Tied, p.8
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       Tied, p.8

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  Since we’re the guests of honor, Kate and I get the master suite. Our adjoining bathroom has a steam shower and huge Jacuzzi that I definitely plan on putting to good use later. Steven and Alexandra, Delores and Matthew, each pair gets a room too—complete with fireplace and king-size bed. Erin claims a slightly smaller room with a queen, while Jack and Warren bunk together in the last room.

  It’s a good thing their room has two double beds, because if there’s one thing a guy will never do, it’s share a bed with another dude. Sleeping naked on sharp gravel? Totally acceptable, when faced with the risk of waking up to a loaded rifle in your back.

  After the butler—we’ll call him Mr. Belvedere—gives us the grand tour and the maids take our luggage to unpack, the nine of us relax in the living room, talking about the agenda for the day.

  Sitting on the dark brown love seat, with Delores on his lap, Matthew goes first. “There’s a water-volleyball tournament down at the pool in twenty minutes. I figured we’d start there—get our burn on. And they’re having a pig-roast barbecue—you know how I love a good swine.”

  All the guys nod their consent.

  Dee-Dee begins, “Our goddess party starts at five. . . .”

  Goddess parties . . . for guys they’re a dream—mythical. Like the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or the topless pillow fight at a sleepover. It’s pretty much a female-only sex party, minus the actual sex. Legend has it there’s a wide array of toys for sale—dildos, vibrators, bondage gear, and lingerie. And there are lessons—women are instructed on all kinds of acquired skills, such as deep throat, masturbation, pole dancing.

  “. . . but before that, we ladies have appointments at the spa, to get beautified for tonight.”

  I run my hand through Kate’s dark hair as she sits beside me on the couch. “That’s a waste of time,” I tell her. “You can’t improve perfection.”

  She blushes slightly. Still so fucking adorable.

  Dee-Dee counters, “You say that now—but wait until you see us after. We’re gonna get wrapped, waxed, plucked, and massaged. I swear, Kate—after Ricardo works you over? You’ll never be the same. It’s like being touched by an orgasm.”

  My curiosity gets the best of me. “Who’s Ricardo?”

  “Kate’s massage therapist.”

  Huh. “Ricardo’s a weird name for a woman.”

  Delores rolls her eyes. “Well, yeah, it would be—but Ricardo’s all man. He’s got the body of a Greek god, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his steroid days. And he knows how to use it—especially his hands.”

  Some guys would be okay with this situation. Men who are laid-back like Matthew or understanding like Steven. They’d kiss their lady on the cheek and say, “Have a good time, honey.” But—despite my emotional growth these last years—that’s just not how I roll.

  So what I say is “Yeah, that’s not fucking happening.”

  Kate puts her hand on my leg. “Drew, it’s just a massage.”

  “I’m aware of that. Two words—happy ending. Two more words—no way.”

  Alexandra tries to be helpful. “Relax, little brother. There’s no reason to be jealous.”

  I open my arms wide. “Who’s jealous? I’m not jealous—’cause it’s not fucking happening.” I turn to Kate and explain calmly, “You really think I’m gonna be able to just sit here knowing you’re out there—with your goodies covered only by a thin cotton towel—while Ricardo-frigging-Montalbán has his hands all over you? Making you moan? Screw that. All your moans belong to me—they’re paid in full with that rock on your finger.”

  Dee-Dee holds her hand out to Matthew. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it. Pay up.”

  He pulls his wallet out and slaps a twenty in her palm. I shake my head in disappointment at him. “You thought I’d be okay with this?”

  He shrugs.

  My eyes narrow. “I don’t even know you anymore.”

  “Ricardo’s awesome, man. His hands are magic. If I was gay, I would totally enter into a civil union with him.”

  From the recliner, Steven joins the discussion. “You let a dude give you a rubdown? Have you considered the possibility that you’re already gay?”

  “Blow me.”

  Steven laughs. “See, that’s what I mean. These subliminal messages are tickling my gaydar.” He holds his finger out, pointing to each guy in the room. “Beep. Beep. Beep . . .” Then he points at Matthew. “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”

  Billy and Jack crack up, and Steven gives them a high five. Matthew makes the jerk-off sign with his hand. Which doesn’t help his case much.

  Kate brings us back on topic. “This is really a problem for you?”

  I nod. “Absolutely. It’ll taint my memory of the entire weekend.”

  She sighs. And turns toward Delores. “Switch my appointment.”

  Dee-Dee looks appalled. “You’re not serious?” She throws her hands up in the air. “And so it begins. You’re not even married yet, and he’s already controlling you—dictating what you can and can’t do.”

  I jump to Kate’s defense. “She’s respecting my goddamn feelings. That’s how a mature, healthy relationship works. You should try it sometime.”

  “I’m extremely considerate of Matthew’s feelings!”

  Kate jumps in. “Dee, we’re here to have fun, not torture my fiancé.”

  Dee-Dee pouts. “But torturing him is my idea of fun. Party pooper.” Still, she grabs the phone and calls the spa.

  Kate nestles into my side, resting her head on my shoulder. I pull her closer and kiss the top her head. “Thank you.”

  “You’re welcome.”

  I grin. “When you get back from your primping, I want some of that Kate time you owe me.”

  She lifts her head and whispers, “Does this, by chance, involve finishing what we started on the plane?”

  I nod slowly. “It does—and I guarantee it will be a spectacular finish.”

  “It always is.” She leans forward, kissing me playfully, her tongue grazing and teasing.

  When she pulls back, I lick my bottom lip, savoring the taste of her. “Bet your ass it is.”

  Warren interrupts our flirtatious moment. “So, before we split up, does anybody wanna like . . . get high?”

  I’m not a big fan of drugs, even the recreational kind. With alcohol, you can pace yourself—have a drink or two, then slow down and enjoy the buzz. Or you can go full throttle and down five quick shots. In either case, there’s control over how shitfaced you want to be.

  But drugs are like a train without a conductor. Once you’re on, you’re going for a ride—no slowing down, no getting off if you change your mind. Dee-Dee doesn’t share my sentiments. No surprise there.

  She sits next to her cousin on arm of the couch. “Thank God—I thought you’d never ask.”

  Warren reaches into his pocket and pulls out a clear baggie that contains a few prerolled joints, some loose marijuana, and a small, brightly colored bowl pipe.

  Erin asks, “Where’d you get that from?”

  “I brought it from New York.” His brow furrows as he clarifies, “Well, technically, I brought it from California to New York, and then here. It’s good shit—high-level medical grade. The janitor at my music studio has glaucoma.”

  “But how did you get it past airport security?” my sister questions.

  Warren explains proudly, “I keep it in my boxer briefs. That way, if I get picked for one of those scanner things, it just looks like the downstairs dreadlocks need a trim.”

  I raise my eyebrows. “Now there’s a backup plan. If the music career tanks, you can always become a drug mule.” Drug smugglers have an extremely high rate of early, violent death. Awesome.

  Warren passes Dee-Dee a joint and she lights up. Matthew makes his way over. “I could go for a hit of herb.”

  Erin is hesitant. “I’ve never smoked marijuana before.”

  Warren tries to be reassuring. “Then you’ve come to the right plac
e. We’re all friends in the dope show.”

  She still looks nervous, so I tell her, “Just say no, Erin. Only losers get high.” I point my thumb at Warren. “You really want to end up like Exhibit A over there?”

  Delores holds her hands up like claws. “Peer pressure! Come on, Erin—you have to try it at least once. Live a little, girlfriend.”

  “And that would be Exhibit B.”

  Erin takes a big breath and looks at me with wide, approval-seeking eyes. “I think I’m gonna try it. I mean . . . sometimes you just have to say, ‘What the fuck?’ . . . right, Drew?”

  You can’t argue with a Risky Business quote. I shrug my shoulders in surrender, and Erin joins the rest of the stoners.

  Jack’s not interested. “No thanks, man. I’m all about keeping the toxins out of my system these days.”

  Alexandra declines as well, with a wave of her hand. Steven, however, says, “Sure, why not? I’ll relive my misspent youth.”

  Alexandra snaps, “What do you mean relive? You’re a man—you’re still living your misspent youth.”

  My brother-in-law holds out his hand to Warren. “Make mine a double.”

  Warren passes Steven a full bowl and a lighter, while Matthew offers Kate the joint. She shakes her head. “Maybe later.”

  I walk across the room, open a window, and turn on the ceiling fan.

  Warren asks, “What about you, Evans? You down?”

  I snort. “Like I’d ever put something in my mouth that hitched a ride next to your sweaty balls. I’d rather kiss a jungle elephant’s ass.”

  Warren takes a long drag, and puffs of smoke escape his lips as he mocks me. “Narc.”

  I deadpan, “Yeah, that’s me. On my off days I hang out with Johnny Depp down at 21 Jump Street.”

  Already feeling the effects of the high, Matthew giggles. And announces to the whole room, “Nah, Andrew’s cool. But him and Mary Jane don’t get along. He tried her once in college. It didn’t work out.”

  Kate leans forward. “I’ve never heard that story.”

  “It wasn’t exactly one of my finer moments.”

  Matthew laughs louder. “He took four hits, then started running around the house locking all the doors and windows. He thought his old man was gonna show up, or the SWAT team was gonna drop out of the sky. Then he had a panic attack.”

  “I did not have a frigging panic attack.”

  Matthew’s eyes meet mine. “Dude, I thought I was gonna have to haul your ass to the emergency room. You looked like you were going into cardiac fucking arrest.”

  Everyone has a good chuckle at my expense—even Kate.

  Warren nods his head happily. “Evans can’t handle the weed. Good to know. Now, if I ever want to mess with you, I know just how to do it.”

  Friends are supposed to rag on each other. It’s one of the benefits of knowing everything about a person—all their accomplishments, all their embarrassing, dirty little secrets.

  But that’s a hammer that swings both ways.

  “Keep on walking down memory lane, Matthew. There’s a few potholes I could dig up on you too.”

  He spreads his arms wide. “I’m an open book.”

  I smile devilishly. “You sure about that?”

  “Bring it, chump.”

  I turn toward his wife. “Hey, Dee, Matthew ever tell you about the time he was so trashed, he pissed in Kelly Macallister’s mouth while she was giving him a blow job?”

  Matthew sobers immediately.

  Steven doubles over laughing.

  “Ewwww,” Erin squeals. “That’s so gross.”

  “That’s how he got his nickname in our fraternity—Golden Shower Fisher.”

  Alexandra looks both sickened and amused.

  Jack snorts, “Nasty.”

  Kate grimaces and covers her ears.

  Delores laughs at first, then turns to her husband and confesses, “I’m ruined. I’ll never be able to suck you off again without thinking of that story.”

  Matthew glares at me good-naturedly, “You’re a dickwad, man.”

  I just grin. “That’s what friends are for, buddy.”

  Ten minutes later, Erin lies feet up in the recliner with heavy-lidded eyes. She raises one arm slowly, then the other. “This is great. I’m so relaxed.”

  Steven’s face is slack as he motions toward the shiny grand piano in the corner. “Hey, Billy, why don’t you play something?”

  Yes, asswipe can also play the piano. Just keep in mind—he may be a multifaceted tool, but he’s still a fucking tool.

  Dee pipes up, “Good idea. Nothing goes better with a quality high than some smooth tunes. Make it mellow, cuz.”

  Shit-for-brains gets up, settles himself on the piano bench, cracks his knuckles, and starts to play. After a few bars of instrumental, he starts to sing “Someone Like You” by Adele. It figures he’d choose a chick song.

  As he croons the last line before the chorus—the one about things not being over between him and his former love, my good mood sours like milk left out of the fridge too long. This is why I always have, do now, and will forever hate Warren’s guts. Because, despite Matthew’s story about my experience with marijuana, I’m not a paranoid guy. I’m observant. Intelligent. Goddamn smart enough to know why—out of all the motherfucking songs he could have played—he picked this one.

  And more important—I know whom he’s playing it for.

  There are no accidents. Body language and Freudian slips have meaning. They’re our subconscious’s way of showing how we really feel. What we really want. And somewhere, deep down in Warren’s puny brain and inadequate heart—I think he still wants Kate.

  Look at her face now. It’s the same look she always gets when she watches him sing. Her head’s tilted slightly, a small smile sits on her lips, and her eyes swim with a mixture of pride and wonderment. Admiration. And possibly, remembered affection. Even though I know she doesn’t have those feelings for him anymore, even though I know she chose me—she loves me more—it pisses me off. Badly.

  Because the only person I’ve ever looked at like that—in my entire life—is her.

  As he plays the final note, I swallow my resentment down. Matthew, Steven, Erin, Dee-Dee, and Kate clap. Alexandra actually wipes a tear from her eye.

  Jack says, “Damn you’re good. That music shit must make you a righteous pussy hound. Tonight, Billy, you’re my wingman.”

  Warren nods shyly. “Sure, man.”

  Then I stand up. “Now that I’ve gotten my dose of estrogen for the day, how about we head to the pool and check out that barbecue? I don’t know about you guys, but I’m more than ready for the first of many rounds.”

  Everyone agrees.

  I keep Kate close to me as we all head to our respective rooms for a quick clothing change. And prepare to go our separate ways.

  Chapter 7

  The barbecue at the adults-only pool is in full swing. There’s music, sunshine, bikinis as far as the eye can see—and some I wish I didn’t have to. Remember, ladies, two-piece bathing suits are a privilege, not a right.

  We rent an enclosed cabana near the bar and settle down at the circular, umbrella-covered table in front of it. Our round of beers arrives and we hang out waiting for our turn in the volleyball tournament. For men, team sports have the power to inspire a warlike, us-against-them mentality. It’s like spending the night in a foxhole—an instant bonding experience. Even if you don’t like each other—hell, even if you can’t stand each other—you close ranks, pick up the slack where you have to. Because you’re in the same platoon¸ and anyone who’s not with you is against you. They’re the enemy.

  Why am I telling you this? You’ll understand shortly.

  For now, I take a sip of my beer and focus on my sullen-faced brother-in-law. I get right to the point: “What’s going on with you and my sister?”

  He’s not surprised by the question. But he’s reluctant. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

  “You don’t wa
nt to talk about it? What? Did you grow a vagina on the walk over? I suppose next you’ll tell me you’re fine? Don’t be a bitch, Steven—talk. What’s up?”

  He rubs his hand down his face and stares at the pool for a minute. Deliberating. Then he turns toward us and leans forward, elbows on the table. “All right. It started about two weeks ago. For a couple days, Alexandra had been in a rotten mood. But I wasn’t worried—she just gets like that sometimes. And then I found something in the bathroom trash can . . . a pregnancy test.”

  Sympathetic groans roll across the table like the wave at a football game. “She’s never gonna let you out of the house again.”

  “You gotta space the kids out, Steven. If you have them too close together, one is bound to fall through the cracks.”

  “Now it’s gonna be three against two—you’re screwed.”

  Steven holds up his hand. “It was negative. Alexandra’s not pregnant.” He takes a swig from his beer. “But when I asked her about it, she went ballistic. Yelling at me about how I don’t understand her—how I shouldn’t worry about kids because I can have them until I’m seventy. And how men pretty much suck in general. Ever since then, she’s been unbearable. It’s like she’s just looking for any excuse to be pissed off at me.”

  Matthew advises, “Maybe she needs a break. You know—a night out to feel more like a woman and less like a mom?”

  Steven shakes his head. “Already thought of that. I set up an overnight in the Hamptons—had my dad lined up to take the kids and everything. She shot me down—wanted no part of it. Then she bitched me out for making plans without consulting her.”

  Jack snorts, “Can’t say I’m surprised. No offense, dude, but Alexandra’s always been a cold fish.”

  I don’t take exception to his comment because I can see why he’d think like that.

  Steven’s voice takes on a soft, sad tone. Wistful. “But she’s not, though. That’s just a front she puts up. The real Alexandra is warm . . . and funny . . . and she’d go to ends of the earth for the people she loves. Up until two weeks ago, that included me. But lately . . . it doesn’t. And I don’t know why.”

  I pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh. “You gotta fix this, Steven. You can’t do this to me—not now.”

  He doesn’t take it well. “You? What the hell does this have to do with you, Drew?”

  I point my finger at him accusingly. “You and Alexandra are my gold standard. You’re the only reason I’m not shitting my pants about marrying Kate next week. Because you’re my proof that marriage can actually work.”

  Steven’s brow wrinkles. “Your parents have been married for forty years.”

  I wave my hand. “They don’t count. They’re old—no one else will have them.”

  Matthew asks, “What about me and Dee?”

  “I give you another year—tops.”

  Matthew just shrugs. Because he doesn’t give a damn what other people think—even me.

  Now, Alexandra may be my sister—but Steven is more than a brother-in-law. He’s a friend—one of my best. Which makes placing loyalties a sticky situation. So if I have to take sides? I’m going with Mackenzie and Thomas. “And there’s no frigging way I’m letting my niece and nephew grow up in a broken home. You gotta talk to her, Steven—work it out.”

  He pushes his chair back—frustrated. “I’ve tried! Don’t you think I’ve tried? I’ve kissed her ass for the last two weeks. . . .”

  I close my eyes and hold up my hand. “Please—easy on the mental pictures.”

  “I’ve tried everything I can think of . . . but I’m not gonna try anymore. If she wants to work it out, when she wants to talk—she’s gonna have to come to me. I’m putting my foot down. I have some pride, you know.”

 
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