“Let’s do it. Make it official.” Taylor jumped up and grabbed a safety pin from her desk. “Stick out your hand so we can do a blood pact.”
“You’re freaking me out. We’re not the kids from IT. I don’t want a scar on my hand.”
She grabbed his hand impatiently. “I’m just going to prick your finger.”
He raised his thick dark eyebrows, which gave him an adorable Groucho Marx look. “Why are we doing this again?”
“Because you’re important to me, Pierce. You’re my best friend. My ride or die. I never want us to jump into bed on impulse and ruin the best relationship I’ve ever had. Okay? Are you with me?”
His features softened. “You’re such a dork,” he said with affection. “Be gentle.”
She made the strike short and quick, then repeated the move on herself. They lifted their index fingers in the air, pausing a few inches away.
Their gazes met and locked.
The air shimmered with a current of energy.
They said the words together, their voices melding in perfect harmony.
Then touched their fingers together.
A hot bolt of fire shot through her body, crackling into a shock like she’d just touched a wet electrical outlet. She gasped and jerked back, her finger throbbing.
He yanked his hand away, glaring at her. “Hey, I told you not to hurt me!”
“I didn’t.” She stared at him, cradling her wounded hand, but when she shook it out, there was just the tiniest dot of blood from the safety pin. The air in the room eased, and she breathed deep. Probably the alcohol. She was imagining things. “Sorry, I must have pressed harder than I thought. I’m still tipsy.”
His face relaxed, and he grasped her wrist loosely. “Come on, let’s sleep it off.”
They cuddled together on the bed, fully clothed, her head tucked in the crook of his shoulder. “Pierce?”
“Where are you going after graduation?”
His heart beat steadily against her ear. “I want to get into photography, so maybe I’ll take on an assistant position. Learn some stuff before I branch out and do my own work. What about you?”
“Anywhere but Cape May,” she murmured sleepily. “I want to travel. London, Paris, LA. I feel like the entire world is out there ready for me to explore and conquer. Do you feel that way?”
He was quiet for a while. “Not really. I like Cape May; it’s my home. I wouldn’t mind settling back there if I had a place and work that was all mine.”
“Not me. I’m never going back.”
She drifted off to sleep with big dreams swimming in her head, the future mapped out like an adventure with buried treasure at the end of every path.
Until a few months before graduation, when her mother called.
Bella’s husband had been killed in an accident, leaving Taylor’s sister alone with a newborn baby. Things had fallen apart, and she was needed.
So she went home and learned that some dreams weren’t meant to be.
“We have a problem.”
Taylor turned to the frantic MOH—maid of honor—and knew this was going to be bad. They were already well into the reception, and everything had been running smoothly. Had she really believed they’d get through this evening unscathed?
Dammit. It was Friday the thirteenth. She’d known it would be bad luck to book a wedding, but her sisters had laughed at her superstitions and had practically bullied her into taking it on. Her stupid sibling pride had once again overridden her good sense. Next time, she’d stick to her beliefs, no matter how her sisters teased her.
She arranged her face into the fake calm that was critical to keeping panic to a minimum. “I’ll take care of whatever it is. Tell me.”
The MOH, dressed in an awful pink fluffy dress that had been chosen specifically to make her look uglier than the bride, mashed her fingers against her poppy-pink lips. “Susan found her husband banging one of the waitresses in the bathroom and is going apeshit. They’re over there.” She pointed out a small circle of three people at the back of the room, near the wedding cake. “I don’t know what to do!”
Taylor’s brain flickered past the endless scenarios that all spelled F-U-C-K-E-D. “Where’s the bride?” she asked.
“Over by the bar.”
She’d taken this one on alone, so she had no assistant to lean on. She mentally ticked off the top three actions of the wedding planner creed:
Contain the problem.
Keep the wedding couple blissfully unaware.
Smile and don’t panic.
“Patty, I need you to keep her at the bar. Do shots. Tell jokes. Anything you need to do to keep her attention. Okay?”
The MOH gulped, nodded, and took off.
Taylor stopped by the DJ and instructed him to start the popular coordinated dances. In seconds, most seats were empty, guests enthusiastically dancing to the “Cha Cha Slide.”
With determined strides, she headed to the knot of people consisting of an emotionally distressed wife, a guilty husband caught with his pants down, and a nosy bridesmaid with a satisfied smirk. She pegged the problem right away: meandering cheater hubby had previously nailed the bridesmaid. The cheater looked a bit like Chris Hemsworth and probably liked using his hammer with different partners. Susan was young—Taylor estimated her age to be around twenty-two—and emanated shocked hurt.
Halfway there, Taylor caught Pierce’s gaze. He lowered his camera from taking candid shots of the dancers and mouthed the words All okay?
She shook her head and gave the thumbs-down signal for code red.
His expression matched hers. God, they’d just wanted an easy evening so they could get home at a decent hour, crack open a couple of beers, and shoot the breeze for a bit. He tucked his camera under his arm and headed over.
“Why would you do this to me?” Susan asked in a broken whisper. “At my friend’s wedding?”
“Baby, I didn’t do anything! I had a stain on my pants, and she said she could get it off with seltzer. You are completely overreacting.”
Taylor’s fingers automatically clenched into fists. God, she wished she could deck him. But she kept her cool, smoothly inserting herself between the couple. “Susan, I think you need some space and privacy. Why don’t we go into the bridal room and discuss?” she asked in a low voice.