Page 20 of Buying the Bride

Now I can’t get her out of my mind. I know what she did had nothing to do with money. She knows I’m not paying her for sexual favors. And then she made dinner for me. Those aren’t the kinds of things women for hire do without a cash motivation.

Is it naïve to think there might actually be something between us? It’s not like being a bride for hire is her typical job. There aren’t other men out there who’ve shared this same experience with her.

I don’t know. I don’t want to get my hopes up, so I try not to think about it.

I direct my driver to a restaurant downtown. Instead of letting the wolves get to Sylph right away, I decide to have breakfast with my family first and make sure they’re on their best behavior.

They are already at the restaurant when I arrive, which shocks the hell out of everyone, including myself since I’m usually always the first one to arrive anywhere we go. My time with Sylph last night has thrown off everything. I find myself thinking about her instead of paying attention to the time. One look at my dad’s face and it’s obvious he’s annoyed by my tardiness. My mom doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about much outside of all of her fundraisers and luncheons. She’s waiting for me with open arms. From the looks of things, she’s had one too many mimosas already. The twins, Theo and Arora, two years younger than me, wear the same disbelieving expressions on their faces.

“Is this the part where you tell us this whole engagement is a joke and we can go home?” Theo says. He wears a seersucker coat, shorts that hit just above his knee, and boat shoes. A trendy look for the young and wealthy these days, but to me he looks like a tool.

“Where is the girl who stole my darling big brother’s heart?” Arora says. Her saccharine smile does little to hide her contempt.

“She’s busy making wedding preparations. I wanted to see you first and tell you a little bit about her before you meet.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Arora asks.

“Nothing,” I say. “She’s just different. She’s down to earth, and genuinely kind. Absolutely beautiful. Her laugh alone will set anyone at ease. I care about her a lot, so I want you two to be nice to her.” I can hear the change in my voice when I talk about her. The truth behind my words is impossible to hide, which seems to confuse the twins.

“We’re always on our best behavior,” Theo says with a slight tilt of his lips that usually means the opposite of what he’s saying.

“Well she sounds lovely, dear,” my mother says. “And I, for one, can’t wait to meet her.”

The rest of the meal is filled with the twin’s idol chitchat, and on the outside everyone seems to be fine with the engagement. Maybe my parents are, but I know the twins better than that.

During the ride home I find myself excited to see Sylph again. I try to tell myself not to be. This isn’t a permanent situation. It’s best not to get attached. But the moment I walk through the door and see her sitting on the couch with a book in her hands, there’s a twist of longing in my chest. Longing to kiss her, to hold her, to be with her in any capacity. I just want to be near her. That thought messes with my mind, and so I try to turn my face into an emotionless mask so she doesn’t see it.

Her face lights up when she sees me and it’s difficult not to smile, but I manage.

“Hey, you. You’re up early,” she says.

“I went out to breakfast with my family. I wanted to make sure they were on their best behavior when they meet you.”

“You’re really sweet to care about my feelings that way.”

I open my mouth to say, I would never let anyone hurt you, but decide to hold my tongue. I hate the confusion I feel right now. This was supposed to be easy. That’s the whole point in hiring someone to marry me—no attachments, no feelings, and yet I’m breaking all the rules. How did this happen?

“Sylph, about last night … we should probably talk about it.”

“Are you sure you want to talk about it? Wouldn’t you rather have a reenactment?”

She gives me a devilish little smile that makes the traitor in my pants perk up. I was going to tell her that it can’t happen again, but now the words just won’t come to me. Instead I find myself smiling like an idiot. I lean in to kiss her just as there’s a knock at the door.