The noise of yelling and laughter caused me to toss and turn in the early morning. I groaned and slapped my hands against the pillows, pushing myself up and out of bed. Slipping into my robe, I stumbled down the stairs and found myself following the noise to the family room. Dax was surrounded by three men, all of them standing at similar statures and build. It must be true that attractive people stick together; all four men in front of me could’ve been mistaken for models. When I entered the room, they stopped talking and turned to look at me. I shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably under their stare.
“Oh, amigo mío, ¿has traído un pequeño regalo para nosotros?” One of them directed toward Dax, stepping forward to intercept me. He offered his hand to me and I hesitantly took it, shortly before I felt a familiar arm grab my waist and pull me backward. My backside met with Dax’s front as he placed a firm grip on my hip, keeping me in place at his side.
“Esta es Jane, mantendrás tus manos alejadas de ella, todos ustedes.” Dax nearly growled, his grip on me tightening slightly. I bit my lip, feeling out of the loop among the ethnic men and their conversation. Although I was beginning to pick up on some Spanish, I still would get lost in conversations longer than a couple of sentences. Dax’s attention refocused on me, his thumb rubbing a gentle circle into the fabric of my robe.
“Jane, these are my best friends: Angel,” The man whose hand I had almost shook waved with a smile. He stood just a few inches shorter than Dax, his hair pressed into a Nike baseball hat while he sported a black v-neck tee and a pair of maroon Chino shorts. “Benito,” A man behind Angel popped his head out as his name was called. His skin was a chocolate brown color, his eyes a warm amber. Benito wore a pair of black jeans and white t-shirt that had something printed in Spanish.
“Call me Benny.” He stated with a smile accompanied by a cheeky wink.
“And last, but not at all least: Chris.” The last man took a step forward, but what surprised me about him was that he was wearing a military uniform.
“It’s a pleasure meeting you, Jane,” He patted Dax on the shoulder, “I’ll catch up with you some more later, I need to see my wife.” He slipped past Dax and me, and walked down the hallway. Pieces of the puzzle started to fit together just as I heard a scream come from the other end of the house.
“I called in a few favors to have Chris home for a of couple days,” Dax chuckled, “I thought it’d be more fun to surprise Darcy than to have her in on it.” I grinned, my heart warming with his loving sentiment toward his family and their happiness.
“I can’t believe one of your best friends ended up with your sister,” I whispered to him in disbelief.
“That how they met, actually; through me. He pursued her from the time we were fifteen to seventeen, until she finally gave him a pity date - which worked out well, as you can see.” He nodded toward a frame on the wall that held a photograph of Darcy and Chris on their wedding day.
“Oh shit, we’ve got to run,” Angel knocked elbows with Benny, “We’ll see you tonight though, D.” Before anyone could say goodbye’s, the two men were out of the door. I cocked an eyebrow up at Dax as he turned me around to face him.
“Oh, yeah,” He chuckled throatily, “Our nickname in high school was the ABCD’s. Angel was A, Benny was B, Chris was C, and I was obviously D.” He placed his warm hand against my cheek, cupping my jawline gently. I leaned into his touch, fluttering my eyes closed in comfort. “They’re putting a party together to celebrate me coming home,” He placed a soft butterfly kiss to the base of my throat, “Come?”
By early evening, Dax had been called away by his friends to come to the party they had thrown for him. I opted for coming later with Darcy and Emilia, knowing she was the only person I was going to be talking to while Dax was busy catching up with everyone. When I walked into her bedroom, she looked me up and down with a frown.
“You’re wearing that?” She raised an eyebrow. I looked down at my outfit in confusion. A pair of shorts and a nice shirt didn’t seem awful to me. So when I shrugged, she rolled her eyes and rushed to her closet. “You’ve never been to a party down here, let me help you out.” She grinned at something she had found and turned to me. “Put this on.” I looked at the short hem and thin straps in utter horror.
“No way, I’m sorry but no.” I shook my head multiple times to convey my absolute answer. She pouted at me, putting her hands together in mock praying. “No, Darcy, no!”
Darcy was bursting with giddy joy was we walked up to the lit up barn just a few miles from the Rivera household. White fairy lights had been strung across the top of the building and led to the entrance. By the amount of cars parked in the field, there must have been hundreds of people coming to this party. Butterflies began to swarm in my belly, a light sheen of sweat spreading to my back. I stopped short of the entrance and debated whether I should go in or not.
“Are you okay, Jane?” She asked, watching me in worry.
“Yeah, yeah,” I laughed shakily. “It’s just... there’s a lot of people and I don’t know if this dress is really complimenting my body type-”
“I’m going to stop you right there. You look super hot, okay? There’s no way that Dax or any other guy will be able to take their eyes off of you.” She smiled and took my hand, gently tugging me forward, “Trust me.” So I followed her inside, finding the barn was completely renovated into a dance space, with hardwood floors, a bar, and a DJ. I spotted Dax from across the room wearing a white button up dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his lower half sporting a pair of black straight-legged Chinos. I looked down at my outfit one last time, attempting to gain confidence before I forced myself to walk in his direction. Darcy shot me a smile before leading the way. I felt my straightened hair fall down my back, the heels Darcy had borrowed me clicked against the floor, announcing my presence.
I took a small drink from the bottle in my hand while my friends brought me up to speed on what had happened in the last two years I had been gone. I missed them, I missed this. When I had lived here in my youth, nights were always like this. Simple.
“Obviamente no invitamos a Camila-” Angel stopped short, his eyes and what seemed to be everyone else’s, were on something else. Someone else. I turned to their line of sight, my eyes catching with hers. Straight dark brown hair shining under the light of the barn we had rebuilt as teenagers, her lips glossed and glowing like a delectable piece of dessert. My eyes defied my honorable judgement and slipped down her body. The white dress clung to her mesmerizing curves like it depended on them.
“Mierda.” I whispered, trying to snap out of my trance.
“La pequeña mamá tiene un culo” Benny chuckled, to which I had to resist the urge to punch him in the mouth. I strode forward, my jaw clench as drew nearer. Taking a deep breath, my insides melted in reaction to her scent and I wanted to get lost in it. She smiled shyly up at me, her hands folded together innocently in front of her, causing her cleavage to practically spill out of the low cut ensemble.
“Por el amor de Dios.” I grumbled, pulling her hands apart and placing them at her sides. Her eyes searched my face in confusion, but I quickly pulled her away from the main crowd. She struggled to keep up with me in heels that I didn’t remember packing for her, what happened to all the shorts and t-shirts I had packed for her? Where did this come from? We came to an ill lit corner of the barn and I struggled to keep my thoughts together.
“What are you wearing?” I manage to choke out, biting my lip.
“I was wearing something else, but Darcy didn’t think I would fit in wearing what I had picked out so she borrowed this to me for tonight,” She looked down at her feet, “It looks bad, doesn’t it.” I let out a shaky breath, laughing to myself in disbelief.
“Are you kidding? You look fucking- You... I-” I shook my head, “Indescribable.” A smile replaced the sad pout that had been on her lips.
“Is Officer Rivera lost for words?” She teased, poking my chest. I caught her finger with my hand and grabbed her waist with my free one, pulling her into me.
“Ms. Kingsley, I wouldn’t play with me right now, I’m not opposed to a strip search.” I mumbled huskily into her ear. I felt her shiver under my touch and I smirked, grazing my lips across her collarbone.
“Oh, isn’t this charming?” A voice claimed from behind me. My mouth instantly contorted into a scowl and Jane had noticed, craning her neck around me to see who had spoken. But I didn’t have to turn around to see her. I knew her voice well enough to place it to a face.
“Camilia.” I sighed, turning on my heel so that Jane was behind me.
“Hello, Daxon.” She sent me a sugary smile and I snorted.
“Who is that?” Jane asked from behind me, my muscles tightening at her question. I never thought I’d have to bring up Camilia to Jane, and I found myself searching for the right term.
“Sweetie, I’m his ex-fiance.” Camilia waved to Jane in a mock-friendly manner. And suddenly I was between them; on one side, a woman I had a long complicated history with and on the other, the woman I wanted more than anything in the world.
“Dax, tell me that’s not true.” Jane pleaded, her eyes desperate.
“It’s true.” I sighed, reaching for her, “Let me explain-”
“I need a drink.” Jane brushed past me to the bar, several male eyes following her as she walked.
“I think it’s time we caught up, Daxon.” Camilia purred from behind me, “It’s been too long.”