Grant watched her walk away.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Harold said. “She is strong. All brides are a little emotional before their wedding.”

“I’ve never seen Sara this...pensive.”

“I have. When she had to give the baby she carried over to the parents. She’ll come round.” Harold walked away, not giving Grant time to ask questions.

* * *

In North Carolina, another limousine waited at the airport curb to whisk them away.

Sara watched out the window as they traveled along a highway with green rolling hills on either side. Small colorful farmhouses dotted the landscape every so often. All the serenity of the landscape was in direct contrast to the bubbling anxiety within her.

Was she making a mistake? At least she was helping a little girl live with someone who wanted her. It wasn’t much different than what she’d done for Emily when she’d handed her over to her parents. Lily would have more from Grant than Sara had received from her mother, like feeling wanted. But how would Lily feel when Sara left her? Or Sara had to leave her? That thought didn’t improve her feelings. At least Lily was young enough not to wonder if it was because of something she did.

Grant would soon find someone to replace her. She was only temporary anyway. The plan had never been for her to stay for the long haul. That wasn’t part of the agreement. Did she want to stay? She glanced at Grant. Maybe she was starting to. It didn’t matter. She needed to be wanted for who she was, not for how she could help him.

Grant would find another wife. Why did the idea settle over her like a shroud? He was only interested in making this look like a real marriage for Lily’s sake. He’d said nothing about wanting anything more. Sara’s heart burned in a way it never had before.

The car pulled into the stone and iron gated drive of a resort. They traveled up a tree-canopied road into an open area with a finely manicured lawn and flowers blooming in patches along it.

She sighed. “Oh, my, it’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Grant smiled. His concerned look was gone.

The driver stopped at the front door of a one-story stone building. Letting go of her hand, Grant stepped out of the car and met the man who came out to greet them. Sara rolled down the window as they spoke and Grant leaned in. “We’re staying in cottages located around the property. We’ll get out and go by golf cart from here. Mother has already assigned them.” He opened Sara’s door.

“Your mother is here?”

“She has come and gone. She had to take care of some things in town. We’ll see her tonight.”

Sara was almost as nervous about meeting Grant’s mother as she was about the marriage. She was in way over her head this time.

“You and your father will be staying together.”

“What about Lily?”

“She’ll be in a nearby cottage. Mother hired a nanny to see to her. You can check on her any time you want. So don’t worry,” Grant informed her.

Sara wasn’t pleased with the idea. She wanted Lily with her but she said, “Okay.”

Grant helped her out of the car and into the golf cart. “I’ll see you this evening at dinner.”

She nodded. Dinner. Where they would all act like this was a real wedding. A love match. But it wasn’t. It was pretend. Pretend to be a wife. Pretend to be a mother. Just pretend. The urge to run swamped her.

The attendant drove her and her father along a winding narrow blacktop trail until they came to a sweet, idyllic-looking cottage much like those she’d seen in picture books. It had a small front porch on one side with a white railing, bright yellow siding and a red door. A vine with hot-pink blooms grew along one porch post and up over the roof. It was magical.

The inside didn’t disappoint either. There was a small but comfortable sitting room done in a floral print that brought the outside in, a kitchen area and two bedrooms, each with their own bathroom.

“Little girl, I think this room is yours.”

“Uh...” Sara stepped into the room where her father already stood.

Hanging from the door of the closet was the most amazing wedding dress and veil she could have imagined. The dress was simple in design, with small straps and a fitted bodice of shimmering gauze that was pulled tight to create folds. The skirt was an overlay of more netting on netting. She touched the dress almost with reverence. Lifting a section, she let it fall, watching the material glistening in the light. The veil was short and trimmed in seed pearls. On the floor were a pair of white slippers.

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