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Unholy Matrimony (Three Rivers Book 3)

Unholy Matrimony (Three Rivers Book 3)

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The problem: Phoebe was poor and unhappy with her lot.The solution: Marry a rich man and she would be happy.It should be simple, except that her rich suitor, Ezekiel Hoppings, was ugly and her poor suitor, Charles Black, was handsome. But the more she got to know them both, the more Phoebe realized that some solutions were not as simple as they first appear.
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Chapter One

Phoebe sat in the front pew of the church for the wedding ceremony and tried to look pleasant. Erica had not let the dust settle under her feet after Caleb had proposed to her in front of everyone at church.
Her friend had gone into a mad flurry of excitement and had started planning her wedding that same night. She had declared that she wanted a church wedding at twilight on a Saturday and that she wanted the whole church to attend. No invitation was necessary, and none was given. Erica had posted the date on the notice board with a cheekily written invitation to a chocolate fondue reception to follow the service.

Phoebe looked behind her, noting that the church was packed to the hilt. In a bid to make up for their insinuations about Caleb, the ladies of the church had outdone themselves with the decorations. Erica had requested chocolate and burnt orange theme with hints of gold and they had gone all out. Some even wore the same colors to coordinate with the theme.
Even Phoebe had made an effort to coordinate her outfit, and she had haggled over the gold dress she was wearing with a store clerk who was reserving it for 'that rich lady Hyacinth Donahue.'
Phoebe had almost had a fit to get it and was again reminded why rich people were better off than the poor masses. She had finally gotten the dress and had counted it a bittersweet victory.
Once again, she had vowed that one day, they would all be chasing her to buy their merchandise and she would shun them. Oh, how she would shun them.
The junior orchestra was playing as Erica glided up the aisle on her father's arm—in her mother's lace dress. She looked beautiful and so pleased that for once Phoebe felt a glimmer of happiness for someone who dared to tie the knot before she did. Her happy feeling didn't last long though as Tanya leaned toward her and whispered.

“Isn't she gorgeous?”
Phoebe nodded, but her mood soon changed, and a sudden onset of depression once again gripped her. When would she ever find a man who loved her as much as Caleb loved Erica? Or even as Pastor Theo loved Kelly?
They were sitting to the end of the same pew as Kelly; she was beaming; her hair was tied up in an elaborate chignon, and she was dressed in a chocolate brown dress with a sprig of orange flower in the bodice—Theo was holding her hand as if they were newlyweds.
Phoebe noticed that they had not carried the baby; only the two older children were sitting beside them.
She sighed, and Tanya looked at her, her brows raised. "It's a wedding, cheer up!"
“I know,” Phoebe whispered, “but it's just that Erica and I discovered Caleb. If I hadn't driven him away that could’ve been me up there—happy and getting married.”
Tanya chuckled. “He was poor at the time you discovered him, remember?”
Phoebe snorted, “But he's not poor now, is he?”
Tanya shrugged. “No, he is not, but the best part of all of this for him is that he got a woman who loved him whether he was poor or not.”
“What are you trying to say,” Phoebe whispered fiercely, “that I am a gold digger?”
Tanya murmured, “Who the cap shut up. They are about to say their vows.”
Phoebe felt like strangling Tanya, but she valiantly tried to tune her mind into the service. Erica declared her ‘I do's’ loudly and with confidence, and Caleb had a besotted smile on his face.
Pastor Brick, the officiating pastor, declared, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. I now declare you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride, Mr. Wright."
The deed was done.
Phoebe watched as Caleb and Erica engaged in a deep kiss that had the congregation oohing and aahing.
Tanya looked at her and grinned. “Their honeymoon is going to be hot enough to burn.”
“Shut up!” Phoebe snapped.
"What's gotten into you?" Tanya's smile slipped. "Usually you are more fun to hang around. You know, if you could only let go of your prejudices toward men, you would find someone."
“Argh,” Phoebe growled, then forced a smile on her face as the bride and groom turned to the congregation. “You don't know what you are talking about.”
Tanya was clapping with the rest of the congregation and said to Phoebe sideways, “We'll pick this up at the reception in the church hall. Erica said she had more chocolate treats prepared than a chocolate shop.”
Phoebe got up reluctantly when the usher indicated to her row first. She traipsed behind Tanya obediently and went to the door to congratulate Erica.
“Pheebs,” Erica squealed when she saw her friend, “you wouldn't believe what Daddy and Mommy gave us as a wedding present?”
“What?” Phoebe asked injecting a note of excitement in her voice.
“We are going to Paris!” Erica squealed.
“Just for two weeks,” Caleb said beside her.
"That's lovely!" Phoebe exclaimed. "I wish you all the best for the future, and I am so happy for you."
Erica giggled. "Thank you, my dear. I hope you find your Mr. Right soon."
Phoebe moved on, as there was a crush behind her to congratulate the effervescent bride. She walked out into the night air and spotted Tanya who was waving to her.
“As I was saying,” Tanya said when she drew near, “you need to lower your expectations a little bit.”
“Never,” Phoebe said, a steely finality in her voice. “There must be a tall, dark, handsome, rich man in the world for me.”
Tanya laughed. “There is. He's in your dreams, so dream on.”
Phoebe looked over at the crowd with a sad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Maybe she was aiming too high; maybe she was too picky and unrealistic. But oh, how sweet it would be to go for a honeymoon somewhere far away like Erica was, without pinching pennies.
"What about that guy, Charles Black—your neighbor?" Tanya asked interestedly, intruding on her thoughts. "He is handsome."
“Poor,” Phoebe snorted. “I don't even know what he does for a living.”
Tanya giggled, “What about Ezekiel Hoppings? The rich, ugly guy.”
"I gave him my number when I saw him at church last week," Phoebe responded sullenly.
Tanya choked back a laugh and then erupted. "Are you serious? The beautiful Phoebe Bridge, who will not tolerate imperfection in anyone, gave her number to that unfortunate looking man?"
Phoebe shuddered. "I did. He asked if it was okay for him to call me sometime? I said yes. End of story. He hasn't called, and I didn't take his number. So there—that's the end of that."
Tanya shook her head in awe. “I am sorry I dared to lecture you, Pheebs. If you can consider Ezekiel Hoppings as a date, no matter how rich he is, I will say your standards of perfection are well and truly lowered. Let's go have some of those delectable chocolate desserts, the groom made, that Erica has been harping on about all week.”