Standing alone at the end of the aisle, Ellie's body trembled. Her wedding bouquet shook in her hands as if an earthquake moved beneath her feet.
“Walk,” her grandmother whispered with a smile, taking her arm.
Feeling numb, Ellie walked forward with Lilibeth at her side.
This felt so wrong. But how could she trust her own feelings? Her instincts had only steered her wrong. She'd fallen in love with the worst possible man in New York. Surely, she was marrying the right man now?
And she'd already treated Timothy so badly. She couldn't humiliate him further by running out of the church… Could she?
Flowers and candles were everywhere. She could feel the sharp eyes of the society matrons on her, hear the whispers of people she'd known since childhood. Old Mrs. Abernathy, who'd told her she'd never amount to anything. Candy Gleeson, the former cheerleader, who'd mocked her shabby clothes in high school and called her Stork because she'd had such a thin, ungainly body. They all now watched with envy, believing the fairy tale.
When she reached the end of the aisle, Lilibeth handed Ellie into Timothy's keeping. He held her hand tightly, looking down at her face with a strange, almost demented look in his pale blue eyes.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”
Compared to the broil of emotions inside her, the ceremony was so civilized. So hollow. The minister's beautiful words had nothing to do with how she felt inside.
She—Timothy's wife? To love him? Share his bed? Raise his children?
It had to be. Anything was better than to love someone only to be brutally rejected by them again and again. That must be how Timothy had felt, loving her for so long.
She would learn to enjoy his tepid kisses somehow. She would earn his forgiveness for her mistake, even if it took a lifetime. She would.
But when she closed her eyes, the memory of her night with Diogo still overwhelmed her. The way he'd ruthlessly spread her virgin lips with his own. He'd taken her innocence carelessly, like a conqueror. All the tenderness of her first kiss, the sweetness she'd timidly dreamed of sharing with a man she could love, Diogo had scornfully swept away, leaving in its place something hot and dark that burned her through, melting her to ash.
She desperately pushed the thought away. Struggling to calm the pounding of her heart, Ellie clenched her hands tighter around the green stems of her bridal bouquet. Pink and white petals fluttered slowly to the flagstones.
“Do you, Timothy Alistair Wright, take Ellie Jensen to be your lawfully wedded wife…”
Even in the midst of her wedding, she couldn't stop thinking about Diogo!
The bastard. The lying bastard.
“…for as long as you both shall live?”
Timothy looked at her. Bright light from the soaring church windows shimmered off his wire-rimmed glasses, illuminating his pale, thin face. “I do.”
The minister turned to her. “And do you, Eleanor Ann Jensen, take Timothy Wright—”
The church doors opened, banging against the walls.
At the harsh sound of the voice, the crowd gasped. Ellie whirled around.
He was dressed as she'd left him in New York, in a crisply cut gray suit and blue tie that elegantly clung to his hard-muscled body. But he no longer looked anything like a civilized man of business. His footsteps echoed against the worn gray stones as he stared at her with a ruthless, demanding intensity.
“How dare you come here, Serrador?” Timothy's voice hit a high note, and he furiously cleared his throat. “You have no right—”