Just as the string quartet begins playing Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” my brother starts doing this weird thing with his hands. Unfortunately, that usually means he’s about to do something really stupid. Which would suck because it’s his wedding day and it should be the one day he might at least try to act reasonable.
When Trevor is nervous, anxious, or just plain wound up, he’ll ball up his hands into fists and then press his thumb in between his middle and ring fingers. It’s barely noticeable if you don’t actually know him, or, in my case, haven’t been witness to the massive number of dumbass things he’s done over the years. I can testify to the fact that most of these idiotic incidents have occurred immediately after he started doing the thing with his hands.
This includes all the times he coldcocked somebody across the jaw, every time he tossed my Barbie dolls out the tenth-story window of our shitty apartment in the Cleveland projects, and the time he threw up four hundred pounds of Easter jelly beans on my white patent-leather Mary Janes when I was eight. Today, though, he’s doing it for an entirely new reason.
When Kate appears at the end of the aisle, dressed in an ivory wedding gown covered in intricate lace cascading over every curve of her body, her dark hair pulled up into a simple chignon, it’s evident Trevor stops breathing for about ten seconds. Once he starts taking in air again, the weird hand thing becomes even more pronounced, in spite of Trevor’s obvious swoony wonder at seeing his soon-to-be wife ambling toward him.
Our mom must have seen it, too, because I clearly hear her let out a quiet groan from the chair beside me, followed by a giggle from my little niece, McKenna, who is perched on her lap. At just seven years old, McKenna can already tell when her uncle is about to make a fool of himself. Even she probably knows he’s about to make us look like the craziest white-trash family that ever set foot in the microscopic town of Crowell, Montana. As if our tattoos, piercings, and a general inability to complete a sentence without using the word “fuck” aren’t enough to make us pariahs in Kate’s rural hometown. Apparently, being a rock star with a fat bank account still hasn’t taught Trevor a fucking thing about how to act respectable. Once a broke-ass kid with nothing to lose, always a broke-ass kid with nothing to lose.
Not that I can claim to be much different. As much as I like to think that escaping our dead-end Cleveland existence might eventually banish any jagged recollection of who I was there, the people I stayed too long with, the choices I made . . . it doesn’t. Maybe it shouldn’t. Five years have passed since I bolted for LA, but despite all the things that have changed, sometimes I look in the mirror and all I can see is the girl who never thought beyond the ten-block radius of a hopeless neighborhood. Aside from the whole rock-star-dream-come-true thing, Trevor and I are both hard-knock-life types at the core. Which is why I’m never surprised when he does something without thinking.
With a huge grin plastered across his face, Trevor releases his fists and bellows over the delicate music.
“Come on, Mosely, hurry the hell up! I know you can move faster than that; I’ve seen you run. Stop fucking around and get down here so I can marry you!”
The string quartet screeches their bows to a halt in a succession of small squeaking noises that sound like a bag full of kittens crying to escape. Then it gets completely quiet, like horror-movie quiet, because we’re in the middle of nowhere, under an early evening sky, surrounded only by the five hundred acres of ranch land my brother bought a year ago. Every single wedding guest is riveted to their seat, trying to figure out if Trevor’s outburst will make Kate cry, scream, or just walk back down the rose petal–strewn path illuminated by hundreds of candles before getting in her beat-up farm truck and driving far, far, away.
Instead, Kate stops in the middle of the aisle with her jaw fallen open and her shoulders slumped in playful resignation, letting her bridal bouquet rest against her thighs. Still smiling, Trevor jumps down off the rustic wedding altar, avoiding the two small steps, and bounds down the aisle to her in his trim gray suit and worn-out black Chucks. Before he even gets to her, Kate starts to shake her head and lifts the bouquet of freesia up so it obscures her now-grin-covered face. When he arrives at her side, he wraps his arms around her waist, lifts her up in a tender hug, and then nuzzles his mouth against her ear, whispering God knows what to her.
My guess would be it’s something dirty, goofy, and completely romantic, all at the same damn time, because Kate’s eyes fall closed before she turns one small shade of blush and then grabs him around the neck for a kiss that would make most people feel like they’d just gawked into Kate and Trevor’s bedroom window. I’m used to it by now, because those two are forever gazing at each other, kissing, and generally being annoyingly in love. And all that’s in between their never-ending displays of dirty-ass lust for each other. When I’m not telling them just to go home and screw so the rest of us don’t have to cover our eyes while they eyeball-fuck each other at the dinner table or whatever, I want to hug them both really hard and say how jealous I am that they found each other. Because I can only imagine how good that all feels.
Until Trevor and Kate bumbled into each other’s lives, I had nearly forgotten the thirst of wanting someone. A real someone. Not a part-time, one-time, or maybe-another-time guy. The kind of man who makes promises, keeps them, and is so careful with every part of you that giving in feels safe. Unfortunately, seeing these two build a life together has stirred up every bit of that ache.
In the weighty quiet, a roaring laugh suddenly pierces the veil, followed by a wolf whistle that amazingly gives the rest of us permission to start using our lungs to breathe again. Across the aisle from where I sit, Simon, the guy responsible for saving us all from our awkward public panic, is gleefully grinning and clapping like he thinks Trevor just pulled off the coolest shit in the history of weddings. As the rest of the guests start to join in, Trevor releases his bride, trots back down to the altar, and swirls his pointed index finger in the air before gesturing to the string quartet.
“OK, let’s do this shit! Start playing that music again so I can make that fine-ass woman my wife!”
All the laughter is drowning out the poor string quartet, despite their attempts to start again. When Simon finds my gaze, he raises his eyebrows with a huge grin, his perfectly straight white teeth gleaming, and his charcoal eyes flickering across every part of me in the smoothest damn way. It isn’t the first time he’s done it, but every single time he does, that look whacks another little chink into the sturdy brick wall I’m determined to keep between us. He’s tempting, always has been, but Simon is probably only good for one thing. And that one thing is best left off-limits. Even if every conversation between the us over last two years has started with his making some kind of dirty declaration and me liking it more than I care to admit.
There have been times when it seemed like we could be more, fleeting moments when I thought he was something other than just a hot mess of tattoos and one-liners, but those seconds inevitably vaporize before anything too regrettable happens.
Case in point: just a few months ago, during a birthday party for McKenna, I ended up absurdly close to falling all over myself for a piece of him. What’s worse is that he wasn’t even doing anything particularly interesting. It was the opposite, in fact. All day, he was just there, hanging out in my mom’s backyard, helping Trevor man the grill, and being unusually helpful. Not to mention looking entirely too good in a just-tight-enough black T-shirt and a pair of almost-too-loose tan Dickies. And a bit later, when he volunteered to help me with the cake, it practically felt like we were some happily married young couple, standing side by side as I sliced and plated, Simon scooping ice cream and handing out full plates to a bunch of greedy kiddos.
When we were done, he was absentmindedly licking frosting off his fingers and I had to leave before I ended up grabbing his hand and finishing the job for him. I saved myself by scurrying off to the kitchen, and mercifully, when I came back out Simon had suddenly returned to his usual form. He had three—count ’em, three—over-tanned and artificially implanted soccer moms in orbit around him, all fucking giggling away at something he said. When he proceeded to sling his arms out and grasp two of them closer, I turned right back around and spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen eating too much cake, hoping the sugar rush might quell any further stupidity on my part. I blame my resulting bellyache squarely on Simon.
Given all that, we’re obviously much better off keeping our clothes on and relying on the sometimes maddening, oddly satisfying banter we do so well. From the fact that he’s in my brother’s band, to the way he flirts shamelessly with any set of ovaries within a hundred-mile radius, letting Simon ever get under my dress is absolutely not a good idea.
After the local Crowell preacher pronounces them husband and wife, Trevor kisses Kate so hard she almost topples over, leading to another rousing chorus of laughter, whistles, and hollering from everyone who knows they just witnessed a happily-ever-after come true. My mom starts to cry, but tries to hide it by leaning her head back and blinking exaggeratedly.
Me? I do just fine until Trevor turns them to face the crowd, lifts their intertwined fingers up, and kisses the back of Kate’s hand. Then she smiles at him, letting her head rest against his shoulder, and the way their bodies fit together so easily is too much.
Standing there, they’re just a girl who lost everything and a boy who never knew what he was missing, yet somehow they found everything in each other. My eyes fill with giant, warm tears that escape down my cheeks before I can figure out how to hold them back.
All this true-love-and-devotion shit means I’ll need to drink my weight in liquor at the reception, unless I want to spend the whole night feeling sorry for myself. Tonight’s mantra? Bring on the expensive champagne and keep it uncorked.
At the reception, I end up dancing twice with the local deputy sheriff, who apparently was once the golden-boy quarterback but who now looks like he couldn’t throw a football across a dinner table without treading dangerously close to a sudden heart attack. Deputy Dusty Frank is built like a beer keg on legs, with an early receding hairline that reveals itself when he removes his cowboy hat to swipe off the latest drench of sweat on his forehead. I shouldn’t have said yes to the first dance, but at that point, the celebratory shots of seriously expensive whiskey that Trevor and I had taken were starting to do the talking.
If I had stuck to dancing with Kate’s very vivacious friend Kellan, a Hollywood stylist who brought every bit of his fearless, cheeky attitude with him to Montana, I would have been better off. But Kellan left me in the dust after catching the eye of a very rugged-looking young rancher, who kept staring at Kellan’s bright purple suit ensemble with his jaw hanging open. An awestruck country boy in jeans that tight? I was lucky Kellan didn’t drop me on my ass to get to him.
It’s pretty likely that Dusty thinks he is going to get me to go back to his ramshackle double-wide or whatever, or at the very least that he’ll get his hands up my dress at some point. I’m sure he figures a girl like me, from the wilds of California, with a teasingly visible amount of ink on her back and arms, will be a sure thing. Too bad for him, I’m not into bloated ex-jocks who carry badges. I spent most of my adolescence dodging the cops back home and I’m not about to change that approach now. Plus, if anyone is going to get handsy with the perfectly tailored midnight-blue rockabilly dress I’m wearing tonight, they sure as hell aren’t going to have two first names.
Once I untangle my arms from Dusty’s on dance number two, I head straight for the opposite side of the room, where Kate is waving her hands frantically to get my attention. Trevor is curled up behind her, his arms where they have been all night, wrapped around her waist and holding on like he still doesn’t quite get that the whole wedding thing means she’s completely his from here to forever.
“God, Devon, I was about ten seconds away from pulling the fire alarm so you could escape that doofus Dusty’s wandering hands. You shouldn’t indulge him; he’s not bright enough to recognize you are so out of his league. Lacey was too good for him, too, but he still struts around town like it was her loss that they finally broke up.”
Full disclosure: Dusty also happens to be Kate’s sister’s ex. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I also danced with him because Lacey took an obvious dislike to me the minute we stepped off the private plane. While other people would try to change her mind, my defenses went up the second I caught her initial sneer. I decided not to give a damn if anything I said or did might offend her further.
It must be something about the Mosely sisters, because the first time I met Kate in person, I basically threatened her life. In my defense, she had just come back to my brother after leaving him so brokenhearted for six weeks that I thought he was going to drink himself into a shallow grave. Thankfully, Kate and I worked through our shit pretty quickly.
In the first month after I told Kate that if she ever hurt Trevor again, I would bury her body so deep they wouldn’t find it for decades, she did three things that made it clear she was my kind of people.
One: When Trevor had an early holiday party at his house to thank all his guys for their work on the last tour, Simon walked in and got up on Kate with a grasping bear hug that lifted her off her feet. Squirming out of his grasp, she shoved him in the ribs with a laugh.
“If I wanted to be sexually assaulted by a bottle of awful body spray, Simon, I’d go hump a cologne display in a drugstore.”
After that, Simon cut way back on the cheap cologne, and now he just smells damn good instead of making us feel nauseated in his presence. We’re all very thankful to her for that.
Two: At this same party, Trevor and his drummer, Phil, ended up wrestling like idiotic teenagers over who’d cheated at a stupid video game they were playing. After five minutes of their antics, over the hollering curses and grunts, Kate stopped what she was doing and shouted across the room.
“For Christ’s sake, do you need a time-out, Trevor?”
The whole room got quiet as Trevor went completely still, turning to look at his woman, who had just called his ass out in front of everyone. Then he released Phil from the headlock and as Phil stumbled away, Trevor stalked over to Kate, growling—until she raised one eyebrow at him, at which point Trevor’s shoulders dropped and he mumbled an apology to Phil before slinking away. It was truly a miracle to watch.
Three: When Christmas arrived, Kate handed me a pretty silver box with a note attached.
I saw this and thought of you
Inside was a bronze necklace designed to look like a single branch of an elm tree, jagged and delicate all at once. Here’s the thing: I love presents. I like getting presents and I like giving presents, so when someone hands me a gift that is perfectly me, I fall in love with them right there.
After that, I rang in the New Year with Kate in my tribe, and it didn’t take long to figure out why my formerly hard-hearted brother had fallen for her. And now she’s basically said she would have ruined her own wedding reception and destroyed the newly built ten-thousand-square-foot “guesthouse” we’re standing in, just to save my ass from further groping by Dusty’s sausage-like fingers.
Yup, Kate Mosely is absolutely my kind of people.
“Don’t worry, I can handle the likes of Dusty. No need to save your new sister from his clutches. I think if I left a trail of cheap beer and hot wings leading out the door, he’d follow it like a bloodhound. Problem solved.” I shrug my shoulders. Kate lets out a barking laugh and rolls her head back to Trevor’s chest.
“Speaking of saving new sisters, should someone explain to Lacey that Simon is the world’s greatest manwhore? “ Trevor nods toward the opposite corner of the room, where Simon has Lacey backed into a narrow space adjacent to the enormous stacked granite fireplace.
Kate snorts quietly. “I’m pretty sure my sister wouldn’t much care. Hot out-of-towner with tattoos. Enough said.”
Trevor sighs and leans his head gently against Kate’s. “Point is, Simon probably doesn’t belong with anyone’s sister.”
From the back, Lacey is all curves, wearing a tight red silk dress that makes her look like every teenage boy’s fantasy of a prom queen. Since Lacey was the prom queen once and Simon’s mental age hovers around thirteen, they’re probably a match made in heaven. With his focus entirely on her face, Simon’s gray eyes skitter across Lacey’s features as he smiles softly at something she says. Without even glancing once at her body, Simon can make nearly any woman feel like she’s the sexiest thing alive. I can take a wild guess that Lacey feels like she’s the epicenter of his reality right now, his dark eyes drawing her in until she can’t see anything but him.
What hurts is that he really does look crazy good tonight, making my commitment to staying clear of Simon a bit harder to manage. This has to be the whiskey talking again, though, because he’s wearing a fitted heather-gray sweater-vest over a tailored white dress shirt, with skinny black pants. Lord help me if the kid doesn’t look entirely delicious while rocking a goddam sweater-vest. Something that would make any other guy look nerdy or a hundred years old or like someone’s boring accountant uncle. A stupid sweater-vest should not make any man so enticing that all you want to do is crawl on your hands and knees over to him and beg him to make you moan his name for the next few hours. Maybe even just run your fingers through his messy chestnut-brown hair and tug on it until he puts his mouth on yours.
When Lacey leans in to whisper something in his ear, he moves toward her, his chin grazing against the side of her head as his hand slides over her hip. After a moment, they both lean back and he reaches out to tuck a strand of her strawberry blonde hair behind her ear. A ridiculous surge of jealousy rises up inside me when I see his fingers linger for a bit too long, tracing the shell of her ear so slowly my own skin prickles in response.
That’s my cue. This display leaves me with two choices: dance with Dusty again, in a wild, unrestrained, drunken sex-kitten sort of way, until Lacey is seething with such annoyance she forgets about Simon and his sweater-vest, or get the hell out of here so I don’t have to watch him enact his latest seduction routine.
Since I wouldn’t be able to stand one more second of Dusty’s stale beef-jerky breath on my skin, I’m going with option two. Mumbling something about needing some air, I leave Trevor and Kate to continue on with all their endless displays of adoration, and grab a nearly full bottle of champagne off the bar before slipping out the back door.
For whatever reason—probably the liquor again—the walk from the guesthouse back to the wedding altar seems a whole hell of a lot longer than it did going the other way this afternoon. Maybe it’s the darkness. Because despite the glare of the full moon and the bank of bright stars covering the sky, the dirt road is nearly invisible. My heels also aren’t the best choice for wandering around in right now. Swinging the champagne bottle around in my loose grip, I pull it up a few times for a swig and contemplate how I ended up like this: single, tipsy, and considering the idea that waking up with Simon in my bed tomorrow morning is a reasonable plan. The proper course of action at this point would probably be to bed Dusty instead; at least with him I’d know that the regret would last only until we’re wheels up tomorrow.
The wedding altar remains draped in a canopy of white twinkling lights, setting off the weather-beaten wood into shimmering gray planks broken up only by a few boughs of greenery and pale blue hydrangeas. Shuffling up the two steps, I slip off my shoes and pace slowly around the perimeter, fixing each step deliberately by stepping toe to heel with each one. Like a walking meditation, my breath slows and deepens until the quiet of the night fills every empty space in my mind. In the background, I can hear everything: the party, the music playing, and even a few voices. Because in a place like Crowell, absent of the white noise of a city, sound carries so far you could hear a damn bird chirp from five miles away. Without the heat of a full room of bodies, the night air is teetering on too cold, sending goose bumps over my skin as my body stiffens to fight off the chill.
“Did you come out here to tip some cows or what, Dev?”
I’m so entranced by the quiet, my breathing, and the clarity of the cool air that the voice scares the ever-loving crap out of me, so much that I let out a small yelp.
“Fucking Christ!” I nearly drop my bottle of champagne but save it at the last second, grasping the bottle neck tightly, and then hold it up to my chest. Trying to slow my heart rate down from its I’m about to get bludgeoned in the dark pace, I take in a deep breath.
Simon stands at the bottom of the steps with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, the stance tightening all the muscles along his arms, forcing every inch to press against the fitted material of his dress shirt. Arms that I happen to know are covered in some quality tattoos. Mostly black and gray, the designs are a little all over the place, like he just got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it, absent of any bigger plan. There are a few Japanese demons, a couple of Mexican sugar skulls, and even a few lotus blossoms buried in between. Over the years, his fair skin has disappeared incrementally, replaced by ink that looks perfectly placed on him.
Stupid arms, stupid shirt, stupid Simon.
“Do I look like the kind of woman who tips cows, Simon? Really? The cows are safe tonight. You can go back to seducing the local talent. I’ve got everything here”—I make a wide gesture with my arm, swinging the champagne bottle with it—“under control.”
“What if a cougar or a dingo or some shit leaps out and tries to attack you? This is Montana, sweetheart; there are wild animals everywhere. With your senses all muddled from the way you’re apparently determined to clear the bar out tonight, you wouldn’t stand a chance. You should be thanking me for following you out here—someone’s got to keep an eye on your ass.”
Arching my eyebrows, I take a long swig of the warming champagne and let him finish. Because there is absolutely, positively a punch line coming. I can feel it in my bones.
“Obviously, I’m perfectly happy to keep both eyes on your sweet little ass. It’s a miserable job, but I’ll make the sacrifice. I’m just that kind of guy.” His gaze drops and as his smile starts to drift, he runs his eyes over the length of me.
Oh God. There it is again. The look that weakens my sturdy resolve. Twice in one day is probably more than I can handle. Shaking it off, I roll my eyes so I can’t focus on how his mouth drops open a little under his unmistakably lewd perusal.
“Funny, because it looked to me like you were too busy back there to take on another ass. You had Lacey in your crosshairs pretty solidly.”
Moving up the two steps, he comes to a stop in front of me. In heels, I’m still several inches shorter than him, and out of them, I have to lean my head back to look at him. With his hands still in his pockets, he bends down toward me and lowers his voice.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were turning into a green-eyed monster on me. Jealous much?”
Letting out a small snort, I lean forward and gesture toward my face. “My eyes are already green.”
“Oh, I’m aware exactly how green your eyes are and how insanely sexy they look with all this blonde hair.” Simon pulls one hand out of his pocket and draws it down my back, moving across the lengths of my hair before landing against the small of my waist. “Unlike you, I’m totally willing to admit that I didn’t enjoy one second of your little show with the town’s finest. That asshole Dusty and his grabby hands almost resulted in my fist across his jaw a few times.”
Rolling my eyes, I shove away from his body, regretting the move when my hands land against his chest, because my fingers curl a little at the feel of him. The minor delay entices him, prompting him to grab one hand before I can move it away.
“It wasn’t a show. I was just being nice to the townfolk so they wouldn’t come after me with a pitchfork later. Again, I’m all good here. You can go back to making Kate’s sister your latest conquest.”
Simon moves toward my face a few inches and then cocks his head to the side. “Lacey isn’t my type, and you know it.”
“Really? I thought I was pretty clear on what your type is.”
“Yeah? Enlighten me.”
Simon draws our braced hands together over his chest before finally letting them drop when my fingers hit his belt. Before the temptation of him being so close makes me forget that this, that he, is a monumentally shit-tastic idea, I refocus my attention on his notorious ability to bed any woman, anytime. Once I do, it makes it much easier to skewer him.
“One thing. Willing.”
Roaring out a sharp, short laugh, he steps away and proceeds to circle me in slow steps.
“Oh, I have a few more criteria than that. I know you think I’ll nail anything that moves, but I’m actually far more particular about who I get naked with.”
“Your turn, then. Enlighten me.”
Stopping behind me, Simon leans down to whisper in my ear. “It’s simple. The Four Ws. First, I certainly want a woman who’s willing. Obviously.”
My breath hitches in the center of my throat as he moves closer. Nuzzling against the skin of my neck, he lets his words fall out slowly.
“I like a woman who’s . . . wild.”
Taking another step around me, he leans his chest against my arm and presses his mouth gently to my earlobe but says nothing, only lets his lips graze my skin. When he takes another step to land in front of me, he leans down to let his mouth meet the corner of my lips.
Tilting toward the other side of my mouth, his lips pucker up to tease my skin. With a shallow breath, he releases the final word.
The sensation of his words, along with the scrambled way my buzzed brain makes it seem like his lips being so near mine is the most natural thing in the world, forces me to drop my head away from him, simply so I won’t follow my instincts and grab him around the neck for a real kiss. Instead, I return my free hand to his waist, letting it drape over his belt buckle, tucking the tips of my fingers just beneath the edge of his pants. When his arms circle my waist, then drop to my ass, every single inch of my body begins to hum in a drunken kind of static electricity.
Screw it. This is a wedding, for Christ’s sake. Don’t people make hundreds of stupid decisions at a wedding? Like doing the hokey-pokey or giving blathering toasts to the newlyweds that accidentally disclose how the bride once had a threesome with her stepcousin?
“You know, Simon, weddings are like Vegas.”
My words emerge as more of a mumble than anything, because I’m unsure, unsteady, and starting to feel unhinged enough to toss out the freaking window every logical reason I’ve ever thought of to avoid this man. I’m sure in the sober lucidity of morning, when I roll over and see Simon snoring next to me, I will regret using the corny Vegas line, but in the shadow of Montana nightfall and pricey liquor, it sounds appropriately suave.
As I drop my fingers a tiny bit further under his waistband, I can feel his abs tighten.
“Like Vegas. You know, what happens there, stays there, and all that crap.”
Raising my voice, I want to make sure he hears every single word of what I’m about to say, because if I have to repeat it, I’ll probably remember why this is a bad idea.
“It means you could take me upstairs, undress me, and we could do a million crazy things before the sun comes up. Because it doesn’t count; it’s a wedding, and people are always sleeping with the wrong people or whatever. Shit happens, but it doesn’t count.”
Simon lets out a deep groan, but the sound of it is strained. It’s desire, but somewhere behind it, there is a shred of what sounds like disappointment. His hands move slowly away from my ass as he lowers his head to rest on the top of mine.
“There is one thing that always makes a woman a no-go for me, Devon.” As he steps away, my fingers fall from his pants and I look up, confused. Taking my chin in his fingers, he tilts my face up a bit to fully meet his gaze. “Wasted.”
Heat rushes to my cheeks and I can feel it seep down into the open neckline of my dress, setting off an anger inside that, if I’m not careful, will probably send me into a puddle of pathetic drunken tears. Melting into tears right now is not an option, because I just offered myself to Simon and he’s the one who has basically propositioned me for two straight years now. This was his chance to make good on all that talk, so I intend to make him regret the fact he just shut me down.
Jerking my face way from his fingers, I grab my shoes and stomp off, aiming for the stairs and then the dirt path back to the house.
“This was a one-time offer, Simon, so don’t ever give me any shit again about not giving you a shot. This was it and you took a pass, remember that.”
Just as my feet land unsteadily on the dirt, Simon grabs me from behind with one arm wrapped tightly around my waist, with so much force that my feet raise off the ground a bit in his grip. He speaks roughly into my ear, his words pained.
“Do not get this twisted, Devon. I’m willing every ounce of self-control I possess to stop from shoving your dress up and taking you right here. Fuck going upstairs. I don’t need a bed to have you screaming my name. But when this happens . . . you and me? I want it to count. I am not interested in being a drunken mistake for you.”
My feet fall to the ground again as he loosens his grip. He wrenches the champagne bottle from my hand before stepping away to pour the rest of it out on the ground.
“Hey!” I make a pathetic effort to swipe it back from him, missing hugely. The inertia of my gesture sends me stumbling a few steps down the dirt road. Instead of turning back to try to save my champagne again, I experience a moment of inebriated clarity and remember there is more at the house. Righting my body, I start walking that direction.
I can hear him shuffling behind me, mumbling something about being an idiot before he reaches my side and tries to put his hand in mine. I try to escape his fingers, but he grabs again and again until I relent. Refusing to give him my whole hand, instead, I curl my index finger loosely around his pinkie finger and let our hands sway gently between us, deciding that can somehow be a punishment.
Once he has me tethered to him, he sighs. “Let’s get your drunken ass upstairs and put you to bed. I think you’re about ten minutes away from having the earth turn on its axis, and then you’re going to be begging for the room to stop spinning.”