Bride By Design 3: Manchala Nights

By: Alicia Roberts

He lowered his voice to a stage whisper. "Colin killed his foster parents."

I stared at him in horror for a moment, and then scoffed. "That's ridiculous. You can't just go around saying crazy things like that."

"Oh but I know it's true. Why do you think Colin goes to such efforts to hide his past?"

Just then, Colin turned around and saw me with Roger. I watched him laugh and say something to Sir Donald, and the three of them started to walk back towards Roger and I.

Roger spoke quickly. "Colin's birth mom was a crack whore, he had no dad. When his mom died, he was adopted by an army lieutenant and his wife. The three of them lived on a farm in Darlington, and the couple died in strange circumstances. Rumor is, Colin killed them off for the land, which he sold to a strange man. He moved to New York with that money - and that was the seed money for his property development business."

I stared at him in horror, a coldness coming over me. What he said sounded so crazy, and yet… Nobody knew anything about Colin's past, other than the fact that he'd been adopted and raised in a modest family. Where had he got the money to start a property development business, and what really happened to his family?

I hated Roger and thought he was an arrogant snob, but I knew he didn't have the imagination to come up with a lie like this.

"How do you know all that?"

"When Colin started popping up everywhere, a guy who came up from nowhere, I hired a private detective who found out about all this. He's an experienced guy, he knows his stuff. You don't have to believe me but be careful. Colin's real name isn't Colin Anderson - it's Craig O'Donnell."

We looked at each other silently until Colin, Diane and Don joined us. Roger looked smug and I wondered if he deserved to be.

"Roger, stop flirting with my wife." Colin punched his arm in a friendly way, and all of us laughed.

"I guess you lovers should be alone for a while," said Diane, and Colin smiled at her gratefully, wrapping an arm around my waist and leading me away from Roger.

When we were out of earshot, Colin let go of my waist and asked, "What did that dirt-bag say to you?"

I shrugged and we continued walking. "Nothing worth talking about."

I didn't feel like bringing up what Roger had said. If it was true, Colin would deny it and come up with a plausible story. If it wasn't true… well, there was no way I'd know for sure.

I let Colin hold my hand as we walked briskly away from the others. My fingers tingled where he held me, but I resisted the urge to pull my hand away. The whole charade was for Don and Diane, and I didn't want to ruin things.

My feet sank into the sand and the waves crashed nearby. The sky was cloudless, a perfect, bright azure, and we walked wordlessly till we reached a sheltered cove. Palm trees swayed gently in the breeze. We'd left the others far behind and nobody was around. I breathed deeply, tasting the salty air, admiring the stillness that was broken only by the sound of crashing waves and the occasional birdsong.

Colin turned to face me and wrapped his arms around me. "Have you thought about what we discussed last night?"

I felt flustered and my heart beat quicker. "Umm, yes. I mean, no."

I hadn't really had a chance to think straight. I remembered deciding once that I could have some fun and move on after the week was over, and then I'd decided that I wasn't strong enough to do it.

"What do you think?"

I looked into his eyes. They were sparkling in the sunlight, reflecting the aquamarine of the ocean. He smelled like the ocean, too - he looked so perfect on the beach. I could imagine him being a surfer, rather than a property developer.

I breathed in deeply but Colin didn't give me a chance to answer. He pressed me against him and I felt his lips crushing mine. The kiss started gently, but soon we were crashing into each other, trying to melt our bodies into one. I found myself lying on the sand pretty soon, my purse had been dropped somewhere and my dress was riding up.

This is fine, I told myself, before allowing my brain to officially switch off. I grabbed at the buttons on Colin's shirt, desperate to bite into his chest, and he pushed me down roughly, nuzzling his face below my shoulders, trying to slide my dress off.

Just like my fantasy, I thought hazily, as Colin pressed down on one breast and bit on my nipple through the dress. I moaned out loud, raking my fingers along his back, arching up for more. I was wet and hungry, I felt his erection pressing against me and I wanted him more than anything else.

Suddenly my cell phone rang out.

We both froze, swiftly becoming aware of where we were. I pushed Colin off me in a daze, and fished my phone out of my bag.

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