The Billionaire's Temporary Bride

By: Avery James

"Former job, remember?" Charlotte said.

"Exactly. More money than you'd make in a hundred years at your current, nonexistent job. All the more reason to go through with it. Plus, he lives in the same neighborhood as Logan and me. We could have dinner parties. You could crash at our place whenever you wanted."

"I don't know," Charlotte said. She knew Callie would take her indecision as a yes.

Callie grinned. "See, you're coming around, but don't take too long to decide. We need an answer before Logan and I leave for our honeymoon. Otherwise, we'll have to find someone else. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to turn my attention to my own wedding for a little bit."

"I'll think about it," Charlotte said.

"I'll take that for now," Callie said.

After another two hours of posing for photos at every stage of the preparation process, everyone was finally ready for the ceremony to begin. Charlotte followed Amy and Vi down to the mansion's library, where they would start their walk to the back lawn. Jack and the other groomsmen were already waiting.

"How's the bride?" Jack asked.

"Relentless," Charlotte said.

Jack laughed. "Sounds about right. Logan's pacing around in his room. I've never seen him this nervous. It's adorable. I wish I had a camera to commemorate the moment. This is why I love weddings."

"I thought you said you weren't a wedding fan," Charlotte said. Over Jack's shoulder, Amy Haven sat nearby, pretending she wasn't listening. Next to her, Amy and Callie's aunt Vi wasn't bothering with the pretense. She leaned forward, cupping her ear with her hand to eavesdrop better.

"Weddings are great. They're always the best parties. Marriages on the other hand," Jack said as he shook his head, "are more trouble than they're worth."

"And this is supposed to sway me?" Charlotte asked.

"Something like that. By the way, I've arranged for you to say a few words during the ceremony."

Charlotte's heart almost stopped. "You're kidding, right?"

There was that smile again, only Charlotte didn't know if it was because he was kidding or because he was serious.

"Yes, that was just a joke," Jack said, "but you should see the look on your face right now. Just know that I'm asking for your help—" Before Jack could say another word, Logan entered the library and knocked on the side of a bookcase.

"We're ready," he said. "Come on guys. Let's go."

Even though she had spent all morning with Callie, Charlotte choked up as soon as she saw her friend walking down the aisle. The late afternoon sun glinted off the bay and cast Callie in a golden light so warm that she seemed to shimmer in its glow. She looked more beautiful than Charlotte had thought possible. And, even though Callie and Logan were surrounded by family and friends, it was like they were alone in their own private world. They locked eyes on each other as Callie approached, and they didn't look away for even a second once the ceremony began.

The whole ceremony was a sun-drenched dream. Callie was radiant. She was the epitome of what a bride should be. The sunlight played off her hair and her dress, catching the details in a way that seemed to shimmer around her in a halo.

Logan was grinning from ear to ear as he looked at his soon-to-be wife. Charlotte could see the tears welling up in the corners of his eyes as he tried to stay composed. His voiced cracked during his vows, and Callie reached across to take his hand. Once or twice Charlotte made eye contact with Jack as if to say, Look how in love they are. Tell me you don't want that.

The ceremony probably only lasted for fifteen minutes, but Charlotte felt like she could stay inside that moment forever, witnessing uncompromised and unwavering love. By the time Callie had finished her vows to Logan, everyone was in tears, and Charlotte was trying in vain to keep from crying too. This is what marriage should be, she thought. It should be a celebration of simple, unending love.

Before Charlotte knew what was happening, she and Jack were walking side by side down the aisle, following Callie and Logan back up to the house.

After several more rounds of photos inside, as night began to fall over the water, Charlotte found herself at the head table of the reception back down in the tent, sitting next to Jack in his navy blue suit, watching Callie and Logan feed each other. She knew that soon enough, she'd have to give her speech, but somehow she wasn't nervous. She grabbed the microphone and got ready to speak.

Charlotte looked out over the sea of faces. Some of them were familiar, but most of the crowd was made up of Logan's friends and Callie's work acquaintances. Charlotte turned to Callie and Logan and recalled what Jack had told her. Just remember who matters.

"I don't know how many of you heard me give part of this speech last night, but I can assure you this time will be better," Charlotte started. She looked at Jack for a moment, unsure of whether she should be mad at him for making her speak or grateful that he had helped her get over her fear. "Two weeks ago, when we were leaving for Callie's bachelorette party, we could barely rip her away from her love for even a night. So instead, we brought them together. It was supposed to be one last hurrah before the ball and chain, but it was the opposite. It was another affirmation of their love for each other, and I think all of us were as lucky then as we are now to witness it.

"I don't know how many of you know the full story of how Logan and Callie met, but I like to think that I played a pivotal role in getting her to take a chance on him. Callie called me, freaking out that she might be falling for him, and I might have egged her on just to find out what would happen next."

Charlotte smiled as the crowd laughed.

"Seriously, look at them! They're perfect for each other. They're both so beautiful, that it almost hurts to look at them. And they look even more beautiful when they're together. It might sound dumb, but I think you can see true love. I don't just mean in the way they look at each other or the way they fit in each other's arms. I mean that the entire room seems brighter when they're together."

Jack looked up at her and gave her a thumbs up.

"That's how I feel tonight. Callie, Logan, you two were meant to be together, and every last person in this room can see how much you love each other." Charlotte cleared her throat and looked down at the floor. "There's one more thing," she said. She looked back up at her friend. "Callie, remember all those romances I used to read? The ones you teased me about? Well, in the good ones, love overcomes all obstacles, big and small. It burns brighter than the sun, and it endures." It also comes from unlikely beginnings, she thought. She looked back over to Jack, who was hanging on her every word.

"Callie, you and Logan might have a storybook romance, but it is real, and we are all here tonight to bear witness to your love. I hope that everyone here understands what a rare and wonderful thing the two of you have. And, like me, I hope they're grateful to have played some small role in your story together. I know you two will live happily ever after, and I'm thrilled to celebrate the start of your new life together. Ladies and gentlemen, if you can all raise your glasses, here's to Callie and Logan. The wedding guests let out a cheer as they clinked their glasses together."

Charlotte walked over to Jack. Before he could say a word, she leaned in and whispered in his ear over the sound of applause. "I'll do it."

"You'll what?" he asked.

"I'll marry you. It has to be on my terms, but I'll marry you."

"Are you serious?" Jack's eyes went wide.

"Yeah, now go give your speech." She handed him the microphone.

Jack stood up slowly with the whole crowd settling down and watching him expectantly. The room grew silent except for the low buzz of the speakers, picking up dead air. For the first time in his life as a public speaker, Jack Coburn was speechless.

Chapter 5


The word broke through Charlotte's reverie like a rock through a plate glass window. She stared across the wide wood conference table at Amy Haven in disbelief. Jack, wearing another dark blue suit, turned beside Charlotte to look at her. Even under the low hum of the office's fluorescent lights, the suit accentuated his blue eyes and broad shoulders. The conference room of Haven Communications wasn't exactly the place Charlotte would have chosen for her first kiss with Jack Coburn.

Thinking of the trick Jack had taught her, Charlotte grabbed the pitcher of water from the center of the table and poured herself a glass, gulping down a long, cold sip while she tried to think of a diplomatic way to run out of the building. She couldn't believe that Amy had just commanded her to kiss Jack. Charlotte turned toward him and shrugged her shoulders as if to ask what he thought, but she was so jittery that she couldn't be sure her shoulders had moved at all.

She hadn't seen Jack since the night of the wedding, and she had spent the past two and a half weeks housesitting for Callie and Logan while they toured the Mediterranean on Logan's yacht. Charlotte had spent that time obsessing over whether she could back out of the marriage of convenience deal with Jack. Every time she tried to push the idea of marriage out of her head for a while, another wedding gift arrived on Callie's doorstep. A week in, one arrived from Jack, and Charlotte spent half the morning wondering if he was intentionally taunting her.

Now, he was watching her as expectantly as Amy and Callie to see if she would kiss him on command. "Now?" Charlotte asked.

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