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SHE HAD TO get out of here.
Genevieve MacKenzie bent at the waist and tried to gulp in air. The filmy, delicate veil brushed her face like a dozen fingers bent on tickle torture. Panic clawed at her gut, and she reached up and ripped off the pearl-encrusted lace, placed her hands on her knees, and prayed for sanity.
She was getting married. Right now. In five minutes. Her family stood outside the door, excited and chattering as they waited for her to emerge in all her pristine white glory. David posed at the front of the church in his tux, with the priest and his best man flanking his side. She imagined his beautifully tousled golden hair, killer smile, and sparkling green eyes. Perfect, as usual. While she was getting dressed, a delivery had arrived at the house. Two dozen white roses with just the faintest tinge of pink in the centers. The card read: I cannot wait until you are finally mine.
Her bridal party sighed with pleasure. Her twin sister, Isabella, rolled her eyes and clutched her neck in mockery of gagging to death. She’d been quietly shushed by the others while everyone held their breath, hoping she’d remain manageable until at least after the ceremony. It had been a rocky road between the sisters, so that Izzy even bothering to don a bridesmaid dress was a miracle. Gen’s best friend, Kate, hurriedly put the roses in water until they stood straight and proud in the center of the dining room table amid a group of giggling, excited women. Her sister Alexa teased her husband about not receiving a thing on her big day, which brought on a tirade of groaning from Nick and her dad whining about how reality television had given women false expectations of real romance.
Gen kept smiling, murmured the correct responses, and held the card in a death grip. Then she ran to the bathroom, trying desperately not to vomit.
Not the best reaction for a bride-to-be. Of course, she chalked it up to nerves, ignored her nausea, and got her ass into the stretch limo. She nodded and responded to her chattering bridal party. As the limousine gobbled up the miles and sped toward the church, her brain clicked over the final details, worrying if she missed anything. David hated sloppiness of any sort, and with almost three hundred guests, it was an important enough event to guarantee press and some high-society attendees. She’d wanted a wedding planner, but David insisted on keeping it private and personal. Of course she agreed; it would be nice to say they did it all themselves instead of relying on a stranger. Exhaustion beat into her bones, but Gen pushed it back. Yes, she’d done absolutely everything, triple-checking each detail for the past few days nonstop.
From the apricot bridesmaid dresses in silk so light the fabric shimmered, to the exquisite ribbon-wrapped orchids, the bridal party was breathtaking. The venue had been almost impossible to secure without the right contacts on just a year’s notice. The castle in Tarrytown boasted stunning gardens, soaring architecture with vaulted ceilings, a banquet hall to rival Buckingham Palace, and French cuisine. Sure, she would’ve rather been married at Mohonk Mountain House near her parents in a more relaxed, fun atmosphere, but at least David agreed to the church ceremony. And she’d won the argument insisting Izzy stay in the wedding. David may not approve of her, but Gen stood her ground, and now her entire family was by her side.
The limo pulled in. She ducked her head against the flash of photographers, and Kate helped her with the massive pearl-encrusted train spilling onto the sidewalk. The Vera Wang gown was ridiculously pricey and reminded her of someone else, but it was the stuff princesses and brides were made of. Lace, tulle, diamonds, and pearls. Too bad she couldn’t breathe.
She kept it together in the back room of the church while her mother cried, straightened her veil, and told her she’d never been more proud. Alexa beamed with joy, and her beautiful niece, Lily, looked like a fairy princess with her basket of petals and mini ballroom dress to match the bride’s. Her other niece, Taylor, glowed in her junior bridal dress, a delicate pale pink exactly like the center of the roses. Gina, her sister-in-law, winked and announced the bride needed a moment alone before walking down the aisle. Gen almost sagged with relief, and finally the door shut. Blessed silence filled the room.
Everything was perfect, just like it should be.
Perfect. Like David always wanted it.
Gen panted and tried to get herself together. The murmur of voices and organ music drifted from the door. She stumbled to the gorgeously painted stained-glass window of Madonna and child and yanked on the knob. Stuck. Dizziness threatened. Crapola, she needed air, right now. Her French-manicured fingers wrapped around the old-fashioned handle and pulled frantically. Light exploded off the pristine diamond weighing down her knuckle. Finally, a few inches opened up and she bent her head toward the gap, sucking in hot air. Why, oh why did she have to wait until now to completely freak out? Maybe all the wedding stress had finally gotten to her. She’d open the door, walk down the aisle with her head held high, and say her vows. She loved David. Who wouldn’t? He treated her like a queen, told her every day how much she meant to him, and pushed her to be better. Always better. They’d be the envied power couple of their time—surgeons who saved lives, attended charity functions, and changed the world. They were madly in love.
I can’t wait until you are finally mine.
A shiver crept down her spine. She looked down at the flawless three-carat diamond ring that shimmered around her finger. A symbol of ownership. Once she committed herself, it would truly be forever. He’d never let her go.
The inner voice that had been squashed for so long in fear of retaliation rose up from her gut and screamed one last word. Gen clutched at the windowsill. Ridiculous. She couldn’t run.