Ally nods and takes a photo of me with her phone. “Here,” she holds the little device toward me. “Take a look at yourself. If you’re not careful, that smile of yours will stay like that forever, and you know Ryan won’t approve since he doesn’t like you smiling too much.” I frown. “When did he say that?” “It’s not when—it’s how. He’s always telling you what not to do and what to do. I’m sure he’s told you not to smile so much. And if he hasn’t he would right now, trust me.” Her words hurt. I know she doesn’t like Ryan, my husband to be, but I can’t understand why she insists on dragging him down like that every opportunity she gets. “Come on, Ally. That’s not fair. Ryan’s paying for all this, including our stay at the most exclusive suites the Aman has to offer.” Her comments leave me no choice but to defend my fiancé. She rolls her eyes. “So what? He’s a billionaire. That’s the least he should be doing. If it were any future husband of mine, he’d be doing a whole lot more.” After I mull over her words, I need to ask the obvious. “Like what?” “Seriously Nic? For starters, he’d need to ask me what I want to do, and then do exactly what I tell him. I’d make sure I’d tell him about my passion for art, drawing, and paintings. Then, I’d tell him to get me to wherever it is I wanted to go by private jet and have me picked up in a red Ferrari.” “Stop.” I hold up my hand and chuckle. “I didn’t know you were into art and drawing.” “I’m not,” she interrupts me. “You are, and he doesn’t like you doing it. And don’t deny it.” For a while, I say nothing. “You ladies waiting for a gondola?” an incredibly good-looking Italian asks as he pulls up along the water where we’re waiting. “Sure are,” Allison replies before I get a chance. She hops in before me too. “Where two my lovely goddesses?” I notice the eyes Ally makes at this man and chuckle inwardly.
“The Aman,” she purrs and sits close to him. As if I’m any competition. In about two days time, I’m going to be walking down the aisle in this very city. What started as our spring vacation soon turned into a wedding trip after Ryan proposed out of the blue and insisted we marry straight away. It was Allison who talked me out of agreeing to marry back home and tell my husband to be that if he wanted to marry me, it was in Venice or not all. Well, I didn’t quite use those words. But in the end, I did convince Ryan to come to Venice and marry me here. Secretly, I’m grateful to Allison for convincing me to get married here. From the little I’ve seen so far, I’m totally in love with the city. The water canals are just magnificent, and the houses lining them are so old and full of character. The slumbering artist in me can’t wait to get my hands on a sketchpad and start drawing all these magnificent sights my eyes are currently feasting on. Cobblestone footpaths, ornate bridges, and tiny alleyways are just some of what takes my fancy. There’s so much to look at I almost feel as if my senses are being over loaded. Suddenly, I understand why this city attracts the artists, the poets, and the writers. It speaks to us. Deep down I’m an artist, and I understand the city. “You know, it’s not too late.” Allison’s words rouse me out of my reverie. “What’s not too late?” “Saying you don’t want to marry him.” She gives me a little slap on the shoulder. “Look at yourself. You’re having a ball. Why tie yourself to that dickhead?” “Ally,” I shake my head. I don’t know what’s got into my best friend and maid of honor. She’s not usually like this at all. “Ryan’s great. He’s…” I search for the right words. “There you go, even you can’t say much good about him. He’s a selfish, slightly narcissistic individual who’s only marrying you for your looks. He wants a trophy wife.” “No.” I protest and realize I spoke a little too loud. The Italian gondolier is looking at me. “He’s none of those things. Just because he gives me guidance and direction in my life doesn’t mean he’s controlling.” I keep my voice a little lower.