Home > The Problem with Peace

The Problem with Peace
Author: Anne Malcom

Prologue

 

 

I smoothed my dress for the hundredth time.

It was as smooth as it was ever going to be.

Not that it needed to be smooth.

It was kind of the point of this whole wedding.

It was a Polly wedding after all.

I had flowers in my hair.

I was barefoot.

My dress was simple white lace, form-fitting. Chosen not because it was my dream wedding dress, but because Craig had mentioned casually how he loved seeing me in tight things. It was pointedly uttered as I was reading a bridal magazine and dog-earring a page with a long flowing princess style dress that wasn’t exactly the ‘meringue’ dress, but it didn’t hug my curves either. I’d always dreamed of a whimsical dress, only hinting at the things that my husband would discover later on in the night.

“You’ve got a beautiful body, sweetheart,” he said, circling me from behind. “I just want to see it on our wedding day, know it’s all mine.” He kissed the side of my neck, chasing away the small amount of disappointment I had at his words.

I wasn’t worried about forgoing my ideal dress for what Craig liked. Because I loved him. And I loved making him happy. It wasn’t a hardship. This day was for us, after all, not about the vanity of me wearing a big poofy dress.

Plus, the poofy dress wouldn’t go with the ‘Polly’ wedding everyone imagined. The one on the rooftop of my loft, decorated with fairy lights and low-key music. Ordained by my friend who read everyone’s auras before the ceremony. Lucy and Rosie had scowled and muttered under their breath at this. But they did it. Every single one of my family did it. They indulged me.

Because it was me.

This was the wedding everyone expected from me.

Not the one I envisioned.

Not the one I’d dreamed of on and off since I was old enough to read romance novels. And solidified when I was eighteen years old when I was in a crowded and foul-smelling bar.

Where I was wearing that whimsical, flowing dress, lightly beaded, a long flowing train, in a church—the one on the corner across from our house in Amber—despite the fact I wasn’t religious. I believed in the power of the universe, and some kind of higher being. But I didn’t think that higher being had a book of rules about how to act. Yet I liked churches. I liked the simple peace they offered when one didn’t get caught up of the politics of it all.

But Craig had been against that.

He wasn’t religious. He didn’t believe in a higher being. And he didn’t want to have to have meetings with the priest to get permission to be married in the church.

“I’m not asking anyone’s permission for marrying the woman I love,” he growled.

He didn’t ask my dad’s either.

Not that we were old fashioned like that.

But a tiny part of my new age persona had nurtured that little thought that my fiancé would want to formally ask my father.

But I didn’t dwell on that. Because life happened, and it was very rarely the way we envisioned. Mostly it happened the exact opposite way.

And in order to find joy in life, you had to find joy in moments that didn’t look at all like you’d thought they would.

I stared at my eyes in the mirror.

I wasn’t wearing much makeup. Craig didn’t like women who wore a lot of makeup. Which was good since I never really bothered with it anyway. My skin was clear, we were lucky, and we had good genes. It was a lot more tanned than Lucy’s because I didn’t go crazy on SPF like she did.

She lectured me about the sun’s premature aging qualities. I didn’t think that slathering something with enough chemicals to block the rays of the sun was something that would be entirely beneficial. And I wasn’t worried about aging. I had a scattering of freckles as a result of my stance on SPF.

My hair was long now, brushing down past my bra strap, it was bleached from the sun and in tousled curls down my back. I knew that I had that kind of look that didn’t need makeup, I was all about being natural, outwardly and inwardly.

But it seemed I should’ve had some on because my eyes were shadowed with my lack of sleep, my face a little dull, my lips thin and red from me constantly biting them.

I was nervous.

My hand stayed over top of my stomach.

It was normal to be nervous before a wedding, right? It wasn’t like I didn’t love Craig. I did. I really did.

But...

A knocking at the door stopped that dangerous thought in its tracks. I couldn’t be thinking about that on my freaking wedding day.

It was probably Lucy coming to yell at me about how insane this was and what a terrible name Craig was and then attack me with a concealer brush. I would welcome any and all versions of my sister. Even if it was yelling. Especially if it was yelling. Because yelling was the loud and unmissable proof that she was here, she was alive, strong enough to be pissed, to be back to her old self.

I’ll never forget that quiet that roared from her nearly gray body as she lay in that hospital bed, one that we thought she might not ever get up from.

But she did.

Though I felt like a part of me was left in that bed, in that hospital. A little part of me died watching my sister almost leave this world. Died a slow death in the hours we waited to see if our life was going to be shattered. It was the day I was presented with the brutal reality that the world could take someone from me, from our family like that.

I liked to hear her yell.

And she’d done a lot of that hearing about the wedding.

But she ultimately supported me.

So she was likely either coming to tell me she had a car gassed up and ready to go should I feel the need to escape or coming to try and shove a veil on my head.

Or maybe both.

Whatever it was, it was my beautiful sister alive and vibrant, so I’d take it. And it was also something to push unwelcome thoughts that were not meant to have real estate in my brain.

Especially not on my wedding day.

But the opening and closing of the door didn’t push those thoughts away. It shoved them brutally into my reality.

Heath stormed across the room, his eyes on every inch of me.

“What are you doing here?” I whispered, backing up. “You can’t be here, you need to leave.”

I was terrified he’d keep advancing, he’d yank me into his arms and kiss me. I was terrified because I wanted him to do that.

But he didn’t. He stopped in front of me, hands fisted at his sides, eyes flaring over every inch of me, expression painted with purely male hunger. Flames erupted over my body at that gaze.

It was not the reaction I should be having to a man that was not my fiancé looking at me like that in my wedding dress.

But my fiancé had never looked at me like that.

No one had ever looked at me like that.

“Yeah, I’m gonna leave,” Heath growled, his voice thick. A palpable pause as his eyes moved up and down in worship and in torture. “And you’re comin’ with me.”

I gaped at him. “Are you insane? This is my wedding day. I’m not running away with you.”

His stare melted me. And not in that nice, romance movie kind of way. No, in the lava explosion, flaying my skin from my body until I was liquefied bone at his feet type of way.

“You’re not runnin’ away with me,” he agreed. He nodded to my dress. “That right there, that’s running. And you fuckin’ know it.”

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