Just Friends

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Wedding Rehearsal

Four weeks later, the wedding for Leo’s cousin Celeste had arrived, which meant it was Jasmine’s turn to hold up her end of the deal. She would be attending the wedding as Leo’s girlfriend. The whole weekend was filled with wedding activities, from the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, to the actual wedding ceremony and reception on Saturday, to the brunch on Sunday morning.

Just thinking about how much time she’d be spending with Leo was making Jasmine jittery, something he noticed on the drive up to the hotel and venue.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked, glancing away from the road to look at her.

She nodded. “Mhm. Fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, totally.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? You do realize you don’t have to lie about this. Hell, I’m nervous.”

“You are?” she asked.

“Yeah!” he said. “I haven’t introduced my family to a girlfriend since undergrad.”

“Seriously?”

He nodded and glanced over at her again. “Yeah, seriously. I don’t even know how they’re going to react when I introduce you.”

Jasmine started laughing. “Way to make me feel better, Mathers.”

“What?” he asked, laughter creeping up in his own voice. “Who said I was trying to make you feel better?”

“You’re such an ass,” Jasmine laughed harder and smacked his arm lightly.

Before she could pull her arm away, Leo reached out and started to tickle her side, somehow not swerving all over the road. “I’m a what now?”

Jasmine squirmed to get out of his reach and tried to catch her breath as she said, “You’re an ass!”

“My, how vulgar, Minnie,” he drawled out, looking over at her with a grin as he imitated a Southern belle.

“Oh, dear Lionel, I do not give one single solitary fuck,” she said, similarly exaggerated with an accent.

Leo started laughing uncontrollably. “’Lionel’? Where in the name of God did you get ‘Lionel’ from?”

“Made it up,” she said with a shrug. “It’s only fair that you get a ridiculous nickname, too, Lionel. Or would you prefer Linus?”

“I mean, Lionel is close to Leo with them both being lions, but Minnie and Linus are both cartoons. Tough call.”

Jasmine snorted and shook with laughter, and it took her a long time to regain her composure. When she calmed down, she settled back into the seat and allowed her arm to brush against his on the center console. “I think I’ll stick with Lionel.”

Feeling her rest her arm against his, not for show but because she wanted to, gave Leo goosebumps and his mouth went dry. He swallowed and allowed that hand to drop from the steering wheel so that he could brush his pinkie finger against hers. As the drive continued, he slowly inched his fingers into intertwining with hers until they were holding hands. If it weren’t for the blush that spread across her cheeks, Leo almost would have thought that Jasmine didn’t notice.

The drive itself only took two hours and soon they were settling into their hotel room, which apparently only had one bed, something that Leo had neglected to mention prior to the trip.

“Um, Leo?”

“Yeah, Min?”

“Did you forget to tell me something?” she asked, crossing her arms and glaring over at him. “Or were you planning to keep it a surprise?”

He scratched the back of his head. “Honestly, I forgot. I have a sleeping bag in my trunk, I can sleep on the floor if you want.”

She shook her head. “No, don’t bother. We’ve slept in the same bed before. And besides, if someone were to come in and see a sleeping bag, they’d start to question our relationship, which is the last thing either of us want right now.”

“True. So we’ll share?”

Jasmine sighed. “We’ll share.”

“Hey, you don’t have to get all excited now,” Leo teased.

“Yeah, right,” she said, rolling her eyes and throwing a pillow at him.

He caught the pillow, a devilish look in his eye, and said, “Oh, you just declared war.”

From outside the room, passersby could hear lots of shouting, laughter, and thumps as the pair had a pillow fight, right up until Leo pinned Jasmine down on the bed and started tickling her.

“Stop! Please, I- I can’t- I can’t breathe,” she sputtered out between laughs.

He rested his hand lightly on her ribs, no longer tickling but unwilling to lose the physical contact. “I win.”

She nodded and smiled, eyes closed as she caught her breath. “Yep, you win. I give up.”

“Damn straight,” Leo said as he laid down next to her. “Do you think anyone heard that?”

“Most definitely.”

“We should probably start getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, huh?” he asked as he buried his face into her shoulder.

Jasmine groaned. “Can’t we just stay in here and order room service instead?”

“We’d have to pay for that, you know. The rehearsal dinner is free.”

“Yeah, but I could stay in my comfy clothes instead of getting dressed up,” she said.

He laughed. “We’re going to the dinner.”

“Fine,” she said with a sigh. “But you’re gonna have to let me up so I can get dressed.”

Leo wrapped his arm around her tighter and said, “No, not yet.”

“If you don’t let me up, then I’m just going to stay in here and order room service and everyone here is going to think you made me up,” she said.

“Okay, fine, I guess you can get up,” he said as he loosened his grip.

“I’m going to need your help picking my outfit though,” she said.

He furrowed his brows. “I thought you picked your outfits when you were packing?”

Jasmine made a so-so motion with her hand. “Kinda. I picked what I’m going to wear to the actual wedding, but I packed four other outfits for everything else. I wasn’t sure which to choose.”

As she pulled out the four dresses from her suitcase and laid them on the bed, Leo shook his head. “No, no, you have to model them for me. How else am I supposed to know which outfit is the best unless I see you wear them?”

“You just want to see me in my underwear,” she teased.

“Not wrong,” he said with a wink. “But I do actually think that seeing you wear the dresses will help me make my decision. You can change in the bathroom if you don’t trust me.”

Jasmine sighed and pulled her shirt over her head. “It’s basically like seeing me in a bikini, who cares?”

Leo tried to keep his gaze respectful, and therefore only perused her body for a few seconds before he looked elsewhere. “So which one first?”

She tried on a pink floral dress, a black dress, a light green dress, and a deep purple one, all of which looked great on her, but Leo’s eyes were drawn to the purple one most. It hugged her figure and flowed out at the bottom, but more importantly, it contrasted her hair and made it appear more fiery than normal.

“That one.”

“Are you sure?”

He nodded and did his best to refrain from salivating. “Definitely.”

Jasmine smiled at his poorly concealed reaction. “At least they’ll have no problem believing that you’re attracted to me.”

“Hey, who said I was- oh, who am I kidding? You’re a fucking bombshell.”

“Why, Lionel, you ought to watch your language,” she teased just before she went into the bathroom and shut the door behind her to do her hair and makeup.

Leo tossed a pillow at the door. “Why are you closing the door behind you now? I already saw you half-naked!”

She cracked the door open slightly. “Well, something’s gotta remain a surprise! And you need to get dressed too, you know.”

“Yeah, that takes like two minutes.”

“Just get dressed.” Then she shut the door again, started playing music from her phone, and didn’t emerge for another forty minutes. When she finally did, her makeup was flawless and she had somehow managed to give herself a braid crown. “Ta-da!”

Leo smiled at her, fully dressed in his tux, and held out his arm. “Worth the wait.”

“Thanks,” she said, blushing slightly.

They left the hotel room and made their way to an event room that had been reserved by the wedding party for the rehearsal. Nearly everyone was already sitting at tables, drinks in hand, so Leo led Jasmine over to their seats, which was near to Astrid and her own date.

“Does your mom have a boyfriend?” Jasmine asked quietly, leaning towards Leo.

“No, not that I know of,” he said. “I think that’s just one of her coworkers. He looks very familiar.”

“Oh, gotcha,” she said before waving at Astrid.

The blonde stood up from her seat and came over to the pair to exchange hugs. “Oh, you really do just look stunning, Jasmine!”

Jasmine smiled and said, “You look beautiful. It’s good to see you!”

“You too, dear. And look,” Astrid said, holding up her hands, “no paint!”

“Mom, who’s that over there? The guy sitting next to you. I can swear I’ve seen him before but I can’t place him,” Leo said.

Astrid looked back at the man and said, “Oh, that’s Steven. He’s an escort.”

Mother! You don’t just say that,” he hissed.

“Why not? That’s his job. I’m successful enough that I can afford an escort for a full weekend, so what’s the shame?”

Jasmine tried to contain her laughter as she watched Leo go through the five stages of grief, but was unable to stop. Eventually, even with silent laughter, she got a stitch in her side and needed to take a drink of water to calm down.

Astrid even started laughing and she tweaked her son’s nose. “So gullible! He’s my friend from work. We go to dinner every now and then, and he helps me with restorations.”

“Mom, you can’t do that to me,” he said.

“You’re no fun,” she teased him. “Well, I’m going to go sit with my escort now.”

Jasmine started laughing again as Astrid walked away and Leo hung his head and said, “Mom, no.”

“You gotta appreciate her sense of humor,” she wheezed out.

Leo put his arm over her shoulders and leaned close to her ear, “I’ll get you back for enjoying this.”

With a happy sigh, she leaned her head on his shoulder and said, “Worth it. The look on your face was absolutely priceless, dear Lionel.”

“You’re gonna regret it, Min. I’m a huge blanket hog when I’m being petty,” he said before planting a kiss on her temple.

“Don’t think I won’t kick you off the bed,” she retorted.

Throughout the dinner, Leo and Jasmine only talked to about ten people, but wandering eyes were definitely interested in them. As a result, the two were showing constant physical affection, from quick kisses to holding hands to intimate whispering conversations to absent caresses. With every touch, Jasmine’s skin tingled and she felt her body heat up, while Leo was intoxicated by the smell of her shampoo and how soft her skin was.

When it came time for the toasts, Jasmine was leaning up against Leo and listening as loved ones from both the bride and groom’s sides gave loving speeches in honor of Celeste and Phil. According to the speeches, the two were high school sweethearts, finally tying the knot after a decade together, though according to a drunk groomsman, Phil was a commitaphobe who ‘must have knocked her up to only now be marrying her.’ This particular groomsman was then escorted out.

Once the speeches were over, many of the dinner guests dispersed, though many simply relocated to the bar.

“Think we should go join them?” Leo asked, gesturing slightly to the various family members getting drinks.

“How well do you know them and how weird would it be for you not to introduce me?” Jasmine asked. “If you barely know them, we could just go up to our room. If they’d get on your case for not making introductions, we should go say hi.”

Leo sighed and held out his hand. “Time to go meet the family, babe.”

She groaned before taking it and following him over to the bar with a phony smile. “Okay, Leo, who’s first?”

He looked around for a moment before he brought her over to an elderly woman, “Nona? You look good. How are you feeling?”

“Which one are you?” she asked before squinting her eyes and taking his face in her hands. “Ah! Leo. Who is this you have with you?”

“Nona, this is my girlfriend, Jasmine,” he said. “Minnie, this is my Nona Bella.”

Jasmine held out her hand to the woman. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

Bella shook her hand briefly before she turned her head and called out, “Hey, Arthur! Leo has a girlfriend!”

Five other people swiveled their heads around to get a good look at Jasmine, who immediately froze like a deer in headlights.

“Min, are you okay?”

“How many people?”

“Huh?”

She cleared her throat and looked up at him. “How many of these people do I have to meet tonight? There’s just a lot of them.”

“Just three,” he said. “I promise, just three and we can go up and crawl into bed.”

With a nod, Jasmine took his hand again and said, “Lead the way.”

She met two of Leo’s cousins, one of whom was a pregnant woman babysitting her drunk husband, who seemed to consider Leo’s love life to be her own personal soap opera show and clearly would have been insulted without an official introduction. The other cousin was a man who might have been decent sober, but was a total pervert when he was drunk, staring at Jasmine’s chest and squeezing Leo’s ass.

Leo grimaced as he pulled her away. “I am so sorry about him.”

“Why did I have to meet him?”

“He’s actually one of my favorite cousins, but I forgot how he gets when he’s drunk. He gets punched quite often,” Leo explained.

Jasmine chuckled wryly. “I can see why.”

“Well,” he sighed, “at least there’s only one more. My great-aunt Tabitha.”

“I’ve met your Aunt Tabitha,” Jasmine said, pointing over to a woman with glasses on a chain and skin sagging from her neck who was throwing back tequila shots. “She’s on my caseload.”

“I thought you only worked with hospice patients?”

Jasmine squeezed his hand. “She’s been in and out of hospice for six years, whenever her son needed a break.”

“Well, then this introduction will be interesting,” Leo muttered before pulling Jasmine towards the old woman.

“Hello, Tabitha,” Jasmine said with a smile.

Tabitha didn’t recognize her at first, but then smiled. “Miss Winters, nice to see you. What- what are you doing here at my granddaughter’s wedding?”

“Hey, Aunt Tabs, she’s actually with me,” Leo said.

The woman’s eyebrows shot upward. “You’re dating my caseworker? You’d better be giving this woman the time of her life, young man, or I’m going to- I’m- oh, I’m dizzy. Where’s my chair? And- and where’s my drink?”

“Um, I think you already drank it, Tabitha,” Jasmine said, helping her into a seat. “How about I get you some water?”

“No, no, get me more teliqua. Teliqua. Teliqua? Am I saying that right?”

“Tequila,” Leo corrected her.

She nodded and pointed at him. “Yeah, that. Get me some of that.”

With a nod, Leo left Jasmine and Tabitha at the table but went to fetch her son, who grudgingly led his mother out of the bar and towards and elevator. Luckily, she was too disoriented to resist being pulled from the alcohol.

“On the plus side, she can throw back shots like a champ,” Jasmine said, nudging him until he let himself smile. “There it is. Okay, let’s go to bed now, please.”

“A deal’s a deal,” he said, nodding and letting her pull him by the hand towards the elevator. As they stood there, he wrapped his arms around her body and whispered, “You know what new couples usually do in the hotel elevator?”

She laughed but she turned to face him, draping her arms over his shoulders and behind his neck. “I suppose it’s only fair since you’re letting me go to bed.”

He smiled and slowly pushed her against the wall next to the elevator, then lowered his lips to meet hers, and he gently spoke against her mouth, “You sure you want to?”

“Mhm,” she said, crushing her lips against his.

His fingers lightly brushed against the skin on her back, causing shivers to run down her spine, and she tangled her hands in his hair. Leo struggled to follow the ‘no tongue’ rule, right up until he felt Jasmine’s tongue run against his bottom lip, then he groaned and touched the tip of his tongue against hers. The moan escaping her mouth nearly masked the sound of the elevator ding, but they pulled apart just long enough to enter and press the button for their floor.

By the time they reached the correct floor level, the doors had only opened once, and the person waiting for the elevator had elected to wait. They pulled apart once again as they got off the elevator and then walked to their room hand-in-hand.

Once inside, Jasmine immediately excused herself into the bathroom and hopped into the shower while Leo impatiently waited for his own turn, uncomfortable as his arousal strained against his pants. When she came out wrapped in the hotel bathrobe, hair wet and cascading down her shoulders, Leo swallowed the lump in his throat and immediately blasted the cold water.

He reemerged, feeling more refreshed, and saw her dozing as the television played a sitcom he didn’t recognize. Trying not to disturb her too much, he turned off the lights, turned down the volume, and crawled under the covers with her, but she opened her eyes right as his head hit the pillow.

“Sorry,” he said.

She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. I got too carried away and it, um, was a lot.”

Leo laughed softly. “You broke your own rule.”

“Yeah, sorry,” she said. “Don’t worry, I won’t do it again.”

“You shouldn’t make promises like that,” he teased her.

She nudged him with her foot, which was far too cold for his liking, and said, “Shut up.”

He winced and asked, “Why are your feet literal ice cubes? You might actually be broken, your feet are freezing.”

“I have bad circulation, live with it.” Then she pressed her toes against his legs.

“Oh, my god! You’re so evil, stop it!”

Her laughter shook the bed and she moved her feet up his body, getting a more intense reaction this time. “I shall sap all the warmth from your body, one toe-cicle at a time!”

Eventually, Leo overpowered her and pinned her legs between his, while his arms were wrapped around her torso. He was about to gloat when he overheard a quiet whistle from her nose as she slept, so he pressed a light kiss to the nape of her neck and whispered, “You win.”

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