This won’t end well.
Sometime later—could be three hours or thirty minutes—I realize I’m sitting in a chair, at one of the back poker tables. Five cards are in my hand and a stack of chips is next to me.
I can’t feel my face—and for a moment, I fear it might have fallen the f**k off. I slap my cheeks.
Still there. Awesome.
Across the table, Matthew holds his own cards in his hand. Behind him, a statuesque blonde in a black mesh body stocking is rubbing his shoulders, giving him a massage while he plays. Next to Matthew is Steven. He also has cards in his hand . . . and a hot Asian chick on his lap.
Both seem to be at shitfaced level, so . . . that explains a lot.
On the stage, Billy Warren strums a guitar he must have pulled out of his ass, singing “Mandy” by Barry Manilow.
My phone vibrates, but when I try to fish it out of my pocket, it jumps out of my hands and onto the floor. I push my chair back and get on my knees under the table to look for it. I find the slippery bastard, but when I start to stand back up, my eyes land on the bar.
And there is the one of the most glorious sights I have ever seen.
She’s in jeans and a T-shirt and her back’s to me, but I still know—I’m certain—it’s her. I’m so f**king relieved, I kind of get a little choked up. I can’t explain why, but it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve seen her—goddamn ages. Like so much has happened.
I’ve missed her. And now she’s here.
They must have come here to surprise us. What a great surprise! I pull myself up and stumble forward. I wrap my arms around her from behind, pulling her close against my chest. I bury my face in her neck, in her hair, and breathe her in—enjoying the soothing wonder of being surrounded by all things Kate.
Somewhere, in my Pandora-marinated brain, I recognize that Kate smells . . . different.
But I brush it off. Because I’m too stupidly happy to give a shit about something so trivial.
I lick my lips and put all my energy into not slurring my words as I whisper in her ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s just . . . leave. You and me. They won’t notice we’re gone. I don’t care about any of this stuff—I just want to be with you. I want to go back to the hotel and invent new ways to make you come.”
My eyes close, and I skim my nose against her cheek. My hand finds Kate’s chin and I turn her face toward me. So I can taste her, so I can press my lips to hers and show her how badly I want her—how much I need her.
But before our lips meet . . .
There’s a crashing sound in the distance. A commotion. And a Bitchy-sounding voice calls out, “Oh, hell no . . .”
My eyes are still closed, and without warning my equilibrium does a 180. Then I’m falling. Into total darkness.
Do you see that guy on the bed? The one with the grayish, clammy skin, wearing last night’s wrinkled clothes? Nope, it’s not a corpse. That’s me—Drew Evans.
Not my best look, I admit. But it’s the morning after. The time when the piper gets paid. Someone should take my picture—it’d make a great antidrinking billboard. “This is what stupid looks like, kids.”
When you think about it, hangovers are kind of interesting. They’re your body’s way of calling you an ass**le. Of saying, “I told you so.” You know how I feel. We’ve all been there. My stomach is rolling, my head is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my breath smells as if I just chowed down on a dog-shit sandwich. Yum.
The alarm clock on the nightstand table goes off, music blaring from its speakers, and I’m pretty sure my skull just cracked in two. I roll on my side and breathe out a moan. You don’t feel bad for me, do you? I get that. If you want to play, you gotta pay. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Blah, blah, blah. I slap the button on the alarm and the music fades to a low hum.
I open my eyes just enough to see that Kate isn’t in the bed next to me. My hand moves across the sheets where she’s supposed to be, but they’re cold—meaning she’s hasn’t been here for a while.
I sit up slowly and brace my feet on the floor. My stomach churns like an ocean dinghy during a storm. I rub my temples to try to alleviate the drumming pain. And maybe dislodge a memory. Because I don’t know about you—but I don’t remember a goddamn thing about last night. It’s just . . . blank.
Like a wet sponge on a chalkboard—wiped clean.
Weird. I’m not typically a blackouter. That week Kate left me drowning my sorrows while she hightailed it back to her hometown in Ohio was the only exception. But let’s not talk about that.
I guess . . . I shouldn’t be surprised. Guys are competitive. Put a bunch of us in a room and we can turn anything into a contest. Who can burp the longest, piss the farthest, whose dick is bigger, who can punch the hardest.
Who can drink the most.
Is that what happened?
I stand stiffly and stumble toward the adjoining bathroom. I open the door. A thick billow of steam floats out. The bathroom’s huge—as large as a small bedroom—wall-to-wall Italian marble. The sound of running water echoes from the triple-spouted corner shower.
Behind the blur of the frosted door, I make out the silhouette of a woman—her head tilted back under the spray as she rinses her long, dark hair. She’s petite. Skin tanned and toned, with an unmistakably luscious ass.
Technically, I’m still a Catholic—but if you haven’t figured it out by now, Kate is my deity. Her body is my holy land, her words are my scripture, her pu**y is the altar I’d crawl across burning coals to worship.
My eyes are glued to Kate’s hands as they run over her slick skin for a final rinse. I lick my lips and imagine what she tastes like. Clean and wet. Vanilla and lavender. That’s all it takes. My southern region rises to attention.
It’s mind over matter. Or in this case, horniness over hangover. It seems that despite my fragile physical state, the guy downstairs is still cocked and ready for some morning action.
Ha ha . . . cocked . . .
Anyway, I take two steps toward the stall, fully intent on joining my irresistible fiancée. But then the water shuts off. The shower door opens; the dark-haired beauty steps out.
And my heart drops to my feet—like a f**king A-bomb from a World War II fighter plane. Can you hear it whistle?
Big, brown eyes find mine as she reaches for a towel. “Hey, handsome, how are you feeling? You were pretty crazy last night.”