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A Beautiful Wedding: Chapter 4

Three Hours

Travis

Abby held my hand, pulling me along as we walked through the casino to the elevators. I was dragging my feet, trying to take a look around before we went upstairs. It had only been a few months since the last time we’d been in Vegas, but this time was less stressful. We were here for a much better reason. Regardless, Abby was still all-business, refusing to pause long enough for me to get too comfortable around the tables. She hated Las Vegas and with good reason, which made me question even more why she chose to come here, but as long as she was on a mission to be my wife, I wasn’t going to argue.

“Trav,” she said, huffing. “The elevators are right . . . there . . .” She tugged on me a few times toward her final destination.

“We’re on vacation, Pidge. Cool your jets.”

“No, we’re getting married, and we have less than twenty-four hours to get it done.”

I pressed the button, pulling us both into an open space to the side of the crowd. It shouldn’t have been surprising that there were so many people just ending their night this close to sunrise, but even a buck wild frat boy like myself could be impressed here.

“I still can’t believe it,” I said. I brought her fingers to my mouth and kissed them.

Abby was still looking above the elevator doors, watching the numbers descend. “You’ve mentioned that.” She looked over to me and one corner of her mouth turned up. “Believe it, baby. We’re here.”

My chest rose while my lungs filled with air, preparing to let out a long sigh. In recent memory, or maybe ever, my bones and muscles had never been so relaxed. My mind was at ease. It felt strange to feel all of those things, knowing what we’d just left behind back on campus, and at the same time feeling so responsible. It was disorienting, and unsettling, this feeling happy one minute, and like a criminal the next.

A slit formed between the elevator doors, and then they slowly slid away from each other, allowing the passengers to bleed out into the hallway. Abby and I stepped on together with our small roller duffle bag. One woman had a large purse, a large carry-on that was the size of two of ours, and a four-wheeled, vertical suitcase that could fit at least two small children.

“Moving here?” I asked. “That’s cool.” Abby jammed her elbow into my ribs.

She took a long look at me, and then Abby, and then spoke in a French accent. “No.” She looked away, clearly unhappy I’d spoken to her.

Abby and I traded glances, and then she widened her eyes, silently saying Wow, what a bitch. I tried not to laugh. Damn, I loved that woman, and I loved that I knew what she was thinking without her saying a word.

The French woman nodded. “Press floor thirty-five, please.” Almost the Penthouse. Of course.

When the doors opened on the twenty-fourth floor, Abby and I stepped out onto the ornate carpet, a bit lost, doing the search-walk that people always do when looking for their hotel room. Finally, at the end of the hall, Abby inserted her keycard and pulled it out quickly.

The door clicked. The light turned green. We were in.

Abby flipped on the light and pulled her purse over her head, tossing it on to the king-size bed. She smiled at me. “This is nice.”

I let go of the bag handle, letting it topple over, and then took Abby into my arms. “That’s it. We’re here. When we sleep in that bed later, we’re going to be husband and wife.”

Abby looked into my eyes, deep and thoughtful, and then cupped one side of my face. A corner of her mouth turned up. “We sure will.”

I couldn’t begin to imagine what thoughts were swirling behind her beautiful gray eyes, because almost immediately that thoughtful look disappeared.

She rose up on the balls of her feet and pecked me on the mouth. “What time is the wedding?”

Abby

Three hours?” I kept my muscles relaxed even though my entire body wanted to tense up. We were wasting too much time, and I had no way to explain to Travis why I needed to get it over with.

Get it over with? Is that how I really felt about it? Maybe it wasn’t just that Travis needed a plausible alibi. Maybe I was afraid I would chicken out if there was too much time to think about what we were doing.

“Yeah,” Travis said. “I figured you’d need time to get a dress and your hair done and all that girly shit. Was that . . . was I wrong?”

“No. No, it’s fine. I guess I was just thinking we’d get here and just go. But, you’re right.”

“We’re not going to the Red, Pidge. We’re gettin’ married. I know it’s not in a church, but I figured we’d . . .”

“Yeah.” I shook my head and closed my eyes for a second, and then looked at him. “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll go downstairs, find something white, and then I’ll come back here and get ready. If I can’t find something here, I’ll go to Crystals. There are more shops there.”

Travis walked toward me, stopping just a few inches away. He watched me for several moments, long enough to make me squirm.

“Tell me,” he said softly. No matter how I tried to explain it away, he knew me well enough to know—poker face or not—that I was hiding something from him.

“I think what you’re reading is exhaustion. I haven’t slept in almost twenty-four hours.”

He sighed, kissed my forehead, and then went to the mini fridge. He bent over, and then turned, holding up two small cans of Red Bull. “Problem solved.”

“My fiancé is a genius.”

He handed me a can, and then took me into his arms. “I like that.”

“That I think you’re a genius?”

“Being your fiancé.”

“Yeah? Don’t get used to it. I’ll be calling you something different in three hours.”

“I’ll like the new name even better.”

I smiled, watching Travis open the bathroom door.

“While you find a dress, I’m going to take another shower, shave, and then try to find something to wear.”

“So you won’t be here when I get back?”

“Do you want me to be? It’s at the Graceland Chapel, right? I thought we’d just meet there.”

“It’ll be kind of cool to see each other at the chapel, just before, dressed and ready to walk down the aisle.”

“You’re going to walk around Vegas by yourself for three hours?”

“I grew up here, remember?”

Travis thought for a moment. “Isn’t Jesse still working as a pit boss?”

I lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him. But even if he was, the only casino I’ll be anywhere near is the Bellagio’s, and that’s just long enough for me to walk through to our room.”

Travis seemed satisfied with that, and then nodded. “Meet you there.” He winked at me, and then shut the bathroom door.

I grabbed my purse off the bed and the room keycard, and, after glancing at the bathroom door, picked up Travis’s cell phone off the nightstand.

Opening his contacts, I pressed on the name I needed, sent the contact information to my phone via text, and then deleted the text message the second it went through. When I set his phone down, the bathroom door opened, and Travis appeared in just a towel.

“Marriage license?” he asked.

“The chapel will take care of it for an extra fee.”

Travis nodded, seeming relieved, and then shut the door again.

I yanked the room door open and made my way to the elevator, inputting and then calling the new number.

“Please pick up,” I whispered. The elevator opened, revealing a crowd of young women, probably just a little older than me. They were giggling and slurring their words, half of them discussing their night, the others deciding if they should go to bed or just stay up so they wouldn’t miss their flight home.

“Pick up, damnit,” I said after the first ring. Three rings later, voicemail chimed in.

You’ve reached Trent. You know what to do.

“Ugh,” I huffed, letting my hand fall to my thigh. The door opened, and I walked with purpose to the Bellagio shops.

After searching through too fancy, too trashy, too much lace, too many beads, and too . . . much of everything, I finally found it: the dress I would wear when I became Mrs. Maddox. It was white, of course, and tea length. Fairly plain, really, except for the sheer bateau neckline and a white satin ribbon that tied around the waist. I stood in the mirror, letting my eyes study each line and detail. It was beautiful, and I felt beautiful in it. In just a couple of hours, I would be standing next to Travis Maddox, watching his eyes take in every curve of the fabric.

I walked along the wall, scanning the numerous veils. After trying on the fourth, I placed it back into its cubby, flustered. A veil was too proper. Too innocent. Another display caught my eye, and I walked toward it, letting my fingers run over the different beads, pearls, stones, and metals of various hairpins. They were less delicate, and more . . . me. There were so many on the table, but I kept coming back to one in particular. It had a small, silver comb, and the rest of it was just dozens of different-size rhinestones that somehow formed a butterfly. Without knowing why, I held it in my hand, sure it was perfect.

The shoes were in the back of the store. They didn’t have a huge selection, but luckily I wasn’t super picky and chose the first pair of silver strappy heels I saw. Two straps went over my toes, and two more around my ankle, with a group of pearls to camouflage the belt. Thankfully they had size six in stock, and I was on to the last thing on my list: jewelry.

I chose a simple but elegant pair of pearl earrings. At the top, where they fastened to my ear, was a small cubic zirconia, just flashy enough for a special occasion, and a matching necklace. Never in my life had I wanted to stand out. Apparently even my wedding wouldn’t change that for me.

I thought about the first time I stood in front of Travis. He was sweaty, shirtless, and panting, and I was covered in Marek Young’s blood. That was just six months ago, and now we’re getting married. And I’m nineteen. I’m only nineteen.

What the fuck am I doing?

I stood at the register, watching the receipt being printed out for the dress, shoes, hairpin, and jewelry, trying not to hyperventilate.

The redhead behind the counter tore off the receipt and handed it to me with a smile. “It’s a gorgeous dress. Nice choice.”

“Thank you,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I smiled back or not. Suddenly dazed, I walked away, holding the bag against my chest.

After a quick stop into the jewelry store for a black titanium wedding ring for Travis, I glanced at my phone and then tossed it back into my purse. I was making good time.

When I walked into the casino, my purse began to vibrate. I placed the bag between my legs and reached for it. After two rings, my searching fingers grew desperate, clawing and shoving everything to the side to get to the phone in time.

“Hello?” I screeched. “Trent?”

“Abby? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” I breathed as I sat on the floor against the side of the closest slot machine. “We’re fine. How are you?”

“I’ve been sitting with Cami. She’s pretty upset about the fire. She lost some of her regulars.”

“Oh, God, Trent. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem real,” I said, my throat feeling tight. “There were so many. Their parents probably don’t even know, yet.” I held my hand to my face.

“Yeah.” He sighed, sounding tired. “It’s like a war zone down there. What’s that noise? Are you in an arcade?” He sounded disgusted, as if he already knew the answer, and he couldn’t believe we were that insensitive. “What?” I said. “God, no. We . . . we hopped on a flight to Vegas.”

“What?” he said, incensed. Or maybe just confused, I couldn’t be sure. He was excitable.

I cringed at the disapproval in his voice, knowing it was just the beginning. I had an objective. I had to set my feelings aside as best I could until I achieved what I came for. “Just listen. It’s important. I don’t have a lot of time, and I need your help.”

“Okay. With what?”

“Don’t talk. Just listen. Promise?”

“Abby, stop playin’. Just fucking tell me.”

“There were a lot of people at the fight last night. A lot of people died. Someone has got to go to prison for it.”

“You thinkin’ it’s gonna be Travis?”

“Him and Adam, yeah. Maybe John Savage, and anyone else they think coordinated it. Thank God Shepley wasn’t in town.”

“What do we do?”

“I asked Travis to marry me.”

“Uh . . . okay. How the hell is that going to help him?”

“We’re in Vegas. Maybe if we can prove we were off getting married a few hours later, even if a few dozen drunken frat boys testify that he was at the fight, it will sound just crazy enough to create reasonable doubt.”

“Abby.” He sighed.

A sob caught in my throat. “Don’t say it. If you don’t think it’ll work, just don’t tell me, okay? It was all I could think of, and if he finds out why I’m doing this, he won’t do it.”

“Of course he won’t. Abby, I know you’re afraid, but this is crazy. You can’t marry him to keep him out of trouble. This won’t work, anyway. You didn’t leave until after the fight.”

“I said not to say that.”

“I’m sorry. He wouldn’t want you to do this, either. He would want you to marry him because you want to. If he ever found out, it’d break his heart.”

“Don’t be sorry, Trent. It’s going to work. At least it will give him a chance. It’s a chance, right? Better odds than he had.”

“I guess,” he said, sounding defeated.

I sighed and then nodded, covering my mouth with my free hand. Tears blurred my vision, making a kaleidoscope out of the casino floor. A chance was better than nothing.

“Congratulations,” he said.

“Congrats!” Cami said in the background. Her voice sounded tired and hoarse, even though I was sure she was sincere.

“Thank you. Keep me updated. Let me know if they come sniffing around the house, or if you hear anything about an investigation.”

“Will do . . . and it’s really fucking weird that our baby brother is the first to get married.”

I laughed once. “Get over it.”

“Fuck off. And, I love ya.”

“Love you, too, Trent.”

I held the phone in my lap with both hands, watching the people walking by stare at me. They were obviously wondering why I was sitting on the floor, but not enough to ask. I stood up, picked up my purse and bag, and inhaled a deep breath.

“Here comes the bride,” I said, taking my first steps.


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