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That Kind of Guy: Chapter 23

Avery

“I’M SUPPOSED to make sure you’ve eaten.”

Hannah’s soft voice yanked me from my daydreams about Emmett and all the delicious things we had done in the past few days.

Naked things. Things that made me gasp and him groan. Things that made my stomach do a delicious roll forward whenever I thought about them.

I stuck my tongue out at her, and she rolled her eyes, smiling before she nudged a granola bar towards me.

We were in the bookstore, getting ready for the wedding. Spice Girls played quietly in the background while we put the finishing touches on our makeup. The side tables beside the squashy blue chairs were cluttered with the contents of our makeup collections. The front door was locked and there was a “Closed for Wedding Day!” sign up that I had seen at a few different businesses in town. Emmett was at Holden’s, getting ready with him and Will, who had come into town with his family just for our wedding. Elizabeth had just left after taking a hundred pictures of Hannah and I amongst the books. Div had been ready to hire hair and makeup artists, but I stopped him—I wanted to spend this time alone with Hannah. With everything going on with Emmett and the restaurant, I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with her recently.

I glanced at the granola bar. I could already feel the dry, chalky texture in my mouth and I made a face. There was no way I could eat it. My stomach tensed.

I was a bit nervous.

Anxiety rose and dipped in my gut. Despite my protests and grabby hands, Emmett slid out of bed early this morning. At one point, I heard the shower running, and then after a quick kiss on my forehead, he left, and I had the house to myself.

In the bookstore, I smiled at Hannah as I slipped my new earrings, the ones Emmett had given me yesterday, into my ears. “I had lunch. I’m okay.” I gestured at her dress. “You look lovely.”

She wore an ice blue silk dress with tiny flowers and a cinched waist. She waved a hand, embarrassed at the compliment.

“Thanks.” She shrugged. “Just wanted to look great for your big day. Even if the whole wedding is fake.” She tilted her head and looked thoughtful. “Emmett might be a genius. As soon as you two started the whole thing, the town went nuts with excitement. And all he has to do is sign on your loan. Who’s officiating?”

I selected a lip liner from the table. “Wyatt.”

Beside the nearest bookshelf, someone cleared their throat and both our heads snapped in that direction.

It was Cynthia, Chuck’s wife, standing there, holding a book about Italy. Her eyes held a funny gleam.

My stomach dropped through the floor. How much did she hear?

Hannah blinked furiously. “Hi, Cynthia, we’re closed.” She glanced at me and swallowed. “For the wedding.”

Cynthia glanced between the two of us, but the expression gave nothing away. “My mistake. The door was unlocked.”

“It’s okay.” Hannah stood. “I’ll ring you up.”

Hannah led her to the desk and after a few moments, I heard the front door lock click.

“I thought I locked it,” she murmured, sitting down.

I chewed my lip. “Do you think she heard us?”

Hannah shook her head. “I don’t know. She didn’t say anything.” She swallowed. “She creeps me out. Her hair is so spiky.”

I stared at the spot on the floor where Cynthia had stood. Even if she had heard, no one would believe her. Right? Emmett and I were too convincing. “Yeah, she creeps me out, too. Whatever.” I rolled my shoulders. “Let’s not let her ruin my fake wedding.”

That cracked a smile from Hannah. “Agreed. Now, eat that granola bar.” She watched me as I unwrapped the bar and took a bite. “Is it, though?”

“Is it what?”

“Fake.”

My gaze cut to her, and my stomach dropped. Guilty. She knew. She had found me out. I couldn’t admit it out loud, though. I wasn’t there yet. I rolled my lips between my teeth, choosing my words carefully.

She tilted her head. “It’s hard to tell.”

The corner of my mouth lifted but I knew the smile didn’t reach my eyes. What was I going to say? Yes, Hannah, I’ve fallen in love with Emmett Rhodes, the most unavailable guy in town. So unavailable he’d rather have a fake relationship than a real one. The reality was clear—any real feelings were one-sided, and getting my hopes up was a quick way to disappointment.

At least I was right, and Emmett and I were convincing as a couple.

I swallowed and dipped my brush in powder before fluffing it over my face. “Then we’re doing a good job.”

Hannah watched me for a moment, and I met her gaze, silently begging her to drop the subject. My heart teetered on the brink of a cliff and if I said the things out loud, I’d fall.

She pointed beside me. “Pass me the sharpener, please.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, and we put the finishing touches on our hair and makeup before she helped me into my dress in the storeroom.

“Beautiful,” she breathed when it was zipped up.

I looked in the mirror. Wearing this dress was like a dream. After a few alterations by Elizabeth, it fit me perfectly. It felt like the universe had sent this dress specifically for me, just to make me feel special and beautiful on my big day.

My big fake day.

There was a knock on the door and we both paused.

“One second,” Hannah said before making her way to the front. Murmuring voices carried through the store, and a moment later, my mom appeared at my side.

“I wanted to check on you, see how you were holding up.” Her eyes were bright, the same dark blue as my own. She wore a navy-blue tea-length dress embroidered with tiny, delicate white flowers.

My mom had arrived in town first thing this morning, and we had breakfast at the restaurant. Her eyes had lit up as she took in the interior with the chandelier and heritage flooring, and again when she looked out the windows along the sparkling water. She was proud of me, I could tell, but there was a tinge of wistfulness in her expression, like she wished she could have a do-over.

When I told her that I didn’t invite my dad, I waited for her reaction. She simply nodded and patted my hand, and that was that. She understood.

“You look great,” I told her. “My mom is such a babe.”

She blushed. “Oh, stop it.” I could tell she loved it, though. She sighed and stepped back to take me in. “Just beautiful, honey. I’m so proud of you.”

My heart ached. I had the urge to tell her that it was all real, that I wanted to do this for real, and that I was madly in love with Emmett, but she already thought those things. My feelings didn’t make sense, so I squeezed them tight to keep them under control.

“Would you like a tea, Rina?” Hannah asked, leaning on a bookshelf.

“That would be lovely, honey, thank you.” My mom sent her a grateful smile and when Hannah disappeared into the back, she turned to scan my face. “How are you feeling?”

I couldn’t help the grin on my face. “I’m great. I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun party.”

She pressed her lips together in a line and her hand came to my arm, watching me carefully. “I just want—” She broke off and winced, shaking her head.

“What?”

Her mouth twisted to the side. “I just want to make sure you’re making the right decision. Emmett is a very nice man and I can see why you’ve chosen him, but I wish someone had asked me this question before I got married.”

Ah. Of course. I didn’t blame my mom for asking this. She barely knew Emmett and she had only heard I was with someone a few weeks ago. Of course it seemed fast. It was fast.

“Emmett isn’t Dad.”

“I didn’t say that he was,” she said quickly.

I nodded. “I know. I’m saying it. I saw what Dad did, and I won’t ever let that happen to me.”

Her gaze searched mine. She nodded to herself. “Yes. You’re different than me.”

I shook my head. “Not so different, no. But you raised me right.”

She laughed. “I felt like a failure a lot of times.”

“If I could pick again, I’d still pick you.” I ran my thumb over the fabric of my dress. “I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

She watched me again, but this time it was with fresh eyes, like she knew I’d be okay. I’d learned from her mistakes. What had happened to her, it wouldn’t happen to me.

Hannah breezed into the room with a couple mugs. “Peppermint or Earl Grey?”

My mom smiled. “Peppermint, please.”

The three of us sat there, drinking tea and chatting and laughing, until the tea was finished and our makeup was complete.

My mom stood. “May I use the washroom before we head over to the courthouse?”

Hannah pointed to the back room. “Through there to the left.”

My mom stepped into the back, and Hannah and I began to put our shoes on.

“Do you ever want to get married?” I worked the delicate strap through the buckle around my ankle.

“Um.” Her fingers fumbled with her own ankle strap and she blinked. “Yes. To the right person, of course.” She blinked again, staring at the other shoe in her hand. “We’ll see.”

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Anyone in mind?”

She snorted and shook her head. “No.”

“You know, Emmett has three brothers.” My voice was teasing. “I could put in a good word for you.”

Hannah’s face turned a deep crimson. “Please don’t.”

My mouth dropped open. “You’re blushing.”

Her eyes turned into saucers. “No, I’m not.”

“You are! Hannah.” I leaned in, narrowing my eyes at her, but her gaze was glued to her shoe. “Do you have a crush on one of the Rhodes boys?”

“Nope.” Her voice was a high squeak. She looked mortified.

“Liar.” I took one look at Hannah’s tense shoulders and beet-red face. “I’ll drop it for now, but this conversation is not over.”

My mom returned and we left the bookstore to walk to city hall. A few people from town spotted us and called over their congratulations, and I waved back and smiled at them. The street felt extra quiet, though. More than usual.

“Even the grocery store is closed?” I asked Hannah, pointing over at the darkened building.

“For the wedding.”

I didn’t expect the grocery store to be closed. A tiny flicker of anxiety lit up my stomach.

This was the whole point of the wedding, to get people in the town invested so that they saw Emmett as the stable, responsible guy on the brink of starting a family. I nodded to myself, standing there in front of city hall, about to go inside and get married.

“I’m getting married.” I nodded again. “Yep. Getting married in front of a lot of people.”

Hannah and my mom exchanged a look before Hannah’s concerned gaze roamed my face. “Are you okay? Do you need me to get Emmett?”

Emmett, the guy I was doing this for. The man who I wasn’t just having incredible sex with, but the man who had become a friend. My best friend, maybe, except for Hannah. A guy I actually wanted to help. Right. Emmett. I smiled, thinking of his handsome face with his very straight, strong nose and sharp jaw, and light grey eyes that warmed when he smiled at me.

That tiny little scar on his lip that I loved to brush my fingers over when it was just the two of us in his bed.

Emmett. My heart squeezed.

I shook my head and smiled at Hannah. “No, I’m ready.” I faced forward. “Let’s do this.”

We opened the doors and stepped into the foyer of city hall. A bored receptionist was on Facetime and snapping her gum. She glanced up at us.

“Are you getting married?” she asked in a monotone.

I nodded.

The receptionist pointed down a hallway. “That way.” She turned back to her phone and continued her conversation.

Div stood at the end of the hallway. “There you are,” he said upon seeing us.

Hannah turned to me and blinked a few times. “Well,” she started, clearly wanting to say so much.

I pulled her into a hug. “I know. I love you too.”

She laughed against me and when she pulled back, her eyes were wet. She blinked the tears away, disappeared inside the court, and I stood there with my mom.

This was feeling less fake by the minute.

“Shall we do this?” I held my arm out, and my mom looped her arm through mine.

“Ready?” Div stood with his hand poised on the door, and we nodded. He opened it a crack, gave someone a thumbs up, and music began before he opened the door fully.


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