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Authors: Steph Campbell,Liz Reinhardt

Riptides (Lengths) (15 page)

BOOK: Riptides (Lengths)
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I’m funny. I’m smart as hell. And I love sex. But no matter how much a guy might like me initially, I don’t have that sex appeal that can draw him in and keep his attention. My last serious boyfriend said we just had no chemistry.

My mother said he was still coming to terms with his homosexuality, and we were both idiots for neglecting to notice.

The problem is, I’d heard variations of that exact thing from guys more often than I like to admit, and my gaydar isn’t
that
off.

Anyway, part of the reason I don’t mind when a flirting session with a hot guy goes just a little too far is because I know for sure it’s actually not going anywhere. Enzo will have his eye on some sexier, prettier girl by the time cocktail hour is over, and I’ll just pray the food isn’t based around some weird health-food fad Jennifer bought into and that the music doesn’t totally suck. There’s always my gawky cousin Eddie to hang with when I wind up alone. He’s a totally unpretentious and enthusiastic dancer, and some of my funnest childhood memories include shimmying to the electric slide with him. Enzo was awesome to spar with for a few minutes, but guys that charming and hot have their pick of women, and I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of competing in the land of plastic surgery and physical perfection.

The white witch Jennifer found to conduct the ceremony——and that’s not a joke, the woman is an actual, practicing Wiccan——is binding Jennifer’s wrist to Dad’s with a hemp rope. I’m not listening to the actual ceremony because I don’t want there to be any random eye-rolling pictures that I’ll have to explain later. Jennifer didn’t want to use up any Napa Valley Sundays attending a church to find a minister to marry them, so she got a friend of a friend to find anyone who was willing to let them read their own cheese ball vows to each other. Since meeting her witchy officiator, she’s watched
The Craft
a dozen times and bought a lot of heavily scented candles that she burns incessantly. Mom says she’s easily influenced, like all weak-minded people.

I wonder if the marriage is even valid.

I guess anyone can get an online degree to officiate if they want. I stare down the long white silk runner littered with red rose petals and don’t focus on the words that will bind my father to this woman. Who’s not a bad woman. Not at all. She’s just not…my mother. The woman my father should still be with.

I’ve done such an amazing job of blocking every sound, I hardly notice when the cheers erupt from the crowd. From the corner of my eye, I see Dad lean in to kiss Jennifer, to finalize everything, and something deep in me fractures and crumbles. I elbow past the cat-calling bridesmaids, swatting my bouquet back and forth to clear a path. A few people notice when I run down one side of the aisle, my dress hiked up around my knees. My cousin Eddie calls my name and waves his arms over his head, but I can’t.

I can’t look at him and his dorkishly sweet face.

I can’t stop and see my dad’s look of total confusion and upset.

I can’t face the pout Jennifer will try to hide behind what she imagines is a look of motherly concern.

I thought I was strong enough to watch the last remnants of my family dissolve, but I’m not. What I am is overworked, broken-hearted, uncomfortable, and tired. So. Damn. Tired.

I don’t stop running until I come to a small clump of rogue pines with a low bench under them. The branches sway down and provide the perfect amount of cool, fragrant coverage. For the first time all morning, the sickeningly sweet scent of roses isn’t cloying at the back of my throat, and I breathe the clean piney scent deep into my lungs.

I lean back and let my head drop, squinting through the spiky-needled branches and into the rapidly setting sun. I tear my gloves off and gulp back sobs as I yank the five-hundred bobby pins out of my
French twist, dropping the small metal loops onto the grass. I’ve ruined any chance for pictures, but I don’t give a shit. For once.

For once I’ve rebelled. And it feels lame and mean. I can’t even focus on my own badassery, because I’m so zeroed in on worry about Jennifer. Who won’t give a damn if I’m in her stupid pictures. So why do I care so badly?

I let my head drop and the shuddery sobs overflow from my throat.

“Thought you might need this. I had you pegged as a
Gamay girl. Am I right?”

I squint through my tears, and there stands Enzo Rodriguez, a bottle of pinkish wine in his outstretched hands, that killer smile curling on his lips. He leans over and picks up one of my snowy gloves, puts the wine bottle at my feet, cups his hand along my chin, and sops up my tears.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, my voice barely a rasp. I startle when he drags his hand away, his fingers lingering along my jaw.

“Weddings can be hard.” He folds the glove, takes a seat on the bench next to me, bumping my ass so I’ll move over, and slides a silver foldable corkscrew out of his pocket. He flips it open and slices the foil from the top of the bottle, then screws it into the cork with precise movements. “It made me think of my little sister, Genevieve. Not so little anymore.” He smiles and shakes his head. “The girl was a wreck when she went to the wedding of our brother’s best friend. He’d been her crush. Like hardcore, head-over-heels crush since she was maybe six?”

“That must have been heartbreaking. For her to watch.” I take the bottle from his hand and frown, because I don’t really like Gamays. Maybe it’s because my mother has so little patience for younger wines. And this isn’t even from our vineyard, so I feel like a two-timing traitor. But I’m too polite to decline an offered drink, so I tilt the bottle back, and I’m surprised by how much I like the first sip.

There’s a pinch of sour cherries and a fresh-cut stone dryness.

“Not so heartbreaking in the end.” He raises the bottle and his eyebrow at me. “She was sad, sure. But they weren’t meant to be together. And now she’s with this guy who’s pretty damn perfect for her.”

“That’s very romantic,” I tease, loving the way the muscles in his neck work as he sips.

He passes the bottle back and shakes his head. “Maybe. I did threaten to beat the shit out of the guy on multiple occasions. But, since I’ve gotten to know him better, he’s really grown on me, and I respect that he’s so good to my sister. And when I saw you run? I thought of her. And I came to find you.”

I take another long sip, the dry velvet sweet on my tongue. “Thank you. I needed to break down like an ass for a minute. I appreciate the wine. And the company. But you are not losing your job because
I’m a drama queen.” I stand on shaky legs, not really ready, but ready enough to pretend. “We can go back.”

His eyes have this deep, starry sparkle. “I was paid to set that tent up and get everything put out. They’ve got a more experienced wine tender on bar. I’ll need to check back in a while to make sure stock is sound. But you don’t need to lie to me. You aren’t ready to go back, and I’d be happy to sit here and drink some wine while you tell me what’s really up.”

I start to laugh Enzo’s offer off. To protest that he needs to get back and so do I. To do what’s expected of me, the way I’m supposed to. The way I always do.

But he called my bluff. He saw through my best fake smile.

No one sees through that.

I take another long gulp. “That would be amazing.”
             

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Liz grew up on the East Coast, and Steph on the West Coast—and somehow they both ended up making their homes with their husbands and children in small, Southern towns. 

Liz
loves Raisinettes, even if they aren't really candy, the Oxford comma, movies that are hilarious or feature zombies, any and all books, but especially romance (the smarter and hotter, the better), the sound of her daughter's incessantly wise and entertaining chatter, and watching her husband work on cars in the driveway.

You can read her blog at elizabethreinhardt.blogspot.com, like her on Facebook, or email her at
[email protected]
.

*****

             
Steph
has one husband, four children, and a serious nail polish obsession. When she isn't reading, writing or wiping someone's nose, you can usually find her baking something.

You can find Steph on Facebook, @stephcampbell_ on Twitter, stephcampbell.blogspot.

 

 

More books by Liz Reinhardt & Steph Campbell:

 

LENGTHS (Lengths series #1)

DEPTHS (Lengths series #2)

LIMITS (Lengths series #3)

A TOAST TO THE GOOD TIMES

 

 

 

 

 

Books by Liz Reinhardt:

 

DOUBLE CLUTCH

JUNK MILES

SLOW TWITCH

INHERIT

FORGIVING TRINITY

FALL GUY

PERFECTLY UNMATCHED

 

 

Books by Steph Campbell:

 

DELICATE

GROUNDING QUINN

BEAUTIFUL THINGS NEVER LAST

MY HEART FOR YOURS (With jolene perry)

MY FATE FOR YOURS (WITH JOLENE PERRY)

 

 

BOOK: Riptides (Lengths)
10.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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