Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 21

During rehearsal Friday evening, we all goofed off, and even Shane made me laugh. He further shocked me when he literally swept me off my feet, making me yelp in surprise. Morgan took pictures of all the action.

After the rehearsal dinner, Morgan and I caught Rod using white glass paint to write Morticia + Jethro on her car’s rear window. Mercifully, she didn’t lob him into the ocean, which is good because then I’d be dateless.

With the sun setting, everyone gathers around a bonfire pit on the beach near our hotel. With music playing amidst the laughter, the bridal party relaxes, but I’m on edge.

Sitting on the beach, resting my chin in my hand, I stare out at the ocean. Morgan’s life will change, becoming Ivan’s wife. They haven’t even been together as long as Finn and me. How will my life change because of her getting married? Will we still be close? I don’t want to lose my best friend, but I can’t be selfish.

Then there’s my brother. His life is changing forever, too, next month, which also affects me. I’m happy for both Morgan and Jared for each of their triumphs. I just wish I could be happy for me, too.

Morgan startles me, suddenly dropping next to me on the sand. She falls on me, which makes her giggle. She playfully asks, “What’s up, baby?”

Scowling at her, I sit back. “Other than recovering from a stroke, not much. I’m great. Why are you asking me? I’m not the one getting married tomorrow.” Or ever.

She leans her arm against mine. “My nerves were bad most of the week. Now, I feel serene. I just want the ceremony to be over.”

“I want you to be happy. You deserve it.”

Morgan genuinely smiles. “So do you. I mean that, and I will do everything I can to ensure that happens, Hadley. I promise you.”

Returning my chin to my hand, I shrug. “There’s not much you can do.”

“I’ll do my damnedest. You will be happy. You deserve a man who will give you everything.”

As I look out to the ocean, I mumble, “My only dream is to stay in love forever with Finn. That’s all I want.”

“Even if it comes at a price?”

Glancing at her, I staunchly counter, “Nothing in life is free.”

Always the lawyer, she contests, “Yes, but not everything in life has a steep price tag, either.”

I roll my eyes. “Maybe I’ll find a clearance sale or use a coupon.”

She laughs. “Did you bring it with you?”

Returning my gaze to the ocean, I whisper, “The ring? Yes.”

“So, are you still doing it if he shows up?”

“If he shows up, and the time is right, then yes. But since he’s working, I’ll most likely have to do it at home on Sunday.”

“Are you nervous?”

I widen my eyes at the water, nodding. “Oh, yeah.”

“Don’t be. If it’s meant to be, then it’ll work out.”

To our right, Rod pops and grooves over to us. “Hey, hoochies!”

“Ass Rod.”

“Let’s get this party started, yo!” Morgan and I grimace at each other as Rod throws his hands above his head, lewdly shaking his ass. Too bad Rhonda isn’t here. She’d probably need mouth-to-mouth.

“Put it away, you freak!” Morgan yells with a laugh.

As they spar over his faux dancing, I listlessly gaze at the tumbling waves, remembering Finn and I playing in the water at Bethany’s. We laughed and teased each other in the surf, and then he carried me piggyback as we watched the sailboats. It’s one of my favorite memories of us.

Morgan asks Rod, “Do you kiss your reflection with that dirty mouth?”

“No, just your mom.”

Behind us, a voice near the fire yells, “I’d rather kiss a dirty mirror, thank you very much!”

I abruptly get up from the sand. “I’m going for a walk.”

Morgan stands. Do you want me to come with you?”

“No. I won’t be long.” I set off, and when I’m far enough from everyone, I stop walking and let the cool water lap at my feet.

“Is your boyfriend coming?”

Startled, I jerk, and my hand flies to my chest. What is it with people scaring the hell out of me? I peer over my shoulder at Shane. “You scared me. Uh, no. Finn has to work.”

“That’s too bad. Here.” Walking closer, he holds out a bottle of beer.

Taking it, I dubiously ask, “What’s this for?”

He smoothly grins as he shifts to stand next to me. “Peace offering.”

I wrinkle my forehead and nose. “For what?”

“For harping on you about your weight loss. I’m just doing my job, but I am concerned.”

Lifting the bottle, I read the label. “Is that why you gave me a regular beer instead of light? To fatten me up?”

“Possibly.” He laughs, which again surprises me. I thought his laughter would be more demonic. “Really, I was trying to be nice.”

I laugh. “Um, okay. If you say so.” His shaggy hair, smug attitude, and frosty blue eyes remind me of a surfer who probably would choke a dolphin if it got in his way.

“I enjoy boosting your parameters to see what you’re made of.” Though he appears to be cordial, he still sounds like a douche.

I raise an eyebrow. “That’s a gross understatement.”

He chuckles. “I am a little rough on you.”

“Slightly.”

“You can handle it. You’re tough.”

“Me? I’m not. One of those punching robot toys could kick my ass.”

Shane shakes his head with a confident smirk. “You think little of yourself. Why is that? I believe you have it in you and that there’s a fire in your belly.”

Moving to fold my arms, but can’t since I’m holding a beer, I shove my hand into my jeans shorts pocket. “When have I ever given you that impression? I just do jumping jacks and lunges when you tell me to. I haven’t set the world on fire, let alone possess one inside me.”

“You’re wrong. It’s evident in everything you do.”

I laugh. “I thought you were against drugs?”

“I am. Why?”

“Because you’re on something.”

He laughs before taking a drink of his beer. “I told you, you’re funny.”

Feeling uncomfortable, I mutter, “Um, thanks. Why are you being super nice to me?”

He gives me a side glance as he lowers his bottle. “I thought we were going to be friends?”

“No, you said we didn’t have to be friends.”

He shrugs one shoulder while examining me, probably waiting for another pound to disappear so he can yell at me again. “I changed my mind.”

“You mean like the hanging-out-at-the-mall kind? We’ll sit at the food court, eat pizza, and make fun of what people are wearing?”

“At least you’d be eating something.”

“I eat. I’ve been nervous. I’ll bounce back after the wedding.” I take a long drink of my beer and then point at the bottle. “Look! I’m drinking a regular beer! The fat is returning to my thighs in droves!”

Shane again laughs, unsettling me. I cross my free arm over my stomach, and he asks, “Why are you here alone?”

I frown. “I told you Finn had to work.”

“He couldn’t have asked for the weekend off?”

“I guess not.” He just did last week, and I screwed that up. “He’s busy.”

“I would’ve. I mean, if you were my girlfriend, I wouldn’t pass up the chance to see you wearing a bikini.”

I cringe. “I’m not wearing one of those in public.”

He smirks as he raises his beer to his mouth. “Just in private?”

I look back at the water, feeling awkward by this topic. I own a bikini, but I’ve never worn it for Finn. I thought I could be that daring, but I’m not. Finn sees me in my bra and underwear or worse, naked. That’s more than enough.

Shane says, “You shouldn’t be like that. You’d look phenomenal.” Why do I feel so dirty?

“I don’t think so.” I anxiously pull on my ponytail and wish we weren’t talking about bikinis. “So, don’t you have a date for tomorrow?”

He shrugs. “I do, but I can cancel if someone better comes along.” I wince at his complacent smile. How gross. Manwhore, definitely.

“Eww. Why would you do that?”

“I’m keeping my options open.” Double eww.

“Too bad for your date.”

His responding grin is a turn-off. “She’d get over it.”

“How gallant of you.”

As his smile widens, Rod bumps into me, and I nearly fall into the ocean, probably nobody hearing from me again. “Hadders, you want to dance?”

Without hesitation, I reply, “Sure.”

Grabbing my hand, he leads me away from Shane, and when we’re far enough, I comment, “You hate slow dancing.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Then, what are you doing?”

Stopping us near the fire, he pulls me into his arms. “I don’t trust that creep.”

I laugh and hold on to his shoulder with my beer-free hand. “You just wanted to get away from a certain Tonya.”

“True, but I can deal with her.”

“Shane’s evil but harmless. What’s there to worry about?” I sip my beer as we sway together.

“That bastard wants to bone dance with you.”

Gagging on my beer, I pull away from him, coughing and wheezing for air. When I get a breath, I chokingly say, “You’re on crack.”

He hits me on the back, which only worsens the problem. “I’m speaking the truth, Kemosabe. Since when is he nice to you? You complain about him.”

Between more coughing, I say, “He wants to be friends.”

“Friends? He’s no Chandler. He knows you have a boyfriend, but he’s still trolling for you.”

“He’s trolling for me, Greg. Damn. What’s up with you? Are you defending me for Finn?”

“Well, he is your boyfriend. You’re in love!” he dramatically shrieks and pretends to choke himself, making me laugh. “So yeah. I know Wilder’s jealous again, but I once told him he could trust me, and I’m keeping my word. He can trust me to look after his girl, too.”

Smiling, I pat his cheek like Val. “You’re an unbelievably sweet guy.”

“Shit. Don’t tell chicks that. I’ll never get laid again. They’ll only want to be my friend,” he groans. “Without benefits.”

“It’ll be our secret.”

Hugging him again, we slow dance in silence as I gaze at the moonlit water while shooting glances around us for Shane. Rod can’t be right about him, too. That will be an apocalyptic sign if Greg Rodwell is that perceptive.

Rod asks, “So, are you proposing to Wilder when we get home?”

Against his chest, I worriedly chew on my lip. “At some point.”

“Do you think he’ll really marry you?”

“That’s what I’m hoping. Marriage will be the stipulation. I want him to understand that I mean business.”

“Ooh. You’re ruthless. Wilder should watch out.”

“Yep. He should.”

“After you get married, will you make him stop calling you Becks?”

Leaning away from him to see his face, I laugh in disbelief. “No, why?”

“You’ll be Wilder then, too. Since he doesn’t remember your first name, maybe he could call you Wilds instead.” I grin at the thought of having Finn’s name, but I roll my eyes at my date’s musing.

“Shut up, Rod.”

Lying in bed at the hotel, I pick up my phone and stare at it. No messages. No missed calls. Does Finn think about me? Or is he drinking to forget me?

Though it’s 12:30 in the morning, and he’s in a hotel, I want to hear his voice. I know he’s still awake wherever he is. Propping my head upon the fluffy pillows, I speed dial him and wait. When Finn answers, there’s a garbled delay before he says, “Becks, hey.”

“Hi. Did I catch you a bad time?”

“Uh, no. Shit. I mean, yeah. I’m sorry. I can’t talk long.”

“What are you doing?”

“Just going over some things with Milo and Reed.”

“Oh. I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.”

“No. I’m good for a few minutes. How was the rehearsal thing?”

“Good. We had a bonfire on the beach, and Rod insulted Morgan’s mother. Shane offered me a beer. He was actually nice.”

“He’d better be, or he’ll answer to me.”

“He wants us to be friends. I don’t think he knows how to be friends. I’m surprised he’s friends with Ivan.”

“I don’t like this guy. From what you’ve told me, he sounds like an ass.”

“He’s had his moments, but I’ll be civil, so he goes easier on me during my workouts, at least.”

“Why can’t Ivan work with you?”

“He’s booked. People like him more, I guess. It’ll be easier to be friends with Shane than not to be.”

“If this guy says anything out of line to you, let me know because I’ll gladly put him back in place.” Like the things you’ve said to me?

“He’ll be fine.”

Finn groans. “I have to go. I’m sorry. Good luck tomorrow. I want a picture of you in that dress. I know you’ll look beautiful.”

“We’ll see about that.” Before he can argue, I say, “Goodnight, Sparks.”

“Night, Becks.” I hang up before I beg him to tell me he loves me.

If he still does.

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