Free Spirit

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Chapter 2

Paddy

“You really have no idea where we’re going?” I asked while I fiddled with my seat. When you’re six-foot-six, a first class seat is a must for the extra leg room.

“Nope,” Alexis mumbled, glaring at the crying baby across the aisle. “Why would someone fly first class with a baby?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Why not?”

“Because people pay good money to have a peaceful flight.”

“You had the option to fly up yesterday on the private jet with your family.”

“You couldn’t go yesterday.”

“I’m a big boy. I can fly alone.”

“Well, I didn’t want to go without my pooky,” she cooed, caressing the top of my thigh.

“Stop that,” I ordered, removing her hand from my leg before I got a hard-on. That hadn’t happened with Alexis since I was a horny teenager. I’d learned to control my urges around her. But that was before she asked me to be her fake boyfriend.

“We need to practice our PDAs. Otherwise, nobody will believe we’re a couple.”

“Why do we need to convince a bunch of strangers? If you introduce me as your boyfriend, I think that should be sufficient.”

“You know why I asked you to do this, Paddy. I was very upfront about my reasons, and you agreed to help me.”

“That doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea.”

“Why did you come then?”

“Because you’re my best friend, Alexis. And I will always have your back.”

“Thanks, Paddy.”

“And who would turn down an invitation to a rock star’s secret wedding?” I whispered.

“That is true,” she laughed. “I guess you’re definitely benefiting from our little arrangement.”

Was I though?

I wasn’t entirely convinced of that.

This wasn’t the first time we’d gone on vacation together. I enjoyed spoiling my best friend with trips to Caribbean resorts. Alexis was barely getting by before her sister got together with Miles. She couldn’t afford to go anywhere, but I didn’t mind spending my money on her. She was worth every penny.

The parents died a few years ago, leaving them with nothing but debt and a shitty apartment. They had an autistic sister who required a lot of care. Cleo received a government disability pension, but they still struggled to make ends meet. I tried to help them out as much as I could, but Hannah was a strong-willed woman who didn’t like handouts.

Alexis and Hannah were two very different people. They looked alike, but that’s where the similarity ended. Hannah had always been the mature responsible sister, even when their parents were alive. Alexis, not so much.

I wasn’t blind to Alexis’s flaws. My best friend could be lazy and self-centered. But I loved her for who she was. And I knew there was a beautiful person inside. Alexis was a free spirit, and I would never want to change that about her.

I waited patiently while she went through her partying phase. My mom said it was important to let her sow her wild oats. I just wished that didn’t include banging so many different guys. And I was beginning to wonder if she was ever going to grow up. Her twenty-fifth birthday had come and gone, with no transformation to a responsible adult.

“What is it about this guy anyway?” I asked.

“What?” she mumbled without looking up from her phone.

“The drummer dude. Why are you so obsessed with him?”

“I’m not obsessed with Osk.”

“Yeah, you are,” I sighed.

“Am not.”

“Then why are you going to so much trouble to make him jealous?”

She tucked her phone away in her purse, turning her head to gaze out the window. “I’m not sure,” she admitted.

“You have feelings for this guy,” I said, my heart fracturing with the realization that I might never get my chance with her.

What if he decided he wanted a real relationship with Alexis? It seemed unlikely, based on what I knew about Oskar Blackwell. The tabloids portrayed him as a partying playboy, who was often spotted in strip joints and sex clubs.

I met him at Miles and Hannah’s engagement party. The guy seemed nice enough, but it only took about thirty seconds of conversation with him to determine that his elevator didn’t go all the way to the top. I couldn’t overlook the fact that he kept coming back for more with Alexis. They’d been sleeping together on a regular basis for a year. But then he asked some other girl to be his date for a week-long trip to a secret wilderness hideout in Alaska.

“He’s a really sweet guy,” she said, smiling sadly. “I just assumed I’d be his date for the wedding. When Hannah told me he was bringing another girl, it really hurt. Why would he do that to me, Paddy?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, choosing my next words carefully. “Maybe he didn’t want to cause any problems for Miles and Hannah.”

“How would us being together at the wedding be a problem? If anything, it would be to their benefit. They were being really cautious and picky about the guest list. And they’d rather have a stranger come with Osk than me?”

“Did you ask him why he was bringing a date?”

“No. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him since I found out.”

“You haven’t hooked up with him in two months?” I asked, doing a silent happy dance in my head.

“Nope. I haven’t returned any of his texts or calls.”

“How many times has he tried to contact you?”

“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging as she pulled her phone out again. “A few.”

“Can I be completely honest with you?”

“I would hope you’re always completely honest with me, Paddy. We’re best friends. I count on you to tell me the truth when nobody else will.”

“I think the fact that Osk didn’t ask you to be his date to your sister’s wedding, but expected to continue sleeping with you, says a lot about his feelings for you.”

“You think I’m nothing more than a booty call to him?”

“I’m sorry, Alexis.” And I meant it. I wanted her for myself, but her happiness was always my top priority. I never wanted my best friend to be sad. Even if it meant I stayed firmly locked in the friend zone forever.




“Wow,” Alexis gasped, her face pressed against the window as the plane approached Ted Stevens International Airport. “I can’t believe I’m in Alaska. Are those glaciers?”

“They sure are,” I said, my chin resting on her shoulder as we took in the amazing scenery. She smelled so good. Like a mixture of jasmine and freesia. I bought her the first bottle of Flowerbomb for her sixteenth birthday. And she was still wearing that scent almost ten years later.

“This trip is going to be amazing, Paddy. When Hannah first told me they were getting married in Alaska, I tried to talk her out of it. I thought it would be freezing cold and covered in snow, but it’s beautiful here.”

“It sure is,” I agreed. “Thank you for inviting me.”

She sank her teeth into her bottom lip, turning her head so our faces were only an inch apart. “I hope you know I didn’t just invite you to make Osk jealous. You’re my best friend. There’s nobody else I would want to share this with more than you, Paddy.”

“I know,” I said, my voice coming out all husky and weird. I moved back into my seat, clearing my throat while I busied myself buckling my seatbelt.




Miles rented out the entire top floor of a swanky hotel near the airport. We were required to go through a security check and show identification before we were allowed on the reserved elevator that would take us up to the twelfth floor.

“This is weird,” I whispered, eyeing the security guard who was manning the elevator. “I feel like I’m going to meet the head of the mafia.”

“Oh stop, Paddy,” Alexis laughed. “Miles is famous. He can never be too careful. After everything that happened to Hannah, I can understand why he doesn’t take any chances.”

“True.”

When Hannah was stranded on Miles’s yacht, a crazy fan snuck onboard and threw her in the water. Then she got trampled when people stormed the strip joint while she was on stage. The club got shut down, and Hannah’s boss and one of the strippers kidnapped her for ransom.

Miles’s bodyguard met us when we stepped off the elevator. The guy was huge. He was about the same height as me, but he was ripped with muscle. I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.

“Hi, Judd.”

“Good afternoon, Alexis. How was your flight?”

She shrugged. “Uneventful.”

“I have to go over a couple things with you guys before I give you your room key,” he explained. “We have to keep a low profile. Miles doesn’t want anyone to know he’s here. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure the paparazzi doesn’t show up at the wedding.”

“I understand,” Alexis said with an impatient sigh. “I already know all this, Judd.”

“I’m required to review it with every guest. You can’t leave the floor tonight. If you need something, let one of the crew know, and they’ll get it for you. Dinner and breakfast will be provided in the conference room. There’s a rooftop bar and pool that we have exclusive use of. You’re required to turn your location sharing off on all of your devices from now until the end of the week. There is to be no social media posts about where you are or what you’re doing.”

“Where are we going?” Alexis whispered.

“I can’t tell you that, Alexis. Did Hannah give you the emergency number?”

“Yes,” she grumbled. “Who would need to contact me? My family are all here.”

“Did you give the number to your family, Mr. Wallingford-Yargey?”

“Yes.”

“Great,” he said, handing me two room key cards. “You guys are in suite 1220.”

I slid the key card in the lock and pushed open the door, grinning when I took stock of our one-room suite. It had a very Alaskan feel, with wood panelled walls and plush green carpet. There was a small sitting area with one of those two-way fireplaces separating it from the bedroom.

“There’s only one bed!” Alexis exclaimed. “I told Hannah we needed a room with two beds!”

“They must’ve made a mistake,” I suggested, fighting to keep my giddiness under control.

“You’ll have to sleep on the couch, Paddy.”

“I’m six-six, Alexis. I’m not sleeping on a four-foot loveseat.”

“Well, I can’t sleep on the couch. I’ll get a stiff neck.”

“I guess there’s only one solution then.”

“Fine. I guess it’s not a big deal, since you’re gay.”

“I’m not gay! Stop saying that.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Paddy. I have lots of gay friends. Do whatever makes you happy. You should never be ashamed of your sexual preference.”

“I’m straight, Alexis.”

She narrowed her eyes, hands on her sexy hips while she tried to break me with those riveting blue eyes. Those eyes could talk me into a lot of things, and had many times over the years.

“I like to sleep naked, Paddy.”

“As do I.”

“We can’t do that if we’re in the same bed.”

“Agreed. We’re close, but not that close.”

“Fine,” she huffed. “It’s only one night.”

“I sure hope our cabin has two beds,” I said.

“I’m going to find Hannah,” she announced. “I have a feeling she’s behind this bed snafu.”

She barreled out the door, returning less than a minute later with Hannah in tow.

“I don’t know, Lex,” Hannah said. “I’m not the wedding planner. We hired someone to do that.”

“Did you tell them we needed separate beds?”

“You might want to keep your voice down,” Hannah suggested.

“Do you see the problem with this room?” Alexis hissed.

“Not really,” Hannah said, winking at me when Alexis wasn’t looking.

“It has one bed.”

“You listed Paddy as your boyfriend on the security clearance form. The wedding planner probably assumed that most boyfriends and girlfriends would sleep in the same bed.”

“But I asked you to make sure we had two beds.”

“I’ve been kind of busy, Lex. It must’ve slipped my mind.”

“I know what you’re up to, Hannah,” she snapped. “I’m not stupid.”

“I don’t have time for this nonsense right now, Alexis,” she bit back. “You’re supposed to be my Maid of Honour, and all you’re worried about is yourself.”

“I’m just gonna go for a walk and let you two talk,” I said, reaching for the door handle.

They kept right on arguing while I slipped out the door and headed for the bar. I didn’t drink alcohol very often, but I had a feeling I was gonna be in need of some to get through the week.

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