After Reece drops me off I walk slowly through my apartment not really paying attention to anything in particular. I walk past the living room where my roommate and closest friend is sitting on the couch waiting for me to come in a spill. I walk down the long hallway to my bedroom walking in and closing  the door, I lean on it and just slide down, starting to have a small panic attack.  I can’t believe I am going to go through with this.  What the hell am I thinking.  I have plans for my life and they definitely don’t include getting married in a week.

There’s a light knock, “Linds, you ok?” Angie asks me, muffled through the door.  I can’t answer yet, I’m focused on my breathing and trying not to shed tears. “Lindsey, you need to let me know how you’re doing, otherwise I’m going to think the worst and break your door down, you know me, come on, open up.” 

I slowly climb off the floor and open the door, and I let her engulf me in a hug. “How was it babe?” She asks, leading me out of the room and back to the living room. She sits me on the couch and goes into the kitchen still asking questions.  “Is he at least cute?  Your brother is kind of an idiot, no offense. Is the guy at least somewhere in our age bracket?”

I let out a little laugh when she calls my brother an idiot.  We had spent the whole night talking after my brother dropped the bomb on me that I needed to get married to save our parents company and its employees. Speculating about whether the guy would be old or have something wrong with him that didn’t allow him to find a wife any other conventional way. She made me feel better by making light of the situation.  I think having her support was the only thing that helped me get dressed this morning and go through with the first meeting.

“I'm surprised you weren't plastered to the window when we pulled up in his convertible to try and catch a sneak peak.” I tease her as she walks back in the living room from the kitchen.

“Honestly, I was caught off guard, I expected you to drive yourself home, not get dropped off by Mr…” She let the rest of the sentence die hoping to get at least his name out.

“Reece, his name is Reece Raines.” I huff out, knowing what’s coming next.

She whips out her phone and starts typing frantically.  This girl can find anything about anyone with a few keystrokes on her phone, it’s kind of scary.  “Well while I am doing my background check, tell me more.  How was today, did you get any creepy, been married ten times kind of vibes? Did he give you any more info on this whole arranged marriage thing?”

“No, not really, but I also asked him not to.”

“What? Why? Don’t you want to know what’s going on?  I mean ultimately your brother is selling you to this guy to maintain a company he doesn’t even care to run properly. Seriously, I could run it better and I have no marketing experience whatsoever.”

I laugh again. “I asked him to email me a copy of the contract so I could make sure that the employees will be taken care of and not all just fired after whatever this merger thing is. I was hoping to get some more information from that as well as my expectations.  I mean, he’s really handsome.” I say giggling like the teenager that I am. “I don’t understand why he would want or need an arranged marriage.  I’m sure women fall all over themselves around him.”

“Oh, damn! You’re right he is hot!” She says ogling her phone. “There has to be something wrong with him.  I hope he’s not an abuser or super controlling like that.  I hope I can still see you after you are a married woman.” She makes a face after saying that, still scrolling through her phone at whatever images of Reece she pulled up.


“It just sounds weird, Lindsey Carter, married at 18.  That sounds more like you got knocked up.  And it’s for sure not what your senior prediction was in the yearbook.”

“Thank you for that mental image, now I’m going to worry about that stigma.  It’s a good thing I don’t really like people other than you.” I laugh. “I don’t have anyone to really impress.”

“So what’s next, when does he want to rush you down the aisle?”

“In a week.” I say burying my face in my hands, knowing the explosion that is coming.

“What? Why are we sitting here then, you have things to plan, clothes to buy, dress fittings, food tastings. Get your butt up and let's go.” she demands.

“Angie, relax.  I will not leave you out of whatever I get to be a part of, but I am not planning this thing. The only request I made was to wear my mother’s wedding dress, and I have that in storage. I had to hide it away from my brother when he was ransacking our parents house selling everything. I told Reece I just wanted everything simple and clean and something small. We both at least agree that we don’t want the big paparazzi filled event.

Just then a knock came at the door.”Who could that be at this time?” I say looking at my watch and getting up. I didn’t realize how long we had been talking. Angie stood up too, walking towards the kitchen. “Will you make me a cup of tea?”

I answer the door to a man almost as tall as Reece but with a more slender build, like he’s more of a runner than a bodybuilder. “Can I help you?”

He held out his hand with my keys dangling from his fingers. “Oh, Thank you.” I say taking them and giving him an inquisitive look. “Not a problem, Miss Carter. Mr. Raines also wanted me to give you this.”  He handed me a leather portfolio. “He said all the information you need should be in there, but you can call him anytime if you have questions or need anything from him.”

“Oh, Okay. Thank you..” I look at him expectantly.

“James, Miss Carter. And here is my number in case you need anything.  Mr. Raines has assigned me to you while you are still living separately.  I’m not far from here, only about a five minute drive away.”

I was shocked at that. “Assigned to me for what exactly?”

“Among other things, your driver and your body guard when you go out, anywhere.” He put emphasis on the last word.

“So he hired you to babysit me?  I have been doing this whole living life thing on my own for a while now, I think I’m good. And I am fully capable of driving, if I need to go somewhere.”

“He thought you might be reluctant.” James smiled at me. “May I come in?”

“Sure.” We stepped into the apartment and I closed the door, but I wasn’t intending on letting him much further than the entry hall, when he started walking around looking at everything.

He walked into the living room and went to look at or out the windows, I’m not really sure. Then he started looking at everything on the walls and shelves, like he was taking a mental inventory of all the stuff we had.

This is how Angie found us. “Oh, and who might you be?”

“James, Miss Hall.” Was his only reply as he continued to look around.

Angie's eyebrows shot up so far I thought they were going to disappear into her hairline. “How do you know my name Mr. James?” My little FBI wannabe friend had no problem digging into other people’s lives, but was instantly on guard when someone appeared to know things about her that she didn’t supply herself.

I just chuckled and rolled my eyes. James proceeded to walk down the hall and into our bathroom and then both bedrooms.  Again, looking like he was taking mental notes of our space.

As he started walking towards the door, he called over his shoulder. “Look through the information Mr. Raines sent, there are a few things that will need your immediate attention. Please call him or myself if you have any questions.  And will expect a call to escort you wherever you need in the next coming days.” He gave me a stern look, like he knew I was going to do nothing of the sort.

“I still don’t know why Reece thinks I need a bodyguard, I’ve known him for all of twelve hours now. And I really don’t like the idea of being followed everywhere.”

“I’m sure Miss, the problem is, you already have admirers now, just from spending time with him today. It really is in your best interest to keep me close and always have a friend with you when you’re out. I don’t wish to alarm you, but Mr. Raines is a high profile person and that comes with a few risks for the people in his inner circle, which now includes you.  Once you are married, that will put you at the top of many lists.”

After he leaves, I double check that the doors are locked and turn to go back to the living room with Angie, who is busy typing away on her phone. 

“What did I just sign up for?” I ask her, flopping in the space next to her.

“Not sure, but you need to see this.” She turns her phone to me showing me pictures of myself and Reese driving in his car and then others of him walking me to my apartment.

“What the hell?”

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