Copyright © 2013 Erin Nicholas
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“Let’s do a blow job.”
Allie started to clarify, but Crystal grabbed her hand and towed her to the bar. A moment later, a shot glass filled with a creamy brown mixture and topped with whipped cream appeared magically before her.
Whipped cream was a good sign.
Allie shot the drink back, sighing happily as the sweet liquid went down.
“You like a good blow job once in a while?” Matt asked with a wink.
“Of course,” she said, winking back. Or at least she thought she winked. She might have blinked at him instead. She giggled and Matt laughed.
“Josh is a lucky guy,” he said.
Yeah, Allie thought. Josh was a lucky guy. She was quite a catch.
She stumbled as she turned and started back for the dance floor.
“Whoa, babe.” Crystal caught her by both elbows. “You okay?”
“I’m great!” Allie announced. She was sure her words sounded slurred only because it was so loud in here. “I’m getting married tomorrow!”
Crystal laughed. “I heard that somewhere.”
“And he’s the best,” Allie insisted. She pivoted and grabbed a beer from the waitress as she passed.
“He is, definitely,” Crystal agreed.
Allie drank, then shuddered, then spread her arms wide. “Gavin is the only man I’ll ever want.”
Crystal froze, her eyes widening. She was still holding on to to one of Allie’s arms, which was fortunate because Allie felt a little off-balance.
“Al?” Crystal said, getting closer so she could lower her voice. “What did you just say?”
Allie frowned at her. “I said Josh is the best.”
“And then you said Gavin is the only man you’ll ever want.”
Allie shook her head. “No. That’s not funny.”
Crystal squeezed her arm. “I know. It’s really not funny. What are you talking about?”
Dammit. She should have never pulled that letter out last night. Allie closed her eyes and groaned. She’d been so pissed at him, so hurt. Her mom had died, it was absolutely the blackest time of her life and Gavin hadn’t even called. He certainly hadn’t showed up. He hadn’t done a damned thing.
Then two weeks after the funeral she got a letter. Handwritten. Seeing his writing again had made her almost crack. She’d been holding everything together just fine. She hadn’t cried, she hadn’t broken down, she hadn’t thrown anything, she hadn’t told anyone to just leave her the fuck alone and quit asking if she was all right. She’d been composed and calm, she’d gotten everything taken care of, she’d gotten everyone taken care of.
She’d been fine. Until that letter came.
She’d almost lost it.
Instead, she’d read it once, folded it up and stuck it in her bedside table under some old CDs and a box of stationary. Then she’d forgotten about it.
Except that wasn’t true. She’d pulled it out three times. She’d put it back without reading it twice. But last night she hadn’t been able to resist. She’d read it. Four times.
And now he was so on her mind that she was screwing everything up. Of course.
“I didn’t mean it,” she told Crystal, shaking her head.
Allie immediately regretted that. Her head swam and she grabbed Crystal to keep from tipping over. She should have worn flats tonight instead of the high-heeled boots.
“Allie, you just…you can’t be thinking about him,” Crystal said. “What about Josh?”
“It’s normal for people to think about their exes,” Allie told her, hoping it was true. “We’re getting married. That’s a huge deal. It’s natural to think about your past relationships. I’ll bet Josh is thinking about Devon.”
Devon Grant was Josh’s most serious ex. He’d been completely in love with her. If she had been willing to move to Promise Harbor, he’d be married to her right now. For sure.
Devon and Allie had been as close as sisters at one time. In fact, Devon had met Josh through Allie. Allie had been thrilled that her two best friends had fallen in love.
And then real life and obligations and divergent paths had come between Josh and Devon too.
She didn’t know every detail about their breakup. Josh hadn’t wanted to talk about it, and Allie and Devon had drifted apart when things had gotten bad with her mom and things had gotten bad with Gavin…and things had just gotten bad.
In the end, it seemed to Allie that she and Josh just weren’t destined for true love forever.
So they had each other. As always. It seemed fitting in many ways that they would end up together. She couldn’t remember a Christmas dinner or a birthday celebration without him. So why wouldn’t she agree to spend those events with him for the rest of her life?
They were…comfortable. They could completely be themselves. There were no secrets. They loved each other. Maybe not madly and passionately, but they had each other’s backs. That was more than a lot of couples could say.
“Even if he is, he’s probably not announcing it to the bar. You need to take it down a notch,” Crystal said with a frown. “Let’s go dance.”
Allie went along, mostly because Crystal was still holding on to her and Allie wasn’t sure she could stay upright on her own. She drank more of the beer and liked that it was more bitter than the blow job or the pink stuff. She was feeling a little bitter herself.
She drank again, swaying to yet another love song. This one was “Amazed”, by Lonestar. Her bridesmaids were just going down the list of the sappiest love songs of all time. But she found herself singing along. And thinking of Gavin. They’d danced to this song.
They’d gone to high school together. They’d graduated in the same class and had known each other. The harbor wasn’t big enough to not know everyone in your graduating class. They’d even flirted.
He and Jason Simpson had sat behind her and Devon in chemistry senior year. He’d cut in on her date at the homecoming dance and at prom. Every weekend from January until May he’d asked her to a party. She’d always said no.
But he’d never asked her out on a real date. Which was fine. She would have said no to that too. He was a bad boy, a rebel. She was a good girl who followed all the rules. He dated casually, if at all, and was just out for a good time. She dated nice boys, one at a time, and never did more than French kiss.
It was so cliché—the good girl fascinated by the bad boy—it was pathetic.
Then they’d gone away to college and hadn’t seen each other again.
Until that party their senior year of college.
She’d been in love with him since then. She was now twenty-eight. That party had been just before she turned twenty-two.
She tipped the beer bottle up, but found it was empty. How had that happened?
Suddenly the music died, there were shouts, then she could have sworn she heard, “Move. Police,” followed by a loud crash.
“Oh my god!” Bernie gasped. “Jackson Knight just hit Hayley Stone.”
Oh, that was just perfect. Allie felt her head throb. The best man in her wedding tomorrow had just hit a police officer. That was fantastic.
“What do you mean he hit her?” Crystal demanded.
“He was swinging at someone else but she stepped in. And she cuffed him,” Bernice said with delight.
Crystal went up on tiptoe, trying to peer over the crowd. “Man, I’d love to have Jackson Knight in handcuffs and at my mercy for an hour.”
“People are gonna be so pissed.” Bernie’s eyes were practically sparkling with the juicy news. “Jackson Knight is like a god.”
“But he hit a cop,” Crystal said. “She has to take him in.”
Allie straightened. Hey, wait a minute…
“Take him in where?” she asked.
Crystal rolled her eyes. “Jail. Duh. You can’t hit a cop.”
“Jail?” Allie repeated. “The best man at my wedding tomorrow is going to jail?”
Hey. Maybe that was fantastic. They couldn’t get married without a best man, could they?
“I’m sure he’ll just have to pay a fine or something,” Crystal reassured her. “It was an accident. And it’s Jackson Knight.”
Allie sighed. Yeah, yeah, Jackson Knight. The hot hometown hero. She was sure Crystal was right and Jackson would be out in plenty of time for the wedding.
The music came back up and the bridesmaids squealed and started shaking their stuff, the minidrama with Jackson and Hayley forgotten.
And Allie went right back to wishing for more liquor and thinking about Gavin. Not necessarily in that order.
“You know, maybe you should call him or something,” Crystal said over the music.
Allie turned from looking for a waitress to face her friend. “What?”
“Maybe you should call him. Just, you know, check in. Get your mind focused.”
“You think I should call Gavin?” Why did that sound like a great idea?
Crystal frowned. “Of course not. You should call Josh.”
“Oh.” She definitely shouldn’t feel disappointed about that idea. Josh was the man she was going to be calling for the rest of her life.
Gavin hadn’t even called her after her mom died.
She should not want to talk to him now.
And now that she was getting married? She definitely hadn’t heard from him. Did he know? Did he care? Obviously not. Obviously he’d moved on.
But if he were getting married—she felt a sharp stab in her chest at that thought—she’d call him. She had no idea what she’d say, but she would call. Maybe say something like “Congratulations” or “I wish you the best” or “Is she anything like me?” or “Do you ever think of me?” or “Don’t do it!”
Allie covered her face with her hands. She would not call and say any of that stuff if he were getting married. If he were getting married, it would mean that he was over her. Obviously.
But…what if it didn’t? Her getting married didn’t mean she was over him. It just meant that a really great guy wanted to make a life with her, a life that would be completely wonderful. She’d be an idiot to say no to Josh.
Josh would help her. Now that her mom was gone—another stabbing pain caught Allie in the chest, and she had to stop and breathe through it for a moment—her dad and brothers needed her more than ever. Almost too much. Someone had to help her with that, and Josh was the perfect one. He knew her family, knew their secrets, knew how to help. And he was here.Gavin sure as hell wasn’t.
Yeah. That’s why Josh was the best.
And everyone should know that.
Allie pulled her phone from her pocket and thumbed through her contacts. Gavin was the first G. She pressed his name and Call and waited for it to ring. She didn’t even know if this was still his number.
It went to voice mail. But it was definitely his voice mail.
His deep, familiar voice swept over her and she felt like crying.
Then the beep sounded and she got mad again. It was the middle of the night and she was calling him. Shouldn’t he at least be curious? If he’d called her she would most definitely be curious. She’d pick up for sure.If he was screening her calls, she was going to be pissed. Not that she would know. But still…
“Gavin,” she said. “This is Allie. I want you to know that you should be here. That’s what I need. You to be here. And I just thought you should know that. And you should know…all the other stuff too.” She felt like she was trying to see through fog. Nothing was clear. She wanted him to know…something. Something about…someone. Who? Crystal? No, he didn’t know Crystal. Maybe it was about her. Yeah, probably. “I want you to know that…” She frowned, wracking her alcohol-soaked brain. The next song started and Whitney Houston’s voice floated over her. Oh, she loved this song. It was old, but it was a classic love song. She started to sway, the phone still against her ear. She pulled the phone away and stared at it. Gavin. She’d called Gavin.
The man she wished was here, the guy she wanted to be at the end of the aisle tomorrow.
Her eyes welled with tears. He wouldn’t be, and she couldn’t call him again after she married Josh. This was her last chance to tell him what she really felt.
She started to sing along. “And I…will always love you…”
It was amazing how much she sounded like Whitney, Allie marveled. Really amazing.