Home > The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(2)

The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(2)
Author: Noelle Adams

“Who will you live with?”

“I don’t know.”

“Will you move away?”

“I don’t know.”

“You might take turns—”

“I don’t know!” Her voice was loud and angry.

Charles didn’t get mad back. He just looked at her for a long time. “I’m sorry.”

She slumped forward, her eyes burning. But she wasn’t going to cry. Definitely not in front of Charles.

“Does anyone else know?” Charles asked after a minute. “Does Ariana know?”

“No. Ri doesn’t know. Nobody knows. And you can’t tell them!”

“I won’t.”

She stared at him. His expression was serious. He wasn’t laughing at her or trying to boss her or being annoying.

“I won’t,” he said again, quieter this time.

She nodded and screwed up her face when it felt like she might cry again. After a few raspy breaths, she said, “Okay.”

That was it. They didn’t say anything else. But Charles sat with her for a long time, not talking or anything.

He sat with her until she heard her dad calling and she had to go home.

 

 

one

 


TAYLOR WASN’T A FAN of weddings, and she was the world’s worst bridesmaid. So she had no idea why her friends kept getting married and asking her to be one of their attendants.

Evidently all her school friends had decided their late twenties was the right time to get married. For the past year, she’d been stuck going to at least one wedding a month, and she’d been a bridesmaid far too many times.

And here she was again. Another Saturday evening. Another bridesmaid dress she’d never wear again. Another reception where she’d be expected to smile and have fun.

She wasn’t a good smiler. Everyone knew that. She hated being forced to act happy or social or silly. She loved Serena and had been friends with her since eighth grade, and she thought Keith was great and wished them both a lifetime of happiness.

But that didn’t mean she had to laugh or dance or act like someone other than her antisocial self.

At the moment, she’d accomplished all her necessary bridesmaid duties, so she was having a reprieve in the corner of the reception room, sipping champagne and grumbling over annoying social media posts on her phone. She was enjoying herself as much as was possible in this dress and these shoes when her friend Ariana Kensington came over and flounced down into the chair next to her.

Taylor gave her the side-eye. “What?”

“Why are you over here by yourself?”

“I needed a break. Too much levity for my emotional well-being.”

Ariana giggled. She was pretty and bubbly and loved by everyone—basically the polar opposite of Taylor. It was a miracle the two were friends, but they were and had been all their lives. “Serena is going to think you’re not having fun.”

“Serena knows perfectly well that this is me having fun. I’ve done my best pretending to be friendly. Now I get to be my real, hermit self for a little while.”

“You’re not a hermit. You like people a lot more than you pretend.”

“We’ll have to disagree on that assessment.”

“Someone who really disliked people as you say you do wouldn’t have as many friends as you do.”

“I don’t have that many friends. Just you and Serena and Amanda. Three isn’t a lot.”

“You have more friends than that, and you know it.”

Taylor made a grumbling noise and didn’t respond.

“Anyway,” Ariana continued, “you’ve had your break, so now it’s time to join the party again. Come and sit with me and Amanda and Robert. We’re not dancing or anything.”

“Maybe not, but you’re in the middle of the room. If I go sit there, people will be tempted to talk to me, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid.”

Right out of college, Taylor had earned a master’s in art history but hadn’t been able to find a job in that field, so she’d taken some additional classes in graphic arts and found a position as a graphic designer for a nearby university. The job was mostly work from home, which suited her perfectly. She had to go to campus for bimonthly meetings and the occasional project, but she’d been lucky enough to maintain a lifestyle that worked with her antisocial personality. She also had friends and family who took it in stride and didn’t try to force her to be a person she wasn’t.

Ariana laughed again. “Okay then. Maybe you could help with Charles.”

Taylor glanced over to the far side of the room where she knew Charles was sitting. He was the only person—other than her—who was sitting by himself. He was a couple of years older than them—he’d recently turned thirty—and he wasn’t all that different from the boy who’d found her walking across that wall. He was polite and serious and well-behaved and basically boring. “Why does Charles need help?”

“He’s being antisocial too. He needs someone to talk to.”

“Why don’t you go talk to him?”

“I did. He told me he was perfectly happy and didn’t need a pity companion.”

Taylor snorted in amusement. “See? He knows what he’s talking about, and he’s content as he is. He doesn’t need me to go over and babysit him.”

“But if you go over there, everyone will think you’re suitably occupied, and no one else will come over here to bug you.”

Taylor’s eyebrows lifted. That was a tantalizing offer. She didn’t mind Charles, as boring as he was. He never talked unless he had something to say, and so they could probably sit at the table together and do what they wanted on their own.

“See? It’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

“What’s gotten into you? Why this desire to pair me off with Charles?”

“I’m not trying to pair you off. I just want you to go talk to him.”

Taylor’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

After a minute, Ariana relented. “Okay. Fine. Amanda dared me that I couldn’t get you two to talk to each other.”

“What? Why does she even care?”

“She just thought it was funny. That you both were on your own. So she said we should try to fix you two up, but she was really just joking. So then she dared me that I couldn’t convince you to go talk to him, and I’m not one to let a challenge drop. So here I am. Don’t let her win the bet. Please?”

Taylor rolled her eyes. She didn’t appreciate being the subject of conversation, much less a silly bet like that. But Ariana had been honest with her, and Amanda was far too sure of her own cleverness sometimes. No reason to indulge that sort of attitude.

So she took a deep breath and stood up, smoothing down the simple, sleeveless black dress Serena had chosen for her bridesmaids. “Fine. If it’s a choice between you winning and Amanda winning, I’m going with you.”

Ariana clapped her hands in delight as Taylor started over toward Charles. She gave Amanda a little glare as she passed, which caused Amanda to burst into laughter.

All the teasing was good-natured. Taylor didn’t actually mind that much, as long as it didn’t seriously inconvenience her. But she wasn’t about to look compliant.

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