Free Spirit

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Chapter 12

Alexis

“They look really happy,” Paddy observed, caressing my bare back while we watched Hannah and Miles having their first dance as husband and wife. “Totally in love.”

“They are,” I agreed with a wistful sigh.

“I think somebody is a little jealous.”

“I am not jealous,” I huffed.

“Yes, you are.”

“Why do you keep touching me, Paddy?”

He withdrew his hand, slipping it into his pocket. “I thought we were pretending to be a couple.”

“Osk isn’t even paying any attention,” I grumbled. “What’s the point?”

“Oh, he’s definitely watching,” he said. “And he’s not happy.”

“How do you figure?”

“I can just tell.”

“Why’d you stop rubbing my back?” I snapped.

“I thought you wanted me to stop!”

“When did I say that?”

“You asked me why I keep touching you, Alexis.”

“I didn’t say I wanted you to stop.”

“What’s up with you tonight?” he asked. “If I didn’t have your cycle marked on my calendar, I would think you were seriously PMSing.”

“Why do you keep track of my periods?”

“Old habit,” he said. “Remember that day in ninth grade, right after you transferred to my high school, when you got your period unexpectedly?”

“Yes,” I said, cringing at the memory. “What a terrible day. I had to call your mom to come and get me because my pants were stained and the bathroom was out of tampons.”

“After that day, I kept a supply of tampons in my backpack in case you ever needed them.”

“You don’t still do that, do you?” I laughed.

“No. I keep track of your cycle for a different reason, sweetheart.”

“I’m not that bad.”

“Your PMS is seriously scary.”

“It is not.”

“Okay then,” he muttered. “On that note, I’m going to take a leak.”

“Don’t get any on you.”

“I’ll be right back, Alexis. Try to behave yourself for five minutes.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said with an exaggerated sigh.

I turned back to the dance floor, smiling sadly as they did the mother-son, father-daughter dance. Judd was dancing with Hannah while Miles danced with his mom. My dad would’ve been so happy to see his daughter marry a nice guy like Miles. He treated my sister like a queen.

Paddy was right. I was a tad jealous of Hannah. She had a great husband who loved her, and who could provide for her, and give her the life she deserved. She was probably going to have a whole slew of babies. Her kids would never know the poverty we experienced. They’d never be hungry or cold. The kids at school wouldn’t make fun of their thrift store clothes and worn out shoes. They’d never want for anything.

I glanced toward the washroom. Did Paddy flush himself down the toilet? The song ended and the guests joined the rest of the wedding party on the dance floor.

Judd approached me, holding out his hand. “We still have to do the best man, Maid of Honour dance,” he explained. “I was pulling double duty today.”

I followed him onto the dance floor. He held me at a respectable distance while we moved across the floor. Hannah was back in Miles’s arms, her head resting on his shoulder while he held her close, his hand caressing her back much like Paddy was doing to mine earlier.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder half way through my dance with Judd. I turned expecting to see Paddy, but instead it was Osk.

“Can I cut in?” he asked.

“Uh, sure,” Judd mumbled. “I guess.”

Osk whisked me away, pulling me in close. “I’ve missed holding this sexy body,” he murmured, licking my neck.

“Osk, stop,” I hissed.

“Why, baby?”

“You’re drunk.”

“So?”

“And your girlfriend is watching.”

“She doesn’t care.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah. She likes you. Always talks about how she’d like to get a taste of Sexy Lexy’s pussy.”

“I’m not into that, Osk,” I said, putting some space between us. “And I’m with Paddy.”

“He’s not right for you, baby,” he whispered, his hands dropping to my ass as he pressed his erection into my belly. “Feel that. It’s all for you.”

Paddy returned from the bathroom, his eyes scanning the room until he located me. He scowled as he walked toward the dance floor, heading straight for us.

“Time’s up, Blackwell,” he barked. “You had your chance, and you blew it. Get your hands off my girl.”

“C’mon, man,” Osk whined, refusing to loosen his hold when I pushed on his chest. “Didn’t they teach you to share at mortician school?”

“Let her go,” Paddy demanded, his calm voice belying the anger flashing in his eyes.

“Just go, Osk,” I hissed. “Do you really want to cause a scene at Miles and Hannah’s wedding?”

“Your boyfriend is the one making a scene,” he slurred. “Getting all possessive and shit. I don’t see a ring on her finger, buddy. And until I do, her delicious pussy is still up for grabs, far as I’m concerned.”

Judd and three security guys came up behind us and removed Osk’s hands from me. I’d never seen Paddy look so angry. His fists were clenched, his jaw ticking while he watched them haul Osk away.

“Relax, Judd!” Osk yelled. “Fuck! I’m not some groupie. Stop manhandling me!”

Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to observe the drama unfolding on the dance floor. The bride and groom looked on with annoyance and disappointment on their faces.

I could feel my cheeks heating up, burning with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Hannah was pissed at me.

Me!

I didn’t do anything wrong. But she’d accuse me of leading Osk on. I fully expected her to drag me into the bathroom and tear me a new one.

“Are you okay?” Paddy asked.

“Yes,” I sighed. “Osk is harmless.”

“Sure he is.”

“He’s drunk, Paddy.”

“That’s not an excuse for his behaviour.”

“Let’s just forget about Osk and enjoy the rest of the evening,” I suggested, wrapping my arms around his neck.

“How did you end up dancing with him anyway?”

“I was dancing with Judd, and he cut in.”

“Why didn’t you say no?”

“I didn’t realize how drunk he was, Paddy. Can we just let this go?”

“I guess so.”

“Why’d you take so long in the bathroom?”

“I ran into Silicone Princess on the way there. She asked me if I wanted to have a threesome with you and her.”

“No thanks,” I laughed. “I’d be afraid of those boobs if they weren’t contained.”

“Tell me about it,” he chuckled, pulling me into his arms when a new song started.

Paddy was so much taller than me, he could easily rest his head on top of mine. He held me tightly, his fingers caressing my back while we moved across the floor.

Osk was gone. There was no reason to be acting like we were together.

What was happening between me and Paddy?

When did things evolve from a performance to whatever this was? The hand holding, the compliments, the lusty stares, the touching, the kissing. It all felt so real.




“If I can have everyone’s attention, please,” the DJ requested. “It’s time for the bride to throw the bouquet. Let’s have all the single ladies gather in front of the stage.”

“Get up there,” Paddy ordered, nudging me forward.

“I’m good.”

“C’mon, Alexis!” Lucy laughed, tugging on my wrist.

“Fine,” I grumbled.

“Not too many eligible ladies tonight,” the announcer chuckled. “Are you ready, Mrs. Maines?”

“Yes!” Hannah yelled into his mic.

I had no intention of catching that thing, folding my arms when the countdown started. Hannah threw it over her shoulder, sending it sailing over raised arms before smacking Cleo square in the face. She knelt down and scooped up the bouquet from the floor, grinning from ear to ear.

“Congratulations to the young lady in the red dress!”

“I was going to marry Reefer,” Cleo announced.

“Uh, I think your sister just married him,” the DJ chuckled.

“I saw him first!” she yelled. “But I’m a nice sister. I let Hannah have him.”

“Well, that was very generous of you.”

“I know.”

“If the groom would like to join us on the stage, we can proceed with the garter toss.”

Miles jumped on the stage, pulling Hannah into his arms for a long steamy kiss while the guests cheered.

“Guys!” the DJ yelled. “It’s not quite time to start the honeymoon yet. We still have a few more wedding traditions to complete.”

Hannah sat on a chair that someone had carried up to the stage. Miles knelt before her, wasting no time burying his face under her dress.

“I think he’s doing more than biting off her garter,” Paddy said.

“Definitely,” I agreed. “Those two never quit.”

“That’ll change once the babies come.”

“Oh yeah,” I laughed. “Once he sees her push a kid out of her vag, he’ll never wanna put his face between her legs again.”

“I don’t know if I believe that. I’m sure most guys probably forget after a while.”

“No, we don’t,” Dean said.

His wife smacked him playfully on the chest.

“C’mon!” he laughed. “I will never forget watching the doctor take the scalpel to you.”

“It was thirty-three years ago!”

“There are just some things you can’t ever erase from your brain.”

Miles stood up, waving the lacy pink garter in the air. I moved out of the way while the single men gathered in front of the stage. Paddy caught it without any difficulty. None of the other guys put much effort into catching it. And I couldn’t blame them.

“Congratulations, dude! Find the young lady with the bouquet and take her for a spin on the dance floor.”

“Would you like to finish our dance from earlier?” Judd asked when Paddy led Cleo onto the dance floor.

“Sure.”

“Cleo doesn’t dance much, does she?” he asked, glancing over my shoulder.

“No.”

“Your boyfriend has a lot of patience.”

“He’s been around since we were kids. Paddy has lots of experience with Cleo.”

“What’s the deal with you and Osk?”

“We’re done.”

“He doesn’t seem to think so.”

“He brought another woman to my sister’s wedding.”

“I had no idea he had a girlfriend. But that’s how he’s been introducing her.”

“Apparently, they have an open relationship,” I explained. “She says one woman can’t keep him satisfied. And she isn’t opposed to threesomes.”

“Okay then,” he said with a dry chuckle.

“What about you, Judd?”

“What about me?”

“There’s no special woman in your life?”

“No. I don’t have time for that.”

“Miles is retired. Surely, he doesn’t need you as much.”

“He’s retired from touring. But he’s still producing albums. He needs security. And I’m content with my own company.”

“TMI!”

“That’s not what I meant, Alexis.”

“The wedding coordinator’s assistant has had her eye on you all night.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m very observant,” I said. “Why don’t you ask her to dance?”

He glanced over my shoulder at the petite redhead sitting alone at a table. “Fine.”

I wandered over to the bar. Cleo wasn’t letting Paddy go anytime soon.

“Excuse me? Alexis Taylor?”

“Uh, h-hello,” I stuttered.

“I’m Chester Leemington.”

“I know,” I whispered.

As if I wouldn’t know who he was.

Chester Leemington was one of the most famous movie stars in the world. I couldn’t believe it when I spotted him earlier in the lobby. Hannah pretended she didn’t know he was coming. She was such a liar!

“Gina was telling me about you over dinner.”

“W-what about me?” I asked, laughing nervously.

“She said you were full of dirty jokes, and you did a kick-ass job on your sister’s hair and makeup.”

“Oh.”

“She mentioned that your sister gave you a bit of a hard time,” he chuckled.

“Yes. Cleo is autistic.”

“I’m directing a movie in Vancouver next spring. I don’t really want to get into the details, but let’s just say the subject matter will necessitate a hand-picked hair and makeup team.”

“That sounds interesting,” I said.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “Give me a call when you get back to the city. We can get together and talk.”

“Sure,” I agreed, my hand shaking when I accepted the card. “I will do that.”

“Great. I look forward to hearing from you.” He drained his glass, nodding before he disappeared into the lobby.

I jumped when I felt an arm slide around my waist. “Was Chester Leemington hitting on you?” Paddy teased.

“He’s, like, I don’t know. At least sixty!”

“What did he want?”

“He gave me his card and asked me to get in touch with him if I’m interested in working on his movie!”

“Oh my God! That’s awesome!”

“I know! He’s directing it in Vancouver next year!”

“That’d be great for you.”

“This is my dream.”

“I know it is, babe.”

“You don’t have to call me that when nobody is around,” I laughed.

“It’s becoming a habit,” he whispered, leaning in close to my ear, his lips grazing my lobe while his hands stroked the top of my ass.

“You’ve had too much champagne,” I giggled.

“Not really.”




The soft melody of a love song spilled from the speakers, the lights dimmed as the evening drew to a close. The bride and groom were gone, along with most of the guests. A few hardcore night owls lingered, sipping on drinks and chatting.

I closed my eyes, my head resting on Paddy’s shoulder while we swayed to the music. Paddy’s arms had always been my refuge since I was seven-years-old. Whatever was happening in my life, no matter how bad things were, I always knew he would be there for me.

The problem was, this wasn’t one of those times. My life was going great. I loved my job at the salon in Horseshoe Bay, and my apartment above the bakery. And now I had an amazing job opportunity on the horizon. Cleo was happy and well-cared-for. And Hannah wasn’t working as a stripper. We were all safe, happy and healthy for the first time since our parents died six years before.

My relationship with Paddy was the only part of my life that was in turmoil. And that had never happened before. He was always the steady, stable constant in my chaotic life. My decision to ask Paddy to come to Alaska as my date and fake boyfriend was a mistake. It was childish, and it wasn’t fair to Paddy.

Our friendship would never be the same again. I’d done irrevocable damage. Hannah was right about Paddy’s feelings for me. Why did she always have to be right about everything?

I lifted my head, gazing into the loving eyes of my best friend. We expressed so many emotions in that moment. We didn’t need words. That was the beauty of being with someone who you knew as well as Paddy and I knew each other.

He leaned down, pressing his lips to mine with a tender caress, my knees trembling so forcefully that I would’ve collapsed if he wasn’t holding me up.

How could one simple kiss have such an effect on me? I’d been kissed hundreds of times, and I’d never felt the way I did that night. It was probably just the result of too much champagne, and the whole wedding atmosphere playing tricks on my brain.

“Do you wanna head out?” Paddy asked.

“Sure.”

He led me off the dance floor, past the only other couple still out there. “Who’s Madeline dancing with?” he whispered. “I didn’t know she brought a date.”

“She didn’t bring a date,” I said as we made our way through the lobby to the door that would take us to the trails. “That is Miles’s uncle.”

“Please tell me that’s not her brother.”

“No,” I laughed. “He was married to her sister.”

“Where’s the sister now?”

“She died. Madeline and Arthur were best friends growing up. One night, they had sex. He confessed his true feelings for her. She lied and said she didn’t feel the same way, because she was leaving for university. He hooked up with her little sister while she was away. They were married for, like, over fifty years. But I guess now they figure they can finally be together.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.”

“Kind of sad though, too,” he said. “They missed out on a lifetime together. Now they just get whatever time they have left.”

“At least they found their way back to each other.”

“Can you believe we’re walking through the forest at midnight, and it’s not dark?” he mused.

“It’s creepy,” I whispered, glancing nervously into the trees. “It’s still kind of dark. More like a night with a full moon.”

“If we were here in June, it would be brighter. The days start getting shorter in late July.”

“Do you wanna use the bathroom first?” I offered when we arrived back at our cabin.

“No,” he replied, loosening his tie. “You go ahead.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”




“Paddy?”

“Yes?”

“Were you sleeping?”

“No.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“How come?”

“My brain won’t shut down.”

“Today was a big day. Hannah got married.”

“I don’t think that’s what’s keeping me awake,” I whispered, feeling around under the covers for his hand.

He didn’t say anything for a long time, his heavy breaths the only sound in the quiet cabin.

What was going through his mind?

Did he want to make love to me?

Did I want him to?

I knew the answer to the last question. But I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else.

“Roll on your side,” he said, his voice unusually deep and husky.

I did as he asked, holding my breath while I waited to see what he was going to do next. He wrapped his arm around my waist, pressing his chest against my back as we settled into a spooning position.

“Good night, Alexis,” he whispered, his lips brushing over my bare shoulder.

I closed my eyes and tried my darndest to focus on sleep, and not the stovepipe buried between my butt cheeks. And when I finally did drift off, I had one of the best sleeps of my life.

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