The Billionaire's Convenient BrideBy: CJ Howard
There were big old gardens with huge towering trees and flowers blooming all over everything that nature touched. The courtyard was lit with hanging strings of soft lights and old fashioned wrought iron gas street lamps that gave off a warm glow. It surprised her because none of it seemed like him at all. She had expected a playboy’s lair, but what she found was a southern boy’s traditional home in paradise.
She didn’t see much of Peter in the first week, he was working on business plans and projects and he knocked on her door and poked his head in twice to see that she was doing well and to ask her if she needed anything. She said she was doing really well and he smiled and went on his way. She decided that if things stayed the way they were, then three years would go by fast and she could by her own sweet little home somewhere in the city.
At the beginning of the second week, he called her and asked if they could sit down together to schedule some dates and she met him in his office with her calendar. They looked at their free time and filled it all in with lunches and dinners at their favorite restaurants, concerts, movies, live theatre shows, and in no time, they were looking at a date for their wedding. They agreed on a date two months away from then and after they entered it into their calendars, Pete looked up at Emmaline and raised his eyebrows.
“I never asked you what kind of wedding you’d like. I was going to suggest that we elope and just make it simple and easy, but we really have to play this out for the press. We have to have a big to-do. What do you want?” he asked, leaving it entirely up to her.
She smiled and looked away for a moment and then looked back at him. “Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve always wanted one of the big weddings at the church. We could see if we can get married at Jackson Square and then have a big jazz band lead our guests in a parade through the Quarter.”
He grinned at her. “That’s absolutely perfect! That’s exactly what the press will want to eat up, and then everyone can see how much I adore you, and how reformed I am, and then we will get to work on saving the city.”
“Just don’t hit on any of my bridesmaids,” she teased him with a little smile.
He pushed his mouth out in a very serious expression and tapped his fingers over his tablet dramatically. “…no…hitting…on…the…bridesmaids…” Then he looked up at her and raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a sister? Is she off limits, too? Or can I have a chance at her? What about a maiden aunt?”
Emmaline grabbed a pillow from the sofa in his office and threw it at him, and he pretended to fall off the desk he was sitting on. “Man down! Man down!” he hollered.
Then he sat back on his desk again and looked at her. “On a more serious note, you said you just have your grandfather left, isn’t that right? Would he be giving you away?”
The bright smile faded from her rosy lips and she looked down. “Yes,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’ll have to go talk to him and let him know I’m getting married.”
Peter bit his lip and looked at her in concern. “What’s the matter?”
Emmaline sighed and sat on the sofa. “It’s just that I thought that he’d be giving me away at my real wedding. I was only going to get married once, to the man of my dreams, and it was going to be perfect and beautiful, and my grandfather was going to give me away. He’s not going to live forever, and that was going to be a special memory that we made together, and I have always looked forward to it since I was a little girl, and now I’m getting married, but it’s a lie. It’s not the real thing. I’m building a fake memory with him. It just hurts my heart.” She gave him a sad smile and stood up., “I better go. I’ll see you tomorrow for our date.” She turned and walked out of the office and went back to her room.
Peter watched her go and felt like he should hug her, because her sadness made him sad, and he realized that she was giving up quite a bit to help him with all that he was doing. It touched his heart in a place where nothing had ever touched his heart before, and it was strange and worrying for him.
The next day, Emmaline and Peter strolled down Decatur Street; her hand tucked into his arm, and him with his hand over hers. She had been quiet since her mention of her grandfather and Peter had been mulling the situation over in his mind. His first order of business was to make her smile.
“I think we ought to start this thing off properly, New Orleans style,” he said, looking at her with a sidelong glance and a smirk.
She raised one eyebrow at him and asked, “Really? And how are we going to do that?”
He grinned at her, “Well, with beignets and coffee, of course.” He walked her into Café du Monde and they sat at a little table right in the middle of the restaurant. Their beignets were delivered hot to their table a few minutes later, covered in thick mounds of white powdered sugar.
Peter picked up the little dish of pastries and took a deep breath, the blasted it out across the plate, blowing a thick white cloud of powdered sugar all over Emmaline. Then he set the plate down on the table and looked at her and laughed richly. She blinked at him and wiped the powder from her face, glaring at him.
“Hey, now, don’t be mad. That’s a New Orleans tradition, my dear. Also, I owed you for the water you threw on me. We’re even now.” He held his hands up to her in defense, still laughing at her, and then he pulled some of the napkins from the dispenser and handed them to her. “Here you go, see if you can wipe that up a bit. Be glad you didn’t wear black today.” She began to laugh at him and they finally settled down into their beignets and coffee, and the people around them who were locals stared in shock.
When they had finished at du Monde, Peter walked with her past Jackson Square and said in a quiet voice, “I thought we could go meet your grandfather, if you don’t mind. No matter if you tell him the truth or if he thinks we are going to get married for real, he will probably want to know who you are hanging around with.”
She felt a tear come to her eye and she wiped it away quickly, “That’s really thoughtful of you, Peter. You don’t have to do that for me, but I appreciate it.”
“I know,” he said lightly. “But all the same, it’s the right thing to do, and that is what I’m working hard on now, doing the right thing.”
Emmaline smiled at him and she turned them to walk down Royal. “I’m telling him the truth. I never lie to my grandparents,” she said quietly. “I just hope he isn’t disappointed in me.”
Peter patted her hand and said seriously, “Emma, I don’t think anyone could ever be disappointed in you. Not if they really know you.”
She glanced at him when he spoke her name in such a familiar way, and she didn’t say anything. She decided that she liked the way it sounded. They walked a long way and just as he was about to mention that he could have the car pick them up, Emmaline turned down a few more streets and then they were standing in front of a little old house with a deep front porch. On the porch, rocking back and forth in his chair like he had all the time in the world, was Emmaline’s grandfather.
She walked up the steps and hugged him tight and kissed his cheek. “Hello Papa, how are you today?”
He smiled at her like the sun had just come out and warmed him from the cold night. “There’s my girl! I’m good now that you’re here. How’s my little one?” His eyes crinkled as he looked at her.
“I’m good, Papa. There’s someone here I want you to meet. This is my friend, Peter. Peter, this is my grandfather, Henri.”
Peter stepped up, pulled his cap off of his head, and waited while her grandfather pushed himself up out of the rocking chair and stood up as tall as he could. The old man looked Peter in the eyes and then reached for his hand. “Hello Peter, welcome to my home. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable.”
Peter shook his hand and then sat down in a chair near Henri. “Thank you, sir,” he said humbly.
“Can I offer you a refreshment? Lemonade? Sweet Tea?” Henri asked, still standing before him.
Peter smiled and was about to decline when he saw the look on Emmaline’s face and he changed his mind at the last moment. “Uh, yes, sir. Sweet tea would be very nice, thank you.”
The old man smiled and nodded, then shuffled off inside the house, humming to himself, and the screen door slapped shut behind him.
Emmaline smiled at Peter. “He just loves company. Thank you for letting him treat you.”
Peter nodded and smiled, turning his cap over and over in his hands. He stared hard at it, and kept silent. When Henri returned, he handed Peter a tall glass with fresh ice and dark sweet tea in it. Peter sipped it and raised his eyebrows, impressed with the drink.
“That’s really good! Thank you so much, sir,” Peter said with a smile. Henri grinned and nodded and sat down.
“I make good sweet tea,” he said as he sat. He got comfortable again and then looked at Peter. “So you’re seeing my granddaughter?” he asked amiably.
“Yes, sir, I am,” Peter answered.
“Well, young man, you’ve got your hands full then. She’s a firecracker. Where’ve you taken her?” Henri looked at him with wise old eyes and a kind smile.