When he kissed my cheek and pulled my hand to lead me back to our dinner, I knew he was telling me the absolute truth. And suddenly I didn’t feel quite so sated anymore.Dinner wound down and people began ordering cocktails, moving into small groups to talk, and venturing out onto the dance floor. From our table, Bennett and I sat watching. His long arm stretched out on the chair behind me, and he toyed with the ends of my hair.
“You’re a pain in the ass,” he said quietly.
“Well, you definitely weren’t a pain in mine.”
He shook his head next to me, reaching with his free hand for his drink.
I looked over to where Judith and Mary had Will sandwiched between them, grinding lewdly. “You’re in trouble for that,” I told Bennett. “Will said he’s going ‘Vietcong’ on you.”
Their hands moved up his sides, in his hair . . . seriously, he looked like he was in some AARP version of a Naughty by Nature video. He was trying to be a good sport, but, dear Lord, even the king of players could only do so much.
“You two troublemakers quit it now!” my dad yelled across the room.
“We’re reminiscing, Freddy, relax!” Judith yelled back. When Judith not-so-discreetly reached down and grabbed Will’s ass, he carefully pushed himself away, stumbling toward the DJ table and pulling the mic from the stand.
“Hanna!” The microphone squealed with feedback and everyone slapped their hands over their ears. The DJ abruptly stopped the music, and silence roared through the room. Will seemed completely unfazed. “Hanna. Look at me.”
We turned to look at her where she stood across the room, talking to Mina. Her eyes had gone wide, and she shook her head slightly at him. “Oh, God,” she whispered.
“Remember that thing I alluded to on the plane?” he asked, eyes glued to her.
A tiny smile played at her lips. “Jog my memory, Player Will.”
He squeezed his eyes closed, took a deep breath before looking back at her, and said, “Marry me?”
I was clearly not the only person to gasp. It felt like the entire room did it in unison. As if anticipating my needs, Bennett reached into his pocket and handed me a handkerchief. Across the room, I saw Max do the same thing for Sara. But whereas she took it and thanked him, I batted Bennett’s hand away.
“Sorry, Chloe,” Will said, looking as though he wasn’t even sure he was awake and doing this in front of fifty people. “I realize my timing sucks.”
“Don’t you dare interrupt this moment to talk to me!” I called out, gesturing wildly to Hanna across the room. “Keep going! This is the best thing to happen so far tonight.”
Bennett dug his fingers into my shoulder, laughing darkly next to me. “You’re in trouble for that.”
Hanna took a few steps closer and the dance floor between her and Will cleared. “Are you asking me this because you’re afraid of the handsy cougars on the dance floor?”
“A little,” Will admitted, nodding frantically. He swallowed thickly and repeated in a squeak, “A little. But I’ve wanted to ask every day, and every day I get scared.” Holding up his hand before she could misinterpret his words, he hastily added, “Not because I’m not sure. But because I want you to be as sure as I am.”
I watched as Hanna walked across the room, took the mic from Will’s shaking hand, put it back into the stand, and stretched to kiss him before saying something that none of us heard, but that made Will Sumner smile more widely than I’d ever seen him smile.
The guests broke out in roaring cheers and Bennett signaled to the caterer to bring trays of champagne around. Music pulsed, heavy and wild from the speakers, and the dance floor quickly grew packed with bodies.
Bennett stood and looked down at me. “Let’s go dance, Almost–Mrs. Ryan.”
“Only if you let me lead, Almost–Mr. Mills.”
“So was it the two mai tais I drank,” Chloe began, “or did Will really propose to Hanna tonight?”
“He did,” I said, turning off the water. “In the middle of our rehearsal dinner. With a microphone. In front of both my family and yours, and probably loud enough that the entire restaurant upstairs heard him. Rumor has it she said yes.”
“Okay then,” she said around her toothbrush, bending to rinse her mouth. I watched her bend, her ass push out suggestively, and felt my pulse hum heavy in my chest, the weight of need curling deep in my stomach.
“You should hurry up,” I said, tossing the towel to the sink and leaning against the counter.
“Are we going somewhere?” She stood, facing me in her tiny lace slip, eyes wide and mock-innocent, as if she wasn’t the same woman who’d just made me go down on her in a dressing room while our wedding party and family drank and dined obliviously downstairs. I was glad she was finally my Chloe again, the woman who was every bit as greedy as I was.
But now it was my turn.
“No. You’re going to suck my dick and then I’m going to f**k you until someone has to bang on the door and tell us it’s time to get married,” I said, unbuttoning my shirt.
She straightened, eyes tracking each inch of skin as it became visible. “Oh?”
I pushed her against the wall, ran my hands down her curves to rest on her ass. “You may have visible trouble walking tomorrow.”
“Rules are for suckers and idiots who aren’t getting laid.” Leaning in, I ran my tongue along her neck, bent to lift her and wrap her legs around my waist. I walked us into the bedroom, shutting off the lights as we went. “And I am tired of being a sucker, Miss Mills.”
“Did you come to this conclusion before or after you made me come?” she asked, then gasped when I tossed her to the mattress.
“Why are you still talking?” I growled against her mouth. I kissed her hard and with all the frustration I’d felt the past week. I sucked in her little sounds, hissed as her fingers pushed my shirt from my body and she forced my pants down with her legs.
“You will suck me off,” I said. “And then I’m going to f**k you on your hands and knees.” My head snapped up at a sound from the other room, and I pulled back, blinking into the darkness. “Did you hear that?” I asked, almost certain I heard footsteps across the tile floor in the foyer.
“Fuck yes,” she sighed, oblivious, still dragging her nails down my sides. “Tell me what else—”
“Close, but not quite, sweet stuff,” a male voice said next to my ear.
I bolted upright into a fight stance, heart racing just as the lights flipped on.
“Jesus, George. We said to knock!” a woman hissed.
I scrambled to hide Chloe’s mostly na**d body. “Mina?” I said, wincing and mostly blind from the sudden light as the shape of my sister-in-law stepped into the room.
Someone threw a shirt at me, but it was quickly batted away.
“Don’t you dare!” George warned, rushing to stand in front of me. “I will personally throttle anyone who hands this man a single piece of clothing. And, damnit, Mina. You said he’d be na**d.”
“Oh, my bad,” she said, smiling. “I forgot he’s guarding his virtue and trying to keep it pure before the wedding. I might have forgotten to tell you that. Though judging by the looks of things,” she dropped her eyes to my boxers, “he was about to give it up. Might want to put something over that, Ben. Mommy’s coming.”
I suddenly realized I was standing in only my boxers. Hard.
“Get out!” I said, reaching for a pillow and holding it in front of me. Chloe bent to the floor and pulled on a cotton robe. The intruders were dressed in black from head to toe and looked like a group of cartoon banditos. I’m sure that at any other moment I would have found this hilarious.
“Oh calm down, Bennett,” my mother said, walking into the room with Sara and Julia right on her heels. “We’re here to take Chloe with us.”
“What? How did you people even get a key?” I asked.
“You do not want to know,” George said.
Mom rounded the bed and reached for Chloe’s hand. “You know the rule, Bennett: groom can’t see the bride the day of the wedding. And we are exactly five minutes from that.” She leaned close to me, whispering, “I texted you earlier to warn you we’d be sneaking in and stealing her.”
“Mom!” I yelled, losing patience. “I don’t have time to read five hundred text messages a day about Dad’s pants and the A/C in your room and your favorite dish at the restaurant downstairs!”
“No,” George and Mina said in unison.
“Fine,” she said, tightening her robe. “You’re all lucky I’m exhausted and got some earlier or I’d kick every one of your asses. Just get me to a bed. I don’t even care whose. It can be yours for all I care,” she said, pointing to George.
Had the world gone completely insane?
“Sara,” I said, spinning to face her, pleading. “How did they talk you into this? You’re supposed to be the nice one. They will drag you down with them, Dillon—run.”
She shrugged. “This is actually kind of fun. I mean, with your newfound chastity we expected to find you crocheting or playing Scrabble or something. This is way better.”
“You’re all nuts,” I said. “All of you. Even my mother.”
“Two minutes!” George called out. The room broke into a flurry of activity: drawers were opened and rummaged through; the armoire was searched for anything that might be needed tomorrow. The bathroom was ransacked and pilfered of every single one of Chloe’s things.
“Oh stop being such a tight-ass, Bennett. It’s tradition, and tomorrow when you see her walk down the aisle it will all be worth it. Do we have everything?” Mom called.
Several different voices confirmed that indeed, everything was in order for the kidnapping of my fiancée, and after a mad flurry of activity in the main room, Chloe was hustled out without so much as a lingering kiss on my lips, and the suite fell deadly quiet.It took me hours to finally fall asleep. The room was too quiet, the bed too empty, and I hadn’t gotten laid. Again. My hand was starting to feel like a pity fuck.
Waking up alone sucked. One would think I’d be accustomed to it by now—with our busy schedules one of us was always coming or going and we each spent our fair share of nights in an empty bed—but now that I’d grown accustomed to waking with Chloe warm and pliable and right there, it felt wrong, like a vital part of me was missing.
It was still dark; early enough that a damp chill hung in the air and the birds were relatively quiet. With the stillness outside, the ocean seemed louder than ever. I was hard and alone, and Chloe was somewhere nearby, but too f**king far away to touch. My stomach twisted and I closed my eyes, reaching for a pillow to block it all out.
This was going to be a long day.
I forced myself up, moved to the bathroom to take care of business, shower, and dress. We were getting married today. Married. And the mental list in my head of everything that needed to be done was about as long as the hours remaining in the day.
There were too many clocks here, I’d decided. There was the one I wore, which Chloe got me the day we opened the New York office of RMG. An ornate clock over the wet bar, one on the TV, another on the docking station by the bed. I could tell from almost any point in the suite exactly how many hours until Chloe would be awake, until I got to see her again, until she was my wife.Will and Max were waiting for me downstairs. Huddled together near the fireplace in the grand room, they were bickering over a map displayed on Max’s phone.
“It’s on University,” Will was saying.
“It’s not,” Max argued. “It’s the one on Robinson.” He looked up, took in my giant scowl, and shook his head. “Good morning, sunshine. I’m assuming we didn’t sleep well last night?”
I rolled my eyes. “You would know. Were you missing a very pregnant girlfriend? Because she ended up in my room.”
“The entire bridal party including George showed up last night, intent on stealing my fiancée so I wouldn’t see her until the ceremony. I’m assuming they’ve got her bound and gagged in this hotel somewhere while they cover her in white lace and iridescent sparkles.” I took in Will’s posture, the circles under his eyes, and his nonstop yawning. “What’s up with you?”
“Hanna,” he said, stifling another yawn. “Not sure if it’s the cougar sisters or what but damn, I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since we got here.”
“I hate you both,” I said with a sweeping hand gesture.
“Good to see you’re in such high spirits today, mate,” Max laughed.
“Suck it, Stella,” I said, breezing by him and heading in the direction of the concierge desk. He and Will moved into step on either side of me.
The concierge looked up as we approached. I gave her my name and handed over my identification and credit card, and waited while she finished the rental paperwork. I’d reserved a large cargo van for our trip to the cleaner; wanting to make sure everything would arrive in perfect condition, even the garment bags pristine. I closed my hand around the keys, feeling a sense of calm at finally being in control of something. This was how you got things done: you f**king did them yourself.