Blue-Eyed Devil Page 11

"Hey," he said softly. "What do you say we get out of here and go get married?"


Contrary to my expections of elopement as a furtive Elvis-supervised ceremony in Las Vegas, there were hotels in Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona that offered "elopement packages" including the wedding service, the hotel stay, massages, and a meal plan. Gage and Liberty paid for our elopement to the Keys — it was their wedding present to me and Nick.Having taken a stand against my marriage to Nick, Dad went through with his threat to cut me off entirely. No money, no communication. "He'll come around," my brothers told me, but I said emphatically that I didn't want Dad to come around, I'd had enough of him and his controlling ways for a lifetime.

Liberty and I had our first argument when she tried to tell me that Churchill still loved me and always would.

"Sure he does," I told her curtly. "As a pawn. As a child. But as an adult with my own opinions and preferences . . . no. He only loves people when they spend their lives trying to please him."

"He needs you," Liberty persisted. "Someday — "

"No he doesn't," I said. "He's got you." It was unfair of me to lash out at her, and I knew it, but I couldn't stop myself. "You be the good daughter," I said recklessly. "I've had enough of him for a lifetime."

It was a long time before Liberty and I spoke again.

Nick and I moved to Piano, north of Dallas, where Nick worked as a cost estimator at a construction firm. It wasn't something he wanted to do forever, but the pay was good, especially the overtime. I got an entry-level position as a marketing coordinator for the Darlington Hotel, which meant I assisted the director of communications with PR and marketing projects.

The Darlington was a sleek, modern hotel, a single elliptical-shaped structure that would have looked phallic enough, except it had also been covered in a skin of pink granite. Maybe that subliminal suggestion was partly responsible for the Darlington having been voted as the most romantic hotel in Dallas.

"You Dallasites and your architecture," I told Nick. "Every building in town looks like a penis or a cereal box."

"You like the red flying horse," Nick pointed out.

I had to admit he was right. I had a weakness for that neon Pegasus, an iconic sign that had perched on top of the Magnolia Building since 1934. It lent a lot of personality to an otherwise sterile skyline.

I wasn't sure what to make of Dallas. Compared to Houston, it was squeaky-clean, cosmopolitan, tightly hinged. Fewer cowboy hats, much better manners. And Dallas was a lot more politically consistent than Houston, which had drastic public policy swings from election to election.

Dallas, so tasteful and composed, seemed to feel it had something to prove, like a woman who was too concerned about what to wear on the second date. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that unlike most great cities of the world, it had no port. Dallas had become a player in the 1870s when two railroads, the Houston and Texas Central and the Texas and Pacific, both met and crossed at a ninety-degree angle, thereby making the city a big commercial center.

Nick's family all lived in or around Dallas. His parents had divorced and married other people when he was still a kid. Between all the stepsisters and stepbrothers, and half sisters and half brothers, and the full-blood siblings, I had trouble figuring out who belonged to whom. It didn't seem to matter, though, because none of them were close.

We bought a small condo with two parking spaces and access to a community pool. I decorated the condo with cheap, brightly colored contemporary furniture, and added some baskets and Mexican ceramics. In our living room, I hung a huge framed reprint of an old travel poster, featuring a dark-haired girl holding a basket of fruit beneath a huge banner reading, VISIT MEXICO: LAND OF SPLENDOR.

"It's our own special style," I told Nick when he complained that our furniture was crap and he didn't like Southwestern decor. "I call it 'Ikea Loco.' I think I'm onto something. Soon everyone will be copying us. Besides, it's all we can afford."

"We could afford a f**king palace," Nick replied darkly, "if your father wasn't such an ass**le."

I was taken aback by the flash of animosity, a lightning strike that had come out of nowhere. My pleasure in the condo was an irritant to Nick. I was just playing house, he told me. When I'd lived like middle-class people for a while, he'd like to see if I was still so happy.

"Of course I will be," I said. "I have you. I don't need a mansion to be happy."

It seemed at times that Nick was a lot more affected by my changed circumstances than I was. He resented our small budget for my sake, he said. He hated that we couldn't afford a second car.

"I really don't mind," I said, and that made him angry because if he minded it, so should I.

After the storms had passed, however, the peace was all the sweeter.

Nick called me at work at least twice a day just to see how things were going. We talked all the time. "I want us to tell each other everything,'' he said one night, when we were halfway into a bottle of wine. "My parents always had secrets. You and I should be completely honest and open."

I loved that idea in theory. In practice, however, it was hard on my self-esteem. Complete honesty, it turned out, was not always kind.

"You're so pretty," Nick told me one night after we'd made love. His hand moved over my body, coasting up the gentle slope of my chest. I had small br**sts, a shallow B cup at most. Even before we were married, Nick had laughingly complained about my lack of endowment, saying he'd buy me implants except a pair of big boobs would look ridiculous on a woman as short and slight as me. His fingertips moved up to my face, tracing the curve of my cheek. "Big brown eyes . . . cute little nose . . . beautiful mouth. It doesn't matter that you don't have a body."

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