Damon was still a good distance from the entrance when he spotted his only friends in the wedding party waiting outside. Franco was smoking and Todd was on the bench behind him, somehow giving off the impression of extreme boredom even across the parking lot. When Damon was closer he waved and Franco stubbed out his cigarette to jog forward and meet him, his brown, styled hair gleaming in the sunlight.
“You should see the groom,” he laughed and shook Damon’s hand, slapping him on the back as they turned toward Todd. “He’s pissin’ his pants.”
Todd nodded and raised his eyebrows simultaneously by way of a greeting. “How many mimosas do you think I can safely drink at this thing without being completely inebriated for the service?”
“Four,” Damon and Franco answered together after a shared look of deliberation.
Todd gave a very put-upon sigh and turned to go inside. “I hate weddings.”
Damon stepped up beside him and grabbed his shoulder with a staying hand. “I saw you leave with Valerie last night. Something tells me you don’t hate this that much.”
Franco gaped in disbelief. “Valerie? The Maid of Honor? The glacier with facial expressions?”
Todd held his hands out like What? and took a few more steps forward before pausing and looking back over his shoulder with a smirk. “I said I hate weddings, but I happen to enjoy the occasional bridesmaid.”
“Valerie?” Franco hissed as Todd abandoned them in the lobby. “Really?”
“That’s our Todd: Disenchanted Lady Killer, The Melancholy One. His saga continues.”
Never was a man more blasé—even about getting laid—than Todd. He gave the illusion of a Ghandi-esque calm when it came to companionship, but Damon suspected he was just sorta tired. Years ago, his friend stopped putting energy into anything remotely romantic. If a woman was around and she was interested, okay…fine. Todd wanted sex, but he wasn’t going to break a sweat chasing it. Cynical was his shtick and it was really working for him. The world-weariness was somehow attractive to women and few understood that it all stemmed from a thoroughly crushed heart, courtesy of his college sweetheart, Ella.
“Damn,” Franco frowned, almost certainly picturing the Maid of Honor in her ice queen mode. “Sandra hates Val, you know.”
Franco’s wife, Sandra, didn’t believe in wishy-washy emotions. Extreme reaction, one way or the other, was a medium she could really work with. She was tough as nails and the scariest woman Damon knew. She ran her home like a 1920s prison warden might and even Franco was terrified of her. In a loving way.
“Does she know you were out smoking?”
“Hell no,” he answered with a shiver. “She thinks I quit.” As if the question reminded him, Franco popped a breath mint. “Don’t tell.”
Damon raised a brow in agreement and peeked through the doors leading into the private hall reserved for the brunch, trying to see where everyone was seated. The bride’s family was grotesquely rich and this wasn’t a wedding so much as an event, and not so much an event as it was a weeklong extravaganza. It was a super high-class, yet less fun Lollapalooza. Oktoberfest without the cheerful people.
There had been a golfing expedition for all of the men in the wedding party—paid for by the bride’s father, Percy Thackerey—a spa day for the women, a bridal luncheon, an evening of cigars and brandy for the groomsmen, the wedding brunch, the wedding, the wedding reception,and whispers of a wedding gift in the form of a BMW 7 Series. The Thacks, as Damon referred to them, were practically hemorrhaging cash for their little girl’s big day.
Luke’s family was by no means rubbing elbows with the middle class, but even his parents looked on with wide eyes at the gargantuan display of wealth that their son’s nuptials were turning into. Somehow, their soon-to-be daughter-in-law had managed to avoid the usual pitfalls associated with a well-off young woman born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and they thought she was wonderful in every regard. And actually, they were pretty much right. Mandy was really cool.
She was the one who figured out he was gay a couple years ago and helped him come out to his best friends. It was a long, long story. Embarrassing, too, but mostly long.
“Come on, gentlemen,” Luke’s voice rang out behind him and Franco. “We’ve gotta go in sometime.”
Damon grinned and pulled the groom into a hug. “If it isn’t the man of the hour! Congrats.”
Luke kept one arm around him and threw the other around Franco. “I’m terrified.”
“Told you,” Franco offered up. “You’ve got it easy, though. Remember my wedding day? Puked six goddamn times. Best day of my life.” And he meant it.
Luke laughed loudly, a little too loudly, and Damon gave the back of his neck a squeeze. “Are you gonna make it?”
His best friend swallowed audibly and stepped away to smooth his hands over his hair.
“Yeah. I just wish we were on the plane, heading off for our honeymoon, and that this production was over with. I swear I’m going to the bathroom every five minutes, I’m so nervous. All this shit going on and it makes you forget what the celebration’s supposed to be about.”
One of the doors opened nearby and Todd squeezed out with a mimosa in hand. He saluted with it and took a swig. “Number one, boys. Put it on my tab.”
“Are the rest of the guys inside?” Luke asked him and Todd shrugged. He couldn’t stand “the rest of the guys” and avoided speaking to them or acknowledging their existence if at all possible. When he did refer to them, he called them “The Law Turds” since all of them worked at Percy Thackerey’s firm.
From the point that Mandy began planning the wedding, there had been a great deal of discussion about the size of the wedding party. She insisted that there was no way she could have fewer than nine women standing up with her without seriously offending a great many people. Luke, who prided himself on his ability to make and keep only four close friends—one of which was the woman he was marrying—was forced to come up with an additional six men to balance out the guy/girl ratio. He adamantly refused to allow Andrew in the wedding party to Damon’s relief. Although, ten years from now, Luke would look at his wedding photos and have to ask for help identifying the six guys Mandy came up with. Damon couldn’t remember their names, but since they worked for Mr. Thackerey it meant: Don’t say anything stupid to them that you don’t want the big Thack to hear.
Todd knocked back the last of his drink and Luke flicked him in the chest. “So…Valerie?”
Another shrug. “She’s got a soft candy center,” he admitted, refusing to smile.
Franco’s eyes rolled back in his head. “Don’t tell me these things. No—forget that—tell me.”
A clinking of a knife against fine crystal made it to their ears and Luke visibly braced himself. “Too late. That’s our cue.”
Dodging his ex, giving the Best Man speech, and smuggling home extra slices of wedding cake are Damon Wright’s only plans on his buddy’s wedding day. Capturing the attention of a renowned photographer with twice the sexual magnetism of James Bond doesn’t even make the list. Accustomed to a life spent keeping his head down, managing family obligations, Damon is unprepared for even a lukewarm pursuit, much less the hot, focused advances of a man like Alarik whose sophistication leaves Damon reeling.
Tired of the vapid, morally bankrupt and grasping fellows so common in his line of work, Alarik is through serving as just another step for mercenary men on the ladder to success. Damon’s kindhearted reserve excites a profound response within him, enticing him with the idea of an honest future. Compelled to dig beneath the surface in search of something lasting, Alarik can’t help but wonder if falling in love can be as easy as breathing.
Yet, fairytales don’t exist in the pace of real life; they disappear in shadow. Absorbed by the happiness of finding one another, Damon and Alarik never see the darkness coming…
About the Author
- The author will be choosing a winner who comments on this post with their contact information. The winner can choose any book in the series. Contest runs until November 5th 2013 at 11:59pm EST
- 18yrs and over