blah, blah, blah. I personally think he just wanted to torture me because it’s been hell.”

I couldn’t stop staring at the flowing, silky whiteness in front of me. I remembered sitting on our couch in the loft while I healed, thumbing through magazines with Lillian and pausing on a picture, unable to turn the page. It was just days after I was discharged from the hospital, the day Claire left to eliminate all the humans that threatened us. A dress identical to the one I showed a partisan interest in almost two years earlier dangled from a hanger just feet from me.

“Beth?” I said, still staring at the dress.


“You’re going to have to take it down a few notches. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.”

Beth’s head bobbed quickly, and then she took a seat in the corner. After a deep breath, she began again, “It’s beautiful.”

I almost asked Beth if she knew why Lillian didn’t keep the dress at her house, but it was a foolish question. Beth was safe. No one would blow up her apartment, or bust through her windows in the middle of the night — and it would give Jared an extra ally in vying for a wedding date.

“He’s brilliant,” I said, in awe.



Beth gripped her knees and bit her lip, struggling with every passing second. “Are you still overwhelmed?”

“I’m feeling better.”

She leaned forward in her seat, quickly losing the fight to remain composed. “I brought two bags overflowing with makeup, hairspray and curling irons. I think I have every size known to man. I can make big barrel curls, or little spiral curls. If you don’t want curls I brought a flat iron….”



“You take a Valium. I’ll take a shower…wait. Is it ridiculous that I don’t know what time my wedding starts?”

“One o’clock. We have plenty of time.”

I nodded, grabbing my robe and a towel. I couldn’t imagine how difficult the wait must have been for her. It was endearing and disturbing at the same time.

Under the warm stream of the casita’s humble shower, it wasn’t difficult to let go of any anxiety. Birds sang to each other from the branches of the palm trees, and the sounds of the ocean gave away its close proximity. Feeling stressed in paradise was wonderfully impossible.

“Did you want an up-do? I brought bobby pins just in case!” Beth called.

“Not listening!” I said, massaging shampoo into my hair. I wondered if she was curious about Jared’s fading bruises, or if she’d even noticed. Surely Chad would. If they spent the morning together, eventually he would see them. Jared would explain them away, but if Beth asked me about them and I told a different story, it would complicate things. It was easy to convince her that I needed a bodyguard — she’d witnessed my run-in with Mr. Dawson, after all. Unless it was due to training, Jared’s bruises were a telltale sign that I had been in danger. Two years of experience told me that Beth was too preoccupied with wedding details, so I put that worry to the back of the line.

Thinking of Jared’s bruises made the rest of his face form in my mind, and suddenly I couldn’t get out of the shower fast enough. It made me feel anxious to wait so long before I was allowed to see him again.

I rushed into the casita in my towel, my hair dripping wet, and slipped on the sleeves of my robe.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just going for a walk,” I said, slipping on a pair of sandals.

“Oh, no, you’re not. We have a day’s worth of primping to do in just a few hours! Get your backside in this chair, young lady!” Beth said.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I said, waving her away. I swung open the door of the casita to find Bex standing in my way.

“Morning,” he smiled. “Going somewhere?”

“Just for a walk,” I shrugged.

“Don’t you have some girly things to do? You’re getting married in a few hours.”

I frowned. “Are you here to keep me captive?”

Bex mirrored my expression. “No, Paranoid Schizo. Your guardian-slash-almost husband is across the island, and you and your unborn baby are two of Hell’s Most Wanted. I’m here to keep you safe. If you wanna leave, leave. I have to walk with you, though.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling silly. “Okay, then. I want to leave.”

Beth grabbed my wrist, a hair dryer in her other hand. “I jumped on a plane at a moment’s notice. I rode a boat across an unknown body of water — in the pouring rain. There is mud caked under my newly painted to nails, and I’m pretty sure a bird crapped in my hair on the walk here. I’ve endured all this to come here and help you get ready for a wedding that I’ve kept a secret for two years. You can give me a few hours!”

“Okay! You’re right, I’m sorry,” I said. I followed Beth back into the casita, sitting in the chair she’d placed in front of a makeshift salon counter.

“Whoa,” Bex said, sitting on the bed. “Girls are crazy.”

The counter was covered in wires that led to various hot irons, makeup, brushes, curlers, combs and hair products. The black wires were hooked into an orange extension cord that led outside to the solar-powered generator Jared had rigged outside. The mess of wires were an eyesore, but at least we had power without the annoying drone of a gas-powered generator. Beth brought several lamps to make up for the limited natural light filtering through the windows, and a manicure and pedicure kit. A large camera also sat among the clutter, beside two packages of fresh memory cards for her camera.

“Thank you, Beth,” I said. The planning alone had to have been time-consuming.

“That’s what best friends do.”

After hours of combing, scrubbing, powdering and polishing, I was finally ready to slip on my wedding dress.

“I’ll step outside,” Bex said. “I need some fresh air, anyway.”

“Good idea,” I smiled. “No telling what that much hairspray will do to a young man’s lungs.”

Beth waited for Bex to leave, and then sighed. “We have to wait to put on your dress,” she said, fidgeting.

“You’re joking,” I said. I took a step toward my dress, but Beth ran around me, holding her arms up and out, shielding the dress from my hands.

“I’m not! I’m not joking. We’re waiting.”

I frowned. “You’re losing it, Beth,” I said, sitting in the chair in a huff.

“You look beautiful,” she smiled.

“I’m used to being in the dark for the most part, but on my wedding day, I would like to be in the know.”

“I understand,” Beth said, thick with regret. “It’s just that….”

A small knock at the door immediately changed Beth’s demeanor. “Coming!” she said, relieved.

Cynthia stood in the doorway. As usual, her face was devoid of emotion. “Well?” she called behind her. “Put my things in the adjacent building. Thank you.” Her tone was opposite her words — also her usual.

“Mother,” I said, surprised.

She wore a champagne-colored sheath dress. Even after marching through a tropical rain shower and the mud in six-inch heels, her dress and matching shoes were immaculate. Her hair was pulled back into its usual tight French bun, making her eyes even more severe when she pulled of her sunglasses and huffed.

“I apologize for my lateness, Nina dear. I had several functions to reschedule, since my presence was demanded at such late notice.”

“Sorry,” Beth and I said at the same time.

“Well,” she sighed. “You are my only daughter. We do what we must.” I smiled, and Cynthia took the few

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