Bargaining with the Bride(8)

By: Allison Gatta

Ah, so that was it. A case of cold feet. He'd been expecting it, but he didn't think it would be quite so drastic. The last time anyone in the office had gotten married they tended to be found crying in the bathroom, or, in one case, splayed out naked on his desk. That had been an awkward conference call.

He'd be lying, though, if he didn't admit that he'd been expecting more from Rachael. She always had her shit together. It wasn't like her to fall apart. Then again, he'd never met her fiancé. And considering the fact that the wedding was next month and the office had only just found out she was engaged, he’d suspected there was something peculiar happening.

"Cold feet?" He smiled in what he hoped was an understanding way.

Apparently, it didn't play exactly as he'd hoped since she grimaced in response, "Not exactly."

“There's no reason to leave your job because of a break-up. Are you sure you can't work it out?”

That was when she laughed. A crazed, sleep-deprived laugh. "Working it out is not negotiable. And as far as leaving…" Her face fell. "I don’t want to. I like this job. But I have a younger sister who’s a little wayward and can really use my help. I think I should head home and be with her. I was only staying here to get married. You know, to take care of my husband." She sneered at the word.

He settled back, playing on another business tactic. There would be more. Something to negotiate with. He just had to wait it out, then strike while the iron was hot.

And just as he'd predicted, she released a deep sigh and began again, "And then I’ll be around my parents so they can remind me exactly how colossally I’ve messed up. I have nothing to show for the last miserable four years except a bunch of debt from Lance’s trumped-up medical bills. I can’t afford to keep my house on my own and I can’t leave my sister alone with them. Going home is my only option.”

"I’m confused. Wouldn't your parents be happy you weren't getting married to someone you didn't want to be with?"

"You would think so. But my parents…Well, let’s say they still think I’m the same person I was a very long time ago.” She got up from her chair and headed toward the door. "Listen, why don't we put some coffee on and I'll tell you about it over breakfast? If I'm going to spill my soul, I may as well have a bagel to comfort me."

He followed her into the kitchen and before he had time to sit she was already measuring out coffee grounds and dumping water into the machine. She reached for two mugs from the overhead cupboard, sat them down on the counter, and then placed one hand on either side of the counter as if to steady herself.

“You okay?” He asked. His jaw ticked and he focused intently on her. All of this—the drama, the drinking, the crying? It was so unlike her. Of all his employees, she had always been the one he’d counted on to keep it all together.

“I’m fine. Just trying to figure out how I could have been so stupid.” She offered a half-hearted laugh, and then abandoned the empty coffee mugs to sit across from him. “I know it was stupid, but every time I think about it, I don’t know how I could have done anything else…”

“I’m going to need some help deciphering what you mean.”

“I mean.” She blew a curl of hair away from her face and then started again. “Let me start from the beginning. Did you know my fiancé was sick?”

“I think I’d heard something about that.” He answered, then sat back as she explained the entire sordid deal to him. The way he’d lied to her and used her. The way he’d sapped her entire bank account. By the time she’d finished telling her tale, Garret’s knuckles were a stark white from being clenched into fists.

“Is he at your house now?” He asked, and Rachael’s eyebrows shot up.

“What are you going to do? Fight him?” She asked, a laugh behind her question.

Why that was something to laugh about, though, he sure as hell didn’t know. All he knew was that this guy was going to pay for what he’d done.

“I’m going to do something. Why don’t you press charges?”

“For what?”

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