Page 3 of Stealing the Bride

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“It’s fine, Mack isn’t here either. Can you do me a favor?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

My brother Ari is the oldest, but he’s the one that keeps us on schedule. Mack is the baby and also known as the loose cannon, while I’m in the middle doing everything I can to piss people off.

“Can you do a sweep in front of a bridal shop?”

“A bridal shop? What for?” A text comes through on my phone, and I see that Ari has sent me an address. It’s just up the block, so I go ahead and walk in that direction.

“I got a call from a potential client. They want to check up on the owner of the shop. He’s worried she’s having an affair and wants to make sure she’s where she says she is.”

I hear Ari clicking on some keys, and my phone buzzes again. The client profile comes up, and I scan it quickly.

“Yeah, I’ll give it a once-over and be in the office after.”

“Thanks, I owe you,” he says.

“I’m going to cash that in sooner than later,” I tell him and then there’s a long pause.

“What did you do?” There’s a tired warning in his tone.

“Do you have any idea how much you sound like Mom?”

“Watch your mouth, or I’ll call her and tell her you said that.”

“Snitch.” I glance up the street and see the bridal shop window. “Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in later.” I hang up before he can start nagging.

My brothers and I took over our dad’s detective agency after he retired a few years ago. He and Mom always wanted to travel the world, so they’ve been going on vacation non-stop since then. He did well for himself, but since we’ve taken over, we've grown it tenfold. Now we’ve got so much business we have to turn people away, but our reputation is one that gets results. Yeah, maybe it’s made me cynical about love and marriage because all I see are cheating spouses, but I’m good at the job, and that’s all that matters. At least, that’s what I tell myself. It’s easier to piss people off than to make them like you. Which is probably why I haven’t been on a date since I left college.

Standing outside the bridal shop I look over the notes on my phone once last time to make sure I have everything and don’t have to look at it again once I’m inside. I just need to do a quick pass, maybe ask a question or two, and find out if the owner is in.

As I’m standing there, I glance up at the shop, and something catches my eye. There’s a bride standing on some kind of stage in front of a row of mirrors. She’s got on a dress that’s so fucking tight it looks like she can’t breathe, but that’s not what concerns me. Even at this distance, I can see something in her reflection. It cuts right to my core even though she’s not paying me any attention. She’s talking with someone beside her, but the look on her face is so distraught that I can’t imagine she’s about to get married. The bride looks like she was forced into the dress at gunpoint, and all I want to do is go in there and demand she take that fucking thing off. Or maybe leave it on and let me talk to her. Something about seeing her so sad makes me want to cheer her up, and the thought surprises me. What the hell am I thinking?

An older woman leans forward to kiss her on her cheeks and then walks out of the shop. The bride disappears, and I’m still frozen in place wondering what the hell just happened. Has time stopped or did it jump ahead five years, because I don’t feel like I did before I looked at her.

In a flurry of movement, the bride storms out of the shop and reaches for her cell phone. Now she’s dressed in jeans and a sweater that clings to her curves in a way that looks soft and comfortable, not strangling like the wedding dress.

I don’t realize I’m in motion until I’ve followed her two blocks to the subway station. Fuck, I didn’t look and see if the owner of the shop was in, and the train this woman is getting on is in the opposite direction.

“Hey, it’s Vanna. Call me if you get this,” I hear her say before she walks down the stairs and out of sight.

I have this overwhelming urge to follow her and find out who she is and where she’s going and why she looked so fucking miserable in that dress. There’s a buzz in my pocket, and I see it’s a text from Ari asking for an update.

I can’t follow the bride, but if my years as a detective have taught me anything, it’s that people always leave a trace.

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