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Seven years before…

I LOOKED UP at the clock; it was almost nine p.m.

Where in the fuck are you?

I wasn’t sure whether to be pissed off at my girl or worried about her welfare. Amber, who I’d been dating for three months, wasn’t answering my calls or texts and we had a party to go to. She was supposed to have picked me up thirty minutes ago and was never late. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my keys taken away the weekend before by my old man. He’d found out that I’d been drinking and driving. Needless to say, shit had hit the roof.

“Dammit,” I mumbled out loud as I paced back and forth in the kitchen. “She’d better have a good fucking excuse, that’s all I can say. Especially tonight.”

The party was for my best friend, Carter. It was his eighteenth birthday and his older brother, Drew, was throwing a huge kegger for him.

Scott, my old man, walked into the kitchen. He was wearing grey overalls covered in white paint, and looked exhausted.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, opening up the refrigerator. He grabbed a beer, cracked the can open, and took a long sip.

I checked my cell phone again.

Still nothing from Amber.

“I’m supposed to be at Carter’s. Amber hasn’t shown and I don’t know what the hell is going on.” I sighed. “Can I just get my keys back?”

He belched. “Sure. On Monday.”

“Look, I know I screwed up,” I told him, leaning against the kitchen counter. “It won’t happen again. I’ll even stay over at Carter’s tonight if I have anything to drink.”

“Sorry, son, but that’s not going to happen. You know the rules,” he replied, sitting down at the kitchen table. He stretched his legs out, grabbed a pack of cigarettes that were sitting on the table, and lit one up.

“But, it’s Carter’s birthday,” I snapped angrily. “Can’t you just cut me some slack?”

“Cut you some slack? I think I’ve already done too much of that,” Scott replied through a cloud of smoke. He frowned. “You know, it’s bad enough that you were drinking underage, but you did it on your motorcycle, Taylor. If you’re going to be doing that shit, you may as well just lie down in the middle of the road and wait for death.”

“I only had a couple of beers,” I replied, frustrated. “I wasn’t even buzzed.”

“It doesn’t matter. You knew the rules,” he repeated, “and you broke them. Now you’ve got to face the consequences. Frankly, you’re lucky I’m giving you the keys back on Monday.”

From the stubborn look on his face, I knew he wouldn’t budge. “Can I borrow your truck then?”

“It’s like talking to a wall,” he muttered, rubbing his jaw. “No, you can’t borrow my truck.”

“What about Sheila’s van?”

I was desperate. The last thing I wanted was to show up at Carter’s party, in my stepmom’s mini-van, but it was better than not showing at all.

“No. Face it – you’re not driving anything tonight. Hell, I shouldn’t even let you out of the house.”

“I have to be there. He’s my best friend. You know that.”

He stared at me for a few minutes and nodded toward the window. “If it’s so important to you, why don’t you just hoof it?”

I looked at the clock again. He lived about six miles away. It was May and the walk was definitely manageable.

Maybe I could get ahold of Amber along the way, too?

“Fine. I’m not going to be a no-show. He wouldn’t do that to me.”

Scott sighed. “Fuck it. I’ll drop you off. I’m not going to let you walk. Too many drunken assholes out there. Some of them on motorcycles, even.”

“Thanks,” I said, ignoring the dig.

He stabbed out his cigarette and nodded. “Let’s go. We’ll take my truck. I’ll even let you drive.”

“Swell,” I replied dryly.

“Don’t be an asshole, Taylor. You’re lucky I’m doing this for you.”

“I know,” I said, forcing a smile onto my face. “I appreciate it.”

“You’d better.”

I grabbed my leather jacket and followed him out to the garage.

THE PARTY WAS in full swing when we arrived at the house, which looked like a palace compared to our place. Scott was a carpenter and Sheila worked part time as a bartender at a dive called Sal’s. Funds were tight, our house was small, but I had to admit – life with them wasn’t too bad. Carter’s family, on the other hand, had a shitload of money, his parents were always fighting, and he couldn’t wait to go to college next fall. It made me appreciate what I had. My old man could be a prick sometimes, but overall, he treated me fairly. The truth was, I usually deserved whatever he was dishing out.

“Are his parents home?” asked Scott, frowning at the number of cars parked up and down the street. Fortunately, Carter’s house was far enough away from his neighbors that the party wasn’t disturbing anyone. Not yet, anyway. The cops had been over on a couple of occasions, back when his older brother had been living at home. Once, when Carter and I were fifteen, we’d stolen some beer during one of Drew’s shindigs, and proceeded to get shitfaced in the guest-house. When the cops arrived, three older girls had snuck in as well to evade the cops, and before the end of the night, both of us had lost our virginity. It had been one hell of a night.

“His brother Drew is back from college,” I said. “He’s keeping things under control.”

“That’s comforting,” he replied dryly.

“Everything is cool,” I said, pulling up to the front of the house. “It’s just a party.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he said, gawking at two chicks walking into the house, wearing miniskirts and high-heels. He grinned. “Maybe I should come in and make sure Drew doesn’t have too much to handle. Some of the girls walking inside look like trouble.”

I snorted. “What would Sheila say?”

“Sheila would think I was doing a good deed.”

“Sure she would.”

A couple of other girls walked out of the house and Scott pretended to wipe the drool from his chin. “I can’t believe their mothers let them go out in those dresses.”

“They probably borrowed them from their MILF mothers,” I said, wondering what Amber was wearing. As far as I was concerned, she could wear a garbage bag and still look sexy.

He laughed. “I bet. Damn, I was born in the wrong generation. I’d be all over some of these hotties if I were you.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be telling me to keep my hands off?” I asked dryly.

“Just keep your dick wrapped, son, and you can put your hands anywhere you want,” he said, checking out two blondes that were walking side-by-side toward the house. “You ever get with either of them?”

“No. Amber’s my girl. You know that.”

“You’re too young to be with one girl.”

I sighed.

It was the same conversation. He thought we were getting too serious. Maybe we were, but she was a wildcat in bed and I was starting to have some real feelings for her.

“I know. I’m just saying that you should keep your options open. You’re young and,” he grinned, “you’ve got your old man’s looks. I see the way the girls look at you. Don’t waste all of that on one. Not at this age, at least.”

Scott had been a ‘player’ in his younger years. He’d once bragged that he’d had sex with over eighty chicks, and that was just in a five-year span. Claimed it happened when he was in college and on the hockey team. Apparently, he’d shot his puck into so many holes, they’d started calling him “Slap-Scott.” This had more to do with the fact he’d been slapped in public, on more than a few occasions, by jealous ex-lovers. Unfortunately, it had all come to an end when he’d broken his wrist, which not only ended his hockey career, but his wild sex life. It was a year later that he’d met up with my mother. I couldn’t remember much about her myself; she’d died when I was four in a car accident. I still had some pictures of the three of us, though. I could tell how much Scott had loved her and how much she’d loved the two of us.

“I hear you,” I said, not wanting to get into it.

“I hope so. Listen, let me know if you need a ride home later,” he said, getting out of the truck.

“I will. Thanks.” I got out too and scanned the cars parked along the side of the road. When I spied Amber’s white Jeep, I frowned.

What in the hell?

“What’s wrong?” he asked, noticing my expression.

“Nothing. I’ll catch ya later,” I said, shoving my hands into the pockets of my leather jacket.

He got into the driver’s side of the vehicle. “Remember, call me if you need a ride home.”

“Thanks,” I replied, walking away with my head down. The last thing I wanted was to get shit from one of the other guys at school seeing me get dropped off by my old man.

“Hey, Taylor,” said a girl’s voice in the darkness as I headed toward the front door.

I looked over to the side of the house and noticed Lauren Macey standing alone in the shadows. She was Carter’s latest conquest, a pretty girl with reddish- brown hair, large green eyes, and a body that could very well be in a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Although he hadn’t gotten down her pants yet, I knew he was hoping to do it tonight. They’d already been on a few dates and he claimed she was a tease. Unlike Amber, who’d had her hand down my pants halfway through the horror flick we’d gone to, on our first date.

“Hey. What’s up?” I asked, wondering what she was doing outside by herself.

Lauren, who was wearing white shorts and a thin blue shirt, shivered. “I need a ride home,” she said, rubbing her arms to try and warm up.

“Already?” I stepped closer. When I noticed her red-rimmed eyes, I frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Lauren’s cheeks turned red. “Nothing. I just… I want to get the hell out of here,” she answered in a husky voice.

“Where’s Carter?”

She jerked her chin toward the house. “In there. By now, probably getting laid.”

My eyes widened. “What? Really?”

She smiled bitterly. “Yeah. I walked in on him and some girl messing around in his bedroom, about ten minutes ago.”

“No way.”

“Yeah. What a fucking asshole.”

It didn’t exactly surprise me. Carter was a pig and he even used to keep a roster of the number of girls he’d banged. I used to be a player too, before Amber took me out of the game. “Who was he with?”

“I’m not sure. He was tickling her on the bed and I couldn’t see her face.”

“Was he hammered?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” she said, staring at me like I was from another planet. “We’re supposed to be… I don’t know… together? I guess he forgot about it already.”

“Really? Exclusive?” I asked, surprised. Carter hadn’t mentioned it to me. Probably a new line of bullshit he was dishing out just to get down her pants.

“Well, he said he wasn’t interested in seeing anyone else. I guess I just assumed…” she replied, looking like she was going to cry. “Anyway, I need to get out of here and my friend Jen doesn’t want to leave the party.”

“Jen Fisher?”

She nodded.

“Nice friend she is,” I muttered, watching her lip tremble.

“Well, to be honest… I didn’t exactly tell her,” she said. “I was too upset at the time.”

I let out a ragged breath. “Man, I’m sorry, Lauren,” I replied. “What can I say? He’s my best friend, but he’s also a fucking dick.”

“Hey, Adams!” hollered a voice.

I turned toward the house and saw one of my other friends, Chad Barnes, sticking his head out of the front door. He was a running-back for the high school football team.

I waved.

“What in the hell are you doing? Get your ass in the house and grab a cold one!”

Lauren, who he obviously hadn’t noticed, moved further back into the shadows.

“I’ll be right there!” I called.

“You’d better. I’ve got a red cup with your name on it, bro! Let’s get wasted!”

It was obvious that he was almost there already. “I’ll be in soon!” I said.

“You’d better be!” Stumbling, he closed the door.

I turned back toward Lauren.

“Yeah, he’s already wasted,” she answered, with a small smile.

“Most definitely,” I replied, smiling back.

There was a loud crash from somewhere in the house and then laughter.

Lauren rolled her eyes. “I really need to get out of here.”

I sighed. “I’d give you a ride but the truth is, I had to find one here myself.”

“I kind of figured. It’s okay. Could you do me a huge favor, though? Go and look for Katy Johnson? She’s in there somewhere. Tell her I need to talk to her. I’m sure she’ll give me a ride.”

“Why don’t you text her?” I asked.

She pulled out her phone and waved it. “I’ve been trying to. I think it’s too loud inside. Or hell, maybe she’s ignoring me. It’s one of those nights, you know?”

Remembering that I’d seen Amber’s vehicle at the party, I frowned. “I know the feeling. You didn’t happen to see Amber inside, did you?”

“Yeah. Earlier. She arrived with a couple of her friends, Bonnie and Veronica.”

“Okay. Thanks. I’ll go look for Katy. Hopefully she’s not the chick in bed with Carter.”

“No way. She’s going out with Bernie Lee and those two would never cheat on each other.”

“That’s right.” I pulled off my leather jacket. “Here. Wear this. It’s getting nippy out here.”

She glanced down at her top and blushed. “God.”

I grinned sheepishly. “Don’t worry about it. I’m nipping myself now.”

Her eyes went to my chest. “You should keep your jacket. Now you’re cold.”

“Nonsense. I’m a guy. We’re used to cold showers and giving up things to impress women.”

Laughing, she took the jacket from me and slipped it on over her shoulders. “Thanks.”

I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets. “No problem.”

“It smells nice.”

“My jacket?”

She nodded. “Yeah. Your cologne.”

“Thanks. Amber got it for me,” I replied.

“She’s a lucky girl,” she said, brushing her hair away from her face. “To have you, that is.”

I smiled. “Thanks.”

She smiled back and in that second, I felt compelled to stay and comfort her. Sure, Carter was my friend, but Lauren was way too good for him. Hell, she was probably too good for me, too.

“What?” she asked after a few seconds.

Realizing that I was staring at her like an idiot, I cleared my throat. “Nothing. I’ll go and find Katy for you. Just hold tight.” I said, turning away.

“Thanks,” she said softly.

I walked around the side and went into the house, which was jam-packed with most of the senior class, drinking beer and hollering at each other over the music.

“There he is!” yelled Chad, barreling toward me with a bottle of rum and a red cup. His eyes were bloodshot as he handed me a glass of beer. “You need to catch up, dude.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Got here at seven.”

“Where’d you get the bottle?”

“Bought it from Drew. You want some?”

“No, not tonight. Have you seen Katy Johnson or Jen Fisher?”

“They’re around somewhere,” he said, taking a swig from the bottle.

“Take it easy on that stuff. It’s still early.”

He snorted. “Don’t worry about me. I can handle it.”

A group of guys in the other room began chanting “Drink” over and over.

Chad and I looked at each other; the party was definitely getting rowdier by the minute. I wondered how long it would take the cops to show up tonight. Drew had his work cut out for him.

“This is jus’ like a college bash. I’d better go see what’s going on,” Chad said, stumbling toward the cheering.

“Hey, have you seen Amber?” I yelled out to him.

“She’s in the kitchen I think. Talking to Drew,” he called back over his shoulder.

I headed in that direction, deciding that if I couldn’t find Lauren’s friends, I’d ask Amber to give her a ride.

“Hey, Taylor,” called out Stacy Parker, another of Amber’s friends as I waded through the crowd.

“Hi, Stacy. You seen Amber?”

“Not for a while. I’m sure you’ll find her though!”

When I finally made it to the kitchen, it was also packed with people eating appetizers and drinking beer.

“What’s up, Adams?”

I turned around and saw a guy from one of my classes. “Not much. You seen Amber?”

“She was in here earlier. I think she followed Carter out of the kitchen, about ten minutes ago.”

My stomach twisted as an image of Carter and Amber, fooling around in his bed, popped into my brain. I pushed it away, though. It was a ridiculous idea. Not my best friend and my girl. They wouldn’t do that to me. “What about Drew?

“He’s around.”

Sighing, I left the kitchen and began searching the party for signs of Amber. When I found Bonnie and Veronica playing Pong out back on the deck, they didn’t know where Amber was either. Carter also appeared to be missing.

My heart began to race.

Amber hadn’t messaged or called me back, which wasn’t like her. Not at all. She’d been seen earlier with Carter, and now he was apparently upstairs, fooling around with some chick. I didn’t want to believe that it was Amber, but I needed to see who the fuck he was with upstairs.

I went back into the house and made my way upstairs, to his bedroom. I could hear music playing, but not much else. As I placed my hand on the doorknob, I heard the sound of a girl moaning in pleasure.

It sounded like Amber.

Pissed as all hell, I flung the door open.

Carter, who was naked and on top of someone, snapped his head around. “What the fuck?”

“Oh, my God!” cried the girl, trying to cover herself.

It wasn’t Amber.

It was Katy Johnson.

“Fuck, I’m sorry,” I said, backing out of the room, both embarrassed and relieved. “I didn’t know.”

“Obviously. Jesus, Taylor. Knock next time,” he said angrily as I closed the door.

Feeling like a jealous idiot, I turned and headed toward the steps. As I was about to walk back down, I heard voices and saw Drew’s bedroom door open. When I noticed Amber, applying lipstick as she followed him out, I froze.

“Uh, hey, Taylor,” said Drew, stopping in his tracks.

“What’s going on?” I asked, hoping that it really wasn’t what it looked like.

The look in Amber’s eyes gave it all away. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“Fuck, this is awkward,” said Drew, managing to look somewhat guilty. “Sorry, Taylor. She said you two were over. I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Enraged, I flew at him. Amber screamed as my knuckles met his nose and blood sprayed everywhere.

“Stop it!” she shrieked.

Ignoring her, I got him down on the carpet and began pummeling his face with my fists. “You motherfucker!” I growled.

“Someone help!” screamed Amber.

Hands grabbed me from behind.

“What in the hell are you doing?” hollered Carter, trying to hold me back.

“Just let me go,” I demanded, struggling to free myself. Carter was on the football team, however. The guy was built like a brick shit-house.

“He’s out cold,” cried Amber, who was now on her knees next to Drew. “We need to call an ambulance.”

“And the cops,” said Katy, standing off to the side. “He had no right beating the hell out of him like that.”

Carter swore and pushed me toward the steps. “You need to pull yourself together and get the fuck out of here. Before you really do get arrested.”

I looked over my shoulder toward Amber, who was staring at me now with disgust.


“You’re a fucking slut,” I said, glaring at her.

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re just jealous because he’s going places. Places you’ll never get to.”

Wanting to slap the contempt from her face, I growled, “And you really think he’d take a whore like you with him? You?”

Her lips tightened. “You really think you’re so high and mighty? You’re nothing, Taylor. Nothing but poor, white trash. In fact, the only reason you have any friends at this party is because of Carter. I’m not even sure why he likes you.”

I clenched my teeth. “Fuck you. Oh wait – I already did that. So did most of the guys at this party, apparently.”

She stabbed me with her eyes. “Most of them were better at it.”

“Okay, enough!” hollered Carter.

“Yeah, we’ve all had enough of you,” said Amber.

I took a step toward her, my control waning. “Fuck you.”

“Get out of here. She’s not worth it, Taylor!”

Amber glared at him. “Aren’t you worried about your brother? That asshole knocked him out!”

Drew’s eyes snapped open. “I’m okay,” he said, a pained expression on his face. “Don’t… don’t call anyone. Especially the cops.”

“You need an ambulance,” argued Amber, as he slowly sat up. She touched his cheek. “I think your nose might be broken.”

Drew pulled away from her. “Leave me alone.”

Amber, looking mortified, stood up and backed away from him. “You don’t have to be an asshole.”

Drew looked up at me. “Seriously, I didn’t know you two were together. She said you were through.”

“We are now,” I said between clenched teeth. Turning around, I headed down the stairs, aware that everyone at the party knew what had happened.

“Wait,” said Carter.

Ignoring him, I walked quickly toward the front doorway, needing to escape.

“Taylor!” hollered Carter, taking the steps two-at-a-time.

I turned around and it was then that I realized he was standing in the middle of his party, in his boxers and nothing else.

“You need a ride home?” he asked, ignoring the looks from several other kids.

I shook my head. What I needed was some fresh air and to be alone. “No. I’ll call you later.”

He nodded toward the hallway, where it was quieter. I followed him there.

“She’s a bitch, man. Everything she said was a crock of shit. Everyone loves you. You know that.”

I shrugged. It wasn’t her words that had dug in the deepest. Not even the fact that she’d fucked someone else. It was the way she’d looked at me – as if I was some steaming pile of shit she’d stepped into and wanted to be rid of.

Noticing my expression, Carter frowned. “You fell hard for her, didn’t you?”

“No,” I lied.

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Bullshit. We’re friends. I know you.”

I didn’t say anything.

He grunted. “See, this is why I’m single, bro. You know what my motto is.”

I did. “Play or be played.”

“Exactly. You live by that creed and this kind of shit doesn’t happen or if it does, you don’t walk away feeling like a victim. Just remember – bros before hos. Always.”

I sighed.

He put his hand on my shoulder. “Seriously, she had you by the balls. You can’t let that happen again.”

“She didn’t have me by the balls,” I protested.

He snorted. “The fuck she didn’t. Why do you think it hurts so much right? You let her get to you. You can’t let that happen again.”

Who was I kidding?

Carter was right.

I vowed to never make that mistake again.

Bros before hos…

Chapter 1



“YOU’VE GOT TO be fucking kidding me,” I said, holding the phone close to my ear. “Married? You?”

Carter laughed. “I know. What can I say? I’m in love.”

I grunted. “Whatever happened to that old creed of yours – ‘Play or be Played’?”

“I’m too old to stay in that game. The game gets monotonous after a while, anyway.”

“Too old? We’re not even close to thirty and you’re already packing it in? Someone definitely has you by the balls,” I said, smirking.

“She handles them like no other, my friend. Like no other.”

I chuckled. “So, you’ve been bitten by the love-bug. Well, as long as you’re happy.”

“I am. Very. She’s a great girl.”

“What’s her name?”

“Barbara Macey.”

“Do I know her?” I asked. The last name sounded familiar.

“She went to our school and graduated a year ahead of us. She has a stepsister our age, though. Lauren Macey.”

My eyes widened in surprise. “Lauren? The girl you cheated on back in twelfth grade?”

“I know. Crazy, right?”

“Does Barbara know about the two of you?”

“No. I don’t think so. Anyway, Lauren and I have reconciled. She said she’s forgiven me.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

The night she’d caught Carter cheating had been rough on both of us. I’d even walked her home, after finding Amber with Drew. Till this day, I still couldn’t look him in the face without wanting to rearrange it. Fortunately, we hadn’t crossed paths in years.

“Yeah. We were young and I was stupid. To be honest, I don’t think she likes me, but is willing to let bygones be bygones. For her sister’s sake, at least.”

“Lucky for you, I guess.”

“Exactly. By the way, I need to ask you something.”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Will you be my Best Man?”

Although Carter and I had once been the closest of friends, our lives had taken totally different turns. After graduation, he’d gone away to college while I stayed in Jensen and began working for a construction company. He was now a wealthy dermatologist and I was part-owner of my own roofing company. We still saw each other, maybe twice a year, and were far from having the kind of relationship we’d had growing up.

“Me?” I asked, stunned.

“Yeah, you,”

“Sure, I mean if you really want me to,” I replied, flattered. “It’s just that I’m a little surprised you’re asking me.”

He sighed. “I know we haven’t spent a lot of time together these past few years, and I regret it, bro.”

“Me, too,” I said, suddenly feeling nostalgic. We’d had some great times growing up. Carter had been the closest thing I’d had to a blood brother. Shit, we’d been closer than brothers.

“Obviously, I’ve been busy with work and you’ve got your club. You’re still with the Gold Vipers?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m patched now.”

“Patched,” he repeated, sounding amused. “Like how Boy Scouts get patched? Did you earn a badge for starting a campfire?”

If it was anyone other than Carter, I would have been pissed. In fact, Carter had once given me shit when he’d learned about my interest in joining up with the Gold Vipers. I’d met Raptor and Horse, two long-time members, right before my old man had died of lung cancer. Carter had been away at college and the club had been there for me when I’d needed it the most. Carter, even though I cared about him, could never understand how much my club meant to me now. We were like family. The camaraderie and loyalty between us gave my life meaning and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Not for anyone.

“Actually, I earned one for starting a fire under your momma’s panties.”

He groaned. “Please don’t mention Mitzy’s panties again or I’m going to have to clean my ears out with acid.”

“Hey, even your momma has gotta get laid somehow,” I said as an image of her popped into my head. She was in her fifties and still as pretty as ever. Growing up, I’d always thought of her as a MILF and one night, a couple of years ago, I’d actually been in those panties of hers. She’d come on to me, at a bar, and I’d resisted at first, thinking that it was a little weird. But, her own husband had recently left her for a younger woman, and in the end, I figured I’d done her a service by sleeping with her. Carter had no idea of the night we had and I knew Mitzy would never say a word.

“Changing the subject back to the wedding,” he said, a smile in his voice. “I’ll send you out an invitation. It’s going to be soon. June seventeenth, to be exact.”

“That’s less than two months away. What did you do, knock her up?”

“No, she just doesn’t want to wait. I think she’s afraid I’ll change my mind,” he replied, chuckling.

“She definitely has your number.”

“Maybe so, but she has nothing to worry about. I tell you, this woman is different than all of the rest. Special.”

It sounded to me that it was Carter who was now different. “Good. I’m happy for both of you. So, when’s the bachelor party?”

“No bachelor or bachelorette parties. We’re just going to have a family barbecue two weeks before the wedding.”

“You’re kidding me. That sounds as boring as fuck for a last ‘hoorah’.”

“It is what it is.”

“Not if I can help it. I’m giving you a bachelor party to remember, brother.”

He groaned. “Taylor–”

“Taylor, nothing. It’s a fucking ‘rite of passage’. Come on now, brother. You can’t pussy-out on something like this.”

“I can’t do it, man. I promised Barbara I wouldn’t have anything crazy like that. She caught me getting shit-faced at our last Christmas party and almost left me.”

“Because you were drunk?”

“I guess she thought I was flirting with someone else. She said that I made a fool out of her.”

“Were you flirting with someone else?”

He chuckled. “Hell, maybe. The truth is, I flirt with everyone when I’m drunk. Guys too. ”

I laughed. “No wonder you walked with a limp back in eleventh grade.”

“I didn’t walk with a limp,” he said. “And look who’s talking! You must have been checking out my ass to notice.”

“Oh, hell yeah. Remember that time you mooned the cheerleading squad? I still have a picture of your ass in my phone. Oh, wait. That’s your face. Easy mistake.”

He chuckled. “So, back to the bachelor party...”

“I’m telling you, it can’t happen.”

“If she let you have one, would you?”


“Then, don’t tell her. I’m throwing you one, bro. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

“She’d figure it out. She always does. There are no secrets in this town. At least, not where we usually hang out.”

“Obviously we aren’t going to do it at your old man’s golf club,” I ribbed. “Or that place where you and your crochet club meet each week. How are those scarves coming along by the way?”

“Just lovely. I hope you like pink?”

“I love the pink between your mother’s legs.”

“You fucker,” he said, laughing. “Stop.”

Smiling, I thought about Griffin’s and an idea popped into my head. None of Carter’s hoity-toity friends would be in a strip-joint- biker bar. I’d talk to Tank, the club president and owner of the bar, about letting me give Carter a bachelor party there. We could invite all of my club brothers. I wanted them to meet Carter anyway.

“Back to the bachelor party. It’s happening.”

He sighed. “I guess if I must have a proper one…”

“Oh, you must. Don’t worry about anything, either. Not even Barbara. I got this.”

“That sounds like trouble,” he said, a smile in his voice.

“No trouble involved. Hell, I know a place we can throw you a bash and she won’t ever find out.”

“It better not be in Vegas.”

“No. It will be in Jensen.”

He was silent for a few seconds, muddling the idea over. After a while, he relented. “Okay. I’m game. You sure Barbara won’t find out, though?”

One couldn’t be sure of anything but the odds were definitely in our favor. “Seriously, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m going to cheat on her or anything. I’d never do that. I love Barbara. That’s why I asked her to marry me.”

“Then don’t worry about it.”

“So… what am I going to tell her?”

I rolled my eyes. I wanted to ask him if
Barbara kept his balls in a locked box somewhere, but held my tongue. “You still own that bike?”

“My Sportster? Yeah.”

“That’s a surprise,” I said dryly. “She hasn’t taken that away from you?”

“She couldn’t. I love that bike. I’m never giving it up.”

“Glad to hear,” I said, wondering when Barbara was going to make him sell it. It made me sick to my stomach knowing how much this chick had Carter under her thumb and they hadn’t even tied the knot yet. “Just tell her you’re going on a road-trip with me next weekend. It won’t be a lie. We’ll spend the day riding and the night partying. You can crash at my place.”

“Now there’s an idea. You still living in your old man’s place?”


“What about Sheila?”

“She moved in with her new boyfriend a couple of months ago.”

My stepmom meant the world to me. My father had truly loved her and we’d remained close, and now we were closer than ever. She’d always treated me like we were blood, even worrying about me as an adult. In fact, she’d almost had a heart-attack after learning that I’d joined the Gold Vipers. After meeting Tank and Raptor a few times, however, she’d warmed up to the club and even made cookies during the holidays for them.

“Tell her I said ‘hi’ the next time you see her.”

“Will do.”

“She still as feisty as ever?”

“Oh yeah. The older she gets, the mouthier she gets.”

He laughed. “I’m glad to hear she’s doing well.”

“She’s doing very well. Anyway, what do you say? You going to let your Best Man do his duty and give you a real bachelor party?”

“Oh, hell yeah. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

“Just make sure I don’t end up passed out in the front of your lawn naked. Or, find myself in jail with a new limp.”

I grinned. “If you do, the night will have been worth it, my friend. I guarantee.”

He laughed. “I’m probably going to get my ass in trouble by agreeing to this, but how can I refuse?”

“Good. I’ll call you soon with some more details.”

“Sounds great.”

Chapter 2


JUST AS I expected, Tank agreed to let us use Griffin’s to host the bachelor party. He even shut it down from the general public for the occasion. Carter, who ended up getting along great with the guys from the club, survived and even managed to decline a free blow job offered by one of the strippers.

“Damn, it must be love,” I laughed, as the girl backed away and began dancing again. We were sitting next to the stage and there were two girls working the poles, while a half dozen more were doing lap dances.

“Why do you think I’m marrying her?” he asked, lighting a cigar. “I mean, you know I’ve never been serious about anyone else. This girl, though, she’s different.”

So he’d said. Many times throughout the night. It made me wonder who he was really trying to convince. “She is, huh? You’ve never mentioned that before.”

He chuckled and then lowered his voice. “See, the truth is, the thought of losing her terrifies me.”

I couldn’t imagine feeling that way about any woman. Amber had hurt me, but I’d gotten over the bitch, and as far as I was concerned, her cheating had only made me stronger. “Now I’m intrigued. I can’t wait to meet her,” I said, as Layla, one of the other strippers, began moving toward us on the stage.

“Hey, Tail,” she said, smiling down at me from the stage. “How’s it hanging?”

My eyes drifted over her perky tits, down to her round, little ass. I’d had her before and she was a crazy-woman in bed. “Looking at you? It’s hanging all the way across the room. You and a friend could play jump-rope with the woody that I have right now, sweetheart.”

Carter snorted.

Her eyes moved down to my crotch. “Sounds dangerous. We should take care of that, so nobody trips over it.”

I smiled. “We definitely don’t want to send anyone to the E.R. tonight.”

Giggling, she hopped off the stage and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go into the back,” Layla said, pulling me out of the chair. She glanced at Carter. “Hey, honey. Did you want to join us?”

“No. I think I’ll sit this one out. But, thanks for the offer,” he said, smiling.

“No problem. Hey, Jenna!” she called, to another stripper who was getting off of Hoss’s lap. She nodded at me and then pointed toward the back room.

Jenna smiled and nodded.

“Both of you?” I asked. “Is this going to cost me?”

“This is a freebie, love. Both of us have wanted to get you alone for a threesome for quite some time now.”

My dick sprang to life. “Really?”

“Yes. Mm… let’s go, big guy,” she replied, running her hand over my zipper.

“I’ll be back,” I told Carter as she dragged me away. “Probably in less than thirty seconds.”

He laughed.

For the next twenty minutes, Layla and Jenna reminded me of why it was good to be single and why two mouths were better than one. When we finally walked out of the back room, Carter was still smoking his cigar.

“How’d that go?” he asked as I sat down next to him.

“I’m just lucky that I made it out of there alive.” I stuck my right index finger near his nose. “By the way, that was Jenna.”

Laughing, he pushed my hand away.

“Wait. I’m not done.” I shoved my left finger near his nostril. “That’s Layla.”

“Fuck you,” he said, pushing my hand away again. “Two chicks at once. Only you.”

Smiling, I squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll be back. I’m going to go and wash my hands.”

He sighed. “Great. Now my shirt smells like Layla’s pussy.”

“No, that was Jenna’s,” I answered, laughing wickedly.

He pretended to kick me as I stood up. “Get the fuck out of here. Good thing I’m not going home tonight.”

“Good thing my balls are intact and I’m not ever afraid to go home.

He flipped me off.

IT WAS JUST after four a.m. when we finally made it back to my place. We’d gotten a ride from one of the new club prospects, which Carter had vowed to become, by the end of the night.

“Seriously, those friends of yours seem pretty cool. In fact, I wanna join your club,” he slurred as the SUV turned down my street. “You think they’d take me?”

I laughed. “As much as I’d love to have you in the Gold Vipers, you’re not quite… club material.”

“What does that mean?” he asked, looking hurt.

“I’m not trying to insult you,” I said, knowing that he would never actually attempt to join the club anyway. That it was the alcohol talking right now. “It’s just that your life is on a different path right now and besides… Barbara would freak the fuck out.”

He slunk back into the seat and sighed. “You think I’m pussy-whipped, don’t you?”

“There are worse things in life to be,” I said. It was late and I didn’t feel like getting into it again. “We’ll talk about you joining the club tomorrow, if you’re still interested.”

“We will. You’ll see. I wanna join.”

I just grinned.

The prospect pulled into my driveway. “Have a good night,” he said.

“You, too. Thanks for the ride, Dover,” I replied, patting him on the shoulder.

“No problem,” he said and nodded toward Carter. “You need help?”

I glanced over at my friend, who looked ready to pass out. “No. Hey, Carter. We’re home.”

He yawned. “Okay. I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open.”

“I can see that,” I said. “You’re not used to partying late, are you?”

“What do you think?” he asked, opening up the door. “Bye, Dober.”

“It’s Dover. Catchya later, man,” replied the prospect.

Carter waved and then proceeded to fall out of the SUV.

“Shit,” I said, getting out on my side. I hurried around the truck as Carter made it to his feet. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said, brushing off his pants. He gave me a sheepish smile. “And possibly a little hammered.”

I grinned. “Then our mission was accomplished. Just try not to break anything on the way in. And I’m talking about your bones, not any of my shit.”

He hiccupped. “I’ll try.”

Dover left and as we were stumbling up the driveway, a white Mercedes pulled up to the house.

“Oh, shit,” said Carter.

A blonde woman got out of the vehicle and from the look on her face, I knew it was the woman who owned his balls.

Barbara stomped toward us. “Where in the hell have you been?”

“What are you doing here?” asked Carter, trying unsuccessfully not to sway. He was so drunk that he ended up stumbling in the process.

“Oh, my God, look at you!” she snapped, a disgusted look on her face.

“What’s wrong?”

She clenched her teeth. “You said you were going on a road-trip and there wouldn’t be any alcohol this weekend. Now I find you drunker than a skunk and smelling like…” she leaned into him and scowled, “cigars and… God knows what else.”

“Relax. He was a good boy,” I said.

She turned to me and a look of shock registered across her face. “Oh, my God, Tail?”

I blinked. “Yeah?”

She stepped closer and it was then that I recognized Carter’s fiancée. I’d hooked up with her at a kegger a couple of years before. The sex hadn’t been memorable, but the dozens of phone calls and texts from her afterward had. It had been annoying as all hell. I’d ignored all of them and finally, she’d stopped all together. I had no idea that this was the same person or that she’d been Lauren Macey’s sister. Needless to say, this situation was getting more awkward by the moment.

“Oh, hey,” I said, forcing a smile. “How’s it going?”

She flashed me a brilliant smile, her anger suddenly gone. “Good. How’ve you been?”

“Great.” I put my arm over Carter’s shoulder. “So, you’re marrying my friend, here. Congratulations.”

“Yes. I had no idea that you two knew each other.”

“We grew up together,” explained Carter, trying to stand up straight. “How… how do you two know each other?”

Barbara blushed. “Well, we–”

“Have actually met a few times,” I interrupted. “It’s a small town. I just had no idea that you and Lauren were sisters.”

“Oh, you also know her?”

“Yeah, all three of us graduated together,” I replied.

“Funny, Lauren never mentioned you before,” said Barbara, studying me. “Did you two ever date?”

“No,” I said, noticing that some of the neighbor’s lights were turning on. They were nosy fucks, but they wouldn’t dare call the cops on us for disturbing the peace, if they indeed thought we were. “I haven’t seen Lauren for a very long time. How is she?”

“Good, I guess. She’s living in Minneapolis.”

“Nice.” I yawned. “I don’t know about you two, but it’s late and I’m bushed. Carter, are you leaving or staying over?”

“He’s coming home with me,” she said firmly.

I looked at him.

“What she said,” he answered.

“Okay. Look, don’t be too angry with him,” I said to her. “It’s my fault he’s hammered.”

“Is it also your fault that he smells like cheap perfume?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

“You have nothing to worry about. Carter didn’t do anything wrong.”

“He got drunk,” she said, her anger returning. “And lied to me. That’s wrong.”

“Again, my fault,” I said. “Don’t be angry with him.”

Our eyes held and it almost felt like there was a power-struggle happening between us. Not in the mood, I gave her a lopsided grin. “They’re blue.”


“My eyes are blue. Your fiancé knows. I’m sure he’s spent hours staring at them in the yearbook. He’s always had this ridiculous crush on me,” I explained.

She smiled and shook her head.

“Hey, let’s go,” said Carter, suddenly looking green. “I need to lie down.”

Barbara rolled her eyes and then looked at me. “I guess we’ll be seeing you on Friday, for the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?”

“Actually, I can’t make it,” I replied.

I had some club business to attend to, and in all honesty, the less I saw of Drew, the better. I’d be there in the church for Carter, but there was no way in hell I’d sit down to dinner with his asshole brother.

“That’s too bad,” she replied, pretending to pout. “I was hoping you could meet the rest of the wedding party before the ceremony. I know it would mean a lot to Carter, as well.”

“She’s right. You’re my Best Man. Hell, still my best friend,” he said, looking suddenly more sober than he had all night. “But, if you can’t make it, bro, I understand.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said, hating the disappointment in his eyes. I just wasn’t sure how civil the dinner would be if I had to stare across the table at Drew. My knuckles still itched for another piece of him.

“Hopefully, you can come. Let’s go, Carter. Before you throw up all over Taylor’s driveway,” she said, pulling him toward the car.

“You have some kind of bag in your car, in case I… get sick?” he asked, looking green.

She sighed. “I think so. If you throw up in the car, you’re buying me a new one, Carter. You can never get that smell out.”

“Whatever,” he muttered.

Good thing he was loaded. “See you two next weekend,” I said, yawning.

“Yeah. Call me,” answered Carter, before disappearing into her Mercedes.

“I will.”

“It was nice seeing you again,” said Barbara, opening up her door.

“You, too,” I answered, even though I would have preferred to not see the woman ever again.

She gave me a look that said she didn’t really believe it and then got into the car.

I watched them drive off and then went into my house, grateful that I wasn’t the poor sap getting shackled to Barbara.

Chapter 3


AGAINST MY BETTER judgement, I found a way to make the dinner party on Friday, which was held at Carter’s parents’ golf club. When I arrived at the clubhouse and stepped into the large, five-star restaurant, it felt as if all eyes turned to look at me. Feeling like an outsider, I scanned the tables, ignoring the haughty glances of some of the patrons. Jensen was a small town and I recognized a couple of the people dining, who apparently recognized me as well. From some of their expressions, it was as if I had the word “blue-collar peasant” stamped across my forehead.

“Hey, man,” said Carter, who came up behind me. “You made it.”

Relaxing, I turned to him and smiled. “Carter. Sorry, I missed the rehearsal. I got here as quickly as I could, though.”

“No problem. I’m just happy you could make the dinner.” He shook my hand with a big grin. “I almost didn’t recognize you. You look good in that monkey-suit, by the way.”

I looked down. I’d purchased it for a funeral last winter, and it was the only one I owned. “Thanks. I’m counting down the minutes until I can take it off, though,” I answered, tugging at my shirt collar. I was a T-shirt guy, all the way. The tie and buttons were driving me crazy.

He nodded toward a group of tables in the back, where the wedding party was seated. “From the look on some of the bridesmaid’s faces, you might get some help with that later.”

I glanced over and also noticed a couple of the women staring at me. I recognized one as being Lauren Macey. She looked even better than I’d remembered.

“Damn,” I said, smiling at her. “You sure you’re marrying the right sister?”

“Lauren’s beautiful,” he admitted. “But that ship sailed away a long time ago. I have no regrets, though. If things had been different, I may have never gotten a chance with Barbara.”

I wasn’t sure what he saw in his fiancée, especially seeing the two women seated together. Barbara, with her dyed blonde hair and caked-on makeup looked almost plastic compared to Lauren’s natural beauty. With her sparkling green eyes, high cheekbones, and long reddish-brown hair, she seemed even more stunning than I’d remembered.

“So, you won’t mind if I hook up with Lauren?” I murmured, thinking that the night was getting more interesting by the moment.

He laughed. “Good luck with that. I heard it’s still just as hard to get down her pants,” Carter answered in a low voice, as we approached the table.

“Hello, everyone. Sorry I’m late,” I said, looking around.

It was a big wedding party, with seven bridesmaids and their accompanying groomsmen. Then there were the in-laws, and other family members.

“It’s no problem at all,” said Barbara. “We’re just glad that you could make it.”

“Me, too,” I said and then nodded at Lauren. “Hi. It’s good to see you.”

“You as well,” she said, staring up at me.

“We’ll have to catch up later. It’s been a long time,” I said, giving her a smile that usually made women drop their panties.

“Sure,” she replied, still studying me. “If you’d like.”

It wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for and the look in her eyes was unreadable. I tried thinking back to our last conversation and wondered if I’d said anything to offend her.

“Taylor,” said Carter’s mother, Mitzy, smiling radiantly. She was sitting next to Carter’s old man, Charles, who as usual ignored me. “How wonderful that you could make it. I’ve missed you.”

I smiled back. “Thanks, Mitzy. How’ve you been?”

“Fabulous,” she answered and then patted the empty chair next to her. “By the way, I saved you a seat.”

“Thanks,” I said, hoping that she wouldn’t try and monopolize me all evening. Fucking Mitzy had been a one-time thing and I wasn’t about to go down that road again. Not when there were other roads more interesting and less traveled seated nearby.

I was greeted by a couple of the other groomsmen as I walked around the table. Two guys I’d went to high school with, but hadn’t spoken to in years. All of us were being polite, but I knew some of Carter’s friends thought they were, and always would be, better than me. I didn’t really give a fuck, however. I loved my life. I loved my club. And… I still loved Carter. He was the only reason I was there.

The server arrived as I sat down next to Mitzy. I ordered a beer and pulled at my tie again, fighting the urge to remove it, along with my jacket.

“You look so handsome tonight, Taylor. You also look ready to bolt,” she murmured softly, a small smile on her face.

I chuckled. “No, I’m fine. So, things are going well, huh?” I replied, changing the subject. “It’s good to hear.”

“Honestly, I have never been happier,” Mitzy answered loud enough for Charles to hear.

“Really?” I said, noticing the irritated look on her ex-husband’s face. He was such an asshole that I couldn’t help but be happy for Mitzy.

She held out her left hand and there was a large diamond ring. “I just got engaged, by the way.”

My eyes widened. “You did? Congratulations. Who’s the lucky guy?”

“His name is Fernando Alvarez. He’s an actor. You’ll meet him at the wedding tomorrow,” she said, her eyes sparkling.

“And where is this fiancé of yours?” asked Charles, interrupting our conversation.

She smiled coolly at him. “He’s working, but, he’ll be flying in from Venezuela later this evening.”

“An actor, huh?” I replied. “That’s cool. Have I seen him in anything?”

She turned back to me. “I’m not sure. Right now, he’s in this weekly series called “Asesinato. Fernando plays a detective.”

I didn’t recognize the name of the series. “Is it on one of the Spanish stations?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yes. The show is very popular, I’m told. I was able to watch them film an episode last month. He’s an incredible actor.”

“Nice. How did you two meet?” I asked.

“We met at a dinner party in Chicago, about six months ago. He pretty much swept me off of my feet,” she said, taking a sip of wine.

“I’m happy for you. You deserve it,” I said, as the server brought me my beer.

“Thank you,” she answered and lowered her voice. “Carter just found out about it last night. Our engagement.”

“He must be happy for you,” I said, glancing toward Carter, who was now talking to Drew on the far side of the table.


I hadn’t even noticed him when I’d walked in. He looked thinner and his hairline was beginning to recede. That made me grin.

Drew must have thought I was grinning at him and smiled back. I looked away.

“He’s… worried. He thinks we’re rushing things,” she said, staring at her wine glass.

“Are you?” I asked, still feeling as if marriage was a complete waste of time. This would be Mitzy’s second time at the altar, and she obviously hadn’t learned her lesson after marrying Charles.

“When you get to be my age and you find someone who makes life worth living again, timing isn’t as important. Besides, he wants to get married and I don’t want to lose him.”

“He’s in a rush to get married?” I asked, surprised. I thought that it might have been Mitzy.

“He’s a very passionate man,” she replied. “And has never been married.”

“How old is he?” I asked, curious.

“Forty-two,” she replied. “Close to my age.”

Charles snorted on his drink.

Mitzy turned and glared at him. “Just because I’m not half his age, doesn’t mean that he finds me less desirable,” she said coldly.

His face turned red. “Don’t start, Mitz.”

I quickly placed my hand over hers and leaned close. “Hey, as far as I’m concerned, you’re the most desirable woman at the table. Charles is obviously an idiot and maybe even a little blind, by the looks of his date,” I whispered.

It was true. Charles’s date might have been much younger than him, but she wasn’t a very attractive woman. Not only did she use too much makeup, but her teeth were yellow and she looked anorexic.

She relaxed and chuckled. “You lie but I still adore you,” said Mitzy, looking delighted.

“I think I’ve already proven that statement wrong a while back,” I reminded her. “Hell, if you weren’t happily engaged, I’d show you again…”

Giggling, Mitzy elbowed me playfully in the ribcage. “Oh, you!”

I looked over and noticed Lauren staring at us, her eyebrows raised. I winked at her and she quickly looked away.

“Lauren looks beautiful tonight, doesn’t she?” asked Mitzy, noticing the exchange.

“She certainly does.”

“The two of you will look amazing together when you walk down the aisle.”

“She’s my partner?” I asked, smiling in spite of myself.

She grinned. “I knew you’d approve.”

“I’m definitely not complaining.”

“I didn’t think you would,” she replied and then smiled. “Oh, here comes Drew.”

I turned and found myself staring up at Carter’s older brother.

“Hello, Taylor. Can we talk?”

I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but reminded myself to be civil. “Sure,” I said, wanting to get it over with.

“Let’s go to the bar. I’ll buy you a drink,” he replied as I stood up.

Mitzy looked at her watch. “It’s getting late. Taylor, what would you like for dinner? If the waitress comes back, I’ll order for you.”

“I’m a steak and salad kind-of-guy. Surprise me,” I replied, even though my appetite was beginning to wane now that Drew was near.

She picked up the small menu. “Okay.”

I followed Drew to the bar and he bought a round of Lemon Drop shots.

“I remember these used to be your favorite,” he said.

I shrugged.

“Listen,” he said, as we waited for the bartender to pour the shots. “I know you probably still want to kick my ass all the way to Canada…”

“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling my right eye begin to twitch.

Drew studied my face. “You’re not sore about Amber anymore?”

“To tell you the truth, I’m over it,” I lied.

He frowned. “No you’re not. You’re still pissed and I don’t blame you. I was an insensitive piece of shit. I should have realized that even if you two were broken up, she was off limits.”

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