Home > Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(5)

Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(5)
Author: Carian Cole

He holds his arm out to me again, and I nervously hook mine through it, causing him to smile.

"I can't let my little brother's future wife walk to him alone, now can I?"

Why can't I have a father to do this with me? Or a sweet older brother like this guy?

Tears well up in my eyes while I think of my parents, who were never parents at all, and a brother who used me.

Asher leans close to me and whispers in my ear. "No worries, Asia. You're getting the family you always wanted."

Before I can reply, the music starts, the doors open, and we drift down the aisle like we're in a dream. I feel as if I'm outside my body, watching myself, disconnected. Everyone turns to watch us come down the aisle. On the left, my side, are a few couples I don't recognize sitting with Kat's boyfriend and the team. But my side isn't empty like I thought it would be. Like it should be.

And the right side, his side, is packed with smiling faces.

It takes me a minute to realize what's so odd about what I'm seeing around me.

Most of the male guests have really long hair. And piercings. And tattoos.

Holy shit, did I walk into a rock concert? What the heck is going on?

As we approach the altar, my eyes land on Kat first, who gives me an overly excited thumbs-up, which seems really inappropriate to me at a time like this. I mean, this is a wedding. I think?

Asher disengages his arm from mine, kisses my cheek, then turns to his brother and gives him a quick hug before retreating to his own seat behind us.

"May I introduce you?" the female officiant asks, her voice cheery. "Asia Jenson, meet Talon Valentine. I'd like you to join hands."

I don't recall moving my hands, but soon they are engulfed in large, warm ones with callused fingertips.

The officiant's voice sounds a million miles away as I slowly look up to meet my future husband's eyes—which are the same deep, rich brown as his brother's, only with a mischievous, sexy glint.

Oh, God.

This is not my dream man.

This is like rock star hippie Tarzan.

His dirty-blond hair is long, almost as long as mine, flowing down over his shoulders to his chest. He's not wearing a tie, and the dress shirt under his tux is unbuttoned at the top, exposing tattoos on his chest.

This isn't what I described in my application.

His lips are moving, but I can't hear him over the screams in my head. Soon a ring slides onto my trembling finger.

Did I say I do?

The officiant asks me to repeat the vows and I do, my voice robotic.

What am I doing?

Kat hands me the platinum band and I slide it onto his finger, noticing the tattoo design on the top of his hand as I do so, a sugar skull with dark roses around it. No way does this guy work in a corporate office, as I always pictured my husband to be doing.

"…you may kiss the bride!"

Wait. What?

He leans toward me, and at the last second, I freak out and turn my face and his lips land on my cheek. The guests all start to laugh and cheer.

Rewind. Please rewind. Go back to months ago when I agreed to this mess and undo this.

"She's really shy at first," Kat jokes to the guests, her hand on my back. "Kiss him!" she whispers in my ear.

I can't.

He takes my hand and leads me away from the altar, down the aisle past all the guests who are cheering and patting him on the back and smiling at us.

I need to get out of here.

Kimberly meets us at the door. "Come with me," she whispers and leads us back to the small parlor room where I got ready earlier.

This must be the part where she tells us there's been a horrible mistake. Thank God.

"Okay, so I know you two are excited and nervous and all sorts of other scary feelings, but rest assured, that is all completely normal." She smiles at us. "The rest of the guests are going to move to the reception room for drinks and appetizers. You two will have about half an hour alone in here to get to know each other a little, and then the photographer will come here to get you. He'll take some pictures and then you'll join everyone in the reception hall for dinner." She clasps her hands together. "You guys make the best couple. I'm so excited for you! I'm a huge fan, Talon!"

Fan?

"Thanks, babe," he replies casually.

Babe? Did he just call her babe?

"Can you bring Kat in here?" I ask, fidgeting with the ring on my hand. "I really need to talk to her."

Kimberly shakes her head. "No, I'm so sorry, Asia. Dr. Hollister insists the bride and groom be alone for this time. You'll be able to talk to her soon, though. I'll go out and tell her that you want to see her as soon as you're able."

What the hell? I want my best friend. Now.

Kimberly leaves and I stare at the door like it's a portal.

"I need a fuckin' drink," Talon says, heading to the small bar in the corner. "You want a drink, Amber?"

"It's Asia."

"I was close. What'll you have?"

"Just water, please."

"Water? That's a first."

My dress feels as if it's gained fifty pounds since our vows, like it's dragging me off my own feet. I slowly sit on the couch and eye him nervously as he pours himself a drink and then brings me a bottle of water.

"Thank you," I say politely.

He leans against the wall, slowly sipping his drink, staring at me intently, and I do the same back. He's got some incredibly sexy dark eyes, and even with a tux on, I can see he's got a muscular body.

"Well, this is more fucked up than I thought it would be," he finally says, grinning.

I nod in agreement. "Yeah." I have no idea what to say.

"Do you know who I am?"

I shake my head. "No. I don't think so. Should I?"

His full lips curve into a sexy, albeit sarcastic, smirk. "Most people do."

"Are you an actor?"

"No, but you're getting close, honey." He finishes off his drink and walks back to the bar to pour another one.

Christ. I hope he's not an alcoholic. I specifically asked for a nondrinker and made it clear during the interviews that it was very important to me not to be married to any sort of substance abuser.

I sip some of my water. "Look, can we not play games? This is nerve-racking enough. And I kinda don't like being with someone who drinks. At all," I say cautiously. "I put that on my questionnaire thing."

He stops midpour. "Are you kidding?"

"No, I'm serious."

"Can I ask why?"

I take a deep breath, not expecting to be talking about any of this now. "My father was an alcoholic. He used to get drunk and beat my mother and me. The mere smell of it makes me feel sick."

He closes his eyes for a few moments and then puts the bottle back down on the bar. "All right," he relents. "I can't argue with that, especially after I just agreed to love, honor, and obey. I guess I'll have water, too."

"Thank you," I reply softly. "So…who are you?"

He turns on his heel and saunters back across the room with a wicked grin on his face. He definitely knows he's good-looking and it's obvious he uses it to get attention.

"Talon Valentine," he says.

Asia Valentine. I test it in my head. My new name. "Well, I like my new last name. It's very pretty."

"You really don't recognize my name?" he asks in disbelief. "Or me? Come on."

Ah. An ego is emerging, it seems.

"No, I'm sorry." And seriously, I don't recognize this guy at all. He's not in any way the type of man I would normally ever be attracted to. He's way too wild-looking and has trouble stamped all over him.

Smiling, he shakes his head. "Well, they certainly did their job in making sure the girl didn't know who I was. At least they got that part right." Uh-oh. Sounds like I'm not what he ordered from the menu either. "I'm the guitarist in Ashes & Embers."

I choke on my water and it spews out my nose. "Oh my God, what?"

I wipe at my wet face with my hand, feeling like a total idiot. I look around for a box of tissues or something, but there aren't any.

"Here." He hands me a napkin from the bar.

"The rock band?" I ask in disbelief, dabbing at my face and hoping I haven't ruined the makeup job Kat spent almost an hour on.

"Yup."

No, no, no. This cannot be happening. I wanted quiet. Normal. Family man. Suit and tie. Someone stable, not someone wild and crazy.

Not a freaking rock star!

I close my eyes and shake my head, hoping maybe this will all go away. "Why would you want to do this? You're, like, practically famous."

This guy doesn't seem like the type who would want a wife—or have any trouble finding one if he did. This has to be some kind of PR stunt. I'm going to demand to talk to Dr. Hollister. Maybe even get a lawyer and sue for distress. I endured detailed interviews, questionnaires, meetings with psychologists and sex therapists for almost half a year for this. Months of my life—just gone. And now I'm legally married to someone who probably did this for publicity and not to find a life partner.

"Why?" he repeats, snapping a Zippo lighter open and lighting up a cigarette dangling from his mouth. "Truthfully? Because I wanted to be with someone who wasn't just interested in my dick."

Well, yeah. No problem with that, buddy. You can keep your dick over there.

Chapter 7

Talon

First, a fucked-up kiss.

And now, I can't drink.

Then, she's telling me I can't smoke in the room.

I've been with this chick for less than half an hour and she's already messing with my mojo.

I'm eyeing her from across the reception hall where she seems to be hiding with her friend, and having a meltdown, her hands flying as she talks, head shaking, while her friend nods repeatedly.

"Hey, man, she's beautiful." My brother Storm appears next to me, smiling from ear to ear.

   
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