Worth Any Cost

Page 36

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There were six couples in all-correction, five couples and me and my phantom date who was cruel enough to update me every so often via text message about his progress on the wedding quest. He was probably snickering each time he hit send, goddamn it.
If he wasn't so sick, Adam Drake's ass would be Alderaan and I'd be the Death Star. He'd be feeling a great disturbance in the Force, all right…
Nevertheless, dinner was pleasant. The house, of course, was gorgeous, with a complete glass-encased dining room displaying an impressive view. I made small talk, and people asked about wedding plans and made the usual jokes about "entering into holy matrimony." And I pretended to be amused, laughing my fake laugh.
After dinner, however, shit got real. The men all sat at the table talking business and current events while the wives moved to the couch to sip coffee and gossip. Oh, the willpower I had to summon to keep from rolling my eyes at how little things had changed since the days of Downton Abbey.
All the men needed were their cigars and smoking jackets to complete the image. Ladies, have we not come further in the past century? We'd gained the right to vote, to own land, and have our own bank accounts. Yet here we were, separating by gender and talking shop.
"Mia, you are looking wonderful. You've got that pre-wedding, blushing-bride thing going on with your skin." Sonya, our hostess, smiled as she raised her coffee cup-with more Baileys than coffee in it-to her lips.
I raised a self-conscious hand to my warm cheek. "Oh, thank you."
"Maybe it's her joy over not having to go to school anymore," Susanna, the neighbor who lived in the house to our right, added cheerfully.
I frowned at her. Not go to school? What on earth was she talking about? My obvious confusion brought her up short, and she did an almost comical double take.
"Aren't you quitting medical school? I'm sorry. I assumed you wouldn't need attend to anymore."
Wouldn't need to? What the hell? Why would she assume that? Was I only attending school and dedicating all that time, energy, and brainpower to pass the time until I snagged a wealthy husband? Perhaps her whole "career plan" was designed around catching a rich man. But mine wasn't.
Adam would be my ideal mate if he only had twenty dollars in his bank account. I was certain of it.
When I replied, it was through lightly clenched teeth. "I've got almost a year and a half down…no reason to quit now."
Her smile stilled in her flawless face, her skin glowing bronze from a fake tan. "But it's not only the four years of schooling, though. After all the school, there's an internship and residency. And beyond that, a fellowship."
I kept forgetting that Susanna's dad was a retired doctor-a renowned cosmetic surgeon. But she rarely let anyone forget it for long. She was still talking. "I can't imagine doing all that while trying to set up household, maintain a marriage, and, of course, having babies." She patted her own recently announced baby bump.
I fought to keep my face from showing what I was thinking. Naturally, the subject of babies would come up when any woman was about to get married, but it was still a sore subject with me. And because of that, of course, I was reminded that Adam and I hadn't even discussed it yet. I groaned inwardly. Yet another tense conversation to have on top of the issues with his working and the problems he was having with Jordan.
So many conversations to have. And yet we hadn't had them. We danced around them like pros instead.
I took a deep breath and let it go. "Yes, I'm aware it's a big life commitment, but I'm still really excited to be a doctor someday."
"And Adam is on board with that plan?" asked Trish, a flawless blonde who, for most of the night, had been quiet. Trish was the closest to me in age, and yet she'd grown up a socialite and was now on her second husband, wealthy media magnate James Sinclair.
"Of course," I replied, sipping at my coffee and looking around for something-anything-to catch my eye so that I could change the subject. "Oh, that painting above the mantel is gorgeous. Is that Corona del Mar?"
I knew it wasn't. I didn't give a shit. Sonya quickly corrected me. Subject changed.
Things diverted to a safe subject for a few minutes then circled back around to me. And this time, it was marital advice. Just great.
I was so going to make the fiancé pay for this.
"Don't ever refuse him," advised Audra, the oldest of the group, in her early fifties. She'd been married the longest amongst us-though she was her husband's second wife. It was heavily rumored that she'd been the home wrecker responsible for the demise of his first marriage.
I frowned. "Uh, you mean don't disagree?" Because I'd fail that one instantly. No wonder she was still married to her hubby. Why get rid of the perfect "yes" woman?
"No, I'm talking about sex." I almost spat out my coffee. "He'll come home late from work or a long trip and want some. You might be tired or you might not be in the mood, whatever. But don't ever reject him. If he doesn't get it at home-and if it isn't spicy and exciting-he'll find it elsewhere. And easily. Too easily."
I almost swallowed my tongue. There was a lot I could say to that. Like what about when I wanted it and he was too tired or not in the mood or jet-lagged or whatever? Equal opportunity sexual demands.
"That's the key," Trish inserted. "Finding the way to make him happy, keep him happy, and minimize conflict. It's a balancing act."
Not even fifteen minutes into this post-dinner girls' chat and my cell phone was burning a hole in my pocket as I willed it to ring. Please, goddamn it. Please. If I could send a Jedi-like mind message to Kat the way Luke did to Leia at the end of Empire, her head would be ringing off her shoulders right now. With no small despair, I realized that the prearranged time wasn't for another hour yet. Shit. One more hour of this.
"How old are you again? Twenty-four?" Sonya asked, refilling her coffee cup. "You have a few years yet. But definitely before you hit thirty, you should start. Don't you think, Julia?"
"Botox?" The redhead, whom I'd just met, perked up. "Oh God, yes. I started at twenty-five. Best decision ever." She smoothed a finger from the corner of her eye down across her cheek, as if to show off how much her muscles could not function of their own accord. She turned to me, stone-faced. "If you want a referral to my dermatologist, I'd be glad to pass along her number."

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