He stopped at my threshold.
“Ah, that’s the best part of becoming a Fitzpatrick.” He opened his arms. “Your problems are no longer yours. I do believe Colin is Sam Brennan’s jurisdiction. To that end, I’d say you’re all covered, and that Byrne is thoroughly and royally fucked for laying a hand on you. Welcome to the family, Persy.”
“What do you mean you’re breaking the pact?”
Sailor spritzed her pink lemonade across the table and all over my dress, the liquid shooting through both her mouth and nostrils.
She coughed, waving her arms around. Aisling dashed to her rescue, patting her on the back. The liquid must’ve gone down the wrong pipe.
The unshakable storm knocked on the greenhouse where we’d sat down for dinner, the hail threatening to impale the glass. At twenty-five, Aisling still lived at Avebury Court Manor, her parents’ mansion. She said it was because between med school and her charity work, she didn’t have time to maintain an apartment, but we all knew she took care of her parents, tended to them like one of their servants, and was not likely to leave before she got married.
The greenhouse was warmly lit with an array of colorful succulents strewn everywhere.
“She is not breaking the pact.” Ash hurried to hand me napkins after ensuring Sailor was okay. “She’s still married to Paxton. She can’t wed anyone else.”
I dropped the bomb as soon as I sat down at the table before I’d even had time to help myself to a spring roll.
“I am breaking the pact.” I took a deep breath, bracing myself for another storm, right here in the greenhouse. “I’m getting married to Cillian. He is working on my divorce certificate as we speak.”
“Cillian-Cillian?” It was Emmabelle’s turn to choke, this time on a crab rangoon. “Tall, dark, broody. Two little red horns peeking from either side of his head? Possibly a tail tucked between those steel ass cheeks?” My sister grabbed a dumpling with her chopsticks, tossing it into her mouth.
“My brother Cillian?” Ash supplemented.
“Yes.” I pressed my forehead to my still-empty plate with a groan. “One and the same.”
“Why?” Sailor asked.
“How?” Belle demanded.
“Is he threatening you?” Aisling shrieked.
“Look, if it’s about money, Hunter and I would be more than happy to help.” Sailor reached across the table to dab at my collar, pretending to remove the lemonade stains she put there.
“Me too. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew you only married my brother because you were struggling.” Ash put a hand on her chest over her heart. She wore a cardigan and a checked long skirt. Her raven-black hair was carefully tied into a chignon.
They didn’t get it. Any of it. The reality of my life. My situation, my commitments, my misfortunes…
“Of course she doesn’t want to marry him.” Sailor flung her arms in the air. “It’s Kill Fitzpatrick we’re talking about. He hasn’t exactly won any Mr. Personality awards in the last decade.”
“Love changes people. You and my brother are prime examples of that,” Aisling pointed out.
Sailor shook her head. “Hunter has always been good and lost. Cillian is bad and knows exactly where and what he is. A wolf can never be a pet.”
Your husband starred in a sex tape, I wanted to scream. Who died and made you the moral police?
I shot Belle a glance. She sipped her chardonnay, studying me intently. My sister was surprisingly quiet. I half-expected her to blaze out the door straight to Cillian’s house and extract more info from him at knifepoint. But no. She was just taking it all in. Absorbing.
“Look.” I sighed. “Thanks for the offers, but I’m good. I’m marrying him because I want to. I know it’s sudden, but Kill and I have gotten close in the past few—”
“You better not finish this sentence,” Belle warned coldly, draining her glass of chardonnay. “You’re already breaking the pact. At least have the decency not to lie to us. You and Kill don’t know each other beyond you being his baby sister’s friend.”
“If Cillian asked you to marry him, it’s for all the wrong reasons.” Sailor’s voice softened as she tried to change tactics. “Did he tell you he doesn’t have any feelings? Like, at all? He takes pride in that.”
Slurping a noodle between my lips—my first bite this evening—I nodded.
“I know who Kill is. We’ve been running in the same circles for years now.”
“Kill doesn’t run anywhere.” Sailor laughed. “He swaggers with a cocky grin and fucks shit up. Just tell me what kind of money you need, and I’ll get you out of this. Forget about a loan. Don’t pay me back.”
She turned to the shoulder bag hanging over her seat, plucking out her checkbook and slapping it on the table. She clicked a pen and began writing me a check.
“For my part, I’ll ask Athair for a good divorce lawyer,” Aisling chimed in brightly. “This is totally fixable. It’s not too late to say no. We can make sure you’ll still get—”
“You want the truth?” I snarled, shooting up to my feet, shaking with anger. “Fine, here’s the truth—I’m not like you guys. Belle is a street-smart, man-eating lady boss who is out to conquer the world and build an empire. Aisling, you were born into royalty. You have more money than some countries, two brothers who would kill for you, and a promising career as a doctor. Sail, you already met your Prince Charming, and you have a father and brother who’d get you out of anything. Me…” I shook my head, laughing bitterly. “I’m different. I wanted to marry for love. And I did. Saying it didn’t work out would be the understatement of the century. Now it’s time to marry for comfort. It is not the noble or honorable thing to do. Trust me, I’m well aware of that. But it’s my choice. I choose security. I choose stability. I know he is not going to love me, but he will take care of me, and that’s something Paxton failed to do. If I can live with it, then so can you.”
A tense silence stretched between us. The only sound audible was Sailor’s hard swallow.
“I’m breaking the pact,” I whispered, the lie burning on my tongue. I was marrying for love. It just happened to be tragically unrequited. “And there’s nothing you can do about it.”