Torrid - Book Two

By: Jayne Blue
Chapter One

Tora

I wore white on my wedding day. A color reserved for someone pure, unspoiled and devoted. I took vows that day, promising to love, honor and obey this man for all the days of my life. When my groom leaned in to kiss me, I put a gentle hand against the back of his neck and drew him down to me. His lips were soft and yielding and I sank into him, arching my back as he swung me into a dip. Our small group of guests whistled and applauded as Seth set me back on my feet.

I smiled and cast my eyes down as if I were embarrassed by all the fuss and attention. It was a ruse, of course, like every other part of this day and the six months before it. I did not love Seth. I would never honor him. I would obey him for show only. All these things I would do for as long as I had to in order to destroy him.

We were married by a judge. I said a silent prayer of thanks for that and wondered if that sealed my own fate even more. This wasn’t a church. I had not sworn these things before God. It was still a sin, I knew. But Seth’s sins were bigger so I hoped mine were forgivable ... even though I know that’s not how it works.

The judge announced us to the crowd as Mr. and Mrs. Seth Manning; all eyes were on me. Some friendly. Some lewd. Many judgmental. But it was the eyes I knew were boring into my back that mattered the most.

Seth turned and shook Judge Ramer’s hand. The craggily old bastard stared at my chest as he came in for a quick hug. Seth turned away and slapped his hand into his best man’s.

Jack.

Only he knew the truth now. My skin still burned from his touch. The way he looked at me now tore at me, made me feel raw and exposed. There was a touch of sadness in his eyes but something even more potent. He worked the muscles of his strong jaw as his nostrils flared with some barely contained emotion. I knew it was a mixture of desire, anger and maybe a little bit of hurt. I saw his hand twitch at his side as Seth slid his arm around me, lingering possessively on my ass. I turned away first. If I was going to get through this day, I’d need distance from Jack. Distance that I knew he didn’t want to give.

We made our way down the aisle as Seth shook hands and accepted congratulations. I stayed close to his side, letting him tuck me against him. A blushing bride should be demure, shy, overwhelmed. Let them all think that’s exactly what I was.

We stepped into the grand foyer of Seth’s mother’s house. Miranda’s house. She’d lived here the day she decided to ruin my life. She walked over these same marble tiles when she made the decision to take my father away from me and let him rot in prison for crimes he never committed. But I was here now and she was surrounded by a different kind of marble. She couldn’t stop me and her sins too, were far greater than mine.

Seth and I circled through the kitchen. We headed out the back door to the veranda to a quiet outdoor reception for our fifty or so guests. Miranda’s grounds had been converted into a banquet hall by way of a large lit tent. Our string quartet would provide the music and we served our guests a light lunch. There were no gifts, no cake. He wanted a quiet, intimate gathering and that in itself was another kind of charade. These people weren’t Seth’s friends. They were here because of some loyalty or connection they shared with his dead mother. I wondered how many of them would stick around and support him when the dust settled. The numbers were already dwindling. One of Miranda’s most powerful connections had declined Seth’s invitation. George Pagano, the man Seth hoped would bring the money he needed to finance his senatorial campaign, had “other plans.”

The guests filed in behind us and we mingled. I stayed by Seth’s side playing my part as his trophy wife. I wanted everything to go smoothly as far as Seth was concerned. We made small talk and I stuck to the script in my head. Thank you so much for sharing our special day with us. Yes, the ceremony was perfect ... just what Seth wanted. Oh yes, we miss Seth’s mother today but we know she’s watching over us

My mouth made the words and I prayed my smile was right. I touched Seth’s sleeve, rubbed his elbow, rested my head against his shoulder. But it was Jack I watched for. He was the axis on which I rotated as I looked the part and said the words. He leaned casually against the bar, sipping his drink with his eyes on me. He moved across the room, stopping to shake a hand or pat a back. He came near me as he made his way to the other end of the room and my heart tripped behind my breast. I kept my mask in place. No one could see the turmoil that brewed in my heart. It was Jack’s touch I craved.

We found our way to our table and somehow I managed to get food down. The wine helped but I was careful not to drink too much. My groom didn’t show me the same courtesy. He was on his third martini before dessert was served. Mercifully, Seth kept us at our own table. The only other member of our wedding party was Jack and I didn’t think I could bear sitting that close to him without cracking.

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