Home > Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(6)

Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(6)
Author: Carian Cole

"What the fuck? That chick is not what I asked for." I sip my water distastefully. "She's already stomped her feet against me drinking and smoking."

"Well, that's a good thing, actually. You do drink a little too much, so I'll thank her for that."

I give him the side-eye. "She's not a fucking thing like what I asked for. I got ripped off."

He grins and shrugs. "I dunno. She kinda reminds me of Evie. She has that perpetually lost look. She's kinda adorable."

I almost spit my water out. "Adorable? I don't do adorable. I do models. I do actresses. I do sexy, long legs, and big tits. I do women who beg for me." I gesture at the little waif across the room who refuses to look at me. "I do not do that."

Storm's gaze follows mine onto her. "And where has what you've been doing gotten you? Hmm? It's time for a change, little bro." He puts his hand on my shoulder. "Do you think Evie was what I thought I'd fall in love with? I was just like you, chasing after the models, doing the friends with benefits thing and all that shit. But then she came along and bam, that was it for me. Give Asia a chance." He squeezes my shoulder. "She is your wife now."

Shit. Fuck.

I drink my stupid water and scan the room for my mom or Dr. Hollister or Kim or someone from the team, but of course, none of them is around. How convenient. I'm pretty sure those fuckers set this up on purpose, knowing this girl wasn't in any way my type, just to rile me up and see how it all plays out.

I make my way across the room, stopping a few times for a brief chitchat with a guest and finally confront my new partner. "You gonna hide all night?"

She looks up at me with her huge lavender eyes. Yeah, lavender. Not blue, not green, but a weird shade of light bluish grayish purple. They look like jelly beans in her head.

"I'm not hiding… I'm just talking to my friend Kat."

Her friend jumps in between us. "I love your music. I've been to, like, tons of your concerts."

"Thanks, babe."

"I've only been to one," Asia announces. "It was two years ago, though."

"She doesn't like crowds," her friend says apologetically.

"That'll hafta change," I say, eyeing Asia, who now appears to be trying to will herself to disappear. I grab her arm. "C'mon, jelly bean, let's do a slow dance." I gently tug her onto the dance floor so I can check her out up close without her friend fangirling all over me.

"Jelly bean?" she repeats as I pull her against me.

"Yeah. Your eyes are the color of candy. Are those real?" I put my arm around her tiny waist, noticing her head barely reaches my shoulder.

She giggles at me. Fucking giggles. "Yeah, of course they are."

"They look fake. I thought maybe you had colored contacts in."

She rests her hand on my shoulder awkwardly and my gaze drops to her chest, following the pearl necklace dangling there. Everything about her is so…small. "Nope…they're real."

She does have some beautiful eyes, so I'll give her a point for that.

"How old are you?" I ask, thinking she looks to be about nineteen or twenty, the same age as my little sister.

"I'm twenty-five, and you?"

"Twenty-six."

"I was w—"

We're interrupted by the photographer. "The sun is setting, guys. I'd like to get you outside by that little lake and get some pictures with the sunset behind you."

I think we've already had a few thousand pictures taken, but we trudge outside anyway to let this dude do his job. Just like the poses we did earlier, Asia is stiff, not relaxing against me and shying away from all the photographer's suggested photos of us kissing or in any way getting too close. Yeah, it's awkward to pose for a wedding photo with a total stranger, but she's not even trying. She could at least fake it so these pictures don't end up looking like we hate each other.

Fed up, I tickle her and she grabs at my hands, giggling, and I sneak a kiss on her lips just as the photographer snaps the photo. "Perfect!" he yells. "Best picture of the night."

"It's about time," I mutter under my breath.

"That wasn't fair," she says, finally smiling. "You totally caught me off guard."

"Get used to it, babe." I grin at her and grab her hand. "Let's go. I think we're at the part where we get to shove cake in each other's faces."

Chapter 8

Asia

Our suite at the hotel is absolutely beautiful and has obviously been prepared for us with the hope of romance and sexy times occurring. A bottle of champagne chilling in ice is positioned alongside a spread of chocolate truffles and fresh fruit, and a trail of red rose petals leads across the sitting room into the adjoining bedroom. There a king-size bed awaits, with a hot tub in the corner surrounded by scattered candles waiting to be lit.

Anxiety creeps over me like a dark cloud. I cannot sleep with him. Not tonight. My nerves are way too rattled, my heart way too heavy, my mind too freaked out with the reality of the situation I just committed myself to.

I try not to stare as he rolls his shirtsleeves up and unbuttons the front of his shirt, exposing his chest and abs—completely covered in tattoos, just like his arms. And although he's definitely good-looking in his own way, he's just not my type at all. I've never been attracted to men with long hair or body art. I have one very tiny tattoo myself, but it's only about an inch big and has special meaning for me. As far as men go, I've always been drawn to men with short hair, thin, athletic bodies, and stable careers. I guess I've always wanted the opposite of my father, who drank, partied, broke the law, and worked in construction. He always seemed dirty to me, even when he was clean. My father's rough exterior was a mirror of his interior. He was bad news, through and through. Even though my new husband isn't a criminal, he's way too raw and wild-looking for my comfort zone.

Again, I wonder if the team made a mistake and put me with the wrong guy by accident. That's the only explanation that makes any sense to me, because he's the complete opposite of what I described in all the forms they made us fill out.

Slowly sitting on the lone chair across the room from him, I reach down and pull my shoes off while he grabs an envelope from where it's resting on top of one of the dressers.

"This is addressed to us." He holds up the cream card with embossed writing. "Want me to read it?"

"Sure."

Opening the card, he reads off what it says. "Dear Talon and Asia, congratulations on your wedding day! This is the first step in what we hope is your forever as a happy couple." He frowns over at me. "You have the option of leaving for your honeymoon tomorrow to spend two weeks at a romantic getaway, or, if you both feel you need more time to get to know each other, you may postpone the honeymoon for up to two months. If you choose to postpone, then the next step in the process is to move in together as soon as possible. Please contact us if you need advice, and remember your journals and video chats. Also, please refer to the guidelines provided. Most of all, have fun and open yourselves to love!"

He tosses the card back on the dresser with a roll of his eyes. "I dunno about a romantic getaway, but I could use a vacation, someplace exotic," he says. "What do you think?"

No to all of that. "Um, if it's okay with you, I'd like to wait."

"Really? You don't want to jump on a plane tomorrow and go somewhere exciting?"

Shaking my head, I know I'm already disappointing him. "I don't think I'm ready for that yet. And I'm afraid of planes; I've never been on one."

His expression is a mix of shock and humor. "What? Are you kidding?"

"No. I've never traveled at all."

He sits on the bed and kicks off his shoes. "That's gonna have to change. I travel a lot with the band, and I wanted a wife to come with me sometimes, or at least go on vacation with me when I'm not touring."

I swallow hard as my stomach sinks. "How often do you tour?"

"Depends. We don't tour a lot like most bands do, only like two or three times a year, sometimes more, and usually not longer than a few weeks at a time. My older brother who's in the band has family obligations, so he can't be away for long stretches of time."

"So what happens during the tour? Where do we stay if I went? And what happens to me if I stay home?"

He shrugs. "If you go, then we stay all over. On the bus, in motels. It all depends. If you don't go, you stay home wherever we're living."

That sounds awful to me, living like a gypsy. Exactly what I didn't want, not having a solid home. "That's not really what I wanted. I like to be home, and I don't like being alone all the time. I was hoping for stability." My voice cracks as I realize all the reasons I wanted to get married are slowly going down the drain.

"You'll have it. Just different than you thought." He meets my eyes for a moment and his soften just a bit. "Hey, we don't have to talk about all this right now. It's been a long day; we're both tired and a little bit wacked-out over this whole thing. Let's just get some rest, and tomorrow we'll figure out where we're going to live and everything else. If you wanna wait for the honeymoon, that's fine. I'm not gonna force you to do anything."

I smile weakly. "Thank you. This is just harder than I was expecting, I guess."

"Agreed. I'm gonna take a quick shower." He rummages around in one of his duffel bags the hotel staff brought up while we were at the reception and then disappears into the bathroom.

Letting out a deep breath, I close my eyes for a few moments and try to calm myself. It will be okay. They put us together. They know what they're doing. Right now I can't fathom what we have in common—or ever sharing any kind of closeness with this guy—but the experts must have seen something in him that I can't see yet.

   
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