Home > The Fall of Bradley Reed

The Fall of Bradley Reed
Author: Morgan Elizabeth








Something isn’t right.

I don’t know what it is, but I feel it in my bones.

In my gut.

Some people don’t have that sense, the ability to know when something is just wrong, even when you have no substantial evidence to back it up. I’m convinced those people must not be people pleasers.

People pleasers have some kind of genetic makeup deep in the marrow of their bones that just knows when something is off.

It’s like when your fiancé is in a shitty mood and even though you’ve barely seen him all day, you just know he’s mad at you. Some self-saving instinct tells you tonight is the night to make his favorite steak, put on the pretty undies, and say yes to watching the incredibly boring documentary about Abraham Lincoln on the History Channel.

But now is the absolute worst time to have a gut feeling like this.

I’m standing in front of a mirror in a bright white dress (I don’t love it, but my mother told me would look good in pictures), holding a bouquet of deep-red roses (I wanted sunflowers, but my mother said they weren’t classic enough), my hair in a sophisticated updo (again, better for pictures than the beach waves I hoped for), and I know in my heart of hearts, something is so very wrong.

“Did someone die?” I ask, looking over my shoulder in the mirror to where my mother is fixing her lipstick at the vanity.

“What?” Cici, my best friend since elementary school, asks from the floor where she’s smoothing out my cathedral-length train.

I didn’t want that either. I worried I’d trip and break something on it, which would make for a bummer of a honeymoon.

But think of the impact, Olivia! my mother had said months and months ago in the bridal shop, so full of excitement and joy, I had no choice but to say yes to a dress I wasn’t in love with.

And now, she’s groaning at me, the exhausted, annoyed sounding one I’m much more used to hearing.

“God, Olivia. Can we please have just a single day where you don’t go on your strange little . . . tangents?”

“I just . . .” I take a deep breath, moving my eyes back to the mirror. “Something is off,” I insist again, this time quieter.

“Off?” Cici asks.

“Off. Like . . . that feeling when you can’t remember if you turned your curling iron or the oven off and you’re going away for a week.” It’s twisting in the pit of my stomach, unable to be ignored. I wish it were as easy as turning the car around and running up to double-check or calling your neighbor who has a key.

“It’s just cold feet, Olivia. It happens to all brides. I felt it before I married Huxley. You remember, don’t you? I snapped at poor Staceigh about her dress?”

I do remember, but mostly because Cami and I had orchestrated the entire dress debacle.

Finally, the ice in my belly lessens just a hair when I remember the moment and just how hilarious it was. But my mother didn’t snap at her because of cold feet.

She snapped at her because my mother wanted every single eye on her and her alone during her big day and was afraid her soon-to-be stepdaughter would overshadow her. But that’s neither here nor there.

“I don’t think—”

“God, she’s always been like this,” she says with a huff, cutting me off. She’s complaining to no one in particular but speaking as if everyone’s attention is completely glued to her. “So dramatic, always looking for attention. We’re all nervous, Olivia. There are many eyes out there. Get over it.”

My lips go tight in a smile and I nod in the mirror, wiping my sweaty palms over the heavy skirt, knowing by now, I’ll never win this fight. “You’re right,” I say, my voice low, eyes moving back over the big dress. It’s not worth the argument, not worth the guilt she’ll inevitably send my way if I push her.

Plus, she is under a lot of stress. The planning of this wedding has taken over her every thought for the past nine months.

Even if she used it as her main storyline on her reality show against your wishes, the voice I always ignore whispers vehemently.

And, of course, my mother is right—there are a lot of people waiting for our grand entrance.

Four hundred and thirty-seven, to be exact, not including the paparazzi sequestered outside the church. (I wanted something nondenominational since no one in our family is particularly religious, but my mother convinced me otherwise. The photos in a cathedral will be so gorgeous, Olivia!) They’re all waiting to catch a glimpse of the new Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Reed.

Maybe she’s right.

Maybe the churn in my gut is just because there are going to be so many eyes. It’s a big day, after all.

“I drove,” Cici says quietly as she stands, brushing her hands down her lavender bridesmaid dress.

“What?” She looks over her shoulder at my mother, who is bossing some poor employee to grab her a new glass of Champagne before looking at me in the mirror once more.

“I drove. If you want to bounce.” I smile at her.

“You’re a good friend.”

“I’m also serious as a heart attack, Liv. You want to be a runaway bride, I’m driving the getaway car.”

I laugh before answering, “I’m good. I appreciate it though. Just . . . nerves, you know?” She gives me a tight smile and I know a part of her wants me to agree, to beg her to help me dip out of this wedding.

She doesn’t like Bradley.

But then again, she doesn’t know him like I do.

He’s . . . sweet when it’s just us, when he doesn’t have his fraternity brothers and finance bros to impress.

“Where’s Cami?” I ask, and I don’t miss the scoff my mother lets out at the name of my father’s partner and my business partner.

Once my enemy and now one of my closest friends.

It’s a long story, really.

“Helping your dad with his tie,” Cici says. “And then they’re both headed here.”

“I still don’t know why she’s a bridesmaid, Olivia,” my mother says, taking the glass from the server who turns away almost instantly, running off like she’s afraid if she spends too long in my mother’s stratosphere, she’ll feel the full burn of her wrath.

“Because she’s one of my closest friends and she’s family.”

“She’s a wedding planner, Olivia. It’s . . . uncouth to be friends with the help.”

I sigh but luckily, my phone beeps loudly so I don’t have to answer. “Can you grab that for me, Cici?” I tip my chin toward my cell. “It might be Cam or my dad.” Ever the perfect maid of honor, she nods, moves to the small table where I left my phone, and hands it over.

The name on my screen has my brows furrowing.

“What is it?”

“It’s Bradley,” I say, my voice low.

An eternity passes as I tap in the password, the world swirling around me, that feeling in the pit of my stomach reaching its tentacles outward, stretching until it touches my fingers and toes. I numbly tap the last digit and it’s like some sixth sense knows already.

“He’s probably texting you one last time before you’re officially husband and wife,” Cici says, positivity in her voice.

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