With This Click, I Thee Wed – Book 1 – Sneak Peek

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With This Click, I Thee Wed

When a lonely divorcee chooses to become an e – mail-order-bride, she has to learn about the importance of decisions and family or lose her shot at love.

Rachel needs to get out of the rut she’s in and away from the wake of destruction her divorce left behind her.

Stuck in a town where everyone knows her and her ex-husband, Rachel is distinctly aware of who chose his side – everyone – and who chose her side – no one. Even her hairstylist won’t schedule her.

But when she finds herself alone with a bottle of chianti and the internet, Rachel stumbles upon Clickandwed.com.  The survey is easy and clicking “I Do” seems to be the magic button she’d been searching for.

Before she could snap out of her decision, she finds herself packed and flying across the country to meet her new husband.

Would her new life be better or worse than the hell she left behind?

 

Chapter 1

My whole life was a series of “What had I done?” The upcoming year loomed with the same mediocre expectations.

New Years was a drag when you waited on your parents for dinner. Being alone was never my thing and, there I was, a divorced adult relying on my parents for my New Year’s company. When had I stooped so low? Asking them, their answer would have been something along the lines of, I was born that low.

I leaned my chin on my hands, my elbow just barely resting on the edge of the table. My mother had decorated her home with an eye toward class and elegance. Well-polished mahogany furniture filled the lower rooms of their California split-level home. A California style home set in a small nowhere-town in Ohio. I snorted at the thought and pushed a stray piece of grated parmesan cheese back into the bowl.

The loud tick-tocking of the grandfather clock by the front door kept track of the time passing more accurately than I could myself.

Formal place settings held clear, glass plates filled with steaming chicken Parmigiana smothered in melting mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and buttery, crusty garlic bread. Caesar salad in a China bowl sat beside a pitcher of sparkling lemonade.

Less and less steam wafted from the plates with each minute that passed by. The lettuce began to wilt alongside my optimism that my parents and I would be celebrating a fun New Year’s Eve together. I wanted so badly for things to be different. Different between them and me, and different for me altogether.

Success wasn’t a feeling that I was familiar with lately. Everything had fallen around me and my dad’s continuous condescension only compounded my internal pain.

I picked up my fork at the forty-five-minute mark. A delicious parmigiana should never go to waste. My curves could be attributed to my reliance on food for comfort and the constant need to love others with food.

Cutting off a bite, I savored the lukewarm flavors of the marinara-covered chicken just as my mom and dad walked through the door. Guiltily, I wiped my mouth with the cloth napkins I’d set out and folded it again into my lap.

“I called for you guys a while ago. Are you okay?” I was genuinely concerned. If anything, Dad wouldn’t miss food on purpose.

“We were talking to your sister.” My dad sat down across from me and picked up his fork. He studied his plate, pushing food around like a bully on the playground. He curled his lip, his stubble creating a darker shadow than normal. “Pasta again?”

I swallowed the taste of dust that his comment left in my mouth. I hadn’t made pasta in over a month.

My attempts to apologize were cut off by my mother who cut the food into sections and placed them onto a napkin, probably for the dog. “We’re going up to your sister’s tonight. We’ll be there a week or more. She invited us up since her husband is going out of town.”

She spoke as if we didn’t have plans for two months to spend the night together. I’d come back to their place, depressed that I couldn’t make it on my own after my divorce. For the first time in – forever? – she’d wrapped her arms around me and said, “It’s okay. Now we can hang out for fun things like New Year’s and Christmas morning.” Maybe she’d been drinking at the time and confused me with my sister.

A glimmer of hope was all she’d given me and I’d survived on that since.

Picking at my thumb cuticle under the table, I furrowed my brow. “Tonight? We had planned on spending the evening together. I got some movies and made caramel popcorn.”

I don’t know why I was disappointed. Treating me like that wasn’t new for them. It’s not like it wasn’t something they pulled on me every day for the last twenty-eight years of my life. Some of my friends had come back into town for the holidays and asked me to hang out that night. I’d declined since I’d already had plans.

At that point, it would be too late to join the friends I’d ditched for my parents.

With my family, I always came last. The last child of three and my family made sure I knew it. I was the accident, the one they didn’t want, and they never failed to rub my excess in my face.

“We can do that anytime. It’s not like you’re going anywhere. I still can’t believe you gave up marriage to Derek. That guy is going somewhere. He already has so much of the town in his pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised, if one day he was mayor.” My dad shook some pepper and salt onto the salad and scrunched his lips while pushing the soggy croutons to the side of his plate. “It’s time for you to get out there and move on. Go to a party or something.  Find someone to marry. It’d be nice to have my house back to normal.”

Dad pointed his fork in Mom’s direction and then at his own chest. “When things got tough when we were younger, I didn’t run to my mommy’s. You shouldn’t get to mooch off us just because you can’t keep your marriage together. If it was up to me, we would’ve told you no, when you asked.” His pointed glance at my mother brought a blush to her cheeks. “I’ve worked for what I have. You had it easy with him.”

He continued his almost-daily diatribe. “You need to face things when they go wrong. Maybe if you had done something different, Derek wouldn’t have left you.” He arched his eyebrows and twirled a mass of noodles onto his fork which he thrust into his mouth.

My stomach hardened and I struggled to hold in my frustration. I’d never be good enough. Not for him. Not for anyone.

Mom rolled her eyes, finally taking a bite of the limp salad. “That’s enough, Donald. She’s already heard it all from us. Harping on it isn’t going to change history. I already apologized for not asking you if she could move in. Let’s leave it alone, okay?” She wanted him to stop for her, even though she harped on me when it was just her and I in the kitchen or in the living room.

“I thought my house was empty of children. I thought I could move on, but nope, she’s back and disrupting everything.” He motioned his fork towards me as if I wasn’t in the room.

Normally I just sat there and took it, ate my meal and focused on something I would do the next day to find a job or make money to get out of there. The worst thing was I was in a town made of about fifteen-thousand people who pretty much knew everyone else. They all liked Derek and didn’t want to chance making him mad by hiring me.

A new year and a new me beckoned, though. I spoke rashly while holding my gaze on the plate in front of me. “Well, Dad, maybe this will be your lucky year. Maybe I’ll leave the house before you get home.”

Dad started coughing, laughter and choking making his face red. He finally regained his composure enough to wipe his mouth and answer. “I’m not that lucky, girl.”

“Rachel, your sister makes the sauce with parsley and basil. You might try that next time.” My mom picked up her still-full plate.

I knew exactly what they were doing. They would throw it away and not eat the rest of it, making a point to leave it on the counter for me to see. They would probably eat dinner later at my sister’s or on the way there to see her and their bratty grandchildren.

Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for them to leave. I didn’t want to be around them.

Hadn’t I seen somewhere that family should rely on each other? I think it was an insurance commercial. The slogan was, “You should be there for your family, let us help,” or something like that.

Why did I always feel like I was a burden to my family? How could a commercial for life insurance get a pretty standard value, and I was left feeling like I was the only one that understood it? I had stopped crying about the way they made me feel a long time ago, but that didn’t mean my feelings weren’t raw.

 

***

 

My tablet glowed dimly in the late-night darkness. The glowing screen competed with the TV for my attention. The house was empty with my parents gone for quite a while, but the lingering aroma of dinner hung on the air with the promise of delicious leftovers for the rest of the week.

I closed my eyes at the fourth or fifth round of premature fireworks booming outside. My neighbors had an overzealous streak that showed its ugliness during celebratory times. The fireworks would be gone and they’d start on homemade balloon bombs to blow in the street next. There weren’t strong enough earplugs for that.

“Well, it looks like it’s just you and me.” I tilted my wine glass back and drained the rest of my red Chianti. The movies that I had picked out lost their luster when it was just me, all alone.

Time was now counted in glasses, or maybe bottles? I’d lost count. I’d been sipping on it pretty steadily for the remainder of the night. The new year was almost there. I had only a few more minutes left to go.

Nothing had changed.

What was I doing? Why was I just sitting there eating or drinking my life away? I hadn’t meant to be where I was. I didn’t want to live in my parents’ house. I didn’t want to live in the same small town where people liked my ex-husband more than they liked me.

A voice over a black screen with pink text reading ClickandWed.com said, “Why are you sitting there watching TV and drinking wine?”

What? I glanced at my nearly empty glass and blinked blearily at the TV.

The voice continued. “Put down your loneliness and rediscover your purpose. Stop messing around; take the next step. Be with someone who isn’t afraid of commitment.” A picture of happily smiling couples began to zoom across the screen, like a badly designed collage. “Get matched with your ideal spouse.” Another shot of the logo with a nice white text beneath it said, all candidates are verified. ClickandWed.com. Find your forever.

I blinked as the commercial disappeared and returned me to my sappy blind date show.

ClickandWed.com.

Intriguing that they could guarantee someone who was seeking commitment. Usually online dating sites didn’t take such a bold stance as commitment.

Pretty sure I’d been single long enough to fulfill any mourning period, I lifted my tablet to check out the magical site that promised commitment-minded men. Curiosity was getting the better of me to know where all the men were hiding. Certainly, not in my small town. They’d all been scared off by Derek.

Using the touchpad, I typed the URL into the address bar and waited for the lag time to catch up. A beautiful red and white website with black accents popped on the screen. The only thing on the front was a quiz. No other information. Where was the about page? Or the sign-in box? Where were the profiles to see if I was even interested in taking the quiz?

The first question piqued my interest.

Are you looking for someone to move to you or do you want to move to them?

That was a simple question. One I knew the answer to without even having to think really hard.

Move to them.

I pushed the red button without thinking. I sure didn’t want anyone living in my town and possibly hearing all the stories about me and Derek and what happened between us… or his side of the story anyway.

All of it was hypothetical, anyway. It’s not like anybody really met their spouse on the Internet. If nothing else, the quiz might turn out to be fun.

I shifted on the couch cushion and focused harder on the screen. I could do this.

Are you male or female?

Another easy one; I liked it.

Female.

Next.

Start with the honeymoon or wait until you get to know each other?

I couldn’t help chuckling at that one. That almost sounded like a hooker set up.

Wait until I get to know them.

Another small sip of my chianti bolstered my courage.

You selected move to them, what seasons are you against?

I lived in Ohio. There wasn’t a season I hadn’t met – including hell frozen over. Too bad that wasn’t an option.

None.

Hard work? Do you fear it or embrace it?

What a weird question, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Embrace it.

As my Daddy always said, hard work was the only way to get out of your parents’ house. According to him, that was the most important goal a person could have. Well, if their name was Rachel, anyway.

I glared at the screen.

Are looks important?

Yes.

I held my finger over the button. But wait, were they? My ex-husband was as hot as they came and he used his charm to get right into my pants and married in no time. I used the sliding scale to select 85%.

I tipped my glass back only to find it empty. Wrinkling my nose, I put the glass on the coffee table and glowered more at the tablet.

I sighed, leaning my head back, then stood, setting the tablet on the couch cushion. Rolling my shoulders, I asked out loud, “Are you seriously doing this? Why?” I pursed my lips and answered my question even louder. “Because I have nothing else to do.” That was good enough for me, so I didn’t argue further with my logic. It made sense and that’s all that mattered.

Children from a previous marriage or relationship – yay or nay?

Is that for me or for him? I would have to say no. I don’t have any, but I wasn’t opposed to him having any either. How about one? No, I really didn’t care. In fact, I kind of found it a way to increase my family count of people that didn’t hate me.

Are you faith driven or ambition driven?

How did I answer that? My family wasn’t really all that faithful, unless you counted Dad’s religious glass of 7 and Seven every night. I didn’t know how to answer that one. Thank heaven there was an option that stated either one was fine.

Do you need to have family nearby?

No.

Thank you. Not interested in that mess.

What animal are you most like?

What the heck? I tapped my front tooth with my fingernail. Carefully, I typed in Canadian geese. They’re loyal and family-oriented, even if nobody else cares.

Blech, the wine was making me wallow in self-pity. I hated wallowing.

Do you need love in your life?

I stopped to think about that one. Did I need love in my life? I’d lived long enough without it. The most wistful part of my heart, however, whispered that I did.

I gave in and pressed, Yes.

Movie or book most like your life?

Studying the options in the multiple choice, I mouthed the titles, but didn’t speak. Certainly not It’s a Wonderful Life. Hmmm, not An Affair to Remember. I would agree with the option they offered of The Shining, minus the psychotic twin girls in the hallway.

The movie or book you would like for your life?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding or The Family Stone. I tried clicking both but ended up with The Family Stone.

Then, I was shuttled with the flashing red heart icon to answer an overall personality assessment filled with sliding scales and best matches. I think my eyes glazed over halfway through, but I did my best to answer them as best as I could. At one point a small popup shot out and told me to “slow down, all your answers were looking the same.”

Finally, I reached the end of the exhaustive questionnaire. My eyelids had grown heavy and I needed to use the bathroom. Come on, was it going to end soon?

I clicked submit. They were probably going to ask me for an email address, a newsletter sign-up, or something fun. So far, I hadn’t been asked for any money. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

A beautiful red heart popped up inside of a speaking icon. It flashed, then faded and then popped up red again, then faded…

A popup replaced the heart with the words, “You have two matches.”

Two matches? How in the heck did I have two matches? I was only supposed to be taking it hypothetically, but my stomach got butterflies at the thought that I might have a match – or two! Someone out there was compatible with me and that gave me more hope than anything else I’d done since filing for divorce.

Was is getting real?

A contract thing popped up asking for payment for membership blah blah. My eyes were getting tired. The $20.00 fee looked like $2000.

I read the entire contract deal thoroughly.

No, actually, I didn’t read a thing and instead scrolled down and clicked Read and accept and input my credit card information. I could always cancel in the morning after I got my results.

Two. I suddenly couldn’t wait to see who I had been paired with. After I put in my payment info, the site asked me to complete my own profile to send to the man that I chose to be my husband.

I had two matches. Two men I could marry to get out of the suffocating hometown I was locked in. That’s what I was supposed to be doing, right? Marrying them?

Did I take a selfie, or upload a professional headshot I used for my website?

Oh my-lanta, what if they didn’t like me? What if I submitted all this, accepted one or chose one, whatever, and they rejected me?

I don’t think there was enough wine in the house for that chance.

What was I doing?

Chapter 2

I looked around the downstairs living room as if someone watched me. Was I on some kind of candid camera? Did my tablet’s camera have someone spying on me on the other end? How did I have two matches? There was no way that two men out there were anything like me or as perfect as the quiz suggested.

My profile was completed, and I might have put a little too much information in some places. The information didn’t seem very thorough to declare that someone was my match. Didn’t they need to ask me stuff like, what my aspirations are? Something like that?

A pop-up sprang in front of me with a different tone to the color and the font.

Are you interested?

I paused. Was I?

The two results couldn’t be more intriguing. Part of me wondered just what a guy looked like that signed up on a matching site like ClickandWed.com.

Come on, Rachel. Quit overthinking things. Just take a chance, for once. It’s not like you have to move in with them tonight.

My pep talk needed more wine, but I was out. I clicked, Yes. Of course, I was interested. While the results loaded, I swallowed and nibbled at my lower lip. Using the remote, I clicked off the television. I needed to concentrate.

The next click or so were possibly capable of changing my life. If it was real. I shook my head. Was the alcohol clouding my judgment? That was a given. From the second I’d started the quiz, I hadn’t been thinking clearly.

A soft bling sound drew my gaze back to the tablet, slowly. I didn’t want to look, but I had to.

Two men popped up: Jeremy Akers in Washington and he was 94% compatible with me. Logan Kyle in Idaho and he was 93.7% compatible. That was so close. How was I supposed to choose?

I scrolled through their profiles. They both had ranches in the northwest. Neither had children from a previous marriage, but it didn’t say anything about their previous marital status. I guess it didn’t matter in the whole scheme of things, but I was still curious.

Their similarities didn’t stop there. Both men were dark haired and equally dark eyed. Both were incredibly handsome. As I dove further into their profiles, I could see myself living in both places. Logan Kyle lived on a ranch in a small town in Idaho near a river. Jeremy Akers lived in the mountains with a ranch that nestled in the valley of a large mountain range.

Both seemed ideal. Both were far from Ohio.

Was it some kind of joke? I looked around again, and spied a little bit of wine left in the bottle. I tilted that sucker back, bypassing the glass, and drank the contents gone.

When you’ve made your decision, click I Do, but only when you’re ready to commit. The contract is binding – click here to read over it again.

I looked over the two profiles once more, and then looked around the living room that belonged to my parents, in the house that belonged to my parents, using electricity paid for by my parents.

I studied both men. All the company wanted was a down payment, or a deposit or something. If I remembered correctly, it even said something about being fully refundable, if some conditions were met and we wanted to back out.

What did I have to lose?

I took a deep breath. And clicked I do.  

With this click, I thee wed. Out loud, to no one I particular, I said, “I do.”

Now I was married. I snort laughed. Well, technically I wasn’t yet. The guy still had to accept or reject me. I wondered if he would get an email, text, or something else. Oh, my goodness, what if he didn’t want anything to do with me? What if he was like, not interested?

I shook off my insecurity. No reason to worry about it when I hadn’t even had a chance to accept what I’d done. Once again, I wouldn’t have the proper wedding night, but I wasn’t alone. I had my chianti and some chocolate pie in the fridge. Almost exactly like my first marriage. Hopefully, it wasn’t an omen on how my second marriage was going to go.

I laid down and let the second bottle of wine and the wind outside the window lull me to sleep.

Happy New Year to you, my new husband. Whatever you’re doing.

 

Chapter 3

I woke up cranky and hungover. Nobody else was in the house, so I didn’t bother getting dressed in more than my pajamas when I went down to force something in my mouth for breakfast. Catching sight of my hair in the mirror reminded me that I needed to go to the hairstylist.

It was New Year’s Day and Kathy, my hairstylist, usually had New Year’s specials going on. She never celebrated the holidays the same way as others. She always wanted to make money and she figured other people wanted to spend it to start the year right. I’ve been going to Kathy since I was eighteen. She was like my older sister by about four years.

I knew Kathy wouldn’t have any clients that early in the morning. What was it? Nine? I pulled on some jeans, a T-shirt, and my Sketchers and jumped in the car. I missed having my own place. Living with my parents was definitely hard, not just for them, but for me, too.

In just a few minutes, I pulled into a parking spot in front of Kathy’s Kreations. Just as I guessed, the lights were on, but there were no cars on either side of me. I walked inside the door, and called out, “Happy New Year! Kathy, are you in here?” I hadn’t seen her in about five months. The split ends on my hair testified to that. “I just need my ends trimmed. I was thinking maybe you could help me get some sideswipe thing going on, too. Maybe darken it?” With my blonde hair, I didn’t usually mess with colors, but Kathy kept badgering me. It might be something fun to do with her since I hadn’t seen her since the divorce was final.

Chemical odors mixed with a candle she had burning on the counter. The combined scents didn’t clash, but instead created a soft curious smell that was oddly pleasing.

Kathy entered from the side door that led back to her office. She saw me and shook her head. Picking up a broom, she swept around the salon space. She stopped to wag a finger my direction. “I can’t see you in here, Rachel. You need to leave.”

Disbelief pulled me up short and I blinked hard at her. “What? Why? Are you closed?” I had no idea what was going on. Her lights were on and the neon open sign glowed brightly beside the door. I double-checked to make sure. Yep, on.

I spun back to her and stared with my lips parted.

“I had to pick sides.” She stopped sweeping and stood there, one hand braced on the broom handle and the other on her hip. “You and Derek got divorced. I’m friends with his mother, his sisters, his cousins, his aunts, and his grandmother. You? It’s just you. Your mom doesn’t come to see me. She goes to your sister. I had to pick sides. And since more money comes with him, that’s what I have to do.”

“But…” I stepped back, as if I’d been slapped in the face. Her betrayal stung worse than I could explain.

Regret tilted her eyes at the corners under a lot of eyeliner and mascara. “Look, kid, I’m sorry. But, Derek is going around and telling everyone that it’s him or you. He’s threatening, no, promising, to make us regret our choice, if it leans toward you.” She shrugged and half-frowned. “I can’t afford to lose my business with Bob’s unemployment. I’m sorry.”

Kathy was the last one. Derek had taken everyone else and turned them to his side. I’m not even sure what rumors he was spreading, but I could only imagine.

“But I didn’t do anything wrong.” I blinked back the tears. I wouldn’t beg. It sucked that Kathy, the one person I’d just known wouldn’t turn on me, had turned. She showed her sleazy side, though, as she trashed a long-running relationship for money. “I expected better, but fine.” That’s not how family or friends should act.

She shrugged again, her expression belligerent. “It doesn’t matter what you think. It’s nothing personal. As far as I’m concerned, it’s business.”

I ignored her comment and turned around. I left her salon, my split and still-intact heart even more broken than I thought it could be. Derek had cheated on me, multiple times, and the entire town knew it. Now, they were turning on me because of the instructions from one insane narcissist. I felt like they were all cheating on me with him.

Fine. They could have him.

I blinked back the tears. I hate you, Derek. I hate Ohio. I climbed in my car and thrust the key into the ignition. January frost covered the inside of my windows. I inhaled the cold air. My breath before me fogged the dashboard glass and the rearview mirror. I didn’t start the car. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was painfully obvious even my parents’ house wasn’t my home.

Leaning forward, I rested my forehead on the cold vinyl wrap of my steering wheel. My phone dinged. Great, an email. Who was emailing me now? It’s not like I had any friends.

I swiped open the phone, clicking on my email icon. In the subject line a red heart said, “Reminder: Proxy files for your records.” The “from” section said ClickandWeb.com, Colin Davis.

A fuzzy memory from the night before surfaced. A fun quiz flashed in my mind. I narrowed my eyes and opened the email. I could have sworn I’d made half that up in my wine-induced state.

“Reminder! First, congratulations! Your proxy was filed for marriage using the online server. You are expected to arrive within the week at your new spouse’s home, or forfeit the deposit of two-thousand dollars. Thank you and good luck in love, Colin Davis, President of ClickandWed.com.”

Wait, what? Proxy was filed for marriage? I hated Ohio but what? I blinked, once, twice, super slow. A deposit of how much? I read the line again. Or forfeit the deposit of two-thousand dollars.

$2000.

My mouth dried up and I stared at the number. I didn’t have that kind of money in my bank account. My limit on my credit card was about double that, but I wouldn’t use my card unless it was an extremely important emergency. I just wouldn’t. How much chianti had I drank the night before?

I faintly remembered the mention of a fee, but I thought all the zeros were just an extension of a twenty.

There had to be a typo. I wasn’t married. Twenty bucks had bought me my results to a fun little dating quiz. Right? Just to be safe, I pulled out my credit card and called the number on the back. I swallowed the bile rising in the back of my throat.

The credit card customer service representative answered with a professional friendliness. “Hello, thank you for calling Twice Check. How can I help you?”

“Yes, I made a purchase last night, apparently, and it says it was for two-thousand dollars? It was an online purchase, but I thought it was twenty dollars. What do I do to get out of it?” My hands shook and I tried ignoring the biting pain as the cold edged its way through my nerves.

“Yes, ma’am. I do see that purchase. There’s nothing you can do to dispute it. It looks like it was authorized with information you provided like a credit check. There is a contract reference number here and it’s attached to your purchase. Any attempts to dispute or refund it are supposed to be taken as a forfeit of expenses.” She spoke so matter-of-factly, like she had no idea what she was saying to me.

I sat there for a long moment, supposed to be a forfeit? What was this? Some kind of a game? I had already lost the first game of marriage. How many more would I have to lose?

What had I done?

“Is that what you would like me to do, ma’am? Indicate a forfeit of deposit?” The woman cleared her throat and waited, as if I had an actual choice. How was someone allowed to do that?

Crud. “No, no. I just had a little too much to drink last night, and I forgot what my charge was for. Thank you for reminding me.” I hung up before she could somehow misconstrue my words as confirmation to forfeit the two grand. The way my luck was taking me, it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened.

I didn’t want to dispute the charge. Not if it meant I would lose it all. Maybe I could appeal to the company or the president? Colin Davis had emailed me. We could be email pen-pals or something.

Where was the contract? I had a few emails in my inbox from ClickandWed.com. Account approval, confirmation on profile completion, congratulations on selecting my spouse.

Wait a minute, did he have to approve me? Oh, there it was, the next email said “Congratulations, your future spouse approved you!” That was good to know. How embarrassing to be rejected before I’d even met him.

I couldn’t find a contract, though. I scrolled, desperately scanning the small subject lines. Finally, amidst the many I had, one stood out. “Before clicking confirm, please read carefully.”

Wait! I didn’t read that. Well, I know I had clicked read and accept, but I hadn’t actually read it.

Oh, my goodness, Rachel! That’s not going to hold up as a convincing argument to get your money back. “Hi, Colin, I need my money back. You see, I was drunk and not thinking clearly, and I just clicked that I read it when I didn’t actually read it. Can I get out of the contract now?” I could hear it all now. She would scrunch her forehead on the other end of the line and roll her eyes. How many times had she heard that excuse? It was an online marriage site – she probably heard more excuses than Vegas.

I clicked on the email. Where was that fine print? The terms and services agreement thing? The thing that nobody reads, but apparently, they need to read. I was all kinds of stupid. They had attached the contract as a friendly reminder.

It wasn’t fine print, either. They had it as the body of the email and in an attachment. The font was at least sixteen.

Okay, so it wasn’t really a fee. It was more like a deposit. A two-thousand-dollar deposit. If all the steps they sent us were completed, all the rules were followed, and we still wanted out, they would give us the money back.

What happened if we wanted to stay married? We lost all that money? No, actually, it said that we would get something more meaningful, if we stuck it out and decided to stay together.

Probably a Hallmark value or something and not a tangible thing I could pay bills with. All the steps and all the rules. I already wanted out of everything. Maybe that guy would want out, too. He must’ve had to do a deposit as well. I couldn’t remember even what he looked like.

He’d approved me.

$2000. Wow, $2000.

It was a lot of money to spend on a quiz result and then click I do.

I started the car and waited for the front windshield to defrost. Then, I pulled out of the parking lot. The only thing I could think of was my drunken splurge of $2000.

$2000. In a fog of disbelief, I somehow got home. Or to my parents’ house, rather.

Parked in front of the garage door on the driveway, I stared at the house I grew up in. The place had never felt like home, even when I’d lived there as a child.

If I didn’t go through with it, I could lose the money. What was the big deal? I’d have to chalk it up to a stupid drunken mistake. I didn’t have many of them. Wasn’t I due one or two? I could go back into my parents’ house and be the loser that I was and live on the little bit of money I had left from my business.

Or…

I glanced at my phone as if to check that the emails were real. I could give it a shot. After six months, I wouldn’t be any worse off, and I could have my money back. Plus, it’d be a break from my dad. At least this way I wouldn’t be at my parents’ home when they returned.

Opening my email, I scrolled for the email that had the link to his profile. I just needed to see his face again. The one I’d chosen.

When his picture popped up with his dark eyes and even darker hair, I softened. Then I saw his smile and that was really all it took to push me closer to that side of the country.

The choice was already made. I just had to accept that my drunken-self was more hopeful and optimistic than my sober-self.

Hopefully, my drunken-self had a plan to get me there because my sober-self was irritated and a headache was growing.

One more glance at my husband gave me the motivation to get to work. I had a plane to catch and a husband to find.

Kindle

Author: Chelsea Paulson

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