“You’re way too short to wear something that poofy,” Amy advises as she sips champagne and sits in a velvet armchair in a corner of the boutique dressing room. “You look like a cupcake.”
Asia tries not to laugh from her chair in the other corner.
“I’m going to wear heels,” I protest.
“I wouldn’t. You’ll break your neck trying to dance.”
I throw Amy an exasperated look. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Just being honest. We all know you’re clumsy.”
“I can put flats on when we dance. Lots of brides do that.”
Asia nods, coming to my defense. “That’s a great idea. I can make them match the dress.”
After I try on five gowns, Asia stands, looks me up and down, and pulls a gown from one of the racks. It’s somewhere between mermaid and cupcake, and it fits me almost like it was made for me. It’s perfect.
“I can add the white faux fur trim, make a matching shawl, add a little bit of glitter for sparkle, and you’ll be a beautiful winter bride,” Asia says as she types all the details and my measurements onto her iPad.
I turn around and around in front of the mirrors, falling more in love with the dress as I picture it with Asia’s customizations. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of this: the beautiful dress, the man of my dreams, a home of our own.
“You look like a princess,” Amy says as she snaps pictures to send to Aria. “I’m not sending these to Storm, by the way. He can’t see it until you walk down the aisle.”
Good. I don’t want anything jinxing our wedding.
“Dude, your house is so close to mine you don’t even have to call me. Just yell and I’ll hear ya.” Talon looks out our kitchen window in the direction of his own house before giving Storm a friendly punch in the arm.
“Who are you kidding? You can’t hear shit,” Storm jokes.
Asia and I shake our heads. “Storm, that’s not funny,” I say. Brothers or not, it’s not okay to joke about Talon’s deafness in one ear.
“Yeah it is,” Storm says.
Talon shrugs and grins lightheartedly. “Trust me, Ev, I’m used to his abuse.”
“It’s not abuse, it’s tough love,” Storm replies.
“We should get going.” Asia leans her head against Talon’s chest, and I smile when he puts his arms around her. It always warms my heart to see how similar the brothers are. Talon and his wife, Asia, are the cutest couple, and we’re excited to live in their neighborhood and spend more time with them. “I’m sure Storm and Evelyn are exhausted from moving and want to finally relax in their new house.”
Storm winks at me from across the kitchen. “We’re going to christen every room when you guys leave.”
My insides flutter. This house has a lot of rooms to christen: four bedrooms, six bathrooms, two offices, a kitchen, a formal dining room, a living room, and a great room, plus a finished basement with a guest suite. The house seems huge now, but we both want two kids someday and Storm wants room for his family to be able to stay for visits, like they all do at Gram’s house. I honestly couldn’t be happier about that.
“Call me if you need any more help unpacking tomorrow. I’ll be home all day,” Asia says as we walk them to the front door. “And as soon as you’re settled, we want you guys to come over for dinner.”
“We’d love to.”
After they leave, Storm leans against the front door and smiles at me. “Alone at last in our home sweet home.”
Home. I love the sound of that. “I think we’re going to be really happy here.”
“Damn right we’re gonna be happy here.” He cups his hand behind my neck and pulls my lips to his. “Let’s go to bed, baby. Tomorrow we’ll test out all the rooms.”
“That sounds perfect to me.”
On our way upstairs, Storm picks up Halo. He carries him to our room and gently places him in his cat bed next to my side of the bed. Niko curls up on the floor beside him, just as he’s been doing since we all became a family.
“Baby…stop messing with the curtains and sit with me. We gotta talk about something.”
I turn from the cream valance I’m trying to drape just right around the window to find him sitting on the bed. He’s all boy-next-door cute wearing gray sweatpants and a white V-neck T-shirt that has a burn hole in it from when he used to smoke. The absence of his usual smile immediately makes me feel unsettled. Especially just two days after we moved into our new house together.
“What’s up?” I climb down off the chair and cross the room to sit next to him.
“Remember when I promised I’d never lie to you? No matter what?”
“Yeah…” A flash of fear shocks my body. There’s no way a good conversation is going to come from a prelude like that.
“I lied to you. Once. A while ago.”
My heart seizes, and I stare at him until my vision blurs and I see two of him sitting in front of me.
Oh my God.
Here it is.
Everything I was afraid of.
He’s a player. A liar. He’s got ten kids scattered across the country. He doesn’t love me at all. He’s got an STD that’s now squiggling around inside me. Soon I’ll be itchy and choking on antibiotics, or I’ll be a stepmother to a baby that looks just like the band’s most avid groupie, Juggsy.
He grabs my hand. “Evie…breathe. You’re turning blue, baby.”
“I’m scared,” I whisper.
He takes a deep breath. “I am too. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I hate when you’re mad at me. I just don’t want it sitting in my head anymore, eating at me.”
“Okay. Please just tell me.” I don’t want him to tell me at all. I’d rather rewind back to ten minutes ago when my biggest worry of the day was how to make the curtains look like they did in the picture.
But he’s going to tell me, and the curtains will probably never look right.
“Remember that first night you came to my show with Michael and Amy?”
“Yes.” How could I forget that night? It was the first time I ever saw Storm in his element, strutting around on stage with his guitar, flashing his sexy smile at all the women grabbing at his feet and screaming his name. He sang a song for me on stage and turned me into a puddle of emotion. Then he went down on me in a storage room with hundreds of people outside the door, including my best friend and my boyfriend at the time. It wasn’t one of my best moments.
It was one of my best orgasms, though.
The guilt and frustration of that night made me act like a bitch, and Storm and I had a fight. And then he—
“I didn’t get a blowjob from Jill,” he blurts out. “I was drinking, and I was pissed, and I wanted to make you jealous. I wanted you to want me so fucking bad, and you pushed me away. I had to sit there and watch you leave with that asshole.”
“B-But you said—”
“I know what I said, but it didn’t happen. She tried, she was all over me…and I got rid of her. That’s when I texted you. I went home alone. Totally blowjobless.”
I exhale with relief, but my heart is still racing in my chest. “So nothing happened that night with her?”
His green eyes, usually so bright and full of life, are dark and troubled in a way I’ve never seen them look before as we stare at each other; because he really cares.
Because under the long hair, the tattoos, and the confident, flirting stage persona is a man with an honest soul and a heart of gold.
“You promised you’d never lie to me,” I remind him. Of course this is a lie I can live with, one I’m even happy about. But after finding out I was unknowingly living with a liar for years, I need to know it won’t become a habit with Storm.
He grabs me and drags me into his arms. “I know. It was one time and it’ll never happen again. You have my word, baby. I know that doesn’t make it okay. But I felt like I had to push you a little into staking a claim on me. Nothing else was working. I’d hit a low point.”
I rest my head against his chest and circle my arms tightly around his waist. “You have no idea how jealous I was. The thought of another woman touching you made me feel crazy and sick.”
“How do you think I felt watching the woman I’m crazy about leave with another guy?”
“I’m sorry. I felt like shit about that. But you knew it was a messed-up situation when we met. Having feelings for you blindsided me. The entire situation sucked.”
“It sucked bad.”
I sigh and kiss his chest, directly over his heart, and let my lips linger there against the thin material of his shirt. “I’m so glad you didn’t do anything with her that night.” I say softly.
“Me too. But lemme ask you something…if I hadn’t lied to you that night, do you still think you would have decided to leave Michael and be with me?”
I don’t even have to think about the answer to that question. “Yes. Definitely. You already had my heart, Storm. You were right though. The jealousy pushed me over the edge a lot faster.”