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Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)

By´╝ÜPenny Reid

Part I

What Happens in Chicago, Stays in Chicago


Chapter One


Marriage: The legal union   of a couple as spouses. The basic elements of a marriage are: (1) the parties' legal ability to marry each other, (2) mutual consent of the parties, and (3) a marriage contract as required by law.


—Wex Legal Dictionary


**Kat**


What did you just say?”

My sharp question earned me a sharp look from Ms. Opal. She eyed me from across the room. Mouth pinched into a disapproving pucker, my coworker’s gaze lingered on the cell in my hand. Ms. Opal didn’t do this often—send me disapproving looks—just whenever I spoke too loudly. Or laughed. Or smiled. Or showed any emotion.

None of which I did with any frequency.

“Sorry,” I said to her, even though my sharp question hadn’t been directed to Ms. Opal.

It had been directed to the person on the other side of my call. The unexpectedly disastrous, panic-inducing call.

I heard a chair creak, and then he repeated, “He’s planning to have you committed.”

“Please wait,” I whispered, dipping my chin to my chest, allowing my hair to fall forward. Blocking my face from Ms. Opal and anyone else who might walk through our shared space, I whispered, “Let me call you back. I’m at work.”

Uncle Eugene huffed, the sound ripe with impatience. “At work.”

“Yes. At work. As in my job.”

“Your job.” His words were as flat as matzo.

“Please give me five minutes. Thank you,” I said on a rush.

Not waiting for his response, I ended the call and clutched my cell to my chest. I stared unseeingly at the dark, solid wood surface of my desk while trying very, very hard not to FREAK THE FREAKITY FREAK OUT!

Oh God, oh God, oh God. What am I going to do? Why now? Why—

“Kat?”

I stiffened, instinctively straightening my spine, and managed a raspy, “Yes, Ms. Opal?”

I sensed the older woman hesitate, and felt her disapproving eyes move over me. I was familiar with this look of hers. It was the kind of look I imagined mothers gave their kids during teenage years. The kind of look parents everywhere administered to children when they were acting like a fool, as I sometimes caught Ms. Opal muttering under her breath.

Struggling to paste on my polite smile of perpetual calm, I glanced at the older woman. We’d been working together in the same space for going on five years and I’d grown accustomed to her pointed looks, usually. But today, as Ms. Opal lifted her eyebrows and narrowed her eyes, my throat tightened and my cheeks heated.

I was officially off-kilter.

Discovering one’s cousin wishes to send thee away to a nunnery will do that. And by nunnery, I mean a mental hospital. And by send away, I mean lock me away forever if he can manage it.

As far as coworkers went, I liked Ms. Opal a lot. I appreciated her exacting nature. We were the two highest-ranking administrative employees in the firm, and we worked well together. She was no-nonsense, dedicated, and never gossiped. The woman was always five minutes early and fully prepared for all meetings. Sometimes I thought she liked me too, like the time she came back from vacation and discovered I’d organized the copy room according to her preferred design. She hadn’t given me a pointed look after that for a full six weeks.

Presently, she cleared her throat. “I need a few number-ten envelopes from the supply closet. Will you please retrieve them for me? I’ll cover your desk.”

Startled, I stared at her. She was still giving me a pointed look, but even through the wild jungle of my panic I recognized that it wasn’t a look of disappointment. She seemed concerned.

“Yes. I will.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Forcing myself to nod, I stood from my desk. As my chair made a clumsy scraping noise against the floor, I darted out of our shared office. It wasn’t until I was three cubicles away from the supply closet, and one of the senior architects gave me a weird side-eye, that I realized I hadn’t stopped nodding or clutching my phone.

It didn’t matter.

Maybe nothing mattered.

Maybe not even cheese mattered.

Ceasing my inane nodding, I redirected my attention to my sleeve, fiddling with the buttons in order to avoid eye contact. I then pulled at the keys attached to my waist and unlocked the closet. Once inside, I shut the door behind me and flicked on the light, hoping none of the staff architects had spotted my mad dash.

Architects were like junkies around office supplies, insatiable. I didn’t understand their preoccupation with mechanical pencils and graph paper, especially since all their work and renderings were done using computer models. Regardless, we could never keep either in stock.

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