“You ready?” I ask my best friend, smirking at my reflection as I straighten my bow tie in the mirror.
Yeah, that’s right. A bow tie, and a vest…the things we do for the people we love. But today’s the day he marries Natalie—my little sister. And this vest is far more comfortable than my Kevlar, so I suppose it’s worth it. Not to mention, Tatum, my adorable as fuck almost four-year-old niece, begged us to wear them. And if there’s one thing on this earth I can’t resist, it’s her pouty lip. Kid’s got power.
Alden doesn’t even hesitate. “Yeah, man. I’m ready. More than ready.”
I run a hand through my hair and drop down into the chair next to him. Some days it weirds me out that he’s not only marrying my little sister, but is also my niece’s father, a fact only brought to light within these last few months. But as I sit here with him, all relaxed and calm, it strikes me just how much he means it. He’s completely ready to spend the rest of his life with Natalie.
Then again, it doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve known Alden most of my life, and the dude’s always put one hundred percent into everything he’s passionate about, and my little sister is definitely at the top of that list. Even if it is a bit weird for me, I’m thrilled for them.
Love like that doesn’t exist for everyone, that’s for damn sure. And truthfully, I couldn’t think of two more deserving people. They fought hard for their happy ending—they put in the work and fucking earned it.
Once upon a time, I figured I’d find me a nice girl and settle down—you know, way on down the line. Then she happened. Or, hell, maybe I happened. Either way, I saw the light. Moral of the story, I’m not long-term material. So, nah, there’s no wedded bliss in my future. Only lots of great sex—the no-strings kind—and that’s just fine by me. I still get the intimacy that all humans crave without all the cards and flowers and oh, my God, you missed our two-week anniversary bullshit.
It’s a total win…at least, that’s what I tell myself.
I’m sure I sound a bit jaded, and hell, maybe I am, but it’s with good reason and fully in the better interest of the other party. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for them—truly. You’d be hard pressed to find a couple more perfect than those two. They’re that couple; moonbeams and rainbows and little cartoon hearts shoot out of their eyes every time they look at each other. If I was anyone else, it’d probably make me sick.
Another bonus of the day is seeing Jenny, Natalie’s fine-as-fuck friend, all gussied up. Actually, scratch that. I hope that Nat picked a burlap sack for her to wear, because being close to her while she’s dressed to kill all night might actually kill me.
Jenny’s loud, opinionated, and brash—a total spitfire. Until I come around, that is. In my presence she gets all clammed up and nervous. It’s cute, really. Fuck. Did I just call the girl cute? What am I, twelve?
Alden and I are both seemingly lost to our own thoughts, and a comfortable silence stretches out, blanketing the room. Then Carlos—Alden’s second in command at the café he and Natalie run together—pops into the room. “It’s almost time. You ready?”
Alden smirks. “That seems to be a pretty popular question today. But, yeah, I’m ready. More than. It honestly feels like I’ve been waiting an eternity.”
Carlos claps him on the back. “Glad to hear it. Mrs. Reynolds said five minutes till it’s time. Which means we need a celebratory shot.” He crosses the room to where the bar cart is stashed in the corner and pours us each a shot of spiced rum. Alden and I stand and join him. He passes us each a small glass, before raising his own in the air. We follow, lifting ours as well. “To finding the person who shows you how to be happy, and being smart enough to keep them.”
We clink glasses and down the shots, the warmth of the rum leaves a trail, settling in my gut, almost like a premonition. But before I can overthink it, Alden bursts out laughing. “Dude. Did you just make a fucking Trolls reference?”
“Maybe.” Carlos shrugs. “It seemed appropriate.”
“Tatum would approve for sure,” Alden replies, a wide grin splitting his cheeks. “Now, c’mon, it’s time to go claim my wife.”
I sling an arm around his neck and pull him close. “Chill out caveman.”
He laughs and shoves away from me. “Just wait, tough guy. One day, some girl is gonna lay you out flat on your ass.” I waggle my brows and Alden shakes his head. “Not like that. I mean the way Natalie did me.”
I roll my eyes and head toward the door. “Not gonna happen, bro.”
Except when I open the door, I’m met with the vision of Jenny in her bridesmaid dress. And it’s not a sack. Not by a long shot. I stagger back as I take her in. She’s a goddamn vision. The offending piece of fabric only covers her right shoulder, leaving the left deliciously bare. The chiffon material drapes and crisscrosses over her chest, hugging her breasts together in a way that makes me imagine my hands there instead, before floating down in swish, ending right above her knees. And the color, my God, don’t even get me started. It’s about a shade darker than her skin and slightly rosy, leaving me to wonder if her nipples are a similar hue.
I shamelessly rake my eyes over her, groaning when her fuck-me heels come into view. She turns at the sound of it and instantly a pretty blush stains her cheeks. I bet it would travel down her neck and across her chest if she could read my thoughts right about now.
“Oh!” she gasps, doing a slow perusal of me in my suit. If the glint in her eye is anything to go by, she likes what she sees. Bet she’d like what’s beneath it even more.
I shoot her a cocky wink. “Oh yourself. You ready to walk down the aisle with me?” The impact of my words doesn’t hit until Jenny sways in her sky-high heels. Fuck. I pretty much implied it was us getting married. I scrub a hand over my face while Alden and Carlos snicker at my fumble.
“Sure,” she whispers, stepping closer to me.
“I’m gonna run and make sure we’re good to go,” Carlos says before turning to Jenny. “Have you seen Tatum?”
“She’s in the bridal suite with Natalie and the grandmothers.”
“Good, good. Alden, head on out to the altar.” I’m not really sure how Carlos became the event coordinator, but dude’s taking his job seriously—and he’s doing a damn good job. “When the music starts, Tatum will walk first; wait until she reaches the midway point and then y’all will follow arm-in-arm. Got it?”
I give him a mock salute. “Got it.”
He rolls his eyes before setting off for the chapel, leaving Jenny and me decidedly alone.
Against my better judgment, I drag the pads of my index and middle fingers over Jenny’s bare shoulder and down her arm, causing her to suck in a sharp breath. “You look real good, Jenny.”
She nibbles on the corner of her juicy, bottom lip, and I’m struck with the desire to do the same. “You do too,” she whispers, her voice as breathless as I feel.
What in the hell is happening here? Women—no matter how smoking hot—do not make me breathless. Especially long-term girls like Jenny Jones. She practically has engagement rings in her eyes as she bats her long, inky lashes at me.
I take a pointed step back, desperate for space. Space to clear my head—to get out from under whatever kind of good-girl-voodoo spell she has me under. Swear to God, it’s always the good ones. They’re all doe-eyed and sweet words, until you get them in bed. Then they’re all scratching nails and filthy talk. Which begs the question, is Jenny a little minx in bed or is she as vanilla as the frosting on Natalie and Alden’s wedding cake? Shit. No amount of space can help when these types of thoughts keep sneaking in.
And really, when did I start seeing Jenny as sexually desirable? Sure, she’s always been a looker—I mean, I’m not blind. But, she’s so far from my type it’s not even funny. I like them tall, leggy, and—most importantly—only interested in one night. And everything about Jenny screams til death do us part. I guess that makes sense though, because the thought of dipping my wick in the same pot for the rest of my life is basically a death sentence in and of itself.
I’m once again shaken from my thoughts. This time it’s Jenny tugging on my arm. It sounds crazy, but I swear I can feel the sear of her touch through my clothing. “What?” I ask, my tone harsher than needed. I’m on edge, and her touching me isn’t helping.
She drops her gaze, replying to her feet instead of me. “It’s…we missed our cue. We need to go.”
Stiffly, I nod once, linking my arm with hers before escorting her down the aisle.