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My Darling Bride: Chapter 29


I’m browsing the third floor of the store when I hear a man clear his throat behind me. I turn to see who it is just as the PA system comes on. “Emmy, there’s a situation. Headed your way. Long and slithery—repeat, long and slithery.”

“Fuck,” I mutter under my breath as I take in the man with a giant yellow snake coiled around his throat like a necklace. The snake’s body is long, its diameter as thick as my leg. It rears its head, slithering, as its tongue darts out to taste the air.

The hair on my arm rises, but I make my face impassive, even though I want to throw the book in my hands at him and run screaming. I don’t do that because one, the snake might chase me, and two, I don’t want to scare the other customers.

The man appears older than me and rather handsome in a rough way, with a full beard and his wiry hair pulled back in a ponytail. He’s wearing a New York Pythons jersey. A fan.

“Sir, you can’t have that snake in the store.”

“It’s all right. She doesn’t have any fangs, and she’s nonpoisonous.” He says it as if he’s talking about the weather, then gives the snake a loving stroke down her skin.

“Can I help you?” Maybe he just wants a book, and I can escort him out without too much attention.

“Maybe. Just wanted to check out the place, see the store where Harlan works sometimes. He’s my favorite player.” He grins widely. “Did you see the game? Unbelievable play action. Our team is gonna win another Super Bowl. And little Veronica here watched the game with me.”

I can’t take my eyes off little Veronica. I wonder if she’s hypnotizing me. Like I’m prey. “Indeed.”

Babs shows up and comes to a halt next to me, her entire body vibrating. She leans in and whispers, “According to the staff, he walked in like it was no big deal and went right up the stairs. I was working on the schedule and didn’t see him.”

“How do we make him leave?” I say under my breath as the man strolls around the bookshelves, talking to Veronica the entire time.

“Police? Animal control?”

I shake my head. “He isn’t threatening anyone. He’s polite.”

“He’s wearing a python, Emmy. This isn’t a petting farm,” she hisses. “Those snakes squeeze you until you suffocate and die.”

“The snake isn’t coming after us. Mostly, it’s just a legless lizard, right? Okay, let me try something,” I say as I approach the man, and Babs follows me. “Hello, sir. Hope you like the store.”

He grins broadly. “It’s awesome. So much to look at.”

“Great. Listen, I’ll pass on your message to Graham, but unfortunately snakes aren’t allowed in the store. We’d love to have you come back without Veronica.”

His face crumbles. “But she’s like a mascot. Harlan would love it.”

“Tell you what,” I say, “I’ll take a pic of you here and pass it on to him. How does that sound?”

His shoulders slump in disappointment; then his eyes graze over Babs, then dart back.

“Babette?” he exclaims. “Is that you? By God, it is! It’s Hank, you know, from Highstreet Prep. We had every single class together.” A slow grin curls his face. “We had some fun times under the bleachers, didn’t we?”

She blinks rapidly. “H-Hank Westbrook? It’s been ages.” She laughs. “Love the beard and ponytail. What are you doing now?”

I look from one to the other, noticing the flush on Babs’s cheeks and the flirtatious smile on his.

“You’re still as pretty as ever,” he says. “I heard about Freddy on Facebook. My condolences.”

“Thank you. How are you? Still on Wall Street?”

“Nah, I’m retired now, living in Brooklyn. You still on Forty-Seventh Street?”

She says yes, and then he offers for her to pet Veronica. To my amazement, Babs gives the creature a tiny head stroke, then coos about how unusual her skin is.

I watch as they continue their conversation. Another customer walks by, sees the snake, and darts for the stairs. I rub my forehead.

“Um, sorry to interrupt this little reunion, but Hank, you need to leave so we don’t scare other people.” I give Babs a smirk. “Can you handle this? Maybe put him and Veronica on the elevator to the basement, where you two can catch up? Also, take a photo for Graham. He’ll get a kick out of seeing a fan in the store.”

She smiles and bats her lashes coquettishly at Hank, her face bright. I’m glad. She’s been lonely ever since Terry left. “Let’s take a ride. We can talk more in the basement. We recently added a table and chairs down there for breaks.” She waves her hand at me. “Can you have Andrew bring us some tea and scones, darling?”

“Of course,” I say, amused, as I watch them get on the elevator.

An hour later, I’m in my office when Jane pokes her head in the door. She’s wearing a concerned look, and I raise my brows, wondering what happened to put it there. “Hey, there’s a David Spencer to see you. He says he’s Graham’s lawyer.”

I straighten in my seat, a sinking feeling in my stomach. I check my lipstick and tighten the bun on my head. “All right, send him in.”

To my surprise, David walks in wearing preppy shorts and a polo shirt with boat shoes. His brown hair is covered by a ball cap. The last time I saw him at his office, he was in an expensive suit.

He sits on the couch and smiles as he sets his leather satchel next to him. “Good to see you, Emmy.”

I manage a smile. “What’s going on?”

“The last time I met with Graham, he asked me to deliver the divorce papers to you as soon as the inheritance went through,” he says as he opens his bag and starts to riffle through it. “Congrats, my dear. I spoke with the trustees of the will this morning, and everything’s been approved.”

I blink as my chest stings, horribly, as I process his words. My voice is breathless. “That was sooner than expected.”

He grins, oblivious to my distress. “Yes, we can thank Vale Harlan for that. He urged the trustees to expedite the funds for Graham.”

“I assume you’ve told Graham?”

I haven’t spoken to him, but he did text me that they’d arrived in LA and were settling in and working out at one of the training facilities. I didn’t reply.

“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled,” he says.

I nod. Yes, he will.

“He’s got a preseason game this week in LA,” I murmur as I clench my hands together, needing an anchor. “It’s better to call him in the evening, after practice.”

He stands and brings me a bundle of papers. I can’t bear to look at them, so I don’t, instead keeping my eyes on David. “That’s the thing. I’m off on vacation with my family. We’re doing one of those Disney cruises. Lots of characters and meals. I’ve got four kids, all under the age of six. I’m not sure how available I’ll be, so I’m trying to take care of everything now. That’s why I came over.” His index finger lands on the papers. “Here’s everything for the divorce. For a no-contest divorce in New York, we’re looking at up to three months once we get it filed at the clerk’s office. I suggest we go ahead and get the paperwork going, but no one has to know. We can file whenever you both think enough time’s elapsed from receiving the check. I’ll just need your signature and his; then my office will keep them ready.”

My heart skips a beat. “I see.”

“Are you all right?” he asks, his brow crinkling in concern.

My beats are fine. It’s not my arrythmia; it’s just heartbreak. The truth is, he sent David here with these papers. Graham wanted it this way. And I need to finish this.

“Has anything changed since we drew up the agreement?” he asks.

Jane pokes her head in without knocking. “Hi!” she says, obviously making sure I’m okay. “Just checking in to see if you two need anything?”

He looks at Jane and tells her he’ll take a coffee to go.

Jane leaves to get his drink.

I pick up the papers and look at them without really seeing them. Anger, tied to fragile emotions, rises inside me. “Actually, yes, something has changed. I’d like to circle back to the prenup I signed. I don’t want Graham’s money. None of it.” I married him with my eyes wide open, and I need a final goodbye to us, a period at the end of a sentence.

I clear my throat at David’s stunned silence. “Are you sure?” he asks. “That’s a lot of money.”

And we’ll manage without it. “Can you make it happen? Quickly?”

He nods. “Of course. We’ll make an addendum to the agreement. I’ll call the office and have them send it over for you to sign today.”


Jane comes in with his coffee, and he picks up his satchel. He gives us a nod. “All right. I’m headed to Orlando. Let Graham know the details, get his signature, then send it to my office, and we’ll be set. The trustees should be sending the check today. Looks like our business with the marriage is concluded.”

Graham and I just aren’t meant to be. There’s no magic. Not for him at least.

I nod at David. “Yes. It’s done.”


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