The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)By: Christina Elle
To Ninny, who passed just before this book went to print. I wish everyone could have a grandmother as funny, smart, sarcastic, honest, off-the-wall, crazy, and loving as you. Thank you for being there each and every time I needed you.
And to Keith. For taking me on that catamaran ride in Mexico and swearing you knew how to drive the damn thing. Next time just accept the lessons.
Okay, maybe they didn’t suck so much as they blew.
No. They didn’t do that, either.
All right, fine, weddings were okay. What wasn’t okay was being stuck on a secluded island, at a ritzy, exclusive resort with no escape, surrounded by people with nothing but “love,” “happily ever after,” and “forever” on their minds.
Bryan Tyke stood in his untied black combat boots in the pristine, white sand, scowling at every passerby. He’d be goddamned if he was going to walk around in flip-flops like everyone else and burn the shit out of his feet. Fuck that. It was enough that he was here. He wasn’t going to act happy about it or dress the part.
His best friends and DEA teammates, Ash Cooper and Luke Calder, were getting married this week. Not to each other. To women. Women that had bamboozled the men into thinking married bliss actually was a thing. Big whoop for them if they wanted to buy into that idea. Tyke didn’t. Forever wasn’t in the cards for him. Not now. Not ever. He’d been close to marrying once, and well…he didn’t think about that anymore.
Back to the island wedding. Instead of going to the courthouse or eloping to Vegas like normal people, his friends insisted on dragging their guests thousands of miles for a fun-filled week of games, dinners, and carefully rehearsed nuptials.
Tyke sipped his Mexican beer from the all-inclusive bar—the only thing making this whole experience tolerable—watching one of the resort staffers coordinate a badminton competition for the wedding guests.
Tyke turned to his most practical (and last remaining single) DEA teammate, Jason Reese. “Explain to me why we aren’t Jet Skiing right now.”
Reese sipped from his cup of orange liquid topped with a green umbrella, looking at ease in his bright Hawaiian shirt and salmon-colored shorts. “Because Ash said we had to be here or else he would cut off our balls and shove them down our throats.”
Tyke winced at the memory. “Ah, right.”
“I’m very fond of my balls.” Reese turned his attention to the sandbox filled with badminton nets. “Plus, I actually think the competition will be enjoyable.”
“Of course you would,” Tyke said. “You love this kind of shit.”
Jason pressed his sunglasses, which sat on top of his actual glasses, farther up the bridge of his nose, then shrugged.
“Man.” Tyke took a better look at his friend. “Why the fuck are you wearing two pairs of glasses? You look like a ninety-year-old woman with cataracts.”
Reese touched his face as if he’d forgotten about the items he’d just adjusted. “My prescription sunglasses broke before we left. So…” He shrugged again. “Does it really look that bad?”
The flicker of nerves on Reese’s face was a first. The team often joked that Reese was more robot than human because he rarely showed emotion, was always calm under pressure, and could calculate anything in his head in milliseconds. The vulnerability made Tyke pull back.
“Who gives a shit what you look like?” he said. “Who are you trying to impress? Have you taken a look around?” Tyke did a wide sweep of the beach area. “Everyone’s either from the nursing home or already married with ten kids.”
Reese wasn’t listening, instead his gaze was fixed on a cute blonde about twenty yards away, laughing with her just-as-cute brunette friend. Sorority sisters of one of the brides, if he remembered correctly. Tiffany and Hillary. Candy and Tandy. Or some shit.
The blonde was wearing a slim-fitting white sleeveless shirt that showed off her full rack and short hot-pink bottoms that drew attention to her long, tanned legs. Tyke couldn’t fault Reese for admiring her.
She just wasn’t tempting enough for Tyke.
He was more of a redhead with curves in all the right places kind of guy. Or at least he had been once upon a time.