“We’re happy to have you,” Jacob replies with a smile. “This is the best view on the mountain. You’ll be able to see the torchlight parade without fighting the crowd.”
“Oh! Before I forget,” Grace adds, “here are the keys to your rooms.” She hands them out gleefully, like a giddy Christmas elf.
“Thanks for this, man,” Ty says to Jacob. “You didn’t have to.”
“It’s nothing, really. This way you can relax and enjoy without having to worry about driving down this bloody mountain in the wee hours of the morning.”
“Is this where the party is?” A pretty redheaded woman sticks her head out of the door and glances about until she finds Grace. “There you are!”
“Hey! Come on out.” Grace takes Hannah by the hand and turns to all of us. “Do you know everyone?”
“Not quite.” She laughs and waves at us all.
“I’m Jillian,” I begin and shake her hand. “This is my boyfriend, Zack King, and his brother, Josh. You’ve met Josh’s fiancée, Cara, right?”
Hannah nods and smiles at Cara.
“And this is Ty, my brother, and his beautiful fiancée, Lauren.”
“You can call me Lo,” she says and smiles warmly.
“Oh good, the rest are here!” Cara exclaims and hugs Brad as he comes through the door. “Hey you!”
“Hey, young lady,” Brad replies with a grin. Max and Jenna follow him out onto the balcony.
“That’s Brad, one of Cunningham Falls’ finest, followed by his younger brother, Max, and their sister, Jenna.”
“Holy shit, don’t expect me to remember everyone’s names,” Hannah replies but laughs and shakes everyone’s hands.
The guys all shake hands, and Max’s eyebrow raises when he sees Zack’s arm around my shoulders, holding me to his side. I smile and shrug, and Max offers me a silent thumbs-up.
I love my friends.
I don’t want to be here. Not with all of these people. I love my brother, and hell, I like everyone here, but I just had the shittiest afternoon of my life.
Worse than watching young men get blown to bits. Worse than having to hold their moms and wives while they grieve.
But Jilly wanted to be here tonight, so here we are. And I’m fucking pissed at myself because I snapped at her and she didn’t deserve it. I’ll make it up to her tonight.
“What time does the parade start?” Jenna asks and wanders over to the edge of the balcony, looking up at the hill.
“In about thirty minutes,” Jacob replies. “So in the meantime, please, grab some food and drinks and enjoy.”
“What, exactly, is a torchlight parade?” Hannah asks. Brad offers her a glass of champagne, and I tilt my head to the side, watching my friend. Seems he might be interested in the new doc in town. Can’t say I blame him. She’s a pretty woman.
“Exactly what it sounds like,” Brad answers her. “They dim the lights, and skiers come down the hill holding torches.”
“It makes me nervous.” Grace shudders delicately. “I’d fall and break all my bones.”
Jilly laughs next to me, catching my attention.
“I love your shoes, Jill,” Jenna comments. “Jimmy Choo?”
“Yes.” Jill nods and looks down at her sexy-as-fuck shoes. Seems they cost a fortune and she’s wearing them out in the fucking snow.
“I wish we could get stuff like that here,” Lo says and sips her drink.
“Yes, it’s one of the things I miss about LA,” Jill replies, and my heart stops. She misses LA? “I have to shop online more than anything.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not a hardship,” Ty says. “You like to shop any way you can get it.”
“True.” Jill giggles and shrugs. “Thank God for the internet.”
“Where are you from, Hannah?” Cara asks.
I glance around the balcony, looking for my brother and see that he’s talking with Jacob, Max, Brad, and Grace.
“Excuse me, sugar,” I whisper into Jill’s ear. “I’ll be right over there if you need me.” I kiss her cheek and walk away toward my brother.
“Max was just telling us about the ranching software he sold to Google,” Josh says excitedly.
“Seriously?” I turn to Max and shake his hand. “Congrats, man.”
“Jilly says you’re moving back to town,” I reply and sip my beer.
“Yeah, she’s going to sell me a house.” He cringes and leans in to talk quietly. “I don’t want any weirdness between us. I didn’t know you were dating her when I asked her out.”
“I wasn’t then, man. If we were, Jill wouldn’t have gone with you. It’s all good.”
He nods and we’re sucked back into the conversation with the others. Finally, Grace yawns.
“Sorry guys, I love you all, but this is boring. I’m going to go talk about sexy shoes with the girls, even though I can never wear shoes like theirs because I would die a very violent, painful death.”
“Cheerio, love,” she calls back to him in a horrible accent, making us all laugh.
“She’s always doing that,” Jacob murmurs as he watches Grace with lovesick eyes.
Ty and Brad wander over to join us, and now we are officially split, men versus women.
“Couldn’t take the shoe talk anymore?” I ask Ty.
“Dude, they’re on to purses now.”
“Handbags,” Brad corrects him with a shudder. “We got schooled on the whole, ‘they’re not purses, they’re handbags’ thing. So we came over here where it’s safe.”
“Who the fuck spends a thousand dollars on a purse?” Ty asks.
“Handbag,” Brad says again. “We don’t ever want that lecture again.”
“Oh, some spend more than that,” Jacob adds with a wince. “It’s ridiculous.”
“Cara spends hundreds on her hair, just to keep it straight. I don’t get it. It’s hair. Wash it and be done with it.” Josh shakes his head in confusion.
“I pay fifteen dollars to get my hair cut,” I reply with a shake of the head. Is this what will keep Jillian happy? Thousands of dollars’ worth of accessories and designer clothes and hair and nails? I’m not a poor man, but I can’t give her that. I glance over at her and see her laughing with Jenna, with her designer shoes and jeans, the handbag with the MK emblem on the side.