My Darling Bride: Chapter 13

GRAHAM

The night air feels thick with anticipation as I open the door of the Range Rover for Emmy a couple of nights later. She’s waiting for me outside her apartment, and I inhale a sharp breath at how beautiful she is.

Fierce.

Sexy.

And very, very unavailable.

There’s no option where I let her in close.

I simply . . . can’t go there.

I invited Divina into my heart, gave her full access, and she destroyed it.

That wound hasn’t healed. It’s a scar that still burns.

I’m not allowing anyone to make a fresh one.

But, damn, I can appreciate her beauty and take care of her the way a husband should. Protection. A home. She’ll resist me helping her, but part of me wants to see Emmy happy. Can’t deny it. Can’t explain why, but I’m trusting my gut on this and going on instinct.

I open her door, and she steps carefully into the car, her long legs delicately grazing the leather seats.

“You look gorgeous.” My words are husky and deep as my eyes eat her up.

“Oh. Thanks. Jane did my hair.” A blush steals up her cheeks as I take in her red dress. It’s silky, with one shoulder, a Grecian style, the clingy material skimming her hips and thighs. Her hair is up in a fancy updo, and her green eyes pop with dark makeup.

I get in on the other side.

She nudges her head to a lamppost down the street. “There’s a man there. He snapped pics of me leaving for work this morning and was here when I came back. Should I be worried that he’s here?”

I squint at the middle-aged man who’s trying to look nonchalant. He keeps his head down but gazes up at us every few moments as he toys with a camera. “I imagine it’s one of Holden’s guys. The family law firm employs several private investigators. And the engagement announcement came out already.”

She frowns. “Holden’s checking up on us?”

“Unfortunately, yeah. To make sure we’re legit.”

“Why does he care so much?”

“Because if neither myself nor Brody marries by the time we’re forty, then he gets our inheritance. That’s twenty million in his pocket, plus him gloating over it when we’re at Christmas dinner.”

She winces. “Your family sounds . . .”

“Horrible?”

She laughs. “You aren’t so bad.”

She truly is sunshine—with a steely edge. I pretend an aggrieved look. “I guess we need to give him a show, yeah?”

The air thickens as I lean over the console to her.

“Another kiss?” she murmurs.

“Hmm.” I touch the curve of her cheek, tracing my fingers over the top of her dress, my eyes hungry, my cock hardening.

“No objections?” I ask.

“None,” she breathes, and I pull her close, my mouth seeking hers. The kiss is soft and slow, full of yearning. For me, it’s the innocence in her I ache for, her sweetness, even though I know she’s tough.

I like her.

The truth is, I lust.

For her.

But I’m gentle, my tongue tracing the contours and ridges of her lips, nipping delicately at her lips, every nuance amplified as I stroke my fingers over her dress, grazing her pebbled nipples.

Our lips together are pure sin, and as long as I keep my feelings locked away, this is cool, fine, I can do this, I can kiss her, I can take her in my arms, and I can fuck her—

Nope.

That’s a dangerous path, one I don’t want to travel down.

Take the path! the lizard side of my brain yells.

She pulls away, her thick lashes fluttering as she touches her lips. “Was he looking?” she asks.

I don’t even glance that way. I’m too busy staring at her.

“I’m sure he took pics. Let’s get out of here.”

I keep my gaze on the road, but it doesn’t stop me from inhaling her sugary-sweet vanilla scent. Then I shove it away and think about football plays. I think about how being on the field this week for practice has been good. She plays with the hem of her dress, and I glance down at her legs.

This heat for her is damn inconvenient.

Don’t want it.

Don’t need it.

I shove those thoughts away as I whip into a parking spot at an office building.

Emmy gazes around. “What’s this place?”

“I should have mentioned it earlier. It’s my lawyer’s office, David. He’s waiting after hours for us. We’ll get to Borelli’s on time.”

A little frown puckers her forehead. “Okay. Why are we here?”

“Prenup. A man like me doesn’t get married without one.”

Realization dawns on her heart-shaped face. “Ah, gotta protect those millions. I’ve never been wealthy, so I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Getting everything on paper is the smart thing to do, although money doesn’t make a person happy,” I say gruffly, my hands tapping out a beat on the steering wheel as I wonder what her reaction is going to be when she reads what’s in it. I called David earlier and adjusted a few items.

“It’s a cliché, but only people with money say that.”

We’re still talking as we get in the elevator. She’s telling me about her day at the bookstore. Apparently Babs had an altercation with a customer who insisted on taking a book into the bathroom with him, when the sign clearly said that merchandise wasn’t allowed. He’d been coming in a few times a week to go to the restroom—always with a book that he never paid for. She’d have to toss it in the trash after he left. She told him he could poop without a book, and he argued that his IBS was better with the smell of ink. She finally let him go to the restroom after he’d agreed to buy the book afterward.

I chuckle in the right places, but I’m on pins and needles as we reach David’s office and walk inside. He greets Emmy, ushers her to a leather chair, and pulls out the papers I’ve already signed.

She scans the pages for several minutes, confusion growing on her face. “Okay, hold on. I understand the NDA, it’s what we discussed, but this prenup agreement is . . .” She trails off as her green eyes rise to meet mine, incredulous as they search my face. “What’s going on, Graham? We should have discussed this.”

I’m standing next to the window, as far from her as I can get in the room. I actually feel my heart beating in my chest.

Damned inconvenient. She reminds me of the girl in my dream, the one who appears to me after I’ve been tackled on the field. I shove it away.

“What’s the issue? Once the inheritance comes in and our divorce is final, once you put your signature down that we’re over, you’ll receive a million dollars, hopefully enough to pay off the mortgage on your apartment—or do whatever you want with.”

“It’s enough. Graham . . .” Her throat moves. “Is this a trick?”

“No.”

She sputters. “You agreed to keep the store and only sell to someone who’ll keep it, and now this. I-I don’t understand why you’d do so much for me . . .”

“To make sure you’re happy when you leave. I’ll need your silence forever, Emmy. You can never go public, or we’d have to give back the inheritance.”

She nods slowly. “Okay, I get that.”

“Plus, you’ll need somewhere to go after we divorce. You’ll need a home. What would people think if we divorced, and you got nothing? It’s not just about your silence; it’s about appearances.”

Her face dips, hiding her expression as she reads the papers. “You could have just started with all of this from the get-go.”

But that was before I learned you were having trouble making your mortgage.

I want her to have this safe harbor, a landing spot once we’re over. And I don’t even know why. Perhaps because she is achingly familiar to me in a way I can’t describe. Every fiber of me wants to take care of her. It happened the moment I got down on my knees. It felt right.

“Just sign the papers, Emmy,” I murmur.

She shakes her head. “I can’t. You’re handing over money to me when you could have used it to buy Brody a place for his gym.”

“I’ve never come across a woman who didn’t want a gift from me, if you can even call it that. It’s for services rendered in the future.” I put my back to her, my hands tightening as I stare out into the city. “Making sure you’re happy ensures your silence. If you break the contract, then you’ll be in court, and I’ll take the money back.”

There’s a charged silence as I watch her in the reflection in the window, tracing over her features. Her brows are pulled down, and her teeth nibble at her bottom lip. It’s the expression she gets when she’s considering something impulsive. Like dragging me into her room, probably the same one she had before she stole my car, and she certainly wore it when I “officially” proposed to her in the bookstore kitchen.

Luscious mouth.

I don’t trust myself around her.

Because a part of me—shit, a serious part of me—is starting to wonder if she’s . . .

No.

Football.

Football.

Football.

That’s what I want.

With an exhale, she signs the papers while I stare out the window, grappling with how to endure a marriage to Emmy without, fuck, getting feelings.

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