“And because I never want to feel like the fifth wheel, I’ve been turning down their offers to hang out for forever,” Denny adds.

Oh fuck. This just got a whole lot more complicated.

“How do you two know each other?” Delia asks, the worry clear in her voice.

I don’t know how much Denny does and doesn’t want to reveal about our history, so I go with the safest response I can think of. “We go way back.”

“Yeah?” Zach asks, and I know what he’s really saying: How many hours is way back, Shep?

“We’ve, uh, we’ve known each other for about six years now,” Denny says quietly.

Zach, the brainiac that he is, calculates this in seconds and his eyes show his surprise.

“That’s your senior year.”

“Yep,” I answer.

“Are you from here, Denver?”

“You know she’s not,” Delia says. “She and Monty are from Montana.”

“I’m…surprised they’ve known one another so long, is all,” he says coolly, and I know he has a whole lot of fucking questions to ask me.

If he ever gets up the gumption to spend more than two minutes in a room with me, I’ll gladly answer them.

“It’s a long story,” Denny says, waving her hand. “We’ll have to get together some night and talk about it.”

Was that an implication of a future for us?

“Well, this has been rather…enlightening,” Denny says, laughing. “But Shep and I have to split. We have a few best man and maid of honor duties we need to attend to before our phones start blowing up.” She gives Delia another hug. “It was good seeing you, Delia. We’ll have to catch up soon.”

Delia’s eyes slide my way again. “Yes, we will.”

My stomach turns, my pancake and eggs begging to come back up at the thought of Delia and Denny sitting down together at some point. I know for a fact Delia does not have a single nice thing to say about me.

Not that I blame her, since I did something really fucking shitty that I can’t take back.

Which leads to my current situation: a stilted relationship with my brother and his girlfriend—who, as it turns out, is pretty goddamn awesome.

I’m the only asshole in this situation. I know it, they know it, and soon Denny will know it too.

“It was good seeing you, Zach,” I say genuinely, because despite what I did to hurt him, I do love him. I’ve always looked up to him.

He grunts in response, waving goodbye to Denny and ushering Delia through the restaurant without another word to me.

“Well, that was fun,” I remark once they’re out of earshot.

“Fun? Try awkward as hell.” She whacks me in the arm. “Why didn’t you tell me your brother was so hot? I wouldn’t have wasted my time with your ass.”

I laugh, shaking my head at her.

“I have questions, though. Don’t think I don’t.”

“I kind of figured,” I say on a heavy sigh. “Later, though, okay? I want to enjoy the rest of the day.”

“But soon, right?”

“Sure. Soon.”

I want to prolong this as long as I can, because I know once I tell her the truth, it’s going to change everything for us. Our versions of “soon” are drastically different.

The pit in my stomach grows. The moment I tell Denny about the dumbass thing I did, we’re done, and I won’t be able to blame anyone but myself.

I was a sleaze ball who did a really shitty thing. I can’t change that. I can’t take that back—though I wish like hell I fucking could.

“Before the wedding?”

I gulp and nod. “Before the wedding.”

God, I hate me.



“I’m scared shitless of spending a weekend away with him.”


I admitted it out loud.

“Given your history, I don’t blame you,” Allie says, frowning.

I glance over at her, her face filling my phone screen as I continue cramming all my clothes into my new luggage, courtesy of Shep.

“Are those your ‘get lucky’ panties?”

“You have ‘get lucky’ panties?” Monty whispers…rather loudly, I might add.

“Is that Montana?”

My sister pops her head into the frame and waves to Allie. “Hey.”

“First, hi. I had no idea you were there or I wouldn’t have interrupted your sister time.”

“It’s totally fine,” Monty says, brushing off her apology.

“Second, are you telling me you don’t have special undies you wear when you want your hot-as-fuck boyfriend to bang the shit out of you?”

Monty’s face flames red. “I-I-I—”

“Oh my gosh, I think you’ve broken her, Allie!” I scold. “It’s okay, Monty, you don’t have to answer my horndog of a friend.”

“Robbie prefers that I don’t wear any panties at all. He thinks they just get in the way,” my sister admits, staring at her hands, which she’s wringing together in her lap.

Allie and I exchange a glance and then burst into laughter at how mortified Monty looks.

“Don’t be ashamed of that, girl. Own it!”

Monty smiles tentatively, blushing harder, if that’s even possible.

“Anyway, no, they aren’t my ‘get lucky’ panties,” I say, trying to save my sister from further mortification. She may not be a virgin anymore, but she’s still very virginal. “I’m too scared to pack those.”

“You could also go without…that’s what your sister does,” Allie says with a devious smirk.

Monty covers her face with her hands. “Stop it!”

“I’m kidding, Monty. I’m actually really proud of you. I’d give you a hug right now if I could, but I’m busy stomping around this mall, trying to find a decent cake knife.”

“Did you not like what they had at the bridal store?” I ask

“I did, but my pocketbook didn’t.” She sighs. “Never mind all that. Why are you so afraid of the panties? I thought for sure you two would be banging like maniacs by now. There’s so much sexual tension there—always has been.”

“Well, we’re not. I…don’t know if I’m ready for that with him just yet, after everything.”

“I mean, you did let him go to town on you on the kitchen counter.”

“What!” Monty shoots off the bed. “I eat breakfast there!”

I wave her off. “Not my kitchen counter, his.”

“Oh.” She sits back down. “Okay. Carry on then.”

“Just because I let him do”—I glance to Monty then back at Allie—“things to me, that doesn’t mean I’m ready for sex.”

“Aren’t you though? It’s been ages for you.”

“My body is saying to bang the crap out of him, but my heart? That’s the part that’s scared.”

“And with good reason.” Allie nods. “Okay, I get it, but…you’ve been doing the no-strings-attached thing for years. Why not give that a shot with Slug?”

“Ew. His name is Slug?” Monty chimes in.

“No, it’s a nickname. We don’t dare speak his real name,” Allie tells her.

I still remember the grit of his teeth the first time I called him Slug because he knew exactly what it meant—that I hated him. It didn’t matter that deep down we both knew I could never truly hate him; the intent was the same.

Now, though, I couldn’t call him Slug even if I tried.

“Denny?” Allie prompts me.


I’m not sure I can do that with Shep. He’s more than a no-strings commitment. He always has been, and we both know it. Hell, even Allie knows that.

If I sleep with Shep, I’ll be handing him my heart on a silver platter to do with as he pleases.

I just have to hope he doesn’t destroy it again.

“I’m just going to say something here, and I could be totally off base, but I could be right. I have a feeling I’m right because of twintuition and all that.”

“Are you going to spit it out anytime soon?” Allie presses.

“Sorry,” Monty mumbles. “Anyway, I think since you’ve hidden this Slug guy for so many years—I mean, almost nobody knows about him—you had a reason for doing so. You care for him, a lot more than you’re willing to admit to others and to yourself, and that’s totally fine. I just think there’s a reason you haven’t jumped into the sack with him yet. He means more. It will mean more. Therefore, you can’t just do the no-strings-attached thing.”

“That is literally what was just running through my mind,” I say quietly, stunned.

Monty sits there looking quite proud of herself.

“Is that true, Denny? You’re still into him like that?”

I glance to Allie, worrying my lip between my teeth, and give her a short nod.

“Ha!” She pumps her fist into the air, dancing around like she just won the lottery. “AJ totally owes me twenty bucks!”

“What the hell, Allie!”

She stops her dancing, her breathing erratic because my best friend is a spaz. “What? We knew you two were still into each other. Did you know he called AJ the other day to talk about it? Did you also know Penny was supposed to be his date to all these events but he canceled on her so he could invite you instead? You two are in love.” She draws the word out, making kissing noises at the phone. “L-O-V-E!”


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