Brutal Prince: Chapter 9

AIDA

The whole next week is wasted in idiotic wedding planning. Imogen Griffin is handling most of it, because the Griffins are control freaks and my family doesn’t give a shit what the wedding looks like. Still, she expects me to approve seating arrangements and flowers and meal plans like I give a crap about any of it.

Spending time with Callum’s family is bizarre. I still can’t shake the feeling that they’re going to jump me any time I’m alone with them. Yet there’s this make-believe between us, where they pretend like all of this is genuine, and I’m supposed to play along, like I’m actually some blushing bride-to-be and their daughter-in-law.

I can’t figure out Imogen. From the outside, she looks like your typical wealthy socialite: blonde, perfectly coiffed, always speaking in cultured tones. But I can tell she’s intelligent, and I suspect she’s much more heavily involved in the Griffins’ business than she lets on.

The wedding will be small, since it’s taking place so quickly, but she still insists I need a proper dress. So that’s why I’m in Bella Bianca, trying on wedding gowns in front of Nessa, Riona, and Imogen.

I don’t have any female family members to invite, not that I’d want to involve them in this farce anyway.

Nessa is the most excited, pulling down dress after dress for me to try on, then clapping her hands and squealing over every one. They’re all puffy princess dresses and ball gowns, ridiculously exaggerated like a cartoon brought to life. Half the time I get lost in the tulle, and Nessa has to pull down the various layers and turn it all around and zip me upright.

Even though I hate every one of them, I can’t help laughing at her infectious energy. She’s so sweet with her big brown eyes and her pink cheeks.

“Why don’t you try some on, too?” I ask her.

“Oh, no,” she shakes her head, blushing hard enough to drown out her freckles. “I couldn’t do that.”

“Why not? There’s a million of them. It’ll go way faster if you help me.”

“Well . . .”

I can see she’s dying to do it. I shove one of the puffiest dresses into her arms.

“Come on, let’s see it.”

Nessa goes to change. Sighing with resignation, I pull on dress number sixty-seven. It weighs about a hundred pounds and has a train longer than Princess Diana’s.

Nessa comes out looking like the dancer she is, her slender neck rising from the bodice of the gown, the skirt as puffy as a tutu.

“What do you think?” she says, twirling around on the raised dais. Now she looks like one of those music-box ballerinas

“I think you’re the one that should be getting married,” I say to her. “It suits you way better.”

I reach out my hands so we can dance around together. Our skirts are so huge that we have to bend way over to even reach each other. Nessa falls off the dais, landing unharmed in the massive puff of her own skirt. We both burst out laughing.

Riona watches us, unsmiling.

“Hurry up,” she snaps. “I haven’t got all day to spend on this.”

“Just pick one, then,” I bark back at her. “I don’t give a shit which dress I wear.”

“It’s your wedding dress,” Imogen says, in her calm, cultured voice. “It has to speak to you. It has to resonate. Then someday you can pass it down to your own daughter.”

My stomach gives a lurch. She’s talking about some fictional daughter I’m supposed to have with Callum Griffin. The idea of waddling around pregnant with his baby makes me want to rip off this skirt and sprint out of the store. This place is stuffed with so much pure-white tulle, beading, sequins, and lace that I can barely breathe.

“I really don’t care,” I tell Imogen. “I’m not that into dresses. Or clothes in general.”

“That’s obvious,” Riona says tartly.

“Yeah,” I snap, “I don’t dress like Corporate Barbie. How’s that working out for you, by the way? Does your dad let you take notes on his meetings, or do you just stand there looking pretty?”

Riona’s face turns as red as her hair. Imogen interrupts before Riona can retort.

“Maybe something a little simpler would appeal to you, Aida.”

Imogen motions to the attendant, requesting several dresses by number and designer name. She obviously did her research before she came. I don’t care what she picked out. I just want this to be over. I’ve never pulled up so many zippers in my life.

I don’t know what happened to my mother’s dress. But I do know what it looked like—I have a picture of her on her wedding day. She’s sitting in a gondola in Venice, right in the bow of the boat, the long, lace train trailing over the bow, almost touching the pale green water. She’s looking right at the camera, haughty and elegant.

Actually, one of the dresses Imogen selected is a little like my mother’s—caplet sleeves trailing off the shoulders. A fitted bodice with a sweetheart neckline. Old-fashioned lace, but no puffiness. Just smooth, simple lines.

“I like this one,” I say hesitantly.

“Yes,” Imogen agrees. “That off-white suits you.”

“You look STUNNING,” Nessa says.

Even Riona doesn’t have anything disparaging to say. She just tilts up her chin and nods.

“Let’s wrap it up, then,” I say.

The attendant takes the dress, fretting over the fact that we don’t have time to get it altered before the wedding.

“It fits fine,” I assure her.

“Yes, but if you took it in just a little at the bust—”

“I don’t care,” I say, shoving it into her arms. “It’s good enough.”

“I’ve booked girls to do your hair and makeup the morning of the wedding,” Imogen tells me.

That sounds like way more fuss than necessary, but I force myself to smile and nod. It’s not worth fighting over—there will be plenty of things to brawl about later.

“Callum has booked a spa day for you as well, the day before the wedding,” Imogen says.

“That’s really not necessary,” I tell her.

“Of course it is! You’ll want to relax and be pampered.”

I don’t like relaxing or being pampered.

This is how Imogen Griffin gets her way, I’m sure—telling you how it’s going to be with a light tone and polite smile on her face. Acting like any resistance would be the height of uncouthness, so you’re shamed into going along.

“I’m busy,” I tell her.

“It’s already booked,” Imogen says. “I’ll send a car around at nine to pick you up.”

I’m about to say, I won’t be there, but I force myself to take a deep breath and swallow down the instinctive rebelliousness. It’s just a spa day. They’re trying to be nice, in their own pushy, prissy way.

“Thank you,” I say through gritted teeth.

Imogen gives me a tight smile.

“You’ll be the perfect bride,” she says.

It sounds more like a threat than a compliment.

Each day is whipping by faster than the one before. When the wedding was two weeks away, it seemed like a lifetime. Like anything could happen in between to call it off.

But now it’s only three days away. Then two. Then, it’s actually happening tomorrow, and I’m waiting outside my house for Imogen’s stupid town car to pick me up, to take me to some spa day that I neither want nor need.

I know they want to pluck me and exfoliate me and rub off all my rough edges, making me some smooth, soft little wifey for the scion of their family. The great Callum Griffin. He’s their JFK, and I’m supposed to be their Jackie Kennedy.

I’d rather be Lee Harvey Oswald.

Still, I stuff down all my irritation and let the driver take me to a posh spa on Walton Street.

It’s not so bad to begin with. Callum really did book the works. The aestheticians soak my feet and paint my fingers and toes. They have me sit in a giant mud bath with a completely different sort of mud plastered all over my face. Then they put some conditioning wrap on my hair, and after that’s all had time to seep in, they wash it off, then oil me up like a Thanksgiving turkey. They cover me in hot stones, then take them off again and start rubbing and pummeling every inch of my body.

Since I don’t give a fig about being naked, this is my favorite part. I’ve got two ladies with their four hands all over me, rubbing and massaging and working out every last stress-induced muscle knot that’s burrowed its way into my neck, my back, even my arms and legs. Seeing as Callum is the one who initiated that stress in the first place, I guess it’s only fitting that he should pay to have it rubbed out again.

It’s so delightfully relaxing that I start to fall asleep, lulled by the women’s hands on my skin, and the faux ocean sounds being pumped through the speakers.

I wake up to blinding pain in the crotch region. The aesthetician stands over me, holding a waxing strip bearing the little hairs that used to be attached to my body.

“What the fuck?” I shriek.

“It can sting a little,” she says in a completely unsympathetic tone.

I look down at my lady bits, which are now completely bald on the left side.

“What the hell are you doing?” I shout at her.

“Your Brazilian,” she says, slapping another wax strip down on the right side.

“Hey!” I smack her hand away. “I don’t want a fucking Brazilian! I don’t want to be waxed at all.”

“Well, it was on the service list,” she picks up her clipboard and hands it to me, like that’s going to ease the burning fire on the newly bald and horribly sensitive parts of my groin.

“I didn’t set the damn service list!” I shout, tossing down the clipboard. “And I don’t want you practicing your torture techniques on my crotch.”

“The wax is already set,” she says, pointing to the strip she just slapped down. “It has to come off, one way or another.”

I try to pry up the edge of the cloth strip, but she’s right. It’s already good and adhered to what little hair I had left. The aesthetician looks down at me with zero sympathy in her cool blue eyes. I think these women get off on inflicting pain. I could easily see her swapping out her white smock for a leather corset and riding crop.

“Get it off, then,” I say grumpily.

With one quick jerk, the aesthetician rips off the strip, leaving another stripe of smooth pink skin.

I shriek and let out a string of expletives, some English and some Italian. The aesthetician doesn’t even flinch. I’m sure she’s heard it all.

“Alright, that’s enough!” I say.

“You can’t leave it like that,” she says, wrinkling her nose.

Cazzo! I’ve got about two-thirds of my pussy waxed, with little patches of hair in odd places. It does look fucking awful. I don’t care for Callum’s sake, but I don’t want to have to look at that for weeks until it grows out again.

I can’t fucking believe his nerve, booking a bikini wax along with everything else. He thinks he owns my pussy already? He thinks he gets to decide how it looks?

I should wait until he’s sleeping, then slap hot wax on his balls. Give him a taste of his own medicine.

Grimly, I say, “Fine. Finish it off.”

It takes three more strips and a whole lot more swearing to get off the remaining hair. When they’re finished, I’m completely bald, the cool air touching me as it never has before.

It’s fucking humiliating. It’s . . . whatever the feminine version of “emasculating” would be. I’m like Sampson. Callum stole my hair and stripped me of my power.

I’m going to get back at him for this, that conniving, perverted fuck. He thinks he can wax my pussy without consent? He doesn’t even know what he’s starting.

The aestheticians go back to massaging me, but I’m fucking fuming.

I’m already planning all the ways I’m going to make Callum’s life a living hell.

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