I expected Thomas to lash out, but he accepted the scolding.


“What about the, um…” I pointed to the dog looking up at me like he was going to lunge for my throat at any moment—or maybe he just wanted a pat on the head. I couldn’t be sure.

A car pulled up next to us, and a woman hopped out, leaving the engine running and the headlights on.

She opened the back door and smiled at me. “Hey, there.” She looked at Thomas and stopped smiling. “Hey, T.J.”

“Raegan,” Thomas said.

I already loathed the nickname. Taylor didn’t refer to him that way. The woman was exotically beautiful with her layers of chestnut hair, the wavy ends stopping at just above her waistline.

Raegan unclipped Toto’s harness and then gathered his things.

“Thanks, Ray,” Taylor said. “Abby said everyone else was going to the wedding.”

“No problem,” she said, trying not to look at Thomas. “Kody can’t wait. He’s been wanting a dog so bad, but I don’t know how people keep a puppy from being lonely while they go to work and school.” She looked down at Toto and touched her nose to his, and he licked her cheek. She giggled. “Dad offered doggy daycare, so we’ll see. Maybe babysitting for a few days will help us decide. Should I walk him? I don’t want a mess in my car.”

Taylor shook his head. “I just took him right before I picked them up. He should be good until you get home. Did Abby tell you about the harness?”

“She told me—in detail.” Raegan scratched the dog’s head and then turned around, opening her back door. She let the dog walk around on the backseat while she buckled in the harness, and then he sat, astonishingly well-behaved, while she buckled him in again.

“Okay,” Raegan said. “That’s it. Good to see you, Taylor.” Her expression instantly lost all emotion when she looked at Thomas. “T.J.”

She had to be an ex-girlfriend. Between the nickname and overly cool demeanor, he must have really burned her.

She smiled at me again. “I’m Raegan.”

“Liis…nice to meet you,” I said, completely unsettled by her one-eighty.

She hurried around the front of her car and then disappeared inside. The car pulled away, and Taylor, Thomas, and I sat in silence.

“Okay then!” Taylor said. “Let’s party.”

“I don’t understand this,” Thomas said. “He’s not a bachelor.”

Taylor patted his brother’s shoulder, again so hard that it made me wince in reaction. “The whole point of this weekend is to celebrate what we missed out on because that little bastard eloped. And, Tommy…” Taylor’s grin faded.

“I know. Trenton called me,” Thomas said.

Taylor nodded, a touch of sadness in his eyes, and then he pulled on the door lever before setting off across the parking lot.

When I opened my door, the cold air was shocking. Thomas rubbed my arms, breathing out a small cloud that was a stark contrast to the night surrounding us.

“You can do this,” I said, already shivering.

“You’ve forgotten how cold it gets here? Already?”

“Shut up,” I said, walking toward the building where Taylor had gone.

Thomas jogged to catch up and took my hand. “What did you think of Taylor?”

“Your parents should be proud. You have exceptional genes.”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment and not a pass at my brother. You’re mine for the weekend, remember?”

I smirked, and he playfully jerked me against him, but then I realized how much truth was behind his lighthearted remark. We stopped at the door, and I watched Thomas psych himself up for whatever was on the other side.

Without knowing what else to do, I rose up on the balls of my feet and kissed his cheek. He turned, catching me square on the lips. That one gesture began a chain reaction. Thomas’s hands went straight up to my cheeks, gingerly cupping my face. When my mouth parted and his tongue slipped inside, I gripped his sport coat in my fists.

The music inside suddenly became louder, and Thomas released me.


Another brother—obvious because he looked so much like Taylor—was holding open the door. He was wearing only a yellow nylon Speedo, barely big enough to conceal his man parts, and a matching wig. The hideous bright yellow acrylic on his head was a mess of curls and frizz, and he flirtatiously bounced it with one hand.

“Like it?” the brother said. In small steps, he pirouetted, revealing that bit of fabric he wore wasn’t a Speedo at all but a thong.

After getting an unexpected eyeful of his snow-white hindquarters, I looked away, embarrassed.

Thomas looked him up and down and then breathed out a laugh. “What the hell are you wearing, Trenton?”

A half smile dimpled one of Trenton’s cheeks, and he gripped Thomas’s shoulder. “It’s all part of the plan. Come in!” he said, moving his hand in small circles toward himself. “Come in!”

Trenton held open the door as we walked inside.

Cardboard renditions of breasts hung from the ceiling, and golden confetti in the shape of penises were sprinkled all over the floor and tables. A table sat in the corner, crowded with liquor bottles and buckets of ice filled with various brands of beer. Wine bottles were absent, but there was a cake in the shape of very large pink breasts.

Thomas leaned down to speak into my ear, “I told you it wasn’t a good idea for you to come here.”

“You think I’m offended? I work in a field that is predominantly male. I hear the word titties at least once a day.”

Thomas conceded, but he paused to look at his hand just after patting his little brother’s shoulder. The body glitter covering Trenton’s skin had rubbed off on Thomas’s palm, and it shimmered under the disco ball above. Thomas was immediately horrified.

I grabbed a napkin off a table and handed it to Thomas. “Here.”

“Thanks,” he said, half-amused and half-repulsed.

Thomas took my hand. The glittery-wadded napkin was mashed between our palms as he pulled me through the crowd. Loud music assaulted my ears, the bass humming in my bones. Dozens of men were standing around, and there were just a handful of women. I instantly felt sick, wondering when I would run into Camille.

Thomas’s hand felt warm in mine, even with the buffer of the napkin. If he was nervous though, it didn’t show. He greeted several college-aged men as we crossed the room. When we reached the other side, Thomas held out his arms and hugged a portly man before kissing his cheek.