You slide the glittering diamond ring onto your left hand, the weight of it feeling foreign, like wearing a costume. Staring into the ornate floor length mirror, you hardly recognize yourself in this embroidered lace gown that pools luxuriously at your feet.
“Perfect,” Madeline, your longtime assistant, squeaks as she claps her hands in delight. “He won’t be able to take his eyes off you.”
You hope she’s right, even though everything about this day feels wrong.
It was barely six months ago when that letter arrived, informing you that the historic Victorian home that housed your struggling flower shop would be put up for auction. The news came like a punch to the gut. Your grandmother had started Marigold Blossoms fifty years ago, filling the quaint building on Main Street with vibrant flowers and loyal customers. After she passed, leaving it to you, it became your whole world.
And in an instant, it was slipping away.
People in towns like Havenport didn’t have much use anymore for brick-and-mortar flower shops with the mega chains and online retailers taking over. And despite local legend claiming that Orpheus Hade, the eccentric tech billionaire who owned nearly half the town, was born here before making his vast fortune, he seemed to have no attachment to or interest in Havenport anymore, with some townspeople questioning if he even existed.
Until one morning you spotted a sleek black sedan rolling down Main Street emblazoned with a prominent Hade Enterprises logo. Word quickly spread that the prodigal son had returned to claim Guardhall Manor, his rumored birthplace, after inheriting it. Almost overnight, the long abandoned mansion had undergone drastic renovations to welcome its equally enigmatic owner.
You only ever knew Orpheus as the mysterious billionaire who might save or destroy your tiny business on a whim. But standing here on your wedding day in Guardhall’s palatial ballroom decorated ornately with your signature marigolds, you remind yourself that the beguiling stranger waiting downstairs is now your fiancé.
This marriage was his idea. Arriving unannounced at your shop one blustery March afternoon, he made you a business proposal: if you agree to marry him, he would pay off every outstanding debt and ensure Marigold Blossoms stays open under your full ownership. In return, you just need to play the part of devoted wife in public from time to time.
It took weeks to comprehend what he was asking and why a man like him would possibly need to contract a small town bride, let alone set his sights on you specifically. When you pressed for clearer reasons, Orpheus remained vague but persistent, assuring you that it was only for twelve months with generous financial compensation if you honored the agreement.
The smart thing would have been to refuse the outrageous offer to illegally wed a man you only just met. But once the shock wore off, you realized you didn’t have the luxury of smart options. It was either marry the billionaire or lose everything that mattered to you in this world.