Fractured (Not Quite a Billionaire #2) - Rosalind James Page 0,1

and feeling a long, long way from New York City.

We weren’t talking, even though there was so much to settle, so much to discuss. I wanted to hold this quiet moment before our lives picked us up and hurtled us on again, and Hemi seemed content to let me do it. But then, talking—and sharing his thoughts—had never been his favorite things, as I was soon to be forcibly reminded.

“Geez,” my sister said, coming into the kitchen on a swirl of chilly morning air and a burst of teenaged energy and eyeing me in my robe. “You guys are slow. We already had breakfast at the café and everything. Bacon and sausage and eggs. It’s like the whole country’s on the Atkins Diet. Protein delight, and you missed it.”

Hemi eyed her with the lightening around his eyes that was his version of a smile. “Well, Hope and I had a fair bit to discuss last night.”

Karen looked as inquisitive and bright as one of the fluttering little fantails that had dogged our steps on our walk to the coast the day before. “Oh?”

Hemi’s Koro, his grandfather, didn’t ask anything. He just looked at Hemi, his wise old eyes sharp in his lined brown face.

“Yeh,” Hemi said. He was actually smiling for once, not just looking like he might, and now, he took my hand under the table, swallowing it up in that way only he could. “Think you could run to a wedding while we’re here, Koro? Seems I’ve managed to talk this one into it, and I don’t mean to let her get away.”

Karen’s eyes were wide behind her black-rimmed glasses. “Get out,” she breathed.

Koro, like Hemi, didn’t smile much. He wasn’t doing it now, but his broad face somehow showed every bit of his satisfaction. Hemi stood, releasing my hand, and his grandfather pulled him into a fierce embrace. “My son,” he said when he finally stood back, “you make me proud.” Then he turned to me, took me more gently into his arms, kissed my cheek, and said, “Haere mai, Hope. Welcome to our family. Don’t let Hemi get above himself, eh.”

“Never,” Hemi said, but I just laughed and tried not to cry. I knew I was happy, but it was too much. I didn’t trust it, or I couldn’t take it in, or something.

Karen had sat down beside me, and now she was hugging me. “I better get to be a bridesmaid.”

“Plan on that,” Hemi said. “Hope’s going to need somebody standing up with her if she’s really going to take me on.”

“Wait,” I said, finally processing everything he’d said. “We can’t do it now. We’re only here for a couple more weeks.”

“Course we can,” Hemi said. “I asked you, remember? And you said yes. You have your birth certificate. Why d’you think I made you bring it?”

Karen reached out and snitched a chunk of pineapple off my plate. “So you planned this? Awesome. Did you kneel down and everything? And does this mean I get a college fund?”

“Karen,” I said helplessly.

Hemi, of course, was laughing. “Yeh,” he said. “You get a college fund. Long as you earn it, keep working hard.”

“No worries,” Karen said. “I’m very bright.”

She reached for another piece of pineapple, and I slapped her hand and said, “You had breakfast.”

“I’m a growing girl. With a college fund. Who’s going to be a bridesmaid.” She sighed. “Is this an awesome vacation or what?”

“But…” I said again.

“No buts,” Hemi said. “Three-day waiting period after the license, and we’re there. Call it five or six days, maybe, from today. Time to buy you a dress, find Karen something new as well, get the details sorted, and get people invited. It’s better anyway,” he went on, overriding anything I might have said, “as we’re on holiday already. I’ll take you to the Far North for a honeymoon, if you like, where it’s warmer. Or to the islands, if you want the tropics. Samoa, maybe. It’ll be short, but we’ll do it better later. And then we’ll go home and get you moved.”

I had my hands over my face. “Wait,” I said. “Wait. I can’t…that’s too fast.”

“What?” Hemi said, his face closing.

“Hope,” Karen said, “that’s just stupid. You have to want to marry Hemi. Come on.”

I tried to think of what to say, and couldn’t.

“Karen,” Koro said, looking at me. “Quiet, now. Come help me in the garden. We’ll leave these two to get themselves sorted.”

Hemi

“Right,” I said to Hope when Koro and Karen had disappeared outside