Blond Ape #1 shoves Warren’s chest. The really strange thing is, it genuinely pisses me off. “You talkin’ to my girlfriend, loser?” He grabs the girl by the arm. “I told you to wait, bitch—I didn’t say you could talk.”
I step in front of Billy. “Hey, fellas—I think there’s been a little misunderstanding.”
“I don’t think this is any of your business.”
I confess, “You have no idea how much I wish that were true. Unfortunately, it’s not. My friend thought the girl needed help. He was looking out for her—that’s all. No harm, no foul.”
“Your boyfriend made a major f**king foul, hitting on my girl. I’m gonna take it out on his ass.” Then he spits at my feet.
I no longer feel like resolving this diplomatically. “Well, if you’re gonna be an ass**le about it—”
The girl tries to intervene. She puts a hand on the guy’s chest while the other rubs his arm, trying to soothe the savage beast. “He didn’t do anything. Just let it go, Blair.”
I can’t help but chuckle. “Blair? Your name is Blair? Christ, no wonder you’re so angry. You have my sincerest sympathy.” Keeping my eyes on the group of numb-nuts, I motion to Matthew. “You see what happens when parents are careless with the naming? This is your future, man.”
In case you can’t tell—no, I’m not intimidated by the loudmouth frat boy. Because he, like most bullies, is a pu**y. Real tough guys? Truly dangerous men? They’re on the quiet side. They don’t need to put on a show or announce all the pain they’re going to inflict on you. They just do it, before you ever have the chance to be afraid. Or see it coming.
Blair steps toward me, but Warren pops in between us—hands raised in submission.
“Hold up. Just wait—this is between you and me, f**ker. Keep my friends out of it.”
I look at Warren as if he’s lost his mind. ’Cause I’m fairly certain that’s the case. “Are you nuts?”
He looks back over his shoulder at me. “Katie would never forgive me if you missed the wedding because you were in the hospital. And I grew up with Dee-Dee—if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s take a beating.”
Right then and there, my opinion of Warren is forever altered. He’s still an idiot—as he just demonstrated. And because of his history with Kate, I’ll never like him. But throwing himself on his sword like this? Trying to protect me and the guys? It takes balls—brass ones. He just earned my respect.
Matthew, Steven, and Jack are lined up behind me, tense and ready. I take a breath and ask, “Matthew—you cool with this plan?”
He answers, “Absolutely.”
“How about you, Jack, you up for it?”
He chuckles darkly. “I’m always up for it, man.”
“Why the hell not? Screw it.”
Those are the only answers I need. I step around Warren, closer to Blair. “Okay—you can kick the shit out of him, and the rest of us will just sit by and watch.”
Confused shock registers on his face. “Seriously?”
I smile. “No, moron—I’m lying to you.” By the time my words register in his addled brain, my fist is already flying. Right at the f**ker’s nose, busting it wide-open.
Then all hell breaks loose.
Typically, I believe a sucker punch is a pansy move. Cowardly. But this is a street fight. A cage match. There are no rules. Fingers in the eye sockets, kicks to the nads—it’s all fair game. A bloodied Blair tackles me to the ground, while the melee rages around us.
I take a blow to the shoulder and the ribs, trying to protect my face. Warren had a valid point about the wedding thing. If my face is stitched up like Frankenstein’s, it’ll ruin the pictures.
I land a left hook to the dickhead’s jaw, close enough to the injured nose to make him howl. It goes on like this for about five minutes, though it feels much longer.
Then the girl that started it all says the magic words: “Cops! Cops!”
Every one of us responds like a high schooler at a beer bash.
We run. We break apart and scatter. The five of us make it back to the confines of the limo in record time, and the driver takes off. The flashing lights of Las Vegas’s finest don’t follow us. Thank God.
You may not understand it, but believe me when I tell you this was an awesome development to our evening. No matter how old he is, every guy thinks it’s cool to drink, gamble, and then beat the shit out of somebody with his closest friends. We pass around a bottle of vodka and show off our battle wounds, bragging about how great we were.
“Did you see that guy’s teeth explode? Bam!”
“I had that big son of a bitch on the ropes. He was ready to cry for his ugly mama.”
“Hope that loser likes liquid meals, ’cause that’s all he’s gonna be able to have for a long time.”
I take a sip of Grey Goose, then pour it on my bleeding knuckles.
Warren shakes his head and laments, “My luck with girls is crap.”
No one disagrees. But what I’ve come to accept is this: it’s not his fault.
Warren is simply more pu**y than dick. It’s how he was raised—surrounded by bush. It’s like . . . one of those weird news stories about a baby tiger that’s adopted by a family of pigs. When it’s older, it doesn’t show its claws or pounce or growl.
It f**king oinks.
Unlike the rest of us, who had confident, strong men in our lives, Warren’s only male exposure was whatever specimens Amelia brought home. Obviously, there were no freaking winners in that bunch.
After a minute, he asks, “I really thought you were gonna let them kick my ass. What changed?”
Matthew takes a drink from the bottle. “Fuck that. No man gets left behind.”
I nod. “Exactly. You know the first rule of wolf packs?”
“We take care of our own.”
I think we should step back and take note of just how much alcohol the boys and I have consumed so far. There were the shots and beers at the pool, the Scotches in the room and at the casino, the wine with dinner, the brandy afterward, and now the vodka that we’re passing around like winos huddled near a burning garbage can.
I’m no lightweight—but that’s a lot of f**king booze. We’re out-and-out walking saloons, for God’s sake. Even though it’s been spread out over hours, eventually that shit catches up to you. One minute you’ve got it all under control, then you take that last shot. The scales get tipped, and you find yourself on the floor—unable to walk or form a coherent sentence without drooling.