Chapter 1: Wedding
All of her warm, salty tears would have easily filled the antique, crystal flutes meant for bubbling with California's best, chilled champagne. The guest list at Rachel's wedding was packed with old money and Fortune 500 heirs and heiresses and their wealthy parents seeking business alignments to build wealth for their families and their offspring.
They would celebrate her arranged wedding with endless toasts of their champagne, not her tears. They would spend the entire social affair strategically mixing and mingling, seeking the same types of financially successful unions for their sons and daughters.
Love was never a consideration. It was always about increasing wealth with a business deal marriage to last forever. For anyone else, it would have been one of the best days of her life. For her it was just another expectation that she was expected to accept and fulfill without complaint or question. It was the continuation of a role she had to play.
She sat on her enormous bed in her room in her father's luxurious sea-side mansion for the last time. She took out her journal and began to write her heart out. If the pages had mouths, they would be screaming her anger, lamenting her sadness, uttering her prayer for a different outcome, and crying out with her plea for strength and guidance. With each touch of her pen to her page, she sought solace.
“It has been quite a while since my mother passed when I was nineteen. Since then I have fallen in and out of love and chased my dreams for the life I wanted. This is not it."
She shut the book and locked it...she had found new strength with each word. She dried her tears and packed her bag.
If she went through with this wedding, she would be trading one jailer for another. This would come first with her domineering father and then, to replace him, with Kurt, a cold, rude, possessive groom who was ready to enter their new marriage with several mistresses already.
She had met Kurt three times before she became engaged to be his wife. First, he was in attendance at her father's annual Winter Ball, a high society affair that she was expected to host in her mother's absence. On that initial meeting, he was aloof and seemed to busy himself with making political alliances and standing with the old boys' network her father was part of. Though she had tried to engage him in conversation, he was more focused on drinking whiskey, smoking cigars, and ogling the scantily clad women that circled the ballroom.
At their second meeting, he was invited to a state dinner at the White House and asked her to be his escort. He took her to Washington D.C. on his private jet and hardly uttered ten words the entire flight from California. What could have been an opportunity to get to know him better, transformed into a reason to dislike him even more. She felt like she was to be at his service the entire time, the glittering accessory demonstrating how profoundly rich and politically connected he was.
Rachel managed to enjoy the actual event as much as she could, grateful that they would not be spending the night, lest he got any ideas about what her companionship included. She was not one of his mistresses, after all.
She was from old money, with social breeding and political clout, while he was new money made on his grandfather's international teddy bear fortune. He was trying to distance himself as a ruthless young hot shot, but lacking in the expected social graces necessary to gain entry within the truly wealthy circles he needed access to in order to take his wealth to the next level. For that he would need a bigger, deeper, and more stable alliance. That was where Rachel fit in to his plan.
On their third encounter, his arrival was preceded with her father having a meeting with her.
“Rachel, that nice young man you met, Kurt, has asked me for your hand in marriage. He is coming to dinner tonight to propose to you. You will accept. Your marriage will be the key to a very lucrative merger of the wealth of our two families and give us even more financial security for generations to come. You will act pleased with the engagement and be happy with the relationship. Make it work. Understand?"
That was how he treated her since her mama died. He barked commands at her and she was expected to comply without questions, complaints, or attitude. This was how he treated his employees and now also his daughter.
A marriage of convenience for Rachel was no small matter. She was 21 and this would be for the rest of her life. The expectations were clear, including those around children.
Kurt arrived and was brief but upbeat. His proposal lacked romance or charm, “So, I think you know why I'm here. I think June will be the best time for the ceremony."
He gave her the box with a beautiful and expensive-looking engagement ring from one of the world's biggest and best diamond brokers. It was her mama's ring, given to Kurt by her father. After she looked at it and put it on her own hand, and nodded in agreement, her father and her new fiancé excused themselves to sign some paperwork regarding mergers and acquisitions of their individual wealth and soon to be collective holdings. They would celebrate “the deal", their engagement, leaving her alone.
She had packed a few personal items, including a portrait of her mother, and, of course, her journal. She didn't bother leaving a note; instead, she carefully placed her engagement ring on her dresser.