Tied, p.12
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       Tied, p.12

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
 
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  up—let’s pause the crazy talk for a second.”

  I hold Kate’s gaze for a few seconds. Then—thoroughly contrite—I sink to my knees in front of her.

  Her arms are still folded, but her eyes soften. Kate likes me on my knees.

  “Your point is well taken.”

  Her eyebrows rise in feigned innocence. “What point is that?”

  I smile. “That I should trust you. That I do trust you.” I pick up one foot and kiss her light-pink-painted toes, before sliding it through the leg of the underwear. Kate drops her arms, using my shoulders for balance, as I repeat the action with the other foot. I slide the panties up her legs, kissing each thigh reverently as I go. “Every flavored-lip-gloss-slathered, fuck-hot-panty-covered inch of you, I trust.”

  She smiles forgivingly as I retrieve the gloss and replace it on those flawless lips. She rubs them together, then she sighs. “I already told you this bachelorette-party thing is not worth it if it’s going to cause problems between us. Be honest if you can’t handle it. Do you want me to tell Delores to call tonight off?”

  Doesn’t that just make me feel like the biggest insecure pussy that ever walked the face of the earth? But we should examine this moment more closely for a second. Because in life, we make choices—ones that seem completely harmless and totally insignificant.

  Until they play out.

  Only in hindsight do we realize the monumental effect our decisions have. It’s the businessman who decides to go in to work a few minutes late and misses a fatal collision by seconds. The teenager who chooses to hold a grudge against her mother, and it turns out to be the last conversation they ever have. The guy on the street who finds a dollar and uses it to buy a winning lottery ticket.

  Small choices can lead to huge consequences.

  I was trying to be unselfish. I wanted to do the right thing.

  You can bet your ass I won’t be making that mistake again.

  “No one’s calling anything off,” I say confidently. “I had a jealous-dickhead seizure—completely temporary. The green-eyed monster will stay in his cage the rest of the weekend. The one-eyed monster will want to play with you later on.”

  She laughs and takes my face in her hands. “My panties are for your eyes only.”

  “I know.”

  Kate stretches up and kisses me. And I taste strawberry. “You’re going to go out with the guys and be assaulted by money-hungry strippers—and I’m okay with that.”

  I nod. “And you’re going to go out with the girls and be surrounded by horny, half-naked men—and it won’t bother me.”

  “We’re the stable couple in the group now.”

  “We’ll have a good time—no problems.”

  When I told her that? I honestly believed it.

  Chapter 10

  Some men wear expensive suits because they want to feel as if they have money, even if they don’t. Others wear them because they want to show people how much money they have. For me, it’s all about the mind-set. The attitude. I’ve never had a problem with confidence, but for guys who do, a custom-fitted suit makes you walk taller, stand straighter. It makes your balls bigger and gives off that GoodFellas, don’t-fuck-with-me kind of vibe.

  I unbutton the jacket of my charcoal Ermenegildo Zegna and pour myself three fingers of Scotch from the wet bar in the living room. Jack, Matthew, and Steven share my affinity for a well-made suit and are decked out in their own Gucci, Newman, and Armani respectively. Our stud quotient is high—any female within a twenty-foot radius is bound to get caught in our tractor beam.

  Then Warren walks out of his room. Wearing a wrinkled green T-shirt, tan carpenter shorts, and sandals. Yes—frigging sandals.

  I take a sip of my drink and stare at him. “If I’d known we were going to the skate park, I would’ve brought my board.”

  He’s perplexed. Then he looks at the rest of us and back at his own attire. He shrugs. “I like to be comfortable. You guys look like you’re going to a funeral. I look relaxed.”

  “You look like a loser,” I argue. “And that’s unacceptable for tonight. My guidance will only get you so far. If you wanna attract quality snatch? You need to step up your game. That means a half-decent suit, or at least a pair of pressed slacks—preferably ones not made from the same material as prison jumpsuits.” I toss back the rest of my drink. “And what the hell is with your hair?”

  Warren’s wavy, light brown locks are less tamed than usual. They’re higher—poofier—like an old lady fresh from the hairdresser. He pats the top of his head self-consciously. “I forgot my gel. But it’s cool—chicks dig the curls.”

  “Yeah, if it’s 1998 and your name is Justin Timberlake.”

  Jack intervenes. “I’ll hook you up, dude. I always bring my buzzer along. We’ll trim the mop-top, slick it back—your own mother won’t recognize you.”

  Steven sets his Scotch down on a coaster. Then he taps his chin thoughtfully. “And I’ll call the concierge—have them send over something from the Armani boutique near the lobby.” He eyes Warren up and down. “You’re a thirty, maybe a thirty-two waist, with a slim-cut jacket. A light blue tie will really bring out the color of your eyes.”

  Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

  And Matthew makes it so much worse. He claps his fingertips together daintily and says in a high-pitched voice, “Makeover time!”

  My eyes narrow in his direction. “Don’t ever do that again.”

  “Too much?”

  “Definitely.”

  Twenty minutes later Warren is decked out in a slick navy suit, black shirt, and shiny Prada shoes. His hair has a neat wet look—short on top, combed back at the sides. He looks . . . passable. Extremely awkward and uncomfortable—but passable.

  I stand in front of him and brush off his shoulders, inspecting his clothes like a general at boot camp.

  While he whines like a bitch. “It itches.” He rolls his neck and steps from one foot to the other.

  “Stop fucking fidgeting.”

  He pulls at the collar. “It’s stiff.”

  “It’s new—it’s supposed to be. Stand up straight.” Jesus, do I sound like my father or what?

  I drape the blue tie around his neck, to demonstrate how to tie one. But then I think better of it.

  There’s an excellent chance I’ll end up strangling him with the damn thing. And a trip out to the desert to bury a body would be a major inconvenience right now.

  Steven, who has turned patience into an art form, takes my place. “Okay, Billy, the rabbit comes out of his burrow, goes around the tree . . .”

  You can tell a lot about a person by the game he or she plays at a casino. Adrenaline junkies, those willing to take big risks for an even bigger payoff, they orbit the craps tables. Craps is a game of skillful luck. It requires a certain finesse—quick thinking and decisive action. Then there’s blackjack. Unless you’re a freak-of-nature card counter, you have to stick to the rules. Assume each card’s a ten, stay at fifteen even if every fiber of your being is screaming to hit, and wait for the dealer to bust. If you don’t know how to play, stay the fuck away. Blackjackers tend to throw quite the hissy fit if you take “their” card. After blackjack, there’s roulette. Roulette is all about odds. Play black or red and you have a slightly less than 50 percent chance of winning. Statistically speaking, it’s your best shot at beating the house.

  At the low end of the gambling totem pole are the slot machines. A monkey could play them. Put your money in, pull the lever; money, lever; money, lever. They require no proficiency or knowledge and they’re programmed to favor the casino. The longer you play, the more likely you are to go broke.

  The only people who play slots are the aged, the mentally infirm, and suckers.

  “Cool—slot machines! That’s all I play. I’m so good at them,” Warren says.

  Saw that one coming a mile away, didn’t you?

  I slap him on the back and steer h
im toward the high-roller section. “Tonight you’re gonna play craps.”

  “I don’t know how to play craps.”

  “Then you’re going to watch and learn. Craps is a man’s game. All the hottest girls hang out at the craps table because that’s where the money is. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, than he has to go to the motherfucking mountain.”

  “What mountain?”

  For a second I forgot I was talking to a real, live sphincter. “Never mind. Just pay attention.”

  Matthew, Warren, and I get our chips while Jack heads over to blackjack. Steven gets comfortable at a $5,000-minimum roulette table. He’s all about statistics and odds. At the craps table, I’m rolling and Matthew handles the bets. Right out of the gate, I roll a seven, and the crowd goes wild.

  Matthew pounds my back excitedly. “Yes! Mickey fucking Mantle! Keep ’em coming!”

  Fifteen minutes later, we’ve tripled our money. The number of bystanders around the table has doubled. Warren still has no idea how to play the game, but he takes his cues from the crowd and responds accordingly. Everyone is laughing, drinking, elbowing in to place money on the table—trying to get a piece of the action. It’s wild. Fun. It feels like the old days—just me and the boys out for a good time. There are no worries about kids or weddings, no stress about work or any of the bullshit that real life abounds in.

  Then real life taps me on the shoulder.

  Dice in hand, I turn around. And come face-to-face with the dark-haired, blue-eyed flight attendant from the airplane. She’s wearing a black, strapless cocktail dress and heels high enough to put her at eye level with me. She’s not alone. In triangle formation behind her are two equally attractive women. One is blond and baby faced, shorter, with fuller curves. The other is a brunette with blond streaks, olive skin, and full, ripe lips.

  Blue-Eyes smiles wide. “Hello again.”

  I don’t want to be rude, but—screw it—I’ll go with rude. “What are you doing here?”

  “You said this was where you were staying.”

  “I also said we’d be busy.”

  She responds coyly, “But I saw the look you gave me. I knew you only said that so your girlfriend wouldn’t get upset. So she wouldn’t think you were interested.”

  Okay—I’m all for women who are assertive. You are sexual beings with needs. Own it. Relish it. But coming on strong to a guy who blatantly doesn’t want you isn’t going to change his mind.

  It just makes you look pathetic.

  Her hand reaches out to rub my chest, but I catch her wrist before she makes contact.

  “Except I’m really not interested.”

  Like a horny ghost, Jack appears at my side. “I, on the other hand, am very interested.” He takes her elbow and leads her away. “Don’t mind Drew—he’s a blind fool. How about we get you a drink?”

  The brunette friend fades into the crowd, but the baby face just stands there looking blank. She twirls her hair in that “dumb blonde” way that makes me suspect her IQ may actually be lower than Warren’s. But she’s hot—definitely a step above the trough he’s been feeding at lately. I nudge him with my arm and jerk my chin in the blonde’s direction.

  He wipes his hands on his pants nervously. Then he speaks to her. “Hey, wanna hear a joke?”

  And all my hard work goes down the fucking tubes.

  “Okay,” she answers.

  “What did the blanket say when it fell off the bed?”

  “What?”

  “Oh, sheet.”

  Blondie’s lips pout in confusion. “I don’t get it. Is the blanket, like, computerized?”

  Warren’s face falls. “No . . . it’s . . . let me try another one. What did the duck say . . .”

  I wrap my arm around his neck and squeeze, cutting off his air supply just a little. “Billy—remember what the doctor said about your voice?”

  I turn to the girl, hoping to salvage Operation PPFW. That’s Premium Pussy for Warren, in case you weren’t sure.

  “My friend here is a singer. Billy Warren? He has to save his voice for his next concert—doctor’s orders.”

  Her eyes open wide and her tone is dim-witted. “My horoscope said I was going to meet someone famous today! Billy Warren—I didn’t recognize you. I totes loved your last single.”

  Matthew calls, “Drew, come on—you gotta roll.”

  “Right.” I fish a handful of quarters from my pocket and slap them into Warren’s hands. “Why don’t you kids go play the slots? You’ll be safer there.”

  With a giggle, Blondie informs me, “The way the wheels go around and around is so funny! I love slot machines.”

  “That makes so much sense,” I tell her.

  Could you imagine the children these two would have? Maybe genetic selection isn’t evil after all.

  I shove Warren away. “And remember, don’t fucking talk. At all.”

  He smiles and gives me two thumbs up. He looks so grateful and brainless, I can’t help but laugh as they walk away.

  Twenty minutes later, Matthew and I are still on fire. Unstoppable. He’s taken over rolling, and I shift our chips around, betting big because we’re up by a lot. Matthew rolls a two and the room erupts in cheers. I give him a man shake and double our bet.

  Which is when a certain semi-stalker flight attendant shows up next to me. Again.

  “Can I give you a blow?”

  My ears immediately perk up. “Excuse me?”

  She points to Matthew. “The dice. Can I blow them for you? For luck?”

  How about you blow me instead? I immediately think. Because I may be a man in a committed relationship—but I’m still a man.

  That is the curse of evolution. Instincts. It’s why most guys have such a hard time with monogamy. Because our natural drive is to spread our seed around—offer it to as many willing partners as possible. We don’t have to act on it, but the impulse is always there. So the next time you think your guy is flirting with some random ho bag? Try not to get too upset. He’s waging an epic internal battle against his own body’s inclinations.

  “Not needed,” I tell her. “We’re on a streak—never mess with a streak. These dice are doing fine on their own.”

  My phone buzzes in my pocket. The text from Kate says the girls are finally ready and on their way down to the casino.

  Flight girl leans over my shoulder and looks at my phone. “Cute kid. He yours?”

  She’s referring to the picture of James on my main screen. I took it a few weeks ago, when I was trying to get James to eat a bowl of pasta. He wasn’t pleased with his meal and told me so by dumping the whole fucking thing on his head.

  “Yep.”

  She moves close to my ear and cuts me off. “We don’t have to play these games. I have a hotel room waiting two blocks away. I want you. It’s obvious you want me. Stop fighting it.”

  I lean back. “Did we forget to take our meds this morning?”

  She laughs. Sounds kind of like Norman Bates, doesn’t she? Throughout my debauched pre-Kate years, I encountered my fair share of Fatal Attraction, I’ll-never-fuck-you-even-if-you-are-that-hot-because-you-obviously-have-several-screws-loose women. They’re out there and they’re not hard to spot. I was a master at avoiding, deflecting, and escaping their fanatical grasp.

  But it looks as if I’m out of practice. Because before I can stop her, she swipes the phone out of my hand and moves back a few steps.

  Anger flashes on my face and in my voice. “Give me back my goddamn phone.”

  She smiles. “Come and get it.” She puts my phone down her frigging dress.

  You have got to be kidding me. I turn to Matthew. “I don’t suppose you want to help me out with this?”

  He looks down at the chips, then back to me. “There’s like a hundred grand here, man.”

  Of course there is.

  Have you ever seen Flash Gordon? You know that scene where Flash has to put his hand in the rock? The one with the grotesque, prickly snake thing ins
ide it, just waiting to bite him? That’s pretty much what I’m feeling right now.

  I crack my knuckles and shake my hands out. “Cover me. I’m going in.” Then I shove my hand down the front of her dress. I limit the physical contact as best I can, but the dress is tight. So upon entry, I immediately realize this chick is sporting a fake set of tits. And a nipple ring.

  Don’t judge me. Do I look like I’m enjoying this, for God’s sake?

  Psycho Flight Girl, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying it a whole bunch, if her moans are any indication. “Oooh, that’s nice. A little to the left.”

  I roll my eyes and try to find a happy place. Then, the most improbable thing happens. Or, an absolute certainty, depending on your point of view.

  “What the hell is this?!”

  Care to guess whose voice that is?

  I don’t even have to turn around, but I do. “Kate!”

  I shake my head, trying my damnedest to deny that any of this is happening. “This isn’t . . . I’m not . . .” Yes, my arm is still biceps deep inside this chick’s dress.

  I rip it out.

  And point at her like an older sister accusing a younger one of wearing her favorite sweater. “She took my phone and won’t give it back.”

  Sensing I’m in deep shit, Warren and Jack wander over to watch the show. Matthew just keeps gambling.

  Kate struts forward and holds out her hand, simultaneously subjecting the woman to the thousand-watt bitch-glare.

  The psycho woman rolls her eyes and takes the phone out of her dress. Kate gets an ever-ready bottle of antibacterial spray out of her purse, squirts the phone with it, wipes it with a tissue, then hands it back to me—spraying my hand for good measure.

  After that, all of Kate’s pissed-off radiance turns back to the flight attendant. Her voice is low and deadly serious. “I put up with your shit on the plane because I didn’t want to spend the first hours of my vacation in the custody of federal air marshals. But we’re not on the plane now.” Kate holds up her left hand. “See this ring? It means I belong to him. And the tattoo of my name on his arm means he belongs to me. All of him. His dick is a compass, and I’m due north—it only points to me.”

  Well, there’s something you don’t hear every day.

  “So you are going to disappear, right now. Or I’m going to kick your ass from one end of this casino to the other. And you might want to take a look around—’cause it’s a damn big casino.”

  The flight attendant’s eyes narrow into slits. As she replies, her head does that urban-slide thing that looks incredibly fucking stupid but means she’s ready for war. “You think you can take me? You and what army, bitch?”

  Erin walks up and stands next to Kate. “This one.”

  Psycho laughs—and I kind of don’t blame her. Even in heels, Erin is shorter than Kate by about two inches. Together, they’re not exactly poster girls for intimidation. Until Dee-Dee comes on the scene. And although her physical stature isn’t that different from Erin’s and Kate’s, the disturbed, unbalanced look in her eyes makes up for it in a big way.

  I shiver.

  Psycho Woman stands her ground, but her expression is a little less sure. Then comes the icing on the cake. Which would be my sister—standing a foot above the other girls like the mighty Amazon she is.

  Her smile is downright scary. “The way my hormones are raging, I would like nothing more than to rip out those cheap extensions on your head and nail them to my wall like a hunting trophy.”

 
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