Fiance by Friday

By: Catherine Bybee

- The Weekday Brides 03 -

Chapter One

The flash of the cameras made her stand straighter, turn toward the heckling paparazzi, and smile. Lady Gwen Harrison knew the photographers weren’t entirely sure who she was. Here in the States the media didn’t follow her around. The photographers saw an elegant woman who looked as if she might be a movie star, but in fact was nothing more than a daughter of a deceased duke. That wouldn’t stop the paparazzi from cross-referencing her image and coming up with her name. Her brother, Blake Harrison, the current Duke of Albany, was quite popular in this country. And because of him, and his group of friends, Gwen’s own image had made many a paper.

Gwen took one more glance over the heads of the photographers, smiled, and turned to walk away. She had work to do.

The Wilson Charity Ball was exactly the event Gwen was born to work. Having grown up in an estate outside of London with a very proper mother and a father who rarely acknowledged her presence unless she was standing in front of him, Gwen was the poster child of a socialite. She wasn’t threatening to anyone here. Most of the guests were actors, activists, political figures, or the significant others of the aforementioned people. Gwen was none of them. Her sole purpose for attending the ball was to find potential clients for Alliance.

A waiter approached her as she stepped into the room and offered her a glass of champagne. She accepted it with a smile and moved into the room.

She recognized a few faces, mainly people Eliza, a friend and former employee of Alliance, had introduced her to in the past.

“Lady Harrison.” A voice called her attention to a small gathering of people a few feet away.

Marilyn Cohen, petite, stunning, and probably the most famous woman in the room, waved her over.

Marilyn kissed each of Gwen’s cheeks in greeting. “It’s lovely to see you again,” Gwen said. “How long has it been?”

“The governor’s ball, I believe,” Marilyn reminded her. “How are Carter and Eliza?”

“Settling into their new roles.” Carter had won the governor’s seat the previous election, and the two of them had moved to Sacramento once he took office. Carter was Blake’s best friend and Eliza was the sister Gwen never had.

Gwen glanced around Marilyn, expecting to see her husband. “Are you solo tonight?”

“Tom’s on location in Greenland. Why the studios can’t recreate that awful place on a set is beyond me. What about you, are you alone?”

Gwen offered a smile. “It’s hard to be alone in a room filled with people.” And it was filled. Women were dressed in floor-length evening gowns, men wore tuxes…and not the rented kind.

Marilyn slipped her hand into Gwen’s arm and pulled her along. “Well, let’s see what trouble we can cause, shall we?” She waved at a group of actors and moved in their direction. “Are you scouting tonight?” Marilyn whispered.

Marilyn knew enough about Alliance to warrant the question. “I’m always searching for clients.”

Her companion flashed her million-dollar smile. “Let’s see who we can hook up tonight then.”

Alliance was founded by Samantha, or Sam as most of her friends called her. Who just happened to be married to Gwen’s brother. Samantha had the brilliant idea of forming an agency that aligned couples. It wasn’t a dating service. No, it was a life planning service. Their clients consisted of men and women who needed to marry the perfect person for reasons other than love. Politicians who needed to fit the “family profile” in order to get elected into office. Dukes who needed to marry to fulfill their awful father’s will in order to inherit millions. Or perhaps an actor, or actress, who wanted a scandal to keep their name in the paper.

Gwen recruited the paying client at events like this. And on occasion she’d find a suitable match for the men already in her database.

Not everyone married for love and forever. Her clients married for their own reasons, and the matches Alliance set up paid them handsomely for it.

Marilyn introduced Gwen to everyone who was anyone. Once in a while Marilyn would nod toward a prospective client to whom Gwen would ask a few discrete questions. Alliance was a very private company and not something that was advertised on a business card.

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