The Billionaire's Instant Bride

By: CJ Howard

Chapter One



The San Jose sky was a deep beautiful blue, and the warm sun shone through it, lighting the golden grassy hills so that they almost glowed. A soft breeze danced through the eucalyptus leaves that shivered and twisted up in the trees, carrying their aroma through the balmy air.

It was a perfect day, Callie thought, and her grandfather Harrison would have loved it, if he were there. He would also have loved to know that the day he was being buried was so serene and idyllic. She thought of him, wishing he hadn’t passed on, wishing he could still be with her. She missed him with all of her heart, but the woman sitting next to her missed him so much more, and she knew she needed to be the biggest support for her grandmother that day.

She reached her hand over to close it around her grandmother’s and felt her grandmother’s soft cool fingers squeeze hers. They listened as the gospel choir from the church stood just a little way from the burial site, on a soft mound of grass beside a tree, and sang hymns. The songs and the voices of the choir were a gentle soother to both Callie and her grandmother’s pained hearts.

An airplane few past, thousands of feet overhead. The pastor rose when the music ended and spoke at length about the virtue of the man in the black casket before them. It was a simple yet well-made casket, and draped lovingly over the top of it was a large arrangement of multicolored flowers. The pastor talked on in his gentle voice and Callie’s thoughts slipped back to memories of the man they were mourning.

She felt her grandmother’s wedding ring against her hand and she looked down at it with a heavy heart. The ring was old and worn; her grandmother had never taken it off. He’d given it to her when they were both eighteen, and they had promised each other to be married the rest of their lives and they had meant it; through good days and bad, through every high and low; through the birth of their daughter, Callie’s mother; to her death when Callie’s parents were killed in an automobile accident by a drunk driver.

They had taken Callie in to live with them when she was orphaned by her parents at three years old. They raised her like she was their own child. Callie could remember a few things about her mother and father, but her whole life had been centered on the woman beside her and the man in the casket before them.

Her grandmother Calista, for whom she had been named, had been a florist for many years, and she had built up and maintained a beautiful garden at their modest home. It was her pride and joy and she had tended it every year of Callie’s life. Callie had loved playing in it when she was a child, and she loved spending time in it as a young adult.

She had started college and was in her second year. When the weather was good, she did some of her studying at the table and lounged in her grandmother’s garden; it seemed to her like her own private paradise. It was where she found happiness, peace, and solace. It was where she regrouped and refocused her energy and herself when the world pulled too hard at her.

Her grandmother Calista still worked in it for hours every day, and she loved to walk people around and show them the little details of it. She knew the name of every flower and plant, every tree and bush, and she cherished it.

She had watched her grandparents’ love grow stronger every day, and she knew what real true love was, having grown up in the glow of it all of her life. She admired it with all of her heart, and when she was old enough to begin thinking about love for herself, she knew she wanted what they had, and anything less wouldn’t be enough.

The choir started singing again and Callie looked up to see that the pastor was sitting down. She felt a little sorry she hadn’t really listened to what he was saying about her grandfather, but then again, she thought, there wasn’t anything that the pastor could say that she didn’t already know or feel. He was just intoning everything that all of the mourners there thought and felt.

There were many people there from different walks of life. Her grandfather had touched a lot of hearts, and many of those people had come to pay their respects to him one last time. They were all there to support Calista in her loss, for they all knew that it was the greatest loss of her life.

Callie turned her head a little and looked over at her grandmother. The woman was sitting there with her eyes closed, listening to the choir as they sang, humming along from the depths of her chest. She and Calista had the same body frame: small and delicate, though Callie was thinner than her grandmother.

Calista’s hair had turned silver all over and it glistened in the sun like a crown of experience and time. She wore it in small curls, cut short to her head so that it was easier to manage. She had small pearl earrings in that shone against her dark skin, and which matched the pearl necklace around her neck. They had been gifts from Harrison to her on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Her face was lined with the joys and sorrows of life, and gravity had softened the skin around her jaw and neck.

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