Was it weird to be a full-grown flower girl? Why, not at all. It was an honor.
Okay, fine. It was a little embarrassing.
And by a little embarrassing, I mean soul-crushingly humiliating.
Yet saying no was out of the question.
I was Persephone.
The easygoing, even-tempered, roll-with-the-punches designated friend.
The one who kept the peace and dropped everything when someone needed help.
Aisling, who was about to become Sailor’s sister-in-law, was in charge of holding the eight-foot train, à la Pippa Middleton, and my sister, Emmabelle, was responsible for the rings.
Thorncrown Chapel was a luxurious wedding venue on the Massachusetts coastline. The medieval castle looming over a cliff boasted fifty acres of old-world architecture, French-imported limestone, private gardens, and a view of the ocean. The bridal suite was an oatmeal-hued apartment that offered a claw-foot tub, a front porch, and four fully equipped vanities.
All expenses for the lavish wedding were paid by the groom, Hunter Fitzpatrick’s family. Sailor was marrying up, climbing high up the social ladder.
The Fitzpatricks stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, and the Murdochs.
Rich, powerful, influential, and—at least, according to the rumors—with enough skeletons in their closet to open a cemetery.
It was crazy to think the girl I’d played hopscotch with as a kid and who let me cut her bangs was going to become an American princess in less than an hour.
It was even crazier that she was the one who introduced me to the man who now occupied ninety percent of my brain’s capacity and virtually all my dreams.
The villain who broke my heart without even noticing my immortal existence.
Trying to sober up, I paced back and forth in the room, stopping at the window. I leaned over the sill, tilting my face up to the summer sky. A lone cloud glided lazily behind the sun, holding a promise for a gorgeous day.
“Auntie Tilda, fancy seeing you here! How’ve you been?”
It wasn’t the first time I’d spoken to a cloud like it was my dead aunt, so I couldn’t blame my level of intoxication on this particular quirk. “Weather’s looking fine. Sailor is going to appreciate it. How do I look?”
I twirled in my pine-green gown in front of the window, giving my hair a playful toss. “Think he’ll finally notice me?”
The cloud didn’t need to respond for me to know the answer—no.
He wasn’t going to notice me.
He never did.
I highly doubted he even knew I existed.
Five years I’d known him, and he had yet to speak a word to me.
Heaving a sigh, I grabbed the flowers I’d picked earlier outside the suite and pressed them to my nose with a greedy breath. They smelled warm and fresh, spring-like.
The flowers were pink and shaped like a Valentine’s heart. I wove some of them in my hair, which was partly coiffed at the top.
One of their thorns pricked my finger, and I lifted it, sucking on the drop of blood it produced. The stickiness of the sap filled my mouth, and I groaned.
“I know, I know, I should just get over him. Move on.”
I quickly licked all my fingers to get rid of the nectar. “There’s a fine line between being a romantic and a moron. I think I’ve straddled it about four years too long.”
I’d been harboring my obsession to the eldest Fitzpatrick brother for the past five years. Half a freaking decade. I’d compared every guy I dated to the unattainable tycoon, sent him starry-eyed looks, and compulsively read every piece of information about him in the media. Simply deciding to forget about him wasn’t going to cut it. I’d tried that before.
I needed to go big or go home.
In this case, I needed to use Auntie Tilda’s wish and ask to move on.
I opened my mouth to make the wish, but just as I began to utter the words, my throat clogged up.
I dropped the flowers in my hand, stumbling to the mirror. A rash fanned across my neck like a possessive male palm. The rubicund stain spread south, dipping into the valley between my breasts. Every inch of my flesh was turning scarlet.
How in the hell did I have an allergic reaction? I was too anxious to eat anything all morning.
Maybe it was jealousy.
A green, pointy-toothed monster clawing its way out of my heart. Reminding me that being a bride was my dream, not Sailor’s, darn it.
Sure, it wasn’t feminist, or inspiring, or progressive, but it didn’t make it any less the truth. My truth.
I wanted marriage, a white picket fence, giggly babies in diapers roaming around freely in my backyard, and smelly Labradors chasing them.
Whenever I allowed myself to think about it (which wasn’t very often), the unfairness of it rubbed me off my breath. Sailor was the most asexual thing in the world after a surgical face mask before she’d met Hunter.
Yet she was the one who ended up marrying before all of us.
A knock on the door snapped me out of my trance.
“Pers?” my older sister, Emmabelle—Belle for short—crooned from the other side. “The ceremony starts in twenty minutes. What’s taking you so long?”
Well, Belle, I look shockingly similar to a Cheetos, both in color and complexion.
“You better get your ass in gear. Our girl has already puked in the limo’s trash can twice, cursed the groom like a pirate for not eloping in Vegas, and one of her acrylic nails is playing Amelia Earhart.”
“How do you mean?” I shouted back through the suite’s door.
“It’s disappeared. Hopefully not in her hairdo.” I heard the grin in my sister’s voice. “Oh, by the way. Can you bring Hunter’s ring if his brother doesn’t show up to take it? Technically, it’s Cillian’s job, but he’s probably in the gardens, skinning a female employee and making fashionable coats out of her flesh.”
My stomach clenched at the mention of his name.
“Roger that. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I heard my sister’s heels clicking as she left, heading back to the waiting limo.
I glanced around the room.
How can I make this stupid rash go away?
Mentally snapping my fingers, I looked around for Aisling “Ash” Fitzpatrick’s purse, finding it on the bed. I rummaged through it, flicking away Band-Aids, a Swiss knife, and a thumb-size makeup kit. She must have Benadryl and antihistamines. She was a Girl Scout, ready for any occasion, be it a rash, a broken nail, a World War, or a sudden pandemic.