“Well, you did it. You managed to walk down the aisle in a straight line and you didn’t step on your dress.”
Olivia took a sip of her champagne and eyed Michael over the rim of her glass.
“How could you possibly know that was my biggest fear?”
He laughed. A rich sound that seeped through her pores and radiated a blinding and warm light inside her body. God, she loved it when he laughed, which much to her luck, had been something he’d done constantly since they had sat down at their table and they had begun talking just like two good friends would do. It was amazing how enjoyable Michael’s presence was once she’d decided to relax around him.
“I have a young teenage girl living with me. I think that’s a worldwide fear you ladies have to deal with, whenever a long dress and high heels are involved.”
“I’m just grateful I managed to walk at all after last night.”
“I hosted Tracy’s bachelorette party at my place and let’s just say I wanted nothing more than to kill myself, quickly, this morning.”
Michael leaned closer to her, inhaling her sweet raspberry scent before whispering in her ear.
“And does that mean there are some new additions to that hard-to-erase-from-my-mind belly piercing of yours?”
Olivia couldn’t hold back her utter amazement that he’d remembered what she told him about her last awful experience when huge quantities of alcohol had been involved.
His words caressed her cheek and made her entire body pulse with the awareness of his mouth being mere inches away.
Stop it, Olivia. He is here as your friend and that’s all there’ll ever be between you two. Oh, God, Emilia where are you?
“No.” She chocked out.
“Too darn bad.”
Before her brain completely began to melt and spill out from her ears, Olivia abruptly got up and extended her hand to his.
“What I did do was practice my moves for today. So, gear up Mr. I’ve-never-been-turned-down-by-a-woman-before, let’s see if all those ladies said yes because of your dancing skills.”
“Is that a challenge?”
Instead of cringing away, she welcomed the teasing yet dangerous glint that lighted up his eyes.
“You seem fond of making every thing that comes out of my mouth a challenge. But yes, maybe it is. After all, you were the one who insisted on coming with me. I just want to see I didn’t make the wrong decision.”
“By all means, Ms. Beckett, lead the way.”
Taking his hand in hers, she guided them to the middle of the dance floor, where all of her ex-high school friends were busy remembering the steps to Whighfield’s Saturday Night. Although a few eyed Michael in a strange way, probably wondering where the hell was Noah, most of them welcomed them and soon she and Michael were right there next to Tracy and Trevor, guiding the whole group that had gathered behind them.
Tracy had specifically said, even before meeting Trevor, that when she got married, she wanted every one of her guests to dance until their feet bled. Fortunately, it wouldn’t come to such a tragic ending, but Olivia was pretty certain she would have a hard time going back to her seat herself. Which was why she’d suggested Tracy hire a DJ instead of a live band. It was proving to be a huge success.
They danced to today’s hits, swayed their hips to the latin beats, made fools of themselves by remembering their high school days, and remembered the classics with Frank Sinatra, James Dean, and her favorite, Michael Buble who was one of the current guys, whose music was meant to keep those classics alive in people’s minds.
As Michael kept moving her all around the dance floor, Olivia had to admit Michael was not a bad dancer. What was more, they seemed to move as if they’d done this together many times before. One time he would be holding her close the next he would send her twirling away from him only to have her coming back to him, never missing the rhythm of the song.
What Olivia hadn’t noticed, and that every one else who knew her, including Tracy and Sylvia had, was that she’d been grinning like a fool the entire time she’d been swaying in Michael’s arms.
“I guess I’ll have to apologize, again. I honestly didn’t think you could be a good dancer.”
“Because us grocery store predators aren’t supposed to?”
“Exactly.” Olivia chuckled. “Seriously though, who taught you? Somehow I have a hard time picturing Jerry doing it.”
“Well, we had a very patient mother who didn’t mind being stepped on her feet as long as her sons could take a nice lady like yourself to a party and dance with her all night.”
“Cut it out.”
“I’m serious. Once Jerry and I discovered the potential of knowing how to dance, we all but begged our mother to teach us how. Obviously, we had to dance with her whenever we went to a party or something. But it was a small trade off and that scored us even more points with the ladies.”
“I guess if I’d had a brother I might have a more deeper insight into the twisted ways the male mind works.”
“You’re not so bad either, Ms. Beckett. I think my presence here might have been uncalled for. I doubt you are like those types of girls who don’t have a good time just because they don’t have a date to the party.”
“Being a single child, you learn how to have fun even if you’re on your own. Plus, I know most of the people here, so I would’ve stuck with one of them for the entire party.”
Michael’s eyes hardened over Olivia’s head, as they noticed the same man who’d been staring at Olivia ever since they’d stepped into the party salon. Michael didn’t care for the quick flare of jealousy as it made him hold her tighter.
Luckily for him, the quick rhythm of the song had changed into a slow one, giving him the perfect excuse for bringing her closer to his body. He hoped that creep got the message that Olivia was with someone and that someone wasn’t letting her go.
“Like that guy over there? I might say it’s been entertaining to watch him follow you around.”
“What guy?” Olivia turned her head.
She let out a groan of disgust as cousin Chad was basically ogling her ass, probably thinking he might have chance to grab it later on.
Her body shuddered and it was then that she noticed the change in the music as well as the change in the distance between their bodies. One of her date’s arms was circling her waist, pulling her close to him, while the other grabbed the hand that wasn’t resting on his shoulder. Olivia had to fight the impulse to step away. Instead, she made them move closer to where creepy cousin Chad stood staring at her.
Okay, this has got to stop.
From under her breath, she whispered to Michael.
“Just play along, okay?”
Michael’s lips twisted into a knowing smile and let Olivia guide them right next to the strange guy. Her lips pouted in a sulky and sexy way, wondering if her plan was to flirt with this man while in his arms.
If that was the case then she had something else coming her way, Michael decided.
“Hey, Chad, how’s it going?”
“Well, well, well. Hello there gorgeous. Lookin’ good.”
Somehow his compliment sounded dirty. He even licked his lips as he said it, and it almost made her back out from her plan and leave Chad and his twisted thoughts to himself. Michael’s body went rigid as he, too, picked up on what was really going on inside Chad’s pea-sized brain.
That was the push she needed to carry on.
“I don’t think you know my boyfriend, Michael, although his friends at jail called him Snake, right baby?”
Michael’s mouth fell open in puzzlement. Olivia was batting her lashes and leaning provocatively into him. Her eyes were a different matter though. They were pleading him to play along.
“Damn right, babe.” For his own pleasure, Michael leaned down and licked his tongue against her lips. If she wanted to slap him for doing that, she kept her cool and moaned as if the touch had only brought her the opposite of outrage.
“You were in jail?” Chad asked in a strained voice.
“Yes, he was. Oh, honey, but I told you a thousand times that guy grabbed my ass by accident, you didn’t have to chock him to death.”
As if Chad needed clarification, Olivia added.
“That’s why they call him Snake, he just used his big strong arm to choke the life out of that poor guy. I’d never seen someone’s lips turn a deep blue as that guy’s did.”
Michael wondered if maybe Olivia had had previously unpleasant encounters with this Chad. Since he’d noticed him staring at that particular part of her anatomy, he didn’t have a hard time imagining doing just to anyone who dared to touch her that way.
Chad, on the other hand, had begun to sweat profusely as he gauged the size and muscular frame of the man who was holding his cousin’s sexy fox of a friend.
“He killed a guy? For, for……”
“Why, yes. Isn’t that right baby?”
“No one touches my girl and gets away with it.” Turning to stare right into Chad’s shocked face, Michael growled his next words, “no one.”
As much as they were putting on a damn good act, Olivia felt an excited rush at the possessiveness in his words. For a moment, she was taken back to last Sunday when he’d come to ask her if she was engaged to Noah. She knew if she were truly his, he would certainly harm whoever decided any part of her body was for free gabbing and touching.
Fortunately, their little charade had the desired effect because a pain-stricken and pale as a sheet Chad took two stumbling steps back and made up some lame departure excuse.
“It was….nice seeing you, Olivia. I have to…..find my date. See ya.”
They both waited until Chad bolted out of the room to burst out laughing.
“Thanks. The truth is he did one day think it was okay to put his disgusting hand on my ass and well, he just creeps me out.”
“I am glad I could put my acting skills to use.”
Olivia stared into his smiling eyes. Before she could offer any reply, Tracy appeared at their side.
“Hey, you guys. Listen, you don’t mind if I steal your girl for a while, do you?”
Michael noticed the way Olivia tensed at being called his girl, but decided no to worry about it just now.
“No, absolutely not. In the meantime, I’ll go get us something else to drink.”
Yanking her away from Michael’s embrace, Tracy dragged her friend toward the restrooms.
“Ouch, Tracy, I need my arm. Can’t you hold it for five more seconds? Slow down.”
Once inside the bathroom, the bride closed the door and turned around to look at her confused friend.
“Finally, now you can tell me all about the hot guy whose totally into you.”