Finn pulls my car into the restaurant parking lot, and I immediately jump out, barely waiting for him to turn off the ignition. The tension in the car is unbearable, not having said a word to each other for the seven-minute trip.
As he gets out of the car, I straighten my blouse. Finn looks divine in a long-sleeve, white dress shirt with the top buttons undone and his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. My gaze falls to his black pants, and I smile. He dressed to match me. Even if it was unintentional, I want to nail him in the back seat of my car right here in the parking lot.
Settle down, Beckett!
Waiting for me, he shifts his fervent gaze from me to a nearby tree. When I reach him, I hold out my hand, and he glances down, yet doesn’t take it. Letting my arm fall to my side, I pivot to face him. “What, Sparks?”
His brown eyes narrow and drag over my face. “You’re acting weird. Did I do something?” Now I feel even worse. “If you’re not feeling up to being here tonight, we can go home.”
I anxiously mess with my hair, not in its regular ponytail. “I’m fine.” Fine. Sure. I want to unzip his pants and bring him to life between these two cars. What the hell is wrong with me?
“Don’t lie to me, Becks.” His voice is harder, forcing me to look up to see the flash in his unblinking glare. Shit.
I shakily sigh. “I… I’ve missed you. I would rather snuggle with you on the couch than to be here. Okay?”
As if a dark cloud has passed, his face brightens, and a crooked smile threatens his lips. “Let’s go home then.”
“I need to be here for Morgan. You and I will be alone in a little while.”
He protests, “It’s not soon enough.”
I try holding out my hand again. “Come on, Sparks. We can do this.”
This time, he takes my hand, and as I turn to walk to the restaurant, he says, “Wait.” He tugs my hand, hauling me to him. When I look up, his lips descend to mine. I eagerly reciprocate, our hunger for each other too great to ignore. Moving my hand to his chest, I find his key in his open collar and hold it, resting my fingers against his skin, feeling his thundering heart.
Between kisses, he appeals, “Baby, I want to go home.”
Releasing his necklace, I stroke his cheek. “Me, too. Let’s get this over with.”
With great restraint, I grab his hand and pull him to the restaurant. As he lets me tow him, he sighs and thrusts his hand into his hair, messing it up and making this so much harder.
When not checking out Finn, the hostess takes us to Morgan and Ivan’s table, and they smile as we approach. I sit across from Morgan, and she leans forward with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “I told Ivan about your dress.”
I glance at Ivan, and he grins. Panicked, I look at her and whimper, “Oh, no.”
“Yep! Check out your woman, Finn.” She hands him her phone, but I’m quicker, snatching it from him, and I speedily figure out how to delete the picture.
Smiling at my success, I offer her phone back to her. “Gone.”
“Hadley!” Morgan whines.
Finn complains with a frown, “I don’t get to see it?”
When the waitress asks what we’d like to drink, Finn and Ivan each order a Scotch. It’s a good thing we brought my car since I can’t drive his. I order lemonade to keep Morgan company. Finn is already starting the hard shit. I hope he doesn’t get wasted, or he’ll sleep on the couch or the floor. Wherever he lands.
Morgan says to Finn, “You’ll want to see the dress. There’s hardly any material to it.”
He looks at me dubiously. “Really? I don’t believe you’d wear something that revealing.” I did at the club! He doesn’t complain about the lacy things I wear, either.
Morgan continues, “Oh, she didn’t want to, but I threatened her that she’ll be stuck dancing with Shane and Rod all night. Two of her favorite hunks.” She laughs, and I roll my eyes. Finn grimaces at her statement and turns his attention toward the bar, probably craving his alcoholic crutch.
Ivan dissents, “Shane isn’t a beast. He’s a great guy and fun to be around. He likes Hadley.” My eyes fearfully widen, and he smiles. “He says good things about you. So, go easy on him.”
We’re interrupted when the waitress brings our drinks and takes our orders. Once she leaves, I take a sip of my lemonade. “Nice is not a word I’d use for Shane. I’ll have to dance with him enough for the bridal dances. I don’t have a problem dancing with Rod.”
Morgan shakes her head. “But with that dress, you might want to keep it to only slow dancing with Rod. No bending backward, or he’ll get an eyeful.”
Into his glass, Finn grumbles, “And I’ll snap his neck.”
I huff, “I certainly won’t flash anyone there.”
Setting down his glass, Finn inclines his head to mine, whispering, “Except for me.” His voice and his cologne, even his hair, drive me insane with desire for him.
Morgan laughs, and I try to focus on her instead of my smoking-hot boyfriend. “Finn, if you can’t make it to our wedding, there will be plenty of pictures of her wearing it.”
He nods as he caresses his tumbler of Scotch. “Definitely. I’ll need to see them.” Unexpectedly, he leans down, angling his head, and playfully tries to bite my neck. I giggle and push him away. Though not wanting to since his warm lips feel so damn good on my skin. When I sit up, he leans in again, but instead, whispers in my ear, “I want to see what’s under your dress more.” Oh, shit. I won’t make it the short drive home, let alone the rest of dinner. I want to sneak him into the restroom and have loud sex with him. I tersely inhale and take a drink of my lemonade as he moves away.
Morgan bounces in her chair. “I can’t wait for the wedding! We got so much done today. The hotel’s ballroom will be gorgeous, decorated in blue and silver. They’re even providing matchbooks with our names on them for the favors. I also found a place that personalizes shot glasses with our names and date. Isn’t that cute?”
I smile and impassively nod. “I love it.” I nudge Finn, and my hand brushes his. “Wouldn’t that be cool to get a shot glass as a wedding favor?”
He generically nods as he lifts his drink, monotonously replying, “Awesome.” But surprising me, he captures my hand and sweeps it to the inside of his upper thigh, dangerously close to what I want. He plays with my fingers, inching them closer but then away. Is he teasing me as payback for making him sit through this dinner?
This time, when Finn brings my fingers back up, I push against his hand. Taking him by surprise, I graze him between his legs. Feeling how solid he is, I want to touch more, but he promptly moves my hand away from there.
Finn doesn’t like me teasing him, either?
Morgan exclaims, “The beach will be perfect! I’ve always wanted to get married there. What about you, Hadley?” Why is she asking me this right in front of Finn? It’s like she’s trying to make this awkward for us. Shrugging, I uncomfortably glance down at the table, and she says, “You once mentioned getting married in a hot-air balloon. That’s different.”
Shifting, I attempt to pull my hand out of Finn’s, but he holds tighter. Narrowing my eyes at Morgan, I nervously play with my straw. “Yeah, but not very practical. It’s kind of dumb.”
She grins. “I think it’s cool.”
From the corner of my eye, Finn takes a long drink, hating this conversation. I dismissively say, “It was just an idea a while ago.”
Putting her elbows on the table and clasping her hands, she switches her attention to Finn. “What do you think, Finn? Don’t you ever want to get married?” Holy shit, Morgan! What the hell are you doing? She knows the answer to this.
I see his muscles tense in his jaw. Setting his glass down, he mutters, “I never gave it much thought.” I feel like he just slammed me in the ribs with a baseball bat.
Morgan argues, “Oh, come on, coach. I’m sure it’s crossed your mind once or twice, dating Hadley.”
Gripping me with one hand, he clutches his glass with the other, restlessly swirling the ice around as defiance darkly seeps through his voice and hard glare. “Why? We’re happy with the way things are.”
Swallowing hard, I lean forward and silently plead Morgan to shut the fuck up, but she ignores me. “You might be, Finn. Answer my question. Haven’t you thought about marrying my best friend?” She nods toward me but doesn’t let up on her accusing stare.
Returning Morgan’s provocation, Finn lifts his glass again and retorts, “I refuse to marry Rodwell.”
“Very damn funny, Wilder. Why won’t you give me a straight answer?”
“Babe, leave him alone,” Ivan attempts to intervene, and I give him a grateful smile.
Morgan perseveres. “Apparently, that’s not the only person you refuse to marry.”
“Morg, stop,” I beg, feeling the muscles in Finn’s leg tightening beneath our hands. He’s pissed off, and she’s ruining our night. I’m positive Finn will lecture me later regarding what I disclose to my best friend about us.
“Stop what?” She looks at me and then back to Finn. “Isn’t she the woman of your dreams?”
Finn gnashes his teeth by the way his jaw muscles jump. He anxiously licks his lips. “Yes.” I can’t believe he answered that.
In one quick swig, he finishes his Scotch and then scans the room, searching for another.
Morgan nearly squeals, “Then marry her! Jesus! What’s taking you so long?”
Fucking hell, Morgan Yates!
Ivan hisses, “Morgan, shit! Shut up!”
Disrupted by our food being delivered, Finn promptly orders a Jack Daniels. Damn it.
Desperate to calm down Finn, I dig my fingers into his leg and massage his muscles. However, he shifts away to pull his phone out of his pocket, checking the screen. In the meantime, I glare at Morgan, but she shakes her head at me, feigning confusion.
Finn sets down his phone, and I ask, “Work?”
“Oh.” Of course, it is.
His phone vibrates again, and he picks it up to answer with another text.
Morgan scoffs, “Is this how you’re going to avoid answering me?” My mouth drops, and I chomp down on my teeth, giving her a look that could wilt silk flowers.
Finn doesn’t look up from his texting endeavor, sounding bored even. “I did answer you.”
“Not the question I asked earlier. Don’t you want to marry your soulmate?”
My stomach harshly constricts, and my palms sweat. I know what his answer is, and I don’t want to hear it before I ask him to marry me.
Impulsively pushing out my chair, I curtly stand. “I’ll be back.”
Finn swiftly looks up from his phone. “You okay?”
“No.” I bolt from the table. Lucky for me, the restroom isn’t far. Upon entering the stall, I hover above the toilet, expecting to throw up, yet nothing happens. I need to get ahold of myself. I’ll have an ulcer before Morgan’s wedding.
I hear the door open, and I cringe, knowing who it is. “Hadley, are you all right?”
“No,” I respond from my newfound safe space. “How could you do that?”
Morgan sighs. “I could say it’s my hormones, I guess, but that’s not the foremost reason.”
Crossing my arms, I stare at the red door and speak through it. “That was embarrassing, and I know Finn is angry.”
Her heels click on the tile as she paces in front of my stall. “I thought he’d admit he wants to marry you.”
I frown at my hazy reflection in the shiny metal. “He didn’t. Are you satisfied now? Will you please leave him alone?”
“Why should I? That bastard is stringing you along!” Morgan stomps her foot, and the sound echoes off the metal and tile. “Come on, Hadley! You deserve better than that!”
Past annoyed, I shout, “Fuck! Just give me that much before I decide what to do!”
“I’m sorry!” She walks to my stall door, and after a pause, she quietly says, “I just wanted to help.”
“Just leave him alone. He has said enough times he doesn’t want to get married. I don’t even know why I’m asking him. He couldn’t even give you a yes, so how will he give me one?”
She sighs. “After you left, he answered it.”
I shift my gaze to the white-and-brown-speckled floor. “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear it.”
“He didn’t say no.”
“What did he say then? Never?” I emulate his deep voice, “I’ll never marry Hadley Beckett.” I want to die. Can’t I get over this already?
“He said someday.” What?
I’m dumbstruck. “He did?”
“Yeah. He did. See. There’s still hope.”
I unlock the stall door and hear Morgan shuffling out of the way. I walk past her to the sinks and say, “That’s a vague answer. Someday. I’m not getting any younger.” I pause and hold my hands up in front of me. “All over, I have fine lines, crow’s feet, and drier skin.”
Morgan sneers, “Where? I don’t see any wrinkles on you.”
I frown. “They’re there.”
She rolls her eyes before disappearing into a stall. “Whatever. You’ll propose to him and change his mind. Then you elope. I’d be a little miffed, but happy you dragged his ass to the altar.”
“Hopefully, I can get him there.” Do I still even want to try?
Upon our eventual return to the table, and after I sit, Finn instantly leans over and whispers, “Are you okay?” Picking up my glass, I nod. “We need to be alone.” For sex? Now, I’m not even in the mood. He must be psychic because he tacks on, “To talk.”
I don’t feel like doing much of that, either.
We barely make it through the rest of dinner. I still can’t eat. I take two bites of my salmon and mashed potatoes and then push them away. This wedding is more stressful for me than it should be.
Morgan keeps the conversation on the wedding. After saying our goodbyes and my whispered promise to Morgan that I will kill her if she ever does that again, I unlock our doors, sliding into the driver’s seat as Finn walks to the other side. I just want to curl up in bed and go to sleep, forgetting everything else.
Getting in, he slams the door. “Becks, what the hell was that in there?” Excuse me?
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you telling Morgan how I feel about marriage? Can’t anything be just between us?”
I knew he’d say that, but my jaw still hits the emergency brake. “You tell Ricky everything about us.”
He shakes his head. “Not everything.”
I indignantly start the car and reverse out of the space. “Bullshit. Yes, I’ve told her. What was I going to do? Make something up?”
He turns away from me to look out his window. “You seem okay with doing that.”
Stopping at a red light, I glare at the side of his head. “Why would you say that?”
“Finn, tell me!”
Swinging his head to me, he says, “You said tonight would be nice. Right. But I was persecuted for something I don’t want to do.”
When the light turns green, I hit the gas hard, and we lurch forward. “Let it go!” I argue.
“But you can’t let anything go,” he counters.
Slowing at the guard post, I give Chuck a quick smile and wave, and he lets us through. I pull into Finn’s second parking space and hastily get out, heading up to his front door, not waiting for him to start up again in the car. I want to go back to my apartment, but I need to face this. Yet, I don’t want to because I may chicken out of proposing.
Before I can unlock the door with my key, Finn petulantly grumbles, “Why is it such a big fucking deal if I don’t want to marry you?”
I jerk the key to a halt as his words sink in, cutting me to the core.
It’s not marriage that he doesn’t want.
I sharply inhale as heavy tears flood my eyes, and I’m rendered a numb statue. How could he say that be so blasé about it? He just took a samurai sword and gutted me.
Finn stops short behind me, and irritably asks, “What?” Choking on a sob, I bite my lip and wish I had help. A fairy godmother would be nice. “Becks?”
Reaching my breaking point, I remove the key to spin, startling Finn this time, making him flinch. I snap, “I get it! I fucking get it, even if you keep telling me not to give up hope.” I imitate his deep voice, but neither of us laughs. “You’re setting me up for a fall!” Sniffing, I wipe my eyes and fold my arms, wishing I had gone home.
Putting his hands on his hips, he looks around as confusion grips his face. “Fall for what?”
“You want me to get my hopes up that someday you’ll change your mind! That’ll never happen! You want to string me along on your terms! Your life plan, not considering mine at all!”
“I have considered yours! That’s all I ever do! The back-and-forth is driving me insane! Either way, I’m fucking this up!”
I vigorously shake my head. “You waffle so much, IHOP serves fewer than you!” He unexpectedly smirks, and I roar, “You’re an asshole!”
Pushing past him, I stomp down the porch steps to my car and into the sprinkling rain. As I open my door, he throws his hand out, shutting it again. His face is next to mine, and I smell his drinking buddy, Jack Daniels. “Becks, don’t go.”
I close my eyes and try the door handle again. “Move, Finn.”
“I need you to stay.” I bet he does.
I whirl around, his face in mine. “I am not fucking you! Why else would you want me to stay?”
Through his teeth, he says, “Having sex is the last thing on my mind at the moment.”
“Neither is ever marrying me!” I shriek, the knife gouging me, saying the words out loud.
He blinks rapidly through the rain, clinging to his eyelashes. “I told Morgan that we might someday get married. I didn’t say we wouldn’t for certain.”
I slowly repeat, “We might… someday. Gee, how noncommittal of you. You could’ve said it might rain next week. Who the fuck cares, Finn?”
He gasps, the scent of whiskey permeates the damp air. “You already know how I feel…”
I pinch the air in front of his lips, cutting him off. “Save it! You know how I feel. You said you’d think about it, but you’re not! I’m done arguing!”
“You’re done?” His tone is an odd blend of bravado and fear.
Gritting my teeth as I try to regain control of my reaction, so his neighbors aren’t witnesses to my outburst, I grumble, “I’m going home. Alone. I’m done with you tonight.”
“Becks, you said you’d stay.”
“You said a lot of things, too.” I twist around to open my door, but he grabs my hand and twirls me to face him, pinning my arms to my car.
His eyes are black fire, and his voice, hushed and dark. “Huh-uh. We’re not done here. So, you say I waffle? What about you? One minute you’re complaining because I haven’t proposed, but the next you’re telling me you don’t want to get married. And now you’re back to pouting about it. Which is it, Becks? What in the fuck do you want me to do?”
How can he be so insensitive… again? I swallow and struggle to stop crying, but tears stream down my face, intermingling with the raindrops. Somehow finding my voice, I unsteadily mutter, “I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s all I’ve wanted. For you to want it, too.”
Holding my wrists, he booms, “Fuck that! What do you want me to do?”
I shake my head, willing my eyes to move from his, but I’m irrefutably seized in his merciless stare. “When you thought I was pregnant, you wanted to leave me. I know you did.”
“I told you I would never do that!”
I sniff, inhaling alcohol and mist. “It doesn’t matter. You won’t have to worry about an accident anymore.”
He cautiously asks, “Why?”
“I’m going on the Pill.”
Finn quickly blinks, and the droplets fall onto his cheeks. “Yeah, well, it’s not the first time for you, though. Right?” The acid in his voice is undeniable. Oh, no.
I stare at his key as he persistently glares at me. “Why?”
“You were on it before, weren’t you?”
I close my eyes. “Who told you that?”
“I guessed it. I’m not stupid.” Mentally, I scurry for an acceptable answer, but he insistently growls, “Answer me!”
“Why weren’t you on it when we met?”
Wincing, I pray he forgives me. “I was.”
I open my eyes to see his narrow at me. “You were on the Pill when we met? So when I asked you not to go on it, you already were?”
Taking a deep breath, I try to ready myself for Finn’s wrath. “Yes, for my heavy periods. I stopped taking it when you asked me not to go on it.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I stopped because of the reason you didn’t want me to take it. I wanted to respect your beliefs.”
“You were on it for a medical condition. That’s different. Why would you stop taking it to respect my beliefs, even when it was helping you?”
“I thought maybe down the road, we would have a baby. It’s easier not to be on the Pill because it may take longer for me…” Revealing my shame, I look down and sob. He doesn’t care.
His fingers tighten on my arms. “So, was I right? Were you going to get pregnant without me knowing it?”
I whip my head back up to return his glare. “No! I just thought we were… I thought maybe we’d… I didn’t know you wouldn’t…”
He impatiently snaps, “What, Becks?”
“I thought maybe we’d have a family someday. I knew you were my soulmate, and I wanted to spend my life with you. I didn’t want to be stuck on the Pill if you wanted a baby with me. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I should’ve told you.”
“Why did you lie to me?”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it was a big deal.” Now I sound like Finn and why he didn’t tell me about his depression.
Not moving his heated eyes from my face, he takes a hand off me to rub his wet mouth. Oh, no. He’s impossibly mad at me now.
“It is a big fucking deal when you tore me to shreds and practically dumped me for asking you to go on the fucking Pill at Easter! Like I asked you to do something so unbelievable! But here, you had already taken it before! You weren’t even honest with me!”
“I wanted to support you!” I shake the rain from my head, and he releases an arm for me to clean the water away. “Just like us not agreeing about getting married! I want to, but you don’t! I can’t do anything to change that!”
He grabs ahold of me again. “I never said never!” I roll my watery eyes. He licks the water from his lips and blows out an exasperated huff. “Fuck. So now what?”
“That’s why I’m taking time away. I need to accept it once and for all.”
Finn suddenly looks vexed. “And if you can’t?”
His wet key on his chest glints, catching my eye. “I don’t know.” Will he leave me if I can’t?
Realization dawns on him of what I just said. “Wait. I thought you ended your break. You’re supposed to stay with me tonight!”
“I want to go home.”
“Why? Am I losing the only woman I’ve ever loved?” Is he still afraid of losing me? It’s the other way around. Fucking hell. My eyes close, breaking from his trance, and I drop my head. Sobs wrack my body as rain pelts my white shirt.
He lets go of my arms and grabs my shoulders, gently shaking me. “Talk to me! Baby, I can’t lose you!”
“How can you lose me when you don’t even want me?”
He swipes the rain from his mouth, and just as fast, returns his grip on my shoulder. “I do want you! If Jared told you something—”
“My brother has nothing to do with it! Why are we talking about this anymore? Let me go home, Finn.” I try to turn, but he steels his grasp, pushing me up against the car.
He briskly shakes his head. “You’re staying with me.”
“No, I’m not.”
Bringing his face closer to mine, he pleads, “Becks, I’ll do anything you want.”
“For me to stay here?” He’s that hard-up for sex?
He swallows hard and searches my face. “No. For you to stay with me. For us to stay together. I’ll do anything, baby.”
I have a short list of things I want him to do, none of which he’ll ever do. I challenge him. “What will you do, Finn?”
“I’ll…” He apprehensively looks around us as water trickles down his face from his wet hair. All talk, but nothing to back up his game.
I bring my face closer to his. “You’ll what? You’ll put me in the outfield? Check! You’ll let me kiss you during an interview? Check! You’ll hold me out here in the rain until my shirt is totally see-through? You did that at the beach, so double check! You’ll accuse me of tricking you into being a husband or a father? No fucking way, Finn! Because just like you, I have my pride!”
Without warning, he releases his grip on my arms to put his hands on the sides of my head, dipping to kiss me. I kiss him feverishly in return, relishing the feel of his rain-drenched lips on mine, and the whiskey-infused taste of him in my mouth. I move my hands to his jaw and stroke his wet stubble, thrusting my tongue into his mouth while he enthusiastically laps at mine. His thumbs slide over my slick cheeks, and my hands crawl up into his sodden hair, loving the feel of it gliding between my fingers.
He edges closer to me until his weight pins me against my car as our shallow breaths stutter. His white shirt is also transparent, and the coolness combined with the heat of the moment teases my nipples, and they ache for his mouth. The desire to ride him hard is back with a vengeance. It’s a battle I won’t win if I don’t stop now.
Unwillingly, I drag my hands out of his hair, push on his shoulders, and his mouth gives up. The rain silently falls on us, and after a few seconds of catching his breath, over my lips, he hoarsely whispers, “Do you know how much I love you?”
“You said you’d die for me,” I whisper back. I don’t want him dying for me.
He nods against my forehead, and his breathing again surges until he’s nearly panting. His hands fall to my hips, and he roughly pulls me to him, giving me a slow, burning kiss. Despite the cool water dripping onto my face, my skin is searingly hot.
He stops kissing me to whisper, “Becks, I love you so much that I’d get down on my knee for you.” We quietly breathe against each other as I try to wrap my mind around what he just confessed.
Is he taunting me?
I lick my lips, tasting the water dribbling from them and stammer, “Is that a joke?”
He rocks his forehead against mine. “I told you I’ll do anything to keep us together.” I don’t need a fucking sympathy proposal, Finn Wilder.
I dubiously laugh, water peppering my tongue. “You would never make good on your word.” Lifting his right hand to wipe water from his mouth, he then uses his thumb to sweep rain from mine, all while staring intently into my eyes. “You’d propose, but you’d never marry me.” The tears return, and my lips quiver beneath his touch.
His eyes fly around my face as if he’s figuring out what to do. “Are you daring me?”
I shake my head. “No. I’m not. I just know you, Finn. You’ll only do it because you think it’ll make me happy to just be engaged to you. That’s not true.”
He blinks rain away before he steps back. With me gripping his shoulders, he stoops, and my hands fall away from him.
What the hell is he doing? Oh, God! No!
I watch in shock and horror as Finn Wilder gets down on one knee, and it’s how I endlessly dreamed of him doing.
Violently trembling, I claw at the wet hair clinging to my face and loudly cry, “Don’t you dare, Finn Wilder!”
With water streaming down his face, he blinks up at me. “What, Becks? I know you want me to.”
My tears rival the falling rain. “But you just said you don’t want to marry me!”
He opens his mouth to agree with me, but I don’t want to hear it. I rub my eyes, so I can see as I finally escape into my car. I tear out of the lot, leaving him on his knee in the rain, staring at the ground.
As soon as I hit the main road, I stomp on the gas.
How could he tease me like that?
With the bonus points from this low blow, Wilder’s winning this game.