Eeeh! I can't wait to see what happens!
The Reluctant Bride
Marni wasn’t taking no for an answer. This had gone on long enough. If Jessica was going to continue to throw a fit like this and not live up to her responsibilities then it was about time someone around here was going to call the shots. Marni didn’t care if her sister was older, prettier and more successful—who said librarians weren’t successful anyway? For crying out loud, she’d won the Champion Book Nook Returnee Award seven times in a row. Seven times. So what, if she wasn’t quite sure what the award was for, the other librarians in at least six other states would kill to have it. By golly she was going to be proud even if she had to plaster a smile on her face to do so.
She was good at plastering on smiles. Just look at what she had to do with Jessica—daily. Marni heaved a sigh and ran her fingers through her short brown hair while contemplating the gorgeous blonde across from her.
“Jessica, you can’t just back out now. You can’t.”
Her sister pouted and brought her long slim legs up underneath her on the couch. “I’m not getting married to him. I don’t care what you say. I don’t want him anymore.”
“But, you can’t just blow this one off. He’s an accountant, Jess. A really cute one.” Hot was more like it, but Marni would rather eat live slugs than admit it to her sister.
“No!” Jessica yelled it this time; her hands covered her face dramatically. “He bugs me.”
“Jess, you’re being ridiculous. You’re not even—“
“Look! If you like Damian that much then you can have him!” She reached over and grabbed a decorative pillow and smothered a giggle with it.
Yeah right. “Ha ha. You’re hilarious, you know that?” Marni turned her back to her and began to pick up the scattered Chinese take-a-way boxes that were all over the coffee table. Gross.
“There’s actually something I need you to do for me.”
Marni’s hands paused. Jessica’s voice had that edge to it, the one she dreaded more than--
“Could you just do me a tiny favor? Please?”
“What?” With a sigh she stood up and headed toward the kitchen trashcan, hoping Jessica would forget what she was going to say.
“I need you to tell Damian for me. I can’t face him.”
Kasie West said...
She willed herself to be shocked that her sister would ask such a thing of her, but she wasn't, not in the least. "No," she said evenly.
Suddenly her sister was right behind her, pulling on her arm playfully, "Marni, Marns, Marsa Pan, please. You know how whacky I get when faced with a hard situation. I mean, why do you think I said yes in the first place? Because he looked at me with his ridiculously good looking, charming smile and asked. What else was I supposed to say?"
She took her arm back and moved to the sink where she took her frustration out on a perfectly innocent plate, scrubbing the life out of it. "Uh, you could've said, no, maybe. Especially if you weren't into him. Jess, you can't ask me to do this."
Nikki Wilson said...
Marni sighed as she placed her foot up on the small concrete step leading to Damien's front door. She stopped before bringing her other foot closer. 'What am I doing?' she asked herself not for the first time. She wasn't sure how she had allowed her sister to talk her into this. She was pretty sure she had said no at some point, but somehow here she was, in front of Damien's beautifully expense house. She wondered how she was going to possibly tell him that not only didn't her sister want to marry him, but she didn't have the courage to tell him so. Panic suddenly took over, when it came to her fight or flight instinct...flight always won. Turning to leave, Marni finally breathed a sigh of relief. Besides it had to be easier to tell Jessica no than to do this. Before she could reach circle driveway lined by sculptured bushes, she heard a shout behind her.
"Marni?" The deep masculine voice that made her want to melt could only belong to her sister's fiance. Well, soon-to-be-ex-fiance. The distinction didn't seem to make her feel any better. As he shouted her name again, she plastered a smile on her face and turned to greet him in her best I'm-just-the-sister-of-your-fiance look.
"Hi Damien." She managed before tripping over her own feet.
"Whoa," he said, rushing forward and catching her just before she ate it. "There's a sprinkler head there, be careful."
She knew there was no sprinkler head, unless her own foot doubled as a watering device.
"What're you doing here?" he asked, when she was upright again. "I was just on my way to see your sister." His bright, blue eyes searched hers intently.
An accountant, really? He needed to put his skills of instantly causing a women's mind to go blank to better use. "Jess," was all she managed to spit out.
"Yeah, I was on my way to see Jess."
"She didn't even call you?" she asked. There was the anger she needed to bring her thoughts firmly back in place. Her sister told her she would at least call and cancel their date.
Jenn Johansson said:
"No, I haven't heard from her." His bright eyes clouded over. "Why? Is everything okay?"
Grimacing, she shuffled her feet and rubbed her hand over her forehead. Why, why do I do this? She gets away with too much, too often.
"Well, no it's not actually," she started, but as his muscles tensed, she stuttered, "I mean, she's okay and um--you're okay and well, I'm okay, but um--"
Seeing the confusion in his face she just stopped talking and sighed, trying to decide how to tell him. She felt the intense urge to bolt sneaking up on her again. Instead of trying to find ways to explain the situation to Damian, she started imagining ways and excuses that would allow her to escape this situation as quickly as possible.
Looking about her she noticed a pamphlet in his hand.
"Oh, uh, are you looking at flowers?" She pointed at the picture of a beautiful bouquet on the cover.
He looked down at the advertisement in his hand and his face lit up.
"Yeah, I was going to show this to Jess. They have the most amazing bridal bouquet with red roses and little white flowers in between with rhinestones in the middle. She's going to love it." He looked like a little boy who just got a brand new puppy. And now she was supposed to tell him his puppy was dead? Where was the fairness in that? She had to think fast.
"Well, that's why Jess sent me. She's got a headache and all, and she said she's not really sure what she wants anyways, so she figured I could help with the planning then she could just be surprised." Man, oh man, will she be surprised. Marnie knew this was wrong, knew she should just tell him the truth, but what if Jess changed her mind AGAIN? It wasn't beyond the imagination. Then she would have put this poor, beautiful man through the heartbreaking news for nothing. If she just continued to plan the wedding with Damian, she was sure she could convince Jess of what a mistake it would be to let this man go. Yes, it could work!!
"Aww, that's too bad. I hope she feels better soon." He slapped the pamphlet against his hand a few times before looking back up at Marni and flashing that stunning grin.
"Well then, guess it's just you and me today. Would you rather go inside and I can show you the info I've got here? I suppose we could also do what Jess and I had planned. It's up to you, sis." The wink he gave her at his last word made Marni's knees buckle and she nearly fell over again. Grr! I really have to stop doing that. She drew in a steadying breath.
"Sorry, what was it you two had planned today again? She wasn't specific."Smiling at him blithely, her brain was moving so fast she could almost smell the burning rubber in her head.
"We talked about going to check out a few of the options for the location." At her blank stare, he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to the side before adding, "you know--for the wedding?"
As they sat in the car staring at a cute little chapel with stained-glass windows and beautiful carved doors, he looked over at her. "So, do you think she'll like it?"
They had already driven by a few other chapels and also a wedding hall. It was too late to actually go inside, but the drive-bys were fun. They had also managed to hit a drive-through and she sat munching on some fries. She stared at the quaint chapel in front of her and her mind filled with visions of her own future wedding. She didn't know about Jess, but if it were up to her, this is the place she would've picked.
"This one's my favorite," he said softly. "That's why I saved it for last. This is where my parents were married."
He reached over to snatch one of her fries and she automatically slapped his hand. He pulled it back with a laugh. "Wow, your fry reflexes are incredible."
"Yes, I'm very defensive of my fries. So for future reference, hands off," she teased.
He smiled. "So back home then?" he asked with a raise of his eyebrows.
“Can we just stop one more place?” Marni asked impulsively, not ready for their afternoon to end yet.
“Sure, where would you like to go?” Damien reached over and snatched a fry right out of her hand before she could put it in her mouth. She looked at him startled and then couldn’t help but laugh at the smug smile on his face.
“I figured you couldn’t slap my hand if both of yours are full," he said.
Marni huffed in mock indignation. “I think you’re taking this role of big brother a little too seriously. What are you going to do next, start intimidating my dates?”
“You better believe it. No guy is going to be good enough for my little sis! Now where would you like to go?”
Jenni James said:
Marni paused a moment and searched Damian's eyes. They were almost sapphire in the dark confines of the car. Should I ask him? It's not like I'll ever get this chance ever again--and, and, besides it's way better for him to hang out with me than hearing that the woman he loves, despises him, right? Right?
"What? What is it?" Damian chuckled and revealed two of the most gorgeous dimples Marni had ever seen.
Instantly a wild pack of butterflies assaulted her stomach. Butterflies? Okay so more like bees. Before she could stop herself she blurted out, "Do you want to go to The Pier?" Ack! She gasped, and almost dropped her fries. The Pier was only the biggest make out spot in Riviera Heights.
"The Pier?" Damian blinked back at her.
Dang! "Uh--No, no!" she giggled nervously. "Not Pier, but--uh, peer. You know, let's go peer at something?" Why me? Why me? Why me?
"Um, sure." He looked at Marni as if she was mentally unstable before shaking his head slightly. "So what is it that you want to go peer at?"
"Preferably somewhere where you could take me out and shoot me," she mumbled under her breath.
Damian let out a quick blurt of laughter.
Dang! "Oh, you heard that?"
He suppressed a grin and glanced out the window for a moment--dimples peeking. She watched as he faintly nodded his head before he turned his playful, glittering gaze right at her, pinning her to the seat. "Admit it. You did say The Pier."
"Come on." Damian chuckled as he started the car and released her from his hold. "I'll take you somewhere better than The Pier."
"Yep." The car jerked forward as he put it in gear. "The duck park. But first, I'm in the mood for some ice cream, you game?"
"Ice cream is ok, as long as it's Cold Stone." She gave him a smirk, hoping her mortification didn't show through.
"Oh I see, you're a picky ice cream lover."
"I prefer the term connoiseur."
He chuckled then turned his attention back to the road giving her time to reflect on her own stupidity. She couldn't believe she had actually asked him to take her to The Pier. Now he had to think that she wanted to make out with him. Ok, so what if it was true, but he was NEVER supposed to know that!
Now he was taking her to the duck park? Seriously? THE DUCK PARK??? What does that even mean?
Jenni James added:
At Cold Stone Marni quickly picked out her favorite concoction; cream cheese ice cream, with strawberries and cheesecake pieces. There was an awkward moment as she pulled her wallet out of her purse to pay, but Damian's arm shot out in front and laid a twenty dollar bill on t he counter.
"A gentleman never lets a lady pay for herself."
"I, uh, thank you." Had Marni been given a chance to think about it, she probably would've become even more embarrassed but just then one of her regular visitors at the library came bursting into the shop.
"Miss Marni! Miss Marni! We's gettin' ice cream too!" hollered a little freckled redhead as she raced to throw her arms around Marni's legs.
"Oh! Hi Megan! I'm so happy to see you!" Crouching down, Marni returned the little girls hug. Then pulled back to look at her. "So, it's a big decision. What kind of ice cream are you getting?"
Megan's little nose scrunched up as she thought about it. "Ooh, I know! Cake batter with brownies n' caramel, that's my favorite!" Her big, brown eyes finally flew to Damian and she took a step back before tugging on Marni's arm to pull her closer.
"Miss Marni, dere's a boy lookin' at you!" Megan whispered quite loudly, before turning her scrutinizing eyes back on Damian. "I fink he wants to be your boyfriend." Giggling, Megan pointed at Damian as he burst out laughing.
She knew she shouldn't have blushed. It only gave away the fact that she wished it was true. But, blushing was one thing in her life that she hadn't gained complete control over. So instead, she stayed in her crouched position next to Megan until she felt her cheeks cool.
Damian leaned over and shook Megan's hand. "I actually had my eye on you. You are so pretty you could be a princess."
Megan smiled then said, "I am! Just like the princess in the story Miss Marni always reads to us. It's called, The Princess Who Saved Herself."
On their way out Damian looked over at her and raised one eyebrow, "The Princess Who Saved Herself?"
Marni let out a burst of laughter then quickly quieted it by shoving a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.
Jenni James just couldn't help herself:
"So are you ready for the duck park?" Damian grinned down as he changed the subject.
"Um, sure." Marni took another bite and then asked, "Do you go there often?"
He shrugged his shoulders and held the car door open for her. "Just usually when I take Max on a walk--so yeah, I guess you could say I go every night."
"Oh. Are we going to pick up Max first, then?" She ducked her head as she climbed into the seat.
He paused as he went to shut the door. Damian's eyes narrowed slightly in confusion and he lowered himself until his eyes were level hers.
Marni gulped. All at once she was very aware of the faint scent of his cologne that hung around them. His nose was only about ten inches from hers. It was the closest she had ever been to her sister's fiance before. What's he thinking? What is confusing him so much? Did I say something wrong?
"Marni, are you serious?"
"Uh, s-serious?" she nearly squeaked.
"I can bring Max? Really?" He closed his eyes and shook his head slightly before his gaze locked with hers again. "Do you really like dogs?"
Marni felt as if she'd missed something--some sort of clue as to why Damian was so intense all of the sudden. "I, uh, yeah. Doesn't everyone?"
He snorted and a cloud of hurt flashed through his eyes. "No. Not everyone."
Then it hit her, full force, like a ton of bricks. "Jessica told you to get rid of Max, didn't she?"
Damian didn't answer her, but he didn't need to--she could read it in the expression in his eyes. "When, when were you planning on doing it?" she couldn't help but ask.
He glanced down a moment at the ice cream cone in her hand, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Uh, tomorrow. I have a guy coming by tomorrow to pick him up."
“Do NOT get rid of your dog!” She couldn’t stop it from coming out and there was no way to pull it back in either. Now what am I gonna do? She thought as she looked at him and his stunned, confused face. “Uh-- what I –um mean is… you shouldn’t have to get rid of Max if you don’t want to. But that is just my opinion and not many take it--my opinion that is--so there you have it take it or leave it. I am –um, am sorry it is really none of my business.”
A slight smile started to creep into his face as he looked at her trying pull everything she just said back into her mouth. “No really there is no reason for any I’m sorrys here.”
“But really, it is none of my business and I have no place to have an opinion about your dog.”
“I think I like hearing your opinion in this case,” he stated with a big grin. “I am starting to wonder about other opinions that might be in your head.”
Marni grinned as he shut the door, but her smile didn't last long. By the time Damian had made it over to his door...
Nikki is dying for a happy ending!!....
Marni felt anger rise inside of her. Her sister was so self centered. How could they possibly be related? She knew she couldn't let him get rid of his dog for her sister. Especially now that Jessica didn't even want to marry him. She would have to think of something quick.
"Oh, I've been wanting to get a dog. What kind is Max?" She wasn't really sure what she was trying to do here.
"He's a black lab. He is very obedient. I'm sure Jess would love him if she would give him half a chance, but he jumped on her once getting mud on her outfit. She hasn't forgiven him ever since." He looked down, and began fidgeting with his fingers.
"Well, I just have to meet this wonderful dog of yours, let's go get him."
She decided that the reward of seeing Damian's face light up was worth anything. She could never regret making him smile.
Jenni James adds:
His dimples flashed as his seatbelt snickered into place. Marni decided right then and there that dimples should be illegal--especially his--they were that potent. She watched as he placed his cup of ice cream into the cup holder and started the car, then just as quickly turned it off.
Damian gripped the steering wheel briefly before turning to face her. "Marni?"
She could feel the plastic of her spoon cutting into her finger, she had begun to grip it so tight. "Yeah?"
"Have you ever--?" he paused and took a deep breath before plunging on, "Have you ever felt like you were making a mistake?"
Oh my gosh! "W-what?"
Damian swiftly unbuckled his belt and flipped around to face her fully. "I know this sounds completely crazy and-and rude and everything. And in a couple of minutes you can tell me that you never, ever want to talk to me again and I'd-I'd totally understand. There's just something i need to say while I still can--while I'm still not caring if I sound like a jerk who's just trying to brush off your sister. So please, just let me get this out, okay?"
"I--" All at once she couldn't breathe or think or anything. "Uh, okay."
Surprising her, Damian leaned across the car and grabbed her free hand and held it between both of his own. "Tell me, that i'm insane and i shouldn't marry your sister. Tell me, that she doesn't care about me--and that she doesn't love me--and that everything I've thought about the last few months have all been a stupid waste of time. Because--I can't sit by and watch her, and watch how she treats you--and, and, everyone else around her and not feel that I'm just some stupid pawn in a massive game that's she's playing. I can't. Maybe I could've before I met you--maybe. But there's just something different about you. something that makes me look past her to see something real and tangible and good. So can you tell me she doesn't love me? can you tell me i've been some massive pawn--so I can bow out gracefully?
Marni's breathing came in short slight gasps. There was so much to take in--so suddenly, she couldn't even comprehend he was really saying what he was saying. All she fully understood was-- "Yes. You're right. She-she doesn't love you."
He unconciously squeezed her hand so hard it was beginning to hurt, but she went on while she still could, "Jess sent me to tell you that she called it off. That she didn't want to get married. I-I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to hurt you--so, so I couldn't. I--"
Damian lunged across the seat so fast she didn't even know he'd done it until she felt his lips on hers. She melted. Instantly. For the last few months she'd dreamed of this moment and now, it was finally here. Damian Robertson did not dissapoint.
When he finally released her she was shocked to hear him chuckle out, "Well, why didn't you tell me this earlier? We've practically wasted a perfectly good day where I could've gotten to know you better."
What? "Are you kidding me?" She knew she was smiling like a fool, but she didn't care.
"I'm free, right? And you're single, correct?"
"Uh, yeah, but--?"
"And before you even bring up rebounding, I've thought about you much longer than any decent soon to be brother in-law should. The way I figure it, we've got a good three months to catch up on. Three long months." He leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips again. "That is, if you're willing to take your sister's hand me downs."
"Whatever!" she laughed as she smacked him. "Jessica's a fool!"
With that, Marni unbuckled her belt and threw her arms--ice cream cone and all--around Damian.
It wasn't until much later that either of them realized Max would have to help clean the ice cream off of the front seat.