“Come on, don’t drive like this, I’ll take you.” I glanced up at Liam, surprised he was there.
I let my hands fall from the wheel into my lap. I had unsuccessfully been trying to get my fiance’s push button, stick shift car started. Ex-fiancé. I was breathing heavy and it was hard to see through my tears.
“I can’t be here anymore,” I said pathetically. He held out his hand and I handed over the Miata keys in defeat. He laid them on the windshield.
“I know, darling, let’s go.” He didn’t have pity in his eyes, just slight worry. The garage light glowed around his rumpled brown hair as his golden brown eyes watched me in the dim light.
I nodded and hopped out of the stupid powder blue Miata. I slammed the door. I fought the urge to kick it. I always hated that car. It made Cullen seem like a weenie. He wasn’t a large man but he sure looked like a giant in the tiny car. Every time he sat in the damn car; his knees came up past the steering wheel. It just seemed uncomfortable. Plus, the trunk only had enough room for two grocery bags. But Cullen never cared, I’m sure he loved feeling larger than life.
Sullenly I followed Liam over to his bike. The front lawn of the house rental was littered with over a dozen cars; all our friends and family ready to celebrate our big day. What an idiot I was, all swept up in the wedding planning, the dinner dates and perceived thoughtful moments from Cullen. I swallowed. Obviously, I missed the part where he was a two-timing piece of…
Liam handed me a helmet cutting through my thoughts.
I stared at his bike as I avoided his gaze. It was a black cruiser motorcycle with a red stitched seat. I rode on it once before when he was visiting. Cullen refused to go for a ride or to take me, but it seemed like fun at the time. Despite Cullen’s huffs and groans, Liam took me on a fifteen-minute ride around our Wicker Park neighborhood, much to Cullen’s dismay. He’d been standing at our apartment door with his arms crossed when we returned.
“Where do you want to go?” Liam asked. It wasn’t difficult to avoid his eyes in the dark summer night.
I thought about it for a second, “Somewhere that makes me forget.”
I saw a small smile touch his lips and he nodded. He threw a leg over his bike and kicked it on. I slid on the back and wrapped my arms around him. Liam wore a t-shirt and jeans with black motorcycle boots. I was much less dressed for the occasion with a white tank top, black jean shorts and a pair of light pink tennis shoes. In my defense, I had thought I was making a runaway bride getaway in the Miata.
The gravel kicked up as we took a left turn out of the driveway and sped away from my disaster of a wedding.
I was supposed to be getting married in less than 10 hours. Now I was never going to get married. Not to Cullen anyway. Not the way he was riding my stupid cousin at 3 am. In the freaking house that I was in. That we were all in! For our wedding! There were too many emotions at once, I couldn’t process even one. Although anger was beating out all my other feelings.
Cullen and I were supposed to be getting married at this little country club on the edge of Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee. Just us and two hundred of our closest friends and family. It was a big wedding and surprisingly very few people had declined the invite. I felt a humiliating sickness seeping into the pit of my stomach. In just a few hours they would all know that there would be no wedding.
Liam gunned through the streets and onto the highway. I was thankful we couldn’t talk, there was no way I could make conversation.
The panic was starting to set in at this point. Everyone would forever remember that my fiancé slept with my cousin just hours before the ceremony. Or something worse, now that I ran off I couldn’t even control the narrative. My own parents were in the house. My brother was in that house. He would have beat the shit out of Cullen, had I asked. Nate never liked Cullen very much now that I thought about it. Nate never said anything outright, but I could tell. Just the way he never asked about him or how he always made polite excuses to not meet up with both of us.
As the warm summer air rushed past, I couldn’t stop my brain from going into overdrive. Two years of what seemed like a perfect relationship, down the drain. For my stupid cousin. Miranda always hated me. Sure, she had that sugary sweet fake persona down to an art, but a blind man could see she hated my guts. Maybe she was prettier and smarter and better and…shut up brain. I knew that wasn’t true, she wasn’t a nice person. She always wanted what I had. Christmas presents, birthday presents. One time in high school she “fell” on top of my boyfriend when I went to the bathroom. At least that guy had he decency to reject her advances. I just never thought Cullen was the type to stray. It never even crossed my mind that he was unhappy. We seemed so in love. I ran through my thoughts trying to find some red flag I missed.
Cullen was the one who pushed for marriage, I was perfectly content waiting a few more years. We weren’t planning on having kids anytime soon. Especially since we couldn’t take a honeymoon for at least another year with Cullen’s crazy caseload.
Liam pulled off the highway and drove towards the Port Washington exit. He parked the bike outside of some diner. The partially lit neon light said “Bennie’s”, except only “Ben’s” was lit.
“Sorry Laney, I need coffee.” He watched me as I pulled off my helmet, “Plus I can’t leave you with your thoughts too long.” He winked at me. I scowled. But not too big, he had nicely agreed to help me escape at 3 am.
We sat in an old booth at the twenty-four-hour dinner. We both turned over our coffee cups and waited for the waitress.
The place had a couple truck drivers but was otherwise empty. I’m sure I looked miserable. This was not exactly the night before my wedding agenda I had in mind.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked gently. Liam gave me a soft smile and I noticed he had a small dimple on his left cheek.
I shook my head and stared at my silverware. I didn’t want to cry if I started talking I might get ugly tears and make a scene.
I bit my bottom lip.
The waitress came by breaking the tension. She poured some coffee and left us. I stared some more at the laminated yellow tabletop with cracked edges. It was an especially hideous pairing with the sparkly red booth seats.
Liam talked instead, “Although he’s a dick for putting you through that shit, I’m happy it wasn’t a divorce instead.”
I glanced up at him my mouth slightly open, “You always thought we’d break up?” I fired back in a squeaky, accusatory tone.
Our entire relationship I always worried I was never good enough for him. And Cullen never did much to quell those fears. Cullen was a corporate lawyer in Chicago. I was a mere freelance copywriter for a boutique marketing agency. He made way more money than I did. I spent my weekends having fun with friends and at my brother’s bar, and he spent his weekends working on cases and trying to make partner. But it worked. We made time for each other, we understood we had different dreams. We made it work.
“Laney.” He waited until I glanced up. “He never prioritized you.” His brown eyes looked so sincere it was hard to argue.
“He…he did. We both had to make sacrifices so we could get where we wanted with our careers. I always knew he wanted to be a partner.” I stared at Liam, his brown eyes soft and patient. But it wasn’t true. We prioritized each other when we could.
Liam looked annoyed at my lack of agreement, “Where was he on your birthday? On Thanksgiving?” I shrugged. “When your article got published on New York Times?” I shrugged not making eye contact. Sure, I was sad he wasn’t part of all those events, but the timing was bad – he was in the middle of huge cases.
“But you were there the last two times he got promoted. You were there when he won those last four cases.” Liam said with an accusing tone. That might be true, but it didn’t happen to conflict with anything.
I looked at him surprised, “How do you know all of this anyway? You weren’t there either.”
He looked slightly embarrassed and took a swig of coffee. “Facebook.” He shrugged.
I couldn’t help it, I laughed, “You stalk us on Facebook?”
He shrugged again, “My point is, he never prioritized you. He probably convinced you he did, but he didn’t. He’s never been a faithful guy. He cheated on all his high school girlfriends, you’ve been his longest relationship. It’s always all about him.”
I shook my head, “It wasn’t like that. Not with us…he never…”I stopped and racked my memories I didn’t think was unfaithful, not with all that casework and late nights at the office.
Then a sickening thought scorched my mind, what if he wasn’t always working all those late nights and weekends. Like the time he stayed in a hotel on Michigan Avenue even though our apartment was only twenty minutes from his office. My God, I was a complete and utter idiot.
I gulped. “He’s been cheating on me this whole time. Hasn’t he?”
A flash a shame moved over Liam’s face as he nodded. But you can’t exactly expect your fiancés brother to spill the beans. Even if they didn’t get along.
“Wow.” I could hardly speak as all the little pieces fell into place in my mind. The dinners the late nights, who knew which parts were real and which were made up to get some tail. Likely all those weekends I went to visit friends across the country he just used as free game.
I swallowed my anger and shame. “You must think I’m a complete idiot.” I laughed a hollow empty laugh.
I put my head in my hands and looked at Liam. Really looked at him, not just as my fiance’s brother but as a man.
Cullen had three years on Liam, but they were incredibly different. Cullen wanted to be a lawyer like their father, who had also had a long history of stepping out on their mother. Liam took a different path, he had joined the Marines and come back to go to college in California.
He was a software engineer who worked remote, so he came and went as he pleased, living all over the place. Liam was more reserved, but was incredibly genuine, whereas Cullen tried to match his personality to his crowd.
Cullen strived to be the loudest in the room, he always wanted all the attention. Liam was taller and wider than Cullen. Cullen had the lean frame of runner and kept in shape with morning runs. Liam on the other hand, he had big shoulders and muscles peeking out from his t shirt.
The first time I met Liam I had to swallow any not safe for boyfriend’s brother thoughts I was having. Seeing the two men next to each other, there were similarities in their faces and mannerisms, but Liam was larger, stronger. Liam was all man. Cullen made up for his shortcomings with attention seeking actions. At this moment, it was hard to see anything positive about Cullen, the two-timing bastard.
“Don’t you want to know where were going?” He eyed me suspiciously changing the subject.
I sighed, I hadn’t considered our final destination.
“Honestly? No. Like I said, anywhere but there. I can’t go to Canada, I didn’t bring my passport.” I thought about it for a second. “Well, on second thought, I just couldn’t get back into the states. Maybe that’s for the best. I can find a nice Canadian, live in the mountains and make nice Mounty babies. There won’t be another woman for miles.”
Liam snorted, “No, you’re not running away to Canada with some Mounty.” Did I detect a possessive glean in his eyes? It was gone before I could figure it out.
“C’mon let’s get back on the road.”
All the thinking was exhausting and I was starting to drift off when Liam pulled up in front of a small cabin. The sun was just starting to send light streaks through the night sky.
I pulled off my helmet and set it on the bike.
I put my hands on my hips and looked at Liam. “And now after discovering her fiancé was a lying cheating douche, her fiance’s brother turns out to be an axe murderer who lured her deep into the Wisconsin forest.” I gave him a pointed look and he laughed.
“It’s my Aunt Reese’s cabin. I was planning on staying here for a bit after the wedding anyway.” He didn’t wait for her response just walked up to the cabin and found the hide-a-key.
“I like it. Cullen never mentioned this cabin before.” It was a cute little cabin too, there was stone and wood beams with a huge glass window that covered the front.
“It was probably beneath his luxury level.” Liam said with disdain not turning back, he put the key in the lock and headed inside turning on some lights as he went.
I followed him in and marveled at how beautiful everything was. The cabin was open with rustic beams showing through the white ceiling. A stairway led off to the right of the living room and kitchen area. The cabin was not huge by any means but it was decorated with deep reds and browns. A huge landscape painting of the sea and mountains hung over a plush, deep-set sofa. There were so many windows, you could see the sunlight peaking up at all angles.
“Are you tired?”
I’m not sure I could sleep if I tried, but curling into a ball and hiding in a bed sounded nice.
Liam headed up the stairs and showed me a bedroom with a wrought iron bed frame and a small bathroom.
“There are towels in the bathroom and the sheets on the bed are fresh.” I took a look at the room, it was perfect. A large leather chair sat in the corner, adorned with a plush plaid throw. A bookshelf lined one wall, filled with old books. The other walls had smaller paintings of the same landscape.
I squeezed my hands in front of me, suddenly nervous at the thought of being alone with my thoughts.
I sighed, “Thank you, Liam, for everything. I know you and Cullen don’t get along too well but I’d hate to be a bigger wedge in your relationship.”
He surprised me by closing the distance in two steps and pulling me close. A little sigh escaped my lips and I took in his scent. The summer air mixed with his cologne.
“He drove the wedge between us, not you. Don’t even worry about it. For what it’s worth, I always thought you were too good for him.”
A small laugh escaped my lips and he pulled back. His eyes were dark and serious.
I stood there stunned for a moment. And when I came to he was gone and the door was closed. I pulled off all my clothes and slipped into the bed. I tossed and turned for a bit, but somehow sleep came.
When I woke up I felt disoriented. All the memories of the last few hours came rushing back in a painful slam. I slowly sat up and rubbed my eyes. I wondered how long I’d been out. Dragging myself out of the comfortable bed I found my phone in my shorts.
Flipping it on, I saw there wasn’t any service here. Thank the universe for small miracles. It was 4:30 pm. I should have been married three hours ago.
I should probably go ask Liam if there was wifi, my family was probably freaking out right now.
But first, a shower. I felt gross.
I hopped in the bathroom and was pleased to find a plethora of toiletries including toothpaste and a new toothbrush.
After thoroughly cleaning up, I pulled on my shorts and tank and headed downstairs. The house was quiet, it had the faint smell of cedar and cinnamon. It smelled like comfort, I could wake up and smell this every day. It was worlds away from the modern, sleek Chicago apartment that never quite felt like home. Partially because it had been Cullen’s for a few years before I had moved in. He always made excuses or indirect complaints about any changes I made. Even small ones, like trying to add some small paintings to the living room. Supposedly my little boat paintings hadn’t matched his aesthetic.
I caught a glimpse of Liam through the kitchen window. As I walked closer I realized he was shirtless.
I gulped. Holy moly he was ripped. His back bunched in beautifully tanned muscles all the way down to his shorts.
Heat crept up my chest and my cheeks. Shit, my skin was turning blotchy and red.
I headed outside anyway.
“Hey,” I said as he turned around. Damn. He was ripped in the front too, I swallowed and willed myself to look over his shoulder.
He smiled, likely catching my pink skin. “Have a nice nap?”
“How long was I out?” I asked, embarrassed.
“About ten hours, you slept like a rock too, I went into your room to throw a toothbrush in there and you barely moved.” He arched a brow and gave me a devilish smile, “Nice to know you sleep naked.”
My skin went from pink to deep red. I felt my blush scorch my body as I willed the emotions to stay off my face.
“I…um didn’t bring pajamas,” I said embarrassed. “Plus,” I said sounding what I hoped was a little annoyed, “I didn’t know I’d be sharing a house with a peeping Tom.”
He threw his hands up, “Hey I was just trying to be a nice guy.”
I crossed my arms and gave him my best glare.
I rolled my eyes, “Anyway, I should probably call my family I’m sure they’re freaking out.” I sighed, “Is there wi-fi here? I shouldn’t have slept so long they’re probably freaking out and who knows what Cullen told everyone.”
“Cullen left.” Liam leaned back against the deck railing, “I called your parents and Nate this morning to fill them in on everything that happened, so they wouldn’t worry.”
“Everything? Even…” I felt sick again, what they must think of me.
He nodded, “I figured you would tell them anyway. I called them after you passed out and explained where we were.”
I nodded, taking a seat in one of the deck chairs. I perched my head in my hands as I waited for him to continue.
“Apparently, both of you were gone, and rumors were flying that you two eloped.”
“Ugh, disgusting. I’m sure he left with Miranda.” I crinkled my nose, “How did my parents and Nate take it?”
Liam laughed, “I think it’s for the best Cullen wasn’t there. Nate might have killed him. Much like I wanted to, but I figured keeping you from driving the clown car was more important.”
I giggled at the “clown car” bit. It was a ridiculous car.
“Your dad took care of letting everyone know that there wasn’t going to be a wedding. He mentioned he would let everyone know that you both didn’t want to go through with it.”
“I feel really bad all those people didn’t get to see a wedding. Some people flew out, I’m sure they brought gifts. I…” My eyes watered. I hated when people went out of their way for me.
Liam got down on his haunches in front of me. I felt his hand on my cheek, “Hey,” he tiled my chin up so I was looking at him, “It’s okay, no one should have any expectations of you. You found out your fiancé was cheating on you, on your wedding night by walking in on him with your cousin. If they have any expectations, fuck them.”
I surprised myself and Liam by leaning forward and kissing him.
It was soft and sweet, his hand slipped back into my hair. His lips parted open and I explored. He tasted sweet and minty. I reached my hand out and stroked down his chest to his stomach. So many beautiful muscles. He had done so much for me, helping me run off on his own brother. Even though his brother deserved it. Our kiss deepenend and he pushed me back into the chair. I wanted him closer so I pulled him down. And then he jumped back.
“I’m sorry”, He looked ashamed, “I shouldn’t have done that.” He ran his hand through his hair, his arm muscles bunching with the movement.
“I’m pretty sure I kissed you,” I said smiling a little. At least I wasn’t the only one who got nervous.
“Yeah but you’re vulnerable. Cullen easily manipulated you into bed, I don’t to lead you on.”
I stood up in a huff, knocking the chair back with a clang.
“Wait! Laney, I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. Shit.”
I didn’t wait for any more great insights, I ran upstairs and shut the door. I collapsed on the bed. Maybe I was easily manipulated. I was apparently blind to my fiance’s philandering ways.
I heard a knock at the door. I didn’t answer. I don’t know why I cared, I was vulnerable. But I wasn’t easy.
“Laney. Please. Let me in. I need to talk to you. I didn’t mean it.”
I said nothing, but there was nowhere to go. I had to listen to him. It sounded like he slid down and sat with his back to the door.
“I always hated that you were with him. You were so smart, funny and genuine.”
He continued on, “I knew he would do what he always did. Hell, he probably was already.”
“That night I first met you, you were wearing that cute little red dress, with roses on the sleeves. You tried so hard to make a good impression. To help Cullen and I establish more of a relationship. Because you cared.”
I was shocked he remembered what I was wearing, but smiling at his description of me.
“That’s why I hardly ever came around. He never deserved you. I knew Cullen was going to be Cullen. Even though he swore you were different.” Silence.
I contemplated opening the door. But I couldn’t do it.
“I would have treated you different.” My breath caught. “What kind of terrible brother was I? Wanting my brother’s fiancé. I tried to stay away.”
I opened the door.
He jumped up in a second and pulled me close, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I said softly.
“No, it’s not, you’re not easily manipulated. You just loved him.” I nodded.
“Let’s go make dinner.” He grabbed my hand and led me downstairs. I didn’t resist.
Downstairs, it was business as normal. We cooked and drank wine and made easy conversation. The more we talked the lighter I felt. We talked about Cullen some, but mostly about family, work, and friends.
I was smiling and leaning over the island as he ladled the finished pasta into a bowl. I snuck behind him to grab the garlic and he turned right into me, knocking me off balance. His hands were steadying me. He was so close, I could smell his skin. Our bodies were mere inches apart, our lips even closer.
The air between us was thick and I cautiously looked up at him. His eyes were heavy and dark. I tried to distract my one-track mind by staring at the pasta.
We stood there panting. His arms on either side the island behind me, me not making eye contact. Surely, if I let myself look at him I would launch myself at him.
While I was busy not looking at him so I didn’t touch him, he was not so successful with his self-discipline. Perhaps he wasn’t trying to hold back at all.
I felt his lips graze my neck and I jerked my head in surprise. My breath caught in my throat as he gently kissed and sucked down my neck to the collar of my white tank. He used his teeth to drag my shoulder strap off and peel down the left side of my tank top.
I gasped, the cool air hit my exposed nipple. Liam kissed down to my nipple and wrapped his lips over the tip making me moan. Heat flared up my overly sensitive skin making me impatient for him. His hands roamed my body, grabbing my ass he ground himself into me. Another slow moan escaped my lips. His erection pressed all the right places, making my skin even hotter.
I wasn’t going to last very long. My thighs clenched together and I suddenly felt very exposed.
My stupid brain couldn’t help but point out that I never felt quite this turned on when Cullen was making love to me. And we hadn’t even done much yet. With Cullen it was like I was a toaster oven and he had to turn the dials to make his meal, a few deep kisses, lick a nipple and then boom we were having sex. This. This was slow, making the incredible lust inside of me reach a level of panic.
Liam’s mouth sucked and licked over my chest and neck in a sensual, slow way. His body stayed pressed into mine. My knees were weak and I couldn’t help myself any longer. My back arched towards him and my hands found their way into his hair, loving every second. He kissed up my chest and lingered in front of my lips. I flicked open my eyes to see him watching me with lidded eyes. He was asking permission, he wanted my buy in that we were doing this. I answered by slamming my lips into his.
It was hungry, sexy. I never wanted to kiss another man again. His tongue found mine and slowly licked and stroked me while I tried to hungrily devour him like I was licking the remains of flourless chocolate cake.
My body pressed into his hard body and I willed my knees to stay strong. His hands ground my hips into him, making our kiss deeper and more intimate. It was heaven. I was forgetting all about Cullen, the douche I was supposed to marry. I was forgetting all about him my making out with his brother. Shit.
I pulled away, gasping a bit for air.
“We shouldn’t, I don’t want to lead you….Your brother…” Liam rested his head on the wall above my right shoulder. He boxed me in with his arms. His smell floated around me. A mix of old spice and the light scent of body wash. I wanted to eat him, I don’t think I ever thought that before.
It was painful being so close and wanting him so much. It just seemed like it was wrong. His body against mine, felt right. He felt right. His smell, the way he kissed.
Liam said nothing and walked back into the kitchen, refilling his glass of wine.
I thought it might be awkward now and I should excuse myself to the bedroom, but Liam acted like nothing happened.
“Do you want to eat at the island or outside on the deck?” He asked, piling pasta and beans on each plate.
“Deck,” I said breathily. The cool air might calm my hormones.
We sat on the deck and ate our food in silence. Or I tried to eat, mostly I pushed the food around on my plate. Maybe it was a mistake making him stop. My hormones were on board with more sexy time. My mind struggled to understand what was right or wrong.
As if listening to my thoughts he said, “I don’t think there’s any etiquette for moving on when he was cheating you.”
“It’s not about moving on, it’s about you being his brother.” I looked at him, he looked pained and my heart softened. “I was supposed to be married to him only a few hours ago.”
“So it had been a day, or a week or a month, then it would be ok?” He asked hopefully.
I shook my head, “I don’t know! Doesn’t it seem soon? I don’t know if I should jump into bed with you. I want to. I want you so bad. I’m more turned on that I have ever been and you’re so hot. I don’t even give a fuck about him. I just want you. Dammit. It’s not fair.” I word vomited a lot. Now it was time to go inside. Embarrassment flared in my cheeks. I grabbed my plate and walked inside.
I busied myself putting everything away and cleaning up. I heard him come in but tried to focus on the work in front of me.
His arms went around me from behind. It was a soft embrace. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I could feel how charged up he was.
“Take me upstairs.” I said. I turned to him, a look of surprise in his features.
“Now.” He didn’t need any convincing. He grabbed me and I wrapped my legs around him. We made out like horny teenagers all the way up the stairs. Stopping only to discard pieces of clothing. I wanted my hands over his entire body. I loved the feeling of his muscles and his hot skin touching mine.
By the time we made it to the top of the stairs I had on my underwear and he had his boxers on. He carried me into his bedroom and laid me carefully on the bed. He slipped his fingers down below teasing me open.
I was so wet for him, there wasn’t much teasing to be done.
I watched in satisfaction as his eyes went wide. Hunger was in his eyes. He grabbed a condom from the nightstand, and I eyed him accusingly.
“Well we can stop if you want.” He said smiling down at me. I smacked his arm. He leaned down and licked me deeply in response. I closed my eyes in incredible pleasure.
Kisses all the way my body as he help me. He pushed right in, stretching me deep in all the right places. Wow. I felt like I was going to come already. His hands grabbed my ass and ground me into him, sending him deeper still. I thought I might pass out from the blissful feeling. My face pressed into the crook of his neck and his scruff rubbing against my skin felt sexual.
His deep voice grumbled against my ear, “Geezus, you feel so good.”
His hands gripped me tighter and I moaned back.
It did feel so good. My breath caught every time he drove all the way in. I couldn’t control my noises and I didn’t care.