The quiet, tinny voice of Billie Holiday crooned from the speakers, and I adjusted my tie as a tight, cold pinch invaded my chest. Why I’d offered Wilder my house for his pre-wedding rehearsal dinner party was yet another example of how, even now, after all this time, he could get me to bend over backward for him. I’d only moved in a few months ago, and between the long hours I’d put in for some of my newer clients in Atlanta, and the time I’d spent in New York, I could count on one hand how many times I’d actually slept here. Scanning the living room, the smell of fresh paint lingered in the air. Everything seemed to be in its place. Staged. I’d left the curtains open on the tall, wide windows. The pink sky a perfect backdrop. But this place, this huge, three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, with its high ceilings, and warm, brick-covered walls was wasted on me. A house for the modern family. But I was a family of one.
I chuckled at the sappy train of thought. Wilder getting married shouldn’t have me fucked up like this. I’d been around him and Jax enough to get over what I’d once had with Wilder. Which wasn’t much, if I was truthful with myself. We’d been friends with benefits, except I’d made the fatal error of falling in love with him. I’d thought time would help. Wasn’t that the cliché? Time healed all wounds. Complete bullshit. It had taken me three years to fall in love with him. How was eighteen months supposed to be enough time to move on?
“What’re you doing, baby?” Chloe draped her arms around my waist. “You okay?”
Big blue eyes framed between thick black lashes blinked up at me.
“Just thinking,” I managed to say as I took her hands and held out her arms. “You look stunning.”
Her red-stained lips split into a vivid smile. “I clean up nice.”
A real laugh rumbled in my chest as she flipped her long brown hair over one shoulder. “You look good in anything.” I ran my finger under the thin strap of her black dress, and she shivered. “Though, I think you look best in nothing at all.”
She laughed and shoved my chest. “You’re such a guy.”
I shrugged and kissed her neck. “And how is that a bad thing?”
She tilted her head, exposing more of her smooth, pale skin. “Anders… we have maybe ten minutes before people start showing up… don’t start something you don’t have time to finish.”
“Is that a challenge?”
Chloe sighed, and as she pulled away, a cute wrinkle popped up between her brows. “That was supposed to be a compliment.”
“Well, in that case…”
She backed away, grinning from ear to ear. “Stay.” She held up her hand and I laughed. “You know I never get this fancy. It took me forever to straighten my hair. I promise you can make me a mess later.”
“You can’t say something that hot and walk away.”
“I’ll make you a drink,” she said over her shoulder.
“Tease,” I hollered, and she laughed.
Chloe was sweet and sexy as hell. When I’d met her at a climbing gym six months ago, I hadn’t been looking for anything serious, but she was laid back and didn’t mind my crazy hours, or that I’d liked men too. Being bi-sexual sometimes freaked women out. It was nice to find one who didn’t seem to care. Especially since I hadn’t been able to get serious with another man after Wilder. I’d tried. Fucked a few guys. But it was difficult not to compare. Chloe was different. She was funny, and in truth, it was easy being with her. For one, my mother didn’t harp as much about children and starting a family. When I was with her no one stared at us or dropped slurs. I couldn’t say I’d ever cared what people thought of me. I should be able to love who I want without some asshole’s opinion on the matter. And my parents’ approval didn’t define my success or who I was as a man. But it was hard not to notice the world’s effortless support of my relationship with Chloe. No questions or dirty looks. Just blind acceptance.
I was about to head to the kitchen when the doorbell rang. My light mood shifted as a knot grew in my throat. I shook my head, irritated with myself. This was nothing new. Wilder and Jax were getting married. Today was a good day, I thought as the doorbell chimed again.
“Patience is a virtue,” I said as I opened the door.
“Patience?” Wilder raised a brow. “Isn’t that for boring people?”
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