Tied, p.19
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       Tied, p.19

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  out “Ode to Joy.”

  Finally, reluctantly, I set Kate on her high-heeled feet and we walk down the aisle side by side.

  Hand in hand.

  Husband and wife.

  We take a thousand fucking pictures, in a variety of locations and every conceivable combination. James holds up like a trouper—doesn’t get cranky once. The photographer had to ask Kate and me to stop making out so we could smile for the camera. Apparently, my hand on her ass is not an acceptable pose for a wedding portrait.

  But I think he’s just flat-out wrong about that.

  Once we all pile into the limo, Matthew passes me a bottle of champagne. I pop the cork, spewing bubbles everywhere. Some splashes on my face, and Kate leans over and slowly licks it off.

  Delores whistles.

  “Mmm . . . ,” Kate hums to me. “Champagne tastes good on you, Mr. Evans.”

  I laugh. “I can think of a few other spots it’ll taste even better, Mrs. Evans.”

  She giggles. “Make sure we have a bottle in the honeymoon suite tonight, then.”

  “Way ahead of you, baby.” Her body puts Waterford crystal to shame.

  I fill glasses and pass them around the limo. Steven gives Mackenzie a sip from his, and her face scrunches up adorably with disgust.

  James climbs onto his mother’s lap and rests his head against her chest.

  Kate strokes his dark hair. “He’s not going to last.”

  I take a drink from my glass. “The way you look in that dress? Neither am I.”

  “I thought your favorite dress was the one I’m not wearing?”

  “This one is the exception. Although, I should reserve judgment until I see you out of it.” I kiss her ear, then whisper into it, “After a long, exhaustive perusal . . . I’ll make my preference abundantly clear.”

  She gazes at me tenderly, with soft adulation shining on her beautiful face. “I’m so happy, Drew.”

  Mission accomplished.

  “Me too.”

  I stroke James’s back and pull Kate close with my free arm. She nuzzles my neck and rests her cheek against my collarbone. With our friends’ raucous laughter all around us, we savor the moment.

  The limo pulls up to the Four Seasons, where our reception is being held. Matthew climbs out first, then helps Dee, who brings her glass of champagne with her. James, recharged after his mommy-cuddle, bounds out next, followed by Mackenzie, Alexandra, and Steven. When the driver offers his hand to Kate, I tip him and say, “I got this, thanks.”

  Then I assist my wife out of the limousine.

  My wife.

  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of thinking of her that way. I’m definitely gonna be looking for excuses to speak of her that way.

  I escort her under the twinkling lighted archway into the building where we’ll celebrate our marital bliss. Though you and I both know the real celebration happens in the honeymoon suite.

  Our group arrives at the well-appointed suite adjacent to the main ballroom, where the wedding party enjoys the cocktail hour away from the prying eyes of the guests—like rock stars in the greenroom. Lauren Laforet, our wedding planner, greets us, makes sure we’re good so far, then walks off dictating orders into a walkie-talkie to her minions. Delores and Alexandra have Kate stand to “bustle” the back of her dress, so she can dance without getting stepped on and falling on her face.

  I don’t know what the “bustle” entails, but by the look of concentration on their faces—I don’t want any part of it. I head over to the buffet and pile hors d’oeuvres onto a plate for Kate.

  Gotta keep her strength up for later.

  While she stands, I feed her piece by piece. I’m guessing she didn’t eat this morning because she moans and sighs with each mouthwatering bite. Or maybe she just likes sucking on my fingers—’cause she does that too.

  With a knowing smirk, Kate asks me, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

  My semistiff dick nods. “Immensely.” I slide a small, bacon-wrapped scallop between her lips, and her tongue swirls around my finger.

  “So am I.”

  Called it. “Suck it harder,” I tell her—only half joking.

  She obliges.

  When I reach for another piece, Kate says, “Now, where have I heard that before?”

  “Get used to hearing it more. There’s a good chance it’ll be my mantra for the next three weeks.”

  “Hello,” Alexandra calls from where she’s crouched behind Kate. “We can hear you. And . . . ewwww.”

  “Yet you’ll still never be as damaged as I was by what I heard from your fucking room in Vegas.”

  The peroxide didn’t work. Sometimes, late at night, I can still hear them.

  I’m considering therapy. Or hypnosis.

  She just grins slyly. “That was a great morning.”

  “What was a great morning?” Steven asks, as he brings my sister a cocktail.

  She looks at Steven the way a twelve-year-old looks at a Justin Bieber poster. “Every morning with you.”

  He kisses her lips.

  I catch Mackenzie’s eye from across the room, wink, and tilt my head toward her parents. She beams back at me, and I know things at home have been back on track with Lexi and Steven. Then Mackenzie mouths, So gross.

  I just nod.

  After the food, music is the second most important ingredient for a successful wedding reception. We hired a twelve-piece band, and a DJ for the songs that just sound stupid when someone other than the original artist covers them. The wedding singer—a voluptuous redhead with stellar pipes—introduces us as Mr. and Mrs. Drew Evans for the first time, and as our guests stand and applaud, I lead Kate to the dance floor for the customary first dance.

  It’s the wedding singer’s partner—a salt-and-pepper-haired guy with a smooth voice—who sings it. Kate, being more musically inclined than I’ll ever be, chose the song—but I got final approval.

  “I Cross My Heart” by George Strait.

  The lyrics, the tone, it’s perfect for us.

  And just like in the church, while we waltz around the dance floor and I hold her close against me, the thousand eyes watching us fade from our awareness. It’s just me and her—and this moment.

  I look into my wife’s shining brown eyes, and I sing the lyrics to her that mean the most:

  You will always be the miracle that makes my life complete.

  Kate sings the next line back to me:

  And as long as there’s a breath in me, I’ll make yours just as sweet.

  It’s a sickeningly tender, crazy-in-love, never-happens-in-real-life kind of moment that I would’ve made fun of if I saw it in a movie or on TV.

  But because it’s real—because it’s us—it’s fucking impeccable.

  Afterward, Kate dances with my father to “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra. The old man’s a great dancer, and he makes Kate smile and laugh. At one point she gets choked up from whatever words he’s whispering to her, and I make a mental note to ask her later on what he said.

  Then my mother and I take the floor—Kenny Rogers, “Through the Years.” Her eyes fill with tears as she looks at me.

  “Don’t cry, Mom.”

  She laughs self-depreciatingly. “I can’t help it. You’re my little boy and I’m so happy for you, Drew.”

  Mothers are the first woman a man will ever love—at least the good ones are. They show you how a lady should and shouldn’t be treated, and they set the standard for every woman that comes after them. I really lucked out in that department.

  My mother continues, “She’s your match in every way. You chose so well.”

  I glance at Kate, who stands beside her mother and George—so goddamn lovely, it makes my heart ache.

  “Yeah, I really did, didn’t I?” I kiss my mother’s cheek. “Thank you, Mom. If it wasn’t for you—I never would’ve been able to win over a woman like Kate.”

  My mother hugs me as we finish the dance. No more words are nee

  After that, the party really gets started. The lights are turned down low, accenting the tall, candlelit centerpieces, overflowing with white blossoms. We drink, we laugh, we devour amazing culinary delights. Once Kate and I have managed to chat with every one of our guests and thank them for joining us on our “special day,” a couple approaches us.

  Billy Warren and his stripper-heeled, tiny-black-dress-wearing wife.

  Yep, they’re still married—six whole days now. That’s a hell of a lot longer than I was betting on. I shake Warren’s hand. “Good to see you.” I turn to his dark-haired companion. “And with clothes on. Even better.”

  I told Kate all about the hangover-shower meet-and-greet. She thought it was hysterical.

  Warren smiles. “You mind if I borrow your wife for a dance?”

  Because he called her my wife, I don’t mind at all. “As long as you give her back.”

  Kate kisses my cheek and heads off with Hopeless.

  His blushing bride goes to the bar. I stand alone, watching the swaying couples on the dance floor. Until Matthew comes up, arms crossed, standing next to me, taking it all in.

  He nods toward Kate and Warren. “You okay with that?”

  “Strangely enough, I really am.”

  We’re silent for a beat. Maybe it’s just the significance of the day, but I’m feeling pretty fucking sentimental. “Have I ever thanked you for being my best friend?”

  Matthew smiles. “No thanks are needed. It’s a mutually beneficial thing we’ve got going on.”

  “Yeah, but . . . thank you for pulling my ass out of the fire—and for kicking it when needed. Or at least . . . getting Alexandra to do your dirty work for you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, man.”

  “I feel the same way.” Then he spreads his arms wide. “Let’s hug it out, bitch.”

  I laugh, and we do just that, slapping each other on the back.

  Until Delores comes tearing up to us, holding the knife that we’re soon supposed to cut the cake with.

  “You son of a bitch!”

  Something tells me she’s not talking to Matthew.

  “I’m gonna stab you in your scrotum!”

  This sounds serious.

  As Matthew restrains his wife, I ask calmly, “Is there a reason you have the sudden urge to sexually mutilate me?”

  She tells her husband, “Helga just called. Documents were delivered to the house that she had to sign for. Legal documents—he changed our son’s name, Matthew!”

  Damn it. Those weren’t supposed to arrive until Kate and I were on our honeymoon—far away, in the middle of the Mediterranean for three wonderful, naked weeks.

  Matthew looks over his shoulder at me. “Seriously?”

  I throw my arms up in the air. “You’ll thank me one day. And so will Michael.”

  Delores lifts the knife.

  “If I didn’t love you two and your son, I wouldn’t bother.” I let that sink in a minute. “And you’re one to talk—what about that text you sent Billy from the bachelorette party? If I wasn’t so evolved, that could’ve really fucked things up for me and Kate. And . . . it hurt my feelings.”

  Did it really? No. But you play the cards you’re dealt.

  My admission calms Dee a little. I have a feeling she and Matthew have already discussed it. “That was a joke, Drew. If I really hated you . . . I wouldn’t put any effort into torturing you. I’d just ignore you completely.”

  Matthew interjects, “We’ll change his name back. It was a screwed-up attempt at a nice gesture, but we’ll change it back.”

  I doubt they will. And if they do . . . I’ll just have to be stealthier in my next attempt.

  Kate comes over, looking only half-concerned. But she still stands in front of me protectively.

  “Dee-Dee? Remember we said no bloodshed on the wedding day—it’s bad luck.”

  Dee sighs and tosses the knife on the table. “I need a drink.”

  Matthew nods. “I’ll join you.”

  After they’re gone, Kate turns around to me. “The papers arrived early, didn’t they?”

  “They did.”

  She shakes her head. “I told you it was a bad idea.”

  I wrap my arms around her because she’s gorgeous when she’s right. “I should’ve listened to you.”

  She smiles up at me. “Maybe we should have kept ‘obey’ in the vows.”

  She does have a point.

  We dance. Slow and sweet, dirty and sweaty. At one point, while I’m grinding against Kate’s ass, James barrels onto the dance floor with Sister Beatrice Dugan hot on his heels. I pick him up, and the first nun I ever lusted after smiles with appreciation.

  “Are you enjoying your celebration, Katherine?”

  “I am, Sister, very much.”

  “I’ll be praying for you both—for a long and fruitful union.”

  I bounce James and he squeals. “All our prayers have been answered, Sister B—save yours for someone who really needs them.”

  She clicks her tongue. “All newlyweds need the Lord’s grace, Andrew.”

  Disgruntled with not being the center of attention, James rectifies the situation. “Poosy!” he yells, laughing manically. “Poosy!”

  I freeze, and Kate’s eyes slide closed.

  Sister B smirks. “And this darling seems to have his father’s disposition.”

  Kate opens her eyes. “Very much so, yes.”

  Sister B pats Kate’s arm with sympathy. “Then I’ll be praying doubly hard.” She addresses our son. “Would you like a soda pop, young James?”

  His eyes widen and he nods quickly. I put him down, and, holding Sister B’s hand, he toddles off.

  The music changes to a slower song—“All of Me” by John Legend. Without a word, Kate raises her arms to my shoulders, I rest my hands on her lower back, and we sway in time to the beat.

  That’s when I notice another couple dancing off to my right—not anywhere as close as Kate and I are—but still, for a second I’m shocked.

  Because it’s Mackenzie and Johnny Fucking Fitzgerald.

  Her one hand is on his shoulder, his at her waist, while their other arms are bent at the elbow, hands clasped in the classic ballroom posture.

  I almost pity him. Because even though it’s not intentional? My girl was born to be a heartbreaker.

  As I watch them silently, Johnny makes his move. Catching Mackenzie off guard, the little bastard presses his lips to hers and snatches a kiss. Her first, I’m guessing. It’s chaste and over as quickly as it started.

  Johnny pulls back and looks hopeful. But Mackenzie . . . she seems confused . . . until she’s not. Then she rips her hand from his.

  And punches him right in the gut.

  “Ooof!” He folds at the waist, holding his stomach, and Mackenzie stomps off.

  I help the kid off the dance floor. “You need to work on reading a chick’s signals or you’re gonna be getting hit a lot, Casanova.”

  “Kenzie hits hard for a girl,” he rasps.

  “She kicks harder. You got off lucky.” Once he’s in a chair, I pat his shoulder. “Better luck next time.”

  Then I return to my wife’s waiting arms.

  An hour later, it’s speech time. Completely at ease, Matthew taps his glass with a spoon and then addresses the silenced crowd.

  “As the best man, I could stand up here and tell you stories about Drew and Kate. How they met, their accomplishments and battles at the office, what amazing parents they are, how devoted they are to family and friends. But that would take a long time . . . and dessert is coming.” The audience chuckles. “So I’ll sum it up like this: Drew is one of a kind in the greatest of ways. When God made him, he broke the mold. But he didn’t want him to be alone. So he made Kate, and then he broke her mold too.” Matthew raises his glass and the crowd raise theirs. “If ever there was a man and a woman who were perfect for each other, who deserve each other and bring out the best in each other—it’s you two. Congra
tulations on your marriage—may it be long and fun and frisky—and may you always look at one another the way you do today. To Drew and Kate.”

  Got to hand it to him—Matthew knows how to give a good fucking speech.

  After toasting us, the crowd calls for a kiss—which I’m more than happy to provide.

  Later, after Delores got wasted and dragged Kate and Billy onstage to sing “That’s What Friends Are For,” after the cake was cut and I licked the icing off Kate’s lips, after Kate threw her bouquet into Erin’s waiting arms, and Dee’s stepbrother made a diving catch of the garter, we dance the final dance.

  The floor is packed with our family, with all of our friends. In the center are me and Kate. I hold a sleeping James with one arm, his head on my shoulder. The other arm is around Kate’s waist, holding her tight against me, her head on my chest, my lips resting against her hair.

  If you’ve got a camera, I’d whip it out right about now—’cause that’s the money shot. The picture you’re going to want to remember.

  My parents take James to their room for the night. Kate and I fly out tomorrow afternoon. While we’re gone, James will stay a week with my sister and Steven, and a week with Matthew and Dee. Then, my parents will bring him out to us on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. They’ll take off on their own romantic getaway, and Kate, James, and I will enjoy the last leg of the honeymoon together.

  The elevator opens on the top floor. Before Kate steps out, I sweep her into my arms and cradle her as I walk to our suite.

  “You’re supposed to carry me over the threshold, Drew. Not through the whole hotel.”

  I shrug. “I’ve always been an overachiever.”

  I open the door and carry her in. The bed is awesome. An oversize king with huge, fluffy pillows, red silk sheets, and a comforter of the softest down. Rose petals are scattered in a path to the bed and over the covers, giving off a soft but fragrant scent.

  I shift Kate in my arms and slide her down my body. Her eyes dance with happy mischief as they look into mine. “I’m going to need some help getting out of this dress.”

  I crack my knuckles. “You’ve got the right man for the job.”

  My fingers ghost along the silky skin of her back. I take my time with the buttons, popping each one slowly, giving Kate’s imagination time to run wild.

  As the last button is released, I step closer to Kate. I watch, fascinated,
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