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My sensations are dulled by the alcohol. And I am so okay with that. Okay that I’ve had enough to drink so that for the first time in six months, the ache that hits me with the memories isn’t as sharp.
I look around and try to focus on everything—the abundant flowers, the welcome chill from the ocean breeze, the pair of high heels abandoned in the corner—but all I can think about is how beautiful and happy Rylee was tonight. And my mind keeps recalling what my sister, Lexi, looked like on her wedding day. The words she said to me, her laugh ringing out above the guests as Danny made his toast to her, the smile on her face as the future stretched ahead of them.
Stop it, Had. Don’t ruin a perfect night. You deserve to celebrate your best friend’s wedding without feeling guilty.
But I can’t stop thinking about that other wedding, although the details are starting to fade in my mind. And I so badly want to remember every little detail about her. I need to be able to tell my niece, Madelyn, about how her mom loved to stand in the rain because she wanted to catch it on her tongue, how she ate pizza backward because the crust was her favorite part, how she loved to face the opposite way on the swings so we could give each other high fives. There are so many things I fear I’ll forget.
And so many other memories from the past year that I wish I could.
“We’ll be back in the morning, miss, to pick up the tables and chairs and the lot.”
The caterer’s voice pulls me from my melancholy thoughts—thoughts that don’t belong after the sheer beauty of today’s wedding. I turn to look at him, words choking in my throat.
“Not a problem.” Becks’s voice startles me. I didn’t realize he was out here on the deck, but I’m so glad he answers because, between the alcohol and the memories, I’m in no shape to respond coherently. “The housekeeper, Grace, will be here at ten to let you in.”
I finish the rest of my drink as the caterer thanks Becks. Then I turn around on unsteady legs to face him as he steps out of the night’s shadows into the light of the full moon. And it must be a mixture of the heady emotions of the day and my lack of sobriety, but my breath catches when I meet his eyes.
It’s just Becks, boy-next-door handsome as usual … dirty blond hair spiked up at the ends, aqua blue eyes so light the night makes them seem transparent … so why in the hell are parts of my body suddenly on alert?
I dart my tongue out to my tingling lips as he leans a broad shoulder against the post of the trellis and stares at me, head angled to the side, shirt unbuttoned at the collar, and bow tie hanging loosely around his neck. I hear the ice in his glass clink as he shifts to set it on the table beside him, but his eyes hold steadfast to mine.
“You okay?” That slow, even drawl of his breaks the silence. I nod my head, still not trusting my voice, still trying to figure out why all of a sudden there is this tension between us—this electric energy—that has never been there before. Sure we’ve flirted harmlessly since we met through our best friends, Rylee and Colton, but this is different. And I can’t quite put my finger on what’s changed, not sure if I even want to.
Maybe it’s the fact that right now, face shaded with darkness, he looks a little dangerous, a little mysterious, a lot more the bad-boy type I usually fall for. He’s always struck me as more of a good guy, a down-home country type. But somehow the mixture of moonlight and night shadows brings out another side of him I’ve never envisioned; he looks edgier, more the wilder type I waste my time on, get my heart broken by, have a hard time resisting. That has to be why I’m feeling a sudden attraction.
So if I know the reason, why is my drunk mind still wondering what he’d taste like? What his hands would feel like as they run up my inner thighs? How the slow, even tone of his voice would sound as he loses control?
The silence sparks between us, only interrupted by the distant roll of ocean waves. I draw in a breath and shake my head again. “I’m okay,” I say, and laugh, trying to avoid the questions I don’t want to answer. “Just drunk and enjoying the feeling.”
“Feeling is most definitely a good thing,” he says, straightening up his tall, athletic frame and taking a step toward me, “but, City, I think it’s best if I get you to bed before it starts to not be a good feeling.”
I smile softly at his use of the term of endearment. He gave me the nickname City the first night we met in Las Vegas, back before my life had been torn apart by Lexi’s death. It feels like a lifetime ago when in reality it has only been a year since the unexpected overnight trip with Rylee and Colton to the city of sin where the two of us flirted, first acknowledged the attraction we felt but have never acted on…. I close my eyes and remember the carefree feeling I had that night. I’d called him Country to tease him about that laid back demeanor of his, so opposite from everything I usually find appealing. And yet as he sat there in the Las Vegas nightclub, the club’s lights flashing over his face while he called me City in return, I caught myself wondering just what Beckett Daniels would kiss like.
The question floats through my mind again. Forget about it, Montgomery, I tell myself as I go to place my hand on the railing at my back and miss by a mile, causing him to chuckle, low and soft.
Chills light a path over my skin, and I can’t help the giggle that falls from my lips as my mind wanders to other things I’d rather be feeling right now. Other distractions I could use to shake the bittersweet emotions weighing me down.
Christ on a crutch! Why didn’t I think of it earlier? Going to bed—especially someone else’s—is most definitely a good idea.
That’ll fix it. Always has, these past six months. I’ll just go grab my keys and my cell, call Dylan or Pete and let them know I’m on my way over. I’ll let whoever is the first to answer know that I’m feeling a little sexually festive tonight. I’ll use one of them to try to forget; feel a little less, by feeling a whole lot more.
I cover my mouth with my hand but can’t stop myself from snickering. “Just feeling a little festive, is all.” And the giggle returns as I think of Lex and how she used to say that women are not sluts, just sexually festive. And tonight? God, tonight I just want to be that. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to care. I just want to escape a bit from my thoughts.
“Festive, huh?” he asks, eyes appraising me and full mouth tugging up at one corner.
“Yep!” I nod my head. “Time for this girl to carry this party to another location, Country.” I start to walk—well, stumble. Shit! How the hell am I going to drive? I keep walking, hand running across the wall to help steady myself.
“Nice try, Haddie. Did you forget that the limo brought you here? I have to drive you home.”
Crap! I try not to falter. “Well, I guess I’m taking your car, then,” I say as I keep walking away from him.
“That’s funny, but, uh, you’re in no shape to drive.” His voice calls out to me, and the amusement in it pisses me off. “You’re not going anywhere, festivities or not.”
“Like hell I am.” I toss over my shoulder and keep walking toward the house. Just leave me alone, I yell in my head. Don’t go all alpha on me now when all I want from you is slow and steady because I’m way too drunk and way too needy to see in him what I’m attracted to.
“Try me.” The arrogance in his voice sets me off. Pushes me to be bitchy and defiant so that I don’t make a huge mistake I don’t want to make. Do want to make. Fuck if I can think clearly enough to know what I want, but I do know that Beckett’s one of those guys you settle down with … and no way in hell do I want to settle down.
The hurt comes flooding back, the memories riding shotgun right alongside them. I stop to steady my legs and remind myself not to repeat the mistakes my sister made.
I can hear him behind me, know he’s waiting for me to respond. “Neither of us is in any state to drive tonight. Festivities are over.” I hear his shoes step on something that crunches just behind me, and I squeeze my eyes shut to fight off the whirlwind of shit in my head. “C’mon, Montgomery. It was a perfect day, but I’m taking you to bed.”
I snort a laugh because even though his comment is innocent in nature since we both told Rylee we’d stay the night to oversee all of the postreception cleanup, Becks just hit the nail on the head. To bed is exactly where I want him to take me right now, his in particular. Wait! No, I don’t want that. Goddamn alcohol is making me wishy-washy. I hate wishy-washy.
He says my name again, and something in the way he says it causes my feet to falter. We stand there, my back to him, in a silent standoff. I don’t move, don’t turn around to face him, because I just want to run. Rewind time and get me back again. The carefree, careless me who has been drowning in grief these past few months.
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