Tools of Engagement

Page 16

Her head fell back and he dragged his lips slowly up the smooth column of her neck, letting go of her chin in favor of drawing her tight against his body. Fuck, he was hard. Distantly, he heard some microphone feedback, the band hitting a bad note, and just assumed he was so horny, the whole damn party was being affected. No one was coming back here. God willing no one would come looking for them. Who knew if he’d ever get another chance like this with Bethany?

“Wes . . .”

He was already walking them further into the shadows. “I know, darlin’.”

“Wes, I need you.”

“Goddamn. Been dying to hear you say that.” Still in motion, his hands found the hem of her dress and lifted it to her waist, leaving it bunched there so he could greedily palm her backside. “Hard and quick, baby? That what you need?”

“Hard and—what?” She shoved him away. “Jesus, Wes. I didn’t mean I needed you for sex. Pull your life together.”

A full five counts passed before he realized Bethany wasn’t finally giving him the green light. Frustration and a whole lot of throbbing below the belt made his tone snappier than was warranted. “What the hell else do you need me for?”

His words were still hanging in the air when Bethany grabbed his elbow and started dragging him back toward the party. “Kristin. I knew she’d try and pull something like this. You have to help me stop her.”

“Stop . . . Stephen’s wife? Do what? Bethany, you bring me down there right now, I’m going to take someone’s eye out with this erection.”

She wasn’t hearing him. “My sister-in-law is nuts. And pregnant. She’s been pregnant for months and hasn’t told Stephen.” She pointed toward where the band was gathered and, sure enough, there was Kristin trying to pry the microphone out of the band leader’s hand. “She’s going to announce the pregnancy right here and now, the wacko.”

“At someone else’s wedding?” The urgency of the situation finally punctured his need for the woman beside him. Kind of. Okay, barely. “That’s pretty messed up.”

“Yes, it is. Thank you.” She looked down at the swell behind his fly and chewed her lip. “Can you get that thing under control?”

“It’s not a puppy, Bethany,” he said through his teeth.

“Sorry.” The only saving grace of this situation was the fact that she seemed impressed, her gaze continually returning to the scene of the crime. “Can I help?”

“I thought that’s what you were doing.” He dragged a hand down his face. “You putting our reputations in the hands of reality-show editors who can manipulate whatever they film to make us look like jackasses. I’ll think of that. It should take care of the problem in no time.”

“As if you need any help looking like a jackass,” she shot back. “And I knew you were coming to yell at me!”

The pretty blush he’d put on her cheeks was replaced by an irritated red and he wished he’d just kept his mouth shut. Blame the boner. More microphone feedback made its way to where they stood and Wes sighed. “You want my help or not?”

“I’m not exactly flush with choices.” She tapped her chin. “I’ll take Kristin. You cause a diversion.” She pointed to his—finally—subsiding hard-on. “A diversion without the use of that, please. I’d rather Kristin announce she’s having quadruplets.”

Wes winked at her while adjusting himself. “Now who’s possessive of who?”

Pink climbed her neck, her eyes following his movements. “Oh, shut up.”

He laughed and they started walking side by side toward the dance floor. “Is she really having quadruplets?”

“Probably. Just to show off.” She squared her shoulders. “Don’t let me down, Wes. I’m counting on you.”

Just before they parted ways at the edge of the dance floor, Wes snagged her hand and leaned down to speak beside her ear. “You look fucking beautiful tonight, in case no one told you.”

He left her standing with her jaw on the floor and slid seamlessly into a huddled group of women, who just happened to be Let’s Color, Faded Calf Tattoo, Green Bean Casserole, and Outlander Ringtone.

“What did you ladies do with my niece?” They stepped aside to give him a view of Laura dancing with Georgie. His laugh turned her head and she waved at him enthusiastically, creating a suspicious tug in his throat. “Well, ladies. Are we going to give them a run for their money or not?”

Wes spun Faded Calf Tattoo around, much to her delight, and then took the opportunity to check on Bethany’s progress across the dance floor. Lord. She looked ready to strangle her sister-in-law with the microphone cord, but Rosie had gotten involved, too, and appeared to be talking some sense into the pissed-off pregnant woman. Trying to hold up his end of the bargain, Wes twirled Faded Calf Tattoo one more time, then multitasked while she turned, dropping Outlander Ringtone back into a dip. Their antics, as expected, were drawing a lot of attention, even Bethany’s—and she sent him a small, secret, grateful smile that, dammit . . . had him thinking about her walking down the aisle in a wedding dress again.

Wes was just about to bring a third lady into the dance and really ratchet up the diversion when Travis, obviously oblivious to the drama, saved the day by casually plucking the microphone out of the band leader’s hand. “Excuse me, everyone. I have an announcement.” He smiled at the guests, seeming to notice for the first time that Kristin was two feet away, scowling at him. “Er . . . did I . . .”

“Nope!” Bethany said brightly. “Go ahead. Make your announcement.”

Bethany wrapped an arm around Kristin, who tried to dig in her heels, and escorted her out of sight.

“Okay.” Confidence restored, Travis lifted a pint of beer. “I just want to make a toast to my wife.” He stopped, his composure slipping again, his eyes developing a sheen. “Wow. First time I’ve gotten to say that. My wife, Georgette Castle.” There wasn’t a sound to be heard, save the wind rustling the trees in the backyard. “You made me the happiest man alive today. And I know you don’t need a single thing. I don’t, either, now that I’ve got you. But I can’t help wanting to give you everything in the world, so bear with me. Okay? Buckle up, baby girl, because we’re going to Italy. Tonight. Your bags are already packed.”

A gasp went up, followed by a loud cheer.

Somewhere outside the limelight, Kristin wailed miserably.

Wes laughed. A few minutes later, Bethany locked eyes with him across the dance floor. Slowly, some might say grudgingly on her end, they made their way back to each other, meeting in the center of the celebrants. They were the only ones who weren’t dancing, but there were almost enough sparks leaping in her eyes to qualify. After dancing with her behind the house, feeling her let go and breathe up against his chest, it was nearly impossible not to reach for her now. How could touching her be wrong when his hands felt empty without her?

“Thank you for the diversion,” she started.

He winked and it seemed to momentarily distract her. “Any time.”

“It occurred to me”—she crossed her arms at a very precise angle—“that I never asked if you were comfortable being involved in the reality show. If you want out, I’ll totally understand—”

“I don’t scare that easy.”

She inclined her head, her body sagging ever so slightly. With relief? “Then I guess I’ll see you on Wednesday.”

“I guess so.” She started to turn away, but he stopped her. “Hey, Bethany?”


The words seemed to come from the dead center of his stomach. “Maybe I could be the one thing you don’t overthink, all right?”

The music faded a little around them. Wes could see the pulse at the base of her neck going a thousand miles an hour, despite her collected expression. For a few moments, they were back behind the house and she was baring her vulnerabilities to him, but just as quickly, she snatched them back up with a sly smile. “Who says I think about you at all?”

Wes’s low laugh followed her back to the other side of the dance floor. Goddamn, she was something else. He couldn’t wait for Wednesday when he’d get the honor of matching wits with her again. Hell, just being around her. Seeing her, this time with the added knowledge of how she ticked. They were going to be on the same team. It would be an understood fact, if only for the time it took to renovate the house.

Although, for the first time, the finish line at the end of his stay in Port Jefferson was obscured by a fine layer of mist. A someday as opposed to a soon. With an alarmed shake of his head, he cleared the mist and went to find his niece, calling himself ten times a fool.

Chapter Nine

Bethany got to the site early on Wednesday morning and parked on the street, as they’d been advised to do via the furious rounds of emails that had arrived since the wedding. As of Sunday, she’d had zero clue how television productions came together.

Today she considered herself a reluctant expert.

Though she’d agreed to appear on the show, she’d nearly escaped her panic by reasoning there was no way the filming of a television show could be pulled together so quickly. Surely she’d be let off the hook.

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