Planning on Prince Charming(9)

By: Lizzie Shane


It could have been innocent. It could have been a sweet, inconsequential goodbye kiss.

It wasn’t.

His head angled, his lips parted, and suddenly he was kissing her back with the taste of scotch on his lips, and she melted against him, lost in the searing rightness of the kiss.

*

It ought to feel wrong. He hadn’t kissed any woman other than Marissa in over seven years. He shouldn’t even remember how, but damned if it wasn’t all coming back to him. And damned if he didn’t like it. Probably far more than he should.

She was sweet and soft and smelled heavenly. Daniel didn’t know what he was in for.

Daniel.

Josh pulled away, his good sense returning in a rush as soon as he wasn’t kissing her anymore.

She was there for Mister Perfect. And his job was to smooth their path to love. He couldn’t want her. Not without losing the job that was the only thing left of the life he’d worked toward for years.

“You should go.”

Wide teal eyes gazed back at him. “I should?”

“It’s late. We both need to get some sleep. Busy day tomorrow. You’re meeting the man of your dreams.” And that man wasn’t him.

Questions darkened her eyes. “Josh, I—”

“Good luck this season,” he said, more forcefully than necessary, as if emphasis would make his wish more sincere. “I’m sure you’ll go far. Mister Perfect will love you.”

“Thank you,” she murmured softly.

He opened the door, checking the hall one last time. Finding it empty, he urged her through the doorway. “Good night, Sidney.”

*

“Are you ready to meet Mister Perfect?”

Sidney forced a smile, hoping it looked even remotely genuine as the segment producer chirped excitedly about fate and romance and that all-important first impression with the man she would spend the rest of her life with.

All she could think—over and over—was I kissed Josh Pendleton. But she had to keep her eyes on the prize. She couldn’t let last night’s stupidity destroy her dream. Parvati would be thrilled that she’d laid one on the hottest host on TV, but that was as far as it could go.

Sidney had spent all morning mentally preparing herself for her fairy tale romance, psyching herself up for love with the help of the show’s producers and therapists… but Marrying Mister Perfect didn’t feel like a fairy tale.

It just felt staged.

She tried to stay positive, but it was hard to find anything romantic about waiting for hours in uncomfortable heels as Mister Perfect slowly made his way through the various set-ups around the mansion, meeting the Suitorettes one by one. There was no sense of destiny approaching. Just looming boredom.

And the sense that she was being indoctrinated into a cult.

If she hadn’t already been determined to find love, the enthusiastic—and constant—reminders by various producers to lead with her heart open and embrace the journey to love and consider the possibility that she was about to meet her husband would have brainwashed her into doing just that.

No wonder the Suitorettes were usually chugging cocktails on night one. If the regular first date jitters weren’t bad enough, they had to deal with the competition aspect as well as the constant pressure to feel insta-love from the producers. It was enough to drive anyone to drink.

But Sidney clung to her soda water, no matter how many times a production assistant offered to fetch her a glass of champagne. She was determined to be sober when she first appeared on prime time.

Though even without the help of alcohol, she might throw up on his shoes. The waiting was not doing good things for her stomach. Of course that might have been the aftereffects of the putrid scotch as well.

The producers would probably love it if she tossed her cookies. She’d be in every highlight reel for the entire freaking season.

“Just a few more minutes,” the segment producer who had been assigned to babysit her enthused. “One more girl to go and then it’s your turn.”

Sidney shifted her bouquet to one hand, adjusting the veil that was perched precariously atop her updo. Each of the Suitorettes had been assigned a different setting, supposedly designed to show off her unique talents—musicians played music, chefs cooked, athletes demonstrated their prowess and models displayed their shapely selves. It was a time-honored gimmick-fest, and Sidney, as wedding planner, was, of course, this year’s bride.

The dress Victoria and Parvati had helped her pick out was cocktail length and ice blue, but the lace overlay gave it enough of a bridal feel that the producers were in raptures. They’d even set up a sort of altar in the gazebo where she was waiting.

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