Badd motherf cker, p.21
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       Badd Motherf*cker, p.21

         Part #1 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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  We'd blocked off the entire street around the bar, and the catering company had set up a buffet of food outside and a bunch of white-cloth-covered tables in the street and on the docks. Canaan and Corin had a stage off to one side and planned to play all night long, taking breaks for food and booze, of course.

  The twins, being the twins, could play covers of just about anything, plus their catalog of a hundred or so original songs--including dozens of songs they'd written while touring but had never got into the studio to record. They'd never told their old record label about them, and there were only the twelve songs from their debut album that they weren't allowed to play without permission.

  The whole wedding was open to the public, with the interior of the bar open for business as usual, the wedding and reception all taking place outside. We'd hired temporary staff in addition to the catering staff to run the bar for the evening so all of us could hang out and party all night.

  There were something like two hundred people gathered already, more in the bar, and yet more streaming in from all directions. Might have been Canaan and Corin's rambunctious cover of "Stairway to Heaven" they were currently playing, or it could have been the lights and the crowd and the smell of food...or just the air of a rippin' party that had infused this entire section of Ketchikan.

  In the four months since Dru had drunkenly crash-landed in Badd's Bar and Grill, things had gotten a little crazy. Word had spread that all eight of us Badd brothers were back in town, and that we all were around in the bar on a regular basis, which had brought in the ladies in droves...and their boyfriends and husbands had stuck around because of the kickass music provided on a nightly basis by the twins and the stiff drinks poured by Bast and Bax. Business had turned around, you might say. Xavier had proven to be as talented a chef as he was at anything else, which meant we had a killer menu, and Dru provided a smiling, beautiful, happy face for the crowds which pushed in to max capacity every night. That's right, the chick had torn up her law degree to play hostess at a dive bar...and seemed well and truly happy with the decision.

  Lucian, Brock, and I took turns helping out as needed in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the floor, and Xavier took it upon himself to take care of the books, since he could do the requisite math in his head blind-drunk. Things were...amazing. We were busier than ever, and all of us were pretty content with the way things were.

  I hadn't shot a gun in months, which was the longest I'd gone without spending hours on the firing range or in combat since I was eighteen.

  Not all of us fit in the apartment above the bar, obviously, so some of us brothers had pitched in funds to buy and renovate an old storefront and the apartment above it a block away from the bar. The storefront had been turned into a recording studio for the twins, and the apartment above provided living space for them, Lucian, Brock, and Bax, while Xavier and I had the other two bedrooms above Badd's. None of us spent much time in any of the bedrooms except to sleep, so it didn't really matter, as we all tended to spend every waking moment at the bar either working or drinking.

  With Dru and Bax making their circuit around the block, it was time for me to take my place beside Sebastian at the altar--which was a microphone stand and a rented white archway decorated with roses--with the brothers lined up on either side. Since Dru didn't have any real girlfriends and no family except her dad--who was performing the ceremony--the brothers had taken it upon themselves to be her "bridesmen" as well as Sebastian's groomsmen. Lucian, Xavier, Bax, and Brock were her bridesmen, and the twins and I were Bast's groomsmen. Technically I was the best man, but that just meant I was tasked with carrying the rings.

  Sebastian, standing next to Drew, seemed more nervous than I'd ever seen him.

  I nudged him. "You're not nervous are you?"

  He scowled at me. "Fuck yeah I am. Gettin' married, man. Of course I'm nervous."

  "It's not like she's gonna back out or anything, you know that, right?"

  He snorted. "Well, fuck, dude, I hope not, but that ain't why I'm nervous."

  "Then what is it? Never seen you look so green around the gills about anything."

  He shifted his weight from foot to foot, peering over the heads of the crowd, watching for Dru's approach. "My vows. I wrote 'em myself, but..." He shrugged uncomfortably. "Putting what's in my head into words ain't ever been my strongest suit."

  I struggled for something useful to say. "I'm not much better at it than you, bro. But just...be you, I guess. That's what she loves, and she'll be happy with it."

  Drew Connolly, wearing his full dress uniform from his Corps days, clapped Sebastian on the shoulder. "Listen, kid. It ain't all that complicated. Your brother hit it on the head. Trick is, don't try to say what's in your head. Say what's in your heart. My Dru doesn't care much for fancy words, never has. I raised her to pay more attention to what people do, 'cause that's what really tells you their character. You try to put your vows in iambic pentameter or some shit, she'll just stare at you like you've lost your damn mind. Just tell her how you feel, and make her heartfelt promises about the future."

  Sebastian pulled a face. "The hell is iambic whatever the fuck you said?"

  Xavier spoke up:

  "'Let me not to the marriage of true minds

  Admit impediments. Love is not love

  Which alters when it alteration finds,

  Or bends with the remover to remove:

  O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,

  That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

  It is the star to every wandering bark,

  Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

  Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

  Within his bending sickle's compass come;

  Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

  But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

  If this be error and upon me proved,

  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.'"

  Everyone just kind of stared at him for a moment, until he shrugged. "What? That's Shakespeare. Sonnet one-sixteen, in iambic pentameter. One of the most iconic poems about love ever written."

  Sebastian stared at Xavier blankly for a minute. "Well that's real pretty, but what the fuck's it mean?"

  Xavier blinked rapidly, which meant he was thinking through his response. "Depends on if you read it on its own, or in context with the other sonnets in the series to which it belongs. If you read it by itself, out of context, it's about the perfection of true love, and how love is eternal and immalleable."

  Sebastian laughed. "You lost me, bro. I only know what like four of those words mean."

  Xavier sighed. "Never mind." He frowned at Sebastian, then. "You know, I actually think you're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for."

  "Thanks for the vote of confidence, punk, but I'll leave the fancy words and poetry to you and Brock."

  "Hey, leave me out of the poetry, thanks," Brock said. "I'll take Kant and Nietzsche over Shakespeare and Marlowe any day of the week."

  Xavier opened his mouth to argue, probably some off-the cuff doctoral thesis on the intersection of poetry and psychology or some fancy bullshit, but the rumbling snarl of Bax's Harley interrupted him. The crowd parted for the big bike, and when Bax was parallel with the altar and the line of Badd brothers, he halted, flipped down the kickstand, swung off, and held out his hand to help Dru dismount. She swung her leg over, flashing an almost indecent amount of leg in the process, smoothed her dress over her hips and stomach, and then let out a deep breath.

  She stood there for a few long moments, just breathing and smiling and staring at Sebastian. The twins, right on cue, began playing "Here Comes the Bride", although I've never heard a version that included a howling guitar solo or a thudding bass riff. It worked, though, somehow.

  Gathering her train, she approached Sebastian, holding onto Bax's arm.

  Drew took her hand and Sebastian's, and joined them between both of his. "None of us are much fo
r ceremony or tradition around here, so I'm gonna do this quick and simple."

  He looked at his daughter. "Dru, baby-cakes, my baby girl--I'm the happiest man in the world, next to Sebastian, here. Seeing you happy, seeing you find a man who's worth his salt? Makes this old soldier's cold, hard heart soften, just a little. Never woulda thought something so good could have come from that shitty day four months ago, but here we are, hitching you and Sebastian in what they call holy matrimony."

  He looked to Sebastian, then. "Sebastian, my boy. Not much I need to say to you. Love her, take care of her, be the man she deserves. I know you will, and I know you are. You asked me a month ago for my girl's hand, and I gave you my blessing in private then, and I'm giving it to you again now, publicly. You're a damn good man, and I'm proud as fuck to have you as my son-in-law."

  Dru smacked her dad's arm. "Dad! You can't swear when you're marrying us!"

  Drew just chuckled into the mic. "Sure I can. We're not in a church, are we?" Dru sighed, conceding the point, and her dad continued. "So, without further speechifying, here we go."

  He looked at Dru.

  "Dru Connolly, do you take Sebastian Badd as your husband, and do you promise to love him and him alone with everything you've got for as long as you live and for whatever comes beyond this life?"

  Dru took a deep breath and let it out. "I do. Forever, and beyond."

  Drew looked at Sebastian next. "And Sebastian, do you take this woman--my precious daughter and my only family in this world--to be your wife, and to love her and her alone with everything you've got for as long as you live and for whatever comes beyond this life?"

  Sebastian nodded. "I do."

  Drew's gaze went from one to the other. "You have vows to exchange, before I do the honors?"

  Dru let out another breath. "Sebastian...sometimes I have trouble accepting that I'm here, that this is real. That you're real. But you are, and...I love you. So much. And your brothers, all seven of them, they're all the family I've never had, and I'm thankful for you, and for them. I promise to love you with all the crazy I've got--which is a lot. All I can say is, I'm so glad I wandered into your bar that night."

  Sebastian laughed. "I'm glad you did, too. I had this whole big speech written out, but the cards I wrote it on are all crumpled now and I can't make out my own handwriting--" he held up a pair of 3x5 cards covered on both sides with illegible scrawl, then stuffed them back in his tuxedo pants pocket, "so I'm just gonna have to wing it. When you stumbled into my bar four months ago, you were wearing that same wedding dress you've got on now, but you were soaking wet, your makeup was running, your hair was a tangled mess, and you were heart-broken and hammered. And, honey, my first thought the moment I laid eyes on you, was that you were an angel. You took my breath away then, and you've taken it away every single damn day since. I didn't know what I was lookin' for, but I found it in you. So here we are. I love you. And thanks for taking a chance on me." He glanced at Drew, then. "And Drew, now that I've married your daughter, you've got eight of us as your family. So on behalf of my brothers and me...welcome to the tribe."

  Drew let out a deep breath, cleared his throat and blinked hard. "Thanks, Sebastian. That means more than I can say. Now, if you two don't have anything else--" he looked from Dru to Sebastian and back, and they both shook their heads, "then all there is left to say is...by the power vested in me by...what's it called...the Universal Life Church--and the great World Wide Web...I now pronounce you husband and wife. Kiss her, kid."

  Sebastian wasted no time laying one on Dru and, holy shit...it was a scorcher of a kiss. Made a few people more than a little uncomfortable, but hell, you couldn't miss the love between them.

  Sebastian threaded his fingers in Dru's, and they held their joined hands up, and the crowd, a mix of Ketchikan locals and tourists, plus the small but rowdy knot of Drew's cop buddies, all wearing loud Hawaiian tourist shirts and Crocs with socks--they especially howled and clapped like crazy, but nobody made as much noise as us Badd brothers.

  Sebastian let it go on for a while, and then leaned into the mic. "Thanks, everybody. Now that the ceremony is done, let's party! Have fun!"

  The twins hopped back up behind their mics and instruments and kicked off a rousing rendition of the Beastie Boys classic, "Fight For Your Right To Party", and wouldn't you know those two knuckleheads could even do the back and forth rap?

  The party was on then, the drinks flowing and the food line forming.

  As soon as Dru and Sebastian left the altar and the mic, Dru stepped in front of me and untied my black bowtie. I shrugged off the coat, took the tie from her and stuffed it into the pocket of the coat, which I then tossed over the back of the chair I'd be sitting in. After I'd rolled my sleeves up to my elbows, I felt a good bit better. Tie off, coat off, sleeves up...I could breathe again.

  The crowd was getting wild, which wasn't doing my anxiety any favors. After countless missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and a few in South America going after drug lords, being around large groups of people wasn't exactly super awesome. They tended to make me nervous, antsy and uncomfortable. The crazier things got, the more my nerves turned into anxiety, until eventually I'd have to remove myself from the noise and activity and find somewhere quiet so I could breathe again.

  None of my brothers knew about my anxiety attacks, because I'd be damned if I'd ever admit weakness to any of them, even though I knew logically they'd never say shit about it except to support me. Still, I couldn't admit it. No way, no how.

  For now, though, I was doing okay. I had my brothers gathered around me, and Sebastian was happy as fuck, grinning ear to ear and refusing to let Dru get more than a foot away from him. I grabbed a beer from the ice bucket at the head of the food line, piled a plate high with grub, and took my seat next to Lucian at the head table near the stage.

  God, Lucian. The kid was back, and just as opaque as he'd ever been. I always thought I did a good job of keeping my internal bullshit to myself, but Lucian just...the dude let out nothing, so even for those of us who knew him well he was nearly impossible to get a read on.

  Yet here he was, leaning his chair back on two legs, sipping a beer out of a red Solo cup, a sly, amused grin on his face.

  "What's funny, Luce?" His nickname was pronounced loose, even though his name was pronounced LOOSH-yee-an. Go figure, right? No accounting for familial nicknames, I guess.

  He just shrugged at me. "This." He waved at the proceedings with his beer. "Bast, gettin' hitched."

  I shot him a warning side-eye. "Why's it funny?"

  He shook his head side to side. "Eh, not funny stupid or funny like it ain't serious." He paused to take a drink, probably because he'd reached the limit of how many words he could say all at once. "Just...funny weird, I guess. Bast...married? Never thought he'd be the first of us to do that, is all. And it's weird. And kinda funny."

  I couldn't help a chuckle. "Yeah, I hear that." And thus we spent the next few hours, Lucian and I, sitting at the table and sipping beers, neither of us real big into hard drinking. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm inclined to get black-out drunk from time to time, I just do it in private. Not sure about Lucian, but I suspected he rarely let himself get so far gone he lost control.

  Brock and Bax, however, had no such inhibitions. A party was a party, especially for Bax. He was well on his way to getting wasted, and unless things had changed while he was in Canada playing for the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL, Bax always provided an interesting time when he had too much to drink.

  Case in point. I just looked up and, yep, here we go. Bax was standing with one foot on his chair, one up on the table, a bottle of Jameson upended, chugging straight from the bottle. The crowd was chanting "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!" and Bax, being Bax, looked like he was gonna try to polish off the whole bottle in one fuckin' go...and goddammit, that would NOT end well. At all. For anyone.

  So I hopped up, snagged the bottle from him and said, "Bax, don't be a dumbass."

  He peered at me
blearily, angrily. "Hey, fucker. I was about to win a bet." He winked, a little unevenly, at a couple of girls, who tittered and giggled coyly. "I kill a whole bottle of Jameson at once, they'll take me back to their hotel with them."

  I chuckled, despite my irritation. "Bax, buddy. Listen. You slam this bottle of whisky, won't be nothin' happening with either of 'em, or both of 'em, even as fine as they are, since you'll have a wicked case of whisky dick. So, this is me doing you a big-bro solid. Be smart, yeah?"

  Bax reached out faster than I'd have expected him to be capable of given his state of intoxication, and snagged the bottle from me. "I...don't...get whisky dick...bro." He shot me a dirty look, stuck out his tongue, and polished off the bottle in half a dozen long swallows. "I mighta shared this, but now I ain't."

  He was still standing in his Captain Morgan pose, one knee up, one foot on the table, so I shoved him, half as a knee-jerk reaction to him being a dumbass, and half because I was pissed at him. He toppled backward, arms wind milling, bottle flailing, and then just before he went down, he got a grip on my shirt and hauled me down with him. He hit hard, and I slammed down on top of him, and I heard the sound of glass breaking. Bax rolled over, throwing me off, and I felt something sharp gash my ribs, and then I was on my back, the wind knocked out of me, ribs screaming fire and pain, and people were shouting, and Bax was cursing.

  I sat up, pressed my hand to my ribs and it came away red. Lifted up my shirt, checked the cut; not too deep, might need stitches, but not sure. Nothing too terrible. I grabbed a handful of napkins and pressed them against the cut, clamped them there as hard as I could, and then turned to check on Bax.

  Fuck.

  FUCK.

  He was in a bad way, a jagged piece of the smashed bottle deep into the meat of his upper thigh. An inch in, if not more. I knew basic battlefield triage, which meant I knew to put pressure on a wound, how to improvise something to keep the pressure on, and I knew to not attempt to remove something impaled into the body.

  "Don't move, Bax," I said, working to keep my voice calm. "We need to leave it in there for a hot minute, okay, bro? I know it hurts, but we gotta leave it in."

 
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