Today is my critique partner’s book birthday! Everyone run out and grab A Marriage of Inconvenience!
Check out an excerpt below:
“Bash? You still here with me?” Her voice cut through his thoughts like a knife through hot butter, and he shifted on the couch and cleared his throat.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, what did you say?” He blinked, but she hadn’t made a move toward him still nursing her coffee with two hands. She wouldn’t turn around until she’d forgiven him, so he anticipated he’d see a good portion of her back through the most of the morning.
“Don’t you want other people at the wedding? People from your side of the family? I mean, if we overlook the fact that this idea is asinine. If we’re really going through with the idea…don’t you want…more?”
A million cheesy lines flashed through his thoughts. Instead, he chose the truth knowing she didn’t deserve anything less for agreeing to put up with his ass for all eternity.
“The only person who I’d want there is dead. Nothing else really matters much.”
She didn’t make a sound, but he could guess that she heard him judging by the slight cock of her head.
“Don’t tell me it’s your ideal wedding, either,” he continued knowing he couldn’t rest too long on the path their train of thought would lead him down. Maybe when the marriage was all said and done, but for now, the idea was too fresh. “I know you’ve always wanted something big, elegant, lavish. A storybook affair. Not a simple ceremony where the only reception smells are antiseptic and bleach.”
Izzy shrugged one shoulder nibbling on her croissant. “We make sacrifices.”
“I would say agreeing to marry me is quite a big sacrifice.” Sebastian couldn’t wipe the ruthless grin off his face even though she wouldn’t turn around to see it.
“I never actually agreed, you know.”
For a beat, they hung there, and he knew it was up to him to make or break the moment.
“You will, though. When I do it right.” He shifted, licked his lips. “And I will do it right, Izobel. I won’t allow this to be one of my regrets, not where you’re concerned.”
“You should have asked me. There was nothing about that ambush that was okay, Sebastian.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.” He exhaled in frustration and draped his arms in between his spread legs groping for the right words that wouldn’t leave him so emotionally exposed. He didn’t think he could handle her seeing him undone today. It would be too much on top of everything else that was flooding his mind as the reality of their nuptials hit him like a freight train. “You know I had a good reason to push you. I did it the wrong way, but for the right reasons.”
“Your mother,” Izzy supplied, voice cracking on the words, slipping on the emotions he was damming up. “You don’t have to go there—“
“A little late for that, love.” Bash linked his hands together and soldiered on knowing that he had to get this out, or Izzy would never understand. Right now, she needed to get it. He tried again. He’d try as many times as it took until she didn’t feel second best for agreeing to his plan. “My mother’s life was full of fear, disgust…maybe hatred. And then she was gone. There were no more chances. She was snuffed out by a sick freak who used her fear like an emotional drug, and she never knew anything else. So I couldn’t live with myself if your mom didn’t have whatever scraps of happiness we can give her before her big send off, because I won’t bury another mother knowing that her last moments were Hell. I can’t take that again.” He blinked and barely breathed because even though it was over the acceptance of his past stung deep into a sudden, sharp ache in the center of his chest. Shit, but there was no help for it.
“It wasn’t your fault. You were a kid—”
“Old enough to call the cops. Old enough to run and get help. There were an unlimited amount of options, and I didn’t choose any of them.” When he scrubbed a hand down his face he wished he could take away the memories. The insistent stab of them made his eye sockets throb with the beginnings of a headache. “The only reason we’re talking about this is because I want you to know I don’t take what I did lightly. Sure, was it impulsive? Absolutely. But it came from the purest place imaginable. I know it’s selfish and demanding, but I need you to forgive me. Do you think you can do that? I don’t know if I can say my vows knowing that you’ve vowed to hate me for the rest of our lives, you know?”
“With a speech like that what do you expect me to say?”
They both fell silent, and he didn’t think he had the strength to look up from the paint-splattered concrete floor. He’d said a hell of a lot more than the last time he’d spilled his guts. A drunken night in college on the anniversary of his mother’s death had led to a good deal of emotional blundering through mine fields. But she’d stayed with him the whole night. Even when he’d begged her to leave. Izzy was good like that, and he couldn’t say he was always the best for her at all—or even the majority of the time.
“Stop internally flogging yourself before I kick your ass. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. I won’t pressure you to say anything else about it. Just make sure you show up on time and look pretty.”
Sometimes it took his breath away how she simply knew what he needed in the moment and gave it to him without question. A tentative smile pulled across his cheeks. The barest hint, but it was sure as hell enough to shove the demons back for another five minutes.
“Thank you,” he breathed out. “I know I’m—“
“You’re something, all right.” She helpfully supplied before he felt her warm hand cupping his chin until she jerked his gaze up to meet her shimmering brown eyes. “We’re okay. By no means golden, but we’re okay.”
A couple walnut-colored tendrils curled around her face escaping from her ponytail and he made a fist, unsure if brushing the strands away would lead them on a path he couldn’t see down. He couldn’t afford any more slip-ups. Not and have their friendship survive. For what must have been a single second, but seemed like a thousand heartbeats, he didn’t breathe while her searching gaze crept over his face.
“I love you, you silly asshole.” She squeezed his left hand, as she did every time they went through their ritual.
“The feeling is mutual, damnably perfect wench. Please continue to keep me in check as only you can, okay? We’ve both got issues right now, and I’d rather not give you the short end of the stick because I can’t be a big boy and get over my own shit. If you need me, now isn’t the time to go all soft and gooey.”
“You are so not okay. Don’t play that card with me.” Sebastian met her eyes head on, and this time, she jerked away licking her lips with a quick swipe of her pink tongue. “Don’t play pretend with me. I’ve been through this before, remember?”
“Talking about it isn’t going to change anything. Words aren’t going to make me feel any better,” Frustration leaked out of her tone until his throat tightened, and he squeezed the hand he was still holding on his knee. “There isn’t a quick fix, no magical compartment I can shove all my emotions into and get on with the rest of my day. I don’t have anything left to cope.”
A rush of air left her lungs as if she’d been holding the weight in her chest waiting for just the right time to breathe again.
“You’re not okay,” he supplied trying his best to stay neutral and not rub it in her face.
“No. I’m not. I’m not okay.”
“What do you want to hear?”
“Lies. Feed me blissful lies, Bash.”
“It all gets better with time. The memories fade. Eventually, that sick feeling that migrates underneath your breastbone, that dies away until you can almost take a deep breath, again. The only way out is through, but when you’re through, you’ll be better for having done it.” His thumb idly brushed against her hand, and she glanced back toward him as he noticed the shimmer of tears in her eyes.
This time when he brushed the barest kiss across her cheek, he knew it would be impossible to erase the sensation of her soft, warm skin beneath his lips. He’d be wearing her body heat across his face like an invisible brand. She was always with him, even when she wasn’t.
In that moment, he knew he could make her the happiest woman on earth or rip her world to pieces by his simple existence. It was all a choice.