By: Kristina Weaver

Chapter One


My nerves are strung so tight I feel every movement of my body, every heated breeze that wafts over my skin where I stand in the corner of the massive ballroom, hoping and praying to just blend into the wall and not stand out at all.

I’m sweating, too, since instead of “popping in” for an hour and showing our faces like Mom promised, we’ve been here for almost four hours now and the hosts haven’t even given a toast.

This house belongs to the Rileys, a very prominent Southern family that is not only richer than gold, but also happen to be the it people around these parts. These parts being Blue Lake, Kentucky, the growing town I’ve lived in my whole life.

Some say the Rileys are an old oil family. Some say they struck it rich mining in Alaska. Others…well, the stories get wilder the longer you listen, but I know the real truth.

I’ve been learning about this family for years, ever since I was told on my thirteenth birthday that I was betrothed to Cole Riley, the heir apparent to the Riley fortune and who a lot of people seem to think is God’s gift to all women.

I’ll admit that I practically drowned in my own drool every time I laid eyes on the guy, and who the hell can blame me? He's six-five, with hair as black as sin and eyes the color of diamond chips.

Yeah, he’s hot—hotter than a Kentucky barbecue on the Fourth of July. And if I’d been just a little more intelligent, I would have realized that no guy that fine would ever look at lil ole me and think must have.

But that’s how it is when you’re young. I saw. I drooled. I lost every brain cell in my seventeen-year-old head.

I fell hard and made a complete tit of myself when I tried to talk to my fiancé.

Turns out that no twenty-two-year-old male who has a veritable bevy of fangirls is even slightly interested in a short, mousy girl who still carries a little baby fat from adolescence.

At least that’s what I learned in the ensuing months. Now don’t misunderstand, Cole isn’t mean, not in the least. He's spent a lot of time with me, getting to know me and just generally being nice even when his friends decided that I was the local punching bag and open to all insults.

Like I was selling tickets or something.

But…he’s never been very attentive besides the time he had to spend with me to seal the deal between our families. See, the Rileys are into real estate, and so are we—my family, the Chesterfields.

Makes sense that two of Blue Lake’s leading families would merge their assets, so to speak. I am asset number one, the princess of it all, the female heir to my daddy’s throne.

And as that little princess, it is up to me to keep the family name clean and follow orders. I gotta marry Cole Riley.

That wouldn’t be a hardship except for the fact that our parents have been forcing us together for four years now in preparation for our nuptials just after my twenty-first birthday—one month from now.

And then I overheard my dear old fiancé tell his parents that he didn’t want me, saying it so loud that the entire party of twenty and the birds chirping in the trees heard it, too.

It is the reason I have spent the last year in therapy trying to work up the courage to disobey my parents’ orders and cancel the wedding.

Now, here I am. Not only have I been publically humiliated, but I’m still being forced to see the guy even after I told my parents the whole sordid story.

This place is packed to the rafters tonight with all of his friends and some of mine, too. Oh, and his current girlfriend of the month.

I’m on show and being forced to smile while the guy everyone knows I have to marry stands across the room with his hoochie on his arm.

“Liberty Chesterfield, what in heaven’s name are you doing hiding out over here?”

I close my eyes in defeat and turn to my best friend, Maisy, feeling my cheeks get so hot that I swear I could audition for the circus. Maisy, the only reason I’m still halfway sane, is one of those women who think that spitting in their eyes is way better than avoiding confrontation.

I appreciate her sentiments, and part of me even agrees that holding my head high is the way to go. I just don’t feel it right now—not when I happen to glance over and see Cole looking my way, a dark frown on his face.

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