Mai Tai'd Up (The Cocktail Series)By: Alice Clayton
I grinned as I watched the two of them circle each other without leaving their chairs. Perched backward on hers, she pointed aggressively in response to something he said. He pointed back just as hard, which made her . . . unbutton another button on her shirt?
These two. I’d never heard my cousin Clark complain so much about a girl, which made me 100 percent positive this girl was perfectly matched for him. Vivian this and Vivian that—that’s literally all I’d heard from him in the last few weeks.
I leaned back against the bar and pondered the passion that was pinging back and forth between them. Their words were antagonistic, but their body language? They were already having the sex; they just didn’t know it yet. He leaned; she leaned. He rolled his eyes; she all but rolled her hips. Words were heated; their skin even more so.
My skin was rarely heated. In fact, everything south of my ankles was getting decidedly cold. But that was normal for a bride, right?
I was getting married in a month. After spending the last few weeks running around like crazy with wedding preparations, I was treating myself to a long weekend at my favorite B&B in Mendocino to see my favorite cousin. Coming up to visit him was the break I’d needed from my real life in San Diego. I’d spent the last few days walking on the beach, sitting by a crackling fire at night, and trying hard to see the forest for the trees in my life. And listening to Clark talk nonstop about this girl who had rocked his world. I was supposed to be working on my thank-you cards for gifts we’d already received, but getting distracted by my somewhat old-fashioned, hopelessly romantic cousin Clark and his obvious affection for this new girl in town was exactly what I really needed.
And now, watching these two dance around each other, watching his eyes being drawn again and again to the bosom she seemed to be deliberately using to her advantage, I realized that this was what it was supposed to be about. The dance. The back-and-forth, the spark, the excitement.
I’d never had that spark with anyone. And after watching Clark go toe-to-toe with this Vivian? I wanted to get sparked too. And I was no longer sure that I’d be getting sparked in San Diego . . .
Four weeks later in San Diego
“And so tonight, I raise a glass to the most beautiful girl in the world—my daughter, Chloe Patterson. And to her intended, I say: take care of her. Because I know people.”
I could feel my blush rise as my father toasted me and my fiancé—the “intended” he’d just threatened in front of the fifty people attending our rehearsal dinner. Threatened in a perfectly acceptable way, of course, like a father of the bride would tease the man who’s going to take away his little girl forever. And everyone laughed along with me, raising their glasses in our direction.
My intended, Charles Preston Sappington, rose to his feet, shaking my father’s hand and clapping him on the back good-naturedly. Was the clap a little harder than necessary? Yes. Was the threat as affable as my father made it sound? No.
I caught my dad’s eye and he winked. I giggled loudly, earning an eye roll from my mother, who had the most audible eye roll in the room. In any room. And particularly any room my father was in.
Relieved that I could get back to my dinner, I felt Charles’ hand on the back of my neck. He leaned over me, pressing an absentminded kiss onto the top of my head. “Going to go say hello to the Nickersons; I’ll be right back,” he whispered.
I kissed the air behind him as he sped off to press some more flesh, and turned to see my mother watching us.
“Don’t you think you should go with him, dear?” she asked, watching as my fiancé schmoozed. Our rehearsal dinner, and he was schmoozing.
“Not particularly. Did you try the artichoke soufflé? It’s delicious,” I answered, forking up another bite.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough, dear? That wedding dress barely fits as it is.” She signaled for a waiter to remove my plate.
I smiled resignedly, setting down my fork with a clatter that earned me an eyebrow raise. “Sorry,” I mumbled, patting at my lips delicately with my napkin, which I refolded and placed squarely in the center of my lap.
“Oh, leave her alone, Marjorie, she’s getting married! She should enjoy this night! You know, before the Big Fade,” Dad teased.
A snort escaped me, and my mother’s neck turned three shades of red.
“Honestly, Thomas, I hardly think it’s appropriate to tease her like that, the night before she gets married. And what was that toast? You know people? For goodness’ sake, who are these alleged people? Accountants? Pencil pushers?”