Kiss an Angel(2)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Her bridegroom’s large hand lifted her own much smaller one, and she felt its strength as he shoved a plain gold band on her finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” he said in a stern, uncompromising voice.

She gazed at the simple band with momentary confusion. For as long as she could remember, she’d indulged in what her mother Lani had called a “bourgeois fantasy of love and marriage,” and she’d never imagined anything like this.

“. . . the power vested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce that you are husband and wife.”

She tensed as she waited for Judge Rhinsetler to invite the bridegroom to kiss the bride. When he didn’t, she knew her father had asked him not to, sparing her the embarrassment of being forced to kiss that hard, unsmiling mouth. It was exactly like her father to have remembered a detail that no one else had thought to consider. Although she wouldn’t admit it for the world, she wished she were more like him, but she wasn’t even able to manage the major events of her life, let alone the details.

It wasn’t in her nature to wallow in self-pity, so she shook it off as her father came forward to brush his cool cheek against hers in ceremonial fashion. She found herself hoping for a word of affection, but she wasn’t surprised when she didn’t get it. She even managed to look unaffected as he moved away.

He drew her mysterious bridegroom toward the windows that looked down over Central Park, where they were joined by Judge Rhinsetler. The other witnesses to the ceremony were the chauffeur, who tactfully disappeared to attend to his duties, and her father’s wife Amelia, with her frosted blond hair and lockjaw drawl.

“Congratulations, dear. What a beautiful couple you and Alexander make. Don’t they look wonderful together, Max?” Without waiting for an answer, Amelia swept Daisy into her arms, enveloping both of them in a cloud of musky perfume.

Amelia acted as if she felt a genuine fondness for her husband’s bastard daughter, and even though Daisy knew her real feelings, she gave Amelia credit for trying. It couldn’t be easy to confront the living evidence of the only irresponsible thing her husband had ever done, even if he’d done it twenty-six odd years ago.

“I don’t know why you insisted on wearing that dress, dear. It might be appropriate for club-hopping, but hardly for a wedding.” Amelia’s critical gaze passed stern judgment on Daisy’s expensive metallic lace tank dress that ended in a scalloped hem a good eight inches above her knee.

“It’s almost white.”

“Gold isn’t white, dear. And it’s much too short.”

“The jacket is conservative,” Daisy pointed out, smoothing her hands along the sides of the boxy gold satin jacket that fell to the top of her thighs.

“That hardly makes up for the rest. Why couldn’t you have gone along with tradition and worn white? Or at least chosen something more sedate.”

Because this wasn’t going to be a real marriage, Daisy thought, and the more she bowed to tradition, the more she remembered that she was violating something that should be sacred. She’d even removed the gardenia Amelia had fastened in her hair only to have her stepmother stick it back in just before the ceremony.

She knew Amelia didn’t approve of her gold shoes either, which looked like a pair of Roman gladiator sandals with four-inch heels. They were brutally uncomfortable, but at least they couldn’t be confused with the traditional white satin pumps.

“Your bridegroom doesn’t look happy,” Amelia whispered. “Not that I’m surprised. Try not to say anything silly to him for at least the first hour or so, will you? You really must do something about that annoying habit of talking before you think.”

Daisy barely repressed a sigh. Amelia never said what she really thought, while Daisy almost always did, and her honesty antagonized her stepmother to no end. But Daisy wasn’t good at dissembling. Maybe because she had seen so much of it from both her parents.

She sneaked a look at her new husband and wondered how much her father had paid him to marry her. And some irreverent part of her wanted to know how the actual transaction had taken place. Cash? Check? Excuse me, Alexander Markov, but do you take American Express? As she observed her bridegroom declining a mimosa from the tray being passed by Min Soon, she tried to imagine what he was thinking.

How much longer before he could hustle the little brat out of here? Alex Markov glanced at his watch. Another five minutes should do it, he decided. He watched the servant who was passing a tray of drinks stop to fawn over her. Enjoy it, lady. It’ll be a long time before it happens again.

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