The Ruthless Groom (Arranged Marriage #2) - Monica Murphy

Chapter One

Charlotte

The moment I enter the suite, I’m turning the deadbolt on the door, my breathing harsh in the otherwise silent hotel room. I glance over at the bed, the messy sheets and rumpled pillows and memories of last night come at me, one after another.

Perry’s mouth all over my body. Between my legs. The look on his face when he first entered me.

A shiver steals over me and I tell myself to focus.

After I wash my hands of the sticky coffee leftover from me tossing it at Seamus, I pace the hotel room, constantly checking my phone, tempted to call Perry and ask him if he’s closer. The smug look on Seamus’s face still haunts me and I open my browser on my phone, entering two words before I start searching.

Constantine Morelli.

A bunch of articles appear, mostly about various business deals. They’ve been archrivals for years from what I can tell, and the two families hate each other with a burning passion.

I knew this. From the very start I could tell there was tension between them whenever a Morelli showed up or was mentioned. Yet I also know there are various Morellis attending our wedding in a few short hours.

The Constantines are the type who keep their friends close and their enemies closer.

Are there McTiernans in attendance as well? It’s a last name that’s never been mentioned once since this entire situation started. I would’ve noticed. It’s hard to forget the name of the man who took your virginity and lied to you the entire time you were together.

Anger suffusing me, I close out that tab and enter another two words into the browser, hitting search.

Seamus McTiernan.

I haven’t done a Google search on him in months. First, because I banned myself after being in such a dark depression over our disaster of a relationship. Second, the last six weeks or so, I’ve been a little busy planning a wedding and getting to know my future husband.

As I scroll, I realize there still aren’t many things written about Seamus. A couple of images of the Morelli and McTiernan clan gathered together, with him standing in the background, his face almost nondescript, the photo is so blurry. His name listed at the various institutions he’s worked at in the past, though his image never accompanies those mentions. There are hardly any mentions of him at all.

His online presence is weak and that immediately makes me suspicious.

Is that on purpose? What is Seamus hiding? I wonder if he’s still with his girlfriend. They’d been together a long time, I could tell. She treated him with a familiarity that comes with many years of being a couple.

Yet, in the coffee shop, he spoke of me as if he’s always kept tabs on me.

That’s…

Creepy.

There’s a rapid-fire knock on the heavy door that startles me enough it makes me gasp. I run to the door, throwing it open at the same exact moment I remember Perry’s warning that I should open it for no one else but him. And it’s not Perry standing in front of me.

It’s my mother.

“Darling!” She pushes past me and rushes inside the suite while I stand there gaping at her, sagging against the door. Incredibly grateful that it wasn’t Seamus. She turns to face me, her gaze drifting over me, her expression dismayed. “Looks like you spilled something.”

I glance down, noticing the light brown splattered pattern of coffee on my sweatshirt.

“You should’ve already showered by now, Charlotte. There’s a lot of prep involved today,” she continues.

“I just woke up,” I lie as I slowly close the door, watching as she glances around the room, her nose faintly wrinkled.

“It’s so dark in here.” She marches over to the windows and yanks open the curtains, the bright sunny morning light making me wince. “There. That’s much better.”

“You’re here early,” I say weakly, wishing I had that coffee in hand after all. I’m going to need plenty of caffeine to get through this.

“I realized ten o’clock wasn’t early enough to start this very important day. I called everyone last night and changed the time to nine,” she explains.

“You didn’t call me.” I scroll through my past notifications, realizing that oops, she did actually call. And I ignored it. Looks like she left a voicemail too.

Which I also ignored—probably because I was having sex with my almost-husband.

I can’t help but smile. For once, I don’t feel nervous or unsettled when I think about Perry. It actually seems…right that we’re doing this. Getting married.

My stomach swarms