The Reckless Secret

By: Alexa Wilder

“I know,” he said on a sigh. “You know me, though. Never like to make a big deal out of things.”

Always the strong one. Even after his horrible skiing accident last year, he’d still refused to admit that he needed any help. Grant Emerson looked after Maggie, not the other way around, no matter how much Maggie tried.

His ribs were sharper than normal, digging into her as she hugged him.

She squeezed him tighter.

“Maggie, dear, I’ve got a comb in my bag if you’d like to—” Aunt Gemma announced, rushing towards her down the center aisle, elbowing the wedding party out of the way as she went.

Maggie clenched her jaw. “I’m fine, thank you. It’s supposed to look like this.”

“I’m sorry?” said Aunt Gemma archly, coming to a stop in front of Maggie and Grant. She gave Maggie the once-over.

Maggie pointed at her hair. “I said it’s supposed to look like this.”

“Oh,” said Aunt Gemma. She looked at Maggie’s head like it’d grown a twin.

Grant cleared his throat. “She looks lovely, doesn’t she?”

Aunt Gemma glanced at him sharply, then back to Maggie. “Yes. Oh yes. That’s a very brave dress, isn’t it? You haven’t left yourself much room.”

“Form fitting,” Maggie said tightly, and then quickly, “If you’ll excuse us.”

“Breathe,” Grant murmured to her as they walked away, sounding entirely too amused. “She’s the easy one.”

“Oh God, here it comes.”

It was as if Grant had conjured her—no sooner had he finished his sentence, the much-less-appealing version of Aunt Gemma broke away from a crowd and made a beeline for them. Aunt Constance, the mother of the bride, and Maggie’s biggest detractor.

“Ah, Maggie, dear, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got someone I want you to meet. Hello, Grant, lovely to see you. Goodness, you look ill. Now, Maggie—he’s an investment banker, somewhat socially challenged but you’re in no state to be choosy—”

She’d said it all without pausing, and as she spoke, the giant feather pinned into her hat waved around so dramatically that Maggie couldn’t help but stare at it.

“Are you listening to me? Maggie.” Aunt Constance snapped her fingers in Maggie’s face. Beside her, Grant snorted.

“Yes, sorry. Investment banker.” Then the words caught up with her, and she widened her eyes. “Oh God, no, sorry. I’m not interested.”

Aunt Constance’s eyebrows shot up like Maggie had cursed at her. “Not interested? Of course, you’re interested. Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not being stupid, I just—”

“Come on, Aunt Connie,” said Grant, hitching that charming smile onto his face. The effect was somewhat lost among the graying of his skin and the dark circles beneath his eyes. “We’re here to celebrate your daughter’s wedding, aren’t we? Maggie’s love life should be the least of your priorities today.”

“He’s here at the wedding,” Aunt Constance said firmly. “What other chance is she going to get? Now I’ve told him all about you, Maggie, dear, and he’s willing to look past the whole…nurse thing”—she scrunched up her nose, perennially disgusted by Maggie’s choices in life—“and he’s eager to get to know you. I’ve told him you’re free on Saturday.”

“Saturday?” said Maggie, her voice sounding distant to her own ears.

“Yes. I assumed you wouldn’t be busy. Lord knows your mother’s made no effort to get you matched up. Now, come with me,” she said, grabbing Maggie’s wrist and tugging on it, “I’ll introduce you—”

“She’s busy on Saturday,” Grant cut in.

Aunt Constance blinked at him. “What?”

“Yeah,” said Grant, and it was painfully obvious how he was casting about for a believable explanation, his mind working a mile a minute. Apparently he immediately gave up, because he nudged Maggie and said, “Yeah, tell her, Mags. About the thing. On Saturday.”

“The thing. Right.” Her stomach tightened with panic, her mind going entirely blank. She widened her eyes at Grant in an attempt to scream Help me! but he wasn’t looking at her. He was gazing across the room, and whatever had caught his eye, it made his expression light up.

“She’s got a date,” he said, nodding sort of vaguely, as if agreeing with his own thoughts. He turned back to Constance and hitched that charming smile back on his face—and this time, it looked far more authentic. “Sorry, Aunt Connie. She’s already spoken for.”

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