Disclaimer: I do not own Life with Derek or its characters.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this women in holy matrimony…"

I, Casey McDonald, am about to make the biggest mistake of my life. How could I have let this happen? I would expect him to do something this moronic. After all, he's the biggest moron I know.

But not me. I'm the good one; the rational one! I always weigh my options before taking action and I always do the right thing. My mother would be so disappointed in me if she could see me now. You know…if I wasn't lying to her! Okay, maybe not lying, just withholding vital information.

If you had told me only yesterday that I would be in this unforgiving predicament, I would have either laughed in your face or ran screaming for the hills. My ears are ringing, and I can barely hear the officiant as he recites those precious words that are meant for a man and woman to take seriously until they are parted only by death.

But in this instance, it is nothing more than a sick joke.

Okay, I'm not an innocent party to this devious plan. I'm just as guilty as he is in regards this asinine situation because I could have accepted defeat and been the first to back down – be the bigger man, or woman, so to speak.

But there's just one small problem. I never back down where he is concerned. I have to stand my ground, because I refuse to allow him to walk all over me.

That's all he has done for our entire adolescent life, up until our newfound adult hood, try to break me. We're still young; eighteen and nineteen to be exact.

I risk a glance up at him for the first time since arriving at City Hall, and just as I suspect, he's smirking down at me, his eyes dancing with amusement. I want to punch that look of pure enjoyment off his smug face because I know exactly what he is waiting for. He's waiting for me to say 'I don't,' so that he can prove I'm a goody-two-shoes coward who would never go through with something so reckless and stupid.

You heard that right.

I'm getting 'married' on a bet.

I've completely lost my mind and I'm not sure I will ever be able to regain my sense of right and wrong after this debacle. After today, the old Casey McDonald may be gone for good, and I'm already mourning her loss.

Lost in my own thoughts, I have barely listened to what the Justice of the Peace has been saying. It's not until I feel a pair of warm hands take my fingers lightly within his own, that I realize how real things are about to get. His voice, that voice I've come to know and often loath so much, washes over me – taunting me as he repeats each word that the officiant is saying.

"I take you, Casey Rebecca McDonald, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poor, in sickness, and in health, to…love, and to cherish, till death us do part, I pledge to be faithful and keep myself only unto you, for as long as we both shall live."

I watch his lips recite each syllable, a smirk continuing to lift the corner of his mouth as if he's having a difficult time keeping it together. That dimple of his is mocking me, and for a moment, I hate him more than I've ever hated him before. He's trying to not burst out laughing at pledging his love and devotion to me. He doesn't mean a word of it, and we both know it. My heart is beating out of my chest, and I can feel my legs becoming weaker as the man next to us turns his attention to me.

It's my turn! How can I possibly say something I don't mean and have zero intention of honoring? This is wrong. This is immoral.

"Miss?" The officiant urges, trying to regain my attention. I must have missed what he said through the screaming thoughts in my own mind.

"Sorry," I mutter, surprising myself by clutching tighter to the hands clasped in my own. The touch is foreign to me, but not completely unpleasant. Aside from a few condescending side hugs over the years, or physical fights over the remote, or a hand full of dances where he would swing me around like a yo-yo, I've barely experienced his touch.

"Repeat after me…"

I choke out my own vows, barely above a whisper, watching his smirk fall lightly as his gaze focuses on my lips. I know that he's shocked I'm actually going through with it, and for the first time, I can see his own panic beginning to set in.

Serves him right.

"Do you have the rings?" the man asks, pulling my 'intended' out of a trance.

"Oh, ummmm, yea," he says, reaching into the pocket of his jeans and pulling out two very cheap rings he had purchased last minute at a retail store that very morning as a joke, having every intention of returning them that afternoon.

"Good," the officiant says, returning his gaze to the book in his hand. He starts to speak, and by this time, I can feel the sweat pooling in our combined clasped hands. I've never seen him so nervous. I'm never witnessed him shaking this badly.

For a moment, I'm confused. Maybe he is human after all?

Silence begins to linger after the man stops speaking, his gaze expectant on the 'groom.' For a moment, I feel that I may have won. But then a small croak comes from deep within his throat, making me realize that it was all up to me to end this ruse. "I do," he says, slipping the ring onto my left hand until it's securely in place.

The fake piece of jewelry taunts me as it sits on my finger, asking me how I could make such a mockery out of something so sacred?

The Justice of the Peace holds out the band I am to give to my soon to be 'husband' and I take hold of it.

"Casey Rebecca McDonald, do you take Derek Michael Venturi, to be your wedded husband, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, be faithful only unto to him for as long as you both shall live?"

As long as you both shall live? As long as you both shall live?

Those words were taunting me over and over. No, this wasn't forever. This was for right now until we undid this stupid bet we had created between us to try to gain the upper hand. At my hesitancy, I can see Derek's easy smile returning, as if he knew he had finally won.

"I do," I say quickly before I can back down, standing up as tall as I can, my head held high in victory.

"Huh?" Derek squeals, his eyes growing as wide as saucers as I place the cheap ring on his own finger.

"By the power's vested in me by the city of Kingston, Ontario, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride, young man."

Derek and I snap to attention, our heads jerking to the side simultaneously. Kiss? As in kiss – kiss? There was no way in all that is holy would Derek and I ever, under any circumstances, even marriage…

It was in that moment that Derek kisses the palm of his hand, smacking me in the mouth with it. I'm momentarily stunned, my lips tingling from the assault.

"Der-ek!"

The officiant's eyes grow wide, a horrified look on his expression.

But in normal Derek fashion, he pulls me into a harsh side hug, grinning at the stunned man. I wipe my mouth off with the back of my hand.

"I'm not big on PDA," he says with a wink.


Twenty-four hours earlier

"Face it, Case, you don't have the guts."

I narrow my eyes at my step-brother, refusing to back down.

"When have I ever backed down from a bet before?" I ask, my eyes blazing. I sit the dish I have been drying to the side, crossing my arms in agitation.

Derek's dark eyes roll into the back of his head, causing my anger to increase ten-fold.

"I'm not talking about kissing the first guy you run into while walking down the hall, Princess. I'm talking about a real bet," Derek says, his voice dropping to just above a whisper, his eyebrow lifting mischievously. "Something stupid and dangerous."

"Like grand theft auto?" I blurt, making my best 'what the hell face.'

"Not quite," Derek says, stuffing a spoonful of cereal into his mouth, milk running down his chin as he speaks again before swallowing. "But I like the way you think."

"Eh," I gag at the sight. "You're such a pig."

Wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve, Derek rises from the island seat located in our small shared apartment that our parents are paying for, saying it would be cheaper than two dorm rooms over the course of four years. Mom, George, and my Dad are paying for us to live off campus, and I silently resent them for it.

What possibly gave them the idea that Derek and I could live alone without killing one another?

"I bet," Derek began, that natural smirk of his strongly in place as he runs long fingers through his darkened hair. I see the wheels turning in his mind, and I'm praying that he doesn't go along with my suggestion and bet me to steal a car.

I'm too delicate for prison.

"I bet you two term papers that you won't do something completely, out of this world, insane."

"I should have known you would bet me to do your homework," I scoff, rolling my eyes as I pick up another dish to dry. "And if I win?"

"Pick your poison. I'm willing to do anything, Case. Just name it," he shrugs, his cocky attitude driving me to the brink of insanity.

I think for a moment, trying to decide what I really want from my step-brother. He has nothing of value to me and I can't necessarily bet him to disappear from my life for good. Marti would hate me if I made her big brother suddenly vanish, no matter how tempting it may be. Giving him a smirk of my own, I saunter towards him, knowing exactly what I want.

Derek licks his lips, trying to keep from laughing as I make my way closer. "If I win, you have to never again date one of my college friends."

Giving me the reaction I was hoping for, Derek's face falls completely, his dark eyes turning black. "I'm not sure that equals two measly term papers, Casey."

"I'm sick and tired of you dating my friends and then dumping them. If I have to listen to one more crying fest over…you," I visibly shudder, "I'm not responsible if I 'accidentally' trip with a knife in my hand while you sleep."

"Threatening violence, Case?"

"More like threatening murder."

Derek chuckles, bending his head in amusement, crossing his arms. I hate when he does that. That…that genuine smile whenever I yell at him. I know I shouldn't give him what he wants. He craves the fights, and I'll never understand why. But not fighting back will only make me appear weak, and I refuse to let that happen.

"Then I have to make the bet one of kind if I'm going to win, huh?"

"Then do…your…worst." The words are out of my mouth before I can stop then, and I know I have given him the biggest dose of ammo imaginable. My mind is screaming to take back what I just said. This is bad. This is really really bad.

Just as I suspect, Derek's head snaps to attention, his grin widening at my invitation. I watch as his gaze narrows, sizing me up. "My worst? Well, then, I'd hate to disappoint."

What I have just done?

"I bet you, Casey 'goody-two-shoes,' McDonald…"

I brace myself for impact as Derek pauses. He is tormenting me, making me wait for the bomb that is about to inevitably drop. I wince before the words are even out of his mouth.

"…to marry me."

I am pretty sure my brain has malfunctioned because it takes me a moment to register what he just said.

Excuse me? I must have heard him incorrectly because there is no way that he just…

"Huh?"

"You heard me," he says, leaning down so that his face is only inches from my own. I feel his hot breath on my skin, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. "Marry me."

I stand here in shock, completely taken off guard. Derek hates me. Not even for a bet would he ever suggest something so wrong and idiotic.

"That is the dumbest, most moronic, disgusting, asinine thing you have ever said, Derek! That's just…there is no way you and I…that's not a bet! That's real life!"

"I knew you didn't have the guts," he says in a snarky tone, bending down to pick up his book bag before heading out the door. "I guess I win."

"Wait!" I say, grabbing hold of the fabric of his sweater. He turns back to me, giving a heavy sigh. "Marriage is forever, Derek! That's what's wrong with today's society. Nobody takes it seriously anymore and half the time it ends in divorce. On top of everything else, I'm not even sure you and I getting married is completely legal…"

"Oh, it's legal, I looked it up once."

"What?" I ask, pausing. My brows rise in surprise and suddenly, Derek clears his throat, turning away. "I mean, I heard it once. Someone talking about it, or whatever," he stammers.

"You heard people talking about step-siblings getting married?" I find that hard to believe.

He only shrugs his shoulder in response, muttering something under his breath that I don't quite catch. "I'm not talking white picket fence and 2.5 kids, Princess. We'll just get an annulment."

He says the word annulment like it's no big deal; likes it's the answer to everything. "Annulment?"

"Sure. We'll stay married for say – two weeks – and then file for an annulment. We'll plead immaturity and insanity. There's no way they'll deny us."

"Obviously, since it's the truth."

"See! You're coming around already."

Was I really willing to go through with this? Was I willing to make a mockery of the sanctity that is marriage? I can't believe I'm even kicking around the idea of marrying Derek, the bane of my existence.

"I'll marry you on a few conditions," I blurt out, biting my lip in surprise at my own words.

"Of course you have conditions," he says, rubbing the back of his neck in frustration.

"Number one, you have to be nice to me," I say in a cheery voice, knowing that this is the only way I can get Derek to back down before we do something we both most definitely will regret.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. Husband's are supposed to be nice to their wives."

"Clearly, you've lived under a rock you're whole life. Both of our parents have been divorced before, remember? I don't know about you, but I recall a lot of yelling and not so nice words being exchanged."

"Derek," I say, giving him a look of warning until he relents, rubbing his eyes with two fingers. "Fine, I'll be nice."

"Number two, no dating while we're married."

"This isn't going to be a real marriage, Casey…"

"Yes, it will! Legally binding, and as your wife, I refuse to let you date."

"Refuse?"

"Refuse."

With a low grown, Derek clenches his teeth together and says, "fine. Then as your husband, I expect the same."

"Fine."

"Good. Are we done?"

"Yes," I respond, watching as Derek gives one last annoyed huff before heading to the door and opening it, slamming it shut loudly behind him.

"I guess I'll see you in the morning at City Hall!" I yell after him one last time, surprised when the door pops back open.

He peeks his head in, gracing me with one last smile. "And I'll you see you tonight for dinner," he corrects, giving me his most charming wink. "It's lasagna night."

He slams the door shut once more, disappearing for good.

I outwardly scream, trying to make sense of the nightmare I have just gotten myself into.