“I’ll be down in a minute!” Michelle called from up the stairs.
Matthew pulled back and rolled his little eyes. “She said that ten times already.”
“It’s best you learn it now, Matthew.” I laughed. “They never mean it when they say that.”
He nodded like he knew exactly what I was talking about and we walked hand in hand to the kitchen. A young girl sat at that kitchen table shoveling spoonfuls of yogurt into Maura’s mouth. When Maura noticed me walk into the room, she smiled so big yogurt oozed out the sides of her mouth.
“What are you smiling at, silly?” She followed Maura’s eyes over to me. “Oh, hi. I didn’t hear anyone come in. Sorry. I’m Desi, the babysitter.”
“Hi, Desi. I’m Viper.”
“Viper’s my best friend,” Matthew told Desi proudly as he stood next to me.
I looked down at him. “That’s absolutely right.”
“Ahhh!” Michelle yelled out as she carefully ran into the kitchen in her heels. “I can’t find my favorite lipstick.” She opened drawer after drawer, slamming them all shut again.
I don’t know shit about fashion and even less about women’s clothes, but when we’d texted earlier, she asked if I had a silver tie. I lied and said yes, immediately going out to buy one. I had no idea it would be to accompany that.
She had on a silver dress that clung to her in places that made me want to weep. Silver heels with straps and more straps wrapped around her beautiful little feet. Her hair was down and wavy, and it looked sexy as fuck. She didn’t wear her hair down often, and I had to close my hands into fists to keep from marching over and running them through it.
“Here it is! In the battery drawer. Makes sense.” She laughed, finally standing up straight. Our eyes locked and my mouth went dry. “I’m hurrying, I promise. I’m almost ready. Why are you staring at me like that?” She looked down and inspected herself before flipping her eyes back up to me.
I put my hands in my pockets and shook my head as I slowly moved my eyes from her face all the way down and back up again. “I was just thinking that if that is almost ready, I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
Her lips parted on a soft gasp as she walked over to kiss my cheek. At the last second, I turned and our lips touched. Not a full kiss—just the corners—but that almost-kiss was more intense than any other kiss I’d had in my entire life. I waited for her to pull back, but she didn’t. She closed her eyes and sighed, holding it right there, just as scared as I was to make it official and turn her head. Eventually, she did move away and smile at me. It was a sad smile. A smile that confirmed to me that she felt the same way I did, but she knew just as much as I did that it could never happen.
She swallowed hard and took a shaky breath. “I’ll be back in a couple minutes, okay?”
I nodded and watched her walk out of the room, already excited for when she’d come back.
Thirty minutes later, we finally kissed the kids good-bye and headed out the door. The short drive to the church bummed me out because, selfishly, I wanted to hog Michelle to myself all night long. Once seated in the pew, things got a little awkward. People whispered and stared. I even caught a couple of wedding guests snapping pics. I wasn’t the most famous guy on my team, but all it would take was for one person to recognize me and it would spread like wildfire. The last thing I wanted was to take away from Jodi and Vince’s day.
Michelle rested her hand on my knee and I practically jumped out of my skin. “Whoa. Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” I looked straight into her eyes and focused hard on drowning out the rest of the church. “I’m good. Just ready to get the show on the road.”
As if the wedding gods themselves were smiling down on me, the ceremony started right then. And even more awesome was how quick it went. Flower girls, ring bearer, bridesmaids, groomsmen, bride, vows, rings, kiss, done. My kind of ceremony.
Time to party!
The reception room was badass! The tables were decorated with red cloths, and there was a bar in the corner made out of ice. Very quickly after we sat, they introduced the bride and groom, cut the cake, and announced we could start eating, but there wasn’t a waiter on the floor.
I leaned in toward Michelle. “Clearly I don’t go to enough weddings. Where’s the food?”
Michelle giggled and leaned in closer, her hair brushing against my jaw as she did. “Vince had a very specific idea of what he wanted, so there’s a mashed potato bar over there.” She pointed toward the far corner of the room. “A stir-fry bar over there.” She pointed to another corner. “A meat bar over there, and finally, in that corner”—she paused and laughed again—“a pizza bar.”
I sat up straight and looked at her. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
“I wish I were.”
After I’d made two trips to each food station, I was pretty sure someone was going to have to roll me to the car and take me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped—but it was worth every delicious bite. Before long, the DJ turned off the dinner music and started playing something more upbeat. Drinks were flowing at the bar and the brightly colored DJ lights were shining on all of our faces.
“Michelle?” We both turned in our seats at the sound of her name being yelled.
I had no idea who they were, but Michelle’s eyes bulged and her mouth fell open in shock as she stood and ran straight into the arms of two women. Then they all began squealing and jumping up and down together.
They hugged and celebrated for at least five minutes before they eventually made their way over to our table.
“Viper?” Michelle shouted my name as loudly as she could over the music. I stood and turned around as she motioned toward the women. “These are my friends from college, Sarah and Nicole. Ladies, this is my… friend Viper.”
“Hi, nice to meet you.” I held my hand out and shook both of their hands. “Did you all know you were gonna see each other here tonight?”
“No.” Michelle shook her head. “These two were my sorority sisters back in college, and by some weird twist of fate, they both teach at the same school Jodi does. I had no idea.”
“It’s the best surprise ever!” Sarah hollered as she clapped her hands together and tucked them under her chin while Nicole stood next to her, nodding like a bobblehead doll.
“It really is. It’s been like what… nine years since we’ve seen each other?” Michelle asked.
“Yeah, you had just started dating Mike,” Nicole answered, flashing me an awkward glance like she’d said something she shouldn’t have.
“We really should get together and catch up sometime, for sure.” Michelle leaned in close so they could hear her.
“Absolutely, but we’ll let you get back to your date here.” Sarah nodded toward me. “It was nice meeting you, Viper.” They both offered up a small wave.
“You too,” I called back as Michelle and I returned to our seats. I pulled Michelle’s chair out for her and bent down into her ear so she could hear me. “That was interesting, huh?”
“It really was.” Her eyes dropped sadly to the table as she picked at a spot on the tablecloth.