Chapter 4 : Finding A Bride

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Isabella Barrios's big brown eyes seem to fill the enormous flatscreen in front of me. My index finger unconsciously taps my knee as I watch her intently.

"Sometimes, I wonder why I chose this profession," she says, laughing a little as if to herself.

"Oh?" Katelin says. She's off-screen, but the microphones pick up her voice clearly. I can also hear the faint chirp of birds in the trees, as they are conducting the interviews in the garden outside. I wanted to see each candidate in natural light.

"I'm very private," Isabella says. "Even my instagram is mostly photos of my cat."

I look down at the tablet in my hand. Sure enough, the grid of photos on Isabella's social media account is full of photos of a snow-white Persian with soft gold eyes.

"So why did you get into acting?"

"I love it. I love theater. Being able to evoke emotions in the audience is a thrill for me."

"So you don't mind being seen, being in the public eye."

A dimple appears on when Isabella smiles. To my surprise, I find it oddly sexy. She is of course a beautiful woman — curly black hair, a generous chest, a wide mouth, and dark skin that glowed with youth. But the role we're screening her for requires more than just beauty.

"If I'm playing a part, no, not at all. I'd like to think that when the audience looks at me, they see only the character I'm playing."

Hope flutters in my chest.

She's perfect: a not-too-young actress who is largely unknown and still struggling in her career. She likes performing but not necessarily attention. Any fake wife of mine needs to keep her head down until the necessary period of marital harmony is over, not attracting any excess attention that might expose the fraud underneath.

Katelin is still asking questions, getting Isabella to talk to give me a better sense of her personality. I don't see her, although a camera is trained on her as well as Isabella and the other candidates for the position. A few taps of my fingers and Katelin's face replaces Isabella's on the screen.

I've often wondered why my smart and efficient assistant hasn't been in a serious relationship in the two years I've known her. She is quite attractive. I can't imagine it's because of work. I give her plenty of vacation leave and her weekends are mostly free. Although I might occasionally make her work odd hours, I only do it when I have to work myself and I manage to have an active social life. Maybe a bad breakup? Maybe some idiot broken her heart and made her swear off men, at least for the time being. From her dedication to the company and the people who work there, I can imagine she's capable of strong feelings of attachment. In fact, everyone at the office loves her — more than they do me, if I'm honest — and she's genuinely warm towards everyone. Her boyfriend would be a lucky man. Her husband, too. I wonder if she'll make me padrino at her wedding. I'll probably be married by then...

Suddenly, I very much want all this to be over.

Send her in.

I type the words into the chat that Katelin would see on the tablet she has open. She can read my messages and reply to them under the guise of taking notes. Isabella doesn't know what exactly she's auditioning for. None of the women do. Confidentiality was of the highest importance.

I see only the slightest change in Katelin's expression as she reads my message.

Are you sure? Katelin replies. You haven't liked any of the five other candidates. And we have three more to see today.

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