Bride By Design 3: Manchala Nights

By: Alicia Roberts

John and Keith were here to prove that Sir Donald wasn't being biased in his selection. They were highly unlikely to get selected, and Colin wasn't concerned about them.

Jason was an Australian property developer, and he and his wife Carol hadn't been able to make it to the island. Jason had faced some kind of crisis with one of his other developments, and Colin didn't think Sir Donald would consider him seriously for the Manchala project. This week was all about meeting the people Sir Donald would be working with, and while Jason's current crisis was probably serious, his not showing up on the island indicated that he wasn't so keen on the Manchala project.

Finally, Rani and Rahul were here with their six-month old son. After Roger, they were Colin's biggest threat.

"Rahul's dad is an Indian steel magnate, a guy who's on the list of Forbe's fifty richest people in the world. On the other hand, I'm nowhere in the top two hundred."

"Oh, how tragic." I couldn't help teasing, "How will you ever live with that shame?"

Colin laughed, and I felt the ice between us melt. "I guess I'll just have to hope and work hard."

I smiled, admiring the way Colin's eyes crinkled when he laughed. He'd changed into Dockers and a polo t-shirt, and had taken out a sweater for himself and a cardigan for me. When he saw me looking at the latter, he said, "It might be chilly outside. Why don't we get going?"

I nodded, and grabbed the cardigan. I hadn't realized it had gotten so late. We'd missed the sunset - I had really wanted to see the ocean turn pink before it got dark. Well, maybe tomorrow.

When we stepped out of our room, a uniformed servant told us that everyone was out on the deck. We followed him to a covered area overlooking the bay. It was too dark to make out the ocean, but the dining area on the deck was lit up cheerfully. Drinks were being served on one side, and on another side, a grill had been set up and the scent of meat being barbequed drifted over to us.

Sir Donald came over to greet us, and the group of happy, laughing people looked at us as we walked towards them.

"Lisa, Colin," Sir Donald said, kissing my cheek, "You're just in time. We're having a few drinks while the meat gets done."

He introduced us to his wife, Diane, a slender woman with grey hair and kind eyes. For a moment, I hated myself for taking part in this charade, for fooling these kind people who extended their hospitality towards us. But then Diane led me off while Don introduced Colin to the other guys, and I met Celine.

Celine was slim and looked vaguely familiar, her button nose and pink lips perfect, her blonde hair smooth and cascading, and her blue eyes cold and distant. We air-kissed perfunctorily and I saw her glance towards Colin.

In that split second, the frost chilling my veins told me what I needed to know. When Celine glanced back at me, she smiled knowingly and I hated her for having slept with Colin.

"How did you two meet?" Her smile was polite, and her voice was deep and relaxed.

Diane chimed in, "Oh yes, I'd love to know too!"

I smiled, grateful that Colin and I had rehearsed our stories, and accepted a glass of wine from the waiter who appeared just in time. I told Diane and Celine how Colin and I had lunch in the park together and then wound up going out in secret - a version of events which was close to the truth, while being so ridiculously different from what was really going on.

"I never thought Colin would settle down." Celine's voice was wary, her eyes watching me for signs of some secret hold I had over Colin.

I shrugged, happy that I could snub Celine politely, even while I wanted to rip out her perfect hair. "I guess he just needed to meet the right girl."

Celine stretched out her fingers to admire her massive engagement ring. I would've felt bad for being so catty, but she had the real thing - the wealth, the beauty, the marriage into one of America's oldest families. "Where's your engagement ring?"

"Oh, I forgot to wear it. I've gotten so used to pretending not to be married to Colin! You know, to get away from the press and all."

"Of course," she drawled, flipping her hair over one shoulder. "The paparazzi are soo rude."

I tried not to gulp as I remembered why she looked so familiar - her photos were always splashed over the tabloids and glossies.

Diane oohed over how cute Colin and I were for a minute, before excusing herself to tend to the other guests.

As soon as we were alone, Celine turned to me frostily. "You do know that I slept with Colin, right?"

"Of course." I smiled sweetly. "Colin and I don't care about each other's past."

Celine scoffed, "Yeah well, Roger seems to care about Colin's past a lot. He hates Colin so much, even more now that he knows we got together again after my wedding."

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