Tied, p.13
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       Tied, p.13
 

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  Now Psycho actually looks frightened. She glances around, searching for backup. My sister does a head slide of her own. “Don’t look for your friends. They’ve moved on to fatter, stupider targets.”

  Delores clenches her fists. “The cheese stands alone.” She sniffs the air. “And it’s stinky. Ever heard of feminine wipes? Might want to invest in some.”

  As hilarious and . . . disturbingly sexy . . . as this whole situation is to watch, I don’t want Kate to have to deal with a wack job because of me. She’s had to do that enough already. So I take the path of least resistance and grab a security guard. “We’re guests at the main villa, and this . . . person”—I gesture to Psycho—“is harassing me and my fiancée. I’d like her removed from the premises immediately.”

  Psycho Woman doesn’t take it well. “You can’t do that!”

  “I’m pretty sure I just did.”

  Security Guy checks my hotel key. “Sorry about the trouble, Mr. Evans.” Then he tells her firmly, “You’re going to have to come with me, miss.”

  “What? No—I know my rights! Don’t touch me!”

  When more security comes on the scene, she screeches again, like a charging boar. Before they drag her out, she spits one final threat my way. “This isn’t over, asshole!”

  So much for friendly skies.

  Then she’s gone. But the fun’s not over yet. This—right here—is my favorite part.

  Because Warren says, “You should’ve decked the bitch, Katie. I haven’t seen you throw down in years.”

  His blonde companion may not have two brain cells to rub together, but she’s loyal. “Hey—that’s my friend! Bastard.”

  And then—

  Slap.

  She gets him dead in the face. Hard enough to leave an instant crimson handprint.

  Blondie stomps off dramatically. While holding his flaming cheek, Warren looks at me and says, “Ugly girls don’t hit so fucking hard.”

  Once the excitement dies down, everyone pairs off to talk and continue gambling. Leaving Kate and me relatively alone. “What was Billy saying about ugly girls?” she asks.

  I wave my hand. “Irrelevant. Let’s go back to the part where my dick is a compass and you’re due north.”

  She covers her eyes. “I can’t believe I said that.”

  I take her hands away. “Don’t be embarrassed. I’m very proud. Just out of curiosity—we’re talking about a monstrously huge compass, right?”

  Kate pushes me on the shoulder. “Stop fishing for compliments. Let’s talk about the stewardess who followed you here—am I going to have to get you a bodyguard?”

  Only then do I notice her outfit. Black miniskirt, black, high-heeled boots that end just below her knee, and a sparkly pink top that leaves nothing to the imagination.

  Stunning.

  I walk around her like a predator circling a tasty morsel. “No, but if that’s what you’re wearing, I’m thinking about hiring a whole team of bodyguards for you.” I finger the pink, sequined crown on her head. It says BRIDE-TO-BE. “That’s a keeper.”

  She touches it too. “Like that, do you?”

  I imagine turning it into a game. Seeing how long Kate can keep the crown balanced on her head while I do unspeakable things to her. “Very much.”

  “Dee-Dee got it for me.”

  I shrug. “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

  The broken clock herself yells, “All right, ladies—our chariot has arrived!”

  Matthew cashes out our winnings. I hold Kate’s hand as we all walk through the casino together. Matthew and Delores bicker playfully as we approach the lobby.

  “I’m not apologizing,” he tells her in a teasing voice.

  “Good for you. Remember that the next time you’re in the mood to play lecherous photographer and nude model—and I tell you to go screw your camera lens.”

  “I’m . . . I’m still not apologizing.”

  Do I know what they’re arguing about? No. Do I care enough to ask? Not really.

  We make it outside to the front entrance of the hotel. Parked at the curb is the biggest, pinkest limo I’ve ever freaking seen. It’s like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol on wheels. Neon lights pulse on the inside, and flashing strobes spin from the roof.

  I look at Dee-Dee. “A pink limo? That’s not too gaudy.”

  She smiles proudly. “This is Vegas, baby—gaudy is king. We should retire here.”

  With that, she kisses Matthew and starts to walk away. Before she can take two steps, he grabs her, pulls her back, and kisses her longer and more roughly. When she’s slightly dazed, Matthew grins and sends her off toward the limo. Erin waves and follows her.

  I put my hands on Kate’s shoulders to make sure she’s paying attention. “Don’t let anyone buy you a drink. And with the way you’re dressed, they’re definitely gonna try.”

  She smiles indulgently. “Okay.”

  “And don’t put your drink down after you have it. Someone could slip something in there when you’re not looking.”

  Yes—shit like that does happen. When you’ve been on the bar scene long enough, you get a clear-cut picture of just how fucked-up the world—and the people in it—are.

  “Yes, Dad.”

  I grimace. “Don’t call me that.” When it comes to screwing, there’s nothing I’m not into. Except that. The whole “Who’s your daddy?” thing is a buzzkill. It’s weird—it makes me think of James, or my father, and in either case . . . no fucking thanks.

  “I’m not some twenty-one-year-old on her first trek to the bars, Drew. I can handle myself.”

  My sister joins the conversation. “And just in case she can’t—that’s what I’m here for.” Alexandra pulls various weapons out of her large leather bag. “I’ve got my Mace, pepper spray, highly illegal Taser gun, and if all else fails . . .” She whips out a four-inch metal rod that, with a flick of her wrist, expands to the size of a police-issue nightstick—with pointy barbs on the end. “I call it the nut scrambler. Feel better now?”

  I nod. “A lot better, yeah.”

  “Good.”

  She speaks quietly to Steven, then Alexandra climbs into the limo too. I wrap my arms around Kate, trying to cop one last feel. With her head on my chest, she promises, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

  I joke, “It’s not too late to make a run for it. They’ll never catch us.”

  She giggles. Then tilts her head up and presses her mouth softly to mine. Against my lips she murmurs, “I love you.”

  I pull back and trace her jaw with my fingertips. “And I will always love you more.”

  She smiles one final time and disappears into the bowels of the hideous limousine.

  Chapter 11

  After the girls’ car pulls away, Matthew says, “Our ride’s down thatta way, boys.” He jerks his thumb toward a sleek, black stretch limo at the end of the block.

  As we walk I ask Steven, “You and Alexandra get your shit straight?”

  “Eh . . . not yet. But her attitude is definitely improving. I was never really worried. Your sister likes to act like she runs the show, but we all know who’s really in charge.”

  Yeah. That would be my sister.

  He pounds his chest. “I’m the man.”

  I don’t have the heart to destroy Steven’s delusions, so I just tap him on the back and say, “Yeah, Steven. You the man.”

  Our first stop was Carnevino, the finest steak house in Las Vegas, where we treated ourselves to a superb dinner and first-class red wine. The atmosphere was impressive—high ceilings, Italian-marble floors, antique furniture. Next we headed to Havana Club—an elite, old-school cigar bar.

  That’s where we are right now. See us there? In that small, private back room, sitting in cushiony leather chairs. A hand-rolled cigar in one hand and swirling an amber-liquid-filled glass in the other, while heavy-scented smoke circles our heads.

  Warren lets out a choking cough for the third time.

  I warn him, “Stop inhali
ng.”

  “I can’t help it,” he rasps. “Inhaling is like a reflex.”

  “You better ‘help it’ or you’re gonna be barfing up a lung soon.”

  I speak from experience. When Matthew and I were twelve, we swiped a few of my father’s Cubans and lit them up on the rooftop of Matthew’s parents’ building. Then we hurled our guts out over the edge, barely missing several unsuspecting pedestrians on the sidewalk below.

  Warren sips his brandy and grimaces.

  “It’s an acquired taste,” Steven tells him. “You’ll get used to it.”

  Warren looks into his glass. “Why do I want to?”

  “Because”—I spread my arms wide, motioning to the finely fashioned room around us—“this is the high life, man.”

  He wrinkles his nose. “I think I like the low life better.”

  I put the cigar back in my mouth and talk around it. “Again—not surprising.”

  Jack leans forward. “Before we move on to the main event of the night, why don’t we get the toasts and roasts out of the way now?”

  Steven raises his glass. “I second that motion.”

  I grin and stand up. “All right. I’d just like to say thank you, to you all, for taking time out of your busy schedules to share this momentous occasion with me. If I’m going out with a bang, there’s nobody else I’d rather have with me than you guys.” I glance at Warren. “More or less.”

  Then I raise my glass. “In any case, a toast: to the best friends a guy could ask for. Thank you.”

  We drink. There are claps and hear, hears all around, then I sit down.

  Warren stands up. “If we’re gonna do some roasting, I should go first.” The other guys give him the floor. He straightens up, clears his throat, and with a serious expression looks at each of us. “I’ve always thought of myself as a one-man wolf pack—”

  Everyone cracks up. Who knew Warren had enough brain capacity for a sense of humor?

  Matthew throws a wrapper at him. “You took my line, fucker.”

  Warren laughs too. “But seriously—I was a one-man wolf pack . . . with two she-wolves. And even though things were messy when Kate and Evans first hooked up, it all worked out. She’s happy—and that’s all I ever really wanted for her. And now, our packs have joined. And there’s more wolves, and she-wolves, and wolf pups . . . the pups are cool. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I never had a big family . . . but . . . now I know what it feels like to be a part of one. It’s nice.”

  He raises his glass in my direction. “So I’d like to toast Drew and Kate’s marriage. If you ever break her heart, I’ll hold you down while Dee-Dee breaks your balls.”

  Isn’t that a lovely visual.

  Still, I nod to Warren as he sits down. He takes a big chug of his drink and nods in return.

  Then Jack stands. He chomps his cigar thoughtfully for a moment. “I will never get married. I used to think Drew and I were on the same page about that. Women are like Kleenex—soft, disposable, a convenient place to cum.” Everyone chuckles. “And then Kate Brooks walked into our office. And because Drew is a smart guy, he realized right away what the rest of us didn’t. Kate isn’t some plain, ordinary tissue. Kate is a hankie. The kind you hold on to. The kind you embroider your initials on. Kate is a keeper.” Jack looks at me. “And since you’re one of my best friends, I’m really glad you get to keep her for the rest of your lives.” He raises his glass, “To Drew—a lucky, undeserving son of a bitch.”

  We raise out glasses and laughingly drink to Jack’s unconventional—yet extremely accurate—toast.

  Next up is Steven. He wobbles a little as he stands. He takes a big breath, holds it a moment. “Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today.”

  All of us laugh, except for Jack. I don’t think he’s seen The Princess Bride. It’s Kate’s favorite movie, so I’ve sat through it a few times. Definitely a chick flick—although that Inigo Montoya guy was pretty badass.

  “And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva . . .” Steven grins and clears his throat. “But seriously, being the most married guy here—it’s my job to warn you. Women change after marriage. It’s not all candlelight dinners and lingerie, no matter what Vogue says. And the sex changes too. Sometimes it’s routine, sometimes it’s nonexistent . . . and sometimes it’s freakier than you would have ever thought possible.”

  I cover my ears. Because usually Steven keeps his and my sister’s bedroom activities to himself. And I absolutely fucking prefer it that way.

  “And when you get married, the most important thing isn’t being in love. It’s making sure you marry your best friend. A partner—the person you want to share the good times, the shitty times, and everything in between with. You’ve found that partner in Kate. You’re my best friend, Drew—and I love you, man. But now? I get to be proud of you too. And I am—damn proud. Congratulations.”

  I raise my glass back at Steven. “Thanks, man. It means a lot.” And it does.

  Finally, Matthew takes center stage. “I am probably more grateful than anybody that Drew and Kate got together. Because of Kate, I met my angelic wife, Dee. And although sometimes she’s a pain in the ass, more than anything . . . she completes me.” Matthew glances down at his glass a moment, spinning the liquid around, before looking back up. “I’ve known Drew my whole life. We were like . . . best friends before we were born. So I’ve seen him have a lot of successes. I’ve been there when he scored the best grades, landed the biggest clients, nailed the hottest girls. And through all those times, Drew looked . . . satisfied, but unsurprised. Like all those accomplishments were just . . . expected. He worked hard for them—he always deserved them—and he knew it.”

  Matthew’s eyes meet mine and he speaks to me directly. “But when you look at Kate? You look . . . grateful. Thankful. Like even though you know you’re the shit, you still can’t quite believe that you get to be the lucky bastard who has her. And . . . it’s a really good look for you, man.” Matthew raises his glass. “I’m not gonna wish you happiness, ’cause you’ve already got that. So I’ll just say, may the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live. May there be a generation of children on the children of your children. May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent. And may the saddest day of your and Kate’s future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.”

  By the time Matthew finishes his speech, I’m choked the fuck up. I down the rest of my drink to hide it. Then I stand up and hug him. A drunk, backslapping, lift-his-feet-off-the-floor kind of hug.

  Good times . . .

  After the brandy and the cigars are exhausted, we head outside. Matthew wants a cigarette; apparently the cigars didn’t increase our chances of developing lung cancer enough for his liking. We hang on the corner while he lights up. Across the street is a sleek, trendy-looking bar. Loud, raucous music seeps out through the frosted, neon-framed windows, and its parking lot is filled to capacity with high-end, souped-up sports cars. Next to the bar’s door, on a sidewalk bench, sits a short-haired platinum blonde with a killer body. A black tank top, denim skirt, and ankle-length, black boots show it off well. She’s hot and she’s alone. It’s a prime opportunity for Dipshit to test out the skills I’m benevolently trying to teach him. Maybe wiggle his way under her skirt. Or possibly get Maced.

  Either scenario would be a win-win in my book.

  “Hey, Warren,” I call. “Check it out. Lonely girl, at night, on the Vegas streets—a regular damsel in distress. Maybe you should go ask her if she needs a hand, strike up a conversation?”

  Jack agrees. “The chivalry card works every time.”

  “Behaving like a gentleman is actually very important to me,” I tell him.

  “Yeah—you’re a regular white knight, dude.” Jack snorts.

  With liquid courage flowing through his system, Warren struts across the street. He stops a fe
w feet away from her, which is smart. Don’t want to make her nervous by invading her personal space. He starts with the direct approach. “You’re beautiful.”

  She glances up quickly, then giggles and looks away just as fast. “Thank you.”

  Warren inches closer. “So . . . you need a ride? We’re not serial killers or anything. Just a few guys, hanging out. And we have a limo. You could hang with us or I could give you a lift, wherever you wanted to go.”

  Her head turns toward the bar, just a bit nervously. “I’m supposed to wait here for my boyfriend.”

  Warren sits beside her on the bench. “I don’t know what kind of man leaves a gorgeous woman like you sitting out on the street. If you were my girl, I’d never do that.”

  Good boy. I feel that I should throw him a treat or pat his head.

  And then . . .

  “What the fuck did you just say?”

  That little tidbit was growled by a beefy, blond-haired guy who just walked out from the side of the bar, with four other equally large men behind him. What they lack in height, they make up for in solid girth—the type my mother would have called “big boned.” They’re probably early to mid-twenties; one has a University of Nevada hat on, another wears a sweatshirt with Greek lettering.

  Frat boys.

  Although I was one of them once, I never realized how fucking obnoxious and annoying this particular breed can be, until after I graduated. They epitomize the phrase young, dumb, and full of cum. Because they travel in groups, they have that mob mentality—emboldened, loud, and constantly trying to impress each other how far up the dick-o-meter their actions are.

  And Billy Warren is in their crosshairs. Not good.

  Warren begins to respond, “I said—”

  I jog over, with Jack, Matthew, and Steven hot on my heels, to make sure Warren doesn’t get killed. Kate would not be pleased.

  Blond Ape #1 shoves Warren’s chest. The really strange thing is, it genuinely pisses me off. “You talkin’ to my girlfriend, loser?” He grabs the girl by the arm. “I told you to wait, bitch—I didn’t say you could talk.”

  I step in front of Billy. “Hey, fellas—I think there’s been a little misunderstanding.”

  “I don’t think this is any of your business.”

  I confess, “You have no idea how much I wish that were true. Unfortunately, it’s not. My friend thought the girl needed help. He was looking out for her—that’s all. No harm, no foul.”

  “Your boyfriend made a major fucking foul, hitting on my girl. I’m gonna take it out on his ass.” Then he spits at my feet.

  Classy.

  I no longer feel like resolving this diplomatically. “Well, if you’re gonna be an asshole about it—”

  The girl tries to intervene. She puts a hand on the guy’s chest while the other rubs his arm, trying to soothe the savage beast. “He didn’t do anything. Just let it go, Blair.”

  I can’t help but chuckle. “Blair? Your name is Blair? Christ, no wonder you’re so angry. You have my sincerest sympathy.” Keeping my eyes on the group of numb-nuts, I motion to Matthew. “You see what happens when parents are careless with the naming? This is your future, man.”

  In case you can’t tell—no, I’m not intimidated by the loudmouth frat boy. Because he, like most bullies, is a pussy. Real tough guys? Truly dangerous men? They’re on the quiet side. They don’t need to put on a show or announce all the pain they’re going to inflict on you. They just do it, before you ever have the chance to be afraid. Or see it coming.

  Blair steps toward me, but Warren pops in between us—hands raised in submission.

  “Hold up. Just wait—this is between you and me, fucker. Keep my friends out of it.”

  I look at Warren as if he’s lost his mind. ’Cause I’m fairly certain that’s the case. “Are you nuts?”

  He looks back over his shoulder at me. “Katie would never forgive me if you missed the wedding because you were in the hospital. And I grew up with Dee-Dee—if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s take a beating.”

 
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