Page 31 of Buying the Bride

It takes a while, but when it finally happens, she jumps nearly a foot in the air and it was totally worth it.

“Shit, Sylph, you scared the hell out of me!”

I put my hands on my hips and keep a stern expression even though the look on her face makes me want to crack up. “You’ve been avoiding me,” I say.

Her hand still clutches her chest when she sits on the couch. I wipe crumbs off the couch before sitting next to her. This place has really gone to shit without me being here to pick up after her.

“I have,” she says, resigned.

At least she doesn’t try to lie to me. I would’ve gotten it out of her anyway and she knows it. She’s always been a terrible liar. “Did you know about the P.I. the twins hired to look into my background?” I ask.

She nods, but won’t look me in the eye. “He was looking into me too. That’s why I bailed on you. I was afraid it would affect my business.”

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me so I could at least tell Heath? His siblings caught us completely off-guard.”

“I thought you would be fine since you’re past is dirt-free, and there’s nothing linking you to my business.”

“I’m not dirt-free. They found out about my ex.”

Mandi’s eyes spring open and so does her mouth. “Sylph, I’m so sorry. I forgot all about that douche bag. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, but I think it upset Heath.”

“I’m sorry.”

I forgive her because she’s my best friend and I need her right now. With everything that has happened, I’ve felt all alone.

“How has everything been going with the job?” she asks.

I hate that she calls it a job, even though that’s technically what it is. Heath stopped being a job for me a long time ago.

“Great, actually. At least it was until his sister showed up and took me dress shopping.”

“Did you find something?” Mandi asks.

“Yeah, but I hate it. I mean, it’s absolutely gorgeous and it looks good on me, but something about it doesn’t feel right.”

Her smile beams. “I know how to make all of this up to you.”

I frown, skeptical. “How?”

“I’m taking you dress shopping. You and I are going to find the dress of your dreams. It’ll be my gift to you.”

I want to tell her no, that the dress I have will work fine, but I don’t want to wear it. When I stand at the altar with Heath in front of him, I want to feel beautiful and confident. That’s not going to happen in the dress Arora picked out for me.

“Okay,” I tell her and start to feel excited about the prospect of finding my dream dress.

Mandi and I go to a local dress store instead of one of those ridiculously over-priced ones like Arora had taken me to. This one has far more selections with better prices and more sizes. My heart feels lighter walking into it and I know I’ll find what I’m looking for here. An older woman with big hair and an Eastern European accent helps me to find all the different styles of dresses in my size and within Mandi’s budget, and I start trying them on. None of them are as detailed, frilled, or beaded like the other, but they are all still beautiful in their own way.

I try on several that have potential. Every time I come out with a new one, Mandi says, “That’s it, that’s the one!” They all could be the one, but my heart hasn’t sung yet. Maybe it won’t. It could be that I’m searching for a feeling that only exists in movies. But I want to keep trying.

The next dress I try on is in a paper shroud so I’m unable to see what it looks like right away. When I pull the paper back, my heart starts to beat a little faster. Right now all I can see are a few little details on the bodice and some pearls and beads, but already, looking at it is giving me chills. Could this be it?

When I pull it out of the bag, I know.

I try the dress on. The woman who owns the dress shop comes into the changing room to help me. There’s a lot of fabric to this one. She gasps when she sees me in it and says something in her own language that I can’t understand. When I wrinkle my brow in confusion she smiles and says, “This dress was made for you.”