Perfect…

lighthouse-02Perfect.

It was picture-postcard-perfect. The cliff-top setting of the heritage-listed Byron Bay lighthouse was perfectly romantic. The timing of the vows that saw Brad and Alice become husband and wife as the setting sun flung its extravagant rainbow curtain across the horizon behind them was exquisitely managed. The gentle sea breeze that lifted tendrils of the bride’s hair around her face as she lifted it for her new husband’s kiss was the stuff of magic. Every girl’s dream wedding. Hollywood-perfect.

Even the celebrant was perfect. Perfectly composed, perfectly cheerful, perfectly serene. She didn’t fumble a word, never missed a beat as she led the congregation through the ceremony, her husky alto voice carrying perfectly all the way to the back row of guests where Matt was standing. She was perfectly gracious, perfectly sincere, perfectly in command of the proceedings. Didn’t compete with the bride or draw unnecessary attention to herself, although that pocket-venus figure draped in an aqua-toned jersey suit would always capture a man’s eye, and her smile, when she turned on the full wattage as she drew the ceremony to a jubilant close, was easily as radiant as the bride’s.

Who could imagine that warm, generous, glowing persona could hide a cold-hearted, scheming bitch intent on splitting up marriages instead of celebrating them?

But Philippa Lloyd, accredited marriage celebrant and unscrupulous fraud, had her sights set on a Hollywood ending of her own. It was a pity, for her, that Matt Mason knew what she really was and was about to throw all his considerable resources in the way of her ambition.

Matt grimly watched Philippa press her flawless cheek in congratulations, first against Alice’s, then against Brad’s, and he wondered if he was the only one who noticed how her hand gripping Brad’s shoulder surely lingered longer than necessary. Alice appeared oblivious, laughing as her husband had to bend quite low to receive the diminutive celebrant’s congratulations.

There was an easy familiarity between the three of them that set Matt’s teeth on edge. He glanced away, irritated, only to notice the close inspection of his younger brother, Justin, was also fixed on Philippa. Damn it, where the hell was Lucy?

His brother’s fiancée – ex-fiancée, he reminded himself – had not only turned up to the wedding despite her own recent and humiliating heartbreak, but had fulfilled her role as bridesmaid to Alice with quiet, responsible aplomb. If she cried a little freely during the exchange of vows, that was only to be expected. A week ago, she should have been the centre of attention herself. Would have been, were it not for Philippa Bloody Lloyd.

As if he’d called her name aloud, he watched the celebrant lift her head abruptly from the register she’d been arranging. She looked not at him but directly at Justin, who smiled easily in response and sauntered to her side. Matt watched his brother smooth a strand of long red hair that had escaped Philippa’s severely professional knot back behind her ears. She looked self-conscious as she deftly pinned it back into place, her fingers brushing Justin’s as his lingered near her cheek. The touch was fleeting, casual. If he hadn’t known the truth they were hiding, Matt could have imagined them simply acquaintances. But the predatory look in Justin’s eyes was all-too-familiar, and the blush that had coloured Philippa’s cheeks suggested anything but innocence.

They spoke briefly, then Justin strode away through the crowd of well-wishers. Good, send him packing, Ms Lloyd. It might save him, but it won’t save you. If it was the last thing he did, Matt would teach Philippa Lloyd not to mess with the Masons.

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