The Keys to Jericho

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Chapter 33

“Let me see it.”

“This looks worse than my permit!”

“No way. Impossible.”

Snatching it from her hand, I look at her driver’s license picture. Her hesitant smile makes me proudly grin. Looking over at Kat, I say, “Congratulations. You’re now a licensed driver.”

Starting the car, she rolls her eyes and snatches back her license, tossing it into the console tray. “When do I get to meet your grandmother? I’d like to thank her for letting me use her car for so long.”

The light turns green, and I say, “Don’t forget about thanking her for having such a sexy grandson, too. Not my cousin Gary.”

Making a left turn, she laughs. “I’m all over that.”

Leaning my head against the seat, I roll my head to her and ask, “Can you be all over her grandson Jared, too?”


I heave a sigh as I tug on my bill. “I guess we can visit her since you got off work early. Maybe she’ll even feed us.”

“Such a good grandson, you are.”

Smirking at her, I say, “I have to build my strength to keep up with you.”

She incredulously laughs. “Me? Right. You can’t keep it in your pants.”

I boldly grin. “I’m out of control. I guess you’d better drive me back to your place so you can ravish me.” Kat laughs louder. Reaching over, I drag my finger along her thigh. “Come on, Kit Kat. This is my last weekend before I start work on Monday. I don’t want to spend all our time together in this damn car.” I grin, staring at her tits. “Unless we’re naked.”

She sighs, and I look up to her surprisingly hopeful smile. “You’re distracting me. I thought you could take me car shopping.”

Sitting up, I push up on my cap, instantly inspired. “Oh, yeah, baby.”

“Get that look out of your eyes, Sonic.”

Rubbing my hands together, I say, “I have some ideas for you.”

“I’m sure you do, but I already know what I want.”

“You do not.”

“I do, too.”

“My ideas aren’t just for looks. They’re safe.” I shrug and lean back, crossing my arms. “A Dodge Charger comes with an automatic.”

Briefly peering over at me, she doubtfully asks, “You want me driving the same car as you?”

“Why not? We can even get Mr. and Mrs. or His and Hers scrawled across the hoods.” She glances at me, and I bite my lip to keep a straight face.

As Kat frowns, her nose wrinkles. “That’s not happening.”

The urge to smile disappears, dejected. “Why not? What’s wrong with my car?”

“It’s not me.” Changing lanes and the subject, she says, “You really should spend some time with Dash, too, you know.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

She glances away from the road. “No, but I’m taking up all your time now. When we get married, we’ll be moving away soon after.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m still pissed off at him.”

“They didn’t do anything.”

“Tell that to Finn. If he had seen them, Dash wouldn’t be getting around without the use of a wheelchair.”

“Finn seems like a nice guy. He wouldn’t do that.”

I take off my hat, fluffing up my hair. “You, my dad, and even Hadley all think he’s calm and laidback. If Hadley thinks he’s not jealous of other guys, then she doesn’t know him. Finn might appear cool and confident on the surface and to his fans, but shit, he’s an insecure time bomb. And that’s the impression he gave me while we were just fishing. I saw it during dinner, in the car, and at the club, too. I even heard it while he was fucking my sister.”

As I put my hat back on my head, Kat shrieks, “Holy hell, Jared! You heard them?”

I scowl as I recall that memory. “Shit, yes. I can’t believe my dad didn’t.”

“The walls are thin, and Finn’s voice is deep. Plus, her bed squeaked in tune with them. Goddamn it. I’ll never be able to unhear the things I heard.”

“Hadley would say the same about you if she heard us, I’m sure.”

I grin at her. “Probably since you’re such a wildcat in bed.”

She laughs, but blandly says, “Yeah, that’s me.”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t be. By all means, scream all you want. I won’t mind. I promise.” Kat laughs more, and I sigh. “Anyway, I guess I’m more observant about Finn than all of you.”

“How come you perceive your sister’s boyfriend’s feelings better than you could mine, or yours, even?”

I shrug. “How come shrinks can’t fix themselves or their own lives?”


As Kat pulls into a parking lot, I look up at the dealership sign. “Are you damn serious?”

“I did my Internet research. I’m positive.”

“Unbelievable.” Kat parks the Nissan and grabbing her purse, she walks to a row of shiny, brand-new cars. Walking up behind her, I put my arms around her shoulders. “Are you sure?”

“Yep. This is what I want.” She digs out a paper from her purse and holds it up for me. “It’s all right here.”

Taking it, I look over the printout as the salesman approaches. I smugly grin. “Black?”

“Of course.”

“They might not have it in stock.”

“I’ll wait. I’m good at waiting.”

I tilt my head and whisper, “I’ll make sure it’s a pleasant wait, Kit Kat.”

“You bet your ass you will, Jericho.”

Since the dealership had to prep Kat’s new car, we have even more time to kill. Opening the door, my grandmother looks at me and then to Kat. The light green polo shirt she’s wearing coordinates with her tracksuit pants. Her gray hair is in one of those clips with the big teeth, and she’s wearing her trademark pink lipstick. Smiling, Grandma asks, “Is this your girlfriend?”

I nod. “Grandma, this is my fiancée, Kat Merrick. Kat, this is Florence Beckett.”

Grandma steps aside, beckoning us into the living room. “Call me Florrie. Come in. Come in.”

Putting my hand on Kat’s lower back, I usher her into the house where I did most of my growing up. Grandma says, “It’s finally nice to meet you.”

“Same here. I’m sorry I haven’t met you sooner. Thank you very much for letting me use your car for so long. That was incredibly kind and trusting of you. I want to repay you somehow. I’d like to take your car to get the oil changed, an alignment, and—”

Grandma shakes her head and waves her hand. “Nonsense. I don’t drive much. Jared said he had a friend he was helping and needed a car. I had one to borrow. That’s all.”

I grin at my grandmother. “It’s because I’m your favorite grandson. Right?”

Grandma laughs. “Of course!” Patting my arm, she says, “Your cousin Gary isn’t here.”

“Hilarious, Grandma,” I grumble, making Kat laugh.

Grandma squeezes my cheek, shaking my face. “At least you pick pretty friends. You have that going for you.”

When she lets go of my face, I rub my cheek. “She’s marrying me.”

Grandma asks, “Are you sure? Maybe she misheard you like one of those rap songs.”

I gape at her, and Kat wheezes from laughing. “Grandma!”

When Kat catches her breath, she asks, “Is Gary single? Maybe I should check the inventory first before I lock down my order.”

Grandma fucking beams at her, finding common ground in teasing the hell out of me.

I sulk, “Where’s Grandpa? I need moral support.”

“Golfing. He won’t be back for a while, so you’re on your own, kid.” I frown as she claps her hands together. “How about I fix you two something?”

I object, “How about an apology?”

My grandmother laughs as we walk into the kitchen. “You pout more than your dad. Where’s your sense of humor?”

“Texas with Gary.” I pull out a chair for Kat and slump into the one next to her as she smiles at me, enjoying herself, apparently.

Grandma sets out some cold cuts and lemonade. We eat, and as she and Kat get acquainted, I try to jump into the conversation, only to get shot down by my grandmother. “Am I asking you?”

I incredulously frown. “Uh, no, but—”

“I’m getting to know your fiancée, so hush.” I roll my eyes. Jesus Christ. Grandma says, “By the way, a few months ago, you told me you weren’t ever getting married. What’s with the turnaround?”

I nod at Kat. “Her.”

Grandma frowns at Kat. “I hope you didn’t let him dip into your cookie jar too soon.”

As I glower at Grandma, Kat shakes her head. “I have a padlock on it.”

Grandma pats Kat’s hand, smiling. “I knew I’d like you. Make him earn it.”

“Grandma! I can’t believe… You two are… I don’t even know what to say to that.”

Grandma shakes her head as I fumble with my sandwich and a rebuttal. She asks Kat, “You’re going to have children with this grandson of mine?”

Kat smiles at me, and then at Grandma. “I’m considering it.”

Grandma fakes horror. “Oh, honey. I’d reconsider it.”

I drop my sandwich. “What the hell?”

Grandma says, “Watch your mouth, young man. Have respect for your damned elders.”

Elderly,” I mutter, and Kat smacks my arm, making me laugh.

Feigning a heavy sigh, Grandma says, “I can only apologize so much for Adam’s mistakes.”

“I’m Jared, Grandma. Not Adam.”

“Well, I know that, boy. I’m apologizing for your father’s hormonal lapse in judgment thirty-some years ago.”

“Wow. I am speechless now.” Getting up, swiping my plate and glass from the table, I say, “Well, I don’t need this abuse. I’m going out to wash the Nissan.”

Kat says, “I’ll do it. I should’ve anyway.”

Grandma says, “You don’t have to do that.”

Loading the dishwasher, I shrug. “Good. I didn’t feel like it.”

Grandma retorts, “I meant Kat doesn’t have to do it. Go wash my car, Jared.”

I frown at her as I close the dishwasher. “I’m so glad I get first-class treatment around here.”

Grandma shoots me a look. “I was only aiming for third.”

Shaking my head, I bite my lip to hide my smile as I open the door. “I like you, too, Grandma.”

Spinning my Colts hat backward, I gather everything I start hosing off the car. Shortly after, Kat comes out to the driveway. “Need some help?”

“Are you allowed?”

She giggles. “Your grandmother loves teasing you.”

“Haven’t noticed.” Kat puts her hands on her hips, watching me. Reaching into the bucket, I toss her the sponge, but she catches it with suds splashing her clothes. “Get it good and soapy. I like it slippery.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll rub it down good.”

Watching her squeeze the sponge, letting the foam escape, I say, “Oh, baby. Just like that. All creamy.”

“I know how to handle your hose.”

I let go of the trigger. “I do love spraying it everywhere, don’t I?”

She nods. “Steering wheels, for one.”

“Your headlights, another.” I need to do that one again.

Kat smirks as her gaze goes to my crotch. “You’re definitely fuel-injected.”

“And, Kitty Kat, I make your engine roar.” She laughs as she begins washing the car while I start on the tires with a brush.

When we’re finished, I grab the hose and spray the soap off the car, saying, “You got black smudges on your T-shirt.”

Looking down, she says, “Oh, no.”

“I got it.” I thoroughly spray her white shirt with water. Kat shrieks, sticking her hands out in front of her. Shit. Like that’ll stop me.


Letting go of the trigger, I laugh to the point of struggling for air. “Fuck. Sorry.”

Kat looks down to her soaked shirt, her bra not concealing much. She stomps over to me, easily taking the hose since I’m laughing so hard, even as I anticipate I’m getting wet, too. However, I didn’t anticipate her inserting the nozzle into my shorts, blasting my junk with cold water. “Fuck!” I yell, but laugh, pushing her away from me. As I dodge her, she sprays my chest, ass, and back, making my protests louder.

Hearing the commotion, my grandmother walks out onto the porch. Seeing her, Kat stops the flow of water, thankfully. Grandma shakes her head. “Kat, really.” I grin at the changing tide, but Grandma goes on, “Is that boy so eager to have his first sexual experience that he’s resorted to making your shirt transparent, just to get a juvenile thrill?” She clicks her tongue, shaming me.

I throw my hands out. “Hey!”

Dropping the hose, Kat crosses her arms. “Yes. Pretty desperate.”

Grandma puts her hands on the porch railing. “You have to watch these Beckett boys, especially that one. He’s a handful.”

Kat sighs. “You’re telling me.”

Sneaking up behind Kat, I grab the hose and shove it into the back of her shirt, spraying down it. She squeals, “Shit! Jared Beckett!”

Pointing at Kat, I shout, “Watch your mouth, young lady!”

Grandma says, “Jared, I’m going to beat your ass.” I laugh, and my grandmother shakes her head. “Come on in here, Kat. Get dried off. I have a shirt you can wear.”

“I’m wet, too!”

Grandma waves me off. “Save it. You’re not Gary.”


As Kat squeezes out her shirt, I go over, grinning. “Don’t change on my account. I’d rather you wear nothing.”

She frowns but looks away from me. “Bite me, Jericho.”

Putting my arms around her wet waist, pulling her to my soaked body, I say, “Kit Kat, kiss me first.”

Grandma asks, “Why would she want to do that?”

Pulling at wet strands of hair hanging from my cap, Kat whispers, “If we were alone, I’d give you such a wet fuck right now.” I gasp, and she kisses me on the cheek before heading up the porch steps.

Grandma asks her, “Are you sure you want to marry him? He’s the problem grandchild if you haven’t noticed.”

Looking back at me, Kat says, “Oh, I’ve noticed.”

Grinning as I pick up the hose to finish the car, I shout, “Until death do us part, baby!”

Trying not to laugh, Grandma clasps her hands together and yells to the sky, “God, help us all!”

No doubt about it. Adam Beckett was adopted.

“I love this car.”

“Uh-huh. It’s nice. You’re lucky they had what you wanted at a nearby dealership, and we didn’t have to wait long.”

Kat pulls into the spot we did last time, looking in her rearview mirror at the apartments behind us. Peering down to the console, she says, “Hmm. I have to get used to the gear selector.”

Concerned about her confusion, I ask, “Why? It’s not much different.”

“Somewhat, it is. Do I have to do anything different to shift into gear?”

“Nope. Your foot is on the brake, so you shift into park.” I put my hand over hers, and we slide the stick into park. “There you go.”

“Thanks. I just have to figure out where everything is, too.”

Getting back into instructor mode, I point. “Headlights, right there. There are the windshield wipers. Here are the hazard lights. Emergency brake, here. If you have any more questions, let me know.”

“Jared, what would I do without you? You’re my hero.”

I smirk. “You’ll do fine. But I can also dispatch my sidekick, Calder, to help you, too. As long as he keeps his clothes on. Christ.”

Kat laughs. “He will. And if he doesn’t, I’m not interested in his goods.”

I lean closer to her. “Really?”

“I haven’t seen Rio’s yet.”

I scowl and sit back. “Very funny.”

Giggling, she asks, “Have you seen his, too?”

“No. Sorry to disappoint you. Only Dash’s, so thanks for that fucking flashback.”

Her eyes go to my lips again. “Just kiss me in my new car, damn it.”

Shaking my head, I sigh. “I don’t know now. You wounded me.”

Leaning over, she grips my shirt, pulling me toward her. “If you don’t kiss me, I will wound you.”

Smiling, I whisper, “Ooh. I like rough sex.” Reaching up, I lightly pull at strands of her hair. “I like all kinds of it with you. Let’s pick one and have it. Right now.”

“I mean, we’re here and all.”

Sucking in a breath of air through my teeth, I hurriedly get out of the car, but once outside, I peer over at the school.

“What?” she asks when I don’t open the door. I shake my head, but Kat walks around the car to where I’m standing. “Are you okay?”

I shrug at the school and then look at her. “I was just thinking about what I found and lost in that place.” I anxiously lick my lip, the memories fresh in the glow of the school’s lot, flooding me as if they happened yesterday. “I wanted you so much then. I should’ve told you, but I… We wasted so much time, and it’s my fault you married that asshole. I was so stupid.”

She grabs onto my biceps. “It was my fault that I didn’t say anything, either. It’s also not your fault I married him! That was all mine. We fixed it. We’re together now. Like we were supposed to be.”

Nodding, I reach around her, opening the door to the back seat. “Get in.”

While Kat climbs into her black Nissan Altima, I look around us before following. As she leans onto the front seat to lock the door, I reach up her skirt, yanking on her underwear. When she pulls them off, she kneels on the back seat, leaning in close to my face as she jerks down the elastic of my shorts, which are much easier access than jeans in a car, even if I had to change my wet pair earlier.

I tilt my head and our noses touch, but we only hover our mouths over each other’s, surprisingly not in a rush to kiss. Looking into her eyes, I whisper, “I’m so proud of you.”

She sits back some. “For what?”

“Your license. Buying a car. Triumphing over your accident. You’re so brave. You conquered your fear. I’ll forever be in awe of that.”

“Thank you. I couldn’t have done any of this without you, Jared. You conquered your fear, too.”

“What fear is that? Marriage?” I shake my head. “I’m not afraid to marry you.”

Kat slightly smiles. “You were afraid to love me.”

I hesitantly admit, “I wasn’t afraid to love you. I was afraid of you not loving me.”

“Oh, Jared.” She winces before she leans her forehead against mine.

“So, don’t thank me.” Swallowing, I whisper, “Just love me.”

“I can’t even tell you how much I love you. It grows each time I’m with you.”

“Mine does, too, baby.”

Kat sighs, and when she moves her head, the light from the school illuminates her tears. “I’ll miss you.”

I reach up and wipe her cheeks. “Don’t cry, Kit Kat. I’ll miss you, too. This school year will go fast. We’ll get through it.”

“I won’t be able to tell you goodbye. It’ll be too hard.”

“It’s not goodbye. Think of it as just a temporary absence during the week. A short detour on our road to forever.” How in the hell did I get so fucking mushy?

“God. I love that.” Kat giggles, reminding me of how I became so mushy, and I’m again grateful.

“I do, too. We’ll still talk every night. I promise.”

“I just have to keep telling myself you’re not leaving me.”

I sternly say, “I love you. Not just present. My past and future, too. And I’m not leaving you.” Picking up her left hand, I ask, “See this ring? It means you’re taken. It’s sort of a placeholder until I give you another ring that shows the world I made that vow to you.”

“But you have no ring yet. I want you and everyone else to know you’re still mine.”

“I do know that. And if anyone doesn’t know, I’ll tell them I’m in love with the most amazing woman. It’ll never be a secret again.” Kat smiles and still hovering our lips close, I reach up to brush the new tears from her face. “We’ll be okay, Kit Kat.”

Kat nods, and I sweep her brown hair, tucking it behind her ears. She rubs her nose over mine, and I practically hear our hearts pounding with our broken breathing. Moving my hand to the back of her head, I pull her closer. “Like this.”

Our lips slowly meet, feeling just as good as our first kiss had. Her hands go to my face, and her thumbs are close to my lips as we kiss. Growing harder, I groan, but don’t move her onto me. We only kiss, filling the car with the sound of our lips and muffled moaning as we make out near our high school.

When our moaning becomes louder and more frequent, I lift her onto my lap, she positions herself over me, gradually taking me into her. We groan against each other’s mouths as we snugly fit together. My hands go to her hips, and I slowly slide her back and forth, but we’re still in no hurry to get off.

The lights from the school’s lot cast a soft glow on us, but they in no way spotlight us in her car. Leaving her mouth, I whisper, “You’re all I’ve ever wanted.”

Keeping a slow rhythm, she gasps, “You’re my holy grail.”

Our slow fuck begins to ignite me, but I strive to stay at a steady pace with her, not rushing what time we have left together, no matter what we’re doing. But like before, going slow does nothing to slow us.

Kat throws her head back. “Jared, fuck me.”

“Kitty Kat, ride my cock. It’s all yours.” I push my hips up, going deeper. Unfortunately, that also pushes me into overdrive. I grunt, “Shit.” Holding her as I come, I roll my head back and yell, “Fuck!”

Gripping my shoulders, Kat moves faster. “Oh, Sonic.” She moans as she peaks, and with her body holding onto me, I gasp with her yelps. “Jared! Baby!” Kat fucks me fast, rubbing out her orgasm I had promised earlier. When she finally stops, she heaves a contented sigh while smiling. Then, leaning down, she kisses me.

My grin pulls along her smiling lips. “Nice car. I hereby proclaim it christened.”

“I’ll remember this when I’m driving without you. It’s perfect.”

“That’s what I think about in mine, too, so it’s only fair. But who knew that sex in a Nissan Altima would be so fucking hot?”

“I knew it would be.”

“But then again, I’d have sex with you anywhere, anytime, anyhow.”

I always keep my word.

“Hey, Jericho! Happy Thanksgiving!”

Setting down the large bowl of stuffing Kat made, I reply, “Happy Thanksgiving. Why’re you here so early?”

Standing at the kitchen island, Dash answers, “Because I told Brenda I make a mean chocolate chip pecan pie. She wanted me to make a couple, so here I am.”

“What’s wrong with your oven at home?”

“I didn’t want the crust edges to break or the middles to cave in on the way here.”

“Jesus. I think your balls caved in on the way here.”

Taking a dishcloth, he wipes the counter, shrugging. “Where’s Merrick?”

“She ran upstairs.” Looking around the kitchen, I say, “The house turned out nice.”

He nods, taking in the room, as well. “Yeah. It did. All our blood, sweat, and tears paid off.”

I frown. “With your contribution of glitter, pecans, and hairspray.”

Dash rolls his eyes. “How’s work going?”

Shrugging off my gray coat, I reply, “Good. I already have a lead into Richmond. I just have to get licensed.”

“Damn, Jericho. You’ll have to get a bunch of licenses. For work, driving, and marriage.”

“I know.”

Dash clears his throat as he pretends to concentrate on putting the cap back on a bottle. “Where’s your dad?” Dash Calder can’t fool me.

“He had to take care of something for work. Don’t worry, Hadley will be here.” Even though Dash looks down to his pie, his eyes light up. Squelching that fire, I say, “With Finn.”

He mutters, “That’s great.”


Dash frowns, but then he looks up and smiles. “Hey there, future Mrs. Beckett!”

Smiling, Kat goes over to hug him. “Hey, Dash. What’re you doing?”

Looking at Kat, wearing the dark green sweater dress she wouldn’t let me take off her before we left, I sneer, “Scrounging for his balls.”

Kat takes my coat from me as the doorbell rings. She leaves the kitchen to answer it while the oven timer goes off, and Dash rushes over to it, grabbing potholders. He lifts out another pie parked on the rack above the turkey. Truth be told, I’d rather skip dinner to eat chocolate chip pecan pie. At least Calder is good for something.

“Hey, bud. Happy Thanksgiving,” Dad says as he carries a casserole dish over to the counter before hugging me. “When did you get in?”

“Last night.” I vaguely notice Finn setting a pot of food on the counter, and Hadley putting down the bag of food she’s carrying.

Releasing me, Dad asks, “Are you staying until Sunday?”

“No. Since I’m the low man on the totem pole, I have to work tomorrow.”

From behind me, Hadley asks, “You only came in for one day?”

Nodding, I turn. “I said I’d be here.”

Dad asks, “You’re still coming back Friday night?”


Hadley says, “That’s a lot of driving.”

Dash laughs, glancing at my sister. “Jericho’s in love.” Like he has room to talk.

I frown at his gleeful face, still watching my sister. Oblivious, Hadley says, “You’re sweet, Jared.” She hugs me and from above her head, I see Finn leaning against the counter, his arms folded over his chest, and giving me a look, clearly disputing that.

I nod at Finn. “Hey.”

Sharpening his dark glare, he measuredly answers, “Jared.”

Patting Hadley’s back, I ask, “You have a good birthday?”

As Hadley lets go of me, she says, “Yeah. Dad gave me some gift cards. Finn gave me a glass picture frame, purple nail polish, this sweater I’m wearing, gift cards, and a bottle of wine.”

“I wanted to buy you a new phone from this century,” Finn says.

Hadley argues, “The one I have now is fine.”

I complain, “Yeah, seriously. Get a new phone. Stop being stubborn.”

Laughing, Dash says, “Pot calling kettle.”

Playing with her ponytail, Hadley quickly smiles at Dash, undoubtedly causing him to orgasm.

Peering over at Dash, he looks away from Hadley, but his lovestruck grin is obnoxious, and I frown at him. “Bite me, Calder.”

Dad says, “All right now. It’s Thanksgiving. No biting each other.”

Still holding onto my coat, Kat says, “Adam, Finn, and Hadley, let me take your coats. I’ll put them on the couch in the den.”

Finn reluctantly straightens to take off his puffed, black coat, and as Hadley takes off her blue coat, I glance at Dash, who looks away from her again. Jesus. Hadley’s fucking boyfriend is standing within choking distance. Dash will lose his life on Thanksgiving. I hope Kat has his pie recipe.

Looking at the clock and going to the oven, Dash removes the turkey while announcing, “This isn’t going to carve itself, Jericho.”

I scowl. “Why don’t you do it, Betty Crocker?”

“Not my thing. I do pies.”

Dad goes over, plugging in the electric knife on the counter. “I got it.”

Dash grins. “Thanks, Mr. Beckett.”

“It’s my specialty, Dashiell.” Christ. These two never get enough of that shit.

Dash asks, “Did you help pick out Merrick’s car?”

Since Kat isn’t in the kitchen, I retort, “Yeah, I was all over that car.” It wasn’t terrible to fuck in, though.

Dad asks, “What’s wrong with her car? Your grandma has one.”

“And you just answered your own question, Dad.”

Dash suspiciously looks from me to Finn when he casually asks, “What do you drive, Finn?”

“A Mustang.”

I ask, “Is it black?”

He gives me a slightly irritated look. “Red with white stripes.” I guess he doesn’t get a membership to my inner circle.

Dash presses, “Shelby GT500?” Dash and certain cars—his second reason for a hard-on.

Finn frowns. “Yeah, right. They only made two thousand of them this year. Like I could afford one of those. The stripes are custom, though.”

Dash grins. “Oh. Aren’t you a weatherman?” Stupefied, I gape at Calder as he metaphorically whips out his dick. To his advantage, I know what he has to work with, so Finn had better be packing, too.

“Sports anchor, but I have my own segment on Fridays.” Pushing up the sleeves of his brown sweater, Finn asks, “Aren’t you a kids’ gym teacher?” Ouch. So far, Finn’s dick is dangling between his knees.

Nodding, Dash says, “I guess we have sports jobs in common?”

Finn stiffly laughs. “Yeah.”

Crossing his arms, Dash looks to the counter, contemplating his next move. “Don’t you travel a lot?”

We all look back to Finn like we’re at a goddamn tennis match. “I do, but I get to see different places and meet a lot of people.” Your ball, Calder.

Dash shrugs. “I’m more of a homebody, staying where I might be needed.” Holy shit, Dash.

Finn smirks, tilting his head. “I can handle both, but I bet that makes your girlfriend happy.” Fucking hell, Finn. Going right for the nuts.

Turning away from the turkey, Dad asks, “You have a girlfriend, Dashiell?”

“Not at the moment,” he grumbles over his pie. His last one, Gwen, was a waste of time. I think she only dated him because she liked Rio.

Kat returns to the room as a somewhat stunned Hadley asks, “Is there anything we can do to help?”

Kat clasps her hands together. “My mom already has the table set, but we can pour drinks.”

Hadley grabs Kat’s left hand, holding it up for Finn to see. “Look what Jared gave Kat.”

Finn curtly says, “Yeah. You told me.”

Hadley replies, “Now I’m showing you.”

“It’s nice.” Nice? It’s not a fucking summer breeze.

Sighing, Hadley lets go of Kat’s hand and asks, “Can you believe my little brother is getting married?”

Glaring at me, he says, “No, I cannot.”

Brenda walks into the kitchen and squeals, “Hi, everyone!” She leans against my dad’s arm as he finishes the turkey, making me wonder if their kids’ engagement is bringing them closer. Shit. I refuse to be Kat’s brother. Adam Beckett and I will be talking.

Brenda turns from my dad. “We need some more chairs. There’re folding ones in the basement if two strapping men could grab some.”

“How many?” I ask.

“Tony will be here with his wife, Janine. Pete will be by later on, so let’s do four chairs.” As I head to the basement door, Brenda says, “Look at my future son-in-law. Always offering his help.”

Rolling my eyes as I open the basement door, I head down the stairs, hearing footsteps behind me, expecting it to be Dash. Once I reach the basement, I turn around to see Finn.

Looking for the chairs, I weave my way through stacked boxes. Finn says, “I guess I should offer my congratulations.”

I shrug as I peer around the finished but crowded basement. “No one ever said you had to.”

“So now, you’re suddenly into marriage?”

Looking over my shoulder, I say, “Not suddenly.”

“How’s that make sense? Not even five months ago, you told me you were against marriage, glad that I was, too. Now, you’re marrying someone you weren’t even dating?”

I turn to face him. “We didn’t meet on a dating site. Everyone seems to forget that Kat and I knew each other in high school.”

“And you seem to forget that you told me to dump your sister just to avoid marrying her.”

“I’m not saying marriage is for you, but don’t drag my sister around while you try to get your shit together.”

He sourly laughs. “I’m the one who can’t make up his mind? You changed yours so fast I need a neck brace!”

“So what? You can always change yours and marry Hadley.”

“Ever since you announced your engagement, she’s been dropping more and more hints, leaving bridal magazines around, talking endlessly about wedding shit, particularly yours because Kat asked her to be a bridesmaid. It has to stop. The pressure is driving me fucking crazy.”

Crossing my arms, I angrily scoff, “Are you looking for an apology from me because I want to marry Kat? If you are, I’m fresh out.”

“What was that whole speech you gave when we were fishing? You just don’t want me marrying your sister, so you feed me a bunch of bullshit?”

“I’m looking out for Hadley.”

“Right, since you’ve looked out for her zero times throughout us dating.”

I laugh. “Do you think she’ll always just want to date you?”

Putting his hands on his hips, he snaps, “You’re still fucking advocating me breaking up with her? What the fuck, Jared?”

“Shit or get off the pot. I know you’re against marriage. She isn’t. You’ll either have to marry her or break up with her. I’ve never deviated from that. I only changed sides.”

He glares at me as his hand impatiently swipes through his brownish hair. “Fuck, you’re preposterous. If she knew you were telling me to break up with her…”

Laughing again, I counter, “If she knew the depth of your refusal to marry her…”

“She knows this, but of course, you’ll tell her.”

“Nope. That’s your job. I’m not telling Hadley you’d rather her burn at the stake than marry her.”

“That’s an exaggeration. If I do ever change my mind, it’ll be because I changed it, not because someone told me I fucking need to.”

“Your unwillingness isn’t because you’re stowing pussy on the side, is it?”

His eyes instantly widen. “Why in the hell would you ask me that shit?”

“I have my suspicions.” Best to leave Hadley’s out of it.

“Like it’s any of your business.” I knew that underneath his polite, friendly façade lurked his inner prick.

“When the only woman you’re supposed to be fucking is my sister, then you better believe it’s my business who’s on your cock.”

“She is the only one.”

“Keep it that way, or you will hear from me about it. I promise you.”

“What are you boys doing down there? Organizing a yard sale?” Brenda asks from the basement door.

Grabbing two chairs, I reiterate, “There’re other guys who would love to marry your girlfriend.” I say this to spur him into action, but the truth of that statement is scarily accurate. However, Dash Calder will not be my brother-in-law. I can’t even fathom that in my worst repetitive nightmare set on fire.

Upstairs, I set out the two chairs and take the empty seat next to Kat, across from Hadley. When Finn takes his seat, he shoots me a riled glare, which only intensifies when my sister talks wedding shit with my fiancée.

Hadley says, “Your wedding will be so romantic. That’s what I want someday.”

Kat says, “I’ll help you with yours, too.”

“It still might be years away.”

“Years? Why?”

Hadley looks down at her plate. “I have to be asked first.”

Kat winces. “Oh.”

Shrugging, I say, “Maybe you need a do-over.”

Looking up at me, Hadley argues, “Jared.” Finn glowers at me while his jaw tics and his hand on the table tightens into a fist.

On the other side of me, Dash says, “Leos are highly ambitious but extremely stubborn.”

Finn mutters, “Yeah. I’m stubborn.” His fingers of his left hand anxiously flick together on the table. Reaching for the bottle of wine with his other hand, he fills his glass to the top in five seconds before swigging it down in two.

Again, not noticing Finn’s silent meltdown, Hadley resumes chatting with Kat about our wedding, but with every glass of wine he downs, Finn relaxes until his bogus, self-assured smirk returns. Like Calder’s unrequited love for my sister, I guess I’m the only one he’s not fooling.

After dinner, as we all clean up the table, the edges of Finn’s brooding reemerge, but he manages to keep up his smug act when Hadley looks his way while sending occasional, dark glares my way. Jesus. He has her snowed.

While Kat finishes up with her mom, I go to the den to get our coats, but I hear my sister talking, so I stop.

“I didn’t think you’d drink so much wine, Finn.”

“Just thirsty.”

“It was good wine. I think Kat said they’re having it at their reception. What?”

“Can you take a break?”


“The wedding shit. That’s all I hear about anymore.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize I talked about it that much.”

“Yeah. You do. It’s only getting worse, and it’s barely even started.”

“I’m in the wedding. I have to talk about it.”

“With them. Not me. I don’t give a shit what color their napkins are or what song the caterers will dance to.”

I hear her laugh. “They don’t usually dance—”

“You know what I mean, Becks. I don’t need to hear every damn detail. It’s only November. Fucking July is a long time away.”

“Not for wedding planning.”

“This shit turns me way off to ever… Stop pressuring me.”

“I’m not.”

“You are. It’s the innuendoes, the hints scattered all over your apartment, and now, even mine. It’s all irritating the fuck out of me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I told you I don’t want to get married. That’s no shock to you.”

“I know, but—”

“I might not ever change my mind.”

“Don’t you love me?” Hadley’s voice shakes, and I want to punch Finn Wilder.


“Can’t you answer that?”

“You know the answer to that. Loving you has nothing to do with this.”

“It has everything to do with this, Finn. You’re not going to their wedding with me. Are you?”

“Probably not. Too close to the Fourth. That’s a busy time for me at work.” I hear Hadley’s unsteady breath, and he unconvincingly mutters, “I’ll see what I can do. Let’s go. I need to catch some scores.”

“It’s Thanksgiving. You’re working?”

“If it helps me zone out from this shit, then yes. Gladly.”

Hearing shuffling on the carpet, I dive into the nearby bathroom.

Jesus Christ. Hadley has less backbone than I thought. Goddamn it. Am I the only Beckett with a fighting spirit? She makes Dad look like a fucking Samurai.

For Christmas, Kat and I spent her break together mostly in Philly. It was rather nice, not having her mother pop in, excited. In the big picture, like Finn, I don’t give two fucks about napkin colors or who dances to what song. Just as long as I get to call Kat my wife.

I do have a significant task to handle. The honeymoon. I just don’t know where we should go. Somewhere secret, so her mother doesn’t show up, asking us when we’re having a baby. She’d probably try to give me pointers on positions and critique how fast I thrust into her daughter.

“Do I really need to wear this shit? I look like a fucking pussy!” I loudly complain, pulling at the white fluff on the leg of my boxers. Looking up, I scowl at the Santa hat dangling from my head.

From the bathroom, Kat yells, “Yes!”

“What the hell?” Crossing my arms over my bare chest, I look out the window, praying no one can see me dressed like this. I’d rather a naked picture of me be posted online, than one of me wearing this fucking get-up.

The small Christmas tree Kat put in the corner sparkles in the dim room. When the doorway darkens, I turn to see Kat dressed in a sheer, red nightie topped with the white fluff I hated two seconds ago, hugging her tits. The flimsy, red underwear she’s wearing won’t last long. I also notice the matching Santa hat she’s wearing.

She says, “I can change.”

“Like fucking hell, you will.”

Kat gets onto the bed, and I grab her hand, pulling her to straddle my legs. As my hands slide up her ribs, over the thin material, she says, “You look hot, Santa.”

“I hear you’ve been a bad girl this year, Katriona. Whatever will I give you?”

“A lump of coal?” I shake my head. “How about the South Pole?” She grins, looking between my legs.

“I was right. Very naughty.”

“I’ll show you just how naughty I can be.” She runs her hands down my chest, my stomach, and stops at my waistband. “Oh, wait. Aren’t you married?”

Squeezing her tits together, I lick my lips. “Not yet. I’m still looking for my Mrs. Claus.”

“You’re still auditioning for the position?”

“In every position possible. Santa is eager to eat your Christmas cookies.”

Kat giggles, and my hands go to the top of her nightie, pulling it down to expose her tits. Leaning in, I eagerly take one into my mouth. When my hands go to Kat’s shoulders to push her onto her back, she unexpectedly moves and yanks down the front of my boxers. Bending, she quickly takes my dick into her bright red mouth.

Watching her leave red streaks on me again, I groan, “Damn, baby. I love your signature.” She licks up along my shaft and then sucks on the tip. When she takes me deep into her mouth, I close my eyes and whisper, “Hell, fucking yeah.”

Merry Christmas to me.

New Year’s arrives, and this time, Rio asks Kat to help him pick out a ring for Liberty, momentarily leaving me with the fear she might try to see his goods. Jesus.

Sure enough, right after midnight, Kat’s phone rings, and they both squeal on speakerphone for half an hour, with Liberty asking Kat to be a bridesmaid. Christ. Not this shit again.

In contrast, Rio and I did no squealing whatsoever, and our call only lasted ten minutes, even with our agreeing to meet for lunch.

Taking my seat in the booth at our usual sports bar, the hostess gives us menus. I order a roast beef sandwich and an iced tea while Rio, actually being on time, orders a club sandwich with his iced tea.

He folds his hands and takes on a serious expression, which is a usual Duquesne trait. Older than me by over a year, he tends to act more his age. He says, “I’m not saying a bunch of flowery shit.” Appearing anxious, which isn’t a Duquesne trait, he says, “You’re my best friend, Jare. Be my best man.”

Sucking in a breath, I say, “You make me feel like a total douche for picking my dad.”

Grinning, he shakes his head. “I love that you asked him. He’s the perfect choice, and it means a lot to him. Very admirable of you.”

I look at the table. “Uh, thanks.”

“So, will you?”

Surprisingly, I’m excited for him, and I laugh. “Fuck yeah, I will!”

Rio laughs in relief, I think. He asks, “Can you believe we’re both getting married this year?”

“Never in a million years. And it’s coming faster than I thought it would.”

“Are you changing your mind?”

“No. Just…” I sigh, leaning back against the seat. I look around the bar, searching for the right words. If I do, I’m not sure I want to acknowledge them.

“Nervous? Scared?” Fuck me.

Shrugging, I mutter, “I don’t want to screw this up. I’ve already done that enough times with her.”

“You’ll be a great husband. I see how you are with Kat. She makes you happy. I haven’t seen you smile so much in all the years I’ve known you.”

I nod. “I know I act like a prick most of the time, but I really do hope you’re happy, too.”

Rio raises his eyebrows, surprised. “I am.”

“Good. We just have to find Calder a woman.”

Laughing, Rio sits back, his blue eyes gleaming as he crosses his arms. “You know who he wants.” Also, in a million years.

The waitress brings us our drinks, and I scowl into my iced tea. “I’d rather send him pictures of me wearing my Christmas pajamas than for him to marry Hadley.”

“I don’t even want to know.”

I roll my eyes. “Trust me, you don’t, but I can’t complain about them too much. Not after… wow.” Just thinking of Kat frantically tonguing my dick forces me to shift in my seat.

Rio leans forward and, in a hushed voice, says, “I had to wear boxers that look like Santa’s suit, and a fucking Santa hat to go with them.”

I pound my fist on the table, making our drinks jump. “Goddamn it. Mrs. Beckett and Mrs. Duquesne need to stop talking to each other, starting right this second.”

He sighs but laughs. “Are you ready for this, Beckett?”

I shake my head. “I’ll need a drinking buddy from time to time.”

Rio nods with a smirk. “You have me, Jare. Always will.”

What in the hell would I do without River Duquesne?

Christ. I’d be stuck banging my head against the wall, listening to Dashiell Calder, and a constant witness to his pining for Hadley.

“Same here, Duquesne. Someone has to start the fires.”

He smiles. “Someone has to douse the flames. It’s a friendship made in heaven.”

I arch an eyebrow. “Or hell.”

“Goddamn it, Jared Beckett. Definitely hell.”

“Baby, I’ve missed you!” Kat says, hugging me as I walk through the front door of her apartment. I guess I’ll still call it hers, even if I have a key to it, keep clothes in her drawers, and spend most of my weekends with her here.

As soon as I toss my keys onto the counter, she hands me a red bag with white tissue paper inside it. “Why’d you do this?” I irritably snatch the bag from her hooked finger, and Kat smiles.

“It’s our first Valentine’s Day, Jericho,” Kat says, rolling her eyes.

“I told you not to get me anything.”

“Did you get me something?”

I arch an eyebrow at her. “Yeah, but I took it back.”

“That’s okay. I’m not hurt. All I want is your love.” Fuck. She always calls my bluff.

Still scowling at her but unable to hold it as she grins, I roll my eyes and reach into the bag to pull out a new Colts hat. I smile at it. “Thanks, Kit Kat. I needed a new one.”

Nodding, she glances up at the old one I’m wearing. “There’s more at the bottom of the bag.”

Digging through the paper, I pull out a new leather wallet. “Your hat and wallet are both so faded.”

“When I love something, I’m completely faithful to it.”

Kat smiles, her brown eyes glowing. “I know you are.” When I go to set the bag on the kitchen table, she says, “Wait! There’s one more thing in there.” Frowning at her because she spent too much, I reach in, pulling out a metal key keychain, similar to the one I gave Kat. “So, you have my key, too.”

“I love it. Thank you.” I lean down to give her a kiss but pull away before she makes me forget about her gift.

Setting down the bag, I go to the hall closet, rummaging behind the umbrellas in the corner, to pull out the red bag I hid there. I did a good job of hiding it right under her nose.

Returning to the kitchen with the bag, Kat sees it, and her eyes light up. “What’s this?”

“Nothing at all.” I hand the bag to her. She burrows through the pink paper and pulls out a small, black velvet box. Kat looks at me questioningly before opening it.

“Jared!” She smiles as she picks up the gold starfish necklace.

Suddenly feeling nervous about the gift being stupid, I rub the back of my neck. “I couldn’t find one with a broken arm.”

Her smile blinds me. “I love it, Jared. It still symbolizes our renewal. Our longevity. We’ve been together in our hearts all these years. Will you put it on me?”

“On you. In you…”

She laughs, pushing my arm. “I meant the necklace.”

“Yeah. As long as I can take everything else off you.”

Kat continues to giggle as I take the box from her, removing the necklace. Tossing the box onto the table, I grab the ends of the necklace, joining them together over the back of her neck. As I trail my fingers over her collarbone, she inhales. Leaning down, I kiss her neck as my hands go to her tits, pushing her against me, making her nipples and my cock harden together. Taking in her scent as my nose and mouth drag over her skin, I whisper, “God. I missed you, baby.”

Her chest heaves beneath my hands. “I missed you, too, Sonic.”

My right hand slides down to the crotch of her sweatpants, palming her over them. “I want to make love to you, Kit Kat.”

“Right now,” Kat agrees, walking us to the bedroom. I kiss her neck and clutch her pussy through her pants while my impatient hard-on urges her as we walk.

Once in her room, she spins around, pushes off my hat, and tugs my head down to her lips. We kiss as we work on each other’s sweatpants. We then move to our shirts, and once they’re gone, Kat gets into her unmade bed. Climbing over her, I kiss down to her bra strap, and she lifts my face, whispering, “I love kissing these lips.” She pulls on my head to reclaim my mouth, and for the moment, I forget about her bra as we make out.

However, my dick can’t ignore her pussy. My hips swivel against hers, almost like we’re magnetic, and we have to be together.

“I fucking want you. Make love to me, Jared.”

While I stroke her hip, we kiss as I start to push into her, teasing her clit to the sound of the doorbell. I groan over her lips. “Don’t fucking answer that.”

“It’s probably my mom.”


“She has a key.”

Shoving halfway into her, Kat moans, and I say, “She’ll go away.”

Kat lifts her hips, taking more of me inside, yet argues, “She knows we’re home. Our cars are here.”

I grunt from the feel of her and from being frustrated with our distraction. “Jesus Christ. Can’t she take a hint? If not, she can wait.”

“I’m not having a quick fuck with you while she stands outside.”

I strive to keep my hard-on as the doorbell rings again, but I know it’s a lost cause. I give her another thrust as a parting gift. “I don’t care where she stands, but the floral arrangements or goddamn place cards can wait.”

Knocking is heard now. Kat pushes me away and scoots from beneath me to put on her clothes. Sitting on my knees, I sigh, and she says, “You probably should get dressed.”

“Why? I feel your pussy on me. I’ll only think about it and get hard in front of her. Tell her to go home. We’re having sex.” I throw my hands out. “We were.”

Licking her lip, she sullenly nods as her gaze goes from my impatient scowl, falling on my annoyed cock.

Kat growls in exasperation as she leaves the bedroom, closing the door behind her. Almost instantly, voices are heard in the living room. Guessing Kat will have a task of getting rid of her enthusiastic mother, I also growl in irritation as I throw on my sweatpants but leave my shirt on the floor. Making sure my hard-on is gone, which is unfortunate, I open the door and stroll out to the living room to see Kat with her arms wrapped around herself and her back to me.

Brenda points to a paper. “I know Katydid, but this one is cheaper, yet you get more flowers.”

“Mom, can we not do this today?”

“You only have a little over four months left.”

“I know, but Jared’s here.”

“It’s his wedding, too.”

“He doesn’t care about flowers.”

I concur, “I really don’t.”

Looking up, Brenda sees me as I prop my arm onto the doorway. Her eyes nearly bulge out of her sockets. Kat turns, doing a double-take, seeing me without my shirt. Brenda glances at Kat, now noticing her disheveled hair and clothes. Brenda says, “Shit. I’m interrupting, aren’t I?”

Kat tosses her hair over her shoulder. “Well…”

“Yeah,” I say, smirking at the look on Brenda’s face, hoping she finally gets the hell out of here before I do fuck her daughter while she waits.

Brenda says, “I didn’t realize you’d be… busy.”

“Jared just got here, Mom. It’s our first Valentine’s Day as a couple.”

I say, “So, very busy.”

Brenda’s face turns red. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to barge in while you were getting laid.”


“Was that not what you were doing?”

I reply, “We did have lift-off.”


Shaking her head, Brenda throws her stack of magazines and papers into her tote bag. “Good God. I always have the worst timing.”

Kat says, “Maybe call next time to avoid a wasted trip.”

“I’m just used to coming over. Really. I apologize. Get back to your lovemaking. Just call me when you’re spent.”

I grin. “That may be a while.”

Kat’s hands go to her face, now the red-faced one in the room. “Holy hell.”

Brenda mutters, “Lucky girl.”

Kat clears her throat. “We’ll talk flowers later.”

I shrug. “Shell can do the flowers.”

Kat shrieks, “Yes! Thank you! I didn’t even think of that!”

Opening the door, Brenda asks, “Shell?”

I say, “Dash’s mother. She owns a floral shop.”

Brenda nods. “Will she give you a good deal?”

Kat says, “I don’t care. We can’t not use her for the flowers.”

I smirk. “Since it’s my wedding, she’ll give us a discount. She likes me. No worries.”

Brenda bites back a comment, I’m sure. “Fine. Fine. Call me later, Katydid.” Brenda waves as she leaves in a rush. When the door closes, I say, “That woman needs a different hobby.”

Kat laughs as she locks the door and walks over to me. “She could always play with your dad.”

I instantly scowl. “That’s gross. I don’t want to be your brother.”

“Right. We’d have to break up.”

“No, we’d just move someplace where they allow that sort of thing.”

“Oh, my God!”

“It’s not like we’re blood-related, and I had you first. They can look elsewhere for playdates.”

Putting her arms around my waist, she says, “You did have me first. Do you still want me?”

I grab her hand and shove it down my pants. Her hand clamps onto the base of my rising cock. “Does this answer your question? You have the key to my ignition. Rev me up and ride me hard, Kitty Kat.”

Still holding onto my dick, she giggles as she leads me back to her room. “You handle nice.”

“You do know that I’ve never allowed anyone but you to lead me around by my dick, physically or otherwise, right?”

“I have a special permit to do this?”

When we reach her bed, I turn her around to face me. “You have the only permit to do that. Just don’t break it off, for fuck’s sake.” Lifting off her shirt as she shoves down her pants, Kat gets back into bed while I take off my sweats.

Impatient, I use my knees to spread her legs. Yanking me down, she kisses me and says, “I couldn’t wait for her to leave. I wanted to jump you when you walked into the living room without your shirt.”

“Every time I looked at you, I kept thinking of you naked and the feel of you fucking me. Thank Christ she left when she did.” Hovering over her lips, I whisper, “Kiss me, damn it.”

When she pulls me back to her lips, I hold her wrists down and roughly thrust into her repeatedly, making sure she keeps fucking me instead of answering the goddamn door again.

“Everything is coming together,” Kat muses, stroking her fingers through my chest hair as we lie in bed Sunday morning, the night after celebrating my new job in Richmond and my birthday.

“I told you everything would work out. You didn’t believe me.”

“I still feel bad you’re taking a demotion.”

I roll my eyes at the ceiling. “Stop saying that. I negotiated a good deal. They offer a lot of incentives and earning potential, so forget about feeling bad. I want to be with you. This weekend shit is for the birds. I don’t see how Hadley and Finn have done it for so long, and they don’t live far from each other.”

“We just have to get an apartment now.”

“I’ve been looking online. I have some ideas. Just relax. You deal with the wedding details. I got the rest.”

“That reminds me.” Kat rolls over to pick up a piece of paper from the nightstand, the blanket slipping from her, exposing her ass. I roll over, running my hand over her stomach as I kiss her shoulder. As my cock sparks to life against her ass, she lightly moans.

“Didn’t you get enough of me last night?”

“Just catching up.” I grin over her shoulder. “But if you’ve had enough of me…”

Answering me by opening her legs, my hand slides down to her pussy, feeling just how much I couldn’t get enough, which makes me eager to give her more.

She sighs as her hand goes over mine. “I’ll never get enough.”

I push against her body, urging her onto her stomach. Kissing her neck, I easily slide into her.

As I mount her, she gasps. “Happy birthday, Jared.”

Leaning down, I groan into her ear. “Best birthday ever, Kit Kat, spent inside you, coming over and over again.”

She moans, “Oh, fuck.”

“You’ll be dripping all week with my cum. I’ll make sure of it, so you don’t forget who owns you.”

“You do, Jared, but I may need reminding.”

Pushing up, so I’m hovering above her, I grind my cock into her and growl, “Then I’ll be your wake-up call all fucking day.”

On Easter, Dad was going to visit me for the weekend in Philly, bringing Kat, but I ditched that idea and stayed in Annapolis instead. Kat and I never would’ve been alone, and we need our privacy.

While at Dad’s for dinner, I wasn’t hungry, and my stomach had been queasy all day. Thinking maybe I was getting sick, I told Kat that we’d eat dinner with Dad but then go home. Hadley was with Finn, visiting his mom for Easter in Delaware. My grandparents were on a cruise, and surprisingly, Brenda had plans at a friend’s house for dinner, so she wasn’t able to join us, either, which I found to be a reprieve.

After dinner, a familiar, dull pain struck me in the stomach, a warning. Before we could leave, Dad opened his laptop on the coffee table to show us Finn’s most recent dare since Finn had said it’s one we apparently shouldn’t miss.

Kat, Dad, and I watch Finn’s dare, and all of us gape at the computer, stunned.

Irritated, I ultimately snap, “What the hell was that?”

Kat says, “That was drastic but so sweet.”

“Sweet? Are you serious? So I’m supposed to do that now?”

She shakes her head. “You’re not Finn, but it’s romantic he did that for Hadley.”

Rolling my eyes, I shrug. “He seems too desperate.”

Dad says, “It rather proves he’s committed to her.”

I sneer, “Without actually committing to her. Finn would rather take a flying leap without a parachute than to marry Hadley.”

“You think Finn doesn’t love her?”

“He claims he doesn’t want to marry her just to get divorced.”

Dad says, “Yeah, but look what he just did. Still, divorce isn’t a reason not to get married. It’s the risk you take in the name of love.”

I shake my head. “I’m still not buying it. If he did love her, he’d risk it all.”

Smiling at me and stroking my hair, Kat says, “The way he looks at her, even when she’s not looking, he adores her.”

I retort, “Just as long as nobody else sees him adoring her.”

Dad frowns. “That part bothers me.”

Kat sighs. “Finn seems like a nice guy. I want to believe he’ll change his mind and marry her. I know it must be hard for Hadley, especially when she’s in two weddings so close together.”

Amid the pains getting closer together and stronger, making me feel like I’m in fucking labor, I irritably ask, “Whose?”

“One of her friends is getting married in June.”

I shift on the couch, trying to ease the pain without letting on that I’m seriously hurting. “Well, damn. No wonder Finn’s losing his shit and doing crazy-ass dares just to get her to ease up. He’ll be in the nuthouse in no time.”

“I think both of these weddings are making her sad.”

Dad scratches at his jaw. “Are you asking Finn to be in your wedding?”

Glancing at the paused video, I say, “No. I have the three I need to be matched up to Kat’s three, and I’d ask Tony before I’d ask Finn. He’s not even coming to the wedding, anyway. He said he has to work and probably won’t make it. Bullshit. He can’t take off a couple of hours to at least see Hadley dressed up and dance with her for one song?”

Dad rubs his graying beard. “I wish I knew what his true intentions were with her.”

I say, “If he is at the wedding, Hadley will have to dance with Calder at the reception. If Finn doesn’t go, take pictures and make sure he sees them.”

Kat argues, “But you said you didn’t want Hadley and Dash together.”

“I don’t, but I can use it to my advantage to spur Finn on.”

Dad sighs. “Jared, don’t get between her and Finn.”

“I’m just working the situation. Finn needs to quit dicking around with Hadley. He’s aware that other guys are interested in her. Maybe he should see proof.”

Kat asks, “You’re going to use Dash for the very thing you were pissed off at him for doing with her? He’ll hate you.”

“I’ll just be watching Finn’s reaction to them paired together. That’s all. I’m not arranging Dash and Hadley’s damned marriage.”

Dad says, “You do know that it’s your reception, though. You’ll be walking around, talking to people, getting your picture taken, not worrying about Finn.”

“I’ll have someone else keep an eye on him, too.” Duquesne needs something to do.

Kat says, “I don’t want any drama at our wedding or reception, Jared.”

I laugh. “There won’t be. Finn won’t openly make any kind of scene that would draw unwanted attention to himself while he’s not on TV. Trust me.”

Dad sighs. “It’s the afterward I’m worried about. He and Hadley could have a big fight.”

“As long as Hadley doesn’t kiss Dash, they won’t fight. He wouldn’t want Hadley to know he’s that insecure.”

Kat shakes her head. “You’ve thought about this.”

I shrug. “When you have a lot of alone time in the evenings, you think about all kinds of crazy shit.”

Kat frowns. “That’s what worries me.”

After going to Kat’s apartment, the hope that the pain was a fluke proved a cruel joke as it intensified on my right side. I knew my fucking appendix was throwing a damn hissy fit.

As I grew paler, Kat fretted over me. When I started throwing up around 11:00, and my body burned everywhere from the pain, she forced me to go to the emergency room. They admitted me for further tests, and I had to stay overnight for observation bullshit. I’ve been through this damn song and dance. They diagnose me with appendicitis. I stay in the hospital overnight. They throw some pills at me. I go home.

However, on Monday morning, the doctor came in to deliver the news I had not been expecting. “You need an appendectomy.”

“No way. I’m not doing surgery.”

“It will rupture. You should’ve had it removed the last time you had appendicitis. Not sure why it wasn’t. Surgery is scheduled for 1:00. You’ll need to fill out the paperwork.”

“How long will I be trapped here?”

“You’ll go home tomorrow afternoon if you don’t develop any further infection, and you’re able to walk around.”

I sigh and glance at Kat, who smiles. When the doctor leaves, I gripe, “I hate hospitals.”

“So do I.”

Now I feel like a douchebag, remembering Kat was on life support in this hospital. “Fuck. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’ll tell your dad you’re having surgery.”

“He doesn’t have to be here. Jesus. I’m only getting my appendix out.”

“Jared, he’d be hurt if you didn’t tell him.”

“Christ.” Rubbing my hand through my hair, I say, “I guess I need to call work to tell them I won’t be in tomorrow, either.”

“You won’t be allowed to return for a while, I imagine.”

Looking up at her, I grin. “This may work to my advantage. Are you my nurse?”

Kat scowls. “No sex, either.”

I cringe, lifting the blanket. “No surgery then.”

“Sit back. You’re having it done.”

The nurse returns with papers, and Kat steps out to call my dad.

When my dad arrives an hour later, I roll my eyes at his concerned face, complaining, “You didn’t have to race over here.”

“I’m on my lunch break, and I’ll be back when you’re out of recovery.”

“I’m fine. This is stupid. I should’ve had this shit done years ago.”

“I asked the doctor about it the last time you had appendicitis. I even told him I had mine removed, but he said you should be okay. I’m sorry.”

Kat says, “At least you’ll never have to suffer through this again.”

Dad laughs. “You’ll be scaling buildings again like Spiderman in no time.”

“What the hell?” I laugh, but it hurts my stomach, and I wince.

He pretends to be confused. “I thought that’s what you did for a living?”

“I wish.”

The nurse arrives to inform me I’m ready to go. Before I’m wheeled out of the room, Kat squeezes my hand. “I’ll be right here when you wake up. I love you, baby.”

From behind Kat, Dad grins. “Ditto, baby.”

I roll my eyes at both of them, but when Kat encouragingly smiles, I automatically smile back at her. Pulling her closer, I whisper, “I love you, too. It’ll still make me feel better if you get a nurse’s uniform.”

She giggles. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Almost a month later, for Kat’s birthday in May, and enough time had passed since my surgery, we again chose to stay the weekend at my apartment. We need the time alone to fuck without interruptions. That’s all we seem to have anymore, and every one of them has to do with wedding planning.

Arriving at my apartment, she immediately goes to the balcony, hanging over the railing, watching the scenery.

Leaning onto the railing, careful not to drop it over the side, I hand her a rectangular gift wrapped in birthday paper. “Happy birthday, Kit Kat.”

Glancing up at me, she grins as she takes the gift, unwrapping it to reveal the black velvet box. When she opens the lid, she giggles. “It matches my necklace!”

“Uh-huh,” I say of the starfish bracelet.

“Oh my God, Jared. Are these real diamonds?”

I scowl. “I don’t buy fake shit.”

“You’re spoiling me.”

“It’s just a bracelet.”

“I mean everything you’ve given me. I can’t thank you enough, but I’ll try.” Yanking on my arm, pulling me to the door, she says, “It’s bedtime.”

As we pass the kitchen, I ask, “Aren’t you hungry? I want to take you out to dinner.” Right.

Kat stops pulling on me, stopping outside the bedroom. “What do you want to eat?”

I tilt my head and whisper, “You.”

I push her the rest of the way into the room, and she attacks my mouth. I break away to coax her onto the bed. She puts the box on the nightstand and crawls to the middle of the beige comforter. Pushing up her dress, I rip at her underwear until I can slide them down her legs. Splitting her open, I lean down, taking a long lick. Looking up over her body, I say, “I’ve been saving myself for over a month now. I want to fuck.”

She pants, “Jared. Your tongue.”

Kat pulls on my hair and moans again. Taking more licks, I then whisper against her pussy, “Better than icing. Happy birthday, Kit Kat.”

Standing on my balcony Thursday night in late June, after hanging up with Kat, I stare out at the Philadelphia skyline, thinking about our upcoming wedding in two weeks.

I’ll be Kat’s husband. I still find it hard to believe. At the same time last year, I was in such a different place.

Then, I think of my sister and what she’s going through. I knew shit would happen. Before my thoughts grow darker, my phone rings, and I nearly drop it over the railing. Looking at the screen, expecting it to be Kat remembering she had something else to tell me, I’m surprised when I see my dad’s name. “Hey, Dad. Have you heard from Hadley? I tried calling her, but—”

“She’s in a hospital in Richmond. A friend of hers called me. I’m on my way down there now.”

I grip the railing, looking aimlessly around. “Holy fuck. Dad, don’t tell me she tried…”

He shakily replies, “No, but I hope you’re sitting down for this.”

“Just tell me. What can be worse than what happened to her last week? I gave her enough time, this weekend I’m going to Richmond and—”

“Jared, listen to me!”

As I listen to Dad’s garbled news about Hadley, I go numb, and the cityscape becomes a blur. “You’re joking, right?”

He answers, but I know Dad isn’t teasing because he’s crying. Not only that, this shit can’t be made up. It’s too bizarre, even for a joke.

Swiping my hand over my wet eyes, I bow my head. “Jesus Christ. Will she be okay?”

“I don’t know. Kat may need to find someone to fill Hadley’s place in the wedding. I don’t know if Hadley—”

“I don’t give a shit about a replacement.”

“I know, but I just wanted to let you know ahead of time on Hadley’s behalf. Jared, you should see your sister at some point. She needs us.”

“I’ll be there for her. Oh, fuck, Dad.” Ultimately losing it, I sob into the phone, along with my dad. “She can count on me. I promise.”

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