Caris sat in her living room with her two best friends and waited for them to come up with a plan of escape. Considering the brainpower in the room consisting of a doctor, an engineer, and a lawyer, they were surprisingly short on ideas.
“At least you look stunning, and she can’t complain about it,” Nedra offered with a small smile. “And your hair is gorgeous. It’s like burnished copper. I can’t believe you can go from a million ringlets to these big sexy wavy curls.”
“And your tatas look amazing,” Analise sing-song voice was teasing.
“Thanks. Lulabelle did a great job with this dress.”
“Dinner tonight with the parents and the faux-fiancé and then what?” Nedra queried quietly, worried for her friend.
“Tonight, it’s to get the buzz going. Next weekend, Garth will make a formal announcement of the engagement and in a month, we’ll get married. The goal is to be settled and, in a year, Garth can hand over the reigns and Killian can take over with the full support of the board as someone who is able to be committed to something long-term.”
“This is dumb,” Nedra muttered, “I mean it’s dumb. He’s demonstrated commitment by working for them since he was a fricking kid. How does this not show commitment?”
“I don’t know. All I know is the Board supposedly made it clear to Garth, Killian is not the logical choice. They feel he hasn’t demonstrated commitment to anything other than what Garth tells him to do.” She sighed, “I’m a lawyer and I’ve heard some weird s**t but even this seems weird to me. But it’s me or Maris and it’s all I’m focused on. I can’t let my kid sister marry him.”
Analise nodded, “he’s a good-looking man. She probably already fantasizes about him. She’d be pregnant in a year.”
Caris groaned as a knock on her door told her, her date had arrived. “Nothing? You both have nothing?”
“Sorry,” Analise hugged her as they stood up. “We’ll lock up for you. Go on.”
Caris hugged Nedra and walked to the door and pulled it open.
“Caris, you look lovely.” The dry voice had nearly zero tonal inflection.
“Killian, eight hours ago you looked at me like you’d rather eyeball Garth naked than me dressed. Please don’t bother.” She barely looked at the man she’d considered robotic for most of her life.
“Aren’t you going to lock up?”
“My friends are inside.”
“You leave your friends in your house unattended?”
“They’re grown ass women not toddlers,” she scoffed as she looked over her shoulder marching to the waiting limousine and then smiled sweetly at the driver. “Thank you.”
Her smile disappeared as she noted her mother and stepfather in the vehicle already and sighed dramatically. “I thought it was the bigger car. Where’s Maris?”
Garth answered, “home. She didn’t feel up to a family dinner.”
She slid along the seat opposite the couple and ignored the man sliding in next to her. “I don’t feel up to a family dinner. Can I go back home?”
Her mother ignored her, “What are you wearing Caris? I told you to dress up.”
“Mom, I’m wearing a designer dress. I like it.”
“You look like a sausage in a casing,” her mother shook her head.
Caris ignored her mother’s comment and looked out the window. Nothing she did would ever please the woman. Her dress was a stunning wraparound silk of a deep emerald green which made her eyes pop against her skin.
“Caris looks lovely,” Killian tried to placate Aileen. “Her dress is perfectly suitable for where we are dining.”
“Did you call my hairstylist yet?” Aileen ignored Killian. “You would look much better with the red toned down a few shades.”
“I like my red hair, I like my freckles and I like my body even if you think it looks like sausage,” Caris bit out through clenched teeth. “Anything else you feel compelled to tear apart before we can get the evening moving along or are we sticking with the trifecta tonight?”
“There’s no reason to get all upset. Since you brought it up though, you’ve put some weight on.”
“I didn’t bring it up, you called me a sausage. My weight is fine for my height and build.”
“You have a family history of diabetes. Your grandmother died of it.”
“My grandmother died of a broken heart because you ripped the one thing away from her to ever gave her any joy.” Caris eyed her mother angrily, “and don’t bring it up again or I’ll do a tuck and roll out of this car and walk back home.”
“Enough,” Garth held his hand up finally annoyed with the bickering. “Caris, I saw you won your case this week. Good job.”
“What was the case about?” Killian asked trying to keep the conversation as neutral as possible. “You’re a defence attorney, right?”
“Yes, criminal law. My client was accused of embezzling a quarter million dollars from her employer. She wasn’t guilty and I proved it this week in court. The prosecutor underestimated me. It happens.”
“What were the circumstances?” Killian half turned to face her.
“The circumstances were my client, is a stunningly beautiful woman and her employer was a troll who fell from the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down and even piercing his cold ugly heart. She’s not very smart and I’m still scratching my head on how she got the diploma to call herself an admin assistant but there she was working for this guy. For six months he makes little plays and buys her little trinkets and she kept telling him as politely as she could she wasn’t interested. He then made the offer he would disregard her inability to use a spreadsheet if she spread her legs.”
“Caris!” her mother chastised
“It’s a direct quote mom. He used those words. She resigned on the spot, and he framed her for embezzling. He may have been a bit irritated by the way she resigned, considering he had met her in the office naked and she mocked his p***s size and then told him she couldn’t tell the difference between his wrinkly ass and his wrinkly face. Regardless of his motives, I knew she didn’t do it.”
“Do you believe all of your clients are innocent?”
“No,” she laughed at Killian’s question. “God, some of them are guilty as the devil himself but my job is to provide defense. It’s the prosecutor’s job to convince the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt. It’s my job to provide the doubt. In this case though, I believed her.”
“Because as I said earlier, she’s not bright. She couldn’t transfer a dollar from her checking to savings account, let alone set up an account in her name in Europe. She would have had to figure out passwords to multiple accounts, transfer money from the multiple accounts she didn’t know the passwords to into said secret account and then try to cover her tracks. She simply didn’t have the brain power.”
“You based your whole defense on the fact she’s dumb?” Killian’s voice was incredulous.
She chuckled, “yes but also on the fact he’s a brilliant man. Don’t get me wrong. Ugly inside and out but brilliant.”
“How’d you get her off?” Aileen asked, curious for the first time in her life about her daughter’s work.
“I told the judge I wanted to review the accounts which had been siphoned from. This guy is smart and because of it, he knows the account numbers of every one of his accounts. I started going through them, but I threw in the account she allegedly set up. He didn’t realize what I did at first and I inverted two numbers. He immediately corrected me on the numbers. I asked him if he were sure, and he replied it was his account therefore he would know. I questioned him again on the number and you could see he knew he f****d up. He started to back peddle but I asked him how he was able to correctly identify the account and correct my incorrect account numbers, which was allegedly created by my client, in her name. Finally, he lost his cool and started screaming how she was a horrible person and should go to prison because she was mean and cruel.”
Garth chuckled, “remind me not to get cross-examined by you.”
“People with their hearts on the line are the ones who are most dangerous. Lust is a dangerous emotion. He felt because he put up with her poor work ethic and her inability to do her job, he was entitled somehow to screw her. Is she a good person? Nope. Did she deserve to be sexually harassed? Hell no. I gave her the card of one of the guys I went to law school with. With luck, she’ll get all the money in the Swiss account and then some.”
“Brutal,” Killian said with a small grin. “Are you always this ruthless?”
“When the situation warrants it.” She looked back out the window and noted they were already at the restaurant. San Jose had a decent nightlife and the people in this restaurant were going to be extremely rich and stupidly famous. Paparazzi were already out waiting to see who would show up. She felt her nerves tighten up. “God, I hate this.”
“Get used to it.” Aileen quipped, evidently content with her real housewife’s lifestyle. “You’re marrying a very wealthy man, Caris. It comes with the territory.”
“I’d rather eat glass.”
“Just take my hand, keep your head down and ignore any of the stupid questions they throw out.” Killian offered kindly.
She let him get out first and she took his proffered hand and walked beside him the short distance from the limo to the restaurant.
As they reached the host podium, he looked down at her, “Caris, smile please. The photographers are taking photos through the window. You look like you’re actually eating the glass you just mentioned.”
She threw her head back and gave a phony laugh, “Is this better Killian?”
She kept her wide grin on her face, “I hate this charade.”
“I’m grateful to you. Please keep it in mind.”
“Caris, why the hell would you wear those heels? You should have worn shorter heels. You’re almost as tall as Killian.” Her mother had a smile plastered on her face which did not match her tone.
“I’m five eleven in these shoes mother and Killian is easily six feet tall.”
“Six two,” he grinned and put his hand on her low back as they walked through the restaurant. “You’re a perfect height for me in your shoes.”
As they took their seats her mother hissed, “you’re significantly underdressed.”
“The dress is a thousand-dollar designer dress.”
“Do not mention the cost Caris,” her mother shook her head, “it’s vulgar.”
“You’re just annoyed because you know Lulabelle made it for me.” She grinned knowing she was about to set her mother in a tailspin. “I’m going to walk again for her too in a special release at the end of the month.”
“You will not,” her mother almost slapped her menu on the table. “You were the laughingstock. My friends were calling you w*********h Lizzo for weeks. It was horrendous.”
“w*********h Lizzo?” she threw her head back and laughed, the first iota of real joy she’d felt since she’d gone to her mother’s house. “Oh Mom, I love it.”
“I had to Google who Lizzo was. It was awful. You paraded down the runway with your ass cheeks hanging out.”
“I wore lingerie in a fashion show mom. I didn’t do a porn.”
“Caris!” Garth gave a stern glance in her direction as he looked around to see if anyone was listening.
“I’m just saying I wore beautiful lingerie and I felt stunning in it.” Trying to provoke her mother she winked at Killian, “maybe I’ll wear it on my honeymoon.” Her mother choked on the water she had sipped, and Caris grinned wickedly.
“You model?” Killian asked curiously.
“Do not encourage her,” Aileen grumbled. “It is not modeling.”
“I do and it is modeling. My friend is a fashion designer for plus size women. I’ve done several shows for her since high school but last year she really did well, and her designs took off.” She pulled her phone out of her purse. “Would you care to see?”
“No!” Aileen growled warningly as Killian held his hand out for the phone.
Caris found the website with her photos on them, proud of how beautiful and sexy she had looked in everything from lingerie to evening wear to casual wear. She watched his face remain the same banal expressionless canvas he usually sported and waited for any flicker of emotion.
Killian passed the phone back to her and looked back at his menu. Caris was mildly disappointed at his lack of reaction and then he looked to her again with a furrowed brow.
“What?” She waited for him to make a disparaging comment considering he barely blinked at the images she’d shown off.
“If you decide to wear one of those for our honeymoon, can I request the black one? It’s something else.”
As her mother sputtered at the comment, Caris threw her head back and laughed and decided perhaps the night wouldn’t be a waste after all.