Planning on Prince Charming(10)

By: Lizzie Shane


“Thank you,” she murmured softly.

He opened the door, checking the hall one last time. Finding it empty, he urged her through the doorway. “Good night, Sidney.”

*

“Are you ready to meet Mister Perfect?”

Sidney forced a smile, hoping it looked even remotely genuine as the segment producer chirped excitedly about fate and romance and that all-important first impression with the man she would spend the rest of her life with.

All she could think—over and over—was I kissed Josh Pendleton. But she had to keep her eyes on the prize. She couldn’t let last night’s stupidity destroy her dream. Parvati would be thrilled that she’d laid one on the hottest host on TV, but that was as far as it could go.

Sidney had spent all morning mentally preparing herself for her fairy tale romance, psyching herself up for love with the help of the show’s producers and therapists… but Marrying Mister Perfect didn’t feel like a fairy tale.

It just felt staged.

She tried to stay positive, but it was hard to find anything romantic about waiting for hours in uncomfortable heels as Mister Perfect slowly made his way through the various set-ups around the mansion, meeting the Suitorettes one by one. There was no sense of destiny approaching. Just looming boredom.

And the sense that she was being indoctrinated into a cult.

If she hadn’t already been determined to find love, the enthusiastic—and constant—reminders by various producers to lead with her heart open and embrace the journey to love and consider the possibility that she was about to meet her husband would have brainwashed her into doing just that.

No wonder the Suitorettes were usually chugging cocktails on night one. If the regular first date jitters weren’t bad enough, they had to deal with the competition aspect as well as the constant pressure to feel insta-love from the producers. It was enough to drive anyone to drink.

But Sidney clung to her soda water, no matter how many times a production assistant offered to fetch her a glass of champagne. She was determined to be sober when she first appeared on prime time.

Though even without the help of alcohol, she might throw up on his shoes. The waiting was not doing good things for her stomach. Of course that might have been the aftereffects of the putrid scotch as well.

The producers would probably love it if she tossed her cookies. She’d be in every highlight reel for the entire freaking season.

“Just a few more minutes,” the segment producer who had been assigned to babysit her enthused. “One more girl to go and then it’s your turn.”

Sidney shifted her bouquet to one hand, adjusting the veil that was perched precariously atop her updo. Each of the Suitorettes had been assigned a different setting, supposedly designed to show off her unique talents—musicians played music, chefs cooked, athletes demonstrated their prowess and models displayed their shapely selves. It was a time-honored gimmick-fest, and Sidney, as wedding planner, was, of course, this year’s bride.

The dress Victoria and Parvati had helped her pick out was cocktail length and ice blue, but the lace overlay gave it enough of a bridal feel that the producers were in raptures. They’d even set up a sort of altar in the gazebo where she was waiting.

Unfortunately, the strange autumn heat wave had yet to let up and Sidney had resorted to fanning herself with her bouquet in an effort to keep from being the Sweaty Suitorette when Mister Perfect finally made an appearance. It was downright sweltering out here.

She tried not to think about the camera lens only a few feet away—and the ten pounds it would add.

Not exactly how she’d envisioned meeting the man of her dreams when she’d agreed to come on the show.

“All set?”

Sidney whirled toward the familiar voice, her heart pounding triple time as Josh stepped out of the shadows and into the professionally lit gazebo. Her hands clenched hard around the stems of the bouquet. She’d already known he looked amazing in a suit, with every hair styled into place, but somehow he was even more heart-stopping now that she knew what he looked like when he was a little rumpled.

“Hi.” God, why did she sound so breathless?

She hadn’t seen him since he’d thrown her out of his room the night before. She’d made it back to her own room undetected and so far no one had even hinted that they knew she’d snuck out.