‘Will you Damien Halliburton take Chelsea London to be your lawful wedded
The minister’s words blurred into one long onerous drone as Caleb, acting as
best man to his mate and business partner, fidgeted inside his tux, stifled a
yawn, and pretended as best he could to pay attention.
‘I do,’ Damien said, his voice deep and true, his eyes all for his admittedly
scrumptious new bride.
Though he couldn’t deny that Damien had seemed happier since Chelsea
appeared on the scene it had been some years since Caleb had decided that kind
of indiscriminate happiness was for chumps. Not only was it fleeting, once
gone it invariably took a little piece of you with it.
And Caleb liked himself and all his pieces. Quite a bit in fact.
He enjoyed his privileged life. He adored the pursuits that came with it;
tennis, sailing, golf, drinks at the club. The capacity to spend the
occasional weekend basking on a private beach somewhere didn’t go astray.
And he thrived on his work. He took great pleasure in doing whatever it took
to land ostensibly ungettable clients for Keppler, Jones and Morgenstern Day
Traders. Others in the biz thought him ruthless in his tunnel-visioned
pursuit of the big fish. But the simple fact was he’d always found it easy to
make people say yes.
He’d been told by a former weekend getaway companion it had everything to do
with a distracting glint in his eyes. It blinded people to the fact that he
never switched off, he was always, always silently working out a way to come
out on top.
To her credit it had taken him several seconds to realise she hadn’t meant it
as a compliment, or in fact a come on, and by that stage she’d walked out his
door never to darken it again.
Caleb glanced across the altar and caught the eye of Kensey, a bridesmaid, who
also happened to be Chelsea’s older sister. She was dark where Chelsea was
fair, and he had always preferred brunettes.
He glinted for all he was worth.
Kensey’s eyes grew wide before she flipped her left ring finger at him from
beneath her bouquet. A gold wedding band flashed his way.
His smile only widened as he offered a shrug by way of apology, but as he
moved his gaze away the smile twisted into a grimace. Was the whole damn
world getting married?
He gave himself a mental pat on the back for deciding not to bring a date to
this thing. Weddings stirred up all sorts of irrational emotions in people.
He’d seen it before. Perfectly level-headed gents cut down by a giddy mix of
floral scents, blinding amount of pink satin, and over indulgence in cake
Finding that scrunching his toes in his shoes wasn’t proving distracting
enough to keep him from yawning again, Caleb looked over the extensive crowd
filling the elegant city church.
Imagining them naked didn’t help as most of them were a generation older than
he and best kept clothed if he planned to keep his dinner down at the
reception. So instead he called upon his well-tuned affluence radar to decide
which unsuspecting guest would be signing on the dotted line as a client by
the end of the night.
The groom’s divorced, but friendly, parents sat in the front row weeping all
over one another. After today’s fiasco if they didn’t end up renewing their
vows by the end of the month he’d eat his shoes. But they were already
Damien’s clients so they didn’t count.
His own parents, the estimable Gilchrists, a couple who had taken the ‘til
death part so seriously he wouldn’t be surprised if they one day throttled one
another, had naturally wangled the next best seat in the house; row two, on
the aisle. They were no doubt the filthy richest pair in the room, but they
had never forgotten the year he’d lost all his pocket money running a secret
Spring Racing betting ring while in middle school and thus wouldn’t part with
a cent of their precious dough. Talk about the ungettable get.
Damien’s Aunt Gladys gave him a little finger wave from the fifth row. Caleb
winked back and she all but fainted on the spot. He knew without a doubt she
would have given him a perfume-scented cheque within five minutes of him
courting her. But where was the thrill in that?
The masses of faces he’d never seen and never particularly wanted to again
soon passed him by in a technicolour blur.
Until his brain slowly caught up with his eyes and he realised halfway down on
the left side he’d passed over a swathe of long brunette waves, the
immobilising combo of soft blue eyes fringed by impossibly long dark lashes,
and the kind of soft, sweet, wide, pink mouth any sane man would kill for.
Would die for.
Her name launched itself smack bang in the centre of his unsuspecting
consciousness from somewhere deep inside like a guided missile gone astray.
His eyes retraced their journey over the colourful crowd, sweeping across row
after row, even though he knew it couldn’t have been her.
Well logically it could. She was Damien’s sister. But the
groom had never once mentioned his sister was coming home from Boston for the
wedding and for the first time in nearly a decade. If he had it was not the
kind of crumb of information that would slip Caleb’s mind.
But he saw nothing but a sea of unfamiliar faces, none of which made his
stomach clench like hers did. Or more precisely like hers had. Once upon
a time in a galaxy far, far away...
The last time he’d laid eyes on her he’d been a twenty-two-year-old business
school pretender who’d been perfectly happy to bank on his family name to get
where he was going. While she’d been a nineteen-year-old humanities
wunderkind prepared to go to the far end of the earth to find a place where
nobody knew her family name.
They’d been friends since high school, combatants just as long, and lovers for
just one night, the day before she’d left to take up a scholarship at
Cambridge and never looked back.
Never written a postcard, nor a letter, nor an email. No carrier pidgeons had
been employed by her not telephones rung on his behalf.
He frowned and curled his toes into his new black leather shoes until they
hurt. He’d searched every pew and couldn’t find the brunette waves, the smoky
blue eyes, or the wide pink mouth. He must have imagined her after all.
Great hulking fool he had always been when Ava Halliburton had been the
subject of discussion...
Caleb looked at the groom blankly as a ripple of laughter washed over the
‘You’re on, buddy,’ Damien said.
‘On what exactly?’
‘The ring?’ Damien said, loaded smile playing about his mouth telling Caleb it
wasn’t the first time he’d been called.
‘Right,’ Caleb said. ‘Apologies. I was a million miles away.’
And a million years ago.
‘Not the kind of thing I want to hear right now.’ Damien’s smile didn’t slip
a millimetre but Caleb had known the guy long enough to know his patience was
Caleb slid a finger into a tiny side pocket of his waistcoat and pulled out a
skinny white gold band encrusted with diamonds. He summarily dropped it into
Damien’s upturned palm lest it rub some of its unwelcome romance upon him.
From there the wedding zoomed to a brisk conclusion.
The kiss was the best part. Damien grabbed Chelsea around the waist, dipped
her halfway to the floor and planted one on her that had the two hundred
strong crowd whooping it up in the aisles.
That’s my boy,
Caleb thought, glad his friend wasn’t becoming a complete sap now that he was
Caleb followed the couple down the aisle, arm in arm with Chelsea’s sister who
he could see out of the corner of his eye was grinning at him. He feigned
boredom as he started blankly towards the bright light of the camera at the
end of the aisle.
‘I was afraid you might be about to faint on us there for a moment,’ Kensey
He let his mouth kick into half smile. ‘Me? Faint? Simply not in me,
‘So you’re a fan of big white weddings then.’
‘Nowhere I’d rather be on a Saturday night.’
‘Really? Must have been the way the light was hitting your cheeks that made
you look like someone had walked over your grave.’
‘Must have been,’ Caleb said.
Though he couldn’t help but look to the left in search of a pair of pretty sky
blue eyes and long dark hair.