Sumptuous white silk shantung whooshes around my legs, and I lift the skirt with my thumbs and forefingers, not wanting the pristine fabric to drag on the Spanish tile. The floor is icy on my bare feet, and I tiptoe quickly across the hall.
"Justine, you'd better not be dirtying that dress." Caroline's Southern accent wafts from the library, the room we've taken over for wedding preparation and primping.
"I'm being careful, no worries," I call out from the bedroom.
"Don't even think about taking a pee without us," Diana hollers.
I laugh out loud and sift through the jewelry box I've set atop the bureau. It's a solid, mahogany chest with delicate gold filament inlays of cherry blossoms.
I'm looking for a pair of diamond earrings, and I make a noise of impatience as I look through the haphazardly arranged bracelets and necklaces. I need to organize this better, especially now Rafa is buying me expensive jewelry on the regular. A gold bracelet and the diamond and platinum necklace he'd bought me last month are in a different jewelry box on another table in the bedroom. But I'd brought this old one when we'd moved to the villa two weeks ago because it had sentimental value.
It had been my mother's.
She'd kept her jewelry more organized. Which was why she'd only let me touch the sparkly baubles occasionally.
God, I wish she were here for this. Happy with a man who loves me. Living in a historic villa in our beloved city. Pregnant with her grandchild. Running the family's paper. It's been years since I've heard my mother's voice, but I've never forgotten the Southern cadence. Almost like Caroline's, but raspier, throatier, similar to a forties movie star.
I tear up, thinking of her.
I'm searching for the earrings she wore during her wedding to my father.
It's perhaps the only nod to Dad, one Rafael doesn't need to know about.
Ah! There they are. I pluck an earring out and attach it to my ear without looking in the mirror above the bureau. It's only when I get the second one on that I glance up to make sure the understated, one-carat studs match my dress.
My breath catches when I see myself. My gown is sleeveless and unadorned with beads or crystals. It has a deep V-neck and an A-line skirt. It's a brilliant bone-white, the color of mythical virgins, which is appropriate, considering I lost my virginity fifteen years ago to the man who is about to be my husband.
I am a bride.
I am Rafael's bride.
How many times in college had I daydreamed about this? I'd zone out in class, wondering how he'd propose, where we'd marry. Back then, I'd imagined he'd do it on the beach at sunrise. Or at an expensive restaurant in Miami, after we'd launched our careers. I'd assumed we'd get married somewhere in Florida, of course.
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Constant Craving: The Complete SeriesRomance
To save her business, she'll trade every last inch of her body... * * * Justine's passion is journalism, and she's trying to beat the odds and save her family's newspaper. With the company on the edge of collapse, she begs a private equity group fo...