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A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:20

She looked up at the staircase to the bedroom, which they’d have to pass through to get to the deck. “The kitchen nook is fine,” she said, obviously unwilling to risk the pleasurable detour. “I’m sure we missed the best of the sunrise a long time ago.”

Colin handed over her mug and followed her to the table with a plate of toasted English muffins with strawberry jam and butter. He sat down and picked up one muffin, taking a bite with a loud crunch. He finished chewing and let Natalie sip her coffee before he pressed her about her great escape.

“You seem to be in a hurry this morning. What’s the rush?”

Natalie swallowed her sip of coffee and set the mug on the kitchen table. “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice. It’s just that I’m, uh, not used to staying over. I’m sort of a master of the four a.m. vanishing act. I prefer to avoid the awkward morning-after thing.”

“You mean coffee and conversation?”

“I suppose,” she said with a smile.

“What kept you from leaving last night?” Colin wasn’t quite sure what he would’ve done if he’d woken up and she was gone. He wasn’t used to this kind of scenario with a woman. He was a relationship guy, and that usually meant enjoying a nice breakfast after a night together, not cold empty sheets beside him in bed.

“I think it was all the wine we had at dinner on top of the...exercise I got later. When I fell asleep, I slept hard. I didn’t so much as move a muscle until I smelled the coffee brewing downstairs.”

Colin considered her answer. He tried not to let it hurt his pride that she hadn’t stayed because she felt compelled, or even wanted to. “You know, despite what happened last night, we’re still friends. I don’t want this to change that, so there’s no need to run before you turn back into a pumpkin. Do you mind me asking why you feel the need to leave?”

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Natalie bit at her lip before nodding. “Like I told you before, I’m not much on the relationship thing. I like to keep things simple and sweet. Uncomplicated.”

What was more complicated than this? Colin couldn’t think of anything else. A normal relationship seemed a lot more straightforward. “What does that even mean, Natalie?”

“It means that what we shared last night is all I’m really wanting.”

“I get that. And I’m on board with that or I wouldn’t have let it go that far last night. I’m just curious as to why you feel this way about guys and relationships in general.”

“There’s nothing really in it for me after that first night or two because I don’t believe in love. I think it’s a chemical reaction that’s been built up into more. I also don’t believe in marriage. I enjoy the occasional companionship, but it’s never going to come to any more than that with any man.”

Colin listened to her talk, realizing this was worse than he’d thought. It could’ve just as easily been his ex-wife, Pam, sitting across the table talking to him. Yes, Natalie had said she wasn’t the marrying kind, but this was more than just that. She didn’t believe in the entire concept. He raised his hand to his head to shake off the déjà vu and the dull throb that had formed at his temple. It was a good thing he knew about her resistance going into this or it could’ve been a much bigger blow. “A wedding planner that doesn’t believe in love or marriage?”

She shrugged. “Just because I don’t believe in it doesn’t mean that other people can’t. I’m organized and I’m detail-oriented. I was made for this kind of work, so why not?”

The whole thing seemed a little preposterous. “So even though you spend all your days helping people get married, you never intend to marry or have a family of your own?”

“No,” Natalie said, shaking her head. “You know what I grew up with, Colin. My mother is on the verge of dumping her fourth husband. I’ve seen too many relationships fall apart to set myself up for that. The heartache, the expense, the legal hassles... I mean, after everything that happened, don’t you sometimes wish that you’d never married Pam?”