The tag of the dress scratched her back as she sat in the cab; she wished she'd cut the damn thing off. She twisted her body, trying to rub her back against the cab's leather seats but there wasn't enough room so she gave up and settled her face in a grimace instead.
She was late. Kinda apt, given tradition, she thought as she watched the seconds tick by and the traffic stood at gridlock.
Beside her, Belle chattered away about nothing, clearly nervous too. Unsurprising, as they were about to do something that was both highly illegal and morally dubious. But Emma tuned her out, ignored the honking horns and crackling radio; instead staring out of the window and up, up, up until she found the patch of blue sky that peeked out from behind the skyscrapers…
Six weeks earlier
The blue awning above the table fluttered in the breeze as the waitress brought out their coffees. Bernie's Cafe was as busy as it ever got on a midweek morning, just a few students typing away at laptops and a sprinkling of hipster types in drainpipe jeans and battered hats.
"So," Belle asked over the rim of her cup, "How did the meeting go?"
Sighing, Emma stirred a packet of sweetener into her drink and suppressed a scowl. "Same old message: I'm too high a risk."
"What?" her friend cried, shaking her head, "After all the work we did on the business plan? All the changes they asked us to make?"
Emma shrugged. "Without a guarantor, it's damn near impossible to get a loan. Crappy economy."
Belle reached across the table and placed her hand over Emma's. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine," Emma breezed, shaking her head, "We've known this was a long shot, ever since you found me pouring over those business studies books in the library last year. I guess it's just going to take a lot longer than I hoped to get things up and running. Can't start a bail bonds business with no bonds to loan."
Really though, it wasn't fine. Far from it. She'd been working as a bail bonds person for almost ten years now. She had a great reputation, tons of potential clients- but no means of setting up on her own. Not that working for someone else was the worst thing (at least she had a job) but she'd always wanted something to call her own. And this business could be that.
Could have been that.
"Maybe the bank isn't your only option," Belle began, nervously pulling back her hand from Emma's and toying with her teacup. "Do you remember Killian Jones? From my birthday party?"
To be honest, that night was well, a little bit of a blur. Emma had made great friends with a bottle of tequila and, the next morning, with the porcelain throne.
"That's the one," Belle smiled, her eyes crinkling. "Well, you know he works in the English department with Will? Well, next year Professor Gold is retiring and Killian is a shoo-in for tenure when that happens."
"And?" Emma asked, confused, wondering where the hell Belle was going with this.
Belle looked nervously from side to side, as if she was checking to see if anyone was listening. "Well, the problem is his visa is up in six months, and the university is having trouble renewing it, something to do with quotas and whatnot."
"Okay…" Emma nodded, still perplexed.
"And, anyway, the easiest, and quickest, way for him to get a visa would be to get married to a US citizen. At least until his tenure was certified."
Emma held up her hands, scrunching up her nose, "Wait - how is this going to help me?"
There was a pregnant pause. Emma wasn't sure if Belle was just being dramatic or if she was thinking, but a sharp kick under the table from Emma's boot soon brought her to her senses.
"You could do it. Marry him, I mean."
Blinking, Emma took a second to make sure she had heard her friend correctly. Marry him? Marry a stranger?
"Wait, wait, wait," she began, shaking her head, "Are you serious? Is this some kind of joke, because I-"
"Very serious," she promised, widening her big blue eyes as if to emphasize her point. "This could be a mutually beneficial arrangement."
Emma laughed, a loud, broad chuckle that raised the eyebrows of the heavily bearded Village-type guy at the table next to them. "You're insane. He's insane! For all I know he could be crazy? I mean what kind of guy comes up with an idea like that. Geez…"
Rolling her eyes Emma took a sip of her coffee. It was still a little hot.
"It was my idea," Belle replied quietly, "And he is a nice guy. Really. He's hung out with me and Will a bunch of times and well, he works for the university so you know he has no criminal record-" she grinned: as if that was enough to seal the deal.
"This is possibly the most crazy, harebrained idea I have ever heard of."
"I know it's a little unorthodox-" Emma scoffed, "-But surely it's worth thinking about? He'll pay for everything, you'll need to keep it legal for 18 months, tops, attend a couple of immigration interviews… Then a nice quiet divorce with a payout for you."
"Just like that."
Belle shrugged, "Kinda."
Emma stared into her coffee cup, watching the foamy bubbles float and swirl on the surface, reflecting a rippled reflection of her face.
This was crazy, stupid, reckless, illegal-
And she was actually considering it.
The shoes pinched her toes. Belle's feet were a good half-size smaller than hers, but given they were sling-backs they just about fit. She tugged the hem of her skirt down, the cream silk covering her knees but a little wrinkled from the journey.
Oh well, she thought.
Belle was still chattering as they made their way inside. Something about Will and Killian and the time-
They made it to the ceremony room after a few missteps in the ill-fitting shoes and as Emma caught her breath, Belle opened her large purse thrust a small posey of forget-me-knots in her hand.
"Your something blue," she explained.
Emma frowned, giving her friend a pointed look, "This is not real," she whispered.
Belle leaned closer, "Appearances are everything. And, anyway, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it." She stood back and shrugged. Emma couldn't help but crack a smile - Belle was one of the most optimistic people she knew, always seeing the bright side, even on a cloudy day. "So, you ready?"
"As I'll ever be…." Emma muttered, feeling her stomach churn as the large, oak doors began to open.
Five weeks earlier
Three tequilas later and she was still shaking.
It had been her idea to meet in a bar. It was a good excuse to get mildly intoxicated before meeting the guy she might marry.
She tapped on the bar and the bartender lined up another shot that she quickly threw back.
Oh God, oh crap…
This must be him.
Looking up the first thing she saw was a smile, broad with nice not-too-perfect, not-too-white teeth lined with soft looking pink lips.
She smiled back. An automatic, terse smile that she saved for occasions when she was uncomfortable.
"Killian?" she replied, meeting his so-blue eyes and feeling a flush of attraction. She was always a sucker for pretty eyes.
So he was cute. That couldn't hurt…
He nodded and sat next to her. Then there were an awkward few seconds where she toyed with her empty shot glass and he straightened his shirt.
"Drink?" she finally asked.
Emma waved at the bartender, "Two Red Stripes."
"Good choice," he chuckled as the two bottles arrived.
Okay, he was cute and his accent was kinda nice. Two ticks in the yes box.
They each took a sip.
"So, I'm guess you think I must be a crazy person."
"You said it," she replied with a shrug. He raised his eyebrow in a ridiculous way that she should not have found attractive.
He began to pick at the paper label of the bottle with his thumbnail. It was saturated with condensation so it started to peel away easily.
"Desperate is more apt," he insisted, "Trust me, I was the last person who ever expected to be in this predicament…"
If anything, Emma realized, he seemed embarrassed about the whole situation: shifting in his seat, rolling the bottle between his hands.
"But here you are," she replied with a little more snark than she had intended.
"I'm sorry-" she began.
Killian linked his hands together on the bar.
"No, you're right. This is the dumbest idea. I'm not even sure how I managed to let Belle talk me into this. I should go-"
He moved to reach for his wallet.
Emma balled her eyes shut.
"Wait - stop-"
When she opened them he was staring at her expectantly. "Look, I'm not promising anything, but Belle assures me you are normal and not a serial killer, so how about we put that topic of conversation to one side for the moment, finish these beers and then…"
"Then?" he asked with another goddamn eyebrow raise.
And she couldn't believe what she said next: "Then we'll see."
"Repeat after me: With this ring I thee wed, and with all I am, and all I have, I honor you."
Emma did as she was asked, numbly repeating the words, her fingers shaking a little as she held the simple gold band and threaded it onto his finger.
When she was done, he quickly grasped her hand before she could pull it away, squeezing it gently until she looked up and saw a soft, reassuring smile on his lips.
Her heart was beating so hard, surely everyone could hear it. The drum rhythm seemed to be getting faster and faster, the blood rushing to hear ears.
God, she didn't want to pass out.
Taking deep breaths, she held out her own hand.
She would not faint. She was not some swooning damsel in distress.
His hands were warm. Soft, but still with texture. He ran his thumb over the back of her hand as the Justice of the Peace spoke.
"With this ring I thee wed, and with all I am, and all I have, I honor you."
The words sounded different in his accent. They seemed to carry a gravity with his dulcet voice.
It all seemed so much more serious.
The feel of the cold ring slipping on her finger snapped her from her thoughts. She looked down, expecting a plain gold band like he had provided for himself. Instead she saw an intricate design of a heart, held by two hands, wearing a crown. It was familiar but she couldn't quite place it…
His hand wrapped tighter around hers. The Justice of the Peace closed the small, black book he was holding and smiled.
"Emma and Killian, you have heard the words about love and marriage, have exchanged your vows and made your promises, and celebrated your union with the giving and receiving of rings."
Killian squeezed her hand gently.
"It is at this time that I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride!"
So this was it. They had done it-
She turned to face him, prepared to give him the small kiss they had discussed, Belle already whipping out her camera, Will slapping Killian on the shoulder-
One hand at her waist, one came to cup her cheek-
He leaned forward.
A minuscule pause followed, as if he was checking for permission.
She wound her fingers in the lapel of his handsome deep-blue suit.
His lips met hers.
(Warm and soft as she had thought).
Her free hand slipped up into his hair.
Her left foot popped backwards as she tilted her head and their lips parted.
A swipe of tongue and her stomach dropped to the floor.
A shiver ran down her spine as she was pulled closer to him.
And he kissed her again and again and again-
She knew her lipstick would be smudged and her dress more wrinkled from where his hand held her so tightly.
But as they parted, with a tingle on her lips, she couldn't quite find herself to care.
A/N So, yay, new story! Im hoping for lots of quick, short chapters should my muse cooperate!
Please let me know what you think, I'm dying for your feedback!