Standing in the damp sand, Morgan and I watch the Atlantic Ocean. She holds onto the straw hat she’s wearing as the wind whips around us and flutters our sundresses into a frenzy. I swing my head to toss my ponytail over my shoulder as I cross my arms. “Will it be this windy during your wedding? When I was in Delaware, the wind was like this, too.”
“I hope it won’t be. Maybe because it’s high tide now? The wedding is in the late afternoon, so hopefully, the wind won’t be as strong.”
Rolling waves crash onto the shore, and the surf splashes our toes. I say, “I’m glad everything is going as planned so far.”
“We still need to find you a dress since we didn’t last night.”
I nod and brush hair out of my face. “Don’t forget, we have practice later.”
She turns toward me. “Our coach won’t be there, so why should we be? You’re the one who has practice, anyway. I’m just there to point and laugh.”
I wryly smirk. “Such a good friend you are. It’s not like I’m needed there, being out in left field and all.” I glower at the ocean as if it denies me the answers to my boyfriend’s madness.
Morgan holds onto her red dress and lightly dances in the puddles. “Why did Finn do that to you?”
“I don’t know,” I say, hating to lie about the real reason. Since I’m not with child, he needs to re-evaluate my outfield position, that’s for sure.
“So, since you were asleep most of the drive here, I wanted to ask you something.”
I smooth out my brown and white dress. “What?”
“Did you tell Finn that you might not be able to get pregnant?”
I grab ahold of my ponytail and twist it around. “Um, no.”
“Why would you keep that from him?”
I shrug and watch the bubbles popping in the sand as the water recedes. “Why does it matter? He doesn’t want kids, so he’d probably be happy. That would hurt far worse than not being able to conceive.”
“Oh. Maybe he’d surprise you.”
I shake my head. “I doubt that. Finn Wilder may have some surprises, but he’s pretty predictable in that regard.” Although, he surprised the hell out of me at Bethany’s.
“Maybe his biological clock will tick louder. You don’t think he’ll change his mind?”
“Why? He’d look hot, burping your baby, pushing a stroller, or changing a diaper.”
Anxiously chewing on my lip, I observe a large boat in the far distance. “As much as I want him to do those things, it’s not something he wants. I have to respect that, Morgan. But when he begs me to stay the night with him, it’s damn near impossible to say no. His big brown eyes are so persuasive.”
Picking up a tiny, white conch shell swirling in the water near her feet, she hands it to me and asks, “Aren’t you withholding sex from him now? That should sway things in your direction soon.”
“I’m not withholding sex from him to be vindictive. We have issues about our relationship. Yet, when we’re together, sex is all he wants.”
“That’s why I told you to go off the Pill. If he wants it so much, he’ll have you pregnant in no time.” She laughs, and I wince.
Laughing again at my dismay, she shouts, “I’m just throwing it out there! I know you’re honest and truthful. It’s kind of gross.” If she only knew how dishonest I am.
I sigh and toy with the smooth shell between my fingers. “He uses sex as a crutch. If something bothers him, he uses it as a distraction. That doesn’t turn me on.”
“Oh, he’s one of those men? I guess there are worse things to complain about than your hot stud wanting to screw you. So, are you getting laid tonight?”
I laugh with a shrug. “It’s still not a good time.”
“Hadley, he won’t give a shit.”
“I know he won’t.”
“Just let him do the fucking.”
I look over at her and scoff, “Jeez, Morgan. Whose cause are you endorsing?”
“You might enjoy it. You both look like you need it. He has to touch you in some way when you’re together. I can only imagine what he can’t keep to himself when you’re alone.”
I laugh. “You’re perverted.”
“Have you met Finn Wilder? He’s a walking hard-on! Don’t you ever notice the damn bulge in his jeans he sports around you?”
I dig my foot into the pool of water at my feet and kick wet sand onto her leg. “Shut up!”
She pushes my arm and flings sand back at me with her foot. “And he always looks at you like he’s a man lost in a desert, and you’re a lemonade stand.”
“Maybe he’s dehydrated.”
“Finn may be a cocky son of a bitch and doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, but shit, he’s yours.”
Sometimes I wonder that.
“What about this dress?” Morgan holds up a sky-blue frock with a double crisscross back to it.
I flip the dress over. “Where’s the dress? There’s nothing to it!”
She yanks it out of my hands, inspecting it again. “You always say that! It has these thin straps on the back.”
“Isn’t it too low-cut for a bridesmaid’s dress?”
“I’m the bride, and I say it’s okay. It’s a beach wedding, Hadley. We could wear bikinis, and it would be appropriate. Chill.”
I frown. “My one-piece has more material than that thing.”
“It’s a gorgeous dress. There are even tiny little sparkles throughout. I know Finn will have a hard time keeping his hands to himself.”
Scouring the rack for another one, I pout, “If he’s there.”
Morgan shoves the dress at me. “Will you try it on for me? Please?”
I grimace. “You are begging me now?”
“You won’t say no to me, though.” She’s right.
“Ugh!” I grouchily take the dress from her and go into the dressing room. The material has a slight give, so that’s a good thing. At least it’s not skintight.
I take a quick look in the mirror. Whoa. My boobs are out there. The lightly ruffled neckline plunges to nearly my sternum. It’s like the blouse I wore to the club, but this is more daring. For a wedding? Thin straps hold up the thing, and double-sided tape will again save me from not flashing parents, grandparents, and children alike.
I peek my head out the door. “I look like a substitute prostitute.”
Morgan laughs. “A what?”
“You know, in case the regular one is unavailable. Dressed up for lower pay. All the specs, but zero respect.”
She tilts her head. “You hang out with Rod too much. Shut up and get out here.”
“I can’t. You haven’t paid for an hour.”
“Hadley Bliss Beckett, get out here!”
Sulking, I step out of the small room and into Morgan’s loud gasp. “Hadley! Look at you! Oh, my God!” She circles me like a shark while I fidget with the material covering my breasts, making sure I’m not committing indecent exposure. Ricky would arrest me and never let me forget it.
As she orbits me, I inspect the jewels clustered at my waist. “I like the sparkly thing on my stomach. That’s pretty.”
Ignoring me, she squeals, “You are fucking hot!”
I whip my head up to scowl at her. “You’re nuts.”
She puts her hands on her hips. “Don’t you listen to your boyfriend at all?”
Tugging at the material, I resentfully whisper, “My boobs! I can’t wear this!”
She grins at my dismay. Nice BFF. “Your tits are fabulous. Don’t tell me Finn doesn’t think so, too.”
I again sourly whisper, “They’re falling out!”
Waving her hand dismissively, she continues, “Finn will thank me for you wearing this. He can easily get to them.” No kidding!
“That’s what I’m worried about. After a few drinks, his hands will be all over me.”
She beams. “You’re welcome!”
I gape in horror. “Are you for real, Morgan? You really want me to wear this?”
Her grin nearly envelops her entire face. “If you don’t, I’ll make sure you dance all night with Shane and Rod.”
I bluntly cringe. “Eww, to Shane. Rod’s not a problem.”
“Yes, but I’ll make Rod get wasted before you dance with him.”
I cross my arms, mostly to hide my too-exposed breasts. “You hate me, don’t you?”
As she smirks, I sigh in defeat and return to the changing room. Morgan says, “Strike a pose.” Entering the closet-sized room, I turn to see her motioning above my head with her fingers.
Morgan rolls her eyes. “Just do it. Stretch your arms over your head. I want to see if your boobs pop out.”
I look at her with trepidation as I tighten my arms around me. “Hell, no.”
“I’m serious. You might need tape again.”
“No, shit. I won’t leave home without it.” I roll my eyes and slowly raise my arms, draping them over my head.
“Give me a sexy pout.”
I laugh. “Shut up.”
Before I realize what she’s doing, she pulls out her phone and takes my picture. “Good!”
I yelp and drop my arms. “Damn it!”
“Blackmail.” She taps her chin and looks at the ceiling. “Hmm. What do I want?”
Pushing her out and shutting the door, I loudly reply, “A bloody lip!”
After picking out low-heeled, silver espadrilles to go with my hooker special, we head to Richmond. Morgan takes me back to her apartment, so we both can drive our cars to the ball field.
Morgan sits on a bench, and I walk onto the field, where everyone is playing catch, making it only to the pitcher’s mound before I’m stopped. “There you are, Hadley. I was wondering why you were late.”
I speedily pivot in the dirt. “Cara, hi. I had an appointment in Virginia Beach. I’m here now. Where do you need me?” She has pretty blue eyes, unlike my dull, swamp green.
She nods, indicating behind me. “Your boyfriend is out there with Crick. He’ll be happy to see you.” I blink at her in uncertainty and turn to the outfield.
Puzzled, I look back to her. “Finn isn’t out there.”
She laughs. “Oh, I meant your other boyfriend. Rod?”
I shake my head and giggle at the thought. “Rod? He’s just my friend.”
“He is? I thought you two had something going on?”
I again shake my head with another confused laugh. “No.”
She stiffly smiles. “Oh. You have mad chemistry.” Rod and me?
Squeezing my glove, I say, “He’s one of my best friends.” I suppose he is. Why haven’t I considered him that before?
She crosses her arms and stares at me strangely, making me feel super awkward. “How do you think Finn feels about that?” What’s it any of her business?
“He’s fine with it. We all hang out. It’s cool.” She’s kind of bitchier than I pictured her to be.
“I think it bothers him.” I suspiciously blink at her. Has he said something to her?
“He would’ve told me if it does.”
She glances over my shoulder and nods at me. “Okay. If you say so. Practice for a few minutes. We’ll go to bat after that.”
Perplexed, I stare at her, but she eyeballs whatever is rousing her interest behind me. Wanting to get away her, I walk over to Rod and Crick. “Hey, guys.”
Crick tersely nods. Rod throws his glove down and scoops me up, wiggling me like a fish, taking me by surprise. “Thank God! You’re here! Crick is bending me over!”
“Put me down, Rod. He’s what?” He sets me back down and ruffles my hair before freezing.
His face falls. “Oh, shit. That came out totally wrong. Fuck me.” Crick’s face turns beet red.
Noticing, Rod laughs and shrugs. “Sorry, Crunk.”
I apologetically smile at Crick and smack Rod on the arm. “Will you stop calling him that?”
“What? He’s fine with it. He doesn’t care.”
“You’ve worked with him a week, and you’re already calling him names.”
He rolls his eyes and smacks me in return. “My name went from Greg to Rod even faster, so his can, too.”
Rod tosses the ball into the air, catching it with his gloveless hands and asking, “How’d dress shopping and beach hopping go?”
I step back, so I don’t get conked in the head. “Good. I got a dress and shoes.”
After catching the ball, he sticks his bottom lip out in an overstated pout. “No bikini? Well, shit. This wedding will be a bummer.”
I edge closer to him, grabbing his arm before he can throw the ball. “By the way, we’re dating.”
He waves his finger between us. “You and me?”
“Cara thinks we’re having a covert affair.”
He raises his eyebrows in genuine astonishment. “Really? Did she see us dance, too?”
“No. She said we have mad chemistry.”
“Oh. I failed chemistry. I couldn’t draw a straight line.” He suddenly snorts. “Did you tell her what a phenomenal fuck I am?”
I roll my eyes. “No, but I told her about your purse and how it’s a mood killer.”
He scowls and stomps his foot, which makes me burst out laughing. “It wasn’t a damn purse! It was a satchel, and I carried it because I brought extra clothes to work. Jesus!”
I laugh even louder at the pained look on his face and wheeze, “You said it had to match your shoes!”
He swings his arm and hits his thigh. “So now it’s a crime for me to look good? I dress better than that other fucker you bang!”
“But he doesn’t have to wear any clothes to look good.”
“Oh, snap, you bitch!” He shoves me, and I snort, grabbing his arm, so I don’t fall down laughing. Damn him! He laughs with me, and as I look up, I see Cara near first base, watching us.
I try to be stealth, turning back to Rod. “Don’t look, but we have an audience.”
Letting go of his arm, I step back, and he bends to pick up his glove, asking, “Who? Cara?”
Keeping his back to Cara, he stares out at the rest of our coworkers, still practicing. “Do you think she’d run to Wilder if I Frenched you?”
“I’ll even make it sloppy and lick all over your lips. It’ll be a kiss that’ll make you forget about old whatshisname.”
“I’m about to puke into your satchel.”
I walk down the quiet hallway to my apartment. The only neighbor I see here on the top floor is the one directly across from me, Linda, a nurse who works various shifts at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, where I used to work. Linda and I share a drink now and then and pick up each other’s packages when the other isn’t home. Rod is convinced she’s a serial-killing vampire.
After I take a shower, I put on a pair of black gaucho pants and a white V-neck top. Nothing elaborate. My purported sex-starved boyfriend complained about the dresses I wear, teasing him.
I leave my hair down and put on some makeup. I told Finn I’d meet him at his apartment so we can ride together since I’m staying with him tonight. I’d rather skip dinner, now the sex-starved girlfriend. Even though it’s still not a good time for me, physically and emotionally, I have a primal need for his hard body, the sharp urge hitting me after my shower. Like a perverse joke, when I’m at my most repulsive, the more I want sex with him.
Walking up his front steps, I catch his neighbor Lily on the porch, and she waves. I give her a small wave in return, immediately humiliated, thinking about her hearing Finn and me having sex. She probably thinks I’m a whore.
I hurriedly walk through the front door into his quiet apartment, relieved to escape her scrutiny. Looking around the kitchen and living room, he’s not here. His car was out front. If he went to Mass, he should be back by now.
“Sparks?” I go through his living room and into the hall leading to his bedroom. His door is halfway open. I slowly push it open, tapping on it as I do, not wanting to scare the hell out of him, but his room is also empty. Hearing a noise in the bathroom, I step back into the hallway and now notice the closed door. Wow. I missed that one. I lightly knock on the door. “Baby, I’m here.”
He answers with a garbled, “Be out in a minute.”
“Okay.” I go back to the living room, thinking it’s better to stay away from his bedroom, having learned that lesson the morning of the kite festival. The only difference this time is we’ll never make it to dinner because I’ll rip his clothes off.
I whirl around to see Finn with a towel wrapped around his waist. Walking towards me, he runs his fingers through his wet hair, roughing it up. Fuck, I want to lick every single drop of water glistening on his skin.
He says, “I just got home. The dare ran over longer than I had expected.”
I back away from him. “That’s okay. Just get dressed so we can leave.”
He abruptly stops and frowns. “What’s wrong?” What’s wrong? Nothing if we didn’t have to be somewhere. Finn’s hair is deliciously wet, and his damp body sends mine into a hypersexual fit. More than anything, I want to strip him, not giving a fuck about my period or birth control.
Fretfully tucking hair behind my ears, I reply, “Nothing. I don’t want to be late.”
Finn gives me a cross between a perplexed look and an annoyed one. “I can’t kiss you?”
I quickly inhale. “Um, sure.” I step over to him, getting on my tiptoes as he bends to meet me, giving him a quick peck before hastily escaping to the kitchen. I’m seriously struggling. I move behind a chair, using it as a shield and support to calm my shaky knees and resolve.
He watches me with a cocked eyebrow. “If you didn’t want to kiss me, you could’ve said so.” He sounds hurt, but I can’t tell him what’s bothering me because he’ll only be too happy to fix it. God. I want him to fix me hard.
“I wanted to. We’re just running behind.”
Again, he runs his hand through his wet hair, flicking tiny drops of water. I look away, and he sighs. “Okay. I’ll get dressed.”
He turns and walks down the hall. I watch him go, but then he looks over his shoulder, and our eyes meet before he goes into his room.
This will be a rough dinner.