Runaway Bride (Across the Stars: Book 2)

BOOK: Runaway Bride (Across the Stars: Book 2)
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Across the Stars: Book 2

 

Runaway

Bride

 

 

Ruth Ann Nordin

This is a work of fiction.  The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons.  The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and also represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher.

Runaway Bride

All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2013 Ruth Ann Nordin

V1.0

Cover Photo images and interior images Dreamstime.  www.dreamstime.com.  Man on cover by © Geotrac | Dreamstime.com, Woman on cover , background on cover by © Leeloomultipass | Dreamstime.com, decorative border on cover by © Irisangel | Dreamstime.com, interior picture of birds and heart © Denis13 | Dreamstime.com All rights r
eserved – used with permission.

Cover Photo image Woman on cover Image ID: 87768855, Jupiterimages www.photos.com, Getty Images.  All rights r
eserved – used with permission.

Edited
by Express Editing Solutions - https://sites.google.com/site/expresseditingsolutions/home

 

This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without expressed written consent of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Ruth Ann Nordin Books

http://www.ruthannnordin.com

 

Dedication

 

To Shelley Chastagner. The chocolate marshmallow cookies Mark makes Lexie are in honor of you and your husband.

 

Chapter One

 

Mark Tanner had hoped for a chance to talk to Lexie Rogers, and his friend’s wedding reception at the all-you-can-eat buffet was the perfect place.  It was a good way to be with her without arousing anyone’s suspicions.  He sat with her and a few other guests at one of the large tables in the place.  He’d made a point of sitting next to her as soon as she sat down.  But her mother sat on her other side, and he found himself competing with her for Lexie’s attention.

He’d already decided that Lexie would marry him instead of her fiancé, but the trick was convincing her of that.  He wasn’t gullible enough to believe she loved her fiancé.  His friend Chris might believe it, but he knew better.

Mark glanced from his meal to Chris and Caitlyn who were sitting a couple tables from him.  Caitlyn was laughing and leaning toward Chris, her face glowing.  She was radiant, and it had to do more with the love she shared with Chris than her pregnancy.

He turned his attention back to Lexie who was still talking to her mother.  At the moment, they were discussing Lexie’s upcoming wedding.

“Your reception will be much better than this one,” her mother said.  “An all-you-can-eat buffet is nowhere for a bride’s reception.”

“It’s what Caitlyn wanted and it makes her happy,” Lexie replied, brushing her dark brown hair over her shoulder.

“I know, but I keep thinking that she should have had a better wedding.  First Randy.  Now Chris.” She sighed.  “It’s a shame.  Both times I could have made her a princess for a day, but she wouldn’t have it.”

Mark peered around Lexie so he could make eye contact with her mother.  “I think she feels very much like a princess.”

Lexie looked at Mark, but he kept his gaze focused on her mother.

“I fail to understand your point,” her mother replied, her eyes holding a silent challenge in them.

“My point,” Mark began, intentionally moving closer to Lexie so he could smell the sweet fragrance of her perfume, “is that you should be glad Caitlyn’s happy.  Isn’t that what marriage should be?  The merging of two lives to share in the joy of love?  There are some men who’d give up everything they’ve ever known and travel across the galaxy to be loved with the same devotion Caitlyn loves Chris.  You can bet that Chris will treat her like a princess because so few men I’ve seen on earth are as devoted to their wife as he is.  Your daughter is a fortunate woman, Mrs. Rogers, and you’ll be lucky if Lexie can experience a similar marriage.”

He caught the flicker of longing in Lexie’s brown eyes.  Well, when he convinced her to ditch her fiancé, she’d get to experience the same kind of love her sister did.

“As ideal as that is,” her mother began, “the divorce rate doesn’t guarantee a happily ever after.”

“Is that really what you think when you see your daughters getting married?” he asked, unable to hide his surprise.  “That they might end up divorced?”

She sighed.  “I’m a realist.  Of course I don’t want my daughters to go through a divorce, but you can’t deny the possibility.  I want to make sure my daughters will be provided for in case the unfortunate does happen.  That’s why Lexie’s smart in marrying a wealthy doctor.” She patted Lexie’s hand and smiled at her.  “Though I have no doubt he’ll be good to you, honey.” Returning her gaze to Mark, she continued, “You can spout off all you want about love and going from the end of one galaxy to another in order to be with that special someone for a happily ever after, but life doesn’t always work out that way.”

“Sadly, a lot of people have lost the belief that marriage is supposed to last until the death of a spouse.  You might consider me unrealistic, but I not only believe in love but in forever.”

As her mother opened her mouth to respond, Lexie cleared her throat.  “This is Caitlyn and Chris’ special day.  Can we please enjoy it?” She motioned to the rest of the people at the table who had stopped to watch Mark and Lexie’s mother’s discussion.

“Okay,” he reluctantly replied.

He forced his attention to the plate in front of him and quietly ate his food.  Usually, he’d consider himself a pretty easygoing guy, but he hated the way the culture was giving up on the permanency of marriage.  Too bad this planet didn’t have a bonding ceremony like his did, though it did the men on his planet no good considering there were no women to bond with anymore.

Lexie’s father came over to her mother and whispered in her ear.  Though she didn’t seem happy, she nodded, picked up her plate and drink and went to another table.  Mark didn’t know the details of their marriage, but it was nice to see that the two seemed to get along.  At least, they didn’t seem to be on the verge of divorce.

After her parents were out of hearing distance and the other people at their table had resumed their conversations, Lexie looked at him and smiled.  “I’m sorry.  My mother isn’t shy about sharing her views on things.”

Mark felt the tension leaving his muscles.  “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“She doesn’t like the idea of a divorce,” Lexie said in a lower voice, so others around them wouldn’t overhear.  “But she’s afraid it might happen to me or Caitlyn.”

“I can set your mind at ease about Caitlyn.  There’s no way she and Chris are getting a divorce.”

“I didn’t think there was.  You’re right.  They’re the perfect couple.”

He leaned toward her, purposely brushing her shoulder with his.  “Maybe one of several perfect couples.” He thought the two of them would be perfect as well, if not close to it.

“Yeah.  They can’t be the only one out there, not with as many people as there are on this world.”

“Exactly.” He finished the food on his plate and glanced at the buffet.  “I think I’ll make one more trip up there.  Can I get you anything?”

“I wouldn’t mind more fruit,” she replied, tucking her dark brown hair behind her ear and smiling at him in a way that made his pulse race in excitement.

“How about a piece of cake or pie?  Maybe some ice cream?  A couple cookies?”

She bit her lower lip in a way that indicated she wanted to say yes, but she shook her head.  “I better not.”

“Why not?”

“I need to watch what I eat.”

“Why?  Do you have health issues?”

He knew humans on Earth suffered illnesses that were never known on his home planet of Pandoran, but he couldn’t tell her that.

She shook her head and wiped her mouth with a napkin.  “No.  I meant that I’m watching my weight.”

“Why?”

“Well, for one thing, my wedding is in three weeks, and I need to fit the dress.  Two, I signed a prenup promising that I’d maintain a certain weight.”

“A prenup?” He struggled to figure out if he heard the word before, but his mind came up blank.

Her cheeks grew pink, and she glanced around to make sure no one was listening to them.  “Yeah, I know.  It was stupid.  When I think about it, I wish I had argued more, but my mom and Nick were insistent so…” She shrugged and studied the fork on her plate.

“I don’t understand.  What’s a prenup?”

“It’s a contract that the bride and groom make before they get married.”

“You signed a contract promising you’d watch your weight?” he asked, just to make sure he understood her right.

“Appearances are very important to Nick, and he wants his wife to make him look good.” She cleared her throat and turned her face away from him so he couldn’t see her expression.

He guessed there was more she had promised to do in the contract, and if he was right, she was too embarrassed to say any more.  “You shouldn’t have to sign something like that,” he softly replied.  “If a man can’t accept you for better or worse, then what’s the point in being with him?”

She shot him a wry grin.  “You don’t know my mother.”

“No, I don’t, but I don’t see what she has to do with a prenup.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Maybe.” Or maybe not.  Sometimes what people thought was complicated was stuff they didn’t want to deal with.  He suspected things were simpler than she was letting on but decided not to mention it.  Not wishing to make her any more uncomfortable than he suspected she already was, he said, “I’ll get you some fruit.”

“Thank you.”

He noted the relief in her voice and wondered how much of a hold her mother and Nick had on her.  As he headed for the buffet, he passed her mother, who was talking to someone about the ice sculpture she had ordered for Lexie’s wedding.  He fought the slight twist in his gut.  She wasn’t going to marry Nick.  Nick didn’t make her happy.  She was going to marry him instead.  He didn’t know how he’d convince her of that, but one way or another, he would.  And when he did, she wouldn’t be signing a stupid prenup.

 

***

 

The next day, Lexie’s timer dinged, so she turned over to tan her back.  The sun felt good and the wind coming in off the surf cooled her enough so that the high temperature wasn’t unbearable.  She adjusted her sunglasses and rested her head on her arms.  It was so peaceful on the beach.  No matter what hectic thing was going on in her life, she could always come here and get away from it all.

Next to her, her cell phone rang.  She debated whether or not to pick it up, but she knew if she didn’t and it was her mother, she’d never hear the end of it.  She grabbed her phone.  “Hello?”

“Oh, good,” her mother said from the other end.  “Are you busy?”

“A little.  I’m getting ready for my date with Nick.” That wasn’t a total lie.  He did like it when she had a nice, golden tan.

“I won’t keep you,” her mother said, excitement in her voice.  “I just wanted to tell you that your dress came back from getting altered and it’s gorgeous.  Lexie, when you see this, you’re going to wish you could get married every day.”

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Getting married was proving to be a lot more stressful than she thought it’d be, even with her mother making most of the arrangements for her.

“Since you’re going to see the doctor tonight, why don’t you come over tomorrow and try the dress on?  I want to see how it looks on you.”

“Okay.  I’ll be over after work.”

“Good.  I’ll see you then, sweetheart.”

After she hung up, she threw her phone on her towel and closed her eyes again.  She drifted off to sleep for fifteen minutes.  When the timer went off, she collected her things into her beach bag before standing up and shaking the sand off her towel.  Slipping into her sandals, she slung the bag over her shoulder and went to her car.

On the way to her apartment, she tried to imagine what her life would be like with Nick.  Soon she’d be Mrs. Lexie Hammond.  She’d be living with him in his house on the beach, so she’d be able to enjoy the beach every day if she wished.  They’d go to his work-related dinner parties.  He was a good dancer, so they’d dance quite a bit.  He made a lot of money.  She’d never lack for anything.  And better yet, her mother would be happy.  She sighed and turned on the radio.  She needed something to distract her.

When she got home, she took a shower and put on her makeup.  She flipped on the radio and rummaged through her closet.  She finally decided to wear the spaghetti strap black dress that went down to the top of her knees.  Then she combed her straight dark hair that settled nicely to the middle of her back.  She added gold hoop earrings and a matching bracelet.  Stepping back from the full-length mirror, she turned around.  Good.  Nick would be pleased with how she looked.

She glanced at the clock and shut off the radio.  Grabbing her black purse, she slipped on her heels by the front door of her apartment, just in time for Nick to arrive.  She opened the door and offered a polite smile.  “Hi, Nick.”

Nick was dressed in a dark suit, his blond hair slicked back with gel.  He was always immaculately dressed, and she did what she could to complement him.  Tonight, she succeeded, for his smile widened when he scanned her from head to toe.  “You did well, Lexie.”

“Thank you.”

He leaned forward and kissed her.  “I don’t smell any perfume.”

“Oh, right.  I forgot to put it on.  Come in.  I’ll do that and we can be on our way.”

He stepped into her apartment as she hurried to the bathroom.  “Make sure you pick the light floral perfume I bought you last month,” he called out.

“Will do,” she replied and selected the perfume he wanted.  She dabbed it on her wrists and behind her ears.  When she returned to him, she held her wrist out so he could smell it.  “Did I get the right fragrance?”

He inhaled and nodded.  “Perfect.”

“Where are we going tonight?”

“I thought we’d go to a restaurant on the beach, the one that serves fresh seafood.  Then we can go dancing.”

“Sounds good,” she replied.

He motioned for her to go out the door first, so she did, and he followed, closing it behind him.  Together, they went to his BMW.  When he got into the driver’s seat next to her, she studied his profile.  He was a handsome man.  Blond hair, brown eyes, neatly shaven, broad shoulders… He was perfect.

“I’m sorry I missed your sister’s wedding,” he said as he started the car.

She shrugged.  “There wasn’t much to miss.  It was a simple ceremony.”

“As long as I don’t miss our wedding day, we’ll be okay.” He shot her a charming grin and patted her hand.  “It sounds like your mother is busy getting everything ready.”

BOOK: Runaway Bride (Across the Stars: Book 2)
10.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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