Dante's Default Bride
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Dante Castillo never imagined he would be marrying anytime soon... Least of all, to another man's wife, however, that is exactly the situation he finds himself in when his brother, Sebastian, disappears without notice on his wedding day, leaving behind his betrothed, Sophie Gonzales. But there's more to the intending union than just a broken hearted bride and a runaway groom, so Dante finds himself having to fill in the shoes of his brother, to wed Sophie by default and though Sophie absolutely despises Dante, she has little choice especially with her father's insistence. However, just when the ill-fated couples dare begin to hope on some silver lining in their sky, a dark cloud seemingly appears to be threatening close by.
The wedding reception had scarcely begun, when Dante Castillo gave into boredom and started plotting the fantasy of his exit. Atleast, that, he supposed, was something he had in common with his new bride; The desire to be as far away as possible, from this elaborate spectacle they had unfortunately become an object of.
It was a peculiar kind of torture, continually having to endure the patronizing manner and speculative glances on the faces of the wedding guests, most of whom were only seeking to glean some bit of gossip in the guise of wanting to say their congratulations. Their intrusive curiosity was amusing, if not annoying.
It was therefore, no wonder why Dante had never cultivated any interest in socializing from the onset.
He did not know exactly what people called him behind his back these days for his anti-social behavior, but he was sure that whatever it was, was worth the peace that came with exempting himself from their shameless subterfuge and vile gossip. The socialite class was a weird lot and he did not care for all their bickerings and backhanded ways. He much preferred the simple and clear cut approach of the business world.
Although Gaius had often advised him that a little socializing might do him some good, Dante had not budged one bit, and had strictly relegated himself to only business related gatherings that involved signing off on deals or such other mutually beneficial ceremonies.
Dante simply could never make sense of why any sane person would want to deliberately subject themselves to this incorrigible lot. He supposed one of such rewards of having avoided society so far, was the fact that he hardly recognized more than half of the congregation around him, so while Sophie would either go tense, flinch or cringe at the approach of any given individual, he would simply acknowledge them with indifference.
At a point, Her maid of honor_ a chubby extroverted looking young lady, whom he had caught on many occasions, staring daggers at him when she thought he wasn't looking _ had tried to shield Sophie as much as she could, from the confrontations, but there was only so much she could do. Finally, Sophie, along with her bride's maid, had excused themselves for a moment to use the ladies room, giving Dante a moment of respite, for it would seem that Sophie's presence seemed to have been the flame attracting the moths all along. Dante wished he could excuse himself too, if only for a moment, but unlike Sophie Gonzales, he didn't have the luxury of getting what he wanted or having things always go his way.
If he had, he would sure as hell be home by now, enjoying a cool evening In the garden with some good whiskey or at least, trying to get some work done, instead of sitting here, playing the happy groom. Although to be honest, he very much doubted that he would be getting any rest, Seeing as he would probably be working with Alberto, their PR manager, on how best to curb a wild spread of a scandal involving a runaway groom, a jilted bride, and some very angry inlaws.
But of course, none of that was happening, because here he was, playing husband. And all because the universe has taken it upon itself to be vengeful and unreasonably mean to Dante Gianferro de Castillo from the very moment he was conceived and born by ill fate. Dante had grown up feeling like the world was against him and he had had to fight twice as hard as anyone just to get by.
To think that at some point, he had honestly felt that some money to his name might make life a bit easier. Tough luck!
That did not exactly pan out well did it..? Seeing as how that money came with a lot of baggages like Sabastain and his mother, Mariah Castillo.
Dante glanced at his gold plaited wristwatch and wondered again at just how much longer he was expected to bear this spectacle of a feast.
There was really no way he could escape this early into the reception dinner with out coming across as a rude host. Everyone already thought him suspicious.
He allowed a young scrawny looking boy in the black and blue attire of the waiting staff, lead him to his position placing at the head of the dinning table when it was time to serve the course meal. Dante wasn't really paying attention to the formalities of the event and wasn't even aware of half of the things that went on around him, but as he sat himself down, he regarded the empty seat beside him that was reserved for the bride. He wondered what was keeping Sophie at the restroom up until now. It had been over a quarter of an hour since she had excused herself.
" Dante..?" Mariah Castillo called out to him and he turned to watch her beckoning him over to meet a guest. He nearly groaned out loud as he mentally added her to the list of people he most certainly had to avoid. Infact, his stepmom had to be a top priority on that list. However, as much as he wanted to just avoid her completely, he was still bound by duty to indulge her. So he graciously stood up from his seat, he didn't have to walk too far to meet her though because she met him half way.
"This is Paula Deen.." she introduced, gesturing at the tall blonde female by her side with a heavily made up face and several layers of mother of pearl beads adorning her impressive length of a neck, which somehow managed to remain held up straight despite the encumbering weight heaped upon it. Her eyebrows, he noticed, had been completely shaved off to be replaced with a mean slash of dark brown eye pencil, strategically designed to imitate the arch of an otherwise, perfectly carved brow. Her red painted lips were compressed in a thin line and her nose were a little too pinched for her rather smallish looking face. In all, she managed to pull off a haughty_if not comically intimidating appearance. She was a far cry from Mariah, who despite her usual inclinations to overdress for an event, was rocking quite a simple dinner gown in royal blue satin with a split down one thigh and a minimal amount of face makeup.
"..my friend from my time in France.." Mariah Castillo was saying now, her brilliant blue eyes shinning with all her excitement.
".. and Paula, meet my son, Dante" she continued with a friendly pat on Dante's right arm.
Dante couldn't decide which was most shocking as Paula reached out her hand for a handshake.
The fact that Mariah had just referred to him as "my son" out loud or the endearing way in which she had patted his arm with the sweetest smile. Dios! The woman was a witch. A conniving, manipulative witch.
He could still hear the echo of her shrill bewildered voice after they had discovered that Sabastain wasn't turning up anytime soon.
Marko had explained that when he had called Sabastain from the hospital the previous night, his voice had sounded a bit slurred and disoriented when he had assured Marko that it was fine if he needed to stay the night with his wife at the hospital and that was the last time they had spoken. His mobile number had been unreachable ever since and everyone had been too busy to really investigate or find out when he had checked out of the hotel.
Sean was the only other person who had been with him at the party and booked at the same hotel. But he had been too drunk after the party to even find his way back on his own. He was one of the many other friends who had woken up with a hangover this morning and was completely in the dark as to where Sabastain had gone off to. They had been told at the reception that Sabastain had checked out already and had automatically assumed he had left earlier ahead of them.
Amidst all that Confusion and uncertainty, Mariah had come up with the horrible plan to make Dante take Sabastain's place.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Dante had demanded, shocked as well as furious that she had come up with such a ridiculous idea.
"It's the perfect solution Dante. Think of all the benefits." She had said
"And Sophie? Do you suppose she would enjoy being passed around like some piece of furniture?" He had challenged. But Mariah had gone ahead to defend her preposition. When that hadn't work out well, she had defaulted to emotional black mail.
"You owe me Dante. After everything we've done for you.. you owe us a great deal. This is your chance to repay or atleast show appreciation" She had said. And with just that, she had managed to reduce Dante to a common bastard again. A hopeless penniless bastard that had been hidden for years like a dirty secret until the Castillo's had finally decided to legally adopt him. Still, he knew he didn't owe Mariah shit. He had payed well and more than enough for any inconveniences he could possibly have caused. He had spent years working his back off. Dredging up his reputation from the gutters. He had earned every bit of respect he now got. And he had the right to reject her silly proposal of a trade-off. Infact he was very well intending to, that was until Gaius had spoken up after establishing some privacy.
"Alot is depending on this Dante, you know how much good it would do to the Business, not to talk about how well it would smoothen things with the Gonzales " The last bit was added with a wince. Gaius didn't want to think about facing Alonso Gonzales with a problem which did not already have a solution. Alot was hanging on the wedding and Dante knew. And with that knowledge, Dante had felt the walls closing in on him. He had realized that he didn't have much choice in the matter. Still, he had held out a little hope that they would meet with some sort of resistance soon enough In the form of Alonso, if not Sophie.
Surely, the man wouldn't consent to such a degrading last minute trade off of his daughter. However, that hope had died a quick death. It still confounded Dante, as to how fast and easy it took to convince Mr Gonzales to come onboard with the new plan.
His only protest was a begrudgingly feeble attempt at modesty. Dante had known part of the reason for the Gonzales agreeing to the marriage in the first place was because they were rumoured to be in dire financial straits of some sorts. But until that moment, Dante couldn't have begun to imagine how dire the situation was. To be honest, he still had no idea, but he would say the situation must have been quite desperate. For only desperate situations demanded desperate solutions.
"What do you mean by he is no where to be found..?"
Sophie had that slight tremble in her voice that signaled she was at the very edge of panic.
Marko shifted his weight from foot to foot, trying to avoid the intense searching gaze of Sophie Gonzales. She had always had that intimidating look about her.
That serene almost hostile air of an aristocrat who wasn't used to unpleasantness, but her emerald green eyes had never held so much fire as it did in that moment. Atleast not when directed at him.
And he didn't blame her... Not really. She was living every bride's nightmare; a missing groom.
To be fair though, she was taking this quite well for a woman In a situation like hers. Better than most. But what did he know..? She could be building up to an eruptive volcano for all her calm was worth; He didn't trust it one bit. And he was just so unlucky as to have to be the one in her direct line of fire. Damn you Sebastain! He
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