Home > Marrying Mr. Wrong

Marrying Mr. Wrong
Author: Claire Kingsley

 

1

 

 

Sophie

 

 

I never should have gone commando in this dress.

People wandered by—men in tuxes and women in evening gowns—and I swore I could feel a breeze wafting up my legs and brushing my backside. Was I standing near a vent or something?

The hotel ballroom was beautifully decked out for the gala and auction. It was a great cause, benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters. Long tables held silent auction items, and the live auction would take place on the temporary stage in front of the panoramic windows. Tables were decorated with fancy linens and two bars provided drinks to the well-dressed guests.

The problem was, I’d totally forgotten about coming to this benefit. My boss, Shepherd Calloway, and his wife Everly—who’s one of my best friends—were supposed to attend. I’m Mr. Calloway’s executive assistant, so I arrange the details. They attend the events.

But Everly was pregnant, and yesterday her ankles had seemed a bit swollen. She was sure it was nothing to be concerned about—as was her doctor—but Mr. Calloway had developed an impressive level of protective paranoia when it came to his pregnant wife. He’d cleared his schedule for the next few days to make sure he could be there for Everly.

It really was rather cute.

But it left me in the position of filling in for them at this gala.

Which I’d forgotten about until the last minute.

And because I’m Sophie Abbott, expert hot mess, in my haste to get myself presentable enough for a black-tie gala, and be on time, and not break a nail, and find shoes that were formal enough but would allow me to walk, I’d completely forgotten to put on underwear.

Who forgets to put on underwear?

Me, that’s who.

At least I’d remembered a bra. That’s important when you have curves—and I have plenty of those.

So here I was, a bra dutifully taming the twins and my dark blond curls behaving nicely, but nothing below the waist except the thin fabric of my red dress.

My rather short, thin red dress.

Was it see-through? Could people see my butt crack?

That was probably my biggest concern at this point. I glanced over my shoulder, wondering if I’d catch someone looking down and pondering the nature of what was beneath my too-light-and-flimsy-to-go-commando dress.

A man in a black tux stood nearby, his eyes locked on my butt.

He could tell.

I sighed and moved farther down the silent auction table. At this point, I had to either cut out early and go home or resign myself to the fact that a handful of people in the room were going to notice and stare.

What would my friends do? My three best friends always seemed to be put together in ways I was not.

Everly would have Mr. Calloway to block her from view. His icy stare would freeze any man who dared to look at his wife. Hazel would never have worn this dress in the first place. She’d be wearing something much more practical. And lined.

But Nora? She’d just own it.

So maybe that was the answer. Channel my inner Nora. After all, tonight couldn’t get any worse. I was already dateless at a charity benefit where I didn’t know anyone—socially, at least—wearing a dress that made me feel like I was in one of those nightmares where you’re naked on stage in front of an audience.

And then, just like that, it got worse.

A man in a dark suit met my eyes from across the room. Gasping, I quickly turned away. Oh no. It was Dr. Handsy Perv.

My elderly father was on a quest to find me a husband and had appointed himself matchmaker. Which meant he tried to set me up with just about every single man he met who appeared to be between the ages of twenty and fifty.

The neighborhood mail carrier. The guy putting stickers on bananas at the grocery store. The waiter at our favorite restaurant. His ophthalmologist. The guy who did his taxes.

This one, Dr. Shilling, was the surgeon who’d recently performed a minor procedure on his wrist. When Dad had gone in for a follow-up, he’d somehow convinced the doctor to go on a date with his daughter.

I’d gone to appease my dad and very quickly wished I hadn’t. Dr. Shilling had spent the entire evening finding excuses to touch me. And not in cute ways that made me want him to touch me more. He’d groped and leered and made me so uncomfortable, I’d faked a sudden bout of food poisoning and left. Later, when I’d dished to my friends about it over martinis, we’d named him Dr. Handsy Perv.

And there he was, just on the other side of the silent auction tables.

I risked a quick peek. He was talking to someone else, but his eyes flicked toward me. This was so awkward. Turning, I almost walked right into a man in a black tux with silver hair and glasses. He deftly shifted his drink out of the way so he wouldn’t spill.

“I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t reply. Just furrowed his brow in annoyance and went around me.

My heart beat faster and I cast another glance at Dr. Handsy Perv. Or where Dr. Handsy Perv had been a few seconds ago. Where had he gone?

“Sophie.” His hand slid onto my elbow and I practically jumped out of my heels.

Jerking my arm away, I spun around and took a step back. “Dr. Shilling.”

“We’re not in my office; there’s no need to be formal. You can call me Randall.”

“Right, of course. Randall.”

He stepped closer and ran his hand up and down my arm. “Glad to see you recovered.”

God, why was he so touchy? His hands were cold and clammy. Gross. “Yeah, thanks. I’m feeling a lot better.”

His eyes swept up and down in a way that made my stomach turn. It wasn’t sexy or provocative. It was creepy. Like he was sizing me up to see if I’d fit in the trunk of his car.

“Excuse me, I have to—”

“Randall!”

Someone called his name and I took advantage of his momentary distraction to dart away. The live auction hadn’t started yet, but I’d just have to miss it. I needed to get out of here before Dr. Handsy Perv could corner me.

I quick-walked toward my table where I’d left my coat, willing myself to not trip in my heels, and adjusted the thin strap of my small black purse. Thankfully, I made it without any mishaps. Congratulating myself on my successful walk across the room—it wasn’t much, but I believe in celebrating the little things—I scooped up my coat and turned.

And bumped into someone. Again.

This time it was a woman in a shimmery black evening gown with a plunging neckline.

“I’m sorry.” I started to reach for her drink to make sure she didn’t spill but pulled back at the last second because I’d probably wind up making it worse.

She recovered quickly, the surprise in her expression melting into a smile. She looked like she was in her mid-thirties, with dark hair in an up-do and deep red lipstick. “No harm done. Are you all right?”

“Yes, thank you.” My eyes darted to the side. Dr. Handsy Perv was still occupied by the man who’d called his name, but his gaze was on me. I shuddered.

She followed my gaze. “Let me guess. Ex-boyfriend?”

“Oh, no. We only went on one date. Or maybe it was half a date? Either way, it was very uncomfortable.”

“I totally understand. We’ve all been there.” She took a casual sip of her drink. “I love your dress. It’s very flattering.”

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