Page 5 of Stealing the Bride

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Deciding I need the fresh air, I keep on walking. After a few blocks, I stop at one of my favorite delis to get a sandwich. I can’t believe that man really thinks I’m going to go anywhere with him.

When I make it back to my small studio that’s rented by the month, I see flowers and a box sitting in front of the door. I grab them before letting myself inside, then place everything on the kitchen island. I rented this apartment after I graduated because I couldn’t live on campus anymore. It came fully furnished, which is nice, but it was only meant to hold me over. Now I’ve got a million decisions I need to make.

The flowers have a note that has the word sorry written on it and then Nick’s name underneath. The man works fast, but I guess money really can get things done. I open the box and inside are twelve chocolate-covered strawberries.

Nick might not love me the way he should, but on some level, I thought we had a friendship. Seeing the twelve poisonous berries is a punch to my stomach.

Grabbing the box, I toss it into the trash and shake my head in disgust. How does he not remember I’m allergic to them? I keep an EpiPen on me at all times, for God’s sake.

I have a feeling breaking things off with Nick is going to be impossible. He’s so used to me saying yes. What’s he going to do when he finally hears no?

Chapter Four


“He’s been on his phone all night,” someone says, but I ignore it.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I haven’t seen him like this before.”

“Lawson, honey, are you okay?” I glance up and see my mom looking at me expectantly. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, just work stuff.”

I shouldn’t have come to the family dinner tonight. Ever since I saw the bride in the window, I’ve become obsessed, although that’s not even the right word. Consumed? Maybe “tormented” is a better way to frame it. It feels like I’m being tortured the longer time goes on. All I can think about is seeing her again and finding out every small detail about her.

So far, I know a little more than I did yesterday but it’s not enough. Her name is Vanna Noble, and she’s a former foster kid who just recently graduated college. She’s currently unemployed as far as I can tell, and her most recent address is a monthly studio downtown. She’s been pictured with Nick Chambers and his family several times, and there was an engagement announcement placed in the society pages. It makes sense why she was trying on a wedding dress, and after looking into her fiancé, I can see why she was so miserable about it.

There’s nothing about what I’m doing that is close to sane because right now I’m thinking of a plan to get her alone.

“You don’t look good,” Mack says from beside Mom as he takes a handful of chips and nudges her with his elbow. “Does he look pale to you?”

“Oh no, is there something wrong?” My mom begins to worry, and I roll my eyes.

“He’s just being a pain in the ass.” It’s an effort not to roll my eyes again. “As usual.”

“You never told me what took you so long at the bridal shop.” Ari is sitting at the table with my dad and doesn’t look up as the two of them play cards.

“Bridal shop?” My mom perks up, but I ignore it.

“You asked me to check on a client, that’s what I did,” I say, trying to be as casual as possible.

“That’s what you said you did.” Mack leans forward, and he looks like a dog with a bone. “But you’ve been acting funny since yesterday.”

I know my brothers, and if I don’t come up with something quickly, they’re never going to let this go. This is the reason we’re so successful with our detective agency. Research and the right contacts are a huge part of this job, but intuition can make all the difference.

“I think I just need a break.” The words hang in silence as the whole room focuses their attention on me.

“A break?” Ari and Mack say in unison.

“Go back to the bridal shop.” My mom is off in grandbaby land and won’t be sidetracked.

“Son, what’s happened?” My dad goes to stand up, and I hold out my hands to stop it.

“I’m fine, I promise. I think maybe that last case got to me.” It’s a flimsy excuse, but it might just be enough. “It’s just the constant back-stabbing, you know?” When my brothers don’t say anything, I keep going. “After the last couple of months of being absorbed in their case, I need a couple of days off. That’s all.”

Taking a surreptitious glance at Ari, I see him considering this.

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