One Year Ago
"Wait, your Dad took away your trust fund?" Zoey put down her menu and stared at Max. "But I thought you couldn't even access it until you were 30 anyway."
"That's just it, he's decided that since I won't come work for the family business, then I'm not getting anything from the family," Max shrugged his shoulders. "It's not like he took away money that I was using. I just had hoped to be able to use that money to buy a house, maybe start my own tech business."
Zoey reached across the table and squeezed his hand. "I'm so sorry, Max. That's really unfair of your dad to do that. Doesn't he know how amazing you are at your job? How much you enjoy it?"
Max scoffed, "You say that like it matters to my dad, but you know how he is."
Zoey winced, she had met Andrew Richman once when he had been in San Francisco for a business trip. It had been one of the most uncomfortable dinners she had ever been at.
Max felt his phone vibrate and he answered, "Hello?.... Yes, this is Maxwell Richman…. Yes, I can come by….An hour? Okay, see you then."
Zoey looked at him puzzled as he hung up the phone. "Who was that?"
"My lawyer. He says there's something important to discuss with me about the trust. Probably just have to sign something to make it formal. I'm sorry I've got to cut our lunch short, but I need to head over now," Max said grabbing his jacket.
"I'll let Joan know you had an emergency appointment," Zoey said.
"Thanks, Zo, you're a lifesaver," he threw her a smile as he dashed out the cafe door.
Zoey watched as Max slowly walked from the elevators to his desk.
"Max," she called. "Max?" he didn't respond. Zoey stood, walking over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hello, Earth to Max."
"Huh?" Max turned around and looked at her confused. "Oh hey, Zoey," he mumbled.
Zoey frowned, she grabbed his arm and dragged him to the meditation room.
"Are you okay? What happened with the lawyer?" she looked at him worriedly.
The word lawyer seemed to snap him out of his daze and he began laughing.
Zoey was more than a little concerned now. "So, I take it that you met about more than signing away your trust?"
Max shook his in amusement, "You're not going to believe what happened."
She stood quietly waiting for him to continue.
"Apparently, there is a second trust for me, from my Grandma Miriam," Max began.
"But that's good news, isn't it?" Zoey asked.
"In theory, yes, but Grandma Miriam has a stipulation that has to be fulfilled before I gain access to the trust."
"What, you have to get married or something?" Zoey teased.
"Oh my God, I was joking! You have to get married?!"
"I have to get married. Once I've been married for five years, then I gain access to the trust," Max explained.
"Did it say anything about needing to stay married?"
"No, I asked that too. Once the five years are up and I have the money, that's it."
"Then we find someone for you to marry who understands that it's only a temporary thing. And in five years you get a divorce," Zoey reasoned.
Max laughed, "Oh sure, like that's easy. I'll just start proposing with ‘Hi, would you like to be my wife in name only for 5 years, and then we get divorced? I'll make sure you are compensated at the end of it.’"
"As proposals go, it's hardly romantic, but yes, I'll marry you, Max," Zoey replied.
"I mean who in their right mind….did you just say you would marry me?" Max looked at her in shock.
Zoey shrugged, "I mean, you're my best friend, and you need my help, so why wouldn't I?"
Max was aware that he was staring at her, but he couldn't help himself. His best friend had just agreed to legally bind herself to him for the next five years.
Zoey took his face on her hands, "Max, it's fine. We'll get married, and in five years you'll get your trust and you can make me a partner at your start-up company. Deal?"
Max looked at Zoey, "Are you certain?"
Zoey grinned, "I'm game if you are. We're best friends, how different can being married be?"
San Francisco City Hall
"Do you, Maxwell Richman, take Zoey Clarke, to be your lawful wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?"
Max looked at the woman standing across from him, his best friend, and the only person willing to do something this insane for him. He grinned, "I do."
The judge nodded and turned to Zoey, "And do you, Zoey Clarke, take Maxwell Richman, to be your lawful wedded husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?"
Zoey smiled at Max, she knew this was a crazy plan, but she would do anything for him, even something as life-changing as getting married. "I do."
"Do you have the rings?"
Max's brother, Lee, handed them to the judge before taking his seat next to his wife Caroline. They had flown out for the ceremony after Max had explained everything to them. Max and Zoey had decided that the fewer people who knew about their marriage the better.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," the judge said, with a smile at the couple.
Max looked at Zoey who was staring at him slightly flushed and wide-eyed. In all their rush to get everything taken care of, they had forgotten about the kiss.
Zoey bit her lip and nodded slightly at him, letting him know it was okay. He sent her a reassuring smile, after all, what was a simple kiss between best friends?
Zoey swallowed the squeak that threatened to emerge from her, as she felt Max's soft lips pressing against hers. She returned his kiss hesitantly at first, before allowing herself to get lost in the moment.
Max pulled back, gazing at her flushed cheeks and parted lips. He felt himself leaning in for another kiss when Lee and Caroline began clapping.
Caroline pulled Zoey in for a hug, "Now you're officially part of the Richman family! It's about time I had someone to talk to!"
"Hey, don't I count?" Lee protested.
"You're my husband, you have to talk to me," Caroline teased.
"See what being married gets you?" Lee said turning to Max. "Nothing but trouble."
Caroline rolled her eyes, "You say that like you don't love every minute of it."
The judge cleared his throat behind them and gestured for everyone to sign the marriage license. Once they had all signed he bid them good day and left the room.
"Sooo…." Zoey started, unsure of what they should do now.
"Shall we go celebrate? Dinner's on us, consider it a wedding present!" Caroline offered.
Max grinned at Zoey, "Why not, it's not every day that we get married."
"Come on, I know just the place," Caroline said, leading them out of the room.
"To Max and Zoey!" Lee toasted, as the four of them clinked their glasses. "I'd give a whole speech but since you didn't give us much time to prepare I didn't write one. So, I will simply say congratulations and wish you luck and happiness in the five years to come."
Max glanced over at Zoey as he took a sip of his champagne. She was laughing at a story Caroline was telling her, no doubt about his younger days. Zoey turned to smile at him, and he felt his breath catch. She looked lovely, her cheeks flushed from laughter and champagne. His eyes drifted down to her lips as he remembered the feel of them on his.
No, no, no. This is not good. Yes, she's your wife, but you are just friends and nothing more. You cannot have these feelings for your wife….Fuck….