He put a smile on his face and walked over with her to where the rest of the wedding party was waiting for him. He managed to disengage himself from Amy when the photographer ordered the bridesmaids and groomsmen to opposite sides of the church garden.

The groomsmen came back into the church just as the shuttle full of people arrived. Drew searched the crowd for Alexa, and when he finally saw her, laughing at something Dan’s girlfriend said, his mouth dropped open. That red dress made him want to grab her hand, pull her out of the church, and bring her back to his hotel room immediately.

Josh’s cousin Bill walked up to her before he could get there. What the hell was he doing, looking at her like that?

Apparently, her dress also made Drew want to tell every other man in this room that he wasn’t allowed to look at her. Drew walked faster toward her.

“Ladies.” He got to them just as Alexa was shaking Bill’s hand. “May I escort you to your seats?”

Bill smirked at him.

“Sorry, Drew, I already claimed them. You snooze, you lose.”

Drew narrowed his eyes at Bill and slid Alexa’s arm into his.

“Oh, Bill, you must have misunderstood. This one is mine.”

They walked down the aisle in silence for a few seconds. Once they were out of earshot, she murmured, “I’m sorry, did I interrupt a pissing contest? I can go back to the hotel, I don’t want to be in the way.”

He laughed and drew her closer to him.

“No, don’t worry about it. And I won you anyway.”

She raised her eyebrows at him.

“You . . . won me?” she said.

He coughed.

“Wait, that came out wrong. You aren’t a thing to win or whatever. Sorry about that. It’s just that that dude always rubs me the wrong way.”

She smiled and held on to his arm tighter.

“Well, I would much prefer that you win me than him, even though I am indeed not a thing to win, so I guess we agree there.”

He stood at the end of the pew with her, not wanting to let go quite yet.

“Excuse us.” Dan elbowed him aside to let Lauren into the pew.

“Poor Bill.” Alexa laughed up at him. “Cock blocked on both sides.”

He didn’t remember her looking this hot in the elevator. Good job, Thursday-night-Drew, for somehow knowing that she’d be this hot when she was shoeless sitting on the elevator floor.

Oh wait, at that point he’d been trying not to stare at her cleavage, so maybe he had reason to know.

“Whatever,” he said. “He needs to get his own girl and stop trying to grab someone else’s.”

She went up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.

“See you at the reception.” She slid past him into the pew and sat down next to Lauren.

“Save me a sandwich,” he said, just to make her laugh. It worked.

After the ceremony was over, Drew walked back down the aisle after Josh and Molly, with a pink chiffon–clad bridesmaid on his arm. He winked at Alexa as he walked by her, and she winked back. She and Lauren told wedding war stories on the shuttle ride to the hotel and placed bets on who in the wedding party would be wasted first. (Lauren bet on Bill, but Alexa had money on Amy.)

When they got to the hotel, they followed the procession of guests up to the roof for cocktail hour and hung out in a corner with glasses of champagne and plates of something that looked very much like a fancy version of pigs in a blanket.

Thank goodness she’d bonded with Lauren at the rehearsal dinner; otherwise, the ceremony and this part of the reception would have been awkward and lonely. She would have long ago sent dozens of SOS texts to Maddie. It was crucial to have another woman to laugh with, go to the bathroom with, and gossip with during a wedding.

When Lauren was halfway through her “How I met Dan” story, Alexa realized what was coming and set her drink down on a nearby table.

“Hold that thought,” she said. “I have to use the ladies’ room. Guard my drink.”

As soon as she walked into the hall, she pulled her phone out of her clutch.

Hey boyfriend, how did we meet? I can tell Lauren is about to ask me, wanted to make sure our stories were straight.

Just as she got into the bathroom, her clutch vibrated.

The elevator, but a month ago. I was in town for that conference, remember?

Good plan. Keeping to the truth as much as possible was the best way to tell a lie. She’d learned that after working in politics for a while. Not that she made it a habit to tell lies . . . but when she had to, it was best that she knew how to do it believably.

We were so happy that the wedding was back at this same hotel, weren’t we?

When she got back out to Lauren, there was another plate sitting next to her drink, along with Bill, the annoying usher.

“Bill grabbed us some crab cakes!” Lauren said. She raised her eyebrows at Alexa where Bill couldn’t see her. This was also why it was crucial to have women friends at a wedding: you needed someone to roll your eyes with at all of the creepy dudes.

“Oh, thank goodness, this drink is starting to go to my head already. I don’t want to be drunk by the time the bride and groom walk in. Thanks, Bill.”

“My pleasure. What’s your name again? Alice?” He grinned at her, his eyes dropping to her cleavage. She drained her drink.

“Alexa.”

“Alexa, it looks like you need another drink.” He brushed some hair from her shoulder. She forced a smile.

“I do, thank you. Champagne, please. Lauren?”

After they sent Bill off to the bar, they both cringed and went back to their conversation.

“Okay, where were we? You reached for the last carton of eggs at the farmers’ market and Dan picked them up?”

Alexa had finished two more crab cakes by the time Bill was back from the bar. He handed her the drink with a big smile, his eyes on her cleavage again, and his hand on her elbow. Nothing in the world would compel her to drink that glass of champagne.

She moved her clutch from her right hand to her left to shift her body away from him, but he followed. This dude. He had about five seconds to back away before she’d “accidentally” spill the champagne on him.

“What about you and Drew? How did you two meet?” Lauren asked Alexa.

“Well”—an arm went around her waist—“it was actually right here in this hotel.” She turned her head, and Drew smiled down at her. “Hey,” she said. “You guys are here.” She moved closer to Drew and relaxed against him.

“Hey yourself.” The rest of the room washed away, and it was just this dream of a guy in a tux, golden brown eyes, his fingers stroking her hip in that way that made her wish there wasn’t a layer of clothes in between them and her skin.

Oh God, she was fantasizing about him again.

“Where’s Dan?” Lauren asked.

“At the bar. We both need a drink after all of those pictures.” Drew leaned down and his lips brushed her ear. “You guys weren’t having too much fun without us, were you?”

“Just talking about you guys,” Lauren said. “Speaking of, I’ll go meet Dan at the bar. I could use another drink, too. Alexa?”

Alexa nodded, only half listening to Lauren. She could stand there all night with Drew’s arm around her and his fingers skimming her waist. She felt dizzy from the touch of his hands on her body and his eyes looking down at her. It was almost too much.

Bill’s hand tightened on her elbow. She’d forgotten he was even there.

He smirked at Drew.

“I hope you don’t mind me stealing your date, but what can I say, I got back to the reception faster.”

Drew pulled her closer to him and away from Bill. His fingers kept moving over Alexa’s body, drawing circles up and down her waist, moving from there to the small of her back.

“Go away, Billy. The grown-ups are talking.” He shooed Bill away with his fingers without taking his eyes off Alexa. After a few seconds, Bill walked away.

Alexa smiled up at Drew and opened her mouth to thank him just as his grip on her waist relaxed. Oh. He’d only been holding on to her like that to protect her from Bill. That was nice of him.

She took a step back, and his arm dropped away from her. She felt colder. And much more sober than a minute before.

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