I knew my mouth was hanging open a bit, but I couldn’t snap it shut. I couldn’t move. He inched closer to me, his eyes dropping from mine to my lips and then back again.
His hands slipped around my waist, pulling me to him without a second thought, strong and confident. I closed my eyes, waiting for him, unsure if he was hesitating as a request for permission or if silence was good enough. It wasn’t until that instant when I realized I wanted Taylor to kiss me, but the moment didn’t feel right, he didn’t feel right, and that alone was enough disappointment to ruin everything we’d accomplished so far.
Taylor’s lips were warm and soft, exactly like I’d imagined. His tongue was in total control, caressing the inside of my mouth. His hand touched my cheek, his thumb gently running along my jawline and down the side of my neck, but it didn’t feel like before.
His mouth worked against mine—amazing, perfect—in a way that would make any woman beg for more. He was fucking me with his mouth before we were anywhere near a bedroom. He was telling me with each soft flick of his tongue that he didn’t just want me but needed me. All the while, he was tugging at my clothes as if the kiss wasn’t enough.
The disenchantment was so overpowering, so disgusting, that I recoiled.
Taylor was still committed to the kiss, slow to recognize me pushing against his shoulders. I lowered my chin, pulling away from him. Then I saw Shea, the bartender, standing still behind the bar, watching us in utter confusion and disgust. Realizing I’d just proven my town-whore status after years of trying to buck the label, I did the only thing left to do. I shoved Taylor away and then slapped the shit out of him.
“What the fucking fuck?” I heard Taylor’s voice yell, but he hadn’t spoken.
I turned toward Zeke’s voice. Taylor was standing next to him. The other Taylor was less than a foot from my face, and in reaction, my upper body jerked back, nearly sending me off the stool to the floor.
Taylor Number Two rushed behind me, interrupting my fall backward. I yanked away from him. I looked from left to right, as if I were watching a tennis match, in total disbelief.
“Falyn,” Taylor said through his teeth, “I see you’ve met my brother Tyler.”
“Tyler?” I asked, wiping his lips from my mouth.
Tyler wasn’t exactly happy either. “You know her?” he asked, rubbing the bright red handprint on his cheek.
“Yeah,” Taylor said, taking a step toward his doppelgänger. “Tyler, meet Falyn.”
The moment my name came out of Taylor’s mouth, things began to happen very fast. Tyler looked at me, and Taylor swung, his fist catching his twin square on the same cheek I’d already assaulted. Both men fell to the ground, a blur of punching and grabbing.
Dalton and Zeke were happy to stand back and watch.
Dalton crossed his arms and shook his head. “I’m not jumping in between two Maddox brothers. I want to live.”
A crowd began to form around us, and Darren rushed over. When recognition hit, a similar resignation softened his face.
Darren’s eyebrows shot up. “Have you seen these two fight?”
“I have. They’ll quit when they quit.”
“When will that be?” I asked, not sure who was punching whom.
“All right! All right! You’re gonna get us arrested, fuck nugget!”
The brothers stood up, bloody, their shirts ripped. I tried to remember what Tyler was wearing when I’d first seen him. I couldn’t. They were both wearing T-shirts, one white and one blue. As they stood in front of me, I couldn’t tell which one was my friend and which one I’d just kissed. It was unsettling.
I pushed past them, making my way to the exit.
A hand cupped my shoulder and whirled me around. There he was, my friend Taylor, in a blue T-shirt with red droplets around his collar and a split lip.
I sighed, touching a place near his eye that looked like carpet burn. “You okay?”
Taylor followed me outside, interrupting my getaway just a few feet away from the door. “Falyn, whoa. Stop!”
“I’m sorry, okay? I had no idea that was going to happen.”
I crossed my arms. “You have an identical twin brother. How was I supposed to know? You even have the same tattoos!”
“But you didn’t tell me you also had the same face!”
His shoulders fell. “I know. I should have told you. If I’d known you were coming, I would have given you a heads-up, but …”
“The twins thing. It’s so stupid, and it’s worse for us because we look so much alike. He’s just my brother. We’re not the same person. But when we’re together, it’s like we’re starring in a freak show.”
“Falyn.” When I didn’t stop or turn around, he caught me by the wrist and pulled me against him. “Falyn.”
I looked up at him. His features were so severe that they might even be frightening if I didn’t know him better.
“It really fucking bothers me that my brother kissed you before I did.”
“What makes you think I would ever let you kiss me?”
“You let Tyler kiss you.” His expression softened. “You thought he was me, didn’t you?”
I pulled away from him and crossed my arms, pissed that he was right.
“So … do you still want me to kiss you?”
“If I can slap the shit out of you after, sure.”
He thought about it for half a second. “I think it’d be worth it.”
I pressed my lips together, trying not to smile. “I’m glad it wasn’t you. It was disappointing.”
“No. There was just … nothing”—I referenced the space between us—“there.”
“I’m not kissing two brothers in one night.”
Taylor looked down at his watch. “We are now four minutes into tomorrow.”
I walked down to the street corner and pressed the crosswalk button. Taylor followed me, staying quiet until we reached the front door of the Bucksaw.
He chuckled as I turned the key in the lock.
“C’mon. Aren’t you a little bit curious?” he asked.
“I am,” he said, following me inside.
I shook my head. “I don’t exist to satisfy your need for competition with your twin.”
“That’s not what this is.”
“This isn’t about you being jealous?” I asked, turning to face him. “It doesn’t bother you that you’ll be walking back to Cowboys, knowing he kissed me and you got the shaft? I don’t want you to kiss me for rivalry or ego.”
“Just to get you to Eakins, right?” As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he regretted them. He reached for me. His hand cupped my shoulder, and he brushed my bangs from my face. “I am a royal fucking skag. Sorry. I’m just pissed.”