The Risk

By: Calista Kyle

Prologue


Three Months Earlier



Chad was late from work again. It was already the third time this week, and it was only Wednesday. Lately he’d been making a habit of leaving for work early and coming back late after I knew his offices were closed. I paced the floor of the apartment that we shared. Something wasn’t right. It hadn’t felt right in months.

When he finally walked through the door, I let out a loud sigh, partly from relief and partly irritation. Chad startled at the sound and turned to look at me in the darkened living room.

“Are you having an affair?” I asked. My voice remained surprisingly calm and even.

“What?! No, of course not,” he said.

He walked into the sunken living room and stood in front of me. His tie was loosened and the top two buttons of his shirt were undone. He looked tired and stressed with faint dark circles under his eyes.

“What’s been going on then?” I asked. “You’ve been acting distant lately.”

He ran a hand through his copper red hair and looked away. My heart squeezed as I looked at him and I wanted to reach out to pull him closer, as if that could bridge the distance that had grown between us.

“I just have a lot on my plate right now, with work and everything,” he finally said.

“Is that it?” I asked. I felt a relief wash over me. I’d feared that he would say the dreaded words I’d heard before—“It’s not you, it’s me”. A smile tugged on my lips as I closed the distance between us and wrapped my arms around his waist, nuzzling my head against his chest. “I was afraid you’d gotten tired of me or something,” I confessed.

“No…uh…listen Mel,” he began. He grabbed my upper arms and pulled me back, looking down at me. “The truth is, I have been thinking about us lately.”

He stepped back and began pacing the floor, running his hand through his hair agitatedly. My heart lurched at his sudden change. I’d seen this too many times before. Inside, I was screaming “No no no no no! Please don’t let this be happening.”

“So, you see what I mean?” he asked, snapping me back to attention.

I stared at him blankly. “I’m sorry what did you say?” I asked faintly.

“I think we need some space. Things moved so quickly between us, and I just think we need some time apart to reassess our relationship.”

“You think we need space?” I repeated thickly, staring at him in shock.

“Yes. I think if we cooled off a little—”

“Now you want to cool off?” I asked, my voice rising in anger. “After a year, you’re going to tell me now that we moved too fast? You couldn’t have said this, oh I don’t know, a year ago?”

“I didn’t feel this way a year ago,” he blurted. “I’m only 27 for God’s sake. I’m not ready to be tied down.”

“You think I’m tying you down?”

“Yes…no! I don’t know. It feels like we’re already married, what with you living here and expecting me home every night.”

“You’re the one who asked me to move in with you, and why shouldn’t I expect you home every night. Where else would you go?”

“See! That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t even go out with my friends or do anything without you wondering where I am,” he said.

“What are you saying, Chad?! You think I shouldn’t wonder where you are if you don’t come home? That I shouldn’t be upset if you’re out with other women. Is that it Chad? Do you want to see other people?”

Chad blew out a breath and sank down on the couch, holding his head in his hands. “It’s not that, Mel. I’d never cheat on you. I just feel like I’m not ready for a serious relationship right now.”

“One year of dating and now you tell me you’re not ready for a serious relationship.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

I stood there staring at him. He bent his head with his elbows resting on his thighs. He didn’t even bother to look up at me. I suddenly began to panic. I couldn’t lose Chad. Not now, not after a year. He was the longest relationship I’d ever had and he was the only person I could imagine sharing a future with.

“Please Chad,” I said desperately. “We can work this out. Whatever it is that happened to us—”

“I’m transferring to Dubai,” he said, cutting me off.

His words brought me up short. I shook my head, unsure if I’d heard correctly. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve accepted a position heading up the opening of our offices in Dubai,” he said. “I’ll be leaving in two weeks.”

I noticed that he didn’t include “we” in his statement. “I’ll be leaving,” he said. That meant he had no intention of me coming along. I could feel the hot tears burn the back of my eyes as I fought to keep them at bay. “So that’s it then?” I said, my voice trembling with emotion.

He gave me a tight nod, not even bothering to speak. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and wiped the tear that had trickled down my cheek.

“Goodbye Chad,” I said. I moved past him towards the front door and walked out of the apartment for the last time.





Chapter 1: Mel


“I’m getting married!”

I nearly choked on my drink and had to take a moment to catch my breath. The last thing I expected when my best friend Lily asked me out to lunch and told me she had big news was that she was getting married. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. She and her fiancé, Roman, were perfect for each other. Anyone who ever saw them together could immediately tell that they were in it for the long haul.

It was wonderful to see how she blossomed under his loving care and encouragement. Before he came into her life, she’d been cynical and jaded about love and relationships. Since they’d been together, she’d learned to trust and be more open with her feelings.

He’d changed for the better too. Roman Conrad was a notorious flirt and playboy. With his looks and wealth, he was a definite catch and he knew it. But Lily had done the impossible. She’d humbled him. It was a remarkable transformation for the both of them, but it didn’t come without some difficulties and trials. There were days where I thought they’d never be able to work it out, but in the end they had worked through their issues and grown stronger from it.

I couldn’t be happier for them, but a little part of me couldn’t help but feel a pang of envy. Why couldn’t it be me getting married? And why did every guy I meet turn out to be a two-faced jerk who ran at the first sign of commitment?

“Well? Aren’t you going to congratulate me?” she asked, smiling at me widely.

“Of course! Congratulations girl, I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks, Mel. I want you to be my maid of honor,” Lily said. “We want it to be a short engagement. Roman’s said no more than three months. I know its short notice, but will you do it?”

“Three months? What’s the rush?” I asked.

“He doesn’t want a long engagement. Plus, it’ll be easier to keep it out of the papers if it’s short.”

“I see.”

“Well? Will you do it?”

“Yes a thousand times! You don’t even have to ask. Whatever you need, I’m your girl,” I said.

“I knew there was a reason I kept you around,” she said. She reached over the table and gave me a hug, spilling my water in the process. “Oh shit, sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, throwing my napkin over the wet spot on the table. “So where do we begin? You must have a ton of things to do if you’re going to plan a wedding in three months.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve hired a wedding planner to take care of all those little details. All we need to worry about is the dress.”

I gave her an incredulous look and she was quick to explain herself. “You know I’ve never been one of those girls who had their wedding all planned out when they were little. I don’t really care for the ceremony as long as at the end of the day Roman and I are married. Hell, I could do it at the city hall or Vegas, but Roman wants to do it right, he said. So this is our compromise. He’s paying for the wedding planner and all I have to do is show up on the date.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all planned. There’s not much left for us to do then,” I said. “Just the dresses and the bachelorette party.”

“I guess,” she said hesitantly. “Listen Mel, I’m not sure about a bachelorette party. I don’t really want anything too elaborate or you know…raunchy. Just maybe a few drinks and maybe some dancing. Definitely no strippers.”

“Yeah right, Lil. Keep dreaming. You’re not getting out of your bachelorette party. How many chances will you ever get to have one thrown in your honor? And I’m going to go all out. Don’t even try to protest. It’s not going to work on me.”

Lily sighed in defeat, realizing that I wasn’t going to budge an inch on this. “Just promise me there won’t be any strippers.”

“I won’t do anything of the sort. Don’t worry about it,” I added, trying to ease her apprehensions. “It’ll be fun and tasteful, how about that?”

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