Copyright © Karla Doyle, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Karla Doyle
“Fucking ties. What idiot invented these things?” Derrick snapped the strip of gray silk from its stranglehold around his neck. “To hell with it, not doing it,” he said, launching the thing at a garbage can.
His best friend Jeremy raised his dark eyebrows but he left the tie where it’d landed. “I have a solution. We pretend I won the coin toss that night. I get the girl, you get to avoid the marital noose.”
“Yeah, not happening. Hanna’s all mine and that’s the way it’s gonna stay, ’til death do us part. Longer than that if my deal with the devil holds.” He nodded at the can. “Grab that stupid fucking thing for me. I’ve got an angel to marry.”
Took a few more tries, a hell of a lot of cursing and some help from his best man, but he won the battle of the Windsor. Didn’t mean he liked it though. He slid two fingers under his collar and popped the top button on his shirt. A little breathing room, at least. “I can’t believe you wear one of these every day.”
“You get used to it,” Jeremy said, cinching his tie with ease.
“Not this guy. I’ll stick with t-shirts and hardhats.” He slid on the black jacket that completed the monkey suit he’d been assigned and checked out the results in the mirror. “But I do make this shit look good.”
Jeremy laughed until Derrick made a beeline across the large, sunshine-filled room and opened the door. “Hey, where’re you going—we’re supposed to wait here for the minister.”
“Can’t wait. Have to see my bride.”
“One of her parents catches you and you’ll be out of order for the wedding night.”
“Not a problem. I’ve only been caught once, and that was by the woman I’m going to see.”
“Hey, D…” Jeremy called as Derrick reached the opening. “Good luck, man.”
Derrick nodded his thanks and stepped into the main floor of the Collins’ house, Hanna’s childhood home. The place was a mansion compared to the hole-in-the-wall house by the tracks where he’d grown up. If he’d known that night two years ago that Hanna came from money, he might’ve handed off the opportunity to ask her out to Jeremy, despite winning the coin toss. Derrick didn’t date princesses. Didn’t fuck them either. Until Hanna—his first and last. His forever girl.
Thanks to the ultra-plush carpeting that ran through the house, nobody heard him climbing the stairs. Or walking down the hall toward the last door on the left, Hanna’s old bedroom. He’d have been happy to make things legal at some chapel in Niagara Falls, where she’d made him the happiest man alive by accepting his proposal.
But deny Hanna the pretty, garden wedding she’d dreamed about and deserved? No way. So here they were. And here he was, three steps from his bride-to-be’s half-open door.
“It’s not too late to call it off.” Mrs. Collins’ voice, in its usual, judgmental tone.
“Hanna, you need to listen to me.”
All the muscles in his body seized. If anybody walked out of one of these second-floor rooms, he was fucked. Because he couldn’t move. All he could do was listen, same as the woman he loved had just been ordered to do.
“Your dad and I know why you’re doing this, marrying a scruffy, tattooed ruffian like Derrick.”
“Because I love him. So glad you figured that out after almost two years.”
With that, he could move again. And he did, closing the distance to the door by half.
Abigail Collins tsked, loudly and disapprovingly. He could picture the expression on her face. Sour, her favorite mask whenever he was around.
“You don’t love him, you’re infatuated. He’s dirty and dangerous and it’s exciting. But the excitement will fade, darling girl, and then you’ll be stuck. Tied to a horrible family and a husband who’ll have to go on disability or welfare when his body gives out because he has no other prospects beyond heavy lifting. Then what? You’ll watch him drink himself into oblivion, the way his father always does? Maybe while you chase a couple of scruffy, disrespectful children around a ramshackle apartment?”
The muscle control he’d regained a minute earlier disappeared when Hanna didn’t answer. Fuck. Fuck.
“Hanna.” Abigail’s voice had softened. “Let me tell the minister there won’t be a wedding today. You can move back home immediately and, once you’re settled, move on with the right kind of man. Like that Jeremy Cruz. Now he’s a catch. Nice short hair and always clean-shaven—now he’s a handsome man who’ll make beautiful children. And he’s from a lovely family, making a good career for himself. Nothing like—”
“Fucking stop, Mom. Just fucking stop.”
“Hanna Marie Collins, you mind your foul mouth. You see the horrible influence he’s had on you?”
Oh yeah, now he could move. To right outside that door, should his newly foul-mouthed fiancée require backup.
“You need to listen to me. You’re right, being with Derrick is exciting, maybe even a little bit dangerous sometimes. And maybe that’ll fade. If it does, I don’t give a damn. That’s one tiny part of him, of why I love him. You don’t know him, all you see is the superficial stuff. Yes, he has tattoos and a motorcycle and he operates a jackhammer instead of sitting behind a desk. And yes, his dad is a piece of shit, but Derrick’s not like his asshole father, just like I’m not like my giant bitch of a mother. So you listen to me, Mom, because this is the last time I’m having this conversation with you. I love Derrick and I’m marrying him. Today. I can do that in your backyard with all the pretty fixings that’ll impress your friends, or in a two-minute long, late-night service in a Niagara Falls wedding chapel. Your call.”
Derrick backed away even quieter than he’d approached. His strong, beautiful princess didn’t need any backup. Her parents were right—she was too good for him. Could do fifty times better. One hundred times. Didn’t matter, because she wanted him. They were going to bed tonight as husband and wife. After which he’d spend every day of his life worshipping her and never letting her go.
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