Grace Hale watched her sister and two bridesmaids enter the church and head down the aisle.
"Darling are you sure you want to do this? I can ..."
"Daddy, I'm perfectly fine and I know in the bottom of my heart that I'm making the right decision."
Richard Hale kissed his daughter on the cheek and gave her a hug. "You really do look stunning."
"Thank you daddy, time to go they are playing my song." Grace air kissed her father, not wanting any of her red lipstick to stain his cheek and strutted down the aisle. She heard the gasps and murmurs as she made her way towards her fiancé with a serene smile on her face. Grace knew none of her guests expected her to strut down the aisle in a skintight Grecian style red ball gown that highlighted her curves. She looked over at her fiancé James, noticed the look of pure terror in his eyes and laughed. Her laugh chilled James to the bone and he knew there was no escape. She whispered something to Father O'Day and went straight up to the pulpit.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'm sorry to tell you that there will be no wedding today. Yesterday, I returned home a couple hours early and discovered my, excuse my language Father; slut of an assistant Victoria riding James reverse cowgirl style. Further more, when caught James had the audacity to ask me if I'd like to join them. I thought it was only fair to return the utter humiliation I felt to them both today. Victoria you are fired and James you will find your belongings sitting outside of my townhouse right now. The locks have been changed, I'm keeping the ring, and I'm going on our honeymoon alone. If you so much as try to contact me ever again I'll let Jasper do what he wanted to do last night when I called him. You are all invited to stay for mass and the reception will follow at five tonight except it will be a celebration of getting rid of utter scum. Your wedding gifts will all be returned once I get back from Europe."
I noticed my sister Rose heading over to James and I thought about stopping her for a fraction of a second before my better angels told me this would be acceptable under the circumstances. One broken nose coming up, I thought as she touched his shoulder then she surprised me as she used her full force to knee him in the groin. James dropped to the floor screaming in pain.
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned." She stated to Father O'Day.
Father O'Day pushed down his urge to laugh and managed to simply grin. "You are forgiven my child."
"Victoria where for art thou?" Rose asked with an evil grin.
I had the pleasure of watching terror settle in her face as she struggled out of the pew and ran towards the exit of the church. I actually still couldn't believe that she dared to come to the wedding. I looked over at James who was still crumpled on the floor and walked over to his parents. "I'm truly sorry for embarrassing you Mr. and Mrs. Reed. You've been nothing but kind to me the last four years and I really liked you a lot. I'll miss you both."
"Grace, I'm truly sorry for what my idiot son did to you. I certainly did not raise him to be a deviant. Once you come back from Europe, I'll have you over for tea. I hope that you can find it in your heart to not leave us at the altar. Don't worry our son will not be residing with us."
The first tears I'd shed over this entire affair slid down my cheeks as I embraced the woman I thought would be the perfect mother-in-law. She pulled me in tighter and whispered in my ear, "I won't let go until you are ready. You can cry for a minute or two hours I don't care, I've got you." Her sweet words only made me cry more. A few minutes later I heard Father O'Day start the mass and I pulled myself together. Mrs. Reed kissed my forehead and I turned around to see my brother Jasper standing there smirking at me.
"Once a drama queen, always a drama queen." He chuckled quietly making me laugh. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and escorted me back to the pew my family was in. Rose took my left hand and Jasper my right and they didn't let go until we went up for communion. I was surprised how many guests had stayed for the mass. James was gone and so was his best man Tyler. His groomsmen Laurent and Mike were sitting beside the Reeds and mouthed sorry to me. I smiled at them both and knelt down to say a few prayers.
Several hours and glasses of champagne latter I was working on my third piece of wedding cake. A third of the guests did not show up for the reception, which left the possibility of seconds. Jasper almost ate his weight in crab puffs during the cocktail hour yet he still requested a second bacon wrapped filet mignon main course. Dinner was delicious, my filet melted in my mouth but it was the cake that I had been waiting for. Five tiers of moist chocolate brownie cake with chocolate frosting covered with to die for butter cream icing. I had the entire top tier at my table and fully intended on eating it all.
"Jasper will you go over there and tell Miss Piggy that their is going to be a wardrobe malfunction if she eats anymore cake."
"Rose first of all her douche of a fiancé cheated on her in her own bed. Secondly, it's her wedding cake she's eating and finally, you know she never gains weight when she eats sweets. I think you've gained a pound just watching her eat that cake."
"Well would you go over there with me so we can slow her consumption down at least?"
"It's my cake go away." I responded when my siblings sat down at my table. Rose rolled her eyes and Jasper stuck his thumb in the butter cream icing which forced me to hit him in the arm. We watched our parents on the dance floor for a few minutes, agreeing how lucky we were to have parents who were still happily married and madly in love after 36 years.
"You still owe me a spin around the dance floor." Jasper reminded me.
I looked at my brother and smiled. I still didn't understand why he didn't have a steady girlfriend. He was a kind, sensitive old soul who treated woman with respect while still managing to lust after them. If I had a dollar for every time he said, "great rack" I'd be a millionaire. Physically, even I had to admit that my brother was hot. Jasper was 6"3 with a medium build, honey blond hair, warm light brown eyes and a killer smile. He had a small stable of fillies as he called them, that he went out with and brought home. He was about to turn 34 and Rose and I thought he should settle down and get married. Thanks to James, Rose and I wouldn't be able to mention marriage for quite some time. Jasper was the epitome of the over protective big brother and Rose and I loved him for it. He was always there for us. "Don't worry Jasp, I want to dance with you so I won't forget. Why don't you get Rose out there so I can finish my cake in peace. One slice won't kill you Rose."
"I already had two bites I'm good. My hips are big enough, I don't need to add to them."
"Please Rose, your hips are perfect, now go dance!"
Rosalie could always find fault with her body, which was absurd since she was a stunning and statuesque 30-year-old beauty. She was 5"9 with deep blue eyes, wavy golden blond hair and a killer rack. She was curvy in all the right places and was always capturing men's attention. On first meeting she came across as cold and aloof but once you got to know her you realized how warm, generous and fiercely loyal she was. She worked out five days a week and was always after Jasper and I about the crap we ate. I loved sweet stuff while Jasper preferred salty snacks. Rose's weakness was spicy chicken wings. She had broken up with her boyfriend Albert, five months ago after dating him for a year. Rose said they didn't want the same things out of life and it was for the best.
I had finished the cake by the time Jasper came to collect me for our dance. He made small talk with me for a few minutes until I couldn't take it any longer. "Spit it out Mr. Hale."
"Rose and I have been talking and we thought it would be fun to join you on your honeymoon. The train is sold out but we can join you in Venice. None of us have ever been to Italy. Remember how much fun we had in England and Scotland before you met the jackass?
"Do you both really want to see Italy or are you just doing it..."
"Yes we are concerned about you but we know that you'll get over him quickly. We want to offer some support but mostly we want to have fun. Italian women have great racks."
"Really, Rose is going to ogle woman's breasts?" I laughed.
"No, she's going to ogle Italian men, I'm going for the breasts."
I started laughing and kissed him on the cheek. "I love you big brother."
"I love you little sis." He responded as he enveloped me in a bear hug.
We danced a few more times before sitting back down at our family table. Jasper filled mom and dad in on our little travel plan and they told us it was a brilliant idea. Rose wanted to go to Milan for the shopping and I promised her we'd go. I was due to fly out Thursday afternoon and stay in London until Sunday morning when the Orient Express left Victoria Station. I'd arrive in Venice on Monday early evening and I wanted a few days to myself. Rose looked up flights on her iPhone and called the airline to book two seats to Venice via Rome the following Friday afternoon.
The DJ had packed up and left a little after one and the remaining guests followed them shortly after, stopping by the table my siblings and I were holding court at to tell me it was a hell of a party. That made me feel even better about the decisions I'd made in regards to the non-wedding. Soon just my immediate family remained; mom and dad kissed the three of us and confirmed that we would all be at dinner Sunday night. Mom had taken two of the cake layers home with the left over hors d'oeuvres. The cater came out from the kitchen with two medium sized boxes. "Grace, your mother said you'd want the last two pieces of cake for breakfast and the last of the hors d'oeuvres for lunch. May I say that I wished I could have been at the church today when you called off the wedding and humiliated him. It was very brave of you and still going ahead with the reception; well I think you rock. It was a great party."
"Thank you Heather, your food rocked too. I'm going to tell everyone I know that you are the best cater in the city. Do you have any business cards left?"
"Your father took them all. I'd be happy to mail you some more."
"How about I stop by the cafe for lunch Tuesday and I'll collect them."
"That sounds perfect to me. See you then, good night."
"Jasper and I have decided that we are having a sleep over now at your place. Jazz think you can carry me out to the car? My feet have staged a mutiny."
"Rose I told you buying new shoes was not a good idea, a week is not long enough to break in heels that high. I can run in these Louboutins but I've had them for two years. By the way, I like how the two of you are planning my life now."
"Good because we are going to be meddling in your life for the foreseeable future." Jasper stated. "All right blonde, stand on the chair it will make it easier for me to pick you up."
Rose handed me her purse and shoes before standing on the chair. Once Jasper had a good hold of her I handed them back. I grabbed the two boxes, put my purse on top of them and followed them out. The sight of Rose being carried out bridal style made me angry. It was a good thing James was nowhere around or I might have killed him. I look awful in prison orange.
"Grace, you're awfully quiet back there, please tell me you aren't eating cake in my car."
"No Jasper, I'm not eating in your precious car. I'm processing some rage."
"Kay, remember you humiliated him in front of his own boss who was very fond of you. You have the ring and he paid for the honeymoon. I'm proud of you Grace, not many woman would have had the courage and strength to do what you did today."
"It was pure rage and an overwhelming desire to make them both pay that got me through the day. I hope the little slut gave him an STD."
"I hope you two always used a condom. I have a funny feeling this was not the first time they fucked." Rose said quietly.
"Yes and when I was playing the hurt fiancée last night he said that it was only the third or fourth time they hooked up. I figure that means they've been screwing each other for six months. I'm so glad I insisted he pay for all the hotels upfront. I have the vouchers and it's only a twenty-five dollar admin. fee to change dates as long as space is available."
"Crap, I wasn't thinking of hotel rooms when I booked our flights."
"Don't worry about it Rose, I'm booked at the Hotel Cipriani in the Palladio suite. The bed is huge and there is a living room with a couch. We can alternate the couch."
"No, it's your honeymoon Grace, Jazz and I will alternate sleeping on the couch."
"Fine but I have the shortest legs; you both might wish to reconsider when we get there. All the hotels we booked are among the finest in Italy. Total luxury, there are spas in many of them Rose."
"I'll be in heaven."
"Speaking of sleeping arrangements, you are taking the fainting couch Rose and I'll take the couch." Jasper stated.
"No I want the couch."
"Fine Rose gets the couch. You can share my bed brother dearest. Just remember I'm not one of your fillies. Hands off the rack." I laughed.
Both my siblings kept extra clothes and sleep wear at my place. James traveled for work at least once a month and one or both of them would keep me company. I was surprised Rose didn't call dibs on my bed with its fresh new Egyptian cotton sheets on it. I put the cake and hors d'oeuvres in the fridge and headed straight to my bedroom to grab the oversized T-shirt I slept in when James wasn't home. Rose emerged from my room sized closet in yoga pants and a tank top. Jasper was standing at the door to go in but I waltzed in a second before him to hang up my gown. By the time I washed my makeup off Rose was asleep on the couch and Jasper was sprawled out on my side of the bed. "Move it Jasp that's my side." He moved over and made himself comfortable under the covers. I tossed and turned for twenty minutes until Jasper pulled me closer and wrapped his right arm over my waist. "Go to sleep pumpkin." He whispered and minutes later I was in dreamland.
The rest of the week flew by and before I knew it Wednesday had arrived and I was running around collecting last minute items to pack. I debated for an hour if I should bring the lingerie I bought with me or not, finally deciding to pack it with two T-shirts if I changed my mind. My carryon was packed with clothes suitable for the Orient Express just in case my luggage got lost. A slightly larger suitcase was half packed leaving room for the shopping trip I planned at Harvey Nichols and Harrods while I was in London. I also had a third empty piece of luggage for my Italian purchases.
Jasper dropped me off at Logan airport and waited with me until I got to the security checkpoint. He gave me a big bear hug and a couple of kisses on the top of my head. We did the I love you's and said good-bye. I promised him I'd call once I arrived at the hotel safely which would be around 9:30 in the morning Thursday. I relaxed in the Virgin Clubhouse until it was time for my flight to leave. I liked flying on Virgin mostly because they had great guest lounges and there was always a deli where you could get a snack or in my case an extra sandwich to take on board even though I was flying first class.
I was able to get an early check in at the Dorchester Hotel and spent most of Thursday sleeping in a beautiful suite that featured a separate bedroom and sitting room. I loved the marble bathroom and took an hour-long bubble bath each night before retiring to bed. I went shopping and decided on Saturday that I was not going to order room service for dinner. When Jasper, Rose and I were in London we spent a lot of time eating at The Kings Head pub and the concierge had a driver drop me off. I was not a fan of beers or ale but The Kings Head had an impressive wine list and still had a strawberry and lime cider that I found delicious. I ordered Deep Fried Brie as a starter and Fish and Chips as my main course. Eating alone was usually awkward so I sat at the bar instead. The bartender kept a running conversation with me and convinced me that I wanted a pudding. The very first pudding or dessert listed was a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream.
My bartender became busy so I found myself looking around while I slowly savoured my pudding. My eye kept coming back to two guys sitting in a booth. They were both incredibly handsome eye candy. The easy way they were carrying on made me think that they were best friends. They were both tall but I couldn't tell how tall since they were sitting. I used Jasper as my guide and figured they were both over six feet. They had both made eye contact with me a few times. I smiled and they smiled back. The one on the right had curly dark brown hair and azure blue eyes. He was the taller of the two and had a very muscular build. The grey Henley shirt he wore was snug and showed off his build. He had the most adorable dimples when he smiled and his booming laughter was the contagious type. His face still held that look of child like wonder. His friend on the left had the most interesting hair I'd seen in quite some time. It was a little wild and unruly and I couldn't decide if it was more copper or bronze so I concluded that it was a combination of both. His eyes were a deep green and his smile was dazzling. He smirked a lot. Compared to his buddy his build was more thin and lanky but still muscular.
I was thinking about going over to say hi when two girls brushed past me and sat down at their table. I paid my bill and visited the bathroom. The girls were still at the table so I walked past without another look and headed outside to catch a cab. I wanted to take a bath and get a good night sleep so I'd be refreshed for my adventure on the Orient Express the next morning.
I still can't believe that my brother turned down his free trip to Venice via the Venice Simplon Orient Express with a hotel stay at the opulent hotel Cipriani. The trip was a gift from the CEO of his company for all his hard work and he was missing the train portion to work on Monday as well as the first hotel night since he was arriving late Tuesday evening. When he called me to ask if I'd like to take his place I jumped at the opportunity. I flew in from Chicago a week in advance and played tourist while Edward worked. Edward was always working and while his career as an investment banker had skyrocketed he had an almost non-existent social life.
I'd dragged him out Saturday night and he brought me to his neighborhood pub The Kings Head. We settled in a both for four and ordered two pints of beer. I was noshing on beer battered mushrooms with smoked paprika and lemon mayo when I noticed a very attractive blond sitting at the bar drinking a cider. She was definitely my type. She had long dark blond hair that was up in a simple ponytail showing off a long graceful neck. From her profile alone, I could tell she had magnificent boobs; she looked like she was a 36 D or maybe even double D. Her waist was slim and her legs looked long in dark jeans and killer stilettos. I pointed her out to Edward and she must have felt us staring at her because she turned to look at us. She was eating a brownie; actually she was savoring it and it looked like she was moaning in pleasure. I watched her lips and had to adjust myself. She caught us looking again and smiled. We both smiled back and Edward commented on her green eyes and cute little button nose. I agreed with him while I checked out her cute little ass. I had a vision of her straddling me as I kneaded that ass and sucked on her nipples. My brother snapped me out of my fantasy and admonished me for my thoughts. Apparently, I have a grin that just gives me away every time.
We were fighting about who was going to invite her over to join us when two girls came up to the table and sat down. The brunette was Edward's neighbour Angela and the strawberry blond was her friend Tanya. Angela was very nice, an American working at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the restoration department. She had taken me on a private tour on Tuesday. Tanya was British and managed a popular gentlemen's club in Soho. She was constantly hitting on Edward even though he was always telling her he was not interested. I looked over Angela's head to see the bar but my fantasy girl was gone. I sighed and started listening to what Angela was saying. Edward used me as an excuse to leave early and we were back at his flat by eleven.
Edward insisted on helping me pack when we got back to his flat. I'd pretty much worn jeans all week but I knew one was expected to dress to impress on the train. I brought two three-piece suits with me and several different shirts and ties. I also had jeans, T-shirts and two pairs of shorts. My older brother had to give me credit and I basked in it until he slapped me upside the head. We decided I should wear my gray pants and jacket with a blue shirt and tie for the morning. Once everything was packed in two suitcases I collapsed on the bed.
"Tired Bro?" Edward inquired with a smirk.
"Sort of. I'm glad I told Alice that I was only arriving on Tuesday. I know this is the Orient Express but I still can't picture myself having a good nights rest on it. I couldn't handle Alice Monday evening."
"I don't blame you, Tigger couldn't handle Alice without a few nights of sleep."
We both started laughing. Alice was our baby sister and what she was lacking in height she more than made up with energy. Our mother once said she out tinked Tinker Bell and it was true. We called her the evil pixie mostly behind her back. Alice would turn 30 on September 25th and we planned on taking her out for a night of dinner and dancing. Alice extended her neck so she could claim to be 4"10. She has black hair cut short in a pixie style, kind dark brown eyes, a small rack to match her tiny body and a love of all things fashion related. I was three years older than her and Edward five. We towered over Alice since I was 6"5 and Edward was 6"2 but she had us both wrapped tightly around her pinky and she was constantly barging into our lives. It didn't matter that I was in Chicago, Edward in London and she resided in Venice she manipulated us via long distance. Edward had it worse than I did since he was only an hour and a half flight away and she had the key to his flat.
"Are you going to go to the train station with me?' I asked.
"No can do, I have a meeting at nine sharp. Don't forget your Kindle. I know you, the scenery will get boring after a few hours."
"So will reading. I think I'll eat my way through the trip."
"Now that sounds like you Em. I'm going to go to bed. I'll wake you up at seven so we can have breakfast together."
"Cool, I think I'll go to bed too. Make sure the coffee maker is set this time."
"I'll do it right now. Night."
I thought about my fantasy girl again, picturing her perfect lips leaving kisses all the way down my body. My hands gripping that long dark blond hair to keep her in place as she used her talented tongue and luscious mouth on me. Just thinking about her was making me hard and I knew I'd never get to sleep unless I did something about it. I pictured Alice in a three way and little Emmett died very quickly. Now I needed brain bleach to get that image out of my mind. I thought of fuzzy puppies playing in a field and then I started counting them until I was asleep.