Another weekend, another wedding. Life on the wrong side of twenty-five seemed to be all about the nuptials. All my friends who I’d previously thought had more sense than to willingly tie themselves to the monotony of monogamy for the rest of their lives had proven me wrong.
At twenty-seven, if I wasn’t on my way to a wedding, I was going to a bachelor party, a suit fitting, or a rehearsal dinner. It was exhausting and yet, apparently, I couldn’t just bail. My own sister, Victoria, had tied the knot a little while ago, and when she had, she’d made it crystal fucking clear to me that it was important to people who invited you to a wedding that you actually showed up.
Sighing as I stepped away from my dresser, I strode over to the full-length mirror in my walk-in closet and looked myself over, straightening my tie and giving my reflection a smirk to get the full effect. Perfect.
After grabbing my phone, restocking my wallet with condoms, and fastening my watch around my wrist, I was ready to go. As I walked out of my bedroom, the intercom buzzed and I grinned. Tristan was right on time.
We could have a pre-game drink or two and then head off to the chapel. I let him up, then unlocked my front door and went to the bar, pouring us each a double shot of whiskey while I waited. A few minutes later, I heard the door closing and then my best friend walked into my penthouse, suited, tied, and ready to get the party started.
On the other hand, I’m the only one who’s going to be getting the party started. Tristan was more reserved than I was, the polar opposite of me, really. As if he’d heard the thought, his dark, olive green eyes swept across the bar counter as he strode into the main living area, and he sighed before shaking his head.
“You’re not getting drunk before we even get there,” he said firmly but marched over and picked up his shot, raising it for a beat before tossing it back. Wincing slowly as he swallowed it down, he tapped the little glass against the wood and sat down on a stool, his gaze back on mine. “That being said, I’ll have a beer.”
“Attaboy.” I took my shot, relishing the smooth heat of the whiskey as it traveled down my throat and warmed my stomach. Once it was down, I licked the last of it off my lips and grinned before reaching into the fridge under the counter and coming back with two beers. “One drink isn’t going to get anyone here drunk. Just relax. We’ve got time, and one of the best things about a wedding is those little canapes they serve after the ceremony. It’ll be fine. We’ll eat a bunch of them to soak up this alcohol and then we’ll ply ourselves with more.”
He ran a hand through his jet black hair, gripping the strands as he looked back at me. “Good God. Are you ever going to grow up? The ceremony itself is supposed to be one of the best things about a wedding, not the canapes after.”
I shrugged. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mine is that the ceremony itself is a boring time-suck before the party. Besides, how many of these people are actually going to stick to the vows they’re making for the rest of their lives? If you ask me—”
“No one asked you.”
I rolled my eyes, but I wasn’t deterred from the point I was trying to make. “If you did ask me, I’d tell you that the traditional vows should be rewritten so that people promise each other all those things until divorce does them part, not death.”
“You are so damaged,” he muttered, but I saw the grin trying to break free on his lips before he uncapped the beer and took a long sip. “Thankfully, I don’t have any ties to this wedding other than my cousin, so you’re free to do what you want, which is what you’re going to do anyway. Just stay away from my cousin and his girl.”
“Is she hot?” I cocked my head, trying to remember if I’d ever met his cousin’s girl, but he gave me a sharp glare.
“She’s taken, which I know is like fucking catnip to you, but she’s off limits. They’re not engaged yet, so that should ease some of your longing. He wants to propose to her soon, though. Don’t fuck it up.”
Raising my hands, I showed him my palms and batted my lashes, the very picture of innocence. Or at least that was the picture I was trying to project, but he knew me better than that.
“I’m serious, Jake. Stay away from her. There will be plenty of other women there for you to lead astray.”
“I don’t lead anyone astray.” I scoffed. “All I do is find women who are ready to break the monotony of being in their marriages. It’s a public fucking service.”
“Only you would think of it like that. Didn’t you learn your lesson with Lennon Harris and Hailey Holmes? If anyone was going to be able to show you the error of your ways, I thought for sure it would’ve been Nash and Hunter.”
The mention of their names brought a bitter taste to my mouth. I didn’t do guilt, but I’d pushed things with Lennon a few steps too far. I was willing to admit that I’d been a complete asshole to her and to her friend. They’d gotten me back, though, humiliating me onstage at yet another fucking wedding, but that was beside the point.
I’d gone too far, and although I’d paid for it, I still felt bitter when I thought back to that time. The whole situation had gotten so fucked up and Lennon had been a friend once upon a time. She would never forgive me and neither would my sister.
Victoria had torn me a new one over the stunts I’d pulled back then. It’d left a big black stain on our relationship, and whenever she talked about Lennon and her husband, I saw the way everyone’s eyes always darted to mine, wondering what the hell I’d been thinking.
The truth of it was that I hadn’t been. I’d seen Lennon again and she’d been wearing another man’s ring. It’d set me off in ways I still didn’t quite understand, and I’d made mistakes. Ones I’d apologized for but that had also alienated me from my friend, the dick she’d married, and my very own sister.
Narrowing my eyes at Tristan, I picked up the bottle of whiskey and refilled our little glasses. “Thanks for the reminder. For that, we’re each having another one of these.”
He sighed but nodded and quickly took the shot before grimacing and pushing his glass back to me once he’d swallowed. “Fine, but that was the last one. What I was trying to get to was that I thought you’d change your ways after that.”
I snorted. “Nah. Hookups are the only thing that make weddings worth going to. I’m ready to have some fun and break some rules. Life is short, right? Why spend it with only one person and why force someone else to when there are people like me who are willing to help them find adventure again?”
A dark eyebrow arched and his gaze bored into mine. “Adventure? Are you kidding me? The only thing you help them find is infidelity. Why is that, though? Why do you only want the women you can’t have for more than one night?”
“Are you seriously trying to shrink me right now?” I looked back at him without flinching. “It won’t work, bro. I don’t have any hidden commitment issues. I just happen to love the chase.”
“Sure, you do, but why? Most people our age are growing up and looking for that one person to settle down with. Even those who aren’t into relationships respect the sanctity of marriage and everything that goes along with it. You’re the only person I know who actively seeks out only women who are already committed to someone else and can therefore never be committed to you.”
“Jesus.” I shoved a hand through my hair and squeezed the nape of my neck as I let my head fall back and groaned. “Since when are you interested in psychology? Do us all a favor and stick to your day job. You’re trying to find something in me that just isn’t there.”
“I disagree. We’re all made up of past experiences, and there has to be something in your history that made you this way. I’m not interested in psychology, but I do think the only way to get you to rein it in is by figuring out why you do this in the first place.”
“There’s nothing to figure out. I’m all about fun, man. That’s all there is to it. Women in long-term relationships are in need of a little fun, and that’s why I offer it to them. It’s a win-win.”
“For now, it might seem that way,” he said thoughtfully. “It won’t last, though, especially not now.”
“What are you talking about?”
He sighed. “You’re the CEO of a massive, multibillion-dollar company now, Jake. Grandpa Aspen spent his whole life working to get it to where it is now, and you’re going to dismantle it piece by piece if you carry on this way.”
“No, I’m not,” I said stubbornly before swallowing down half of my beer in one go as frustration coursed through me. “What I do and who I fuck has nothing to do with the company. Every CEO has his hobbies, right? Some people golf, others read. Me? I like to get down and dirty with pretty girls whose husbands stopped eating their pussies the way I do years ago. What’s wrong with that?”
Tristan sighed, looking at me like I was a lost cause. “You need to start straightening up. This whole bad boy shtick is getting really old. One day, you’re going to mess with the wrong woman and there’s going to be hell to pay for it. It’s going to cost you a shit ton of money, and maybe even the company if you’re not careful.”
“I am careful, though.” While I heard what he was saying, I didn’t pay much attention to it.
Tristan was one of those guys who believed in happily-ever-afters and was respectful to the point of being a pushover. I loved him like a brother, but he needed to let his hair down and get his dick wet more often.
If he didn’t, he was going to die prematurely of one of the many stress-related dangers out there. Glancing down at my watch, I tossed back what was left of my beer and moved out from behind the counter. “Come on, worrywart. We’re going to be late if you keep trying to dissect my brain instead of focusing on finishing your drink so we can leave. Jeez. It’s a scary day when I’ve got to be the responsible one.”
He chuckled but tipped the rest of the contents of his bottle down his throat and stood up. “You’ll never be the responsible one between the two of us. I’ve been keeping an eye on the time and we’ve got at least six more minutes before we have to leave. Relax. We’ll get there in plenty of time for you to check out the not-so-available women before the ceremony starts.”
“That’s all I ask for.” I picked up my jacket from the armchair I’d slung it across earlier and then strode over to the sliding doors leading out to the balcony and locked them up tight.
Since we were staying over at the hotel after the wedding, my overnight bag was already packed and waiting. I swept it up and slung it over my shoulder, then tossed it in beside Tristan’s in his car’s trunk before getting into the passenger seat beside him.
As he navigated out of my building’s parking lot, I leaned back in my seat and wondered who was going to be the lucky lady I set my sights on tonight. For one night and one night only, I was going to rock her world, show her what she’d been missing out on, and then I’d be gone.
It was simple, and that was exactly the way I liked it.