My heart is racing as I stand in front of the guest bedroom door. What I'm about to do is probably going to go down in history as the worst decision of my life. But everyone makes stupid decisions, right? All my life I've tried to do everything right and while my life is comfortable, it doesn't keep the loneliness at bay.
It's time to make things interesting.
I knock softly.
Raul's voice is husky with sleep. I bite my lower lip in dismay. Shit, did I wake him? Well, I can't do anything about that now. I take a deep, fortifying breath and twist the doorknob and push the door in.
I take a step back.
Raul is sitting up in bed, the sheets pooled at his waist and his hair wild from sleep. I can't tell what he's wearing under the sheets. The overnight bag he keeps in the boot of his car has a pair of pajamas but as far as I know he never wears them. The thought of him naked under the sheets nearly makes me lose my nerve, but I tighten my grip on the doorknob.
"Did I wake you?" I say.
"It's fine," he says, giving me a faint smile. "I needed to get up anyway." He reaches toward the nightstand to turn on the lamp and grab his wristwatch. "It's five thirty."
"Yeah, sorry." I walk to the side of the bed. "This is urgent. Coffee?" I set down the hot mug of brew on the nightstand. It has sugar and a lot of milk, the only way he takes it before noon.
"Yes, thank you." He rubs his face. "Did you hear from my tias?"
He leans forward to rest his long lean arms over his knees. "Do you want to sit?"
"No, sit here," he says, just as I'm about to take the chair from the small writing desk. He pats the edge of the bed beside him.
I walk to the bed and sit on its edge. He's a little too close for comfort, but I don't want to sit closer. In fact, I should move a little away but I can't bring myself to do it. I usually don't like sitting on the bed in my work clothes but the pale gray suit I have on just came from the cleaners.
"What is it?" he says.
"Have you decided what to do?"
He winces. "About my aunts' ultimatum, you mean?"
He's quiet as he reaches for the mug of coffee. I'm trying not to stare at his bare, lean torso with the dark hairs trailing from his chest down to his abs, so I focus on his arm as he lifts the mug to take a sip. Like the rest of his body, his arm is well-toned and looks like it had been sculpted by the gods. I bite my lip to keep from whimpering from the heat that surges low in my belly.
"I emailed Tia Carmen, asked to meet her for lunch."
I press my lips together. "You'll plead your case."
"I'll try to be subtle about it." He takes another sip of coffee as though to fortify himself.
"You know you can't do subtle, right."
He sighs and lifts his coffee. Looking at me over the rim of his mug, he says, "Come with me."
I drop my gaze to the small space on the bed between us. "I've been thinking." I hesitate, thinking about how best to put what I want to say in words.
"Oh, Kate. You're not going to quit on me before I'm even halfway through my coffee, are you?"
"No. It's uh..." I swallow hard, then force myself to raise my chin to look him in the eye. "I'll marry you."
He blinks. "Do you mean that?"
My heart racing, I nod.
This is the moment he's going to laugh and thank me for the offer. That he'll take his chances with his aunts and there's no need for us to go through any kind of complicated charade for us to keep our jobs.
I'm ready for it. I had nothing to lose but my pride.
What I'm not ready for was the way he wrapped his free arm around me in a tight hug. "Thank you," he whispers into my hair.
What does one say to that? You're welcome sounds stupid. "We should get ready," I say instead, "if we're doing this today."
I try not to look down, to see if he is indeed naked under the slate blue cotton sheet of my guest bed. Because a shirtless Raul hugging me is more than I'm prepared for, much less a naked Raul.
"I suppose you have everything ready," he says, untangling me from his arm. "I'm assuming we can't do it here in Boston."
"No, Portsmouth. It should take us under two hours to get there if we leave soon." I give him a wry smile. "New Hampshire has elopement-friendly marriage laws. We can be married before EOD."
It occurs to me that if Raul decided to get hitched with Isabella Barrios or any of the other candidates we interviewed yesterday, I'd still be here watching the proceedings with my heart hammering in my chest.
Except I'm the one holding the beautiful bouquet of white orchids and I'm standing beside the tall, enigmatic man who knows so much about me but nothing of how I'm feeling right now. We're at the top of a lighthouse, a venue I thought I picked randomly but being here as the bride makes me realize I can't imagine getting married anywhere but by the ocean. My parents are from a small island in the Philippines before they migrated to New Jersey. I've been to Bantayan a few times, but it took only one visit for me to know I was always an island girl at heart.
The Justice of the Peace officiating the ceremony, a Black woman of about sixty in a peach suit with her hair in perfectly-styled twists, smiles kindly at me. She can sense my nervousness, I realize. I muster up a smile.
We weren't required to have witnesses, but Marcus is here today, as is Maricar. Raul insisted, and when one has money, it's all a simple matter of logistics.
The wedding rings I exchange with Raul feel cool against by trembling fingers. Mine is trimmed with diamonds, because somehow a plain band doesn't fit a Marin bride. Against my expectations, it looks lovely on my working class hand.
I, Raul Julian Hector Marin, take thee, Katelin to be my wife - To have and to hold, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, and I promise my love to you. With this ring, I thee wed.
When it's my turn, my voice is surprisingly clear and strong as I repeat the words recited by the Justice of the Peace.
I, Katelin May Berano, take thee, Raul to be my husband - To have and to hold, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, and I promise my love to you. With this ring, I thee wed.
I'm barely able to pay attention to the Justice Harlow's next words. The cold wind roars in my ears, so unusually loud all of a sudden.
"Congratulations, you may seal your marriage with a kiss!"
I'm frozen in place until Raul touches my cheek to turn my head toward him. His kiss is light and warm and I desperately try to send strength to my legs that are threatening to buckle under the weight of my emotions.
When he pulls away, I blink, still dazed. But he takes my hand and squeezes it, and everything is all right.
Next update will be on Tuesday, July 19. Please don't forget to vote for this chapter if you're enjoying the story!
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Fake-Married to My Billionaire BossRomance
"It doesn't have to be me." He lowers his head to brush his lips over mine. "I want it to be you, Kate." Raul Marin is in trouble. The CEO of one of the biggest clothing companies in the country, he's about to lose his position because of his notori...