Their Virgin Hostagepart #5 of Masters of Ménage Series by Shayla Black / Romance & Love
Kinley Kohl looked at herself in her custom Pnina Tornai white wedding dress with its sweetheart neckline and lacy, glittery bodice…and she wanted something more. More emotion. More excitement. Just more. But she didn’t know what.
Her dress was gorgeous. The elegant hotel, all decorated in wedding regalia, looked stunning. No doubt, her groom-to-be had dressed impeccably for the occasion. The sky above Manhattan was a cloudless, perfect blue. Five hundred of the country’s wealthiest and most influential people waited to see her walk down the aisle in the Plaza’s grand ballroom. It was a dream wedding, but the encroaching panic made it feel more like her nightmare.
Was it too late to run screaming down Fifth Avenue?
“Are you sure you want to wear that dress?” Becks asked, standing behind her and eyeing her critically.
Kinley sighed. It was a good thing her father hadn’t remarried and brought a wicked stepmother into her life. She hardly needed a hypercritical parent when she had her sister. “What’s wrong with it?”
There was always something wrong, according to Beckin Kohl Abernathy. Admittedly, her sister was one of the most prominent fashion plates in New York. Society looked to Becks for style advice, while those same women, along with the tabloids, mostly called Kinley unpleasantly plump.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, hon. The dress is fabulous. ” Becks gave her a little half hug, careful not to crush or ruffle her perfectly coiffed platinum hair. It was longer in the front than the back and had an asymmetry that accentuated her high cheekbones and drew attention to her well-glossed lips.
“It just seems a little…snug. ” Becks gave a delicate wince. “Did you and Greg decide to start your family early?”
Kinley turned on her sister, feeling her face flush with humiliation. “I’m not pregnant. ”
In fact, what Becks suggested was impossible. She and Greg had never shared a bed. Actually, Kinley had never had sex with anyone. And now, she was about to become a virgin sacrifice to help the family she loved. Of course, it would be easier to feel good about this whole choice if her sister wasn’t quite so judgmental.
“Well, I guess stress eating with such a big wedding is understandable. ” Becks sent her a tight smile of sympathy. “But unadvisable. Don’t frown. I’m only saying that for your own good. The press is already unkind to you. ”
Tears filled Kinley’s eyes. She had eaten only protein shakes, brown rice, and fish for three weeks. She’d lost thirteen pounds so she could fit perfectly into this dress. She thought it had worked…until now. “I want to be alone, Becks. ”
Her sister sighed, brushing imaginary lint from the sleek gray sheath she’d selected for the bridesmaids. Kinley had wanted a soft pink, but Becks had insisted that her choice was much more elegant. Her older sister had a way of getting what she wanted.
“I didn’t mean to upset you on your wedding day when I know you’re already nervous. I’m sorry, Kinley. I’m being a bitch. Don’t mind me. I’m sure Greg will think you look lovely. ”
But now she couldn’t look at herself and not see the slight curve of her stomach that no amount of dieting ever eradicated. She wasn’t a size six. Hell, she wasn’t even a ten. The dress had been custom made because it didn’t come in her size. She sniffled a little.
“Don’t cry, Kin. ” Becks grabbed a tissue and handed it to her. “This is your wedding day, and you’re marrying the richest guy we know. What could you possibly have to cry about?”
“I don’t love him. ” There she’d said it. She was shocked everyone hadn’t guessed. Her father kind of knew, but he was ignoring it. Becks couldn’t possibly think she loved Greg. They had nothing in common, but each had something the other needed.
Becks rolled her eyes and crossed the room to reach for the champagne sitting by her bouquet. “Is that all? No woman I know loves her husband, at least no one in our world. ”
That stunned Kinley. She’d always wondered, but… “Not even you?”
“Please…” With a surprisingly unladylike snort, her sister rolled her eyes. “After Brian and I got married, I tossed out my birth control. The key to my future was in spitting out a couple of kids and tying him up legally. Even if he starts thinking with his pecker and tries to trade me in for a younger model, he’s going to pay handsomely for the privilege. ”
“Becks, how could you think like that?” Children weren’t to be used for a payday.
Then Kinley started imagining her own children. Panic engulfed her again. She couldn’t imagine being pregnant by Greg. She couldn’t even imagine sleeping with him, like married people were supposed to do. And by sleeping, she was sure that Greg expected something more active than snoring.
Kinley gulped back her nerves. He was good-looking, but she wasn’t attracted. Did that make any sense? How could she have babies with someone she had no interest in touching intimately?
Becks gave her a dazzling grin. “It was hell for a few years, but the nanny certainly helped. My personal trainer whipped my body back into shape, and it was bye-bye pregnancy pounds. Then when the kids turned six, I shipped them off to boarding school. Now, life is grand again. My two angels are practically my retirement fund. ” She chuckled. “If Brian wants a divorce, he’ll have to pay through the nose before he sees his kids again. That’s how I’ve kept my hand wrapped firmly around his balls. Oh, his dick probably runs around on me, but as long as I have his testicles, he’s not going anywhere. You should take a page out of my book. ”
“No. ” That parody of marriage wasn’t at all what Kinley had in mind. Shouldn’t “'til death do us part” be about commitment and devotion? “That’s you, Becks. Mom loved Dad. ”
Kinley wished her mother were still here. Mom would never have allowed either of her daughters to marry someone they couldn’t give their hearts to. Her father was a wonderful man, but…he was weak. Though the situation wasn’t entirely his fault, he’d put her in a position that basically forced her to marry Greg. If she didn’t, they would all be ruined.
“Not in the beginning,” Becks said. “You have this silly, white-lace ideal of their marriage, but Daddy married Mom because Granddaddy told him that if he didn’t, Daddy was getting cut off. Aunt Mayrene gave me the whole story. Daddy ran off to become an artist and ran right back three weeks later and proposed. He liked the art part, but apparently he didn’t love the starving. ”
“Neil and Sharon Landry are in love. ” They were the sweetest couple she knew. They sent out the loveliest Christmas cards with all four of their kids dressed in red sweaters while Neil and Sharon held up mistletoe and kissed. She’d looked at that last card and wondered if she would ever be so in love.
“He’s fucking his barely legal nurse, Kins,” Becks said, wrinkling her nose. “How did you not hear about that? It’s all over town. And for a highly respected obstetrician, I’ve heard he’s rough on that girl’s vagina, if you know what I mean. You would think since he’s got his hands shoved up them all day that he would be a little more tender. ”
But Neil and Sharon had looked so happy. Blinking mutely, Kinley gaped at her sister, trying to process this ugly underside to marriage. “That’s horrible. ”
Becks held her glass of champagne up in an ironic toast. “That’s life, sister. The love thing is for people without money. Two nobodies without a cent to rub between them are perfectly free to fall in love and get married and have a cluster of children because nothing is at stake. ”
Kinley turned slowly because her dress was still a teensy bit tight and grabbed her phone like a comfort object. “Hello, Ms. Hypocrite. I’m a nobody without any money now. Or have you forgotten?”
Their father had lost everything in a Ponzi scheme. For two hundred years, the Kohls had acquired money, property, and political power. Her father had lost it all in the blink of an eye. Then he’d gotten sick, and the need for money had become critical.
“No, you are not. ” Becks wagged a finger at her. “You’re an heiress. You inherited a majestic and vastly respected name that’s valuable to a man like Greg. Because of you, the doors to every old-money house on the East Coast will be open to him. ”
Her name was all she had, and she was basically selling it. “I don’t have to do this. I could get a job. ”
“Doing what? You have a degree in art history. ”
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but then she’d never thought she would need an actual job. “I could work for a nonprofit. I’ve run our charities ever since Mom died. ”
And now that money was running out rapidly. The economy had gone south, and demand for assistance among the poor had grown. Greg said he’d endow the charity her mother had started with fifty million dollars after their honeymoon. He’d already started making business connections for her, including several manufacturers willing to donate clothes for the organization at cost. He had also instituted some changes in the way the charity ran that he swore would make them more efficient so she could get more aid to the people who needed it. And he was willing to pay for her father’s medical treatment and support her whole family. All she had to do was marry him and become his smiling hostess.
Fifty million dollars bought a lot of clothes and coats for inner-city and rural kids. People were counting on her, and all this wanting “more” and pining for love was hopelessly selfish.
“It’s a sweet thought,” Becks said. “But working at a nonprofit wouldn’t pay enough. This is the only way. I’d help if I could, but since I’m already married, walking down the aisle with a really rich, handsome guy falls to you. Poor Kins. ” She winked. “Brian’s business does okay, and you know I’ll kick in what I can, but…times are tough all around. You understand, don’t you?”
Becks had a point. Kinley just didn’t like it. She sighed and forced herself to face reality. “Sure. ”
“Good. For a minute there, I thought you were going to be unreasonable. ” Becks sipped her champagne. “Are you waiting on a call?”
She glanced down at her phone again, just like she did every couple of minutes. “No. It’s just habit. ”
Becks’s eyebrow rose. “Really? Who’s Michael?”
Someone I’ve been wishing I could talk to all morning.
“He’s a business contact. ” Becks didn’t have to say anything. Kinley felt herself withering under her sister’s judgmental stare. “I’m telling the truth. I’ve never even met the man. How do you know his name?”
“Because I saw it on your phone earlier. He’s sent you a lot of texts. And he’s either called you or you’ve called him at least once a day for the last week. This sounds like more than business. How do you think it would make Greg feel to know his fiancée is consorting with another man?”
“You spied on me?”
“I’m your sister. When, in all of the years you’ve known me, have I ever respected things like privacy? It’s a sister’s right to snoop. ” She grinned. “So are you fucking him?”
“No! Like I said, I’ve never actually met him. He’s starting a charity on the West Coast. He contacted me for some advice, and we started talking. He’s a nice guy. That’s it. ”
No way was she going to admit that she thought about Mike from California way too much. And yes, she’d been looking down at her phone, hoping he would call. Hearing his voice had become something she looked forward to everyday because it made her smile. God, she was pathetic.
Becks shook her head. “Don’t screw up the chance to be rich again for some guy you’ve never met. You know how much Daddy is depending on you. ”
And that was why she still stood here instead of giving into the impulse to fly out to California and meet Mike. Everyone was counting on her. She couldn’t abandon the future she had planned for a man she’d only known a week. Mike seemed wonderfully down-to-earth, and Kinley enjoyed talking to him—but that had to be it. Somehow, she had to stop hearing his gravelly, rough-and-tumble voice in her dreams. Heck, she didn’t even know what the man looked like, but she got a little giddy every time he called. Mike always put her at ease. With him, she felt interesting—and oddly cared for. Their relationship didn’t mean anything and it was fleeting. Once his charity was up and running, she would have no more reason to talk to him.
She wasn’t looking forward to that day.
“I know. I’m not screwing anything up. ”
“Well, that’s good to hear. Keep it that way. ”
A knock sounded on the door adjoining her suite with the one next door.
Becks ignored it. “I’m going to call the caterers and make sure the cake is ready. Is that all your luggage? It needs to be ready since you’re not coming back here after the ceremony. ”