Camille’s next call was to tell her boss she wouldn’t be in for personal reason, a family crisis. The conversation didn’t go well and he accused her of cutting her shift to play wedding with her sister. She almost quit her job but managed to keep her tongue civil, explaining there would be no wedding. She knew she wouldn’t be back after her scheduled days off because he would probably be waiting to fire her in person, so she downloaded everything from her Cloud. She knew she would need the evidence later to protect Mina’s baby in a custody battle with the Hightowers. She looked at the last batch of pictures to populate as they appeared in a folder on her hard drive. The images made her sick and suddenly her stomach flipped.
She barely got to the bathroom in time to throw up. In self-loathing and disgust, she stepped into the shower to wash the vomit off her chin and out of her hair. She shuddered under the burning water, thinking about the way she had let Kyle touch her, the way she had touched him. It had meant so much to her, but she realized now, it meant so little to him. Every word he said, every promise they made to each other two nights ago after the rehearsal dinner obviously meant less than nothing to him and she felt like such a fool. She felt like she had been raped again, but this time it was her soul, and the pain was worse because she let him. Crying in the shower until the water went cold; she promised herself she would never be vulnerable again.
Cami crawled out of the icy stream of the shower and lay on her bed; naked, wet, and shivering. She kept wishing her heart was as frozen as her body. She felt sick and so stupid remembering the first time she had met Kyle.
Kent and Mina had invited her along to see his father’s latest resort an hour from Cancun. They invited Cami because they knew she would spend her whole time diving the reefs and underwater caves while they toured the rainforest and ruins. Then they had headed to one of the other resorts the Hightower family owned to deal with a problem and left Camille alone.
The third evening, she had come out of the shower to find a stranger in the suite. Cami had punched him then almost attacked the devastatingly handsome man with a chair before he blurted out that he was Kent’s older brother. He was every bit as gorgeous as Kent and Kris. She had resisted the urge to shiver as his eyes lingered over her body and her tattoo, before she recovered from her shock enough to re-tie her robe. Kyle had apologized profusely for surprising her, and she had to apologize for dotting his eye.
They had dinner in and talked about their siblings and childhoods. She had listened sympathetically as he talked about the changes in his life brought on by his father’s sudden heart attack. He had been fascinated by the way she described her diving, and told her the only thing that would cheer him up was to watch her dive. He wanted to understand what she meant by ‘the fall’ of diving. At midnight, they had gone down to the resort pool and she had shown him what made her a medalist in both springboard and platform.
The next day, he had taken her to his favorite scuba diving spot. The day after they went diving, he had taken her to see the blue butterflies wintering in the rain forest. She had never seen anything like it. Thousands of blue butterflies were clinging on together onto the limbs of trees, fluttering and swirling on the afternoon breezes. He had smiled at her childlike wonder at as one crawled on her cheek and another clung to her hair. She had looked up at him and realized that his eyes were the same rich blue as the delicate feathered wings. He had walked toward her, as if in slow motion and then he had kissed her. It felt like ‘the fall’.
That night she had screamed his name as he almost passed out on top of her from the intensity of their passion. When they revived moments later, he kissed her in the tenderest way she has ever been kissed. They explored a world she had never dreamed existed or would exist for her. He treated her body and her heart with the utmost care. The next morning he had kissed her senseless in the airport, then told her that when he finished with this current job, he would see her at their siblings’ wedding.
Kyle had seemed so sincere in his attention and Cami had believed in his affection and honesty. Believed it enough that he was the first man she had willingly given herself to, and not once but twice. They had texted and called for two months. At the rehearsal dinner, she had longed for the practice wedding to be over so she could be in his arms. She had worn a stretch velvet dress that showed off her curves and her cleavage, but most of all, her butterfly tattoo. Neither had slept that night, and he had kissed her tenderly before taking a cab back to his hotel.
It was the last time she saw him before he had flown out with his brothers for Kent’s bachelor party. Laying on the bed he had made love to her in, she curled into a ball and cried again. The part of her heart that had just started to flutter to life on fragile butterfly wings was crushed completely.
She picked up her phone as soon as the sun peaked over the horizon.
Her old college roommate and most trusted friend was a videographer now; she had a small company she ran with her spouse. Violet had made birthday and holiday videos, and had made video compilations documenting Camille’s competitions for her. Tomorrow she was supposed to be filming Mina’s wedding and hosting the slide show for the reception, but Camille now had something else in mind for her talented friend and the cheating Hightowers.
“Cami, what’s wrong?” Violet’s voice was firm and alert in spite of the early hour. Cami could hear Nicky mumbling in the background...
“The wedding is off. Can you log into my cloud account and make a video to replace the one you already made. I know it’s short notice but I need it. I’ll send you the ID and password again if you...”
“What the F* is this sh*it?!?!?” Violet Marston almost shouted, interrupting Cami, “Oh, I will kill him. I’ll kill them both!”
Cami cut off her profanity laden tirade. “Get in line. Violent Vi. Beau called dibs. I am going to get revenge on the Hightowers but I need your help to pull this off.”
Violet had gone by the nickname Violent Vi in college after what had happened to them at the hands of Violet’s philandering ex-boyfriend, Ron, and his friends. As a mixed martial arts practitioner, she had severely beaten Ron as soon as he made bail and again before the trial that sent him and two of his buddies to jail for drugging and sexually assaulting them. The college had managed to keep the case out of the media, because the girls had been injected with a sedative one of the assailants, a medical student, had stolen from a hospital where was doing his residency through the school’s medical department. It was a severe breach in ethics.
The University also kept it quiet because Camille, the school’s star diver, was headed to the Olympics in a few months’ time, and her being attacked in her own dorm room brought under scrutiny the school’s ability to protect the Olympian and all female students. The University president and board were desperate to keep the bad publicity to a minimum.
“Anything you need, Doll,” Violet declared. “I just can’t believe that Kent cheated on Mina, and Kyle, he seemed so into you… I guess they are just like Kris,” Violet said harshly.
“I know, but there’s the proof. I need these recent pictures added the end of the slide show, but nothing too r-rated because there will be kids at the wedding reception. I want to show the Hightower boys how badly they screwed up and show everyone how they were caught. I want them to be humiliated. Keep the opening five minutes, the engagement ones, and then these.”
“I’m sorry about Kyle. I know you liked him,” Violet sounded truly regretful, all she wanted was for Camille to find someone to love her the way she was loved by Nicky.
“Don’t be, now we know what they really are. I want a video so they will never be able to get a date they don’t have to pay for again.” Cami hissed. “I want all their family and friends to know what kind of whore-mongering jerks they are.”
“The words you’re looking for are ‘F* ing bast ards’... Jeez! You can’t even swear when you should,” Violet snarled. “We’ll have to fuzz out the breast and... Seriously?!?! They had one wearing your tatt.” And Violet went off on a stream of language that would defy even the translation skills of the Urban Dictionary.
Nicky took the phone from Violet, a calm voice came over the tirade in the background, “Revenge video, I love it. We’ll get right on it. You don’t worry about a thing; we’ll make sure your sister gets avenged and you get your revenge.”
“Thanks Nicky. I have another call, I love you both. See you later today,” And Cami switched over. “Hello?”
“Camille Wallace? This is Officer Meyers with the Highway Patrol...”
Kent scowled at his phone; his only text message from Mina didn’t make sense to his hung over brain.
‘Can’t see the Bride until the Wedding.’
It was an auto-response that came back on every text he sent.
He never should have agreed to spend his bachelor party in Vegas with Kristoph. His head felt like he should just cut it off. He couldn’t actually remember talking to Mina since before they went out yesterday. Kent missed her face, her smile, her voice, her everything. His head just hurt thinking about the last two days. Kris had kept them drunk almost the entire two days, partying like the 22 year old he was. Kent was grumpy about his new phone and that it didn’t have any of his pictures of Mina.
Oddly the cloud account he shared with Mina and her sister was unavailable, so he couldn’t even upload the ones he’d lost when his phone was stolen. He thought about calling Camille for help but his fiancée’s sister was working at the call center till 7 and would definitely be pissed. Cami wasn’t happy about the Vegas bachelor party in the first place, probably because she didn’t trust Kris as far as she could throw him, which would be into the closest pool to drown him.
“What’s the matter, little brother?” Kyle asked, the eldest of the Hightower brothers felt just as bad as Kent but he wasn’t going to let it show. “Need a little hair of the dog?”
“I think I have hair on my tongue, I don’t think I will ever remember last night or yesterday. I am never going to drink again,” Kent groaned. Kris was asleep in the back of the passenger cabin of the family jet, snoring like a mower.
“Mina says I can’t see her till the wedding, what does that mean?” Kent held up the message for Kyle to read.
Kyle chuckled, “The groom isn’t supposed to see the bride the day before the wedding or it’s bad luck.”
Kent glanced at his phone again, scowled at it and then asked, “Have you heard from Cami?”
Kyle tipped his head back trying to find a comfortable spot. He hated flying when he was hung over. “Why would I hear from Cami?” Maybe if he pretended he wasn’t madly in love with her, Kent would drop it but he had no such luck.
“Oh maybe because A- you really like her, or B- you spent a fortune on a custom blue diamond ring, or C- you practically carried her out of the rehearsal dinner like a jealous lover?” Kent wiggled his eyebrows then groaned, “Oh gawd, even that hurts. Seriously, check and see if she messaged you.”
Kyle, thinking about the clingy stretch velvet sheath that made Camille look like a mermaid, responded evasively, “I don’t think she messaged me but I’ll check. She wasn’t happy about us going to Vegas with Kris, I think she hates him.” Kyle unlocked his phone and smiled at the screen picture. Camille surrounded with blue butterflies. She looked so beautiful as she stared upward at the swarm. Those had been the best three days of his life until three nights ago. He had never regretted a trip to Vegas so much as he regretted this one.
“The feeling’s mutual, but he likes my Mina, so you get that particular in-laws problem all to yourself.” Kent smirked at his brother.
Kyle snapped, “Fine, all of the above, but I couldn’t stand the way Kris and Rand were looking at her in that dress.”
They both frowned at the message.
‘We can see you boys.’
It was late last night.
“Maybe she meant ‘We can’t wait to see you boys.’?” Kent suggested.
Kyle texted Camille, ‘Hello Beautiful, I miss you, on the way back to Texas. Dinner tonight?’
While he waited he thought about when the text from Camille came, he didn’t remember his phone chiming. It would have been while they were at The Velvet Rope Club. Kris had insisted they go there for dinner and entertainment for Kent’s bachelor party. The girls were beautiful, good dancers, and the food was decent. Kyle normal could hold his alcohol very well, but after dessert everything got fuzzy.
This morning, he woke up in their suite, barely able to stomach breakfast. A knock at the door had boomed like cannon fire. He was grateful he had managed to shower before he had passed out last night. He had the strangest dream about Camille and it left him unsettled. The person at the door was not nearly as pleasant as thoughts about the woman he was going to ask to marry him at tomorrow’s reception.
“Thinking about our guest this morning,” Kent asked softly, “How long can we keep taking care of things for Kris?”
“I think we need to have an intervention, get him into a program,” Kyle suggested just as quietly.
“Only if he’ll be willing to go, but I think we need to stop bailing him out. His gambling is...” Kent started but stopped when Kyle’s phone chimed.
‘Sorry, I am keeping the bride company in a secret location. See you tomorrow.’ Cami typed back.
‘But you aren’t the Bride, I need to see you.’ Kyle typed back.
Her response was immediate: ‘What is good for the bride, is good for the maid of honor. No more bad luck. ’
‘Just a few minutes? I need to ask you something, please.’ Kyle responded, thinking about the blue diamond solitaire with white gold butterflies on either side, which rested in a gray velvet box in his pocket. The Bella Largio jewelers had made it in record time. He couldn’t wait to put it on Camille’s finger.
His phone chimed. Cami’s reply: ‘See you tomorrow, just keep your brother busy tonight. A limo will pick you up tomorrow.’
‘Okay, I’ll keep Kent busy. You owe me a kiss, my butterfly. I love you.’ Kyle sent back, and then gave his brother the news, “You’re out of luck, Kent. The girls are on lockdown till the wedding.”
“Fine.” Kent groaned and tilted his chair further back. “I need more sleep.”
Camille responded cheekily, ‘Of course you do.’
Kyle put his chair back too, he was tired and hangover. He was also wondering what had happened last night, he’d never gotten blackout drunk. Toward the back, he could hear Kris snoring and shook his head. Still worried about his youngest brother’s gambling problem, the eldest of the Hightower sons fell asleep. Neither Kyle nor Kent heard from the women they loved that night.