Grayson's Vow

Page 30


He recited his vows to me, his voice steady, his manner removed. I watched him, my chest aching at the serious expression on his handsome face. When the marriage commissioner asked if we had rings to exchange, Grayson reached into his pocket and brought out a beautiful gold ring with an opal in the center surrounded by diamonds. I gasped as he slid it on my finger. I tried to catch his eye, but he looked at it for several seconds on my hand and then raised his eyes to the man performing our ceremony. I stared down at the beautiful antique-looking piece of jewelry, a lump forming in my throat for his thoughtfulness at remembering to bring a ring. I hadn't even thought of it myself.
"You may kiss your bride."
Grayson leaned forward and gave me a quick peck on my mouth. At the feel of his dry lips brushing across mine, the hysteria I'd kept at bay since I'd woken that morning suddenly bubbled up my chest, and I snorted out a barely contained laugh. I pretended a small cough, my eyes widening at my body's betrayal. His kiss reminded me of one my old, crotchety Uncle Colburn would give. Uncle Colburn smelled like mothballs. Hilarity and insanity warred inside for control. I let out another small snort and tried to cover it with another cough.
Grayson's eyebrows shot up and then his eyes narrowed, growing almost lazy as he stared me down, something tense and challenging in his expression as if he thought I had laughed solely to mock him. I swallowed, very suddenly serious. What had come over me? The stress of this had clearly cracked my brain right in half. Of course he should kiss me like a dried-up old uncle. This was a business deal.
Grayson stepped right into my space and took my face in his hands as I chirped out what sounded like a surprised little cheep. He pressed his lips to mine, sweeping his tongue over the seam of my mouth. I had no time to think and my body responded to him instinctually, as I parted my lips eagerly to take his tongue, melting against him. The kiss showed no mercy, his tongue plundering my mouth and making my knees weak as I clung to his shoulders. Just as suddenly as he'd initiated it, he pulled away, our mouths coming apart with a wet pop as I stumbled forward, catching myself before I fell into him.
The marriage commissioner grinned. "Well now!"
Well now, indeed.
I tried to regain my composure, using my thumb to wipe the saliva from below my bottom lip, as the final words were said. "By the authority vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
And it was done. We were officially Mr. and Mrs. Grayson Hawthorn. Forever and ever. Amen.
Or at least for the next year or so. Which probably didn't deserve an amen.
I walked with Grayson back to his truck on legs that felt strangely numb, still reeling slightly from his kiss, feeling a measure of humiliation. Still, he had done something thoughtful. "Thank you for remembering a ring," I said softly. "I didn't even think to get one for you. Where did you get this on such short notice?"
"It was still in the house. I just hadn't gotten around to selling it." I looked down at it, figuring he had the tight look on his face because it had been a piece of his stepmother's jewelry. Well, it would serve to make our union look legitimate to the outside world, so what did I care where it'd come from? "I'll give it back when, um—"
"Okay," was his terse reply.
"Okay," I said, deciding not to mention the kiss at all, or the fact that I'd laughed at his first one. Now that my mind was clearer, I realized he'd likely done it for no other reason than to make our ceremony look convincing. After a moment of silence, I asked, "So, do you want to, um, go to a late lunch or something?" I had no idea of the protocol for this day.
It was my wedding day. Oh, God . . .
Only, not really. I wouldn't consider this my wedding day. Someday I'd have a real one and it would be the polar opposite of this. "Can't. I have to get back to work," Grayson said, not looking at me.
All right, then. "Dinner tonight maybe? We should at least celebrate the windfall we're about to get." I gave him a small smile that felt more hopeful than intended.
"Kira . . ." He sighed, running one hand through his hair as if my conversation and then asking him to go to dinner was a grave annoyance. Did he think this meant I suddenly expected a relationship with him now that I was his wife, had received an obligatory kiss, and wore a bauble he'd found lying around some dusty corner of his house? Anger, and a hurt I didn't want to admit to, burned within me.
"Never mind," I said. "I just remembered I have plans anyway."
He looked at me as if he knew very well I was lying. "Maybe another time, okay? I'm having an issue with a piece of equipment. Taking these few hours today has already put me behind."
I had just thrown the sanctity of marriage off a cliff, and he could barely manage to be cordial? I didn't expect his thanks, but I also didn't expect to feel like I was an inconvenience to his day. I swallowed back my disappointment because it was obviously wasted on the arrogant dragon. "Of course. I understand," I lied.
When we pulled up to his home, I hopped out, calling, "I should have the check within a week or so. I'll drop by with your share." I wouldn't look back. I looked back. Grayson was standing at the side of his truck with his hands in his pockets watching me walk away. As I began walking through the brush to my cottage, I raised my chin and flipped my hair. And then felt a sharp branch as it jabbed my thigh, tearing a large rip in my dress. I jumped slightly and let out a small yelp. Damn. I raised my chin higher and kept walking. I heard his low chuckle from far behind me and resisted the urge to turn around, run back, and claw his reptilian eyes out. Instead, I slammed the door to my cottage when I got inside, but the old door didn't fit exactly right on the hinges and gave a very unsatisfying click as it weakly met the doorframe.