Mail Order Bride: Journey of The Bride Complete Volumes 1 and 2: A Mail Order Bride Historical Western Romance, page 7
She sniffed and raised her chin higher. Her eyes dried and she wore a petite from upon her face. She wasn’t a fragile doll. She wasn’t someone Talbert would ever be able to beat down. She had her pride and she would keep it intact as much as possible when in the insufferable man’s company.
“Are you ready, Miss?” Sheila asked.
Courtney sighed and stood to her full height. “Yes,” she said in a low voice. She let out a long breath of air and then said, “Yes,” with more confidence. She looked at the two women and gave them a smile. Her smile rang with everything she did not feel: happiness, love, and enthusiasm.
It seemed to be enough for them for they returned her smile and left her alone in the room. She knew they were fetching her father. She stood alone in front of the mirror, wondering how many people had come to the wedding. She hoped it was a small affair, but knowing both her father and her future husband, it would be anything but. They were both more prestigious men with the reputations of excellent businessmen. They had connections with the mayor as well as several other politicians. If nothing else, this would be a large wedding in order to secure their positions among those connections.
It’s all a play for power. It’s a political game that neither has any hope of winning, but I’ve become a pawn in it anyway. She sighed, knowing her father would be there shortly to collect her. It was time to walk down the aisle and marry the man she detested with all her heart.
A lone tear slid down her cheek at the thought, but she wiped it away as her father stepped into the room, a large proud grin on his facial features.
“Ready, my dear?” he asked, holding up his arm.
With one last sigh, Courtney nodded and took her father’s arm, the same fake smile on her face that she’d given the two women.
As she and her father stepped through the church doors, someone near the front started playing the organ, a loud brazen instrument she used to love listening to. She knew that after today, the instrument would forever give her horrible nightmares and she’d never sit in church the same way again.
A lump caught in her throat as she looked about her. The church was filled, as she’d predicted despite her hope against such. She recognized a few as the guests her father had entertained over the years, along with their families, but there were several people she didn’t recognize as well.
The center of the floor was littered with flower petals laid out before she’d walked through. At the end of the aisle stood Talbert, his face pasted with a bored expression that made Courtney realize he just wanted this whole event over with the same way she did, even though their reasons for such differed.
She swallowed the hard lump in her throat, frozen for a moment as she stared at Talbert. Was she really going to marry the man? Was she really going through this? Could she? She had to. She had no choice anymore. Neither he nor her father had given her a choice.
Brandon hadn’t either though. He’d told her he wanted her gone. He couldn’t love her, couldn’t get used to having a wife, couldn’t handle having another woman around. He’d sent her away.
Her father’s voice brought her back to the present and she realized she had stopped walking and was staring at Talbert, breathing heavily. He looked at her, an angry scowl on his face. He narrowed his eyes at her. She could read the message in his eyes. “Screw this up and I’ll make sure you regret this for the rest of your life.”
She swallowed hard and smiled at her father. “Everything’s fine,” she said in a sweet voice.
They started down the aisle once more, coming to a halt just before Talbert. Her father kissed her cheek, his eyes brimming with tears that didn’t fall.
“You look so beautiful,” he said. “Just like your mother.”
“Thank you, Father,” she replied. Another lump caught in her throat. She hoped her mother wasn’t watching down from Heaven. What would she say about this whole situation? Courtney was afraid to know.
Talbert smiled at her father as he passed her off to him with the words, “Take care of her, Simon. She’s all I have left.”
“I plan to,” came the reply, and Courtney could hear the venom dripping from his voice. Why couldn’t anyone else? Was everyone else so in love with him that they couldn’t see him for the snake he was? Bile threatened to escape her throat, but at the flash of his eyes, she swallowed hard. It didn’t stop the shiver that crawled up her spine though.
Before them, the priest started the ceremony. His words were slow, his voice ancient as he went through the passages Courtney had memorized by heart. Growing up, she’d always visualized her wedding day. What little girl didn’t? This was nothing like she’d imagined. Neither had her marriage to Brandon, but when she thought back to it, that week she’d spent in his company, at the ranch, had made up for the lack of an actual wedding. In the end, it was better than the ceremony being held now.
“Do you, Courtney le Brush, take this man, Simon Talbert, to be your lawfully-wedded husband, to love, to honor, and to cherish, for as long as you both shall live?”
A sob caught in Courtney’s throat, and she took one last look around the church, seeking a friendly face, any friendly face. The priest was patient, understanding her hesitancy. Talbert, less so. He squeezed her hand tightly in his, reminding her of his promise. She winced in pain, but otherwise ignored it.
There. At the back of the church. Who was that man staring at them with such a furious glare in his eyes? He looked familiar in a way, but she didn’t recognize him. He was dressed in a suit that looked a little too small despite the cowboy hat atop his head. Dark tanned skin, a clean-shaven face and blue eyes scorched her skin. Why did he look so familiar?
Behind her, her father cleared his throat, and Courtney turned her attention away from the man and back to the priest. “I do,” she managed to say although each word was soft and half-hearted.
After that, the priest’s words faded. Courtney looked down, holding back the tears in her eyes and ignoring the goings-on around her. The only words she managed to catch were the final words the priest would say before he claimed the two man and wife.
“Does anyone in this congregation have any objection to the union of this man and this woman? May he speak his piece now.”
Courtney held her breath as a firm roar filled the whole church. “I object.”
Her eyes swiveled around to the suited man wearing a cowboy hat at the back of the church. The one whose gaze was filled with such anger, it burned her flesh. He stood from the pew he sat in, his hands curled into fists.
He wasn’t looking at her though. His blazing eyes were only on Talbert, and she thought she recognized the desire to murder. She shook her head even as Talbert snarled, “On what grounds.”
The man smiled, and folded his arms over his chest. She gasped, her hand covering her mouth. She recognized that stance, and his next words only confirmed her thoughts. “On the matter that the woman you’re about to marry is my wife.”
The church buzzed with noise. It took several minutes for the priest, Talbert and her father to quiet everyone. “Excuse me?” Talbert spat. Even Courtney was confused. She was no longer Brandon’s wife. She and Brandon had signed the annulment paperwork and Paul had filed it with the court.
Despite her confusion, she couldn’t help but quiver as she watched him stroll towards the front of the church. Courtney would have thought him uncomfortable in the suit, but combined with the hat atop his head, he seemed as at home as if he was in jeans. Her eyes drifted over his entire form, and she had to force her eyes back toward Talbert. She knew she was staring, knew she would grab him and kiss him with every fiber of her being if he let her.
Talbert looked furious. His eyes blazed with anger, his nostrils flared with hate. “What do you mean, ‘she is your wife’?” he spat.
Brandon’s smirk was cocky as he reached into the folds of his suit and pulled out the marriage papers Courtney had signed. It felt so long ago. Had it really been only a month
“A month ago, my brother put an ad in the newspaper to find me a wife,” he said. He glanced at Courtney. “I was stupid enough to send her back after signing annulment papers.”
Talbert grinned, as if he’d won a fine prize. “Then you two are no longer married, and you have no reason to object to my marrying her.”
“Wrong,” Brandon snarled, his eyes flashing dangerously. Talbert hissed in his breath between his teeth. “It seems there was a mix-up with our annulment paperwork, and the courthouse never received them.”
Courtney’s gaze snapped to Paul, where he sat in the middle of the church. He saw her looking at him and gave her a small smile of satisfaction. She returned it before her attention shifted back to the two men glaring at one another, hate for each other apparent in their eyes.
“Courtney, is this true?”
She looked at her father, who wore a mixture of hurt and confusion in his expression. He was holding a copy of the marriage papers in his hand.
Silence followed as the men waited for her confirmation or denial of the accusations. “It’s true,” she whispered. Then she looked up at her father, determination in her gaze. “When you told me we were broke, I suspected that Talbert was the reason for such, and that he had a purpose, so I made plans to escape him. I had noted Paul’s ad in the paper and went to see him immediately.”
Her father nodded. “Yes, I remember it myself. I had thought it strange that he would advertise such a thing.” He shook his head. “Why did you ever answer such an ad though, my dear?”
Tears of frustration threatened to spill from Courtney’s eyes as she grabbed her father’s arm. “Because I don’t love Talbert, Father, and I never will.” She glared at Talbert with such ferocity he took a step back away from her.
Her father glanced between her and Brandon. “And do you love this man, my dear?” he asked, gesturing to the cowboy.
She looked at Brandon. His blue eyes caught hers and she wondered if he’d finally released the memory of his past fiancé.
He must have, she thought. Why other reason would he be here?
“No,” she told her father. Brandon’s breath came out in a hiss. She turned away from him and gazed at her father once more. “But there’s more chance of me falling in love with him than there will ever be of me falling for Talbert.”
“You insolent—” Courtney cried out as the back of Talbert’s hand came toward her face, but Brandon, who’d been expecting violence grabbed the accountant’s wrist before he made contact with her flesh.
“If you ever lay your hand upon my wife again, I will make sure you don’t walk away,” Brandon snarled in the accountant’s face. “Also, last I checked, there are legal repercussions to hindering a man’s finances, and I know a lawyer on my side that will be able to track down whether or not you’ve actually been doing so.”
Talbert gulped, confirming everyone’s guesses toward the matter. “Get out of here,” Brandon growled. He was larger than Talbert, and didn’t hide any aggression he felt toward the accountant as he watched the man scurry away from them, down the aisle, and out of the church.
Courtney chuckled. “You look beautiful.” The words caught her by surprise and she glanced at Brandon to see if she’d misheard him. He smiled warmly at her and kissed her hand. “Ready to come back home?” he asked. “I think I owe you a thorough apology for sending you away.”
There was a teasing note in his words that left little doubt to what he had planned. Lots of skin against skin, his cock pulsing inside her, and his mouth devouring her. However, the thought didn’t make her blush as it might have a month before, back when she didn’t know what really occurred between a man and a woman in bed, back before she’d experienced such pleasures herself. She simply smiled up at him and let her finger drift down his chest. “And what exactly did you have in mind?”
His blue eyes burned into hers. “I think you can figure it out. Now, yes or no. It’s a long ride back to the ranch.” He looked at her father for permission. It surprised Courtney as well as her father, and he blinked at Brandon in surprise. “Since I didn’t ask properly the first time, maybe I can make up for it now. May I have your daughter’s hand?”
Her father was at a loss for words for a few moments, but then he just shook his head and said, “You two are already married it seems. You can’t get much objection from me.” A smile crossed his face as he took Brandon’s hand. “Just take good care of her, son.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” Brandon said, turning back to Courtney. “I’m not going to let go of her again.” He caught her up in his arms and pressed his mouth to hers. She melted in his arms even as the guests meant to see her wedding witnessed the reunion of an already-married couple instead.
Copyright 2015 by Mary Fox - All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are features of the author's imagination and not to be assumed as always real. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, is fully coincidental.
Mary Fox, Mail Order Bride: Journey of The Bride Complete Volumes 1 and 2: A Mail Order Bride Historical Western Romance