The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Ten years ago, I married my brother’s best friend. I haven’t seen him since. Until now …
Charlotte Spencer grew up on the blue-blooded Upper East Side of Manhattan but she never wanted the sit-still-look-pretty future her parents dictated for her. Enter Colin Walsh, her brother’s quiet, brooding best friend, and with him a chance to pursue her dreams. One courthouse wedding later, Charlotte’s inheritance is hers to start a business in San Francisco and Irish-born Colin has a Green Card.
Ten years later, they’re happily married. On different coasts. With separate lives. In fact, she hasn’t even seen Colin in a decade, and that’s just fine by her.
But fate throws her a curveball when her husband calls her back to New York, and she realize the boy she’s married is long gone. In his place is a shockingly appealing man … who wants a divorce. The problem? The terms of their prenup arrangement state that before either can file for separation, they have to live under the same roof for three months.
Now, in order to get divorced, they have to pretend to be married. For real …
Excerpt The Prenup by Lauren Layne
THURSDAY, AUGUST 13
can explain. Really, I can. Throughout my teens and early twenties, I was, um … how do I put this …? A bit of a handful.
I’m not sure when it started. Puberty, I suppose. Up until then, I was the perfect WASP daughter. I wore big bows in my hair that matched the adorable, little-girl dresses I wore to St. Thomas Church
every Sunday. Eventually, I graduated to wearing headbands that matched the pastel cashmere twinsets, paired with flouncy skirts. I played piano, I did ballet, I got straight A’s at boarding school. Yes, boarding school.
I did everything exactly right. Right up until the moment I quit being the good girl. It wasn’t some grand, overnight rebellion or anything, but somewhere around the age of fifteen, I found myself irritatingly and
persistently bored. Bored with my parents, their friends, my friends. Bored with the Ivy League life laid out for me, the well-connected husband already picked out for me in pedigree, if not by name.
I made it until age twenty-one before I cracked—really truly, decided I couldn’t do it anymore … wouldn’t do it anymore.
My parents were … well, let’s just say my failure to heel like my family’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel did not go over well. See, there were a lot of things the Spencers of the Upper East Side didn’t
like. Jersey. Fried food. Catholics. Girls with short hair, boys with long hair.
And, as I learned during one particularly heated argument: college dropouts.
You’ll get your degree, Charlotte Elizabeth Spencer, or you’ll leave this house without a dime.
It was this without a dime part that was a bit of a problem. It shames me to have to admit it now, but back then, I really didn’t have a clue where money came from other than Daddy’s wallet.
Am I ashamed of this fact? Embarrassed? Absolutely. But it doesn’t make it less true. I was born with a silver spoon, all my friends were born with silver spoons, and at twenty-one, I didn’t fully comprehend where one could get another silver spoon, should that first one be taken away by stern parents.
I mean, I knew the basics. I knew I could get a job, obviously. I wanted a job. Craved it, even. But I also knew that the type of job I was qualified for wouldn’t get me particularly close to the future I envisioned for myself. I had big dreams and no big cash flow to support said dreams if my parents cut me off. Which they made clear they would do.
And at twenty-one, the trust fund left to me by my grandmother was off-limits. Not because of my age, but because of my marital status; specifically, my single status. Yep, that’s right. That sort of thing still happens among the richy-rich of New York. Grandparents leave grandkids money that the parents can’t touch until certain conditions are met. And in the case of my marriage-minded Grandma Geraldine, that condition was … drum roll, please: Marriage.
Per Grandma Geraldine’s stipulations: if I got married, I got a sixfigure chunk of change. Stay single; stay poor. Definitely a dilemma for a twenty-one-year-old with no boyfriend in sight. But I had a
Enter Colin Walsh. I didn’t know much about my brother’s law school bestie other than the fact that he was Irish and a ridiculous overachiever, chasing his JD and MBA concurrently.
Back then, I’d been quick to deem him nerd, and his shy intensity and man bun had done nothing to reverse my flippant disregard. The guy was barely on my radar, save for the fact that he hung around
during holidays sometimes because it was too expensive to fly back to Ireland.
It was my dumbass brother Justin who’d come up with the idea. See, with just months away from law school graduation, Colin had plenty of job offers, some of them quite decent. But Colin Walsh had some big dreams of his own.
The way my brother put it: “Colin’s too smart to be anyone’s bitch.”
I’ll translate: Colin wanted to start his own company, to work for himself. He wanted to build an empire. And he wanted to do it in New York City.
It was this last part of his dream that caused a not-so-tiny hiccup for the Irish-born Colin. Taking a job with an existing US company would have gotten him a work visa. But to work for himself in the US, with no company to sponsor his visa? Colin needed a little something called a green card.
You get where I’m going with this, right? I needed my inheritance; Colin needed to stay in the United States. The solution to both was the same: Marriage. To each other.
Now I wish I could give you a fairy tale here, I really do. But, the truth? I didn’t even wear white. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did wear white lacy underwear with a blue ribbon and “bride” scrawled across the ass, but we don’t speak of that moment of frivolity, especially since it had been very much for my eyes only.
But really, my wedding day was like this: Meet brother on steps of courthouse. Have him reintroduce me to Colin because I’d met my groom only twice before then, and I didn’t recognize him. (Guess I’ve come full circle on that, huh?) Sign a prenup. Repeat a bunch of mumbo jumbo in front of a judge, all while sweating profusely and trying to remember if I put on deodorant that morning. Sign marriage certificate. Shake hands with my husband, muttering something lame like, “Good times.”
The next morning I’d been on a flight to San Francisco. Colin had stayed in New York. I know. It’s practically a Disney movie. Now, okay, you’re wondering why, after getting my hands on the money, I didn’t get a divorce ASAP.
Simple. Grandma Geraldine—God rest her soul—was a wise old tramp. I had to stay married for five years, and I’d barely listened to my brother when he explained, but since green cards had stipulations too, the arrangement was just fine with Colin.
And then, five years came and went, and I was busy building my social media company, and then after that, I stayed married because… well, to be honest, it was easy to stay married. I mean, I didn’t live like a nun. Colin and I got that figured out via a couple of awkward emails very early on that we’d both live our lives however we wanted … discreetly.
I’ve had a few casual relationships in California, and they’ve all been aware of my tricky situation. Which leads me to the upside … If any of those relationships got too intense, and it happened, a
handful of times, there’s nothing like a husband-of-convenience to gently let a guy you’re seeing know it’s just not meant to be.
It’s not that I was callous—I let these men know the score upfront: that I was committed to building my company and not looking for anything serious on the relationship front.
It’s been a good situation, honestly. For me, and I thought for Colin.
Until now, apparently.
I smile and refocus my attention to the present, and my husband’s unsmiling face. Damn, he’s gorgeous.
“A divorce?” I just want to make sure I’ve heard him correctly. He doesn’t seem like the type to joke, but …
“Yes. A divorce, Charlotte.”
Hmm. Okay then. The clipped use of my first name definitely lets me know he means business. Ah, well. I suppose I knew it was coming someday. All good things, and whatnot.
I smile to let him know there are no hard feelings. “I get it. Time to be free of the old ball and chain, huh?” I pick up my purse and pull a pen out of an inside pocket. “Where do I sign?”
He doesn’t smile back. Nor does he look even slightly relieved or grateful that I’m being super cool about this.
“There’s something you need to know,” he says, holding my gaze.
I go still, because I suddenly realize that Colin Walsh isn’t nearly as calm as he’s trying to appear. He’s holding back his anger, or at least frustration, by a very thin thread, and he doesn’t seem like the
type to lose his shit very often, which means whatever is under his skin is the real deal.
My smile falls. “What? What something?”
“Your brother,” Colin says, leaning down and picking up a leather briefcase. He pulls a thick packet of paper out of the outside pocket, folds it back to a marked page, and sets the stack in front of me, his
long finger indicating a highlighted paragraph.
I read it. And read it again. And, one more time. I look up. “Is this in English? I don’t understand.”
Except my heart is pounding because I’m afraid I do understand. And I can only hope I’m reading the formal legalese wrong. Colin slowly lifts his eyes from his cocktail to meet my gaze.
“This is our prenup. That highlighted section is your brother’s idea of a joke, with very serious consequences for the two of us.”
Oh God, I’m having déjà vu of my wedding day. No lacy white underwear, but I’m definitely sweating up a storm, trying to remember if I applied deodorant.
I glance back down at the prenup. “It says … it says neither one of us can file for divorce until …” I can’t say it. I can’t even think it.
But Colin’s apparently had more time with the concept, because he says it calmly, as though it’s not about to turn my life upside down.
“We can’t get divorced until we live under the same roof for three months. As husband and wife.”