Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
I’ve missed her. And now she’s here.
They must have come here to surprise us. What a great surprise! I pull myself up and stumble forward. I wrap my arms around her from behind, pulling her close against my chest. I bury my face in her neck, in her hair, and breathe her in—enjoying the soothing wonder of being surrounded by all things Kate.
Somewhere, in my Pandora-marinated brain, I recognize that Kate smells . . . different.
But I brush it off. Because I’m too stupidly happy to give a shit about something so trivial.
I lick my lips and put all my energy into not slurring my words as I whisper in her ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s just . . . leave. You and me. They won’t notice we’re gone. I don’t care about any of this stuff—I just want to be with you. I want to go back to the hotel and invent new ways to make you come.”
My eyes close, and I skim my nose against her cheek. My hand finds Kate’s chin and I turn her face toward me. So I can taste her, so I can press my lips to hers and show her how badly I want her—how much I need her.
But before our lips meet . . .
There’s a crashing sound in the distance. A commotion. And a Bitchy-sounding voice calls out, “Oh, hell no . . .”
My eyes are still closed, and without warning my equilibrium does a 180. Then I’m falling. Into total darkness.
Do you see that guy on the bed? The one with the grayish, clammy skin, wearing last night’s wrinkled clothes? Nope, it’s not a corpse. That’s me—Drew Evans.
Not my best look, I admit. But it’s the morning after. The time when the piper gets paid. Someone should take my picture—it’d make a great antidrinking billboard. “This is what stupid looks like, kids.”
When you think about it, hangovers are kind of interesting. They’re your body’s way of calling you an asshole. Of saying, “I told you so.” You know how I feel. We’ve all been there. My stomach is rolling, my head is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my breath smells as if I just chowed down on a dog-shit sandwich. Yum.
The alarm clock on the nightstand table goes off, music blaring from its speakers, and I’m pretty sure my skull just cracked in two. I roll on my side and breathe out a moan. You don’t feel bad for me, do you? I get that. If you want to play, you gotta pay. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Blah, blah, blah. I slap the button on the alarm and the music fades to a low hum.
I open my eyes just enough to see that Kate isn’t in the bed next to me. My hand moves across the sheets where she’s supposed to be, but they’re cold—meaning she’s hasn’t been here for a while.
I sit up slowly and brace my feet on the floor. My stomach churns like an ocean dinghy during a storm. I rub my temples to try to alleviate the drumming pain. And maybe dislodge a memory. Because I don’t know about you—but I don’t remember a goddamn thing about last night. It’s just . . . blank.
Like a wet sponge on a chalkboard—wiped clean.
Weird. I’m not typically a blackouter. That week Kate left me drowning my sorrows while she hightailed it back to her hometown in Ohio was the only exception. But let’s not talk about that.
I guess . . . I shouldn’t be surprised. Guys are competitive. Put a bunch of us in a room and we can turn anything into a contest. Who can burp the longest, piss the farthest, whose dick is bigger, who can punch the hardest.
Who can drink the most.
Is that what happened?
I stand stiffly and stumble toward the adjoining bathroom. I open the door. A thick billow of steam floats out. The bathroom’s huge—as large as a small bedroom—wall-to-wall Italian marble. The sound of running water echoes from the triple-spouted corner shower.
Behind the blur of the frosted door, I make out the silhouette of a woman—her head tilted back under the spray as she rinses her long, dark hair. She’s petite. Skin tanned and toned, with an unmistakably luscious ass.
Technically, I’m still a Catholic—but if you haven’t figured it out by now, Kate is my deity. Her body is my holy land, her words are my scripture, her pussy is the altar I’d crawl across burning coals to worship.
My eyes are glued to Kate’s hands as they run over her slick skin for a final rinse. I lick my lips and imagine what she tastes like. Clean and wet. Vanilla and lavender. That’s all it takes. My southern region rises to attention.
It’s mind over matter. Or in this case, horniness over hangover. It seems that despite my fragile physical state, the guy downstairs is still cocked and ready for some morning action.
Ha ha . . . cocked . . .
Anyway, I take two steps toward the stall, fully intent on joining my irresistible fiancée. But then the water shuts off. The shower door opens; the dark-haired beauty steps out.
And my heart drops to my feet—like a fucking A-bomb from a World War II fighter plane. Can you hear it whistle?
Big, brown eyes find mine as she reaches for a towel. “Hey, handsome, how are you feeling? You were pretty crazy last night.”
You know how, for some people, just a whiff of peanuts can immediately make their throat close up, cutting off their airway? I don’t have a peanut allergy—but now I know how it feels.
They say when you’re dying, your life flashes before your eyes. And I can tell you, with all certainty, that they’re right. I see images of Kate . . . of our perfect little boy. They flicker in my head like a black-and-white silent movie. They’re pictures of the moments we had, of the life we shared.
A life that—without a doubt—is over now. As dead as the goldfish Mackenzie had a few years ago. The one she insisted on bringing to the beach, in her pocket, so he could visit all his fishy friends.
RIP Nemo. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I know what you’re thinking. What the hell’s your problem? Why all the drama? Why is a little naked bush making me go all Clockwork Orange bowler-hat psycho?
“Drew? Are you all right?”
The problem, kiddies, is that the beautiful, wet woman standing in front of me—who is obviously well acquainted with me and whatever the hell went down last night?
She’s not Kate Brooks.
You know that saying, “Pinch me . . . I must be dreaming”? Well, kick me in the balls . . . I’m having a goddamn nightmare.
In a rush it all comes back to me, like a montage on fast-forward. Gambling with the boys, dinner, the fistfight, the thong in my mouth, nuzzling the stripper—Lily—at the bar. But that’s all there is. After that last moment, there’s nothing but a void.
A black hole—much like the bullet I’m tempted to put right between my fucking eyes at the moment—would leave.
I thought it was her. Jesus Christ. I thought it was Kate. When I was embracing her, trying to kiss her—I thought it was Kate.
But it wasn’t.
I sit down on the closed toilet lid while Lily wraps a towel around herself—concern lines etched on her face as she watches me. I breathe hard, fast, and my heart beats as if it wants to jump out of my chest and run far, far away from this latest clusterfuck.
What happened? Did the guys pick me up and drag me back to the hotel? I would give my left nut to be able to believe that’s how it went down. But if that’s the case—why is this girl in my goddamn shower, talking about how crazy I was last night?
Mother . . .
For the first time in my life, I can’t think of an appropriate exclamation. Not a curse in existence is powerful enough to fit this situation. Did I sneak out of the bar with her, hijack the limo, and come back here? That sounds like something I could pull off.
Did Kate . . . my stomach twists . . . did Kate see us here?
Fucking God Almighty.
My heart picks up even more speed, and I think I may actually be having a heart attack. Is thirty-two too young to have a heart attack? I hope it’s not.
Because she’s never going to f
Not this time. All my get-out-of-jail-free cards are used up. I run through every kiss-ass scenario I can think of—every groveling method known to man.
And I discount every single one.
No flower or gift or grand gesture is going to fix this. Hallmark doesn’t make an I’M SORRY I NAILED ANOTHER WOMAN, THINKING IT WAS YOU card. Even if I explain . . . Kate will never move past it. Never get over it. Never look or feel about me the same way she did yesterday.
And I don’t blame her.
I close my eyes and drop my head into my hands.
She deserves more than this—so much more. Kate deserves someone better than a guy who’s going to punch a hole in her soul every two years or so.
Better than me.
“Drew, are you all right? Should I get someone?”
Before I can stutter the questions I don’t want to know the answers to, the bathroom door opens. And Billy Warren sticks his head in. His eyes drift from me, to Lily, and back to me. “Everything okay in here?”
“No,” she answers. “I think Drew’s really sick, boo-boo.”
That’s precisely what I am.
There’s something wrong with me. I am messed-up in the head. You know it—you probably realized it a long time ago. I keep—
Did she just call him boo-boo?
Warren walks into the bathroom, stops next to Lily, and puts his hand on my shoulder. “You gotta puke, man? You should—you’ll feel better. I told you not to drink that shit last night.”
I gaze at Warren’s face, trying to remember—to figure out. A tiny flicker of hope sparks in my chest. “Did . . . did you two hook up last night?”
And Douche Bag pisses all over my little flame of hope. “No, we didn’t hook up.”
But then Shower Girl holds out her left hand and adds giddily, “We got married!”
My head snaps up—and the quick movement makes the pounding return with a sharp vengeance.
Warren straightens and puts an arm around her shoulders—both of them wearing huge, matching grins.
I point between them. “You two . . . you got married?”
He nods. “I figured if Vegas was a good enough place for my cousin to tie the knot, it’s good enough for me.” His gaze shifts to Lily adoringly. “When you find someone this amazing—when you know it’s the real thing—you don’t let it pass you by.”
I squint. “Married?”
Lily nods enthusiastically. “At the Drive-Through Wedding Chapel. We took some great pictures. And now I’m Mrs. Billy Warren.”
Nope, still can’t wrap my head around it. “Married? Really?”
Warren’s expression goes from sappy to annoyed. “Yeah, Long Duck Fuckin’ Dong—married. What’s your problem?”
It finally sinks in. Donkey Dick married Shower Girl. But more important:
I. Didn’t. Screw her.
Cue the chorus of angels. Ahhh-le-luia, ahhh-le-luia, alleluia, alleluia, ah-leee-luia . . .
I didn’t mess up. I didn’t betray Kate or ruin our son’s life or destroy everything we have. Overcome with emotion, I may actually weep with relief.
But I don’t cry. I do something much, much worse. I stand up and hug Billy Warren. “I love you, man.”
Yes, the stress of the last few minutes has finally driven me over the edge. We embrace for a second before he pushes me back, holds me at arm’s length, and looks at me with confused brown eyes.
“Dude,” he utters disgustedly.
I come to my senses. And shake my muddled head. “Sorry, I just . . . I’m so happy for you.”
Translation? I’m over-fucking-joyed for me. And that he married a woman who looks freakishly identical to Kate?
Nope—don’t even care.
I give his back a congratulatory smack. “You and . . .” I . . . pat her head. “Both of you. Congratulations.”
Then I realize I still have no idea where the hell Kate is. I hook my thumb toward the door. “I gotta go.”
As fast as my feet can carry me, I dash out the door.
Stepping out of the bedroom into the living area feels similar to when Dorothy stepped out of her dilapidated house into Oz. Everything is too bright, too colorful . . . too loud.
Matthew and Delores sit close together on the couch, under a beige blanket, sharing a bowl of cereal and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. Matthew chuckles at the television before Dee feeds him a scoop of Froot Loops.
As I step into the room, Matthew’s attention turns to me. “You’re alive.”
Delores is disappointed. “Damn it. I was hoping we’d have to get your stomach pumped.”
Matthew tugs her strawberry-blond ponytail and tells her firmly, “I told you to be nice from now on. Cut that shit out.”
When he turns back to me, Delores sticks her tongue out at him.
The ecstatic adrenaline rush from learning I did not actually put my dick in a pussy that wasn’t Kate’s is starting to wear off. My head and stomach resume the nauseating symphony of a mighty hangover.
I rub my temples and inform Matthew and Dee, “You know Billy got married last night?”
In unison, they respond wearily, “Yep.”
“To a stripper he’s known for less than twenty-four hours?”
Though I think I already know the answer, I ask the third-stupidest question ever: “Did he get her to sign a prenup?”
Delores scoffs, “I’m not sure my cousin knows how to spell prenup.”
They seem way too calm about this development. “Why didn’t you stop him?”
Now Dee glares at me. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Matthew explains, “Drew, it was your idea.”
My face goes slack. “It was?”
“It was. After you woke up from your nosedive at the strip club, you went on and on about how great marriage is. How everyone should get fucking married. How love is a precious, beautiful flower, and marriage is the water and sunlight that helps it grow.”
I seriously need to never drink again. Ever.
“I said that?”
Matthew nods. “You were very poetic.”
“Shit. We should call Wilson—he’s the best divorce lawyer in New York City.” And an old colleague of my mother’s. “Maybe he can draft something that’ll work retroactively.”
Matthew takes another bite of cereal. “Already left him a message.”
My fingers move from my temples to my forehead, continuing to rub the torturous pounding. “What else am I missing?”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” Matthew asks.
“Um . . . playing poker with you and Steven at Paradise. Warren singing Barry Manilow onstage.”
My best friend laughs. “You’re missing a lot.” He sets the bowl of cereal down on the coffee table and elaborates. “Kate, Dee, Lexi, and Erin decided to crash our party and showed up at Paradise. After we left the police station—”
I cut him right off. “Why were we at the police station?”
“Because that’s where they take you when you get arrested.”
“We got arrested?”
He grins. “Oh, no—we didn’t get arrested.”
Dee raises her hand. “We did.”
My eyes go wide. “Kate was in jail?”
Matthew waves his hand calmly. “Only for, like, twenty minutes. They released the girls to our custody—no charges were filed. I smoothed things over with the strip club.”
Going with the usual-suspect line of thought, I turn on Delores. “What did you do to get Kate arrested?”
She just laughs. “You can thank your sister for that one—Alexandra didn’t appreciate her husband getting so much attention from the strippers. When one of them got in her face, Lexi showed her what was up—and the rest of us had her back. I’
This is not news to me.
“Jesus Christ,” I sigh. “All right, forget all that—just tell me where Kate is.”
Dee looks confused. “What do you mean? She’s in your room.”
Before I can point out that Kate is not, in fact, in our room, one of the bedroom doors opens. Erin steps out, wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe, her hair wet. “Good morning, everyone!”
“Hey, naughty girl,” Dee greets her.
Erin steps into the kitchen. “Mmm . . . coffee.”
And prepare to have your mind blown—because in the bedroom doorway Erin just exited appears none other than . . . Jack O’Shay.
Shirtless. Wearing only boxers.
He stretches his arms wide above his head with a yawn, then scratches his chest and adjusts his balls. “What a great fucking night, huh? I’m actually sad you’re only getting married once, Evans. I could definitely do that again.”
Please look closely at my face. Did my eyeballs fall out of my head? ’Cause it feels like they have.
I look at Matthew. He just nods and flicks his hand, silently telling me, What are you gonna do?
Tied by Emma Chase / Romance & Love / Humor have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on65 votes