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Seeing Red

By´╝ÜHolley Trent

Chapter 1



Megan had just married a man whose last name she wasn’t quite sure how to spell. The surname was a cacophony of consonants that, when aggregated, sounded much like a disease discovered by some Russian scientist. She should have known how to spell her own husband’s name. Was the affliction spelled R-o-s-h-k-o-f or R-o-z-h-k-o-v? She shrugged. Quite possibly, it was neither.

A warm, smooth cheek pressed against her left one, and a light arm draped around Meg’s naked shoulders. She inhaled the crisp scent of white-tea perfume and sighed.

Sharon.

“How are you feeling, Mrs. Rozhkov?” her dear friend whispered.

Meg didn’t answer.

They watched four barefoot, tuxedo-clad men tip their boozy libations in a toast toward a cluster of photographers. At least someone was having a good time, if not Meg.

Her gaze landed on her elder brother Stephen. He was plastered, an unusual occurrence for him, and grinned like a fool. He gripped a beer in either hand as if this really were the happiest day in his sister’s life and not a grand charade the whole lot of the men were complicit in. Stephen had known his beer-swigging friends for only two days and had already made a seamless integration into their geek clique. Typical Stephen.

Next, Meg’s stare tracked to a shock of coppery-red hair. She huffed and rolled her eyes at her new husband.

Yeah. Disease sounded right. Rozhkov’s Disease. Symptoms included a lack of common sense, a marriage license, and a couple of gold rings.

“I hate you,” she whispered to Sharon.

Sharon chafed Meg’s right arm in the maternal way she always did. “No you don’t. Besides, this was your idea.”

Meg cringed. She’d been hoping Sharon wouldn’t remember how this farce had come to be. When Meg had broached the topic two weeks before the wedding, she’d been at an exceptionally low point. Sharon had caught Meg crying in her after-dinner Moscato. They were supposed to be celebrating the Fennells’ move back to the United States. It should have been a joyous thing, but everywhere Meg went lately seemed to have a funereal pall. At least, it seemed that way in her little bubble.

At that party, she’d zoned out on all the revelry, because the static in her head was too loud. The static that had been ever-present in her brain since her divorce had cleared only for that nagging voice of self-doubt to pipe up and remind her of how miserable she was. She’d reached her breaking point there at the Fennells’ kitchen island when Sharon had sidled up, wrapped an arm around Meg’s drooping shoulders, and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Meg had ducked out of Sharon’s embrace, straightened her spine, and announced, “Just because I’m not smiling doesn’t mean I’m not happy!”

All of her friends had turned to look at her, and then the tears had come.

She’d never been much of a crier, but she’d been making up for lost time since the divorce. She’d cried enough to fill buckets.

Sighing, she broke free of her downer thoughts and focused on the here and now. She curled her toes into the Bermuda sand and met Sharon’s soft gaze. “This wedding was a bad idea. Normally when I have bad ideas, you and the girls try to talk me out of them. What happened this time?”

Sharon giggled in response. She gave Meg a little squeeze, then eased away, giving back the surly bride’s personal space.

That’s why Meg loved Sharon. She had a knack for reading people, and after twelve years of friendship, she never took Meg’s mercurial temperament personally. Sharon just surfed Meg’s moods like waves and had fun while doing it.

“I see opportunities everywhere, Meg.”

Coming from Sharon, the statement wasn’t an exaggeration. She was one of those rare businesswomen who could make a dollar out of fifteen cents with minimal exertion. Her knack for exploiting possibilities was a running gag in their circle. By trade, she was an event planner, but her hobby was playing yenta, and, well, she’d gone and done it again.

Sharon’s matchmaking meddling was why Meg was now married to a big, redheaded Russian named Sergei Rozhkov. Meg hadn’t even known his real name until two days past when they’d arrived in Bermuda and signed the marriage license. Meg had always known him as “Seth.” Further, she hadn’t bothered learning his last name in all that time. Hadn’t needed to.

And now they were married…at least for the moment.

Lightning flashed over the ocean, brightening the overcast sky and heightening Meg’s impatience. Holding her breath, she counted. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Thunder crashed in the distance, and she exhaled the spent air. Five miles away. Time to get off the beach.

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