The Wedding Contract

By: H.M. Ward


I can hear Amy’s voice through the front wall of the little shop, talking to a potential client about photography for their wedding. I’m in the back, putting away props from this morning’s shoot. After stowing the box on a shelf in the back, I walk across the open space, and duck out through the curtain that covers the doorway to the front.

“Well, congratulations, and thank you for considering Bella Chicks Studio. Best of luck to you both.” Amy smiles as she sets the phone back into the cradle. Her light brown hair is pin straight and tied back into a style that looks perfect on her. When I try it, my curls just look tangled.

Folding my arms over my chest, I breathe in slowly. It’s stupid to think that this was his doing. Amy hasn’t even told me yet, but the skin on my arms prickles like a big fat omen. I know it was him. It’s always him. “So, I take it the Gettys hired someone else?”

Amy smiles at me. It’s the facial expression that begs, ‘Don’t kill the messenger!’ I’m not mad at Amy; I’m upset about the situation. We can’t keep losing clients like this. She nods slowly. “Yeah, they went with Bella Clicks.”

My lips smash together and I try not to yell. I try so hard not to overreact, but this is the third client that Nick Ferro has stolen from me this month. The bastard has been making my eye twitch for weeks. It seems like every time I figure out how to get a step ahead of him, he one-ups me, and then does it better and cheaper. God, I hate him.

The worst part is, if things continue like this, I can’t afford to stay in my little shop. Babylon Village is cute, but the rent is a bitch. And I know Mr. Copycat doesn’t have that issue because his daddy owns the damn shopping center. Why didn’t I get a non-compete clause in my lease contract?

Amy can tell that my blood is boiling. “Uh, Sky. You haven’t blinked in like, five minutes. Don’t go all Medusa on me.” Amy is a mythology buff and works Greek gods into anything and everything. Half the time I don’t even know what she’s talking about.

The ringing in my ears should be my cue to go scream in the back room like a normal small business owner. Instead, I knot my tightly folded arms and shove through the glass front door. My feet pound the parking lot, hard and fast, leaving Amy and her don’t-do-its behind.

This has to stop. I was doing fine until Nick showed up. God knows there are enough people trying to make a living in New York, but none of them, aside from this ass-hat, camped out on my doorstep stealing my clients.

I never do stuff like this. I never chew anyone out. I always smile and look for the bright side of things. Screw that. I’ll be out of business if I don’t fight back, so I shove into his store, my fists up and fangs bared.

“Get out of here, you sorry excuse for a man!” I’m standing in his perfect lobby, which is just as posh as mine, but instead of rich red accents, his are blue. He has his consultation table in the same spot as mine, with huge pictures of brides in Time Square and by Saint Pat’s Cathedral, just like I do. I notice the new floral arrangements with peacock feathers, and I’m ready to explode. When did he copy those?

My eyes drift over to the little table he has set up with albums on it. Last month, I met a new vendor that provides these beautiful albums for my boudoir clients. The albums have sequins, supple leather, and feel perfect under your fingertips. I see one glinting from behind a wedding album on his table. Wide-eyed, I step toward it and lift the little book with shaking hands.

Nick appears from the back and shakes his head slowly. “Sky Thompson, what can I do for you?” Nick has dark, perfectly tousled hair that falls over his forehead, right above gem-colored blue eyes. Today, he’s wearing a designer white button-down shirt with jeans. There’s a chunky watch on his wrist that cost more than my net worth. He’s beautiful, cocky, and rich. His voice is like a siren’s song, and he completely and totally sucks rabid monkeys—a spoiled brat to the core.

Anger surges through me, as I look up at him. “What’d you do to land the Getty wedding? Offer to pose with her in the boudoir pictures?” Oh my god. Nick has the audacity to smile while I’m ranting. He tries to hide it, but I can see the amusement in his eyes. I shove a finger into his chest and continue raving. “Because there’s no way you could get that client on your own, you pampered ass!”

Nick looks like he’s biting the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing. I’m right in front of him and seriously consider kicking his shins. Every muscle in my body is strung so tight that I’m ready to explode. I’m practically vibrating—until I see Beverly Getty emerge from the back room, followed by her daughter and husband. Awh, suck.

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