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I was still making a disgusted face when Bird came back but to his credit he just handed me my beer and didn’t say anything. It was taking all my willpower to peel my eyes away from the couple and concentrate on something else.

This came in the form of Cheri and Amanda, two MILF’s who had been eyeing me since I sat down. I’m sure they probably went after any guy under 35 who didn’t clean his ears out with his car keys, but I decided to be flattered. I grinned at them and as expected they teetered over to me on tacky plastic heels, smiles broad, breaths rank.

I didn’t really hear a word they were saying, I was just trying to look handsome and not breathe in through my nose. One of them, Cheri, maybe, took a liking to Bird which he didn’t seem to mind. Bird didn’t strike me as someone who had a wife waiting for him at home, though he could have certainly done better than some old lush with wrinkled cleavage and brown-speckled teeth. I felt like throwing up in my mouth but I played up my virility and asked Amanda, maybe, if she’d help choose songs from the jukebox with me.

We walked to the box through the sticky crowd and I kept Perry and Max in my peripheral vision. On the outside it looked like I was having fun, on the inside I was paranoid as fuck. I kept fearing that he’d grab her and take her away somewhere dark and private. The thought of him touching her, kissing her, bothered me to no end but Amanda was watching me and looking confused at my expression. I smiled at her again, all good vibes and good sex, and let her select some shitty songs first before I requested mine.

We had just gotten back to the table (where Bird was trying to give Cheri a very polite GTFO) when Max and Perry finally removed themselves from the floor. I wanted to make some cutting remark to him and cut him down a peg but there was a weird aura of tension just steaming off. Something had gone down between them and even though it soothed the spite in me, I was a bit concerned for Perry.

Apparently, so was Amanda. The minute she saw Perry’s sweet, worried face she grabbed my arm, sinking her Pepto Bismol–colored talons into my skin.

“You’re dancing with me, sugar,” she commanded. She was surprisingly strong for her size and her sun-raped arms had no problem dragging me to my feet.

“Like I have a choice,” I said, trying not to laugh. This was one hungry cougar.

I gave Perry a quick wink as we went past and decided to give Amanda what she’d been waiting for: Someone young. Someone fun. I grabbed a cowboy hat off of some random Joe Blow and gave “Crocodile Rock” my best moves.

It had been a while since I was able to use some of my theatre school skills, other than fucking Michelle in the orchestra pit and taking hits between monologues. I knew it didn’t matter if I screwed up or looked like a retard because that wasn’t the point, but I was surprised how easily it came back to me. Again, all I could think about was how deep I felt the music, how deep I was feeling…everything. Though I was swinging Amanda around, my mind dwelled on what my medication was hiding half the time. Besides the very obvious.

“You’re good,” Amanda said to me, holding me close to her, trying to take back the control. People were clapping and watching us with amusement and she was basking in the glow.

“It comes naturally. But so does being bad,” I said with a smirk.

“I can see that. Your wife must be pretty pissed.”

Wife? Oh right. Fuckity fuck. I didn’t need to eye the ring on my finger to remember the whole charade. Not that the town of Red Fox gave two shits whether I was really married to Perry or pretend married, but it didn’t hurt to keep up appearances.

“She’s pretty understanding,” I said.

Amanda nodded. I noticed her earrings were clipons and dangerously close to slipping off. This was one sweaty, stanky ass bar.

“You’re the understanding one. Most men here would be all macho about it if their wife was dancing with another man. But I could see he wasn’t a threat at all.”

Oh really? I wanted to pry her for her cougarly wisdom but I bit my lip instead. We danced some more and then we were interrupted by another woman. She said her name was Mary Sue (naturally) and she was years younger (possibly even underage) with desperate eyes that screamed at me, like dancing with Dex Foray was the most excitement she’d ever get. That made me really fucking sad. How pathetic this town must be to find a fuckup like me as their savior.

I danced with Mary Sue, going through the motions, thinking about the fake wedding band on my ring finger. When the song ended again and I could see more women approaching me (look, I get that I can look pretty hot, but no one should attract this many rednecks), I decided I had enough. I knew what song was next and I knew who I was dancing with. My wife.

I walked toward her, ignoring the women and focused on her face until her big blue eyes met mine. She looked so small and dainty sitting there among Max and Bird, drinking and trying to have fun even though a world of danger whirled around her. I could see the strain on her face, I knew she was always hyper-aware of what lurked in the dark. I knew because Bird was right. We were too much the same.

I stopped in front of her and tipped my hat in the most awkward imitation of a cowboy.

“It’s our song,” I said to her over the piano notes of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman.” I held out my hand, hoping she’d take it.

Her eyes lit up and she took my hand. I quickly grasped it, cool and white between my fingers. I led her to the floor and put my arm around her, bringing her in hard and fast to my side. She was mine. For the sake of appearances, she was my wife, but she was mine anyway. She didn’t know it yet, but I did. It was wrong and it made no sense, but she belonged with me. No one else, not any-one else.

It was a shame that I was the one who belonged to someone else. I wondered if I’d ever have the strength to correct that or if I’d punish myself forever.

We started dancing slowly, side to side, and I put one hand behind her back, where it was hot and small, temptingly close to her ass. The other held her hand. I kept her as close to me as possible, but I didn’t want to impose like Maximus did. Besides, the last thing Perry needed was to feel my hard-on on her hip, even though it was fucking tempting to let her know what she was doing to me. I entertained the idea that she might even like it. It was a high school dance all over again.

I had to know. I stared into her eyes, lost in the storm, and started singing along with Joel. Softly, and at a distance to start, then I leaned into her ear where it smelled like sunshine and baby powder. I closed my eyes and sang, feeling my breath bound off of her ear in hot clouds. It was taking all of my willpower to not take this further, to not wrap my lips around it and lick the lobe to see what it would taste like. See if I could make those eyes roll back and make her forget everything that had happened to her. I didn’t want to be Red Fox’s savior, but I wanted to be hers.

As if hearing my thoughts and welcoming them, she laid her head on my shoulder. I tried willing my heart to beat slower, knowing how fast it was racing now. This felt so perfect, a perfection I didn’t deserve but I would take it if I could get it.

And then wham bam thank you m’am, the spell was gone. Perry raised her head back and looked wide-eyed and vaguely frightened. I couldn’t figure her out if I tried. But I wouldn’t let her go. The song ended, but I kept my arms wrapped tight around her, not letting her move an inch. If she was having some internal battle again, she could do so in my arms.

“Whatcha doing, wifey?” I joked, secretly enjoying the sound of that.

She gave me a look of forced casualness. “Song’s over.”

Right. Like that’s what happened behind those deep eyes of hers.

“Is it?” I asked, knowing exactly what was coming next. Yep, I was a smooth one tonight. Found two Billy Joel songs on the jukebox and bogarted them both. I was sure the hillbilly folks of Red Fox would be put out without their country incest bullshit, but I was in town and I had a fake wife to impress.

I don’t know if she was impressed, though. She looked shocked. I didn’t know if that was good or bad.

“Don’t look so worried,” I told her, trying to put her at ease. “Best fifty cents I ever spent.”

“What, did you select Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits or something?”

Er, maybe she wasn’t finding it as charming as I thought. Maybe I was being creepy. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“Well, I tried,” I admitted. “But these were the only two songs. I’m afraid it’s Poison after this, so you should probably enjoy this dance while you can.”

“You really like Billy Joel, don’t you?”

Oh, she was just so clueless. Bless her heart. I brought her in closer to me so she’d start picking up on the right idea. Which was the wrong idea. Or a bad, naughty idea.

“He’s all right,” I said, having a hard time keeping my amused grin under wraps. “But I figured you might dance with me if I put this on. Only fair that I get to dance with my wife.”

She blushed at my choice of words. “A good wife would dance with you to anything. Especially with you. You’re a modern day Gene Kelly.”

Now it was my time to blush. Except that I’m a man and I don’t do that.

I laughed instead. “Years of theatre school and that’s the only thing that sticks.”

It was true too. I was a pretty fucking good dancer before I got sucked into the film side of things. Though I gotta say, the tail I got in theatre school was one of the reasons I stuck around for so long.

Her eyes widened. She smiled, her breath hot and sweet. “You’re going to continue to surprise me, aren’t you?”

“I hope so,” I said. “The element of surprise is all I have.”

And to make my point, I did something I had wanted to do all night.

I reached down and took a firm grab of her sweet ass. It molded like soft putty in my hand.

I looked over to Maximus, hoping the twatwaffle was watching.

He was. He looked surprised. Bothered. Red brows knitted together.

I grinned at him and gave him the thumbs up.

Suck on that, Max.

“What the hell, Dex?” she whispered harshly.

Oh right, I still had her ass in my hand. I let go and put my hand at the small of her back. Still in reach.

“What?” I asked innocently. “I’m allowed to grab my wife’s ass. She’s got a nice one.”

A strange look came over her eyes, like clouds from an incoming storm.

“What would Jennifer think?”

Oh, fuck man. Why did she have to go and ruin a perfectly good – and innocent, I might add – ass-grabbing moment like that? Jennifer. What the hell did she have to do with anything? This was about me and her. This was about now. Why couldn’t she have left it like that?

Reality bites.

“There is no Jennifer in this scenario,” I told her.

“You’re skirting dangerous territory, Dex,” she warned.

It’s too bad that was the best territory to be in. What a little buzzkill I had in my hands.

“What do you mean?” I wanted to hear her say it.

She thought about it. She knew I was baiting her.

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