You know how, for some people, just a whiff of peanuts can immediately make their throat close up, cutting off their airway? I don’t have a peanut allergy—but now I know how it feels.
They say when you’re dying, your life flashes before your eyes. And I can tell you, with all certainty, that they’re right. I see images of Kate . . . of our perfect little boy. They flicker in my head like a black-and-white silent movie. They’re pictures of the moments we had, of the life we shared.
A life that—without a doubt—is over now. As dead as the goldfish Mackenzie had a few years ago. The one she insisted on bringing to the beach, in her pocket, so he could visit all his fishy friends.
RIP Nemo. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I know what you’re thinking. What the hell’s your problem? Why all the drama? Why is a little na**d bush making me go all Clockwork Orange bowler-hat psycho?
“Drew? Are you all right?”
The problem, kiddies, is that the beautiful, wet woman standing in front of me—who is obviously well acquainted with me and whatever the hell went down last night?
She’s not Kate Brooks.
You know that saying, “Pinch me . . . I must be dreaming”? Well, kick me in the balls . . . I’m having a goddamn nightmare.
In a rush it all comes back to me, like a montage on fast-forward. Gambling with the boys, dinner, the fistfight, the thong in my mouth, nuzzling the stripper—Lily—at the bar. But that’s all there is. After that last moment, there’s nothing but a void.
A black hole—much like the bullet I’m tempted to put right between my f**king eyes at the moment—would leave.
I thought it was her. Jesus Christ. I thought it was Kate. When I was embracing her, trying to kiss her—I thought it was Kate.
But it wasn’t.
I sit down on the closed toilet lid while Lily wraps a towel around herself—concern lines etched on her face as she watches me. I breathe hard, fast, and my heart beats as if it wants to jump out of my chest and run far, far away from this latest clusterfuck.
What happened? Did the guys pick me up and drag me back to the hotel? I would give my left nut to be able to believe that’s how it went down. But if that’s the case—why is this girl in my goddamn shower, talking about how crazy I was last night?
Mother . . .
For the first time in my life, I can’t think of an appropriate exclamation. Not a curse in existence is powerful enough to fit this situation. Did I sneak out of the bar with her, hijack the limo, and come back here? That sounds like something I could pull off.
Did Kate . . . my stomach twists . . . did Kate see us here?
Fucking God Almighty.
My heart picks up even more speed, and I think I may actually be having a heart attack. Is thirty-two too young to have a heart attack? I hope it’s not.
Because she’s never going to forgive me.
Not this time. All my get-out-of-jail-free cards are used up. I run through every kiss-ass scenario I can think of—every groveling method known to man.
And I discount every single one.
No flower or gift or grand gesture is going to fix this. Hallmark doesn’t make an I’M SORRY I NAILED ANOTHER WOMAN, THINKING IT WAS YOU card. Even if I explain . . . Kate will never move past it. Never get over it. Never look or feel about me the same way she did yesterday.
And I don’t blame her.
I close my eyes and drop my head into my hands.
She deserves more than this—so much more. Kate deserves someone better than a guy who’s going to punch a hole in her soul every two years or so.
Better than me.
“Drew, are you all right? Should I get someone?”
Before I can stutter the questions I don’t want to know the answers to, the bathroom door opens. And Billy Warren sticks his head in. His eyes drift from me, to Lily, and back to me. “Everything okay in here?”
“No,” she answers. “I think Drew’s really sick, boo-boo.”
That’s precisely what I am.
There’s something wrong with me. I am messed-up in the head. You know it—you probably realized it a long time ago. I keep—
Did she just call him boo-boo?
Warren walks into the bathroom, stops next to Lily, and puts his hand on my shoulder. “You gotta puke, man? You should—you’ll feel better. I told you not to drink that shit last night.”
I gaze at Warren’s face, trying to remember—to figure out. A tiny flicker of hope sparks in my chest. “Did . . . did you two hook up last night?”
And Douche Bag pisses all over my little flame of hope. “No, we didn’t hook up.”
But then Shower Girl holds out her left hand and adds giddily, “We got married!”
My head snaps up—and the quick movement makes the pounding return with a sharp vengeance.
Warren straightens and puts an arm around her shoulders—both of them wearing huge, matching grins.
I point between them. “You two . . . you got married?”
He nods. “I figured if Vegas was a good enough place for my cousin to tie the knot, it’s good enough for me.” His gaze shifts to Lily adoringly. “When you find someone this amazing—when you know it’s the real thing—you don’t let it pass you by.”
I squint. “Married?”
Lily nods enthusiastically. “At the Drive-Through Wedding Chapel. We took some great pictures. And now I’m Mrs. Billy Warren.”
Nope, still can’t wrap my head around it. “Married? Really?”
Warren’s expression goes from sappy to annoyed. “Yeah, Long Duck Fuckin’ Dong—married. What’s your problem?”
It finally sinks in. Donkey Dick married Shower Girl. But more important:
I. Didn’t. Screw her.
Cue the chorus of angels. Ahhh-le-luia, ahhh-le-luia, alleluia, alleluia, ah-leee-luia . . .
I didn’t mess up. I didn’t betray Kate or ruin our son’s life or destroy everything we have. Overcome with emotion, I may actually weep with relief.
But I don’t cry. I do something much, much worse. I stand up and hug Billy Warren. “I love you, man.”
Yes, the stress of the last few minutes has finally driven me over the edge. We embrace for a second before he pushes me back, holds me at arm’s length, and looks at me with confused brown eyes.
“Dude,” he utters disgustedly.
I come to my senses. And shake my muddled head. “Sorry, I just . . . I’m so happy for you.”