16. Come To Grips
Leila woke up feeling better than she should. And warmer. Much too warm in fact.
Opening one reluctant eye, she immediately shut it again and groaned. The lamp next to the bed was on and it was way too bright for... 7:30 in the morning. Or at least that’s what the clock on the bedside table said in the brief moment her eye was actually focused and open.
The bed shifted and Leila stilled, unsure of what she would find if she flipped over onto her other side.
A large hand flexed on the bare skin of her stomach and Leila realized something. She wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but she was naked. Wait... no- not naked. Almost naked. She was pretty sure she had her panties on still.
God, she hoped she did. Flashing your tits to who could be a stranger was awkward enough, but throw a shot of her beaver into the mix and this would not go down as one of her finer days.
Fuck my life.
Quickly and quietly, she slipped off the bed and didn’t bother to turn around. She grabbed her clothing which had somehow made it over to the ornate table near the door. A door which was definitely not the one in her bedroom at home.
Slipping the clothing on faster than greased lightning, she finally turned around and cocked her head.
Curly light brown hair that stuck up every which way could only mean one thing. Nate. How he had gotten into bed with her was a mystery, but he was clothed, which was more than she could say for herself.
Having come to terms with the man in the strange bed, she walked over to the window and looked out. The curtains had been pulled shut and she was relieved to see that at least she hadn’t gone far from the hotel. In fact, she looked to still be in the hotel, the white outer walls of it gleaming in the early morning sun. She would have to do the walk of shame all the way back home to get her stuff for the wedding, but at least she knew she hadn’t done the dirty with Nate. She would have known implicitly if she had.
“Morning,” a muffled voice called from the bed.
Leila blinked, but otherwise showed no other signs of hearing the half-comatose man in the bed.
“You are awake right?” Nate asked, lifting his head up from the pillow. “You’re not like, sleepwalking, are you?”
Biting back a chuckle, Leila looked over at him.
“Yeah, I’m completely awake,” she told him, offering a sleepy half-smile. “Just thinking.”
“It’s your sister’s wedding day so that’s taking up about half my brain function,” Leila said with a sigh. “The other half is wondering how I got here in this room and in a bed naked with my tenant and best friend’s brother.”
Nate sat up and clutched the ends of the mattress before rubbing the heel of one palm into his eye and yawning.
“What’s the last thing you remember last night and I’ll try to fill you in on the rest?” Nate asked, scooting his bottom to the edge of the bed and getting up.
“I remember a guy resembling Mr. Clean handing out some pretty hefty shots and shit but otherwise, it’s all a blur,” Leila said.
“What?” Leila looked over at Nate.
“The bartender’s name was Joel.”
“Oh, I thought it was Steve,” Leila said, looking adorably confused. “You know, like the guy on the Jerry Springer show.”
Nate squinted his eyes, remembering Joel, the bartender.
“You know, he did look a lot like Steve,” Nate said, surprised. “Only slimmer.”
“Yeah, Steve was built like a brick shithouse,” Leila agreed. “But how did I get up here?”
“There was no way you were making it home, so I had the front desk get your room for tonight ready a day early,” he told her, not mentioning he had actually paid for the room for the first night. At least they had given him the wedding party discount for being with the Charles-Smith wedding. The fees per night at the Claremont were steeper than any other hotels in the area.
“And I got naked... how?” Leila asked, trying not to make it sound like some half-assed accusation.
“That was completely your doing,” Nate told her. “You said you weren’t ‘comfy’ and proceeded to remove your clothing until you were dressed only in panties and a drunken smile. That is after you got seriously entangled in your own skirt. How that happened is a mystery to me as I was the gentleman and looked away while you continued to divest yourself of your outfit.”
Leila smirked. It sounded exactly like her. More than once she had woken up completely naked or just in her panties after a night of drinking. And not always finding herself in her own bed. Sometimes she was at a hotel. Just like today. Last night... whatever.
“God, I have to get my shit together for the wedding,” Leila said, letting the fact that all her stuff was at the house sink in. “I need to make it over to Vi’s house and get her to the beauty parlor. My nails are looking pretty wretched right now and I’m sure I’ve eaten more keratin gnawing on them than is healthy in one’s diet.”
Nate snorted as Leila looked down disbelievingly at her hands to inspect her nails.
“You need a ride back?” Nate asked, pushing down his rolled up pants legs and straightening out his shirt.
“I’ve got my car and I’m driving to the nail salon so I need to take my own mode of transport today,” Leila said, shaking her head at the massive amount of things she needed to complete before the wedding even began. “Thanks though, and thanks for getting me set up in this room. I’m surprised I don’t have a massive hangover.”
She had a slight headache but she wasn’t anywhere near nauseated and she was sure a couple of gallons of coffee and some aspirin would set her to rights.
“That’s because I made you drink about 32 ounces of water after you drank your weight in tequila shots,” Nate told her, smirking.
“Trust me, no one would have wanted to see you puke up all over the altar today,” he told her, going over to what she deemed as his side of the bed and grabbing his keys, wallet and cell phone, slipping them into his pockets and heading toward the door of the hotel.
“Old Steve really knew which female to piss off last night,” Violet said with a groan as her hairstylist pulled her hair into an intricate web of curls and twists on the top of her head. “Ow.”
“Sorry,” the hairstylist said, apologizing for the sharp tug on Violet’s scalp.
“It’s alright,” Violet said, just itching to rub at her scalp where the stylist had yanked at her hair. “Beauty takes pain. I’ve come to terms with that.”
Leila was getting her hair done as well, the front half up in a messy yet stylized bun and the back half of her hair in loose waves down her shoulders and back.
After that, they would get their makeup done, Violet a little heavier than usual and Leila requesting the minimum being done to her. Nails and pedicures would be last.
“Yeah, dear ole Dad was a hoot and a holler last night,” Leila remarked, closing her eyes in shame. “I’m surprised Sharon isn’t locked up in a jail cell right now.”
“Fortunately, we were able to haul her away before fists flew.” Violet’s mouth twitched, trying not to show the satisfaction she would have felt if Stephen Winters had gotten just what was coming to him in the form of Sharon’s tiny fist in his face. The guy was an ass and deserved to be denied.
“I spoke with the wedding planner right before I picked you up,” Leila told her, switching into go-go-wedding mode. “She’s already at the Claremont. I’d be surprised if she told me she had slept at all last night. Where the hell did you find a wedding planner like her? Nazis ’R Us?”
“She came highly recommended,” Violet said with a giggle. “Constance’s wedding planner was booked solid but she knew of someone who knew someone and that’s how I got Heinrich Himmler to plan my nuptials.”
“She’s amazing,” Leila said, shaking her head with amusement. “You’re lucky that she thinks so far ahead. I think if you had had to, she would have had everything prepared months ago.”
“She is indeed worth every penny,” Violet agreed.
“Not that you would know, Daddy’s little girl,” Leila accused with a sly wink.
“But which Daddy?” Violet asked, feigning the most innocent expression she could muster.
“Sick bitch,” Leila accused, watching as the stylist smiled slightly, knowingly.
“Jelly hoe,” Violet told her friend. “You need to get you a Daddy.”
“Honey, I’m enough Daddy for me and any men I take to bed.”
“True, and that’s a little bit scary, sweetie.”
Carl and Harry had spared no expense and their one-upmanship about paying for the wedding knew no bounds. When Harry had arranged for a limousine to pick up his little girl and her bridesmaids for the wedding, Carl outdid him and arranged for a stretch Escalade to pick up the groomsmen. Besides, Ramon alone could have taken up the back of the stretch Escalade all by himself. The man was a fucking moose.
By the time the wedding party had made it to the venue, it was an hour and a half before showtime and the photographer had insisted on photographs of the bride getting ready before going off to take photos of the men doing... whatever they did before getting married.
Farting, joking... maybe talking about sports or convincing Carl that sex didn’t really end after marriage- who knew?
The women touched up their makeup while Carl fretted over Elliott having the rings.
“Go to your happy place and chill, little bro,” Elliott told Carl. “And don’t tell us about your happy place. I have a feeling your happy place is synonymous with your dirty place.”
“Like yours isn’t?” Carl scoffed, eyeing Elliott’s broadening grin.
“You got me.”
The wedding went off without a hitch, Mathilde completely ruining her makeup, Constance trying not to cry over even the slightest thing, rubbing her large belly as if the baby inside could calm her hormones. Hell...that little dude and dudette in there was the reason that even the slightest thing was making her get weepy and emotional.
Leila was stalwart as ever, though the broad grin and light in the groom’s eyes did things to her. So happy, as if made complete by their vows and Leila realized something.
This was something she wanted. Wanted? Yes. But could she have it? Her version of a happy ending?
Realizing where her thoughts were going, her eyes sought out her mother’s weeping face in the crowd. Angelica Winters was sitting near the front on the bride’s side of the room and smiling through her tears. Stephen was next to her, eyes blank and lips in a straight line, completely unaffected by any show of emotion going on in front and around him. The fucking bastard.
Leila knew that her father was unlike the other men- friends and family- in her life. She dug deeper into her own psyche to try to figure out why she was wired like a cat in heat, hanging and banging until she scooted away like... well, like a cat with a bowl of cream.
Or the one that ate the canary.
She wondered if it was too late. Like some switch had flipped that had deemed her unable and not just unwilling to become a monogamous lover. Boyfriend? Pffft. It was like a foreign phrase on her tongue. A word she hadn’t used since her last boyfriend in high school. Right around the time she had noticed her father’s wandering eyes seeking the ass and tits of her closest girlfriends. Friends who were way too young and impressionable. Leila’s sleepovers after that usually occurred anywhere but at her home. As much as she trusted her friends, she didn’t need the constant temptation of her father’s ogling to smack her in the face on the daily.
Leila clapped absently with the others at the end of the ceremony, happy for her friend, but with an undercurrent of trepidation for her future humming through her mind.