I turned it over to them, trading hundreds of hours of details with one weekly update. The more money that poured out, the more intricate details and decisions that were added to the spectacle that was becoming our wedding, the less I cared. The more I realized that the details, the window dressing, was unimportant. Important to us was the whispering of words that would tie us together until death did us part. The words mattered, the packaging did not. All it did was dress up the connection—the connection that no one else understood. No one else really got him and me and why we were so perfect for each other. Trying to explain our relationship would involve trying to explain our sex, and no one outside of our world would understand it.

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