Authors: J. L. White
Published by Velvet Rose Books
Amazon Kindle Edition
Copyright © 2016 J.L. White
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. You must not circulate this book in any format. Thank you for respecting the work of the author.
by J.L. White
After a nine-month separation, my dearest girlfriends and I have been reunited for a mere twenty minutes when Sam already starts in on me.
“Okay girls, we have a mission,” she says. “We’re finding Chloe a date for the reception.”
I roll my eyes.
Isabella’s wedding is in exactly five days. Only Sam would think that’s still plenty of time to find me a date. Never mind that the wedding has practically already started.
It’s the Monday afternoon before the marriage actually takes place this Saturday. The guests have been arriving at the Rivers Paradise Resort in spurts all day long. It’s the most luxurious resort in California, hands down, located on the central California coast in Swan Pointe. Hartman College (where we all met) is just an hour and a half inland. We made various excursions to Swan Pointe all through college and I actually moved here after I graduated. I was only here for a few months, but I used to see the Rivers Paradise Resort, perched up on the hill overlooking the ocean, every day on my way to work.
Isabella’s family are the only ones I know who are rich enough to not only have the reception here—which is common enough I suppose—but to also host the wedding party, family, and several friends and their guests for a freaking week-long extravaganza of activity for their only daughter’s wedding. I think some thirty people are here already.
I was the last of the four of us to arrive and joined the girls at one of the resort’s restaurants. We’re sitting on the patio, sharing a platter of bruschetta and the most delicious bowl of calamari I’ve ever had. It’s a spicy mango mix and it’s damned awesome.
So, like I said, the wedding is more or less underway. To the normal person, the task of finding a date for the reception would seem to be out.
But not Sam. Oh no. Unless I’m misjudging that glint in her eye, she’s pretty damned determined to find me a date for Saturday.
By the way, when Sam says “date,” she means “a guy to fuck.” Just to be clear.
Of course, there is this one little fact. I would’ve had a date for the wedding if all had gone as planned. As a matter of fact, I would’ve been bringing my freaking
to the wedding. But things have been sort of a disaster for me in the love department lately. Now it’s Isabella, not me, who’s going to be the first Firework Girl to get hitched.
That’s what we called ourselves when we were still in college. The Firework Girls. Maybe I’ll tell you the story behind the name some other time, or maybe it’ll suffice to know it involved a box of illegal fireworks, the frat boys famous for the most rowdy parties, and damn near getting ourselves suspended freshman year.
Allow me to introduce you.
By day, Ashley is a laid-back hippy at heart. She even has the long blonde hair that hangs past her waist, which she wears in a single braid almost all the time. By night, she’s a brilliant pianist who knows how to capture any heart listening. Sometimes it does seem she has an alter ego because every time she’s on stage I think,
I can’t believe that’s our Ashley.
We all graduated from Hartman College last year, but she stuck around to work on her Master’s in Music. I think she’s a genius.
Isabella is every bit the Greek goddess her name suggests. She’s a gorgeous Mediterranean brown beauty, has long legs that won’t quit, and possesses a sense of self I envy. She tends to shock men (and women) who don’t know better with her sharp intellect. To look at her, you’d never guess she’s working on her Master’s in Microbiology at Harvard. People have a way of underestimating Isabella. It only figures she ended up snagging her professor. I guess the college boys just weren’t up to snuff.
Sam is the Anti-Isabella. We’ve said as much to her face and she rewards us with a bold, brash laugh that makes us giggle. She’s not quite five feet four inches, has short blonde hair with a mind of its own, and says exactly what she’s thinking all the time.
No matter what.
This may be a weird thing to say, given that I’m only twenty-two myself, but Sam keeps me young. She’s going to be one of those spunky old grannies who makes people say, “You’re only as old as you feel.”
All I can say is, Sam
be the one to insist on finding me a date.
“It’s a little late for that,” I say.
“Pshaw,” Sam says, “I found a date.”
“What? You’ve been back two whole weeks and you managed to land a date for the wedding?” After college, Sam moved to Portland for a job, but wasn’t too happy there. Our friend Jack found her a good marketing job in the town of Rosebrook, where Hartman College is and where Jack still lives. Neither one of them are terribly far from campus. She moved back from Portland a couple weeks ago.
“With who?” Isabella asks.
“A little stud-monster I met last weekend,” she says, grinning and popping a calamari into her mouth.
“Wait,” I say. “You met this guy only a week ago and he’s coming to the wedding with you?”
“All five days of it,” Sam says. “I drove down here on a mission. I figured I’d have a better shot at convincing someone if he was a local guy.”
I have to admit this is impressive, even for Sam. She has a knack for luring guys in but this is a new record. I, on the other hand, have a knack for chasing guys away.
“I don’t know what you do to these guys’ cocks that they’re so willing to follow you around anywhere you go,” Isabella says.
“Find me a cucumber and I’ll show you,” Sam replies.
“You’re shameless,” Ashley says, polishing off the last of her bruschetta.
“The zip-line thing helped,” Sam says. “Apparently he’s always wanted to go on the
famous zip line they have here. I’d never even heard of it.”
Well, that makes sense. Who wouldn’t be tempted by five days of everything the Paradise Resort has to offer? I’ve been looking forward to doing a little playing here myself. The zip line is top of my list.
going on the zip line?” I ask. Sam, for all her mastery over the male species, is terrified of heights.
“I said I would,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It’s part of the deal.”
I raise my brows. Maybe Sam doesn’t have as much power over this male as it first seemed if she had to resort to a deal like that. But it’s still pretty impressive, plucking a date for a five-day wedding out of thin air.
“Now all we need to do is get
a date,” she says.
“No thanks,” I reply.
“Come on. It’ll be easy. It’s not like we’re trying to find someone for the whole thing. Just someone to dance with at the reception. And get lucky with afterwards,” she waggles her eyebrows. “We could go to the Perched Owl tonight for cocktails. It’s my new lucky place.”
I exchange glances with Isabella and Ashley. Ashley’s wearing an evil grin. “Oh, Chloe already got lucky at the Perched Owl.”
“Shut up, Ashley.” I do
want to relive that night.
“What’s this?” Sam asks.
“She met a guy. The night of her Not Wedding.”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Sam says, raising her hands in the air. “Why am I just now hearing about this?”
“Because it’s not a big deal,” I lie. It was a big deal, but I am absolutely, definitely, not going to talk about it. Even now, nine freaking months later, I get an ache in my chest whenever I think of Grayson Piers.
“Just how lucky did she get?” Sam asks.
“Sooooo lucky,” Isabella and Ashley say in unison, before busting out laughing. It’s an old joke and tells Sam everything she needs to know.
She raises her eyebrows and looks at me with fresh appreciation. “Chloe Sullivan, I underestimated you. Do I get details or what?”
The details are coming back to me, as if I’d needed any encouragement. For months I’ve dreamt about Grayson’s body. God help me, I’m getting worked up now just thinking about it. But we did more than connect physically.
It’s remembering the way our souls seemed to wrap around one another, as cozy and delicious as a hot bath. That’s what gets my heart aching.
“It was only one night,” I say.
night. The night of the perfect storm. Not only was it the Night of Grayson, it would’ve been the night of my wedding.
According to the invitations we sent out, anyway. All hundred and seventy-eight of them, on my side alone. Then just two days after graduation and three months before we were set to get married, my ex up and decided to be my ex, and I had to send out Anti-Invitations telling everyone, no, never mind, we’re not really getting married. Just kidding!
It was hell. After spending three and a half years of my college career as Brad and Chloe, I was just Chloe. An official graduate with a dual degree in Nothing Much and No Idea What I’m Doing.
The August after graduation, the girls decided they needed to come hang with me for a weekend of shopping and beach-lounging, to help me forget about the fact that I would’ve been getting married that weekend in a stunning brocade gown (still hanging in my closet, waiting for alterations that will never come). Unfortunately, Sam’s body betrayed her (and me) and she ended up missing the whole thing so she could lie in bed in Portland with a severe case of the flu.
good thing about Sam’s absence was that I knew no one would try to hook me up with some random guy that night. Even though it had only been three months since the breakup, Sam would’ve been hunting for someone on my behalf. Sam says “Sex cures everything” as if she’s kidding, but I suspect she’s not.
But in the months following my breakup with Brad, I’d come to realize something. Though I did love him, looking back I could see how I was always kind of on his periphery. Like this pretty little accessory hanging off his arm.
For the last few years we were together, any time we did something, it was always what he wanted. Not that he was domineering, exactly. I just sort of
went along with things. I wanted what he wanted. After a while I didn’t even know what I wanted.
By the night of my Not Wedding, I had decided this was not his fault.
So that’s why, in spite of dear Sam’s texts from Portland insisting I get out there and get things on with a man (no commitment necessary), I was really thinking I needed to not.
On the night of my Not Wedding, the three of us sat in tall chairs around a table at the Perched Owl, drinking cocktails and laughing about nothing much in particular. Our weekend was just about at its end—Isabella had to fly clear back to Boston early the next day—but it had been a great weekend. Not depressing at all, like I’d been afraid it might be. In fact, my brain kept returning to the strangest part of the whole thing.
Three months after Brad dumped me for his chemistry lab partner (I kid you not), I didn’t really miss him. I mean, I missed being held and having someone to talk to about every stupid thing that crossed my mind, and I missed sex.
I really, really missed sex. (In fact, I’ll blame the whole evening that was about to unfold on that little detail, if you don’t mind.)
I didn’t miss him like I thought I should. It was pretty clear to me, by the night of my Not Wedding, that it was probably all for the best.
In the nine months that have passed since my Not Wedding night, it’s even more clear. It was
for the best. Because if I’d really loved Brad the way I thought I did, I wouldn’t be wondering if the biggest regret of my life would turn out to be what happened the morning
the Night of Grayson.