Holiday Husband by Erin McCarthy

I glanced down at my red gown with that slit so high it might be illegal. “He told me to wear white but I thought it was a stupid idea. It’s December and white washes me out.” I had wanted to look sexy, not bridal.


Oh, shit.

I stared at her. She stared at me, blinking back tears, her brown eyes filled with horror.

“Am I the bride?” I gasped, clutching my stomach as the doors to the elevator slid open on the sixty-fifth floor of an incredibly expensive hotel.

Oh, the irony. The horrible, dizzying, panic-inducing irony.

“You’re early, I just never thought...” She instantly burst into tears. “Oh, my God, I ruined the surprise!”

I felt like crying myself, for a completely different reason. I surged off the elevator in a blind panic, practically running to the set of double doors. Two men in tuxes opened the heavy doors like I was Rose on the Titanic. Which was appropriate for my mood because I felt like I was drowning.

A wedding? My wedding? It was insane. It was impossible. No one got married without even being asked if they wanted to get married. It wasn’t a surprise wedding, it was an accidental wedding. An ambush wedding. Designed to stun me into submission.

There was an aisle, outlined with candles, and at the end of it was Dante. Standing at an altar, which was bursting with flowers.

Eyes turned to look at me. The curious gazes of guests who had come to see Dante strong-arm me into marrying him, in a room full of strangers. I didn’t recognize a single face.

Without hesitation, I turned and ran back the way I had come, straight past a crying Hannah and to the elevator bank. As luck would have it, one was opening to the left and I dashed for it, well aware there were gasps of shock coming from the ballroom. I turned back to the guys manning the entrance to the ballroom and demanded, “Shut those doors!”

They actually did, probably because I sounded hysterical, which I wasn’t, but I was damn close.

“Wait!” Hannah said, rushing toward me. “Where are you going? Dakota!”

Anywhere but there. I ran through the open elevator doors and immediately collided with a tall broad-shouldered man wearing a tux. I’m a dancer with a strong core and I work out every single day. Plenty of men would have stumbled backward when I ran into them at full speed. This guy didn’t move an inch, which was impressive, but super unhelpful.

“Move, please!” I said, trying to shove at his chest to get him to step backward. The elevator door hit my hip and bounced back open. “I need to get out of here.”

“I’m trying to get off the elevator,” he said, touching my bare arms and attempting to shift me to the left.

“There’s no time!” I glanced back. Hannah was biting her knuckles, which amazed me. I’d never seen anyone actually do that in real life.

But the bigger issue was that the double doors to the ballroom were open again and there was Dante, charging out like he was on the football field. He looked ready to take action the way he did every Sunday as a professional player. He would want answers. He would want me to go back in there and marry his ass just to make him look good.


So I did the only thing I could. I hit the elevator button so the door would shut and I got completely in the stranger’s personal space. I walked right up to him, until my body was brushing against his. I boldly stared him in the eyes like a straight-up crazy person. It worked. He backed up instinctively. The doors slid shut and we were going down.

“Are you running from the cops?” I asked, taking a step back from the gorgeous blonde who was very much in my face. I was mildly annoyed by the interruption, mostly curious, and definitely in no hurry to get to the party. “Because I don’t think you’ll get very far.”

She had turned to watch the floor numbers descending on the elevator panel. “What? No, I’m not running from the cops.” She turned back to me. “But if I was, what makes you think I wouldn’t be a good criminal? I could be an awesome criminal.”

Amused, I eyed her. She definitely wasn’t a criminal. She was tall, with thick waves in her blond hair, bright blue eyes, and rich full lips that made my mouth water. Her dress was missing the sides, like someone had taken a giant hole punch to it, and I could see smooth, pale skin and a narrow waist. The slit up the front of the dress showed a lot of very toned leg.

“You won’t blend on the street,” I pointed out. “You’re wearing a skintight red dress and you don’t have a coat on. They’d spot you half a block away.”