Bride by MistakeBy: Nicole Helm
A Montana Born Brides Novella
“It looks beautiful, Kaitlin. You’ve outdone yourself.”
Kaitlin Shuller blinked back tears while forcing herself to smile. “Thank you,” she croaked. She had been managing not to cry in front of him for weeks now, why should the actual day be any different?
But he was in his suit, and she was in her dress.
The man she had loved since the third grade, standing in a tuxedo, surrounded by altar flowers she’d put together herself. Beautiful white hydrangeas, unfurling white lilies, the deep green of the filler twirled and pinned artfully—if she did say so herself. Subtle and rustic burlap accent to the giant urn.
It was country chic perfection, no floral detail left ignored. The church looked and smelled like a magazine spread and high-end greenhouse brought to life.
All for her sister’s wedding to Carter.
Kaitlin had been so certain she’d come to terms with this, but right here, right now, there were no terms. Only pain.
She’d built her life around him. Since she’d been ten, Carter Finley McArthur had been meant for her. She’d been sure of it. Planned everything in her life with the utmost confidence it would be suitable for a McArthur, suitable for the future doctor, suitable for all the good they would do. Together.
The stability and assurance of the McArthur name was supposed to be hers. Instead, Sierra was marrying him.
He pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket. “I came stocked,” he said with a charming smile. “I hear these things bring out tears in everyone, though I never thought you’d be the first victim.”
She stared at the square of cloth, only then realizing a tear had escaped. She never cried. Except at funerals and the occasional sad movie.
Kaitlin had never been known for being a sap. Driven. Determined. Organized. Charitable, when pushed, but never emotional. But she took the handkerchief because it was expected of her.
She had made a life out of discerning what people wanted from her and going after it wholeheartedly. She’d gone to school for accounting to suit her father, fell into floral design because it would please her mother. She’d done the flowers for Sierra and Carter’s wedding because it would make everyone she loved happy.
She grasped Carter’s handkerchief, emotions she’d been banking down for six months swirling around her.
It should be me.
All Sierra had done since the day she’d been old enough to walk was cause trouble and follow the beat of her own internal drum. Sierra never cared about grades. She’d skipped school, missed homework assignments, failed tests. Sierra had been caught with beer in the ninth grade. She’d smoked all manner of things, and Sierra had definitely had lots and lots of sex.
Kaitlin had touched none of those things, all so sure she’d be rewarded for it.
She was no longer anywhere near sure.
“You’ve been such a great friend to us,” Carter said with an affectionate pat of the shoulder. Bare because her sister had picked the bridesmaid dresses. Kaitlin would much prefer to be in a nun’s habit. Anything to keep his palm off her shoulder.
Skin to skin.
“I don’t know how you managed to pack it all in,” he went on and on. She had no idea what to say to make him go away, and even if she had figured out some combination of words, no doubt she would have only squeaked.
This was it. End of the road. No terrible hope that Carter saw the error of his ways without hurting Sierra too too much.
They were getting married. He was going to be her brother-in-law. The man that had been a part of every sexual fantasy she’d ever woven. The man she’d idiotically, steadfastly saved herself for.
She caught a flash of a dark head at the back of the church, and when she recognized the face she couldn’t stop a grimace.
Okay, there was one other man who had starred in her sexual fantasies, but only her subconscious ones. Where she had no control. While real-life Kaitlin wanted the sturdy, charitable, Doctor Without Borders, her subconscious had a thing for ugh.
Regardless of her feelings for Beckett Larson, conscious or subconscious, he was her one and only escape. So, she’d take it.
Both men in the room startled, but she would not undo the action no matter how much she disliked Beckett. No matter how much the task of having a conversation with him made her want to burn her skin off.