Trouble - Tia Louise Page 0,1

why I’m here, but I remember my mom saying it would be okay.

Returning quietly to my room, I notice a sweaty glass of ice water on my bedside table. Going to it, I lift a cube from the top and put it in my mouth, sliding to sit on the scratchy wool rug covering my floor.

My eyes close, and I focus on the cold as it slowly melts away.

Then I do it again.

Chapter 1


Present day

“Fuck you, Elliot.” I exhale a growl as I shove my phone in the hidden pocket of my knee-length, chartreuse-silk bridesmaid’s dress.

Anger burns in my throat, but I will not cry.


I won’t ruin my professionally applied makeup.

“Not what I want to hear from my maid of honor!” My cousin Daisy pushes past me into the dressing room suite on the second floor of the Oceanside Hotel. Her vintage Givenchy wedding dress swishes around her knees, and she’s moving fast towards the bathroom. “What happened now?”

I follow her, leaning against the outside wall with a long sigh as she shuts the louvered door. “You know what happened.”

“Idiot Flick again?”

I chew my bottom lip. “He’s not an idiot. He’s just…”

“Controlling, manipulative, unreliable—”

“He’s not coming tonight. He says something came up at work.”

The toilet flushes, and she steps out, washing her hands at the sink. Her brown eyes are narrowed at me in the mirror.

Shame flashes in my chest. “Don’t squinch your little pixie face at me.”

She shakes her blonde head as she dries her hands on the monogrammed towel. “Not my business.”

“Just say it.”

Our eyes meet in the mirror as she taps powder on her forehead and nose. “He pulls a stunt like this at least once a week.”

“You’re saying he doesn’t have to work?” I’m tense, waiting for her to confirm my own fears.

“On a Sunday, at six pm?”

“He has a very demanding job.”

“In garbage?”

“It’s waste management.” I step beside her, fluffing my red hair in the mirror. It falls in large waves around my shoulders. “It’s very lucrative. How do you think he can afford a penthouse apartment in Columbia? Anyway, it’s a far drive, and he just had the Mercedes detailed.”

“The black Mercedes?” She tosses the makeup on the counter and starts for the door. “Don’t the bad guys always drive black Mercedes?”

“It’s a nice car.” My voice is soft, and I’m not even convincing myself.

Hesitating, she returns to where I’m standing, taking both my hands in hers. “Does he make you happy?”

My throat aches, and I hate this question. “I should never have moved in with him. Now all my stuff is at his place.”

“I know two guys who will be happy to help you move.”

Even in heels, her head only reaches my nose. If I leaned forward, I could rest my chin on the top of her head.

“This is not something to worry about on your wedding day. Let’s get back to the party. All that champagne won’t drink itself.”

“Would you do one thing for me? As a wedding gift?”

“I gave you that expensive fondue set you wanted for a wedding gift.”

“And it’s very nice.” She squeezes my hands.

I force a teasing smile. “You want more, Britney Spears?”

“I want you to come back to the reception and just look at all the handsome, eligible bachelors waiting to sweep you off your feet.”

“Who says I need a man to be happy?” Lifting my chin, my stubborn streak is fierce. Ma says it’s because of my red hair.

Daisy shrugs and heads for the door. “Not me.”

I’m behind her, doing my best to shrug off my dark mood. “Maybe I’ll turn over a new leaf. Start dating nice men.”

“You hate nice men. Now I’ve got to get back to my guests. Drink all the champagne and have fun.”

She’s out the door, and I look at the text again. Work comes first, CM.

CM. Country Mouse.

I’m the country mouse and he’s the city mouse because I’m from Fireside, one of the smallest towns in South Carolina, and he’s from Columbia, which trust me, is no booming metropolis.

“Fuck you, Elliot.” I shove the phone in my pocket again and head out to the party.

* * *

Lifting my fourth glass of champagne off a passing server’s tray, I trace my finger along one of the shiny green leaves that make up the skirt on the oversized floral Tinkerbell statue.

Ma took me to Walt Disney World and Epcot Center one year for spring break—just in time for the massive Epcot Flower and Garden Festival—and I was blown away.

Walking around the giant,