Home > The Reception (The Wedding From Hell #2)(2)

The Reception (The Wedding From Hell #2)(2)
Author: J.R. Ward

And he had ended up with the bride breaking and entering into his apartment and propositioning him for sex.

Not how Danny had intended the night to end.

“You want to go inside?” he asked Anne.

“Not if I have to go hang with those women.”

“You’re in a tux, remember. You’re one of us groomsmen.”

At any other time, he would have thrown a casual arm around her shoulders, but not today. Not after he’d kissed her. Not after that speech he’d made to her, and not to the couple, at the rehearsal dinner.

“Yup,” she said, “I’m just one of the guys.”

Not even close, he thought as they started walking together.

They had been instructed at the rehearsal the night before to enter the cathedral at the side door and head down into the basement, as the women would be gathering and getting their pictures done in the rear. Danny held the way open for Anne, and as she went by him, he looked down at her.

Her tuxedo had been cobbled together at the rental store, the jacket, shirt, and cummerbund a boys’ version of the ones the men were wearing, her slacks a small men’s size to accommodate her long legs.

She looked way better than any of those pink-clad girls with their spray tans and crimped hair.

Man, there was something sexy as hell about a woman in a tuxedo. It made him want to take off all those clothes and find the female underneath.

With his hands. His mouth. Parts of his own body.

Falling in behind her, he tracked the way she moved, her hips a subtle sway, her sun-streaked hair swinging loose, the jacket over her arm.

He wanted her naked. Now.

He wanted in her. Now.

He wanted . . . everything from her.

Now.

But this was not the time or the place, and he was getting worried there would never be either. It was rare to get four days off for R&R, and Danny had a feeling that if he didn’t come out with how he was feeling during this time away from work, they were going to go back to the station on Monday and return to the grind of alarms and rescues and recoveries . . . and this cusp would turn into a closed door. A lost opportunity.

A road never taken.

And he wasn’t sure he could live with that.

The stairwell was right in front of them, and the red-carpeted steps creaked as they descended into the cool, damp lower level. Stone walls and a low ceiling made him think they were in the cellar of a medieval castle, and as they headed for the voices coming out of an open room, they passed by brass plaques donated by families with Irish last names.

He had been down this hall all his life, it seemed. For Sunday school. Catechism class. Before First Communion. Youth group.

His mother’s funeral. His father’s.

His twin, John Thomas’s, who had died on fire service three years before.

Guess that made him an orphan, assuming someone who was almost thirty could be classed as such.

The corridor opened into an area that seemed to take up half the cathedral’s footprint. With more of that blood red carpeting, and a lot of carved oak furniture, and shelves crammed with leather-bound books, the place smelled like beeswax candles, incense, and old stuff.

The other groomsmen were all there, Jack and Mick, the other roommates, and Emilio, Deshaun, and Duff from the 499 stationhouse, talking and laughing.

Moose, the groom, was off to the side, and as Danny entered with Anne, the guy looked up.

For once, he wasn’t jovial. Joking. Jocular.

He was subdued in his tuxedo, a pink rose on his lapel, his beard newly trimmed, his eyes bloodshot and baggy’d.

Danny’s first thought was what had happened the night before in the dark. When the bride had dropped her dress to the floor, and made him an offer that had been very, very easy to decline.

Shit. The cat was out of the bag.

Chapter 2

As time passed slowly in the cellar of the cathedral, Danny kept an eye on Moose. The guy continued to stay on the periphery, pacing in circles and keeping his eyes on the floor. And in response to his mood, everyone else went equally quiet, the tension growing.

Taking a seat on a settee that had all kinds of velvet cushions, Danny rubbed his face and felt like he was making a mess out of everything. The wedding. Moose. Anne.

He’d never had many regrets. But this Deandra shit was turning into a problem. They’d had a casual hookup that she’d tried to turn into more six months ago. When it hadn’t gone any further, she’d jumped ship to someone who would fall in line.

See also: Mr. and Mrs. Moose.

Moose had been all too ready to become a shoulder for her to cry on, and things had progressed fast from there to the jewelry counter at Macy’s. And as those two had gotten together, Danny hadn’t given any other thought to Deandra, even as the woman had started coming around the apartment at all hours of the day and night.

He’d been too busy thinking about Anne to take anyone else seriously.

But after last night, he had to wonder what his obligations to Moose were?

At least he hadn’t done anything wrong, Danny reminded himself.

As the settee creaked, he looked over and sat up straight. “Anne.”

She seemed to gather herself before she spoke, crossing those long legs in those tux slacks, undoing the button on the jacket.

“Listen,” she said softly, “I think you need to talk to Moose. Something’s really wrong and if he doesn’t want to do this, he needs to say so and put a stop to things.”

Danny stared into her eyes. And pictured the two of them doing this not as support troops, but the real deal, her all in white, him in this penguin suit.

“Hello?” she demanded. “Did you hear what I said?”

He looked across at Moose. The guy was leaning against the wood paneling and staring down at his shiny black shoes. “Yeah. I did.”

“You’re the only one he listens to.”

Between one blink and the next, Danny went back to being in his bedroom the night before, naked under his sheets, his in-and-out-of-consciousness all about Anne.

When a female shape had come through his door, he’d been confused—and aroused, thinking it was Anne. But then the perfume that was all wrong had made its way across the still air, and he’d realized the hair was too blond.

That dress Deandra had been wearing at the rehearsal dinner had been up-and-over’d quick, hitting the floor with a soft rush.

I want you, Danny, only you.

He’d told her to get the fuck out, but Deandra didn’t listen to anybody when they were talking shit she didn’t want to hear. And then she’d told him all about Moose going to that strip club and cheating on her.

So of course, why not fuck your fiancé’s roommate in retaliation. Classy.

But I love you, Danny. Only you—

“You’ve got to talk to him,” Anne repeated. “This is wrong.”

I’d rather talk to you, he thought as he got to his feet.

“Okay.”

He didn’t want to get involved, but last night had put him at the front of the line for issues those two needed to work on. Besides, he had some fucked-up idea that if he did the right thing by his roommate, maybe he would deserve Anne a little more.

“I’ll be right back,” he said to her.

As he walked over to Moose, the guy didn’t look up. “Hey, can we talk?” Danny asked.

There was a long pause, and then Moose shook his head from side to side. “Nope. I’m good.”

“You sure about that?”

“Yup.”

“Come on, Moose. This doesn’t feel right to a lot of us.”

“Feels right to me.” The groom shrugged. “She’s what I want.”

Then why did you go to the strip club the night before last? Danny wanted to say. With a wallet full of condoms?

“Maybe just put things off for a little while. Take a break. Shit’s moved really fast.”

Moose stroked his beard. “Yeah, and you know all about that, don’t you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

A couple of the other guys glanced over, and going by the way they changed their stances, they were waiting for a fight to break out. Then again, everyone knew about Danny and the Deandra thing. Except for Anne.

   
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