Claiming His Mountain Bride
The blast of freezing cold wind hit the car like a thunderclap, making me jump. The Land Rover jerked on the icy road, the steering wheel lurching in my white-knuckle grip as I eased on the gas and wrestled back control. I shivered despite the heat cranking inside the vehicle, my eyes narrowed as I tired to peer through the wall of white coming down in sheets across the small mountain road in front of me.
Shit, maybe this was a terrible idea.
But then, I hadn’t known what else to do except run. My gut instinct had been to flee to the only place I knew where I could just escape everything. Of course, I hadn’t exactly expected the snow storm of the century coming down like some sort of biblical plague.
My mind slid back to three hours before, back at the restaurant where Paul, my fiancé had decided to remind me exactly how much of a piece of shit I always knew he was.
“C’mon, Katrina, calm the fuck down. This doesn’t change anything.”
In a way, he’d been right.
I can’t say I was heartbroken having just been told by my fiancé that he was screwing another woman. Heartbroken would imply that I’d cared enough for Paul to well, be heartbroken. But I hadn’t, so it wasn’t broken. I was pissed the hell off though.
The truth is, I’d never wanted to marry Paul, but in the world I grew up in, things like that don’t matter. Paul and I marrying just “made sense,” as my father Milton put it. After all, the Bartholomew’s were a family just as connected, and stately, and rich, and well, obnoxious and pretentious as mine. Paul’s father was a VP at some huge financial institution, just like mine was. We’d gone to the same level of snooty, snobby private schools, had the same stern-faced, hugely expensive nannies growing up, and had gone to the same calibre of bought-and-paid for ivy league colleges. In the world I grew up in, Paul and I would get married, he’d become VP of some other bank or hedge fund, and I’d sit at home redecorating our mansion on the shore every two months and popping out three perfect little children.
And to some girls, that was the dream. To some people, that was a life worth living.
But to me?
…The thought made my skin crawl.
I hated the idea of being a stepford wife — of being this trophy sitting in some rich, smug asshole’s big pretentious house. And on top of that, I really didn’t like Paul, like, as a person. He was a prick, and rude, and the thought of being physical intimate with him made my stomach heave. But thankfully, it hadn’t come to that yet. See, if I was going to be forced into this bullshit, antiquated arranged marriage thing, well then, I’d do it antiquated all the way. They wanted to force me to marry some jerk like Paul as if we lived in Elizabethan England? Fine, then I‘d pretend I was a woman of the same time, and women of arranged marriages did not sleep with their betrothed until marriage.
Yeah, take that, assholes.
I can tell you, watching the smug look fall from Paul’s face when I told him point blank he wouldn’t be getting any was almost worth the lifetime I’d have to spend with him. But then, apparently, Paul had gone out and gotten a little side piece. And told me about it, in the middle of a three-star restaurant, two minutes before our parents walked in for a dinner where we’d be discussing wedding locations.
“You’re a real piece of work, Paul,” I’d spat out shaking my head and jerking my arm away from him.
“Listen ice-queen, you brought this on yourself. A man had needs, Katrina.”
Again, I wasn’t upset about Paul fucking some other girl — hell, she probably deserved a medal. I’d certainly never done anything with him, but a girl I’d gone to private school with apparently had, and through the rumor mill, I’d heard every gross detail about how small he was and how downright abusive in bed he’d been.
Yeah, no thanks.
So, whoever this side girl was, fuck it, she could have him. I didn’t have feelings for Paul, but I did have pride.
“Sit down,” he’d hissed. “Sit your tight ass down, shut the fuck up, and smile pretty, Katrina.”
My blood boiled.
“Look, our parents are here,” he’d hissed, nodding past me at the door to the restaurant. He’d put a big plastic smile on his face and waved.
“This marriage is happening. It makes sense for our families to be connected. We’ve got good genes, and our children—”
“Not fucking happening,” I’d spit out.
Paul had sneered.
“The wedding is next month, bitch. And after that, you’re going to damn well learn to spread those legs and let me get a piece of what's mine.”
Right then is when something in me snapped. Maybe it was the other girl. Maybe it was him talking to me like I was a piano he was buying for his house. Maybe it was the thought of having sex with him that made the bile rise in my throat.
Whatever it was, suddenly, it all clicked into place.
I didn’t want this life. I didn’t want Paul, I didn’t want that future, and I was not going to just sit there and let it happen.
Horrified gasps erupted around us as I’d hurled the wine from my untouched glass right into Paul’s face. He’d sworn fiercely, staggering to his feet and sputtering.
“You bitch! You fucking—”
“Go fuck yourself.”
And then I’d turned and walked away. I’d walked right out of the restaurant, ignoring Paul, and my father bellowing at me to get back there, and my mother echoing the same. I’d almost caught a cab, but instead, with a smug grin, I’d let the valet know that I’d be taking my fiancé’s car.
I’d driven the extravagant black and chrome Land Rover back to my apartment, snagging anything that could fit into a small pack and changing into the warmest cold-weather stuff I could find. I’d turned my phone off, jumped back into the SUV, headed out of the city, and driven the two hours straight here, to Blackthorn Mountain.
A blast of frozen winter wind slammed into the car again, making me gasp as the whole thing shuddered sideways on the road.
Yeah, maybe this had been a terrible idea…
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