Step 2: Get Hitched to the Filthy Rich Man
Three Years Earlier
Douglas can be absolutely maddening.
He is tormenting me. He pretends to be a nice guy—even down to earth, considering his job and personal wealth—but he is sadistic. There is no other explanation for why he would behave this way.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I snap at him.
He at least has the good grace to appear sheepish. He should! It’s bad enough that the man sits in our living room wearing his boxer shorts— boxers!—but we are supposed to arrive in less than an hour at a party at Leland Jasper’s house and he’s not ready at all. I had timed this perfectly for us to be fashionably late, and yet now he is standing in the kitchen, dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt, and eating Nutella out of the jar using a butter knife.
My heart cannot take this madness.
“I got hungry,” he says. He puts down the knife on the kitchen counter, smearing the dark brown spread over the marble surface.
“Douglas,” I say with rapidly dwindling patience, “we are supposed to go in ten minutes. You’re not even dressed.”
He is tormenting me. He is doing this on purpose. I can’t imagine that this behavior is not intentional—nobody could be this clueless. “Leland’s house! The party is tonight!”
“Oh, right.” He groans and rubs his temples. “Christ, do we have to go? We hate Leland and her husband. Didn’t we say that? Also, what kind of name is Leland? She definitely made that name up.”
He is correct on all accounts, but that doesn’t mean we can skip this party. Everyone will be at this party. And I want them to see me wearing my new Prada dress, my auburn hair perfectly styled and highlighted, hanging off the arm of my handsome and impossibly wealthy fiancé, who will be wearing an Armani suit that hides the paunch in his abdomen. I picked it out for that explicit purpose. Before he had me, he used to walk around in cheap suits where you could see the outline of his gut.
“We have to go,” I say through my teeth. “I don’t want to hear another word about it. You need to get dressed—now.”
“But Wendy.” Douglas grabs my arm and tugs me close to him. His breath smells like hazelnut. “Come on, the party is going to be such a drag. Let’s just… I don’t know, let’s go see a movie, just the two of us? Like we used to when we were first going out? The new Avengers movie maybe?”
Something I didn’t realize about Douglas before I first met him is that he is a hopeless nerd. He doesn’t even try to hide it. All he wants is to watch superhero movies and veg out on the sofa with his laptop perched on his legs, eating Nutella out of the jar. The only way he got to be the CEO of Coinstock is because he’s a crazy genius who invented a piece of technology that ended up being used by every bank in the country.
“We are going to this party,” I say for what feels like the hundredth time. I swear, the man does not listen to me ever. “Now get dressed. Chop, chop.”
He leans in to attempt to give me a Nutella kiss, but I am wearing Prada, so I take a step back and put up my hands to keep him away. “You can kiss me after you change,” I tell him.
Douglas shoves the jar back in the cabinet and trudges out of the kitchen into our impossibly small living room. This whole apartment is a disgrace. We only have three bedrooms, and one of them is Douglas’s office, so it’s as if we only have two bedrooms. As soon as we get married, we are going to get a serious upgrade, as well as my dream house in the suburbs. Well, it’s really Douglas’s dream house, because my dream is certainly not to live in the suburbs.
I smile whenever I think about the house where we’re going to live someday. Growing up, my father was a maintenance worker, and my mother made barely minimum wage working at a preschool. We had a tiny house, and I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, who used to wet the bed at night until she was eight years old. I studied hard enough in school to earn a scholarship to a snooty private high school, where all the other kids made fun of me for not dressing as well as they did.
All I wanted was a pair of designer jeans like my beautiful, cruel classmate Madeleine Edmundson. And maybe a winter coat that wasn’t a hand-me-down with holes in it.
I thought I could turn things around for myself in college, but it didn’t work out the way I had hoped. There was that awful incident where they accused me of cheating, and I wasn’t allowed to return for my junior year. All my career prospects seemed to go out the window when I was escorted off campus.
I wish they could all see me now.
Maddeningly, the doorbell rings at that moment. Before I can tell Douglas that I’m going to take care of whoever is at the door, he says, “That’s probably Joe. He’s dropping off some papers I need. It’ll just be a minute.”
Joe Bendeck is Douglas’s lawyer. Although he’s probably part of the reason Douglas is so rich, he is not my favorite person in the world, and he has a barely concealed distaste for me as well. I’m glad for Douglas to be the one to get rid of him.
It is strange that he is stopping by so late in the evening though. Not unprecedented, but still unusual. I wonder what he wants…
While Douglas goes to talk to Joe, I linger nearby, listening in to their conversation. Douglas doesn’t usually involve me in his business, but it’s smart to know what’s going on as much as I can.
“Is this everything?” Douglas’s voice says.
“Yes,” Joe replies, “and I also have something else for you…”
I hear the shuffling of paper. Douglas opening an envelope. “Aw, Joe. I told you, I can’t ask her to do this…”
“Doug, you have to. Your wedding is in only a few weeks, and you can’t marry that woman without a prenup.”
“Why not? I trust her.” “Big mistake.”
“Look, I can’t… it’s like starting a marriage on the wrong foot.”
“Let me give you some free legal advice, Doug. If this falls apart on you, she is going to get half of everything you worked for. This document is the only thing protecting you. You would be a complete idiot to marry her without making her sign one.”
“No buts. You don’t marry that woman unless she signs this. If she truly loves you and cares about staying married to you, then it shouldn’t matter to her, right?”
I hold my breath, waiting to see what Douglas says. I wait for him to tell Joe to go to hell. But in addition to Joe being his lawyer, he’s also his oldest and closest friend.
“Okay,” Douglas says. “I’ll get it done.”