“Griffin asked you to do this? Really?”
Grocery Store Guy … I love you to the infinite depths of my heart.
The intimate gathering waits in the sanctuary at sunset.
A harpist and a flutist.
Griffin’s sisters walked down the aisle in their black dresses, holding all white bouquets.
Next is Morgan. She walks surprisingly slow, distracted by everyone staring at her, but Nate’s parents are in the front row, coaxing her to complete her trip.
She does and that brings tears to my eyes.
But I blink them away.
The processional begins and everyone stands—bringing tears to my eyes.
But I blink them away.
There he is. My groom. He looks sinful in that tux, but it’s the way he’s looking at me that is something beyond beautiful … beyond words.
Nate walks me down the aisle and kisses me on the hand like a true gentleman before giving me away. Tears sting my eyes.
But I blink them away.
I glance at Nate’s parents and my mom. More tears threaten my makeup.
I blink them away and hand Hayley my bouquet.
Griffin and I face each other, holding hands. Before the minister starts speaking, Griff leans forward and whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to hear about your day, Swayz.”
Tears spill over. He pulls a handkerchief from his jacket and blots my cheeks.
There’s an audible “aw” from a few friends and family. I’m sure they’re wondering what he whispered in my ear.
I mouth, “I love you, Grocery Store Guy.”
There are vows.
And the introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Griffin Calloway.
There’s a reception filled with good food, even better friends, and the very best family.
The DJ announces it’s time for the first dance. Griffin wanted to choose the song, and he wanted it to be a surprise. I just know it’s going to be something from Dirty Dancing, and we’re going to have our first official fight as husband and wife before we leave the reception.
“Don’t give me that look, Mrs. Grocery Store Guy Calloway,” he says, taking my hand and leading me to the dance floor.
He pulls me into his arms and presses his lips to my ear. “Let’s make a lifetime of memories.”
And then the music starts: “Boxes” by the Goo Goo Dolls.
Every single word touches me to depths I’m not sure Griffin ever imagined when he picked out this song.
“Finish me off,” Griffins says, shrugging off his jacket and removing his tie, standing before me in the middle of a ridiculously expensive hotel suite.
I give him a curious look.
He grins. “You’ve already taken my breath away a million times today. Now here I am, just as I said I would be—standing here in awe of the fact that the kindest, most beautiful woman ever said ‘yes’ to me.”
Stepping closer, he kisses me slowly while his hands take their time unbuttoning and unzipping my dress.
“I like this ‘unwrapping the best gift I’ve ever received.’”
He likes delivering all of my words back to me. He did it at the grocery store when he proposed, and he’s doing it tonight.
His breath hitches when my dress pools at my feet, leaving me in nothing but a white satin and lace thong, high heels, and my single diamond necklace.
“Dead,” he whispers. “You just took my very last breath.”
My fingers fumble with the buttons to his shirt. I love that after all this time together, I still can take his breath away, and he can unravel my nerves with anticipation of what’s to come.
There’s only one thing missing—the one thing to make my day complete.
After his shirt is on the floor next to my dress and my hands start to unfasten his pants, he finally says it.
“So tell me about your day, Swayz.”
A Century Later at a bar in Milwaukee …
“Here comes trouble.” My friend Adam nudges my arm.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not looking for trouble.” I tip back my beer while eyeing the blonde stomping the snow off her boots by the door.
It’s the third night in a row that she’s shown up at this bar looking like the forbidden fruit while shooting down every guy in the room who so much as dares to smile at her.
“The usual?” The bartender asks as she sidles up on the stool next to me, her knee brushing mine.
I almost choke on my beer. At the same time, she pauses, sucking in a sharp breath.
“Man, are you okay?” Adam asks, slapping his hand against my back.
I nod, keeping my gaze locked to eyes rich in brown, a few shades darker than my favorite lager.
“Have we met?” she asks, narrowing her eyes a bit.
“Shit. She’s speaking to you,” Adam attempts to discreetly mumble on the other side of me.
I haven’t exactly been a saint during my first two years of college. It’s possible I’ve had sex with more women than my inebriated memory can recall. But I’m kicking myself for not remembering her. The brief nudge of her knee against my leg sent this warm wave of familiarity rushing through my entire body.
It’s hard to explain because I’ve never felt that before.
“You’re …” I try not to mess this up. “Really familiar. But you’ll have to excuse me, this is my fourth beer tonight. We’re celebrating the end of finals.”
Her hand rubs her knee a few times. Yeah, she felt it too, and she won’t stop staring at me. Not that I mind.
“Charlotte.” She holds out her hand.
“Score!” Adam whispers behind me.
I shake her hand. We both suck in that same breath again, the one that leaves my lungs spasming.
What is going on?
“Mathias,” I choke on my own fucking name.
She keeps shaking my hand slowly, her gaze watching our hands in wonder.
Adam continues to nudge my back, making rude comments. His already ugly nose is about to catch my fist.
The bartender sets Charlotte’s glass of wine in front of her. She slides her hand out of mine—slowly, until it’s just our fingertips touching for a few extra seconds before the connection is broken.
When she turns to take a sip of her wine, I swear she whispers, “Wow.”
Wow is right. What the hell was that?
After Adam gets tired of staring at my back, he gives me a quick “later man.”
I shift my body, giving my full attention to Charlotte and her messy blond hair and deep lager eyes.
“So tell me about yourself, Charlotte?”
Part of me expects the same fuck off that she’s given every guy for the past three nights. Instead, she shifts her body toward mine, scissoring our legs together to make the tight space work.
A million what-in-the-world sparks shoot through my body, and I can see from the excitement on her face that she feels it too. She wants to touch me. It’s like we need to touch each other.
What the hell?
“I dumped my boyfriend last week. Fourth guy I’ve dumped in two months. They’re always ‘too this’ or ‘not enough that.’ You know what I mean?”
“Like the girls that think they’re so pretty that they can’t stop checking themselves out in every single window or mirror? Or the girls that are so insecure that they won’t even look you in the eye. Or my favorite … the ones that have ten layers of makeup on their face and every time they smile, parts of it crack. Too self-absorbed. Too insecure. Too fake.”
“Yes!” She lifts her wine glass like she’s ready to toast my terribly degrading speech on women. “I pick the guys who are too into their jobs. Too much a mama’s boy, not enough brains to talk about anything but the size of their dicks and not enough decency to bring a girl flowers or a sympathy card when her dog dies.”
I cringe. “Sorry about your dog.”
“Oh…” she waves her hand at me “…my dog didn’t die. I just said that to get out of a catastrophic date last week. But he didn’t know my dog really didn’t die. Where were the flowers and sympathy card?”
I laugh. She’s definitely trouble.
“Mathias, if my dog died tonight and you knew about it, you’d send flowers, right?”
Yep. Every single shade of trouble. Why has trouble never looked or felt so good?
Her lips twist. “You know what I need?”
I grab my beer, tipping back the last two gulps before slamming it onto the bar harder than I intend to do. “I think I do.”
And fuck me, déjà vu … I know what she’s going to say before she says it, because she’s said it before and I’ve heard it before.
At the same time we say, “A real boyfriend.”
“I think a part of you will be mine to love in every life.”