Devoured - Cathryn Fox
“WHERE THE HECK is he?”
I mumble curses under my breath as I pace around my condo, weaving around packed boxes that are ready to be shipped to Malta first thing tomorrow morning, right before I jump on board my brother’s Learjet and get flown to the island myself.
“You talking to me?” my best friend Carly asks.
I spin as she comes into the room with a glass of white wine and unceremoniously flops onto the buttery-yellow sofa. I’m going to miss Carly. I’m going to miss that sofa. Heck, I’m going to miss New York, too, but my dream job of teaching English to young students in Europe calls—and I’m eager to answer.
A bubble of excitement wells up inside me as I envision myself in the modern school located in the quiet community of St. Julian’s, standing before a bevy of eager minds ready to learn a new language. Thank God, I studied Italian in college, as well as Spanish, otherwise this opportunity never would have presented itself.
While I’m thrilled that I’m one of two candidates being considered for the full-time position, leaving my friends, my brother Cason and Londyn, his new wife, and everything else I love won’t be easy. Leaving is never easy—that’s something I know firsthand. But I’m only a flight away, and I’ll have a place to come back to since Carly will be taking over the lease on my downtown condo while I’m in the Mediterranean for the next month, and hopefully longer. But that’s going to depend on numerous things...
“No. I’m talking to myself. My ‘husband’—” I pause to do air quotes around the word “—is not here yet. He’s close to an hour late for our introductory date.”
She crinkles her nose. “That’s not a great way to start a marriage.”
I snort at that. “You’re right, it’s not.” Then again, having my brother choose a pretend husband for me, using the Penn Pals dating app he created when he was an undergraduate at Penn State, is no way to start a marriage, either. Not that we’ll end up together in matrimonial bliss. Nope. Not happening. This girl is not setting herself up for that kind of disaster. If there’s one thing I learned while being tossed around in the system, it’s that I’m not a keeper. If I were, I probably wouldn’t have lived in ten different foster homes in the span of five years. I just hope I’m compatible with whoever Cason chooses. We’ll be living together in close quarters, and it’d be horrible if we didn’t at least like each other.
“Is that what you’re wearing to dinner?” Carly asks, her blue eyes tracking down my body as she cradles her wineglass like it’s a treasured heirloom.
My pulse jumps as I glance at the snug black cocktail dress that’s been sitting in the back of my closet for a year. I don’t even remember the last time I had a need to wear it, but thought it would be perfect for tonight. “Why, what’s wrong with it?”
She grins and twirls a strand of her hair around her finger. “Just that you look hot in that little number, and you don’t want this guy to fall in love with you, do you?”
“Please,” I say. “Tonight’s dinner is so we can get to know each other and talk logistics. This arrangement isn’t about love. It’s about securing a full-time teaching job for me, and for him, it’s about getting a big chunk of money for helping me get it.”
I pull the tube of bright red lipstick that Londyn gave me from my purse and swipe the creamy, hydrating wax over my lips.
I turn to face Carly, anxiety welling up inside me when I check the clock for the millionth time. “What if he doesn’t show? What if he changed his mind?”
“With the amount of money you’re paying him, he’d be crazy not to show, and spending time with you...” She pauses to look me over again. “That’s no hardship for any man, my friend.” She snaps her fingers. “I also think you should exercise your matrimonial rights and get it, gurl.”
I chuckle. “It won’t be like that, Carly. We won’t be having sex.” Like I even know what sex is anymore...or ever. My days have been busy teaching at the local elementary school and I’ve been falling asleep at night while filling out forms for this new job. Truthfully, the last time I had sex was in college, and that fumbling experience left me cold and