Book 1: Unforgettable
“Oh, sweetheart, you look beautiful.”
The sequins on my ivory wedding gown shimmer in the sunlight filtering through a sheer curtain as I beam at my father.
Praise from Daddy is like chocolate during a diet day, and I soak it up. After all, today is a big day.
After three years, I’m minutes away from becoming Mrs. Smith. It sounds plain, but I don’t care. It means I have found my prince and made him mine.
I swallow the excitement so it can churn in my belly rather than my throat, and I can form words.
“Thanks, Dad.” I run my palms down the soft lace skirt billowing from my hips. “I’m so nervous… I just want to get down there and get this thing done. I’m tired of being a fiancé. I want to be a wife.”
I have spent months planning and preparing for this day—booking flights to Manchester, talking to a wedding planner… I’ve spent months anticipating my perfect day.
“I know, sweet pea, but you’re just gonna have to hold your horses for a little bit.”
He’s right. Mush and I have been together for five years. What’s a few more minutes?
We met on the golden sands of Miami Beach. I never expected romance, and I certainly didn’t think it would end up being more than a fling, but every day, I fell more in love with him.
Now, he’s going to be mine. All mine.
I continue to talk with my dad about the little things, and before I know it, I am about to head down the stairs.
However, before we can even attempt to move, Dad’s called off to help Mama, and yet again, I find myself having to stand here waiting.
A cold shiver creeps down my back on one of the hottest days on record in the United Kingdom. I move my gaze swiftly to the window, admiring the clear blue skies. There’s not a single cloud in sight.
I can see the last guest walking into the beautiful gardens here in Walton. The flowers are in full bloom, and I can’t help but smile at the perfect, picturesque day before me.
A movement to my right catches my eye. I smile, suspecting it’s my dad. Mama must have finished chewing his ear off about something not entirely important today.
I can’t help but smile and laugh to myself at the thought of Daddy standing with her and nodding as she goes on about so and so, or as she shares a piece of gossip too juicy to wait for her daughter to walk down the aisle.
I still play with the white-gold bracelet Mush had sent to my room, a single charm engraved “Forever Together.”
“Is it time to make me a wife, Dad?”
“Unfortunately, the wedding is off. We have plans. Remember?”
Before it registers that the voice doesn’t belong to my dad, a tall figure slams his body into mine, his arms squeezing my torso so tight that the air whooshes from my lungs.
I can’t move. As I open my mouth to scream, he clamps his hand against my face. If he wrinkles my dress…
“Now, now. I gave you plenty of opportunities to pay up. It’s time to make good.”
I don’t recognize the voice or the feel of the body wrapped like a snake around mine.
I don’t have any idea what he’s babbling about, but my dress is too big for me to shove my leg backward into the part of him where I could do the most damage.
As soon as he moves his palm off my lips, I let out a wail, “Let me go! Let me go, now!”
My heart is pounding. My perfect day is falling apart, and some deranged idiot thinks I have a debt to pay.
A cloth is placed over my mouth, a sickly smell begins filling my lungs as I try to breathe.
“Maybe I should clarify.” He places his mouth directly against my ear. I can feel his teeth graze my flesh with each word he speaks. “It’s your dad who owes the debt.”
“Yes, something about needing some hard cash to pay for his little girl’s wedding.”
I try to scream again, but the room spins around me. My eyes roll to the back of my head, and darkness builds around me.
“Not yet kitten.” He removes the cloth from my mouth. Greedily, I suck in some clean air. “Where was I?
“Ahhh, yes, you’d think I’d fly over five thousand miles for nothing? No, this caused for a personal touch.” He chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m all for making everlasting memories.”
I know there’s some kind of commotion nearing us.
“Ahhh, just in time. I was wondering if you had run out on your daughter”
“Dusty, please. She has nothing to do with this.”
“Daddy.” My voice wobbles as I look at the man who means the world to me.
I can’t believe a word this man has said. Daddy wouldn’t need to do business with someone like this. We have money. My parents have worked hard all their lives and saved every last penny.
“Sweet pea, everything is going to be okay. I promise.”
“So very touching. Say goodnight.”
Before I even know what is happening, the mystery man who I presume is Dusty smothers a pungent-smelling cloth over my nose and mouth.
As I breathe, a tangy coating blanket my tongue, and the room spins in wide circles. My eyes roll back before the darkness grows strong. I try to make out what’s happening. Noises blur into one as the darkness gathers strength.
“She…let…go…” Nothing. I can’t form anything.
“Time’s up! You now need to pay the price.”
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