My husband frowned and shook his head slightly. “For what?”
“Being a fucking ass these past few weeks.”
Oren shrugged. “You’re always an ass. So, what’s new?”
Noel let out a strangled laugh that sounded as if it might turn into a sob. Then he rasped. “You know what the hell I’m talking about.”
But Oren shook his head. “No. I really don’t. You thought Caroline was in danger, so you did everything within your power to protect her. I’m not going to forgive that shit. I’m glad you did it. I would’ve been pissed if you hadn’t done anything.”
With a shake of his head, Noel refuted him. “You’re glad I did all that shit against you?” He didn’t sound as if he believed it.
But Oren reached out slowly and grasped my brother’s arm. “I’m glad you did it against whoever you thought was a threat to her. But I’m also glad you finally fucking realized I’m not a threat.”
“Yeah.” Noel wiped his face as if to make sure it was still dry. “Me too.” Then he drew in a deep breath. “So...coffee? The next Saturday morning after you get out of this place? I might actually buy this time.”
Oren smiled at him before turning his gaze my way. “You got it, bud.” Then he snapped his fingers as he kept his gaze on me. “Hart,” he called. “Isn’t it tradition for you to start singing some bullshit song for us right about now?”
“Really?” Asher’s voice was dry. “You’re going to make me do that again?”
Oren merely kept grinning at me. “Fuck, yeah. I’m the one lying in the damn hospital bed. What I say goes.”
“Fine. But you owe me for this.” And so Asher began to sing. I laughed as the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” filled the air.
But Oren didn’t laugh. He just gazed at me, his eyes bright with love and awe as he silently mouthed the words to the song. When Eva, Reese, and Pick joined in at the chorus, Oren tugged me closer.
“I love you,” he murmured. “Thank you for being here when I woke up and bringing me back to myself.”
“I love you, too,” I murmured back. “Thank you for coming back.”
“For you? Always.”
Five Years Later
In college, drinking games had rocked because they usually meant I could get some drunk chick to do me. Tonight, I wanted to roll my eyes and groan. Oh, wait. I had just rolled my eyes and groaned. But fuck, I was an old married fart now. Okay, maybe not old, but definitely aged to perfection. Still, I didn’t need alcohol to get laid tonight.
All the couples sitting on the floor in a circle around a hotel ottoman were just as old and married as I was, too. So why were we bothering? There would be no random hooking up after this or me waking up in some strange place with vital pieces of clothing missing.
We’d all just wander back to our respective rooms and curl into bed with our significant others, then wake up before the ass-crack of dawn to catch early flights back home. So why were we playing a stupid fucking drinking game?
“Oh, damn,” I grumbled, clutching my side. “I think I just popped my hip out of place from sitting on this fucking floor.”
Gam kicked me, in the very hip that I was cradling. The fucker. “Stop being a baby. You sound like an eighty year old instead of twenty-seven.”
“Feeling closer to eighty,” I complained, glaring at him as I rubbed the spot he’d kicked. “Asswipe.”
Next to him, his wife slapped a hand over her mouth and started giggling. The game had her completely lit. I still didn’t want to play, but okay, it was funny as hell to see Shakespeare drunk. It was her first weekend away from their new kid, and you could tell. The poor woman seemed starved for a little bit of adult freedom.
“Let me hold that for you, babe.” Gamble reached for her bottle of chick liquor, but she held it out away from him and leaned the rest of her body his way as she puckered her mouth for a kiss.
“I’d rather you hold me instead.”
“Ack! God.” Wincing, I lifted my hand to shield my eyes from the lip-lock that followed. “Really? You’re going to make me watch your porn after I’m already being forced to suffer through this stupid-ass game where Shakespeare’s cheating by sneaking drinks between each turn and these two can’t even participate?”
I hooked my thumb toward Milk Tits and Buttercup, who were both big and swollen with pregnancy, and therefore banned from drinking any spirits.
Buttercup rolled her eyes as she took a sip from her sparkling grape juice—another cheat, sneaking drinks. “Getting drunk isn’t the point.”