Home > The Reluctant Bride

The Reluctant Bride
Author: Monica Murphy

Chapter One



I enter the boardroom at Halcyon right on time. Acting like I’ve got my shit together, like nothing is bothering me.

My brother Winston—the oldest Constantine, the one who runs Halcyon, our family business—sits at the head of the sleek black marble table, our mother in the chair to his right. Their heads are bent close as they speak in low tones.

The whispering won’t fuck with my attitude. It’s a Monday and I usually drag ass after a particularly spectacular weekend, but today I refuse to give him that satisfaction.

Despite the fact that Winny called the meeting at seven in the morning. The only time he could manage to fit us in, he said via a terse text.

Yes, even his texts are terse. Dry and demanding and with no emotion whatsoever. My brother used to hate me. Then switched to barely tolerating me once I started working for him. Now I’m pretty sure he likes me.


“There you are,” our mother calls when she looks up and sees me. She immediately rises, waiting for my approach, and when I get close enough, we hug and I press a quick kiss to her cheek.

Caroline Constantine is a beautiful woman. She has aged gracefully. Dresses impeccably. Controls the family with what she believes is an iron fist.

No one listens to her. Definitely not Winston. He does whatever the hell he wants, as well he should. He’s running everything that has to do with the Constantines and he does it well—even better than our father.

None of my brothers or sisters listen to our mother either. Not even my younger siblings. They’re rebellious and completely ignore her demands.

My youngest sister, Tinsley, is in a relationship with a priest, for Christ’s sake.

The only one who listens, who does as she bids, who is constantly trying to earn her approval in any way possible is…


Fuck, it’s easy to make her happy. She dotes on me. Says I remind her of my father, though no way can that be true.

That’s Winston. He’s the one who looks and acts like our long-dead dad. I’m the more handsome and charming, younger version of my father. The one they wish they could all be.

But I humor Mother and let her believe that yes, I’m his spitting image in both looks and mannerisms, when in all actuality, I’m nothing like him. He was ruthless and business savvy and brave. Much like Winston is now.

For some reason, Mother still indulges me every chance she gets, even though I’m a grown-ass man. Maybe it was because our father’s death hit me so hard and she has guilt over it? I was an angst-riddled teen who wouldn’t stop crying. My younger brother, Keaton, acted as if he was completely unaffected, much like Winston.

I wish I had a harder heart like them.

Only a few years ago, I still acted the fool because that’s what everyone expected of me. Why try to grow up when everyone believes you’re an immature asshole?

So that’s what I did. I partied. I spent money that I didn’t earn. I fucked a lot of women. I bought stupid cars.

I still own that orange Chevelle, though I garaged it recently. I looked ridiculous in my custom Brioni suits, climbing out of that orange monstrosity every day in the Halcyon parking garage, earning stares from coworkers. Earning mockery from my older brother who made fun of that car every chance he got.

I bought a far more respectable vehicle recently. A sleek white Lamborghini.

“Good morning,” I say as I take a step back from my mother’s embrace. Can’t linger too long or Winny will say something snide and rude.

He doesn’t say a word beyond a nod of acknowledgement at my arrival. His expression is stern, yet impassive. I never know what he’s thinking, and it’s disconcerting. I’ve learned from that though, and do my damnedest to wear the same expression when I’m dealing with Halcyon business for Win.

Or when I’m trying to get out of a sticky situation with a woman. That happens more often than I care to admit.

“Have a seat, darling,” Mother says, indicating the chair on the other side of Winston. I do as she says, settling into the leather chair that’s more comfortable than the one I sit in at my desk every damn day. “How was your weekend?”

I can’t tell her it was full of debauchery that included too much alcohol and too many women, but I avoid the paparazzi at the more popular clubs to keep it under wraps. Instead I smile at her and say, “It was fine.”

Winston snorts. I’m sure he knows what I was up to.

Wonder if he misses it.

If I had his hot wife to come home to every evening, I wouldn’t miss that lifestyle at all.

“That’s nice.” Mother smiles, revealing straight white teeth that nearly blind me. Looks like someone just visited the dentist. “I hear you’ve been given new projects at Halcyon.”

I chance a look at Winston but he’s not paying attention to us. Too busy tapping away on his phone. “I have.” I try to tamp down my excitement before my brother calls me out for behaving like a hyperactive puppy. “I’m handling all the angry calls that come into the office.”

Mother frowns. “Angry calls?”

I nod. “We piss off a lot of people in this city. There’s a lot of damage control going on. And not always of the—violent variety.”

The knowing look on her face is obvious. She’s just as ruthless as Winston. Swear to God that’s where he got it from, not Dad.

Clearing his throat, Winston sits up straight, resting his arms on top of the table. “Enough with the pleasantries. Let’s get down to business.”

“Winston,” Mother murmurs.

I frown at the both of them. “What exactly is this business we’re discussing this early in the morning anyway?”

Mother clears her throat as well, glancing over at Winston before she turns her attention on me. “It has to do with…you.”

I frown. “What about me?”

“Perry, darling. You’re not getting any younger.” Her expression is dour, as if she’s discussing something that displeases her. “It’s time for you to settle down.”

I snort. So does Winston.

“I’m only twenty-four,” I remind her. “Winston didn’t marry until he was forty.”

“Thirty-nine,” he corrects.

“Whatever,” I say to him, returning my attention to our mother. “There’s no one I want to settle down with anyway, so I can’t.”

“Ah, but you can.” Her smile is serene. “I’ve found someone for you, Perry. And you’re going to absolutely adore her.”

Wait a minute.

Back the fuck up.

“You’ve found someone for me?” My frown deepens. “What exactly do you mean?”

The room is quiet. Not even my brother says anything, which isn’t normal.

“Jesus, just cut to the chase. Put him out of his misery. I have a call to take in—” Winston checks his watch. “—twenty minutes.”

“Winston, please.” Mother sighs, her hand fluttering around her face. As if she’s…


“If you don’t tell him, I will,” my brother growls, his gaze cutting to mine, his lips parting as if he’s about to speak.

But she beats him to the punch.

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