Home > A Beautiful Wedding (Beautiful #2.5)

A Beautiful Wedding (Beautiful #2.5)
Author: Jamie McGuire

CHAPTER ONE

Alibi

Abby

I could feel it coming: a growing, persistent unease that crept just beneath my skin. The more I tried to ignore it, the more unbearable it became: an itch that needed to be scratched, a scream bubbling to the surface. My father said that the urgent need to run when things were about to go wrong was a like a tic, a defense mechanism inherent in the Abernathys. I’d felt it moments before the fire, and I was feeling it now.

Sitting in Travis’s bedroom, just hours after the fire, my heart raced and my muscles twitched. My gut pulled me toward the door. Told me to leave; to get away, anywhere but here. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to go alone. I could barely focus on that voice I loved so much describing how afraid he was of losing me, and how he was close to escaping when he ran in the opposite direction, toward me. So many people died, some of them strangers from State but some were people I’d seen in the cafeteria, in class, at other fights.

We somehow survived and were sitting alone in his apartment, trying to process it all. Feeling afraid, feeling guilty . . . about those who died, and that we had lived. My lungs felt like they were full of cobwebs and flames, and I couldn’t get the rancid smell of charred skin out of my nose. It was overpowering, and even though I’d taken a shower, it was still there, mixed in with the mint and lavender scent of the soap I used to scrub it away. Equally unforgettable were the sounds. The sirens, the wailing, the worried and panicked chatter, and the screams of people arriving on the scene to discover that a friend was still inside. Everyone looked the same, covered in soot, with identical expressions of bewilderment and despair. It was a nightmare.

Despite my struggle to focus, I did hear him say this: “The only thing I’m afraid of is a life without you, Pigeon.”

We had been too lucky. Even in a dark corner of Vegas, being attacked by Benny’s goons, we somehow still had the advantage. Travis was invincible. But being a part of the Circle, and helping to organize a fight in unsafe conditions that resulted in the deaths of countless college kids . . . that was a fight not even Travis Maddox could win. Our relationship had withstood so many things, but Travis was in real danger of going to prison. Even if he didn’t know it yet, it was the one obstacle that could keep us apart. The one obstacle that we had no control over.

“Then you have nothing to be afraid of,” I said. “We’re forever.”

He sighed, and then pressed his lips against my hair. I didn’t think it was possible to feel so much for one person. He had protected me. It was my turn to protect him.

“This is it,” he said.

“What?”

“I knew the second I met you that there was something about you I needed. Turns out it wasn’t something about you at all. It was just you.”

My insides melted. I loved him. I loved him, and I had to do whatever I could to keep him safe. Whatever it took—no matter how crazy. All I had to do was talk him into it.

I leaned against him, pressing my cheek against his chest. “It’s us, Trav. Nothing makes sense unless we’re together. Have you noticed that?”

“Noticed? I’ve been telling you that all year! It’s official. Bimbos, fights, leaving, Parker, Vegas . . . even fires. Our relationship can withstand anything.”

“Vegas?” I asked.

In that moment, the most insane plan formed in my mind, but the idea made sense as I stared into his warm, brown eyes. Those eyes made everything make sense. His face and neck were still covered in soot mixed with sweat, a reminder of how close we had come to losing everything.

My mind was racing. We would only need necessities and we could be out the door in five minutes. We could buy clothes there. The sooner we left the better. No one would believe two people would get on a plane right after such an enormous tragedy. It didn’t make sense, which was exactly why we had to do it.

I had to take Travis far enough away, for a specific reason. Something believable, even if it was crazy. Luckily, crazy wasn’t that far a leap for Travis and me, and it was possible the investigators would second-guess the dozens of witnesses who saw Travis fighting in the basement of Keaton Hall that night—if they had proof that we were in Vegas hours later getting married. It was absolutely insane, but I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have time to come up with a better plan. We should already be gone.

Travis was staring back at me expectantly, waiting to unconditionally accept whatever came out of my crazy mouth. Goddammit, I couldn’t lose him now, not after everything we’d fought through to get to this moment. By anyone’s standards, we were too young to get married, too unpredictable. How many times had we hurt one another along the way, screamed at each other one minute and fallen into bed together the next? But we’d just seen how fragile life was. Who knew when the end would come along and sweep one of us away? I looked at him, resolute. He was mine, and I was his. If I knew anything at all, it was that only those two things mattered.

He furrowed his brow. “Yeah?”

“Have you thought about going back?”

His eyebrows shot up. “I don’t think that’s a good idea for me.”

Weeks ago, I’d broken his heart. Travis chasing America’s car when he realized it was over was still fresh in my mind. He was going to fight for Benny in Vegas, and I wouldn’t go back there. Not even for him. He had gone through hell while we were apart. He’d begged me back on his knees, and I was so set on never returning to my life in Nevada, I’d walked away. I’d be a complete ass**le if I asked him to go back. I half expected him to tell me to get the hell out for even mentioning it, but this was the only plan I had, and I was desperate.

“What if we just went for a night?” A night was all I needed. We just needed to be somewhere else.

He looked around his bedroom, searching the darkness for what he thought I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to be that girl, the one who wasn’t forthcoming and caused a huge, stupid misunderstanding. But I couldn’t tell Travis the truth about what I’d just proposed to him. He would never agree to go.

“A night?” He clearly had no clue how to respond. He probably thought it was a test, but the only thing I wanted was for him to say yes.

“Marry me,” I blurted out.

His mouth parted, forming a silent gasp. I waited lifetimes until his lips curved upward, and he sealed his mouth on mine. His kiss screamed a thousand different emotions. My brain felt swollen with warring thoughts of relief and panic. This was going to work. We would get married, Travis would have an alibi, and everything would be okay.

Oh, hell.

Damn. Shit. Fuck.

I was getting married.

Travis

Abby Abernathy was famous for one thing: having no Tell. She could commit a crime and smile like it was any other day, lie without a twitch in her eye. Only one person in the world had any chance of learning her Tell, and that one person had to figure it out if he wanted to have any chance with her.

Me.

Abby had lost her childhood, and I’d lost my mom, so for two people who struggled to get on the same page, we were the same story. That gave me an edge, and after making this my goal over the past months, I’d arrived at an answer:

Abby’s Tell was not having one. It might not make sense to most people, but it made perfect sense to me. It was the absence of that Tell that gave her away. The peace in her eyes, the softness in her smile, the relaxation of her shoulders alerted me that something was wrong.

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