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That Thing Between Eli and Gwen

By:J. J. McAvoy

Chapter One

Telltale Signs





Guinevere


I should have seen the signs that morning. They weren’t massive, but they were there. I had almost slipped and killed myself coming out of the shower—okay, that one was a big, giant sign, but the others were pretty small. I couldn’t find the left shoe to my favorite pair of red heels. The pearls he had given me slipped off my neck and scattered all across the bedroom floor. And when he did show up, twenty minutes late, Taigi would not stop barking at him…like my dog knew March 1st would be a day that would live in infamy for me.

Taking a seat in his brand new midnight blue Mercedes, he didn’t say anything as we pulled out of the Hampton beach house. His knuckles were almost white as he gripped the steering wheel. The back of his hand rested just under his lips, something he had done hundreds of times in our three years together, but only when he was either really worried or upset.

“Bash?” I touched his leg and he jumped as if he had forgotten I was sitting next to him.

Turning to me, his light brown eyes met mine. “Yeah?”

“Are you okay? You look like we're going to a funeral, not a wedding,” I joked, smiling. He shook his head and took hold of my hand.

“I’m fine.” He kissed the back of my hand. “Just work stuff. I’m hoping we can do our rounds and get out of there before it gets too late.”

Nodding, I looked back out at the beach as we drove. Sebastian—or Bash as I called him—was the owner and founder of both Class and Rebel magazines. It was the reason we had met, actually. He had attended one of my gallery openings and loved my photography. I had told myself I would never contract myself with any corporation or brand; I liked being a freelancer. I painted and shot what I wanted, what mattered to me. Yet there was just something about Sebastian Evans. No matter how many times I bluntly denied his request or ignored his emails, he never gave up. After all, no matter what Sebastian Evans wanted, he worked until it was his. Eventually, I agreed to shoot their spring cover. It was only supposed to be that one cover, but three years later I was a contracted photographer and his fiancée.

“Welcome to The Chateau Rouge,” the valet said when we pulled up to a gated mansion. As Bash spoke to him, I found myself staring at the decorated landscape; everything was in beautiful greens and blues. Projected on the pure green grass were the initials E & H, and around them was a small orchestra, just for the arriving guests.

Only when I stepped out of the car was I able to see what had to be the icing on the cake: as if these people needed to prove they had money, there were even peacocks walking around.

I looked to Bash.

“What?” He looked at me, confused.

I pointed at everything. “Really?” was all I managed to say.

“You make it seem like you’ve never seen rich people before. You should have worn the red dress I picked out for you.” He frowned and took my hand as we walked toward the seats for guests.

This was another point at which I should have seen the signs, but again, I was blind to it. I can still remember how cold his hand was as I held it. As we mingled with the rest of New York’s elite during cocktail hour, I felt as if I were standing in the middle of the Arctic Circle in a bikini.

“Wow, she’s beautiful,” I whispered as the bride walked up the aisle, her makeup flawless to the point that her skin glowed. Her soft, honey-gold hair shined and her strapless heart-shaped dress clung to her every curve. Her blue eyes filled with unshed tears as she held her roses tightly, walking slow and steady. For a quick second I thought I saw her glance over to us.

I hope I look half as good as her on my wedding day, I thought, my eyes never off her as she made her way to the front.

It passed in a blur. One moment the pastor was saying something, and the next, Bash was no longer holding my hand.

“Hannah,” he called out, moving to the center of the aisle.

She looked toward him, looked to her groom, and then back at Bash.

My Bash. What…

“Don’t, Hannah.”

What…is…this...?

“Hannah,” Bash called to her.

Stop! My mind screamed.

But, to my horror, she let go of her groom’s hands and ran toward Bash.

I couldn’t breathe. I was up, knocking over my chair. “BASH!” I yelled.

But they were already running…hand in hand.

By this point, every other guest was up. Those around me moved away, allowing everyone to see the girl who’d just gotten dumped. I knew the only person who had it worse than me was the man up front. For the first time since I’d gotten there, I truly looked at him: tall, ivory skin, short dark hair, piercing green eyes watching his bride run from him. He stood there so still, so shocked, I almost forgot my own pain.

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